Author Interview, Nikki Trionfo, Shatter
Three bodies. Two liars. One killer. Can you say chilling? Nikki's book was just released today. Want to win a copy?
Go HERE to enter to win a print copy of Nikki Trionofo's newly released novel SHATTER by May 12th. While you're there, learn more about how to snag a free ebook of Nikki Trionofo and three other authors' romantic compilation Under a New York Skyline.
How the heck did Nikki get to the point of signing with an agent and publishing with Cedar Fort AND collaborating with other authors to develop their Indie compilation? Read her full Author Interview below:
1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) plus your author website/Facebook page links.
Under a New York Skyline
Teenacity Books, Apr 2017
A collection of 4 romance novella by 4 authors
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
For two years my husband and I couldn’t have kids. By the time I was the ripe old age of 23, I figured I needed a backup plan, so I decided to write a book. A handful of fertility treatments and my body got things figured out. I went on to have five kids, attending writing groups regularly during each pregnancy. I wrote slowly. I finished my first book when I was 27. I finished it again when I was 31. It was better the second time, really it was, but I wanted to write a book with more spark to the plot. Something more like my favorite TV show, Veronica Mars. Something edgy, with conspiracy and a smart female lead and emotion desperate enough to push my characters to their limits.
While nursing an infant at my daughter’s soccer game, I saw a teen girl eyeing a group of guys who both allured and frightened her. The guys in my past who were most alluring while being frightening were gang members. I imagined an event so powerful that a smart girl would approach dangerous, alluring teens. That event was the death of Salem’s sister, Carrie, which sparked the novel, SHATTER. I wrote it in two years, edited and queried for a year, edited for a year with a former agent who gave it to editors (some of whom held onto it for months), and got an offer from Cedar Fort three weeks after they received it.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
Fear of failure. I like writing, so I don’t have to crack the whip to get myself into a chair. Quite the opposite. But holy desperation, I had the hardest time querying for my first agent. I’m naturally confident, so when success didn’t come right away, I didn’t know how to handle the feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. An agent signed me. Editors rejected. My entries would take first place in one contest and not place in another. It messed with my mind.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
As I wrote, I read the manuscript out loud by chapter to my writing group, often making changes to the story as I went because I didn’t understand plot. I went to writing conferences and learned so much. After I finished the manuscript, I queried and entered contests. I won grand prize in the LDStorymakers First Chapter contest and landed an agent. Then there was a lot more editing and waiting. And finally a blessed contract.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
I’d edited so many times with an agent based on market trends that editing for Cedar Fort was relatively straight forward. My editor wanted me to take the romance, though, out of my YA mystery and I was like, excuse me?! How will I market that? She spoke with me at length and we chose a different route to solve her concerns. Whew!
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
I love rewriting, actually. I can see the whole from the parts more quickly than with initial writing. I like creating a new story that’s based on the old, but with a twist. I often don’t see new versions of the story as improvements, but more like variations. I like many of the versions of the stories I’ve written. Okay, nothing I wrote before I was 30, but hey.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
I usually have only writers read the initial versions. By the time I get non-writers involved, I have a project that I’m basically using as marketing. I want those readers to be gripped, so I take the time in advance to make the project shine. However, I’m lucky in that I know a lot of writers. Often at least 8 writers or editors have seen the book before any non-writers.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
So. Important. So important. I didn’t have a lot of say in the original design, but fortunately I loved what Priscilla did. She worked with me on making the font look more unique and handmade, making the background “interact” with the letters of the title in the foreground (because I’d seen covers that did that and thought it was super sweet), and messing with the color to attract the eyes’ attention.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
More work than I imagined! First of all there’s a whole team. When my marketing specialist called and told me she didn’t like the blurb, I rewrote it—and so did two copy editors and someone from production. Then we sent a flurry of emails deciding and weighing options and occasionally miscommunicating. You just get so dug-in. Production was going to choose an option I hated, but really it was better than anything we had at the beginning. I ended up “winning” on that one, but the experience has taught me that as an author, I’m only one puzzle piece. I need to learn from and trust team members who interact more often with readers and sales. That’s how you get the best product.
I also am involved in publishing a collection of four novellas by four authors. Again, so much work. Even hiring out the cover and internal formatting, I have to learn how put in links to other works, make sure I have a call to sign up for a newsletter, which I have to create, make a landing page for both the publishing company and the book, figure out how to give away a free short story as a reward for people who sign up for the newsletter, etc. The route to getting readers in the Indie world is different than in traditional. There, you have bookstores. In Indie, you have electronic ties to readers, but only if you learn how to use them!
10. How have you marketed your first book?
I started early. Way before I got a contract, I networked at conferences and went to book signings and helped market the books of my friends. Eventually I volunteered at conferences and events, landing a spot on the LDStorymakers Conference committee. I memorized names all the way along, especially of writers who were just getting started, because I remember how much I needed a friend at that time. I do this because I’m a true fan of all the phases of writing.
Now that I’m about to publish, though, I have friends to call on for endorsements and social-media campaigns like cover reveals. I’m the conference party coordinator, so I’m crazy enough to plan a launch party for teens that involves an Author VS Teen Dance Off with a hip hop instructor. I hope it’s a blast.
I also started a free writing webinar series on YouTube about two years ago, when I got my agent. It was scary to teach literally no one sometimes, but I built up a bit of a following and now I have opportunities to teach at conferences. I’m working on small school presentations and will present at a middle school career fair and a book club soon.
You can always do more with marketing, and I still find it scary. I only started to prove to editors I could do it, but I find it to be more fulfilling than I imagined. I don’t know how it will translate to book sales, but I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained!
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
You mean back when I was 23? Terrible! Lol. Actually, so many people were so nice that it took me a while to give up on some really awful stories. I’ve only given Shatter so far to agents, editors, and friends. A lot of feedback at the professional level was, “good, but not for me.” The feedback from friends so far is that they love it. Big surprise. The true test comes on May 9.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
I’ll know soon!
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I suspect my traditionally published book will sell more in print than in ebook. Cedar Fort readers have been trained that way. My Indie book will be the opposite.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I wish! I wish I could set prices as low as possible. For my collection of novellas, I plan to price the book at $2.99. I’m at a stage in my career where gaining a reader is more important than earning a bit more. I’m in the process of getting short stories to give away for free. I plan to run sales as often as possible.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
I’m an addict. I’ll die before I stop writing. I can either talk out loud in the voice of various characters or type. You tell me which is more social acceptable. Yeah, exactly.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
Publishing both my first and Indie and my first traditionally published book at the same time was not planned. I had the Indie project all set up with three author friends (with much more experience than me) while waiting for editors. Then, boom. I signed a contract and my publisher told me my release date was literally eight days away from my planned Indie release. So I moved the release date of the Indie slightly, hoping to not overlap too much. On the traditional publishing side, I love the excitement that comes from saying, that publisher picked my story! I love that my book will be in libraries. I love libraries! On the Indie side, I love the control I have over pricing and editing. So far, I just love both and want to continue to try my luck in both spheres.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
Tough question! Probably once I paid to go to conferences because I had to get babysitters. I had to admit to where I was going. I had to own the fact that I spent a few hundred dollars on something I loved. I don’t know why loving writing was harder than loving dancing, but somehow I found it harder to share. I got used to the idea pretty fast. I wasn’t an author; I was a writer. I still use that word. It feels more natural.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
Always. During all the slips of time. In the mornings and afternoons and nights and literally in the bathroom while my kids were potty training. True story. The motivation is . . . I don’t know. I just have to. Stories are how I process my world.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
How I think of my plots. How to market. How to get recognition. But my favorite questions are about story. Inciting incident, emotional stakes, character arc—I can dive into those topics for hours with beginners or experts, doesn’t matter.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Be kind in your thoughts to people who are establishing themselves in the art of writing and also in the marketplace of being an author. Rather than celebrate their failures to validate your own achievements, support them. Give them a hand. Love them despite their gaffs. Realize they are humans who hopefully someday will be great at what they do. That way, when you’re lucky enough to start establishing your own name, you have firm practice in how to see yourself. As a human who hopefully someday will be great at what you do.