Author Interview: Jennifer K. Clark, Mark of Royalty
After publishing her first books with Covenant Communications, Jennifer is campaigning with Kindle Scout for her to-be-released book IN TOO DEEP (click here to see it!). What is Kindle Scout? Watch my video interview with Jennifer to learn more.
Then read her full Author Interview below about how she wrote and published her books!
1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) plus your author website/Facebook page links.
Mark of Royalty
(with Stephonie R. Williams, 2011)
Knight of Redmond (2013)
Bonds of Loyalty (2014)
A Storybook Romance (2015, several authors)
My most recent book, IN TOO DEEP, is campaigning on Kindle Scout here.
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/jennifer.k.clark.946
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.
I’ve always been a story teller, and the idea for came from a dream where I saw a man with his lineage tattooed on his shoulder. I built the story around that, but I didn’t have the confidence to actually write a book, so I asked my sister, Stephonie Williams, to co-author. Together, we wrote our first book.
When Princess Sarah is born she is marked with a permanent symbol identifying her as the firstborn and heir to the throne. But when prophesies and politics threaten her life, she is taken from her home and is raised in another country unbeknownst of her royal heritage and the significance of her unusual mark. After a failed betrothal, Sarah is caught between two men and their fight for the crown. As the treason unfolds, someone accidentally discovers Sarah’s mark of royalty, and the repercussions will shake the kingdom to its core.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
Writing was just a hobby and took five years to write. I took long breaks during my pregnancy and when I didn’t know where the plot was going. My plot outline wasn’t very detailed, so it was hard to know where I was going with it. I was also co-authoring with my sister, so it took a while to find our groove and figure out who was doing what. It was a long hard process because I would write a scene, send it to Stephonie, she would rewrite it, send it back, and I would rewrite it again. And we would do the same with the scenes she wrote. We wanted the story to be a flawless blend of our voices and styles.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
My sister and I met and decided what publisher to send it to. We decided on Covenant and we looked up their submission guidelines and followed them exactly. It was selected out of their slush pile and was accepted to be published 7 months after we submitted it.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
I didn’t have a clue what to expect. It was a long process. It took just over three years from the time we submitted to when the book was actually published. I was shocked when the first edit came back so marked up with changes. The editor and I went back and forth quite a bit. We debated over a several things, but I quickly learned to compromise.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
Re-writing is harder for me, but I have a process that makes it bearable. I compile a list of all the issues that need addressed. Then I go through the manuscript and fix the easy stuff first. Anything that takes more time, along with the suggestions I disagree with, I put on hold. Then I make a second pass and work on the next layer of fixes. This gives me time to think about the harder elements that need changed. I usually make three passes before I’ve resolved the toughest issues.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
Yes!!! I really rely on my critique croup as my Alpha Readers. I give them chapters every month and they help with content, plot structure, and characterization. Once I’ve finished a manuscript, I go over it about 2-3 times, and then I send it out to Beta Readers. I select two authors to swap manuscripts with for beta reads. They catch a lot and make great suggestions to make the story better. Afterwards, I do a rewrite and send it to 2 other people for proofreads who catch small things like grammar. Then I go over it again, and if I’m lucky and don’t need another beta read, I submit it.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
Cover design is hugely important! Face it, people do judge a book by its cover. My first four book covers were designed by the art department in Covenant. I gave suggestions, but they pretty much did what they wanted. The designs were professional, and I was happy with them.
I designed the cover for my current book, IN TOO DEEP, after taking a few classes on cover design. I have to admit, it’s harder than I thought, but I’m an artist so I wanted to try it. There are certain fonts that you should avoid, and there are a lot of tricks you should do with color combinations, lighting contrast, and font variation and placement. I don’t have photo shop, but I did find an online tool that allowed me to create layers for my cover. I think I have about 12 layers in my design which consists of several vignettes, textures, pictures overlaying pictures, PNG lighting accents, and then the text. It takes some finessing to get things so they look like they belong together, but I think I did okay.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
Once Covenant accepted my first book it was a pretty smooth process. They directed me through everything. They did reject a couple of my books though which I have taken elsewhere. One of those “rejected” books, I sent out queries to find an agent. It went as far as getting placed with a publisher, but then the deal fell through, so I’m back to trying to find a home for it again. I’m also trying to branch into self-publishing with my book, IN TOO DEEP . That’s a completely different process, and I’m learning a lot as I go. It takes more work on my part, but I enjoy the freedom I have with making decisions.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
My sister/co-author, Stephonie, came up with a great idea to make a “Mark of Royalty music video” to help market our first book. It was a fun experience to find a director, actors, a song, and do it all on a budget. But it worked. Sales for our first book have stuck well. We also did a blog tour, and our publisher did a lot of marketing too.
For my current book, , I’m using Kindle Scout to market. I campaign for 30 days, trying to get as many nominations for my book as possible. If it doesn’t win, I’ll still self-publish it and my Kindle Scout campaign will have kick started my book launch. Plus, Amazon will email everyone who nominated my book and tell them that it’s out. Free advertising from Amazon is great!
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
I’ve always had pretty good response from readers. There are always a few bad reviews, but you can’t please everyone, so I don’t listen to negative comments. My favorite moments is when someone emails me and tells me that my book made a difference in their life, or that it’s their favorite book.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
My first book, Mark of Royalty, sold through its first print run of 5,000 within the first three months of being released. It was great! My other books didn’t take off quite as well, so I think the music video really helped the first book. It was thinking-outside-the-box kind of marketing.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I just looked this up, and I was surprised to see that my ebook and paperback sales are pretty even. I think this is because my target audience are always frequenting stores like Deseret Book and Seagull Book which helps my paperback sales.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I didn’t set the price with my books through Covenant. They decide what to charge for them depending on page count and overhead.
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?
Once I had a book published, I realized that I can do this—I can be a writer. It’s hard, but I know I can do it, so I went to writer conferences, bought books on writing, and started learning the craft. I have a need to create stories. Each book is its own experience. Moving from being traditional published to self-published has been my biggest change. I’m still going through that process with my book, , but I love how much control I have and how quickly I can make things move. I don’t have to wait two or three years for my book to be released. I’m covering a lot of new territory, which is scary, but it’s all doable.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
Just with my last book, , but I explained that above. Going through Kindle Scout is a different process. It’s like a mix between self-publishing and traditional publishing.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
I considered myself a writer as soon as my first book was published. But I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve “arrived”. There is always another mountain to climb. There is always another level to reach, another goal, more expectations to meet.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I write (or edit, plot, outline, etc…) every morning for at least a couple of hours Monday through Friday. I set goals and submitting deadlines which motivates me to get things done. My critique group also keeps me motivated.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
Everything. What’s your favorite piece of advice? How do you finish a book? How do you plot? What’s a dangling modifier? I get all sorts of questions.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Whatever you’re trying to do (writing, editing, or marketing) keep going. Don’t let the unknown or uncertainty stop you. This whole process is like “driving a car at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”