Author Interview, Nikki Moyes, If I Wake

Australian author Nikki Moyes wanted her new book to start a conversation around mental health, without glorifying suicide like some YA books on the market. So number one, she set out to write a compelling story. On her writing and publishing journey, she's learned a lot from other authors via Facebook groups, and she's utilized many tools such as beta readers, editors, and BookBub.

Read her full interview below.

1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) plus your author website/Facebook page links.

If I Wake


My next book called Kokoda Trek will be released later this year.

2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.

I started writing my first book while at university. It took three years to finish and another couple of years to realise it wasn’t very good. While trying to work out how to improve my writing, I came up with the idea for If I Wake. Most ideas just appear in my head – I’m not really sure where they come from. For If I Wake though, I was wanting to write a book that could start a conversation around mental health, without glorifying suicide like some of the Young Adult books currently on the market.

Synopsis: Will is sixteen year old Lucy’s best friend. Their lives intersect in dreams, where destiny pulls them together through different times in history. Even though their meetings are more real to Lucy than the present, Lucy is uncertain if Will exists outside her mind. Lucy’s mum thinks there is something wrong when Lucy sleeps for days at a time. She is so caught up with finding a cure she doesn’t see the real problem. Lucy is bullied at school and is thinking of ending her life. When the bullying goes too far and Lucy ends up in a coma, only Will can reach her. But how do you live when the only person who can save you doesn’t exist?

3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

I have trouble getting the ideas from my head onto the computer. Part of it is self-doubt – it makes it hard to sit down and focus on writing. Also I’m a terrible procrastinator and I have a full time job to pay the bills. There isn’t a lot of time left over for writing.

4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?

With my first book, I asked a few friends what they thought and then set about querying agents with big dreams of a traditional publishing contract. Instead all I got was lots of form rejections.

When it came to If I Wake, I applied for a mentoring program when the first draft was complete. It was expensive, but I got to work one-on-one with a published author and she pointed out all the areas where my writing could be better. I learned a lot from the experience. Then I found a beta reader. When I was happy that this time I actually had something of a publishable standard, I set out to get it published.

5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?

I’d already worked with a mentor, so I knew what to expect and had fixed all the big issues with the story. I think it’s important to listen to constructive criticism so you can improve your writing, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to follow through with all suggested changes. The editor I used for If I Wake wasn’t great and I had to change several things back to how they were originally. They also missed a lot of typos. I ended up getting a proofreader to go over the book again once I’d already published. This involved having to republish new additions with the errors fixed.

6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?

Editing uses a different part of the brain from the initial creativity of writing. I’m a bit dyslexic when I type so sometimes I discover I’ve typed something completely different to what I thought I had.

Working with a mentor was brilliant. She pointed out were my pacing needed work and explained that I had a tendency to tell and summarise scenes instead of showing. Re-writes involved moving sections of the story around to work better and making each scene better.

7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?

After working with the mentor, I found a beta reader to review the changes I made. She had some very helpful comments and helped me polish the story. I generally use an American or Canadian beta reader to pick up any Australian-isms that might be confusing. I’m now part of a critique group who make suggestions earlier in the writing process. This has been an interesting experience for me as I don’t like showing people my work until I think it’s good.

8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?

I had no idea what I was doing when it came to self-publishing, so I found a company who could do the formatting, editing, and cover design for me. First of all, they tried to give me stock images for the cover, but I didn’t like them. Eventually, they offered to have their designer do a completely original cover for an extra fee. I gave them an image of a girl (it was a clip from Avicii’s music video Wake Me Up) and the cover you see is what the designer came up with. I loved it immediately and was happy to pay the extra money for the perfect cover.

9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?

I had my heart set on being traditionally published. I approached heaps of agents and publishers, having learned the process while querying my first book. This time I got a couple of personalized rejections with comments such as “…there were some really interesting elements in your story, and the characters in particular were strong...” and “…there is no doubt that it is well written…” but in the end they didn’t feel it was quite the right fit for them. When I realized I wouldn’t be able to publish traditionally, I started to look into self-publishing. I knew I had a good book this time and wanted to get it out into the world.

10. How have you marketed your first book?

Marketing has been a huge learning curve for me. I use Facebook, but never really done the Twitter thing or any other social media. I’ve connected with other authors on Facebook and tried a couple of promotional companies. Some have been terrible, others ok, but I’ve never made my costs back until I tried BookBub. I’m currently running a promotion with them and I’ve been so happy with the results. I’ve even just ended up with a best seller label from Amazon due to the promotion {insert happy dance}.

11. How was the initial feedback from readers?

The feedback has been amazing. It’s interesting to see how each reader connects with a different part of my story – some with the emotions, others with the history. If I Wake does have a message behind it, but first and foremost it is a story and readers connect with that. My sister-in-law particularly liked the fact I snuck one of her favourite memes (about spiders wearing water droplets as hats) into a historical scene set in Pompeii J

12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?

I had no idea what to expect when it came to sales. It is hard to get noticed when you are self-published and don’t have a massive marketing budget. Sales have been steady though and I’m seeing more interest in the print version of my book. The BookBub promotion has given me an incredible amount of sales in only a couple of days so it will be interesting to see how the book goes after the promotion ends.

13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?

I released the print version online several months after the ebook, but apart from when I’ve done ebook promotions, the print is actually selling better. The US also seems to be my biggest market at the moment even though I’m an Australian writer.

I’m going to look into doing an audiobook version next.

14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?

Pricing is a difficult one and I’ve been involved in many Facebook discussions around this. The comparison books to mine are all traditionally published so they tend to have much higher priced ebooks than mine, but they can offer the print version for less than my cost price. Luckily, one of the advantages of being self-published is that I can adjust the prices to try to find the best price for the book.

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 write because I have ideas in my head that I need to get out. I found If I Wake came together much easier than the first book I wrote. I’m also trying my hand at a travel story about a jungle trek I did earlier this year through an area my granddad fought in during WWII. It’s a completely different type of book to what I normally write, so we’ll see what my beta readers think of it.

16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?

My travel/trekking book will have a few photos, as well as images of translated Japanese war documents my grandad had. I’ll have to learn some extra formatting and layout for that one.

17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?

I think you are a writer when you start writing, however I didn’t feel like an actual author until I had a book published.

18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?

As I said before, I have a full time job, so writing is generally squeezed in on evenings or weekends. I write because I have to. There are ideas in my head that need to get out and I want to know what happens to the characters. I listen to a lot of music as well and will make a playlist for each story I’m working on.

19. What do aspiring authors ask you?

I’m still a bit of a beginner myself, so I haven’t had too many people ask me questions yet. I do participate in various Facebook groups though were we can discuss different topics such as marketing, so we can share what has and hasn’t worked for each of us.

20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?

Get your book written first, but don’t rush into publication. I still haven’t published the first book I wrote because it needs work before it is of a standard where I want other people to see it. Use beta readers and editors before publishing to make sure the work you are putting out into the world is the best it can be. Don’t skimp on cover design. People do judge books by covers and a poor one will turn readers away.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts