Author Interview: Tiana Smith, Match Me If You Can
Every writer has their own path, and figuring out what you want and going for it are key. As author Tiana Smith says, "Your big break could be just around the corner, but if you give up, you’ll never know." Check out her author interview about how she got published.
Match Me If You Can (Swoon Reads/Macmillan, January 2019)
How To Speak Boy (Swoon Reads/Macmillan, January 2020)
When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.
I started writing Match Me If You Can in 2015, so it took a few years between writing/editing/querying/subbing/acceptance to get to where it is now. I liked the concept of a love quadrangle, where things got complicated and messy, but were still funny and romantic. That’s a lot to balance, but the idea just wouldn’t let me go, so I had to write it.
Mia's best friend Robyn is known for her matchmaking skills, which is perfect, because homecoming is just around the corner. But Robyn refuses to set Mia up with the guy of her dreams, which forces Mia to take matters into her own hands. She uses Robyn's matchmaking service to make sure popular Vince Demetrius falls for her.
Vince asks her out, but Mia doesn't count on Logan, the persistent school newspaper photographer who seems to like her out of the blue. Now she has to choose between Vince - the guy she knows is right for her - and Logan, who insists that she give him a chance. And she needs to make sure Robyn doesn't find out that Mia's been matchmaking behind her back.
Mia has two weeks before homecoming. Can she fix the mess she made or will she have to kiss her perfect match goodbye forever?
What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
Editing was really hard for me. I expected it to be rearranging a few sentences and maybe going over my grammar. But I rewrote almost my entire book based on my editor’s feedback. It was incredibly stressful, but I learned so much from the experience, and it made my writing so much stronger as a result.
Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I made it the best I could, then I started querying agents. I actually received an offer from a small press, but I really wanted a national audience if possible, so I turned down that offer and signed with an agent instead. It’s been a long road of ups and downs, but I think it’s important to ask yourself what you want out of your book. Then choose the publishing path that is best for that and do all that you can to make it happen. For some people, that’s self publishing, for others, it’s a small press or traditional publishing. It looks different for everyone, and there’s no right answer.
Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha/Beta Readers)? What did you get out of that?
Yes! I’m a huge fan of getting critique partners and people to provide feedback on your work. They see things you don’t because you’re too close to the project. It helps you grow as a writer and improve your craft.
Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
The cover designer for my first book was Liz Dresner, and the designer for my second book was Sophie Erb. They both did a great job! They asked me about some key scenes in my novel and what types of covers I liked. I didn’t have too much of a say in things, but my publisher did try to make sure I was happy with them. I think cover design is extremely important, which is why I’m okay with handing that over to the marketing team at Macmillan, because they know what they’re doing more than I do.
How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
After I received my first publishing deal, things started moving along a pretty standard path. My editor sent me feedback and I made edits. After my first book came out I pitched my second novel to my editor and she made an offer. My second book came out a year after my first. I’m happy with my publishing path and would do it the same way again if given the choice. Except for maybe all the waiting. That’s excruciating.
How have you marketed your first book?
Because I’m traditionally published, I’m lucky that my publisher does a lot of the bigger marketing of my books. I’ve done blog posts, interviews, podcasts, conferences, panels and other things that I’ve set up on my own. I’ve contacted bookstores and libraries and tried to get myself out there as much as possible. But there’s really only so much any one person can do.
How was the initial feedback from readers?
I make it a point to never read reviews. Better for my sanity that way, haha.
How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
This is another thing that I try not to look at. Some people might think that’s like burying my head in the sand, but really, if I’ve done all that I can, then looking at sales numbers won’t help me in any way.
Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I do get higher sales of ebooks than either hardcover or paperback versions of my books. I think that’s to be expected because of the price difference, though I do still get a lot of hardcover sales.
Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
My publisher has complete control over the pricing of my books, in all formats. Again, this is something I know nothing about, so I was happy to give the reins over to someone who had more experience than I did in this area.
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 think I’ll always be writing stories. I just can’t fathom not doing it. It’s a part of who I am. My second book, How To Speak Boy, was much easier for me simply because my editor approved my synopsis before I even started writing. So, I didn’t have nearly the same level of edits that I had to do on Match Me If You Can. I was also on a deadline for my second book, and I think that actually helped me get the story down and push through any insecurities or fears I might have had. I knew the process now and knew just how much changed in edits. So, I was okay with my first draft being rougher, and there’s something freeing in that.
Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
Both of my books are with the same publisher, so while things went much faster for my second book, the overall process was very similar.
When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
If you write, you’re a writer. I’ve always called myself a writer. But it wasn’t until I got my first publishing deal that I started calling myself an author.
When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I usually write when my son is in school, or at night after he’s in bed. Deadlines are a big motivator for me, and while I know they don’t work for everyone, it’s what gets me to finish things once I’ve started.
What do aspiring authors ask you?
I get asked a lot of things about my publishing journey, my agent, or my publisher. I think it’s because aspiring authors want hints on how to become published too. It’s encouraging to hear that established authors struggled with the same things and had to overcome the same hurdles, but most of all, that it can be done.
What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
I’m not sure who said it, but there’s a quote that says something like, “A published author is an amateur who didn’t quit.” That’s so true. Your big break could be just around the corner, but if you give up, you’ll never know. If writing is something you love doing, then keep doing it. Keep chasing your dream because persistence is what makes things happen. Tenacity will go a lot way in writing, editing, and even marketing. Don’t give up.