Continuing on in our series of interviews with self-published authors, this week we have New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Paige Weaver. Find out what inspires her to write, how she found self-publishing success & her tips for writers thinking of going down the self-publishing route.
What or whom inspires you to write?
That’s a hard question because, for as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. I remember daydreaming about plots and characters when I was in the third or fourth grade. In the margins of my homework, I would write conversations between a protagonist and antagonist (I ran across some those recently.) As a teenager, I spent many hours in my room, writing stories in spiral notebooks. Now, I hear a song or observe a stranger and an entire plot appears in my head. It’s like watching a movie play out in my mind. So the inspiration has always been there.
I think now I’m inspired to write because of my family. My husband believed in me and wouldn’t let me give up on my writing. He is the reason I took a chance and decided to put a book out there for the public to read. I also wanted to show my children that if you have a dream, follow it. If someone tells you that you cannot do something, prove them wrong. That’s what I did.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us about your books?
Promise Me Darkness is a novel about friendship, love, and hope. The two main characters, Maddie and Ryder, have been inseparable since childhood but they are very different. Ryder is the bad boy with no rules or regard for the future. Maddie is the typical good girl who does what’s expected of her and takes care of her family and friends. Despite their differences, they maintain a strong friendship, surpassing both time and distance.
As they grow older, they start to discover that their friendship has turned into something more, but one moment changes everything. Life as they know it is about to change. The United States is thrown into chaos, leaving Maddie and Ryder on the run. Along the way, they face many obstacles but their biggest threat is losing their friendship as they discover love.
I also have many other books that I’ve started, just begging to be finished. They are very different from Promise Me Darkness but all are love stories.
Can you tell us anything about the sequel, Promise Me Light?
I don’t want to give away too much because it is packed full of information but I can say that it begins a few weeks after Promise Me Darkness ended. There is a new twist that I don’t think readers will be expecting and there are new obstacles for the characters to deal with. It will be the last book for Maddie and Ryder.
When do you find time to write? Does this differ from when you started writing your first novel?
I write every free moment that I can find. I have a small child at home and another in school so I write around their schedules. After my son leaves for school, I sit down and start writing, taking breaks only to eat and take care of my daughter. I also write in the car while waiting to pick my son up from school and I write in the lobby of my daughter’s dance class. As I’m cooking dinner, I usually answer emails from fans and post on Facebook or Twitter. After my children go to bed, I usually write until 2 a.m. It’s the same schedule I had when I wrote Promise Me Darkness. Both then and now, I put myself on a self-imposed deadline, so that’s why I write around the clock.
Why did you choose to self-publish? Did you try the traditional route first?
No, I did not try the traditional route first. I have never sent a query letter to an agent nor did I ever submit Promise Me Darkness to a publisher. I made this decision because, for many years, I read articles about well-known authors being rejected by publishing houses again and again before they finally received a publishing deal, sometimes more than a decade later. I did not want to go through the heartache of being told my writing was not good enough to sit on a shelf. I wanted the readers to decide. That’s why I chose to self-publish. It never crossed my mind that I would be a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. I believed that happened to other people so I didn’t worry about ranks or lists. I simply wanted to write and self-publishing seemed like the right path.
Would you have taken the opportunity to go down the traditional route if that had been a possibility?
Yes, I would have but my writing is very different from most titles that publishers are choosing at this time. Publishers tend to stay with popular trends and are slow to pick up something new. I hope that publishers are working to identify and even lead the trends in romance instead of following them because publishing itself is quickly changing - with or without them.
What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?
Being in control of every aspect of the process is the biggest advantage. I wrote what I wanted to write. I chose the cover artist and the release date. I also chose the length of the book. Promise Me Darkness is 100,000 words but every writing tip I read said a book should not be over 85,000 words. Most people tell me they can read it in a day and many have read it four or five times already. I’ve received many emails requesting the next one be longer. Because I’m self-published, that will be at my discretion.
I also had complete control over how my book looked. My husband formatted the book and uploaded it to the retailers. We controlled everything from assigning ISBNs to whom we wanted to sell the book. The price was also my decision and I can change it anytime I feel it would be appropriate. Being self-published, I can decide the time frame for my next book. Self-publishing also means that I can write the stories I want to write and the fans love to read – regardless of whether they’re what the big publishers believe is acceptable.
On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on? Such as the editor-author relationship.
I think it’s important that the writer keeps writing and using their creativity instead of handling the aspects of publishing. Self-publishing means you are a one-person show, handling everything from writing to making sure your money is getting accounted for. Traditional publishing allows you to concentrate more on the writing.
Corresponding with Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble to find out why things aren’t working like they should takes away from the creative process and is very frustrating, to say the least. All the small details can be time-consuming and take patience. For a published author, someone else handles those stresses.
Do you feel there is more of a sense of community with self-publishing than there is with traditional publishing? How important do you feel interacting with your fans has been?
There seems to be a great sense of community with both self-publishers and those that are now traditionally published authors. I am still new but I don’t really see a difference or a dividing line between the two. Everyone seems to support each other. I have received many wonderful emails from other authors congratulating me on the success of my book. That means quite a bit to me and proves that most authors support each other. The sense of community is also extended to people wanting to be writers. Before publishing Promise Me Darkness, I contacted a few well-known authors looking for information. They were more than willing to answer every one of my questions. That information was invaluable. The problem is that, in today’s age, there seems to be many authors that are traditionally published with one book and self-published with another - so it’s hard to divide the groups, in my opinion.
I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t interact with my fans. They mean everything to me, but it’s still crazy to think that I have fans! When I have days where the words just won’t flow or I start to doubt myself, all I have to do is open an email or read a Facebook post from a reader and suddenly, I have the confidence to carry on. I have received emails from individuals that are so endearing, they’ve made me cry. I never expected this kind of response. So without social media and the ability to get to know my fans on an individual basis, I would feel very disconnected. They tell me what they want and do not want to see in my future books. I think that is a huge benefit to a writer because you learn what works and what doesn’t. But more importantly, my fans have become more than fans; they have become friends.
How important is marketing yourself in the early stages of your self-publishing career? Any tips?
I think my situation is unique because I did nothing to market Promise Me Darkness. The success of the book started with nothing but word-of-mouth and a cover reveal by my graphic artist on Facebook. A few weeks after it was released, bloggers started reviewing the book and requesting interviews. About a month after its release, I finally sent out a few requests to bloggers to review my book but by then it had already made the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists. Because of that, I still credit the success of the book to my fans for spreading the word.
I do think that blogs are a writer’s best marketing tool. I interact regularly with some of the bloggers that were there in the beginning, reviewing my book. They have told me that whenever I need anything, all I have to do is ask. For that, I will always be grateful. My advice is to request that blogs review your book before it is released. Give them an advanced reader copy. If they love a book, they will go out of their way to help spread the word.
Did you design your own cover? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader?
The cover is the first thing that a reader sees when they are searching for a book, so I think it is extremely important. In my opinion, you can have a very interesting synopsis on the back but if the cover is not up to par, the book won’t sell. When I buy a book, I judge the book by its cover first (against the age old saying). A bad cover, and I won’t buy it. A writer can save money by designing his or her own cover but because I knew how important that first impression was, I hired someone. Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations designed my cover. She took a very vague summary of my book and turned it into an amazing cover. The idea and design were all her idea and I went with it. It was money well-spent because it paid for itself in sales.
Finally, do you have any advice for writers looking to self-publish?
My advice is to do your research. Read as much as you can on self-publishing, formatting, and uploading to websites. Hire an editor and ask family and friends to read the book. Use beta readers if you need more opinions. Research the legal aspects of self-publishing, such as obtaining copyrights and tracking money for tax purposes. Learn how Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Apple work for self-publishers. Each has different rules and procedures. But the most important thing I can say is to stick with it. Self-publishing can be a tedious process but trust me – it’s well worth it.