Today, I’m excited to bring you Carolyn McCray, Amber Scott, and Rachel Thompson, authors of the hot new book Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-Publishing. These three fun, passionate, hard-working women dish about their book, the indie book movement, and their writing lives.
Interview with Carolyn McCray, Amber Scott, and Rachel Thompson
What inspired Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-Publishing?
We all have expertise in different areas. Carolyn has experience with various forms of publishing and social media. Amber published traditionally and switched to indie, so she understands both angles, and she also has formatting and Facebook prowess. Rachel turned her popular blog into a book and brings a love and knowledge of Twitter. Carolyn had the idea that, drawing on our combined experience, we could create an incredible guide for any writer looking to self-publish or build their writer’s platform.
What is the co-author process like and how does it compare to writing solo?
Carolyn: It’s definitely a collaborative effort. Different personalities work in different ways, which are often very different from your own style. It’s important to accept this and trust your co-authors to do their part and that they will put in just as much energy and care as you do. Respecting each other’s style is critical.
We all focused on our strengths; fortunately, Carolyn had worked on many other team writing projects so she organized us, and kept us on track and on schedule. Amber had coauthored an anthology, so she knew what to expect. Rachel did her best to keep up!
What challenges did you face in writing a nonfiction book?
Carolyn and Amber are both quite experienced with the business aspect of indie publishing as well as marketing and promotion, so it really was just a matter of writing information down in a linear way so that someone new to the industry would be able to understand it easily. Rachel’s bookÂ A Walk in the Snark is non-fiction (humor) plus she teaches social media workshops for the IBC so she was able to draw from both experiences.
While you don’t go through the same creative process you would if writing a novel, there is certainly an art to nonfiction writing! We felt this book needed to encompass everything a new author would need to fully embrace self-publishing and social media and we were eager to get at it!
Rachel: I write non-fiction normally though about completely different topics, so for me it was just a matter of slowing down and writing in a more step-by-step manner. For example, in the Twitter section, there’s just so much information. Steps I take in ten minutes can take chapters to spell out! So that was definitely a challenge for me.
Was there any point when you wondered if Dollars & Sense would come to fruition? How did you overcome that fear?
Carolyn: Inevitably, life happens. Being in charge of so many back to back events plus participating in them plus working on my own fiction goals, at every point I wondered how in the world it would all come together. Then it did.
Amber: Carolyn is amazing at keeping the bigger picture in mind and pulling me out of the reeds when I felt overwhelmed or lost. Rachel was always there to help me laugh and smile and remember that while we mean what we say and take it seriously, it is supposed to be fun.
Rachel: Actually, no. I know these two women pretty well and there was no doubt in my mind the book would be finished. If anyone could get this book done, it would be these amazing authors. They rock.
Why do you think going indie is so compelling to authors right now?
Carolyn: There is a paradigm shift in progress, with the publishing industry undergoing a massive change and authors realizing they can keep more profits by going indie. For authors, the attractiveness of being independent in all aspects of the creative process is at the heart of it.
Indie gets bad press. As a stereotype, this is unfair – plenty of us have risen to the top, by using top-of-the-line services and writing quality books. We teach authors that the product we put out there has to be the very best quality or people simply will not buy it.
This is not to say indie publishing is easy. Achieving success takes a lot of hard work, as we spell out in detail in the book.
What is the biggest myth about self-publishing today?
That indies are ruining publishing in some way. That all indie writers are losers who couldn’t make it the traditional way. That eBooks are destroying minds. That we ‘cheapen’ the literary process. The list goes on.
Of course indie authors do not have to be any of those things. No one is pointing a finger at Barry Eisner or JA Konrath. As more and more of the cream of the indie crop rises, that stigma will go down #hopefully
What three things can any author do today to improve sales?
Carolyn: Embrace social media, optimize their Amazon page, and have an eBook!
Rachel: Authors should have an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads — and for goodness sakes, yes, you need a blog! Even before your book comes out.
Amber: A blog establishes your presence with readers, creates a personae, and most importantly, is where your initial fan base comes from.
For indie writers, in your experience, what’s the easy part? What’s the hard part?
Being a writer can feel quite isolating at times, so the easy part is definitely having each other to call on when we are having a tough day, to run things by, to critique something quickly, and knowing that we have each other’s back. Founding the collective has been an incredible bonding experience for all of us and we feel fortunate to have laid such a strong foundation for our entire collective.
The hard part is doing it all ourselves, which can be overwhelming. That’s one of the main reasons for the Collective – sales and marketing can be difficult to do on your own. With wonderfully effective promotions like Bestseller For A Day and our unique multi-author, same-day blog tours, indie authors can work as a team to promote their own work as well as receive from and give support to other fantastic indie authors.
Carolyn, Amber & Rachel: The results are inspiring.
THE AUTHORS: WRITERS & WRITING
How was the Indie Book Collective born in the first place?
Carolyn (of course!) had the idea. She wanted to bring together a group of writers of varying experiences and backgrounds who could help other writers learn to self-publish and embrace social media. The idea wasn’t to do it for them but to teach them how to do it all themselves.
Carolyn, Amber, & Rachel: we are, to be quite honest, amazed at how much we’ve grown since our launch last October. We have a dedicated staff of over twenty volunteers who are a truly incredible group of individuals working toward common goals: publication and success. The level of support is staggering.
Tell us more about the Collective. Can you describe a typical day?
We launched the IBC last October. Carolyn and Rachel were the original cofounders with Amber on board full time in December.
A typical day has Rachel handling the IBC stream, interacting with our over 6,500 member collective, writing tweets, working with our staff on organizing all workshops, blogs, press, getting us involved in outside events such as the upcoming IBE (Indie Book Event) in NYC on 7/30 where all three of us have been asked to be panelists about all things indie & social media. Amber handles all things eBook, blog tour and manages staff & so much more; and Carolyn oversees it all and comes up with all the amazing IBC project and marketing ideas — we just wear our helmets! We all write for the IBC blog (though we’ve now recruited our terrific volunteer staff of over 20+) and … somewhere in there, we write our own books, blogs, and manage our own Twitter streams.
What was the question again?
What three words represent the philosophy of the Indie Book Collective?
Teach, promote, create!
Fill in some blanks:
Carolyn: the perfect dog #whichdoesntexistbutIlovethemanyway
Amber: a hot man who cleans and doesn’t complain
Rachel: a fallacy. However, I will settle for the perfect martini.
If you can’t:
Carolyn: eat just one ding-dong, then eat three and be done with it #okayfour.
Amber: have the hottest vampire, then why bother? .
Rachel: snark, then support those who do.
What advice do you wish you’d heard in the beginning of your writing career?
Amber: Carolyn says this all the time: forget all the writing prompts and exercises. The best prompt of all is this: write your darn book. There are always going to be a million reasons not to sit down and focus. Get rid of those and just get it done.
What are the most exciting parts of your writing process? Why?
Amber: Being in the zone, where you aren’t even thinking about where you’re going. You just feel it and surrender to the narrative flow.
Rachel: Sharing my experience of going from blog to book was the most fun. It’s not something a lot of people have done and fortunately, with Carolyn’s help, Snark has been received well. So sharing that process was great. Putting it all down in a timeline was tricky, though. Carolyn definitely had to reign me in a few times!
What did self-publishing teach you about your writing?
Carolyn: We’ve all learned different lessons, of course. Ultimately, the lesson is that writing is writing.
We all love what we’re doing and can’t dream of not writing, but you have to sit down and get it done. Self-publishing allows you to get your books to the reader base you have developed; it also forces you to expand into other areas, which we’ve done through social media. The marketing is so much more intimate and that helps fuel us, to connect us with our readers and fans in ways never before possible.
What so-called personal failure do you now see as a blessing?
Carolyn and Amber: leaving traditional publishing and going it on our own. It just showed us how much more indie publishing had to offer; success was just waiting around the corner for us to grab and run with.
Rachel: definitely leaving the corporate world. I never felt I fit there, and my creative side was always pushing to come out. Writing has been a patient friend.
What motto do you live by every day?
Carolyn: Stop at two ding-dongs. Okay three. All right, max four #butthatsit
Amber: My motto is think bigger, now bigger than that.
Rachel: Don’t burn anything.
Clearly, you women are busy. How do you balance your work and home lives?
Amber: Balance? What is this balance you speak of? No, really. I have an amazing husband and two amazing kids who have learned to share me with my big dreams. My husband knows when to yank me back into ‘real’ life and my kids never let me neglect them. Having such an amazing support network through the IBC staff and my peers gets me through every panic attack, too.
Carolyn: I’m scheduled down to the minute. Somehow, it all works out.
Rachel: Sitters. And take-out. And the beach. Walks on the beach w/ my family. As long as it’s not raining. Hair, frizz — it’s not pretty.
If something has to give, what is it?
Rachel: Definitely sleep. I’m always tired. Thank god for coffee. Seriously. People ask if I believe in god and I say, “Why yes. Yes I do. Coffee did it for me.”
What tricks have you learned to stay motivated despite the challenges presented by a writing career?
Write every day. Treat it like a job. Cause it is! This is your career: give it the respect it deserves. Give yourself a word goal; when you meet it, then you can play. We realize you have other commitments: family, kids, day job, etc., but writing is a commitment too.
Remember that writing the book is only half your job: you need to spend the other half of your time marketing! Tricks like scheduling tweets/mentions ahead of time is a real time-saver. Social media is a wonderful part of promotion, but can also steal crucial writing time. Striking a balance is key for any writer.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Rachel: I’m honored to have been a part of this project. I had a rough few months and the writing of this book was difficult timing for me. I’m so very grateful for Carolyn and Amber. They couldn’t rock more.
Carolyn McCray is a social media and sales consultant to indie authors and publishing houses alike. Her own controversial thriller, 30 Pieces of Silver hit the #1 spot on the Amazon ‘Men’s Adventure’ list, (beating out the likes of Clive Cussler), and all four of her indie published books are Kindle Bestsellers.
Carolyn is also the founder of the Indie Book Collective, an organization with over 5,000 members which is dedicated to helping authors utilize social media to the fullest to sell their books. The Collective offers free workshops, a live advice radio show, innovative programs such as Blog Tour de Force & Bestseller for a Day, and so much more to its members.
In between nap times and dishes, Amber Scott escapes into her characters’ addictive adventures. She often burns dinner, is a sucker for chocolate and still believes in happily ever after. She lives in Arizona with her charming husband, cuddly kids and, someday, many, many cats. She co-founded the Indie Book Collective along with the queen of snark, Rachel Thompson, and the force of nature, Carolyn McCray.
Rachel is a mom, a wife, and a recovering pharmaceuticals rep. It’s been a long process but she’s doing okay, thanks. She usually writes about men (The Mancode), marriage, kids, being a mom, living in the OC (ya know–being a pale redhead living in a sea of blondes) and vodka. Not necessarily in that order, depending on the day.