The Writing Sparrow Episode 35 | The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing with Rachel Grosvenor

This week, Rachel Grosvenor is back to talk about the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing and the pros and cons of each. If you’re unsure which path is right for you (or if you’re just curious to learn more!), this episode is for you!

It’s a little longer, but it’s worth every second *high five*

To find out more about Rachel, check out her website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the 10th of May 2021. This is Episode 35. Today, Rachel Grosvenor is back to talk more about something she mentioned in our last chat about what a writing coach does. Now, if you’ve been listening to this podcast, you might remember Briana Morgan, mentioning me probably already having done an episode on self-publishing and traditional publishing, and I have not. Then, Rachel mentioned how she used to teach this very thing. So, I asked her back to [00:01:00] talk more about that. Welcome back, Rachel.

Rachel: Hello, thank you for having me again.

Sarina: It’s my pleasure. I’m really excited to learn a bit more about this because I’m entirely a self-published author by choice, because I’m a control freak.

Rachel: Yeah. [laughs]

Sarina: [chuckles] Probably it suits me better. I know a little bit I think about traditional publishing, but probably not quite as much as I should. I’m excited to hear what you have to say. We’ve also had two very interesting questions come through on Instagram.

Rachel: Yes.

Sarina: Also excited about that. To start with, what are the main differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing? Big question to start with.

Rachel: It’s a big question, yeah. there are a lot of differences between them. The main one would be that with self-publishing, as you mentioned, you are in full control. There are some definites as well. For example, you’re definitely getting published if you’re a self-publisher, [00:02:00] and you can drive that forward, and you are in control of the cover, and the blurb, and the title and all that good stuff. It can look exactly however you want it to look. With traditional publishing, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get published first of all. It is a difficult thing to get traditionally published. But once you are traditionally published, you are basically in the big book shops, you’ve got a team behind you of editors, designers, and all that stuff. You’ve usually got an agent, and there are other pros that can come with it. It opens doors for you, and you may even get a book deal and you get upfront money, and things like that as well.

So, yeah, there are there are some big differences between them. Really, it’s just to do with what kind of thing [00:03:00] that you want to go for, what are you looking for, and where do you want your book to be.

Sarina: Well, money certainly is nice. [laughs]

Rachel: Yes. Money is nice.

Sarina: Wonder what it’s like to have money. [laughs]

Rachel: One can imagine. [laughs]

Sarina: I have no idea. I never know, I don’t know.

[chuckles]

Sarina: What I would say to that is that obviously, it is a lot easier to self-publish, because you do everything yourself, and you can literally just pop on Amazon now, upload whatever, and publish that with some cover, which could maybe it’s just a piece of paper you found that you just quickly scanned in. You can technically do that, although please do not do that. I’d say on the other hand, it’s also relatively difficult to self-publish, because you’ve mentioned the team that you get when you traditional publish, but you do have a team as well, when you self-publish. I’m actually currently as we’re recording this doing a mini-series on my team.

Rachel: Oh, great.

Sarina: Yeah, so that includes my editor, [00:04:00] my cartographer, and my cover designer. In fact, after this interview, I’m doing the interview with my cover designer.

Rachel: Cool.

Sarina: It’s a busy morning for me, but of course, as a self-published author, I had to go out of my way myself to find these people, and to find the right people to work on my book. Whereas I think when you publish traditionally, it’s just the publishing house who gives you these people and then whether you get on or not, or you think that they’re right for your book, you work with them.

Rachel: Exactly. I think that that for some people might make them lean more towards the self-publishing route, because you don’t have the same control. You don’t get to choose what cover you’ve got on it. You don’t get to choose the title. You don’t get to choose the blurb always, and that’s a pretty big deal for people who have a definite vision, so there’s some compromise to be made.

Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because you’ve [00:05:00] also got a marketing team behind you, which is massive and really important, because that’s one of the biggest things about self-publishing, is that you’ve got to ask yourself, “How much money and time can I put into this project? I’ve already written a book. I’ve really gone to this stage. Now it’s actually out there, how much money and time can I put into the marketing?” Not everyone will be able to pay for a marketing expert, not everyone will be able to pay for posters and things to be made up for them. It’s hard work. Marketing on social media, it’s hard work getting your voice out there, because the social media is swamped with people trying to do the same thing. Yeah, a really good thing about traditional publishing is that you’ve got a marketing team behind you, which actually gives you time to go to the next step, which is write your next novel.

Sarina: I think with marketing, especially, there are so many different things that you can try. Just speaking there from personal experience, [00:06:00] but I always find that you really need to try something for quite a while to see if it actually does work.

Rachel: Absolutely.

Sarina: So, there is an awful lot of trial and error involved. You could potentially throw something out thinking it doesn’t work that actually might work really well, if you spent a bit more time on it. Likewise, you might get really focused on something thinking, “Well, this is working for so many other people, it should work for me.” But actually, it doesn’t, you might then really get too focused on that.

Rachel: That’s the tricky thing with marketing. There’s always people come along with the next answer, isn’t it? There’s always people saying, “Well, you want to get on TikTok. You want to go on Pinterest, and you want to get on this and that.” “Oh, there’s so many things I need to get on. There’s so much I need to do.”

Sarina: I don’t think TikTok is for me.

Rachel: Fair enough.

Sarina: More and more of my author friends now also slowly migrating over there, and I’m like, “I don’t wanna. I already have too much social media. I don’t have more time for another one.”

Rachel: Yeah.

Sarina: Of course [00:07:00] what you said about when you traditionally publish, how they decide so many of those things, like your cover and your blurb, and all that, that might equally really appeal to some authors who maybe really just want to do the writing and don’t want to have to worry about all that other stuff. This is what I was going to ask, on the subject of marketing, I heard that these days when you approach traditional publishing and an agent, and then they approach the house for you, that they expect you to do actually quite a lot of the marketing yourself. Can we talk about that? How much marketing would I need to do myself if I went the traditional route?

Rachel: Every author, the general rule is you’ve got to have some kind of a voice nowadays, that I don’t think that was always the case. I’m sure it’s not always the case now. The general rule is [00:08:00] if you send your manuscript off to somebody, they will search for you online. What have you been up to? How have you been publishing other works? Have you got any other things published? Do you have a website? Do you have a following of people wanting to buy your work? I guess the question is, are you a surefire bet for them to get involved with you. They could love your work. if you got nothing about you on the internet at all, they might go, “Oh, actually, this is going to be a really big job and a really big sell,” because if an agent accepts you, obviously, they’ve then got to sell your work, and they’ve got to sell you to a publishing house. They’ve got to take you on and know that actually, it’s worth it.

If you’ve done a background of, “I’m an author, this is my marketing voice, this is who I am,” and you’ve got a sort of following set up, then you’re probably more likely to be accepted. It’s definitely worth bearing that in mind. Also, something that’s worth bearing in mind is, a lot of people enjoy seeing the [00:09:00] process of writing a novel. I know I do. I love to follow authors who are writing because I just want to know what they’re up to, what’s their day looking like.

Sarina: I do. That’s why I’ve started the monthly interviews on writing routines. I feel quite nosy, really, but I love hearing how other authors approach it and how they build up their day and how they write what, when, it’s all very interesting to me. I love seeing that too.

Rachel: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think if you’re writing a book, and you haven’t had anything published yet, and it’s your first novel, and you’re listening to this and thinking, “Oh, no, I don’t have a voice online,” it’s easy to set up an account on Instagram or something like that, and to just share your journey and get involved with people’s journeys. Just through doing that, you’re going to build up a following, and actually you’ll also find that there are people there that will help you be accountable, [00:10:00] that will give you some great tips, that will give you some great advice, and that’s probably the nicest thing about it.

Sarina: Yeah, I would say so. I think especially the writing communities and the reading communities on Instagram and Twitter, for example, have been very welcoming. I think they’re very supportive. They are very good communities to join and to just-

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: -start chatting with.

Rachel: Yeah. Then, if you’ve got a ready-made community, and you’ve decided to self-publish, that’s awesome, because you can say, “Look, here it is, you can actually buy this book now. I’d love you to read it.” Or, you can go to an agent or an independent publishing house, they often accept unsolicited manuscripts. You can go to someone and say, “I do actually have a following of X amount of people, and they would love to read this book, so it’s in your best interests to publish it.”

Sarina: Then, to come back to what we said earlier, [00:11:00] again, about how when you self-publish, you have to do everything yourself, of course. When you have an agent and a publishing house, then they tend to decide your blurb and your cover, and all those things that I personally love to be involved in. I once read this pretty popular book, which I will not name for this. I hate naming things in a negative way. The blurb for me made it sound like it was going to be an epic fantasy. It’s a traditionally published book, so I thought– I love epic fantasy notes, it’s clearly quite a popular thing. I want to read those. It’s a series, so if I like it, I have so many more other books to come back to as well, which is great. Then, it turned out to not be epic fantasy at all. I actually ended up finding it quite mundane and boring.

I think if I were the author, obviously, then I would know that I’ve basically written like an urban fantasy, but then knowing that my [00:12:00] publishing team has decided to make the blurb sound like an epic fantasy, I would be so gutted.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. If it’s not your vision, that’s the tricky thing. Obviously, you do get some say, and it would differ with different teams and different publishers and different people. But the bottom line is that, ultimately, you will have to make a decision about some of those big choices and sign a contract, that essentially means that you don’t have all the rights and the decision-making power. There are pros that might outweigh it for you, so that’s okay in some cases as well. It’s so subjective. It’s really down to what you want as a writer, it’s quite interesting.

Sarina: Yeah, there’s a lot to consider and we can talk about that some more in a second as well. One thing I’ve just thought of that I hadn’t yet included in my original set of questions, [00:13:00] hybrid authors and vanity presses. Hybrid authors, for anyone listening who isn’t aware, are authors who they might self-publish some books, and then maybe their next series they publish with a publishing house, and then maybe the next books after that they do on their own again. Vanity presses, I don’t know a great deal about, but I have heard many bad things and also some good things. I think that’s maybe something that authors who might want to publish, maybe really need to be aware of.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard anything good about vanity presses. My general rule of thumb is that if somebody is asking you for upfront money to publish your work, then it’s the wrong way round. I’ve met a lot of people who have fallen foul of vanity presses, really sad stories if I could be honest with you, about people who have plunged thousands and thousands [00:14:00] of pounds, and then just now have an attic full of their own book that they are trying to sell to strangers, and it’s really hard and they can’t make their money back. I’ve seen that quite a few times.

Sarina: Oh, that’s heartbreaking.

Rachel: It’s very sad. I’ve had some situations where I think twice, I’ve been contacted by a vanity publisher. They’ve said, “Yeah, we want to read your full manuscript,” etc. Before I ever send anything out like that, I always check reviews, I read as much as I can about that person or that company. A few times, I’ve been like, “Oh,” as soon as I google their name, there was loads of people saying, “This is a vanity publisher. They took thousands from me, this is a vanity publisher, they charged me this.” I thought, “It’s not even worth going out to them,” because that’s really scary. Also, what’s really sad about it is the work is never up to [00:15:00] a high standard basically. They don’t print it very well. I’ve never seen a book that’s vanity published that I’ve thought, “Hey, this is printed really well, they did a really nice job with this.” What are the good stories that you’ve heard to do with vanity publishers? I’m intrigued.

Sarina: To be honest now, I don’t know anymore. It’s just every now once again, I think someone will go, oh, maybe then it’s not so much a vanity press and more really a small publisher, I might be getting refused there because it’s very early for me in the morning.

Rachel: That’s okay. Obviously, for some people, it might be their ultimate goal in life to be published, and they might not– This is a really rare occurrence, I’m sure. They might be like, “Hey, I’ve got 10 grand that I want to spend on this,” and a vanity publisher seems like a great idea. That could happen. I’ve never personally spoken to anyone who has been involved and been completely happy with it. I’ve just thought, “Oh, this is such a shame, because you could have self-published it. [00:16:00] You could put all the money into like getting an editor and getting on to design your book cover.” Then, you would have been in the same situation, but you wouldn’t have like an attic full of books, for you to be able to publish on demand, and it would be different for you.

Sarina: You probably would have got a lot more out of it that way as well, without the negative feedback.

Rachel: Yeah.

Sarina: There’s one potential other case study I can think of, which was very early on in my editing business, so a few years ago. I was working with this author, she was my first ever author. There were a few things about the job that weren’t quite 100% right. As I said, it was early on, it was my first job editing, so of course, I was excited about that. Eventually, we parted ways, because she said very suddenly, that she had been made an offer from a [00:17:00] publisher. I think she had been potentially querying a bit here and there anyway, so I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Then, she said that– I think it was already November at the time. Then, she said that the publisher really wanted to get the book out now in December, because from January, they would be representing different genres, and no longer her genre. I said to her, “Then, why would you want to go with a publisher who you know in two months’ time will not be representing your genre anymore?”

Rachel: That’s a really good question. Yeah.

Sarina: I think maybe early on, when you’re just starting out as a writer, and as you said, maybe you just want to be published, no matter how you get there, then maybe that seems like a really tempting offer. I think, maybe especially early on, it can feel really exciting to know that a publisher has approached you and said, “Hey, I don’t know you, but I heard something really interesting about your book, and I want to publish you [00:18:00] and represent you.” That can sound like it’s everything you’ve ever dreamed off, but as you said, do your research and really consider if that’s legit, because it may not be.

Rachel: Absolutely. There’s a book that I use every year that I find really useful for looking at traditional publishing houses. It’s the Writers and Artists Yearbook, and it’s updated every year. It’s basically like just the Yellow Pages for writers, and you can look in it and then you can go, “Okay, so I know that these people published fantasy.” I can see how to get in touch with them. That’s a much safer bet, I think, than just googling publishers, because, yeah, I think there’s just a little bit safer. Also, it’s just a useful book to have as well. So, I’d recommend that.

Sarina: I second that. It’s a great book to have. There’s a lot of useful information beyond all the different addresses and email addresses in there as well.

Rachel: Absolutely.

Sarina: It’s very worth [00:19:00] having. To come back the hybrid publishing, which I don’t think we’ve talked about yet. I think not long ago, possibly last week, I had a new writer approach me on Instagram, I think, I don’t remember who it was now. I think they said that they were interested in traditionally publishing a book, but they said that they then might not be able to self-publish at some point in the future. I said that actually, many writers are hybrids. Is that something that you would recommend? Is it easy to do? Do you think that publishers might frown on it, if you say that you have another series that you might want to publish without them at some point?

Rachel: No, it’s quite interesting, actually. I think that the other way around is more common. If you’ve self-published a work, and then you sign something with a traditional publisher, that’s the more common way [00:20:00] around for it to happen. That does happen. There are those occurrences where a publisher will see a self-published book is doing really well. They’ll get in touch with the author and be like, “Hey, what’s going on? Let’s chat. What else have you got?” It would be interesting to– I guess if you’ve got a traditionally published book, that’s already published, and you decide to self-publish, it’s really up to you, isn’t it? If it’s your project, I guess, as long as you haven’t signed in the thing.

Interesting fact is Beatrix Potter, she was a hybrid author. She self-published Peter Rabbit because she didn’t like what the traditional publishers basically had in the plans, that wasn’t what her vision was, so she self-published that. Then, she got renowned, and the traditional publishers were like, “Actually, no, we will do what you want.” She was like, “Cool, so you can publish my next book.”

[chuckles]

Sarina: “Yeah, well, this one’s mine now, so you’ve missed the [00:21:00] ball on that.”

Rachel: Exactly.

Sarina: I didn’t know that. [chuckles]

Rachel: Yeah. [chuckles]

Sarina: Right. On to the second question that I had originally written down, [laughs] got a bit sidetracked there. In a good way, I think.

Rachel: Yeah.

Sarina: I was going to ask about the pros and cons of self-publishing, but I feel we’ve already talked a little bit about that. Anyway, if there’s anything more that you have to add, then go ahead. Also, maybe if there is anything that you think writers might– maybe something that writers might want to consider, if they think that they might want to self-publish your book, so the kind of person that self-publishing would be the right choice for. I phrased that badly. [laughs]

Rachel: I think that the main thing to consider when you’re self-publishing is, how much time do you have to put into it, because even if you’ve made something that’s really beautiful and brilliant, but if you don’t have time [00:22:00] to market it, that’s the main thing, really. No one’s going to know that you’ve clicked self-published on something, unless you tell them. That’s just a really big deal. If you self-publish, you can get it into bookshops and libraries, you can get it out there. It doesn’t just have to be on Amazon, it doesn’t just have to be on the internet. You can do all sorts of things. You can sign yourselves up to like book fairs and things like that, and go along with a cardboard box of books, and that’s really cool.

I would encourage that to apply for independent book shops and libraries. Also, apply for conferences to talk about your book and things like that. It’s kind of anything, you’re trying to get clients in a way, you’re trying to get readers, so put yourself out there as much as you possibly can if you want to be self-published. It is really easy to be self-published, but it’s the step afterwards that’s the tricky bit, which is just telling people that you’ve done it. [00:23:00] [chuckles]

Sarina: As you said, the marketing isn’t necessarily a quick or easy thing. In fact, it definitely isn’t. [chuckles]

Rachel: That’s true.

Sarina: If you are like me, and you’re a control freak-

Rachel: Yeah.

Sarina: -then self-publishing is probably the better choice for you, just because you do keep control over everything and you’re in of everything. Which for some people, it’s going to sound like the dream, and for other people, it’s going to sound like a nightmare. It just depends which extreme you lean more towards.

Rachel: Absolutely. I’m personally, trying to go down the traditional publishing route, myself at the moment. I did self-publish a book of short stories, but it feels like about five years ago now, which feels crazy, but I think it was. For me, the traditional publishing route is attractive, because what I want to do is write. [00:24:00] I’m on my third novel, and I just want to keep writing novels. I really want to be able to trust that I’ve got that team there to help me with that. So, yeah, that’s why that’s attractive to me, basically.

Also, traditional publishing opens doors for you as well in a different way to self-publishing. You don’t have to apply for things so much. You’ll get more invitations to go to conferences and events and things like that, which is cool. Yeah, they’ve both got different things. I will say the book of short stories that I published five years ago, at the time, I was feeling the bit shy about being a writer. I just was. I think it’s something you have to build up to saying almost and that’s sounds daft but–

Sarina: Yeah, I think to do– No, I get it. I think quite a lot of writers when they [00:25:00] first start writing, long before they even start publishing, it can be quite awkward, almost like you’re an imposter when you say, “Hi, I’m Sarina, and I’m a writer.” “Ha-ha-ha. Okay-

Rachel: Exactly, yeah.

Sarina: -This is weird.” Even once you have published something, it’s almost even more better than saying, “By the way, I’m an author.”

Rachel: Yes.

Sarina: It takes a while, I think, to really be able to own that. If you are feeling a bit awkward saying that that’s normal, don’t worry about it. It gets easier, the more you do it.

Rachel: Oh, it really does get easier. I think it’s a really funny thing how much easier it gets actually. Something that I said to myself last year, was that I was going to try and put myself on camera more, because I noticed that all of my photos on my author account were basically me– they were not of my face, they were all just like cups of coffee. I thought these people don’t know what I look like at all. I’m just hiding away. I was like, “You know what? I’m going to try, I’m going to put myself on camera this year.” Since then, [00:26:00] I’ve really pushed myself.

Now, I’m not even thinking about it anymore. I’m just doing it. I’m making funny little videos. It’s much easier for me to market now that I have kind of stopped worrying about that so much. But if I published that book of short stories now, as I did five years ago, I’d be way more vocal about it. I’d be like, “Everybody, I’ve published [unintelligible [00:26:19] short stories, please go out and buy it.” I’d be doing all these things that I didn’t do then, because I was just feeling a little bit shy about it. It is worth considering what kind of person you are and how you’re willing to put yourself out there at that time, might be something to build up to, who knows?

Sarina: That’s the beautiful thing about experience, isn’t it?

Rachel: Exactly.

Sarina: We’re all learning constantly, which is great. Then same question about traditional publishing. What are the pros and cons, and who would traditional publishing be right for?

Rachel: [00:27:00] Traditional publishing, it’s got a lot of pros and cons. It gives you time to write your next novel, because you get to hand over a lot of the big work. You can get money, really like upfront payments, which is amazing. That’s obviously not necessarily the same case for self-publishing. I will say though, you get less royalty rates, obviously, than self-publishing and traditional publishing, but that’s a given. Also, you’ve got to consider in self-publishing the royalty rates, are they offset against how much you’ve invested? There’s other stuff to consider. Yeah, with traditional publishing, you should get an upfront payment. Also, there’s the potential of getting a book deal as well, which is an exciting thought, because they will usually ask you, “What’s next? What have you got?” If you’ve written a few novels already, then that’s awesome, because you can say, “Well, actually, I’ve got two novels in a drawer, if you want to read them. Let’s see what you think.” [00:28:00]

Yeah, and as I said, you’ve got a professional team of editors, and it opens doors for you as well. But as I said, it’s harder to get published. Also, what’s the timeline that you want your book to be published by, because it can take up to two years from acceptance to shelf.

Sarina: Yeah, but you basically join the queue of all other books that they have also already got in line to be published, so it won’t be anywhere near as quick.

Rachel: Exactly, it won’t be as quick. If that’s on your year bucket list, then it might be worth thinking about something else. There’s loads of stuff that could happen. The potential with traditional publishing is really great, not just other book deals, but also other films and things like that, that [00:29:00] could be made, is there a series? There’s loads of things that people might get in touch with you, because these people actually already have these contacts, they already have a database of contacts and people that they can talk to. They know exactly who that person is, that would help your career move forward. Whereas if you’re self-publishing, you’re going to have to find that stuff out for yourself, and it’s not always going to be easy to get in touch with them.

Sarina: No, it’s certainly going to take a lot more research, I think, on your part. It’s easy, also, then to end up with someone who maybe doesn’t have your best interests at heart. As always, just do your research, and make sure you know who you’re contacting before you contact them.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. As I say you, you can contact agents. My general rule is, in my PhD, we talked a lot about publishing, and something that we talked about was that you shouldn’t send your work off to more than 12 [00:30:00] agents at a time basically. If you send off your work to 12 agents/independent publishers who are accepting manuscripts, and you get 12 rejections, you need to have another look at the novel because there’s a reason for that. You need to take into account what they’re saying to you.

What I do is I keep a spreadsheet. If I ever send any work off, it doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a short story or a poem, whatever, I keep a spreadsheet, I write down exactly who I sent it to, when I sent it to them, when I expect to hear back, because it’ll always say on the submissions page, you should hear back within three months. I set an alert so that I know, “Okay, so in three months’ time, I should have heard back from them.” If I haven’t heard back from them, then I can guess that I was unsuccessful at that time. That is just so much easier, because there are so many agents and publishing houses, but if you don’t keep a spreadsheet or some kind of log, it can get incredibly confusing [00:31:00] about who you’ve sent your work off to, and when you’re unsuccessful. It’s a little bit like applying for jobs in a way that sometimes people just won’t to get back to you, and that means that you’ve been unsuccessful. If you’re not tracking how much time it’s been, then you won’t know. So, I would recommend that.

Sarina: And that could be very frustrating.

Rachel: Yes, of course, again, yeah. Sometimes, you’ve got to have a thick skin. Sometimes, you’ll send off your work, and you’ll get a really excited response. They’ll ask to see the full manuscript and you’ll send it off, and then a month later, they might still say no, so you’ve got to have a thick skin. The thing I always say is, treat agents and publishers like– this is what I’ve always taught in my classes, treat them like children in a way. They will have a list of things that they want of demands, and you should just adhere to those exactly. An example would be, if they’re asking for something by post, don’t make the envelope super tricky [00:32:00] to open, you know what I mean? Don’t put too much sellotape on it, make everything very neat, make everything Times New Roman, number your pages so that if they drop them, they can pick them up again. Do everything you can to stay on their good side by just providing exactly what they’ve asked for, and no less and no more. It’s usually a cover letter, synopsis, the first three chapters of your work, and that’s it. If they want more, they’ll ask for it.

Also, another thing that’s kind of tricky, is when is it right to query on your query? So, you’ve already sent off a query, and you’ve realized that actually, it’s been months and months and months. When is it okay to send an email and say, “Oh, hey, I was just wondering if you’ve read that?” I would say that if you’ve looked at their submissions page, and it says if– sometimes, it’ll say, “If you haven’t heard from us, within six months, get in touch.” Sometimes, it’ll say, “If you haven’t heard from us, within three months, you’ve been unsuccessful.” [00:33:00] Just pay attention to that bit. If it says, “Get in touch,” feel free to get in touch with them, just send them a warning email, don’t chase them and ask them, “What do you think? Have you had a chance to read it? I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts on it.” Just something friendly and short. I always find it’s better to just ask because you never know.

Sarina: Exactly. Maybe they are waiting to see who does get in touch and who has done all that work with the spreadsheet and everything, just to actually really keep an eye on their submissions, which authors are literally just sending it to anyone, and almost don’t really care what kind of agent they get. I think they might feel maybe reassured by the author who then comes back and says, “Actually, it’s more than three months, you said on your website that this is when I can get back to you. Have you had a chance to have a look at it?” Because I think that would then tell me that they actually might really want to work with me. [00:34:00]

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot to be said for just being yourself as well. If you’ve sent them an email with a typo in or something like that, don’t freak out, don’t panic. They are just people at the end of the day. That’s all they are. They’re just people in a slightly different job to you. It’s okay to send them an email and be like, “Whoops, should’ve used use Grammarly.” Something like that. I really think that’s fine. I think the main thing is, like applying for a job, are they the right company for you? Do they publish the work that you want to publish? Have a look at what they’ve published that’s similar to your work as well. Because if they publish only crime, and you send them a fantasy book, they’re just going to drop it on the slush pile immediately because it’s not going to be relevant to them and they’re going to think that it is [00:35:00] going to be a waste of your time and their time. In the cover letter mention what they’ve published, that’s like your work, so that they can see, “Actually, yeah, this person’s done their research, they actually care.” That’s really important.

Sarina: I think just a bit of research can really go a long way, don’t it?

Rachel: Absolutely. Just mentioning those little bits of research is always impressive.

Sarina: Well, I was going to ask you, if you have any general advice for querying, like when to query, how to go maybe after a publishing house, but you’ve kind of already preempted that.

Rachel: Yeah. [laughs]

Sarina: So, thank you.

Rachel: That’s all right.

Sarina: That means then that we’re on to the questions from other people. I had one from Instagram, and I hope that I’m pronouncing your username correctly. I’m very sorry if I don’t. It’s from [unintelligible [00:35:51]. “Do you have any tips for a new fantasy writer?”

Rachel: Cool. I mean, [00:36:00] I love fantasy and fantasy writing. I know you do, too.

Sarina: I do.

Rachel: I think that for a new fantasy writer, I would say immerse yourself in the world of fantasy, read as many fantasy books as you can, all different types of authors. Also, there’s nothing more fun than creating maps. I find just creating maps can build stories in your head. It’s like a magical thing to create a map, there’s some really cool software out there. Like Inkarnate is one of my favorite softwares. I love to play with that and just build worlds. Just like naming them and deciding this place is going to be really lush forest, this space is going to be like really dry desert, can really create stories in your head. I would say read as much fantasy as you can. Also, have a little go at building some maps and see what comes to you. What would your advice be?

Sarina: Yeah, probably the [00:37:00] same thing, to be honest. I think really just reading a lot of the genre that you want to write in yourself is a really big help, because you learn an awful lot just through osmosis. But also, reading books and other genres is also fine, because you might still pick up on something anyway that you can use in your books. Most books are a bit of a crossover between different genres anyway. I always say that most books have an element of mystery in them. Most books will have some element of love story, be that between two women, for example, who love each other, who fall in love, or between a mother and her child. There’s so many different kinds of love stories. Even if you write a thriller, for example, there’ll likely be some kind of crossover. So, reading in other genres outside of thrillers can also be very beneficial.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. Also, there’s always some brilliant fantasy games to play, and that narrative is just as valuable. [00:38:00]

Sarina: If you haven’t played Dragon Age and Mass Effect, you haven’t lived.

[chuckles]

Rachel: And also, Skyrim.

Sarina: Oh, yeah, Skyrim.

Rachel: Oh, boy. Sometimes, when I’m writing fantasy, I put on the Skyrim soundtrack, and it’s so emotive. It takes me straight back and I’m like, “Oh, gosh, I have to pause.” I’m like, “I just need to turn this off. It’s too much.” [laughs]

Sarina: Gaming scores, by the way, are brilliant for writing and editing because they have literally been designed to help you focus. If you want a bit of music, but you can’t do lyrics while you write like me, then game music is the best. Try it.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I’m the same. I can’t listen to music with words in actually when I’m writing, but gaming scores, yeah.

Sarina: I get distracted so quickly. Right at the start of our interview, I got distracted by a black cat just dashing across the garden. I thought, “I haven’t heard all of what she said, because I’m basically a dog who’s seen a squirrel,” [laughs] yeah, [00:39:00] I can’t have that. Also, to talk some more about the advice. One thing that I think is really important for new writers is be open to feedback because that will really help you grow and don’t get defensive if someone, for example, tells you that maybe your main character is a bit flat, or maybe there are some plot holes in the story, or maybe your worldbuilding, maybe you have some paradoxes in it, because people will give you that feedback aren’t telling you those things to be mean to you or to tell you that you shouldn’t be writing. They’re telling you that to help you grow your book, ultimately.

Rachel: Exactly.

Sarina: It’s all really good constructive criticism, so don’t get defensive. Don’t take it personally. It’s meant to help you grow. Obviously, some people maybe on very good at giving feedback, ultimately that’s a skill like [00:40:00] any other and not everyone’s great at it. If you maybe have a small group of people, beta readers, maybe you have five or seven, and six of them tell you that your plot is brilliant, and then there’s one person who says that they couldn’t get into it at all, then maybe chances are that the other six are right. Believe the majority, I’d say.

Rachel: Absolutely. Writing is so subjective. If you have a book club, there’s always going to be one person who didn’t enjoy the book.

Sarina: Oh, yeah. Generally, on my books, and I’m very proud of this, [chuckles] a bit of shameless self-promotion there.

[chuckles]

Sarina: One thing that many, many readers have told me is that my worldbuilding is fantastic. I may have been dubbed the queen of worldbuilding in a review.

Rachel: Amazing.

Sarina: But then one day, I got a review that said that the worldbuilding was really flat and boring. I just learned that [00:41:00] wasn’t the first review I have ever seen, or the first opinion on the worldbuilding because that could have been gutting. But because I’d already had seen all those other opinions saying the exact opposite, I thought, “Okay, well, that’s fine. It’s not for everyone. That’s all right.”

Rachel: Yeah. Peer review is so valuable. I always think to myself about the fact that Tolkien struggled to get published. I think about that, and I just think, yeah, I love him so much. I love his work so much. Look at what’s been created now, because of him.

Sarina: Look just how much he’s grown.

Rachel: Yeah, if you could have shown himself that back in the day when he was struggling to even get his words out there, it would have just been wild. He’d have been like, “This is beyond my wildest dreams.” Amazing. It’s subjective, take it seriously, but it’s subjective as well, so yeah. I agree with you there.

Sarina: There was a good deal of luck involved [00:42:00] as well.

Rachel: Oh, yes.

Sarina: Some of us are going to get incredibly lucky and find someone who happens to be an agent who happens to fall in love with a book, and it might grow into something massive from there, but most of us won’t. Most of us have to work for it, but some of us might get really lucky. Maybe just don’t expect it to definitely happen to you, please don’t build it into your one-year plan or whatever, because it’s a very, very small chance.

Rachel: Yeah, that’s it. The statistics for traditional publishing are against us but it doesn’t mean, it’s impossible. It’s certainly not impossible. It happens all the time. It also happens all the time that people are self-published, and then they get contacted by a publisher, because they’ve seen their book, and they now want to traditionally publish them. That happens.

Sarina: Yeah. There’s nothing stopping you while you’re querying from maybe writing a different book and trying to self-publish that and seeing how that side of things works. Maybe you find that [00:43:00] actually worked better for you.

Rachel: Absolutely. I will say, actually, that there’s nothing like getting over an old novel, like writing a new novel. I honestly was so stuck in my first novel, it felt like it took me ages to move past that. Then, when I started writing my second novel, I was like, “Well, I’ve been wasting the last six months thinking about my first novel that’s finished.” Because writing a new novel is really fun. This is awesome. As soon as I finished my last novel, I was like, “Get on with the next one now.” While you’re sending that out because actually, this is the best thing to do.

Sarina: Yeah, and I always get such an energy boost as well when I start a new project. I think that’s because when I write fantasy, epic fantasy specifically, I tend to have a lot of worldbuilding to do, and I love doing some worldbuilding.

Rachel: It’s exciting.

Sarina: It’s so much fun when you start a new project, so much fun.

Rachel: I love it– [crosstalk] I think I love it too much, [00:44:00] actually. Yeah, I have to write down like novel ideas and put them away. I’m like, “Rachel, just wait till you finish the current one,” because all I want to do, I swear is get stuck in to lots of new novels, but then I’ve only ever had 20,000 words, like lots and lots of novels.

Sarina: That’s what I do. I have a notebook full of ideas for potential future novels. That way, if I write them down when I have the idea, I know that they are safely stored away and I don’t need to start writing it now, or as I may never get to it, [unintelligible [00:44:31] actually stored away and I can move on and I can focus on what I’m supposed to be focusing on. That’s also very helpful.

Rachel: Absolutely.

Sarina: All right. Coming on to our last question, which is one that you had also on social media, from Beth O’Sharon. Hello, welcome. “What’s a realistic budget for self-publishing?”

Rachel: Yeah. It’s a tricky one because it’s like [00:45:00] how long is a piece of string. It’s like, how much are you willing to put into it because obviously, you could edit yourself and you might have some really great friends who are willing to help you with the edit, who aren’t going to charge you anything, but you also might decide to hire an editor, and you might decide to hire a proofreader, you might decide to hire someone to design your cover. You could even decide to hire someone to do your marketing, for your formatting. And all that will cost– if you hired someone for all those things, we’re talking like £4000 at least, I think. What about you, you self-publish your work?

Sarina: Yeah. You know what? It’s nowhere near as bad as £4000.

Rachel: Okay. Where do you hire?

Sarina: Well, I never– God[?], where do I start? I mean, for one, it depends so strong on who you hire, because there are no set rates across the board. Every editor is going to set their own rates ultimately. Every cartographer, if you write epic fantasy [00:46:00] is going to have different rates. That’s something to consider. For my book covers, I tend to work with Design for Writers, who I’ll be talking to in a bit. I’m excited about that.

Rachel: Cool. Shoutout.

Sarina: Shoutout. They do quite a few different things these days, actually. They do book covers, but they also do website design now. They also create some promo images, they also do formatting. I have hired them exclusively for cover design, so this is really all I can talk about there. I think they charge £350 pounds now per eBook and paperback cover together, so you get both in one price. You tend to get two mock designs with them. You will fill out a brief to let them know what your book is about and what you’re looking for and all that. [00:47:00] Then, they will give you two different designs, you choose the one that you like most, and then you will go from there. You get an awful lot of work really for the money. If you look at book covers, it can shoot up so massively, it’s ridiculous. I think the first guys I ever looked at, I think, was 750 quid for one cover. They made it sound like that was cheap, and it’s not. You don’t need to pay anywhere near that much for a good cover. If you want to a book cover, do go to Design for Writers, they are amazing. Shoutout.

Rachel: I’ve seen your book covers, and they are awesome.

Sarina: Aren’t they amazing? They are so good as well at what they do, and you know that they’re enjoying it. They are brilliant to work with as well. I feel like I’m now pre-empting the interview, I’ll be doing in half an hour, so I’m going to move on from that.

Rachel: [laughs] Okay.

Sarina: Then, with my cartography, which you may not even need if you don’t write epic fantasy, because if you write about a place like London, and we already have maps for that, you don’t need to provide one. [00:48:00] I write read epic fantasy, so I want to include a map, and I hire MonkeyBlood Design for that. My interview with them has gone live already– [crosstalk]

Rachel: Cool.

Sarina: Well, it depends. I think I pay about 75 quid for a map. It may have gone up a tiny bit by now, but that’s definitely the cheapest thing you can do for your book, and it can have a really big positive impact ultimately [crosstalk] experience.

Rachel: Oh, I love a map.

Sarina: [crosstalk] -love a map, and you can blow it up to A3 and hang it over your mantle or your desk, and it’ll look incredible.

Rachel: Have you done that?

Sarina: I haven’t yet, but I may have some of my book covers that my partner has got me for one of my birthdays.

Rachel: That’s lovely.

Sarina: They were a really nice surprise, and they make fantastic wall [unintelligible [00:54:04].

Rachel: That’s lovely. Absolutely.

Sarina: I used to do the formatting myself, but, on my Word, it’s such a pain.

Rachel: Yes, it is. [00:49:00]

Sarina: I now hire Platform House Publishing, who I have also already talked to a couple of times. Becky absolutely loves formatting. She does a beautiful job of it. It’s incredibly, incredibly affordable. I think it’s 50 quid maybe to have your whole book formatted.

Rachel: That’s amazing.

Sarina: The turnaround is like a week or two weeks max.

Rachel: I’m actually going to write their name down because I am not a fan of the format.

Sarina: Check out the episode that I’ve done with them as well. I’ve done two, actually. The first one ended up being a bit longer and then we’ve done another one with five specific formatting tips.

Rachel: Oh, that sounds good.

Sarina: It’s just such a big weight off my shoulders when I send my book to her because I know the formatting is going to come back brilliantly, and I don’t need to worry about it at all. That to me alone is worth more than the bit of money that you just charge for it.

Rachel: Yeah.

Sarina: Then, your editor is, of course, going to be the most expensive one, out of all of your professionals [00:50:00] but that’s because the most work goes into it. You can’t just slap together a developmental edit and call it a day after a week. It’s a lot of effort, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of time that goes into it and a lot of skill. But it then also depends so strongly on who you hire. Some editors will charge per hour, some editors will charge per word count. It depends who you talk to. I can’t recommend that you check out my editor, because she has now stopped editing, and taking on clients, so I can’t do that. Instead, I’m going to be very selfish and say, “Message me, I edit.” [laughs] But there are so many great editors out there.

I think if you look on Instagram, for example, on Twitter, that’s where I ran into my editor on Twitter, we just kind of happened upon each other and magic happened. Just take this out there, ask for a sample edit, so that before you hire someone, you [00:51:00] can make sure that you work well together and that you like– [crosstalk]

Rachel: Absolutely, that’s really important.

Sarina: Really important. Again, with the price that just depends very strongly on how many words you have, how long it takes to edit your book. Say if you’re new and your budget is a bit smaller, maybe go with an editor who charges per word, because it’s easier that way to give you a definite quote when you start, so you know exactly how much you’re in for. Ask if they can do a payment plan maybe if money’s a bit short. I’ve never talked to an editor who wouldn’t do that, so you’re probably fine. Just see what other options they have because it maybe you want a proofreader, that’s something that’s quite different to developmental editing and again, the pricing is different on that, so it really depends. But I don’t think I’ve ever had an edit that was more than 1200 quid and that was including a developmental [00:51:00] edit line [unintelligible [00:52:02] proofread.

All things put together, that’s maybe closer to 1500 or 2000 quid, but that then includes the edit, the cover, the map, if you need a map, you might not, you might love formatting, so you may not need to worry about that.

Rachel: Yeah. Also, if you don’t want to put that much money in, there are options. You might be able to find somebody who’s willing to do like a novel swap with you, and you can proofread each other’s. There’s so many people who are up for helping in return for you doing the same to them. So definitely, don’t be afraid to ask the question. There are lots of websites and things that can help with that sort of stuff as well.

Sarina: Yeah. I would recommend not going with websites like Fiverr, for example, because your developmental edit is [00:53:00] if they only want 50 quid for it, for example, then you can expect that they probably won’t do a fantastic job of it, because as I said, there’s so much work and time and everything that goes into it, that I don’t think anyone who really takes pride in their work is going to charge so little for so much work into such a big time commitment, because ultimately, you need to pay the bills with it. That’s something to consider. But that also doesn’t mean that you need to spend 4000 quid just on edits alone, you really don’t. Just see who’s out there, talk to a few people or ask for a sample edit, definitely. Also, editor have styles, I think, just like authors do. Some editors might really only make the changes and leave it at that. Other editors might make them a suggestion, so you can go over everything yourself and decide what you want to accept and what you don’t. Other editors might also add a few explanations here and there, like, “Oh, I keep cutting this, [00:54:00] it’s because you repeat it a lot, so that we can do [unintelligible [00:54:04].” So, you might even learn something along the way.

Other editors might also put maybe some positive comments in there. Like, “I really liked the way that you write banter. That’s definitely one of your strengths. This is great.” Yeah, sample edit everything, especially when you haven’t got an editor yet because–

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: Yeah, absolutely do that and then take it from there. Also, just so you know, a sample edit doesn’t mean that they’ll do your whole book for free. It’s usually the first page. Maybe really just the first page or the first 1000 words, or maybe the first chapter or something like that. Again, it varies by editor. Have a look on their website or just ask them. None of these professionals are going to bite your hand off if you ask them for clarification. They’re very nice.

Rachel: Absolutely. Everyone would be very friendly. If they’re not, they’re not right for you.

Sarina: Yeah. To answer the question about [00:55:00] how much it costs to self-publish, various factors taken into account like novel length and all that, maybe around 1500 to 2000 quid. If your book is shorter, if you’ve only written a short story, it won’t be that much.

Rachel: No.

Sarina: Yeah, so probably not as expensive as you think. That sum includes your cover and your editing and maybe formatting and maybe your map. So, there’s a lot in that.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: Yeah. So, there you go. Well, I hope that answered everyone’s questions. I hope you’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot, again.

Rachel: Good, me too.

[chuckles]

Sarina: Fantastic. Then, yeah, thank you so much for stopping by again, Rachel. Thank you so much to all the listeners for being here. Appreciate it. As I said, I hope we’ve all learned a lot, I know I have.

Rachel: [00:56:00] Yeah, thank you very much. I’ve learned a lot as well about self-publishing [unintelligible [00:56:03].

Sarina: Brilliant. Well, my pleasure. Bye-bye, everyone. Have a great day.

Rachel: Bye.

[music]

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer. At Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 34 | The Different Paths to Audiobook Creation with Dana Fraedrich

This week, I had a chat with Dana Fraedrich about her experience of creating audiobooks with FindawayVoices, ACX, and by herself! 

If you’d like to read more on the topic, I recommend Dana’s blog posts:

ACX vs. Findaway ~ My Audiobook Creation Experience 

Hiring an Audiobook Narrator Through Findaway Voices 

You might also be interested in my Audiobook Diaries, where I blogged about my experience as it happened, and last week’s episode, where I talked about my experience of working with FindawayVoices.

To find out more about Dana, check out her website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Good morning friends and Sparrows. It’s the 3rd of May 2021. This is Episode 34. Today, Dana Fraedrich is back with me on Zoom to talk about creating audiobooks. Last week, I told you about my experience with Findaway Voices. Today, Dana is here to tell you about the many other options because unlike me, she’s done a bit of everything. Welcome back, Dana.

Dana: Thank you so much for having me back, Sarina. I really appreciate it, and I’m really excited.

Sarina: I’m really excited to talk to you about this as well, because as I’ve just said, [00:01:00] you’ve done a bit of everything. My episode was very much focused on just my experience, because I’ve only really done the one thing, but you’ve really done a bit of everything in audiobooks, which is very exciting. We’ve also got one question in for later from Instagram.

Dana: Excellent.

Sarina: Hopefully that will help our listeners’ lives. [chuckles] Then, yeah, really excited to get sucked back in and see you again too, because it’s been a while.

Dana: It has. Yeah. Basically, just to give a little bit of a background, for those who do not know me. I am a Steampunk fantasy author. I’ve been doing this for many years now. I have made audiobooks, through ACX, through Findaway. We did it ourselves once, which I’ll talk about a little bit later. Then also I have recorded short stories myself for my newsletter subscribers, Patreon supporters, [00:02:00] things like that. Little bit of everything.

Sarina: Well, good job. You’re preempting my first question.

[laughter]

Dana: Sorry.

Sarina: No, you’re fine. I was just going to ask if you could just talk us through how you have created audiobooks so far. You’ve really don’t everything. ACX is Amazon’s imprint, if you can call that, for audiobooks?

Dana: It’s under their umbrella. Yeah. I don’t always know how the business tiers work, but yeah, let’s call it imprint.

Sarina: Yeah, because ACX is Amazon basically. You’ve used Findaway, which I have used as well, and you’ve done it yourself, which is very exciting. I will have lots of questions about that in just a second. You’ve also found your own narrator, so more excitement there. [chuckles] Yeah, maybe to kick off, just to tie it [00:03:00] into last week’s episode, where I talked about my experience of using Findaway Voices. It’d be really great to hear what your experience was like working with them, and how many books have you done with them?

Dana: I’ve done three through Findaway now. Honestly, I love Findaway, they are my preferred path for audiobooks at this point. Like I said, since I’ve done so many paths, I feel I can say, of all of these options, this one is the one that I have found that best works for me. Findaway has, in my opinion, the best distribution. Whereas if you go through Amazon, especially if you have used one of Amazon’s exclusive contracts, which we’ll talk about later, I’m sure, they only distribute to Apple iBooks, well, themselves, basically Audible and Amazon. Whereas Findaway, I think there’s 24-ish different platforms that they [00:04:00] distribute to, including one of their own, including Amazon, including Apple iBooks.

Sarina: I think it’s 40.

Dana: Oh, those are over 40 now?

Sarina: I want to say it’s 48, but I would need to check the exact number, but I’m pretty sure it’s over 40 with Findaway.

Dana: Yeah, it’s a whole lot of them. They basically are trying to just be as wide as possible and distribute your books as many places as possible.

Sarina: Which is very exciting and very daunting. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. I will say too, their customer support is really great. I’m not a professional audio anything, and so I didn’t really understand a lot of what I was doing, but they were super great in both their automatic email communications as you go through the process which, Sarina, I know you’ve experienced this too, of like, “Okay, great. you’ve just done this step. Here’s what’s coming next.” Then, of course, if I had any questions [00:05:00] or things I wasn’t sure about– For instance, my narrator, Shaina Summerville, and I had talked about doing, like, all of the Broken Gears books together but I wanted to pre-contract her for the other ones after we had signed our first contract together. I emailed Findaway, I was like, “Hey, I want to make sure I get her fast. Can I do anything about that?” They were really helpful with that. I was basically able to line up Shaina pretty quickly, I think we got everything done– what was it? It was a matter of a handful of months, and it was really great.

Sarina: That’s fantastic. I had a very similar experience with that. I haven’t done the other books on my series yet. So far, I’ve only done the first book, but Findaway– I don’t remember if it was the narrator directly who got in touch with me via the platform or whether it was one from their team, [00:06:00] but someone involved just let me know that she would be happy to do the other books as well in the series, which is fantastic because you then have that continuity of the same narrator all the way through.

Dana: Yeah. Like I said, their customer service is really great. I will say too, and you might have discussed this in your Findaway podcast last week as well, I haven’t been able to listen to it yet.

Sarina: Because I haven’t recorded it yet at the time we’re doing this interview.

[laughter]

Dana: We can cut that out if you want, we’ll just edit that. [laughs]

Sarina: No.

[laughter]

Sarina: Nope, it stays in. If anything goes wrong, it stays in. [laughs]

Dana: I love your transparency. You’re the best.

Sarina: Thanks. [chuckles]

Dana: Yeah, I will say there’s a questionnaire that the producer, basically, because you are a producer, when you start this process have to fill out. The more you fill out that questionnaire, [00:07:00] the closer a match they’re going to find for you for narrator. For instance, the Broken Gears books, for those who have not read them are– excuse me. [clears throat]. Apologies.

Sarina: You’re okay?

Dana: Yeah, I’m good. Just– hello springtime. Basically, the Broken Gears books, like, they’re a mix of whimsical and fun, but then there’s some very dark parts and it gets really– ooh. It gets a little bit sad in parts too. So, I really wanted to make sure I had someone who can do both things. When I filled out the form, I made sure to include that. I tend to overexplain things, which I think is a good thing, especially when you are working on any kind of project with other human beings because human communication is difficult. Like I said, I think more information is better. She ended up being really, really great. [00:08:00] As soon as I heard Shaina’s interview– or not interview, but audition, I was like, “Yes, she gets it. Awesome.”

Sarina: The auditions. for me at least, were possibly the single most exciting experience of my life. [chuckles] Just to have a professional voice actor narrate my book and ask me, or basically say, “I like this. Could I please read it?” Yeah. It was such a bizarre moment, but it’s also the best. Honestly, just for this alone, if you’re considering having your book as an audiobook, it’s so intimidating. I think we both get that, don’t we, Dana?

Dana: Mm-hmm. It’s real.

Sarina: Just that moment of listening to auditions, of hearing a professional audition to read your book is so exciting. I can’t tell you and how exciting this is. I was sitting here, I was possibly shaking a bit. [00:09:00] I’m just like, “She’s reading my book [unintelligible [00:09:00] crying and she’s actually crying. This is ridiculous.”

Dana: Yeah, and a really good audio narrator as well, they’re going to be able to– if you have anything that’s a little bit different in your book too, they are going to be able to swing with that. For instance, in Across the Ice for my book, I have a section where a character, Rook, he’s reading a letter, and there are bits of the letter that are struck through, which of course, like on a printed page, you can see, but then, and I didn’t even think about it when I was uploading–

Sarina: No, I didn’t.

Dana: Yeah. She just took that, Shaina did, and was like, “Okay, we’re going to try a thing,” and then she added a little bit of narration to let you know what bits were struck through, and it worked brilliantly. It was so cool. I emailed her and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think about this. This is great. You did awesome.” [00:10:00] Yeah, a really good narrator will be able to swing with those funny, unique things.

Sarina: That’s incredible. No, I never even thought of things like that possibly because we don’t see them done that often in books. Wow. Yeah. May I ask what exactly she did to narrate a crossed-out part in a letter?

Dana: What she did? She read the letter in the voice of the character who’d written it, Lenore wrote this. She would read that in Lenore’s voice. When she did the narration for struck-through, she would use like her normal narrating voice to kind of indicate, “This is now narration.” Then, she would start back up again in Lenore’s voice. I heard that and I was just like, “Oh, okay, great. I totally get this. I can see the distinction between narration voice and Lenore’s voice,” and things like that.

Sarina: That’s amazing. [00:11:00] To come back to the different options for how to create an audiobook. We’ve talked a bit about Findaway Voices now. What about ACX finding your own narrator and even doing it yourself?

Dana: This has been a really interesting process because, like I said, I’ve done this in a couple of different ways. I’ll start with ACX. For ACX, I happened to meet my narrator for that. This is the narrator for Raven’s Cry. Her name is Katherine Billings. She’s wonderful. Basically, I met her doing one of the book events that I do in Kentucky, and we started talking, she gave me her card, and then I reached out to her and said, “Hey, so I’ve never done an audiobook before. I don’t know what I’m doing. What do I do?” Raven’s Cry is the very first one that I ever did. Katherine was super, [00:12:00] super sweet. She was really helpful, and she walked me through what the process was going to be.

By the way, friends, who are listening, I have all of this written down in a couple of blog posts on my website, I detailed the whole process. If you guys want a little written guide, that’s there on my website Words by Dana. You can just search audiobook in the search box and those will come up.

Sarina: I’ll be linking to those in the show notes as well, so people can easily get to them. Of course, I’ve done my own audiobook diaries as well with my experience. I think between your posts, my posts, and these two episodes on this podcast, I think you should be all right after this. I think this should be all the information that you need to know to get started with your own.

Dana: Yeah, friends, we have you taken care of, don’t you worry.

Sarina: Yeah, we’ve got you.

Dana: Yeah. Katherine was super helpful. I went through ACX. [00:13:00] ACX has a couple of different options as far as royalty shares, how you can create the books, things like that. As I always, always, always tell people, read your contract and make sure you understand it before you sign it. Basically, Katherine doesn’t do this anymore. But ACX has an option, where you can pay no money upfront, and then it’s just a royalty share between you and the narrator. However, there is a cost for this. Basically, if you choose this option, you are locked into a contract with ACX for seven years, and you’re not allowed to distribute the book through any other platform, the audiobook, through any other platform for those seven years of the contract. Seven years is a long time, y’all. I think I’ve still got three or four left, and a lot can change in that time.

Sarina: [00:14:00] Don’t forget that ACX, don’t distribute to that many places in the first place.

Dana: Exactly.

Sarina: So, you’re limiting yourself potentially quite a lot for a rather long time.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. For some people, I realized that is going to be the only option for them because producing audiobook is extremely expensive. Honestly, in some cases, it might be more expensive than your initial editing costs when you first wrote the book. That is something to consider.

Sarina: In fact, I would say it’s very likely actually for your audiobook to cost a lot more than your editing. Unless you had all of the plot holes and paradoxes in your book and have no concept of grammar or punctuation or anything like that, and then got an editor who charged per hour, it’s very unlikely that your editing will be more expensive than your audiobook. In most cases, it will be cheaper.

Dana: Yeah.

Sarina: Audiobook, pricey.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Of course, Findaway does all also have [00:15:00] a royalty share option but theirs is– honestly, I think it’s a little bit more fair to the narrators because this narrator is spending a lot of time and a lot of energy on creating your book. I’ve personally have come around on this where of course, like I said, I didn’t really understand a lot when I first got started but narrators should be paid for their time. That’s why I’m no longer so much a fan of the ACX, doesn’t cost anything upfront, saying, but like I said, I realized for some people, that’s going to be the only option. You really have to kind of weigh the pros and cons, weigh kind of how you feel about some of these different factors and make the decision that feels best for you.

Sarina: Yeah, that was a thing what swayed me towards Findaway Voices when I was first starting to research the different options, because as you said, it’s more expensive with Findaway to begin with, [00:16:00] but your narrator does a lot of work, it’s quite tiring work, and they deserve to get paid for it, end of story, I thought. Even though it set me back quite a bit, I felt that now even if I don’t sell a single audiobook, I know that my narrator got paid for her time. For me, it was the only fair way of doing it because you have no guarantee that your audiobook is going to sell. You might not sell a single copy, in which case your narrator gets no money whatsoever for her time. That for me is what swayed me because that just didn’t sit right.

Dana: Right, exactly. Then, as far as finding– or doing audiobooks myself, I want to go ahead and preface this and say audiobooks are a lot of work and they’re very time consuming. To get the quality that Amazon and Findaway and all of these other platforms require, you really do [00:17:00] need some specialized equipment. I happen to be in a position where we already had most of the equipment in our house, because my husband studied audio engineering in college, so that’s what his degree is in. we have a studio downstairs. We’re in Nashville, every other person kind of has a studio. There are a lot of voice actors here, there’s a lot of talent. A couple of different times, I’ve hired different people to do various projects for me.

For instance, I have a different narrator between Out of the Shadows and Into the Fire, because the first narrator for Out of the Shadows, she was a vocalist friend of ours, and she came to our house, used our studio and then my husband did the audio editing on Out of the Shadows. Then after that, he came to me and he’s like, “I never want to do that again,” because it’s so much work, y’all. It’s an enormous amount of work [00:18:00] and making sure everything is right, everything sounds at the same level consistently throughout your book. So, yeah, if this is something you want to undertake, I think that’s really great, but just be prepared for how much work it is.

Sarina: Would you say that the audio editing is even more time and effort-consuming than recording the audiobook in the first place?

Dana: Oh, for sure. I think the general idea is that for every– I think every hour of actual audiobook, there’s about six hours of work behind it as far as recording and editing and all that stuff.

Sarina: Bloody hell, six?

Dana: Yeah.

Sarina: Oh my God. I didn’t think it will be–

Dana: [laughs]

Sarina: Wow. Okay.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Sarina: That’s a lot worse than I thought, and your husband [unintelligible [00:18:51] saying clearly, and they all deserve all the respect, and all the money and all the love. God, bloody hell, six hours of editing [00:19:00] for one recorded hour, that’s– I’m going to be stewing on that for a little while.

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

Sarina: Sorry, you go.

Dana: Oh, no, please go ahead.

Sarina: It’s worth saying that if you go with ACX or Findaway, then they will take care of the editing. When you consider how much money it is, do also bear in mind that they will take care of what’s clearly the most time-consuming aspect of it. That’s all included.

Dana: Mm-hmm. Then, I have also done audio work myself. You guys, I’m not a professional audiobook narrator at all. It’s just a fun thing I do for my patrons on Patreon. Or, if you are a VIP newsletter subscriber on my website, Words by Dana, there is one audiobook gift up on there that I did Christmas last year roundabout. You can hear, I’m not great. It’s just a fun little thing I like to give my patrons [00:20:00] and my VIP newsletter’s subscriber. Man, you don’t realize how hard it is to read steadily and clearly, and at the same level for a long, continuous period until you’ve done it, and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how to talk anymore. What are words?”

[laughter]

Sarina: That’s before you get to a character with an accent.

Dana: Oh my gosh, Yeah, seriously, because that’s another thing, is you have to put life and characterization into all the different characters, and I didn’t realize how many characters I had. God, I’ve got a good cast of characters until I was doing it, like, “Good Lord, I’ve got to do voices for all of these people.”

[laughter]

Sarina: That’s something that a professional writer– ooh. What? Wow. Okay. I’ve been editing and writing [crosstalk] a lot, so clearly, [00:21:00] this is all I’ve got left.

[laughter]

Sarina: A professional narrator will do the accents, for example, all that characterization with how they’re vocalizing everything, they will do that– Well, maybe not necessarily quite easily, but they will do, and it would sound incredible. Ultimately, I think readers will expect that level of professionalism. I think I have read a few times that it’s really great when authors narrate their own books, but I think that’s mostly talking about autobiographies where that makes sense because the author is then basically just talking about themselves because it is their biography. When we’re talking about fiction, or just anything, that’s not a biography, it makes sense to have a professional narrator who knows what they’re doing and the accent. My narrator for Rise of the Sparrows taught herself one or two new accents just to be able to do my characters’ justice, so that is what you might just get, [00:22:00] with Findaway Voices. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. Lots of options. I just always want people to understand what’s going to be involved on the front end. I have another friend who– yeah, oh, my gosh, yeah. I have another friend, her name is Nicole Jones. She did a short story for me, which is available on my YouTube channel based on Emily Dickinson’s, I could not stop for Death. The short story has the same title. There, you can really hear different personalities in different narrators. Again, choosing that right person is a huge, huge part of this process. But I think personally, when you hear the right person, no, you really know.

Sarina: Yeah, I think so. How did you go about finding your own narrator?

Dana: [00:23:00] Like I said, with one path, I met Katherine Billings at a book event I was doing. Another path, she was a vocalist friend of mine, because again, here in Nashville, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a vocalist.

[laughter]

Dana: Then, when I went to Findaway, I went through their audition process, which is like I said, where you fill out the form, you put in all the information about your book, and what kind of voice you’re looking for, and some of the requirements that will be there. Then, they sent me a whole group of different narrators, different price points, different skill sets, things like that. I listened to each one because on this first round, you get just their profiles with their preloaded, what do you call them? Auditions, I guess they’re called auditions. Then, from there, you choose, like, “Okay, from this group, who do I really want to hear [00:24:00] do my book?” Then, you’ll give that information to Findaway when you make that choice. Then, those narrators who you’ve chosen will do an audition for your books specifically, and you’ll provide excerpts from your book that will hopefully, one, give you a range of characters because, again, you want to hear how the narrator does multiple characters.

I chose one where there was a scene at breakfast in the morning, and I think there are five characters in the scene. There’s a lot of emotions happening. Lenore is kind of sad, but she’s also excited, and they’re saying goodbye, and it’s all like heartfelt and lovey-dovey, and there’s some funny stuff. There’s a limit on the excerpts because, again, it takes a lot of time to record and then edit and things like that. I uploaded that information.

Then, a week or two later, [00:25:00] I received the auditions. Like I said, when I listened to those, that’s when I knew that Shaina was the one for my book because she hit all the beats, she got the voices, she very clearly got the mood of the scene, all of it.

Sarina: I think that’s quite a good summary now I think that [unintelligible [00:25:18] of all the different options, which will hopefully be very helpful. From all of those, which option would you recommend for authors with no prior audiobook experience?

Dana: No prior audiobook experience at all. Let’s go ahead and say that, you don’t have a recording studio in your basement and the husband who does audio engineering and all that.

Sarina: I think that’s fair to assume. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah, that’s a good assumption. That’s a fairly specific set of situations and circumstances. I always recommend Findaway. I know it’s going to be a much more expensive option. [00:26:00] I realized that is a pain point for a lot of people. But again, Findaway has a much bigger distribution network. I find their customer service to be better than ACX’s because, like I said, I had a lot of questions and how I wanted to proceed and whatnot. Then, if I didn’t hear anything, there was one or two times where I was like, “Shouldn’t I have heard something about the situation?”, I could just email them and be like, “Hey, is everything cool?” Then, they would just write on it, and it all worked out. I always recommend reaching out to customer service, I realize this is frustrating for people, because sometimes customer service groups are not great, but Findaway’s are. Yeah, Findaway, that’s my top recommendation. That’s really in a nutshell as far as that part of it.

Sarina: I think one important thing that [00:27:00] you said that it’s about the cost of it because obviously, it’s not going to be cheap either way. I think there are two important things to consider there. The first is that you don’t need to have an audiobook to be an author. This is something that I’d say maybe consider, maybe if your book is already selling okay, or you feel like you are ready to take that next step. But don’t feel pressured to have an audiobook out there. It’s not necessary, you can totally be an author with a paperback or even just an eBook. Having an audiobook is absolutely not necessary. Only do that if you think that you’re ready to go a bit further with it.

Also, as Dana just said, when you get the different recommendations from Findaway, for example, of the different narrators, they all come with different price points. Some of them are going to be an awful lot cheaper than others, which isn’t to say just go with the cheapest one. But if there are a few in there [00:28:00] that are completely out of your price range, those won’t be the only ones that they suggested. For maybe the cheapest ones, maybe looking at them because money is [unintelligible [00:28:14] because you can’t afford that much and then maybe those additions aren’t quite right, you can request another set.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: There is some flexibility there, so don’t feel you are definitely going to spend $10,000 to something on your audiobook, which you might do if your audiobook is incredibly long. Yeah, and you get one of the top narrators, but it won’t be that much. I shouldn’t have said that number. I don’t want to panic anyone. [laughs]

Dana: No, yeah. I can tell you my audiobook did not cost near that, and Into the Fire is an extremely long book, I think the audiobook is like 18 hours.

Sarina: [laughs] I think that’s 10 hours more than mine, or something like that. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah. Also, I want to say in regard to [00:29:00] something you said, Sarina, about, you don’t have to have an audiobook. This is something that authors really need to consider as part of their business plan. Ask yourself like, “Why do you want an audiobook?” Yes, it’s super cool, especially when you first hear that narrator bring your characters to life. For me, personally, I made the decision because I knew I wasn’t going to be putting out a book in 2020. Just based on my publishing schedule, and how long I take to produce books and whatnot, I just knew it wasn’t really going to happen, but I wanted another revenue stream. I wanted to create some more revenue streams for my business as an author.

Audiobooks are one of the fastest-growing markets in the book industry. That was why I decided to make this investment. Like I said, if that’s not a path [00:30:00] for your books or, as you said, Sarina, if you’re already like doing really well, from your eBooks and from your print books and whatnot, then that that might not be as much a thing for you. Whereas my books are extremely long, there’s a little bit of length, intimidation factor to go with that, and audiobooks are really easy to listen to, especially for those really long ones.

Sarina: Yeah, what I really liked on Findaway was that you know exactly how much should be paying upfront. You’re not going to make a commitment and then later go, “Ooh, that’s more than I thought it was going to be.” That’s not going to happen. You know before you even ask specific narrators to audition with the script that you mentioned that you then send them. You know right away how much it’s going to cost you with each of the different options. You will know upfront how much money you would need to set aside.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely. They’re very transparent [00:31:00] about all of the costs and whatnot, so you can budget that.

Sarina: Yes. I don’t know how that works with the other options, like ACX, but on Findaway at least, it’s very transparent. There should be no surprises.

Dana: Yeah. Like I said, when I went through ACX, I did the no-cost upfront. That didn’t cost me anything but I will say when you upload your information to ACX, they’ll ask how many words your book is and then they’ll give you a prediction of how much that book is going to cost to produce based on the different narrators and stuff that they give you. One thing about the ACX process, because we haven’t really talked about that very much, I will say it’s a little bit different from Findaway. With Findaway, you fill in the form and they send you narrators that kind of match your specifications. With ACX, it’s a little [00:32:00] bit the other way around, where you put it in your book’s information for how long it is and then, you basically get a list of all the narrators and then use their filter options to filter it down. For instance, if you want a female narrator, you can just say female narrators, you can filter it by royalty share option, you can filter it by a couple of skill sets, but that part really gets kind of muddy really fast. Like, “Do they do accents?” “Okay, cool.” “Yes or no?” Then like, “Okay, what accents are we talking about? I have an American accent, you have German and English accent.” There’s just a lot, a lot of things to consider, and that part gets a little bit muddy.

Yeah, that part, honestly, I still prefer Findaway’s process for that. Maybe you do like to go through all the [00:33:00] options, instead of Findaway is telling you, “Hey, these are the ones we think are best for your book.” That’s fine too. Yeah, you have to play with it. One thing that’s kind of nice with ACX is you can start a project– that’s what they call uploading an audiobook, you can start a project, and then kind of see what your options are, but you never really have to finish because I did that with Out of the Shadows. I wasn’t quite sure what path I wanted to go down for that one yet. I got in there, and I started it, then I looked at my options and whatnot, and then when I was looking at the narrator step in the process, is when I veered away and went the direction that I did. But I was at least able to get that far without signing any contracts or anything, so I was able to change my mind.

Sarina: Which is always very good. Coming on to the question that we’ve had on Instagram from @grthomas2014. [00:34:00] “Where do you even begin?” I really feared his question because journeying into audiobooks is so intimidating. I almost didn’t do it, honestly, when I first considered it because it’s so terrifying. I nearly talked myself out of it. I really get where this question is coming from.

Dana: Absolutely. Number one, like I said, as an author, if you’re trying to decide even if you should do an audiobook, like I said, look at your business situation, examine the reasons why you want an audiobook. Your reasons are going to be yours, it’s going to all depend on your situation, on your particular business plan, all of these things. I can’t really guide anybody in that way because, like I said, everyone’s business is going to be different, and only you know what’s best for your business because nobody knows your business like you do.

Let’s go ahead and say, [00:35:00] all right, for whatever reason you’ve decided, yep, going to do an audiobook, this is the right choice, let’s do it. We talked about money is, of course, going to be a big factor. What can you afford? Like I said, Amazon as ACX has those various royalty share options, there’s one that’s no money down.

One more thing I want to say about that, in addition to, I do think narrators should be paid for their time, is that the whole saying “you get what you pay for,” that’s also a factor. Professionals who have built up their resume, they can afford to charge more, because they’re more in demand. Whereas somebody who’s less experienced, maybe it’s just now getting into it, that’s not to say they should not be given a chance, because I definitely, definitely, definitely support giving beginners a chance, [00:36:00] that’s happened with me. When I first got started, I have a lot of help from other people. But you may not have somebody who’s as experienced, and you have to make that choice as well. You get into ACX, you can see how much your audiobook would cost to produce based on narrators. You can also start that process with Findaway, and here’s some of the results that they give you back.

I would say at that point, where you start to audition your narrators, hear their voices for the first time and whatnot, I think that’s the point where you have to start making hard and fast decisions. Again, when you hear a narrator’s voice, you as an author, because you know your book better than anyone else, you kind of know who’s going to be best then you can make those decisions based on pricing and money and [00:37:00] things like that.

Then, distribution is a huge part of that decision. I like Findaway’s distribution a lot more than I like Amazon’s distribution options. That’s why I go with them.

Sarina: Yeah, for me, I started with research, because it is so intimidating and because I like to be prepared, in general, anyway. I read books on how audiobook creation works. I think I had some YouTube videos lined up that explained the process. I’m pretty sure I’ve read your blog post as well. I’m linking to all of those things in the first post of my blog series on my experience as well. It’s all in one place if you want to start with research. I think because it’s such a big thing, you never know exactly what you’re going into until you’re doing it anyway, but I think because of how much money is involved, it’s definitely worth just doing at least a little [00:38:00] bit of research first. Then from there, you can then decide which option is right for you. There’s a lot to consider, so also don’t rush it.

Dana: Yeah. Sarina makes such a good point. I’m very much like an A, B kind of tester, I want to press the button and see, “What are these buttons do when I press them?” Which, admittedly, number one, is intimidating for a lot of people. Two, maybe isn’t always the best method. I fully admit that. Yeah, do your research. YouTube is an incredible resource. Lots and lots of people on there doing all kinds of stuff. Sarina has her blog posts on how she got started. I have recently also put up a resources page on my website, so you can go to the resources page, and there’s a section that’s specifically called Audiobook Creation.

Sarina: I will be linking to that.

Dana: Yay, fantastic. Definitely research, if that’s the [00:39:00] way that you do your thing, super cool.

Sarina: Yeah, and hopefully, with this episode now, the one from last week, all of Dana’s blog posts, and then also all of my blog posts, and then also the things that we are both be linking to in our blog post for more research, I think by the end of all that, you should have a fairly good idea of whether this sounds like something that you would like to do, and which path you want to take. Hopefully, this is helpful for you.

Dana: Yeah. One other thing I want to say about this whole process, especially if you’re– this goes for whether you’re new to it or not. Communication. I tend to overexplain things. One might say I even tend to overcommunicate, but honestly, communicating with your narrator is an amazing thing, because there are going to be things they’re going to have questions about. I always try to be really open when I’m first meeting people, whether it’s virtually or otherwise, and just say, “Hey, let me know if you have any questions.” I always try to be really welcoming and [00:40:00] create that environment where I want to make people feel comfortable with questions and whatnot. Always communicate.

Usually, when I first “meet a narrator,” I will introduce myself and say hi, just a like getting-to-know-you kind of thing because you are going to be coworkers in the future. That’s a huge part of working together, is just keeping that open line of communication and everyone feeling okay to express, “Hey, this doesn’t really work,” or, “Hey, I have questions about how do you want me to approach this?” Weirdly, I tend to put onomatopoeia in my books as well, which Shaina handled perfectly, including there’s a panther snarl in one of the scenes, and I was like, “Oh, whoops, I forgot about that.” She handled it great. Yeah, anytime there’s anything like that, just approach with respect and knowing that they’re not really your [00:41:00] employee. Like I said, they’re working together with you.

Sarina: Yeah, and one thing that I would add to that as well is bear in mind that your narrator knows what they’re doing. Maybe they are pronouncing or just reading a sentence slightly differently to how you would do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Don’t overedit them and just don’t be too overly picky of it, because, again, your narrator knows what they’re doing. Ultimately, them reading your book is just their interpretation of your book. Just leave them to it, they know what they’re doing. If they’re really not sure how to pronounce something, they will very likely ask. In general, they’re narrators, so you can rest assured that they know how to read a book. They will do a professional job of it. They don’t have to read everything exactly as you would for it to be correct.

Dana: Yeah. Oh, and one more thing, I want to tell people about the amount of work [00:42:00] that is involved with this. You do also then have to kind of proof-listen to your book. All of the narrators I’ve ever worked with, have gone by this rule of– for the really long projects, we’ve gone chapter by chapter. The reason for this is because, God forbid, they mispronounce someone’s name or they’re doing an accent wrong or something like that. Then, over half the book is done, and then you listen and you’re like, “Oh, wait, no. This is wrong. I need you to redo all of it.” That’s awful for everyone involved.

Like I said, with all of the narrators I’ve worked with for the really long projects, we’ve gone back and forth. We’re like, “Oh, hey, I just uploaded. I just finished this chapter. It’s ready for you to listen to.” I would listen, and I would let them know of any fixes or anything like that, which honestly, there really weren’t that many. They would [00:43:00] then fix the things and then they would move on to the next chapter. You do have to spend that time proof-listening to your book to make sure everything is the way it should be, but like I said– or rather like Sarina said, these are professionals, they’re very good at their job. I think anything I had to correct was basically along the same lines of when you’re writing a book and maybe there’s a typo, kind of the audio version of a typo here and there. I think there was maybe one place where I asked her to redo something because, again, onomatopoeia, I had totally intended for this onomatopoeia noise to come out very differently than the way she did it the first time. Then, we had a chat about what is this actually supposed to sound like, and she fixed it, and it was great. That’s another really important part. It is time-consuming, but again, it’s just one more thing that’s going to make your audiobooks that much better.

Sarina: Yeah, and at least that [00:44:00] way, you don’t actually have to do any of the sound editing yourself.

Dana: Exactly.

Sarina: You just listen to it, you tell them whether everything is fine, which most of the time it will be or that maybe for some reason, your narrator maybe skipped over a word, which can happen, because in a professional as we all are, we are also just human, so mistakes will happen, and that’s fine.

Dana: exactly.

Sarina: Then, it goes back to them and then someone has to take care of it. [laughs]

Dana: Yeah–[crosstalk] Okay.

Sarina: I was just going to say it’s a lot of worry off your shoulders.

Dana: Oh, yeah, for sure. Like I said, honestly, most of what you’re going to have to deal with as far as corrections, and this is very likely going to be next to nothing, are going to be those audio versions of typos. To give you guys a scope of how often I think these happen, there would be like four or five, six chapters in a row where I wouldn’t have any corrections and then there might be one tiny little correction in a chapter, [00:45:00] and then another three with no correction. This is the level of professionalism that your narrators are going to be hitting, especially through Findaway when they’re doing this professionally and they’re being paid for it.

Sarina: I think that’s a fantastic place to wrap it up on. Thank you so much, Dana, for coming back, and talking to me about your very vast experience with creating audiobooks. I hope it’s been very helpful for everybody. As I said, I will be linking to your blog post and everything in the show notes, so it’s very easy for everyone to access if you want to read more on this.

Dana: Awesome. Thank you, Sarina. I really appreciate you having me back.

Sarina: And I really appreciate you coming back. Thank you so much and have a fantastic day everyone. Bye-bye.

Dana: Bye.

[music]

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter [00:46:00] @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course, on my website, at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


Transcript by speechdocs.com

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 33 | How to Create Your Audiobook with FindawayVoices

In this week’s episode, I explain how I created my audiobook of Rise of the Sparrows with FindawayVoices. Next week, we’ll hear from Dana Fraedrich, who has created audiobooks with FindawayVoices, ACX, and by herself.

Here are the resources I used for my research as mentioned in the episode:

Audio for Authors by Joanna Penn (book)

ACX vs. Findaway ~ My Audiobook Creation Experience (blog post by Dana Fraedrich)

Hiring an Audiobook Narrator Through Findaway Voices (blog post by Dana Fraedrich)

How to Make an Audiobook | Part 1: Set up (YouTube video by Jenna Moreci)

How to Make an Audiobook | Part 2: Production (YouTube video by Jenna Moreci)

Audiobooks For Authors With Will Dages From Findaway Voices (blog post or podcast (your choice!) by Joanna Penn)

You might also like to check out my Audiobook Diaries, where I blogged about my experience as it happened.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow theme]

Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer. This podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started. 

Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the 26th April, and this is Episode 33 in which I’ll talk you through what creating my first audiobook was like. Way back when I was first starting to plan this podcast, this was one of the requested episodes, so I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to do it. I didn’t want to do it as one of the first episodes and have it look like you need to get a move on with your audiobook when many of you are possibly at the very start of your author journey. Audiobooks are great, but they aren’t something you need to consider before you’ve even written your first word, at least I wouldn’t say they are.

Before we start, I want to stress that, as with anything in writing and publishing, there’s no one right way to do it. I created my audiobook with FindawayVoices, but you can choose ACX or to narrate it yourself if that’s what you prefer. This episode won’t have anything for you if that’s the case, but I hope you’ll learn something anyhow. Because I’ve only tried Findaway, I’ll be talking to Dana Fraedrich next week, who’s done a bit of everything. There’s a lot of info to get through, so I’ve decided to split this episode into two – my experience with Findaway today, and Dana’s much vaster experience next week.

If you’re interested, I first wrote about my experience on my author blog at sarinalanger.com where I kept a week-by-week diary of what was happening. It was a really daunting experience for me, and I think having an audiobook created of your own book sounds daunting to many writers, so I hoped keeping track of it week by week would shed some light on what happens and how long this process takes.

So let’s hop to it!

I started with research. As I said, this was daunting and I really didn’t want to mess it up, so I read books, blog posts, and watched YouTube videos to learn how this process worked and what was involved. The ones I found most helpful were the blog posts by Dana Fraedrich, the book Audio for Authors by Joanna Penn, and the Youtube videos by Jenna Moreci. Don’t worry if that was too fast—they’re all linked in the show notes and in the first blog post on my website.

The first thing that stood out to me was the emphasis on getting your cover done. If you’ve already published your book and now want to dive into audiobooks, you’ve already got a cover, but it won’t do for your audiobook because they’re a different size. You can try to resize your cover yourself, but just cutting out a square will likely miss some important information and look squished. You don’t want it to look unprofessional, so just ask your cover designer to do it for you – they have the source material and know what it should look like.

But why start with the cover? Because you can upload it at the very beginning of the processe. Potential narrators will see the cover and take two things away from it: 1) you’re prepared, which always looks good, and 2) whether it looks like it might be a good fit for them.

So pop that near the top of your to-do list, right under doing you’re research – which you’re doing right now!

I also had a lot of things to consider regarding who would create this audiobook. I’ll go into the pros and cons of all options with Dana Fraedrich next week, so for now, let it be enough to say that I preferred Findaway Voices because the way their narrators get paid is fairer and they distribute the book to more retailers. As with every pro you might hire for your books, narrators put it in a lot of hard work and deserve to get paid for their time and effort, and the way Findaway handles this seems fairer to me. But, as I said, more on that next week.

Getting started with Findaway is super easy. If your books are already on Draft2Digital, you have a little microphone button you can click next to your books, which will take you to Findaway where you then start the process. That’s what I did. I believe you can also sign up with Findaway if you’re not with Draft2Digial, but I think you’ll need to pay to create your profile whereas Draft2Digital gets you in for free… but don’t quote me on that. I was already on Draft2Digital, so I can only tell you for sure how easy and free it was that way.

It also helps that Draft2Digital already have a lot of the book’s information like the blurb and the text, and Findaway simply take it from them, which saves you some time.

You’ll need to set your audiobook’s release date pretty much right away. I stumbled here. I had no idea what to put because I hadn’t done this before and every audiobook is different, so just hear this: leave plenty of time. Recording and editing an audiobook isn’t a quick job, so don’t set your release date—or street day on Findaway—to a month later. I set mine to four months later, and that was fine. This date is flexible, so don’t worry if you need to change it later.

Now, because a lot of money is involved, you’ll need to fill in a tax form and sign a contract. Read this carefully. If anything doesn’t work for you, you can either contact them and ask them to explain or you can walk away and find someone else, but don’t just skim it. There’s nothing scary in there and I know it’s not a thrilling read, but it’s important.

Oh, and since I mentioned their customer service—they are super helpful. I had a lot of questions, especially in the beginning, and they always got back to me quickly, answered everything with patience and sweetness, and I never felt like I was pushed onto an automatic response system or like they didn’t care. Their customer service is awesome and I love them.

But let’s get to the price, because I know you’re wondering how much all this is going to cost you. Findaway has two options: VoicesPlus, and let’s call the other one regular. On the regular plan, you pay the full price and keep 80% of the royalties. Findaway keeps the other 20. VoicesPlus, on the other hand, means you pay half after the recording is done but before they begin distribution. After that, your narrator earns 20%, Findaway earns 20%, and you keep 60%. This is a great option if you don’t have a lot of cash lying around because your narrator definitely gets paid half, even if you don’t sell a single audiobook. To get into VoicesPlus, I had to prove that it’d be worth their time by providing a few details, such as how readers have reacted to the book on social media, links to review sites like Amazon and Goodreads, and how many sales or downloads it’s had for the last… four months? I don’t remember. If they don’t think that you’d sell enough to make it worth your narrator’s time, you don’t get in. This is because Findaway want to make sure that their narrators definitely get paid. I got lucky and got in.

The actual fee depends on two things: your book’s length and your narrator’s experience. A narrator who’s been in the business for twenty years will charge more than a narrator who’s only just starting out. There’s nothing wrong with either option – choose the one you can afford and who auditioned the best.

I know this sounds vague, but: when Findaway send you a list of narrators they recommend for your book, and they all come with a quote so you know exactly how much to expect. Don’t worry if you can’t afford any of them – you haven’t committed to anything yet at this point, so it’s not too late to back out.

For Findaway to send you those recommendations, you fill in a questionnaire so they know what to look for. This was interesting, because it got me to think about my book in new ways. You’ll have to define the overall tone of your book, the type of voice you’re looking for, and fun things like that. My narrator also asked me to provide a list of pronunciations for everything. She wanted to get the names right, so this was an important list… but I don’t know if that’s protocol. Your book might not need it. I write epic fantasy and made up a lot of names, so she asked for it.

Once you have your recommendations, you can request an audition. All narrators come with some samples of work they’ve done previously, but the audition lets you hear them read an excerpt from your book. Super exciting, and super emotional.

Findaway defaults to the first few paragraphs in your book, but you want to find an excerpt that includes your main characters, maybe an emotional or otherwise important scene that needs to hit right. Your opening scene isn’t likely to have those things, so pick wisely!

It’s important to note here that the narrators can turn you down. Remember—Findaway recommended them, they didn’t volunteer themselves. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested. I got 8 recommendations, sent requests to 5, and got 2 auditions. If none of them seem right to you or none of them want to audition, you can request another set. If the first set wasn’t quite right, you can also include a note to re-specify what you’re looking for. I did get a great variety of experience levels, which I thought was really impressive, and I got them within a few days, so I didn’t have to wait long.

The actual auditions are… interesting. If you thought holding your book in your hands for the first time was emotional, wait til you hear a professional voice actor read it out loud. That was something else, and I recommend tissues.

Once you’ve heard a narrator you’re happy with, you can click another button to let them know you want to work together. Findaway contacts them and sets everything up.

It took four weeks to get from initial research to this point, by the way, and those weeks went fast.

Once everything is settled, your narrator will begin, well, narrating. They’ll upload individual chapters so that you can request changes on a chapter-by-chapter basis. You will need to listen to every chapter, read along with your paperback, and catch mistakes. This isn’t a time to get picky. Your book will sound a certain way in your way, and your narrator’s reading won’t match it perfectly. It can’t, because they’re not you. It’s their interpretation of your book, not yours. If they don’t quite put the emphasis where you would, let it go. Your narrator is a pro and knows what they’re doing. If a word is missing, however, or there’s some kind of background noise or they’ve read a sentence twice, or anything like that that shouldn’t be there, point it out.

You’ll go through the entire book this way until everything is recorded, you’ve checked every chapter word for word, and everything is ready. This can take a while. You might not be your narrator’s only client, so be patient and let them do their thing. Findaway then take care of the audio edit, and from what Dana told me, this is not an easy job, so that’s something to think about if you’d like to do everything yourself. More on that next week.

Once everything is ready and paid, Findaway distributes your book to nearly 40 online stores at time of recording this episode, including Audible. You’ll also get 100 Download codes you can hand out to your ARC team or anyone else who wants an early listen. It’s important to note with this that Audible won’t let someone review a book unless they’ve bought it, so while you can get early reviews on some sites, Audible isn’t one of them.

Findaway also sent me a few other handy things, like a social media marketing kit, an explanation of how royalties work, etc. They also suggest a price for the book. You can set your own, but I figured Findaway know what they’re doing, so I ran with their suggested price.

One really important note on your release date: this is not the date your book will be out everywhere. Some sites take a lot longer than others—it took a few months to be on Audible, for example—so don’t go telling everyone that your audiobook will be available everywhere from that date. The links will slowly trickle in, but it’ll take time. This isn’t Findaway’s fault, just a difference in how the different retailers do things.

And that’s how you create an Audiobook with FindawayVoices! It’s an easy recommendation from me, but for more options, listen in again next week Monday, when Dana Fraedrich outlines the other options. And don’t forget, you can also click the link to my Audiobook Diaries in the shownotes for even more info.

I hope that’s answered a few things for you, but if you still have questions, get in touch. My social media handles will follow in a second.

That’s it for now! Have a great week, bye!

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, on Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


This transcript was done by Sarina.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 32 | What Does a Writing Coach Do? with Rachel Grosvenor

For this week’s episode, I talked to Rachel Grosvenor, an author and writing coach. We had a chat about what a writing coach does, who the service is right for, and what to look for when you consider hiring one.

To find out more about Rachel, check out her website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer. This podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started. 

Welcome back friends and Sparrows, and good morning, it’s the 19th of April 2021. This is Episode 32. Today, I’m talking to Rachel Grosvenor, a writing coach from New Zealand. It’s 9 PM for her right now, so I really appreciate that she could meet me because it’s 8 AM for me. Big time difference. 

Rachel: Yeah, it is. 

Sarina: Rachel has made it her job to help writers and authors alike achieve their writing dreams. She’s here today to tell us all about how she does that. Welcome to my [00:01:00] podcast, Rachel.

Rachel: Hello, thank you very much.

Sarina: Thank you also for reaching out to me. It makes me feel like my little podcast is a lot bigger than it actually is probably.

Rachel: You are more than welcome. It sounded fun. I just wanted to get involved in more writing chat, really, so sounds good.

Sarina: It is quite fun. I was terrified when I did the first episodes by myself but I think that was partially because I didn’t know if anyone would hear it. The greeting that I’ve just done when you don’t have anyone listening to, it’s very presumptuous of me. 

Rachel: Then, you never know who’s going to listen back again.

Sarina: No, exactly. These chats have actually been really great, because I end up learning so much from all my guests. I meet lots of fun people. It really is very fun, for both of us hopefully.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: It’ll also be very interesting for me, I think, because I’ve never really talked to a writing coach before. It’s a term that obviously, [00:02:00] I’ve seen floating around here and there. To be honest, I don’t really know what you do. This will be a great chance [crosstalk] to learn a lot.

Rachel: [crosstalk] -I do. I feel it’s a fairly new term, actually. 

Sarina: Yeah, I think in my head, I have a general idea of what you do but really, I have no idea because I’ve never talked to a writing coach.

Rachel: Yeah. Because it’s a fairly new term, a lot of people find it a little bit more confusing. If I said that I was a teacher, it would be more clear to people because they already have an idea of what that is in their head. 

Sarina: Yeah. For me, writing culture sounds like something that I would love to do. But again, I don’t really know, because I could have completely the wrong idea about what you do. If we start by getting stuck into that, talk me through what you do, say, “I’m an author. Rachel, I need help.” What would you do?

Rachel: Well, it completely depends really at what stage [00:03:00] of the writing process you’re at. What a writing coach does, that’s basically a personal trainer for authors, that’s the way to kind of view it. I help aspiring authors at all stages of the creative journey. That can be anything from, “Hey, I want to write a novel, but I really don’t know what I would write a novel about. I don’t know how to come up with an idea.” Or, it could be, “I’m a third of the way through, and I didn’t write a plot in the beginning and now I don’t know where I’m going.” Or, it could even be, “I finished my first draft, but now what do I do?” Or, it could be, “I’m at the end of my third draft, and I’m ready to publish, but how the heck does that work?” It’s really any part of that journey, or all of that journey. 

My background is, I’m a doctor of creative writing. I’ve got a PhD and MA and a BA in creative writing. I [00:04:00] was also a lecturer at university in creative writing in England. I used to tutor adults for many years. I’ve got a background in being a lecturer and a tutor in creative writing. Being a writing coach felt a really nice transition, where I could work with writers one on one, and really chat to them about their projects, and actually have that time that I never really had in the classroom with each individual person to help them achieve their goals. That’s what a writing coach is. It’s sort of anything you want it to be to do with writing in the same way that a life coach would help you achieve your goal by helping you decide your journey and helping you see the way forward. A writing coach would do a similar thing. 

Sarina: See, that’s another thing I don’t really know that much about life coach. Again, I like feel that’s also quite a new term. Still, really now I feel that’s something that we didn’t really [00:05:00] have to the same degree 20 years ago.

Rachel: I agree.

Sarina: I think because I know a little bit about writing, and I know nothing about life. 

[laughter] 

Sarina: Writing coaching makes more sense to me just on those term because, it’s also maybe a bit more limited, because I know writing, I know a bit about marketing, and I know bit about publishing, but life can encompass so many different things, I think, and obviously writing is quite broad, ultimately, as well, because it is, of course, a lot more than just the writing.

Rachel: Oh, yeah, absolutely. That’s part of what it’s about, really. There’s a saying that always goes around, everybody’s got a novel inside them. I’ve always said, “Well, that might be the case.” Everyone’s got a story inside them, certainly. Does everybody have a novel inside them?” is such a big question because it’s like does everybody have the ability to sit down and work on an idea until it’s finished? Does everybody have the ability to do the second draft? It’s such a [00:06:00] big process of writing a novel, [crosstalk] which is why, everyone might have a story, but not everybody does write a novel, because it’s really hard work. It’s really hard work. [chuckles] 

Sarina: It really is. 

Rachel: It’s such a lovely dream. It’s such an amazing dream. Sometimes, people say, “Oh, all I want is to write all week, every week just on my own in a farmhouse.” That is an amazing dream. The reality of it is not like the incredible sort of drinking coffee, and all the ideas are coming and everything’s flowing, and you feel wonderful. It’s very different. So, yeah, I think a writing coach also helps you basically through that process of the reality of writing an awful.

Sarina: I imagine there’s some interesting chats that have come out of that when a new writer approaches you and says, “I just want to live the writer dream on the farm and do nothing but write,” and then you have to come in and say, “Actually, [00:07:00] here’s what’s really going to happen.” [chuckles] 

Rachel: Yeah, but it’s also, I’ve met people who have retired and then that’s their dream to write a novel, because it’s so many people’s dream, which is amazing. I think it always has been, and it’s lovely. I love to also keep that enthusiasm alive. I’m a very positive person. I love writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s my favorite thing in the world. So, talking to other people who also love it and keeping them in enthused through the difficulties is a really cool thing.

Sarina: Yeah. Do you find that writers ever get maybe a little bit defensive when you tell them that maybe the dream that isn’t as realistic and actually, there is a lot more work in there than they had originally anticipated?

Rachel: That’s a good question. Yeah, I think, there are obviously different types of people, and part of being a [00:08:00] writer is that you have to develop a thick skin anyway. That’s tough because I also think that being a writer, I think introverts are naturally attracted to the idea of being a writer. I know I’m an introvert. It’s funny, isn’t it? Part of being a writer these days is different to how I think it used to be. Now, it’s more like, you want to market your book, but you’ve got to get that out there. You’ve got to put yourself out there. That’s hard for introverts. It’s not that easy. Yeah, I do think that being a writer, nowadays, you have to develop a little bit of a thicker skin. That’s something that we talk about as well. You have to have peer review and feedback to improve your work. That can be tough to take on board as much as realizing the reality of writing a novel. The first class when I lectured would always be, “All right, this is how we get feedback. [00:09:00] This is how we speak to each other. This is how we deliver criticism, because it’s going to happen. Let’s prepare ourselves.” [chuckles] 

Sarina: Giving criticism and feedback in itself is a skill really, and not everyone that writers are going to talk to and give their book to will know how to do it in a respectful and polite way, let’s say.

Rachel: Absolutely.

Sarina: I have had one very early beta reader on my first book who may be confused being honest with just being a bit rude.

Rachel: Yeah, some people get excited about how honest they can be. I’ve noticed that you have– when I lectured at university, I would sometimes have a student who was just really excited about the fact that they were being asked to criticize almost, and you have to be like, hey– I always used to go with the compliment sandwich. I’m a big fan of the compliment sandwich.

Sarina: Oh, I am. That’s how I edit. [giggles]

Rachel: [00:10:00] Absolutely, because you start off thinking, “Okay, awesome. Okay, so here’s something I can realistically work on, but I still feel excited and I still feel pleased about this.” 

Sarina: Yeah. I’m sure you are the same way, because I think that we’re quite similar with our optimism. When I edit someone’s book, then I want them afterwards to feel positive and excited about the project, and not like, “I’ve just ruined everything and ruined their dream.”

Rachel: Absolutely, it’s important.

Sarina: You may need to make some cuts, you may need to change your point of view maybe somewhere which is just going to take a lot of work, but hopefully, book is also going to be a lot stronger afterwards. Hopefully, I can then help them make them see that so that they can get excited about making all these big changes–

Rachel: Absolutely.

Sarina: [crosstalk] -you probably work the same way.

Rachel: Yes, I do. Yeah, I am very positive. Actually, that was always my feedback in my observations was, “Rachel’s a very positive person.” People [00:11:00] leave feeling enthused. It was great, because the same people, when I taught adults, would always come back again and again. That was because they really enjoyed the dynamics and atmosphere. That’s really important.

Sarina: Yeah, I do think it is. Something that you’ve said about some writers coming to you and saying that they want to live the dream on the farm and just writing all the time, reminded me of something I had some years ago, when I left uni– I studied photography. 

Rachel: Oh, lovely.

Sarina: I eventually realized near the end of my degree that I wanted to get back to writing again. By the time I graduated, I hadn’t quite got back to what’s now my debut novel yet. We were all exchanging our plans for the future. I said, “Oh, I’m going to want to try being an author. I’m going to write, I’m going to get back to that.” One of my friends at the time was saying that, she feels that she might want to write a book at some point, but she felt that she hadn’t [00:12:00] experienced enough yet, at the time to really write a book, which seemed a bit odd to me, because I think at the time, we were all about roughly 21 to 24. Some of us were older, but at this point, you’ve already experienced quite a lot. You’ve just finished uni, you’ve lived in halls at some point. That comes with so much stress, so much pressure, so much excitement. There’s so much in there, what else do you want to experience? 

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: You’re never going to be in an actual battle probably. Certainly not a sword battle because that’s a– 

Rachel: No, you’d hope not. 

Sarina: Yeah, hope not. What would you have said to her, just out of curiosity?

Rachel: I would have said, a phrase that I do love is thrown around a lot when you talk about writing, that you write what you know. That doesn’t mean that you’re writing about if you’re a 21-year-old woman living in university, it doesn’t mean that’s what you’re writing about. [00:13:00] It means that you’re drawing on the emotions and the experiences that you’ve had so that you can feed your characters and storylines. I would have said that anybody can write whatever age they are. I’ve read some awesome stories by children because they think in a different way, and they come up with some really outlandish things. You think, “That’s amazing. I never would have thought of that, because I’m too young to focus in reality, but that’s awesome.” 

Yeah, I would have said, “You know enough already to begin, so write what you know.” But also, research is our friend.” 

Sarina: Always. [chuckles] 

Rachel: Yeah. It’s one of my favorite bits of writing a novel is the research. I absolutely love it. I can just fall down a rabbit hole for just days researching, and I just love it so much.

Sarina: I do, because you get to learn so many things, ultimately doing that, things that you’re probably interested in, [00:14:00] because they wouldn’t be in your book otherwise. Yeah, it’s such an exciting thing to do. I think that’s also where the advice of just write what you know, if you don’t break it down, gets a bit misleading. In my books, I tend to have a lot of magic in them and I tend to have, as I said, some sword fighting but I’ve never done those things, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t write them. I can’t shoot fireballs– [crosstalk] 

Rachel: Exactly.

Sarina: -from my hands and burn my enemies with them, but my characters can and you still can write it. I think it’s fantastic advice to write what you know, but also as you do, you need to break it down a little bit, so that people know that you can also approach other things, but maybe draw from your emotions and some of your backgrounds and start there, and see where it takes you, because otherwise you wouldn’t write [crosstalk] novels or fantasy novels, and what a shame that would be.

Rachel: Yeah, I write fantasy, and I’m sure, [00:15:00] part of writing what you know, for me, is my background in having read a lot of fantasy, played a lot of fantasy games like Skyrim and all that stuff. 

Sarina: Yeah. We have a lot to talk about. 

[laughter] 

Rachel: Yeah. I ride horses all the time. It’s like my other passion. I use all of these things in my fantasy writing. Yeah, also, I live up the road from Hobbiton, so that helps. [laughs] 

Sarina: That’s [crosstalk] inspiration. [laughs] 

Rachel: Absolutely.

Sarina: To get back to doing what you do, writing coaching. Is there a cutoff point where you would say that author has nothing to gain from working with me, or have you found that you have been able to help every author who has approached you?

Rachel: It’s up to the author. [00:16:00] Coaching is very much led by the person who is being coached and not the coach. It’s very much up to the person being coached to say, when they feel they want to go it alone essentially, and when they feel that they’ve achieved the action points that they’ve set. A coach essentially helps guide you to your goal, and helps you be able to view your blockages as well. They help you notice what they are and work out how you can clear them. My skill sets in being a writing coach is that I’m not just a certified professional coach, but I’m also a lecturer and writing tutor, so I can give you not just the coaching element to help you work out where you want to go on the journey, but I can also give you the benefit of my experience, and my [00:17:00] lecturing experience as well. All the classes that I’ve taught, everything I’ve ever taught to writers. I give both, I merge the two together. 

If a writer felt that they were nearing the end of their first draft, and actually, they’d asked me all the questions that they had wanted to, and they knew where to go from there, and they were ready to go alone, and that would be great, good for them. That’s cool. Likewise, if they felt like they needed somebody to hold them accountable for a little bit longer, then that is fine too, because that’s a really big part of it. Sometimes, people find it hard to hold themselves accountable. A coach will hold you accountable, and they will ask you to do homework, and they will ask you to check in with them. I find that is a really important part of it as well.

Sarina: Do some authors ever come back to you then say that– they have worked with you to just finish the first draft and then a bit later, they come back and then you help [00:18:00] maybe with marketing or with publishing the book?

Rachel: We can talk about marketing and publishing. Specifically, I’m not– I’ve worked in marketing, but I’m not someone who you would go to for marketing. I can talk to you about the way that I work. Publishing is a little bit different. I can talk about traditional publishing. I’ve taught lots of classes on traditional versus self-publishing and how that works. We could definitely talk about that. Yeah, marketing, I would say, if you’re ready to market your book, that’s awesome, but you need to go and talk to a marketing agent.

[laughter] 

Sarina: I had another question there, but I forgot what it was. Probably because I’m not quite awake just yet. For now, if we move on, and hopefully I’ll come back to that and I’ll remember–

Rachel: Okay. 

Sarina: What’s your favorite part about being a writing coach?

Rachel: Oh, that’s a good question. I love reading other people’s [00:19:00] work. I just love reading. I read all the time. It’s one of my favorite things. Yeah, I do love reading other people’s work. Actually, I just love chatting about writing with people. When I was teaching and tutoring and lecturing, I had a class full of people. Sometimes, people come before the class, and sometimes they would stay late and talk to me, but I never really got to sit down with them, unless we were doing some kind of review, to actually be like, “Talk to me about your writing process. How could we improve it? Talk to me about this.” I would be teaching as a class. That’s the best thing, is being able to sit down with people and be like, “Let’s get to the bottom of this and improve your writing life.”

Sarina: That’s kind of the question that I just forgot that I just remembered and wrote down. 

Rachel: Oh, yeah? Okay.

Sarina: How do you do the session? Do you set up a Zoom call, like we’re doing right now?

Rachel: Yeah, currently [00:20:00] in COVID, I do, with the Zoom.

Sarina: Yeah, obviously, right now, we can’t meet anyone in person.

Rachel: Yeah, that’s how I do it at the moment. Previously, I’ve gone coffees with people, and that’s nice. It’s always nice to go for coffee with people. Yeah, at the moment, Zoom works really well. Also, I just use things like Dropbox to be able to read people’s work. Google Docs is really helpful for that as well. Yeah, relying massively on the online world at the moment.

Sarina: That is very helpful. It has certainly made a lot of things a lot easier. But it’s then also a matter of finding the right program and finding something that both sides are happy with. I imagine there’s some– maybe not complications as such, but probably also some discussion around that. I imagine you’re quite flexible with that. If an author says, “Actually, I’m not comfortable talking on video, because I don’t know you,” [00:21:00] then is that something also that you’re happy to work with?

Rachel: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We can have a telephone chat. Absolutely. Also, email is fine as well. Some people find email easier, especially if they’re writers, because they can pause and think about what they’re saying and think about their words, and I understand that. I often feel that I speak better on the page than I do in real life. [laughs] 

Sarina: I always say that when you just talk in real life, it’s basically a first draft that comes out of you. 

Rachel: Exactly. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: We both know why first drafts are not necessarily what you want people to see or hear. [chuckles] 

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina: I suppose when you do it in emails, you then also have that backup of what you’ve discussed and you can come back to it more easily, so that’s also quite helpful, I imagine.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I do take notes when I speak to people, so that we both know where they’re up to, what’s going on, and things like that. [00:22:00] I’ll always have notes on people and know what’s going on in their projects and things like that. But yeah, it’s really useful to have emails as well. 

Sarina: Yeah, I’ll bet. Coming on to the last question. What would you like writers who are considering hiring a writing coach to know? Say someone like me who had no idea what they would be in for.

Rachel: That’s a good question. I think it would be that it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at. If there’s anything that you are struggling with, we can talk about it essentially and I can help. Yeah, it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, it could be anything. Also, you don’t have to even have written down an idea yet. If you want to write a novel and that’s what you know, but you feel you need help, [00:23:00] then get in touch. As much as if you’ve already written a novel, and you need to know what the next step is, that too. I offer different sort of stages. I offer like an hour session that is just for somebody who needs to talk to somebody about creative writing and the issues that they’re having. I also offer a longer series of sessions as well, which is creation of a novel, and going through the process. 

At the moment, I’m creating an online masterclass, which will hopefully be available later in the year. That’s going to be basically an online course on how to write a novel from the very start, coming up with how to calendar block and all of that stuff, how to actually find the time to write, to the very end of how to find a publisher, so that’s something I’m building [00:24:00] at the moment in my spare time.

Sarina: If you remind me when the course is live, then we can link to that in the show notes as well. 

Rachel: Awesome, I will. Thank you. Cool.

Sarina: Yeah, we can then come back to that. 

Rachel: Okay, brilliant. 

Sarina: I’m sure there’s so much more that I could ask but, because it sounds like such a fascinating process, and also really fun, because you get to connect with so many writers. I know when I first started looking for an editor– I mean I got quite lucky in that really, because I just kind of stumbled on my editor on Twitter.

Rachel: That’s good.

Sarina: Kind of found each other. I know that lots of editors, for example, have genres that they’re not as happy to edit, where they say, “I’m a thriller author, so I edit thrillers exclusively,” for example. Are you happy to work with authors in any genre? Or, would you say that there is something that you don’t know as much about?

Rachel: That’s a good question. [00:25:00] I’m happy with any fictional genre. I would say that if somebody wanted to write a memoir or something like that, something nonfiction, obviously we could still chat, but my specialties are fiction. As much as I love to read nonfiction, and I do, my specialties are fiction, and that’s very much what my PhD was in. Yeah, any fictional genre works for me really.

Sarina: Well, that’s probably a relief then to many listeners, because I think a lot of us tend to gravitate more towards writing fiction, because we can be a bit more creative with that and we can sort of explore all those ideas a bit more, which is very exciting.

Rachel: Absolutely. I really enjoy fiction. But then, it’s funny that I also just really enjoy reading nonfiction as well. Yeah, [00:26:00] I do.

Sarina: I found something similar last year. I started listening more to audiobooks. When I sit down with an eBook, or a paperback or whatever, I tend to prefer epic fantasy, because that’s what I tend to write, so that’s my go-to genre, or maybe a bit of horror, but usually it’ll be more on that end. But then, whenever I listen to an audiobook, for some reason, I really struggle to focus on fantasy or sci-fi. I don’t know what it is. I then find it much easier to sit down with, say, a contemporary fiction instead.

Rachel: Okay, that’s interesting,

Sarina: I wouldn’t normally sit down with the paperback because I then might not be able to focus on that so much. For some reason, there is this interesting change in interest when I sit down with an audiobook compared to when I sit down with a paperback, and I’m not really sure why that is.

Rachel: That’s interesting. I find it depends also on who is reading it [00:27:00] in the audiobook. I’m listening to a nonfiction book at the moment. The guy’s so enthusiastic, but sometimes I’m just so British, I balk at it a little bit. I’m like, “Wow, you’re so enthusiastic, and it’s really early in the morning. I just need to turn this down a little bit.” Whereas I feel like if I was reading it, I’d be like, “Ah, I can deal with this.”

[laughter] 

Sarina: I think that’s probably a good place to finish the interview on. I’ve learned a lot. I have a better idea now on what a writing coach does. 

Rachel: Awesome.

Sarina: Hopefully, some of our listeners do as well and might be more inclined to work with one if they are stuck on that journey, which would be fantastic. 

Rachel: Great.

Sarina: Thank you very much, Rachel, for stopping by and having this chat with me. Thank you so much also to you, listeners, for being here and following along and learning with me.

Rachel: Thank you for having me.

Sarina: My pleasure. [00:28:00] I will speak to you later. Have a great day everyone. Bye-bye.

Rachel: Bye.

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, on Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 31 | Writing Routines: Julia Blake

Once a month, I talk to another writer about their writing routine. We answer questions such as Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between? ,  Do you write every day? ,  Where does your inspiration come from?,  What’s your beverage of choice?, and many more! At the end of each episode, the writers recommend their favourite book on writing and share their advice for establishing the right writing routine for you.

This month, I talked to Julia Blake, a multi-genre author from England.

To find out more about Julia, check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[The Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer. This podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started. 

[music]

Sarina: Good morning, and welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the 12th of April 2021. This is Episode 31. Today, I have Julia Blake back with me to talk about her writing routine. Welcome back, Julia.

Julia: No, I’m just thrilled that you actually have me back, obviously I behaved myself last time.

Sarina: Of course. You did very well last time. 

Julia: Oh, thank you.

Sarina: I didn’t do very well last time, because we’ve got a few questions– well, quite a few questions last time from your followers on Instagram. There’s one that [00:01:00] I completely forgot to ask about. If we start with that one today, and I’m very sorry, Bruce, that I forgot about your question last time, we will start with it today. Then, I also have with usual 15 questions that I ask every writer who comes in to talk about their routine. You’ve just told me as well that your internet connection is a little bit unstable, so we may run into some issues with that, but hopefully it’s fine. If we start with author, Bruce A. Hansen’s question from Instagram, which is most commercial author stick to one genre, the masses seem to really like that. What advantages and disadvantages have you seen in your approach?

Julia: Okay, first of all, hi Bruce, thank you for the question. Again, this question implies that there’s actually a method to my madness. 

Sarina: [chuckles] 

Julia: I know that [00:02:00] if I was traditionally published, they probably would pin me down and say, “Right, pick a genre.” That is probably the biggest reason why I like being indie published, because I have complete freedom. I have autonomy over what I can write because I just love stories. I love telling stories. For me, the genre doesn’t really matter. Now, I took a conscious decision– well, maybe not a conscious decision, but I think at the beginning, people did suggest to me that I use a different pen name for every single genre and I think we’ve touched on this before, but I’m so far up to eight different genres, I would have schizophrenia, I would not know who I was, and marketing that many different genres, I get quivers just thinking about it. 

Sarina: It sounds like a nightmare. 

Julia: It does, it sounds like a real identity crisis going on there. I have enough going on without dealing with that as well. I then realized that [00:03:00] people were actually– although people sorted out this issue for me, they were like, “Oh, Julia Blake, she’s the multi-genre author.” That kind of put a label on me, which I was happy with that, I’m comfortable with that. From that, the tagline developed Julia Blake, an Author for all Seasons, and I sort of ran with that as well. I really liked it because an interview I did way back several years ago, the interviewer actually put that label on me and said, “Oh, so you’re an Author for all Seasons,” and I really liked that. I thought, “Yes, I like that.” So, I’ve run with that as being my tagline. Am I commercially viable? Probably not. 

[laughter] 

Julia: So, is any indie author commercially viable, really? Also, I think the thing was having lots of genres under your belt. If the reader doesn’t like a particular genre, well, I’ve got another seven, eight. I’ve got a good one that you will like. Maybe in a way, not [00:04:00] having all your eggs in one basket does actually increase your readership. I hope that answered your question, Bruce. [crosstalk]

Sarina: I think it does. That was quite thorough and in depth. Hopefully, that’s all right. I think it eased my mind a little bit every time I consider writing in another genre. Thank you for that. If we start with the 15 questions that I ask everybody, let’s start with the most important one on my list. I think I actually already know the answer to that one. Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?

Julia: Oh, complete and utter freefall, no parachute, no planning, no looking ahead, pantser. Let’s just jump out the plane and see what happens.

[laughter] 

Julia: I could not plot my way out of a paper bag, because when I sit down to write a story, usually I have the title, I have a character and I have a vague concept, but that could change. [00:05:00] I just write the first line, get the first line down, and then it’s linear for me. I’m not one of those authors who jumps ahead and writes the scene and then goes back. I start at the beginning, and I just work my way through until I hit the end. Yeah, pantser, definitely. Although I don’t like that word, being British, that just denotes underwear to me. I wish they think of a new word for us.

Sarina: Or, we do need something different. If you’re a bit of both, which I think most writers are, then that’s quite easy, because you can then put plotter and pantser together to make plotster, for example, which I think works a lot better. [laughs] 

Julia: I think I’m organic. I’m an organic writer. Let’s put it that way.

Sarina: Let’s run with that then. what does your writing routine look like?

Julia: Ooh, again, routine. A tricky word for me. I’m the world’s worst procrastinator. It takes me absolutely forever to put my backside down in the [00:06:00] chair and actually start writing. I will think of a million different reasons why I should not sit down and write. “Ooh, the shed needs sorting out.” “Ooh, I need to go and clean out my freezer.” There’s always a reason why I shouldn’t write. But then, when I decide to and I sit down, it’s like a little voice inside me says, “Ooh, you actually love this. Why haven’t you done this more often?” Then, once I get my teeth into a project, I’m absolutely tunnel vision. I like the house to be quiet and I like to be alone in the house. Of course, this past year, that has not happened very much. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: No. It’s been a little bit difficult for people like us who need silence when we are writing.

Julia: Yes. I’m not one of those writers who can have a playlist blaring in the background because I would just stop, come into the music and I will get totally– I would find I was typing the lyrics into the story– [crosstalk] 

Sarina: Yes. That’s how I am with that. 

Julia: Yeah, I need silence. And if the people in the street could possibly shut up as well, that would be very nice. 

Sarina: Yes.

Julia: I don’t have a lot of [00:07:00] complicated stuff, there is just my desk. I always write at my desk, it’s my writing zone. When I sit down at my desk, it’s because I’m going to do something author related. It’s my work zone. I can’t write sitting on a sofa with my laptop, because I’d need six strong men to straighten my back, back out of the [unintelligible [00:07:21] afterwards. It’s always at a proper chair, at my desk, with my laptop, and the only equipment I have is a glass of water. That’s it. It’s not too close to the laptop. After the “hot chocolate” incident in 2016, I’m not allowed to–[crosstalk] 

Sarina: Okay.

Julia: Yes, there were casualties. I’m not allowed to have beverages anywhere near my laptop anymore.

Sarina: Oh, that sounds terrible. It’s the last thing you want, isn’t it? When you’re just sitting down and you have high hopes of writing all the words, and then, bam, laptop broken because you spilled your drink, and you spilled the drink.

Julia: Yeah, hot chocolate, all over the laptop. 

Sarina: You lose a– [crosstalk] Oh. [00:08:00] That sounds painful. [chuckles] I feel like we’ve maybe preempted this next question a little bit already as well, but I’ll ask anyway. Do you set yourself specific goals when you sit down to write? For example, do you have a certain number of words in your head that you want the overall work in progress to have? Or, do you set yourself a certain amount of time to write for every day? 

Julia: No. I don’t write every day.

Sarina: That would have been my next question. 

Julia: I think that can be a little bit of misleading. That’s misleading information for new authors, write every single day, or you’re not a proper writer. Well, if all you’re doing is you’re at home, and all you’re doing is writing, and it’s your job, and it’s what you earn money from then, yes, obviously that gets priority. But sadly, like most indie authors, I’m not in a position where my writing is my main job. My main job has to come first, because that’s what pays all the bills. I’ve completely lost track. What’s the question again? [00:09:00]

Sarina: Do you set yourself word count goals, for example or– Yeah.

Julia: Well, for the actual book or for each writing session?

Sarina: Either way.

Julia: Okay. Well, if it’s a book in a series that I’ve already written books for, for example, The Perennials Trilogy, nearly was 175,000 words. Daisy, I think almost 160,000. I know when I write the third book, it’s going to be in that ballpark. It’s going to be because obviously, if you’ve got the books lined up on a shelf, you can’t have big book, big book, tiny book. There has to be continuity in a series. Likewise, when I’m writing the Blackwood Family Saga, they all clock in at between 52,000 and 54,000 words. They’re short, snappy reads. Of course, the other books I write in that series must fall into that word count. You can’t go any further. But if it’s a new book, and I’m sitting down to write it, I really have no idea [00:10:00] how when many words that is going to– usually too many. When I wrote Black Ice, it started out– it was going to be a short story, and it’s only going to be 3000 or 4000 words long. Well, 150,000 words later, I paid no attention to that word count whatsoever.

Individual sessions, when I sit down to write, I’m more of an idea person. I sit down and think, “Right, I’ve got this scene that I want to write, I would really like to get that scene down today. Never mind about the word count, it doesn’t matter if it’s like 800 words or 8000 words, it doesn’t matter. This scene, I want to get down. I don’t want to walk away halfway through the scene.” Usually my brain goes, “Okay, you want the scene,” and the words just play out to me. Then when the scene is done, I’m usually exhausted, and I’m dry. That’s it for now, so I stop. There’s no conscious, sort of, I don’t sit down and think, “Today, I’m going to write 3000 words.” I think that’s just setting yourself up to fail. If you say that and then you only manage 2000, you’re going to feel [00:11:00] dreadful. But if you sit down and just say, “Well, let’s just see what happens. I would just love to get some words done.” You do 2000 words, you’re going to go, “Wow, awesome. That’s brilliant.” I think set realistic goals is the tip anyway in life.

Sarina: I think sitting down with the goal of just writing a specific scene is quite a good approach for it as well, because obviously, your individual scenes are going to make up the entire book. So, if you already have a strong idea for a scene, and you know you have time to write, and you’re excited to write the scene, why not try to get the whole thing done? I don’t massively like stopping in the middle of any one scene or any one chapter. But at the same time, it then also helps me to get back to it next time I go back into write, but it can also be really fulfilling, I think, if we can wrap up a whole scene in one session.

Julia: Also, I think, if you write, especially if it’s something like a battle scene or an action scene, if you can get that down in one hit [00:12:00] in one mad, panicked, urgent rush, I think that comes out in the writing. I think that sense of urgency does come through in the writing, and it will put the reader right in the moment. I think sometimes people can overthink things like that. 

Sarina: Yeah, I think so. Just speaking from my own experience, I’m terrible at writing battle scenes, for example. When I plan them because I’m a plotter, see? [chuckles] 

Julia: Mm-hmm. 

Sarina: When I go into the writing sprint for the day, for example, I know that I have this battle scene to write. I’ve known for a while that I would have this battle scene to write eventually, but I have no idea really when the time comes to do it, how to do it. My notes will just say write epic battle scene and I just stare at it and go, “Um, character picks up sword, character hopes to not die.” I don’t know. I’m terrible with writing things like battle [00:13:00] scenes. I agree that if you already have the energy for it, and if you’re feeling really pumped up to write it, then that definitely comes through in the writing, assuming that you know what you’re doing, which is never a given on any day.

Julia: No, certainly not for me. 

[chuckles] 

Sarina: Has your writing routine changed at all over the years? If so, what have you changed and why?

Julia: No, I’ve always written in this way. When I first started writing novels, my daughter was very young, she was a baby, and she was going down for long naps. My word, that child slept for Britain. 

Sarina: [laughs] 

Julia: I’m not complaining but sometimes it was quite alarming how much she slept. I used nap times and knowing that I was against the clock that she could wake– She was generally a good child, she did sleep a lot but she could wake at any moment. My writing time was going to be curtailed at some point. It’s like, “This is the time I have to write, so you better write, girl.” [00:14:00] There was none of this, “Do I feel like writing? No, I don’t.” It was that, “This is the only time you’re going to have to write, so you have got to write.” I think I need that kick up the backside. I need that kind of– If I’m given too much time, I will fill it. I will faff about and then suddenly, I will go, “Ooh, no, I have a lot of time to write now.” Whereas if I’m told, you have an hour, hour and a half, tops, get to it. Then you sit down and suddenly in that hour and a half you’ve done 3000 words, that is how I cut my teeth writing novels. I think that habit has stayed with me. Now when I decide to write, I’m going to write now. I sit down and I just hammer out the words.

Sarina: I was really surprised last year to see that I really work in exactly the same way. I figured when I stay home to write, if I do it full time self-employed style, I’d get a lot more writing done because I wouldn’t have any other distractions in the way like a day job. [00:15:00] But that’s not at all what happens. As you said, if you have too much time on your hands, you end up filling that time with other things. I think because I had that much time, I always thought, “Well, if I don’t write today, doesn’t matter, because I can then write tomorrow.” But then the next day, I had exactly the same thought. Now, that I’m back at the day job, and actually, when I still went in physically, back in the day, when that was a thing, when we were allowed to do that, I made a point of getting up earlier so I could write for just 15 minutes in the morning. Like you said, I then had that urgency of, “If I don’t write now, I’m not going to get any writing done, so this has to happen. Or else, I’m not going to do any.” It’s probably some of the best words I’ve written to be honest because you then have that urgency.

Julia: Yeah. I think is probably as well, that’s one of the reasons why a lot of authors didn’t write, or don’t write well in lockdown, because there’s, “Oh, I’ve got all day to write,” and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. “You know [00:16:00] what? Today, I’m just going to put on my pajamas and watch Netflix.”

Sarina: I eventually got into a better routine. To begin with, it didn’t help that I had burned out pretty badly, in my defense, which isn’t much of a defense because I pushed myself into a burnout. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, so that’s a lesson learned. 

Julia: Yeah.

Sarina: I think now when I sit down to write, I do now have a lot more time because we’re in lockdown. But I still try to limit how much time I give myself so that I don’t feel– Well, if I want to write longer, I can. So, I do tend to set short timers, 15 minutes or half an hour is what I try to limit my writing time to now. Then, I feel that I write with so much more focus. 

Julia: There is nothing like a time constraint to really sharpen the mind, really make you realize that, “This is the only time you’ve got, so make the most of it.” For me, the timing of lockdown was both good and [00:17:00] bad, because I was embarked on updating and republishing several books. I had [unintelligible [00:17:06] that I was doing, three Blackwood books plus The Book of Eve, of course, that was a huge major reconstruction job. They just coincided with the first lockdown. Everyone was saying to me, “Oh, I bet you’re writing lots in lockdown.” Well, actually, no, I’m not, but I hadn’t planned to. Even if I was still at work, this is what I would still be doing because– but the only thing was, instead of it taking me six months to get these four books or five books out, it only took me three. So, lockdown was great in that I had all day to sit down and edit, format, and source images and cover and things like that, it was great in that way. If I wasn’t doing those books, then I would have written. 

The irony is that as soon as lockdowns lifted, and I went back to work in June, and we got Book of Eve out in July, that was a big push. We got that out in July. I sat down mid-August, [00:18:00] and started Black Ice, six weeks later, 150,000 words was out, and that was on top of working. I did do overtime as well, so it was on top of doing my job, plus overtime. I think time is irrelevant issue, isn’t it? If you’ve got the time, you tend to fill it.

Sarina: Yeah. That was going to be my next question as well. If lockdown has affected your writing at all? But it sounds like for you, it’s been very beneficial.

Julia: It has. It’s given me time to do stuff. Then, of course, November, we were back into lockdown for a month in November, and that was the month in which I published Black Ice. So, having whole days to do final edits, final polishing, final formatting, setting up all the promo material, liaising with my formatting company, and just getting it out. That took up the whole of November. Then, of course, I went back to it, and then we’re back into lockdown now, but, of course, at the moment, [00:19:00] I am just going to grab doing a few other bits and pieces of tweaks, I’m working on my website. I’m trying to branch out into other social media because Instagram seems to have issues, so I’m sort of exploring other platforms as well. I’m constantly busy with writer things, but not actually writing, if that makes sense.

Sarina: Yeah. There’s a lot more that goes into writing a book anyway than just the writing that isn’t there. It might feel like you’re not being productive in terms of actually writing the thing, but really, you are doing a lot of work towards that.

Julia: Yes. Promoting is obviously a big thing that goes on behind the scenes and readers are not aware of it, and that takes up a huge amount of time. 

Sarina: Massive amount of time.

Julia: [crosstalk] -time I would rather be writing, but there it goes.

Sarina: It’s to be done. It’s a necessary evil. What writing program do you use?

Julia: Oh, all the writers out there all going to laugh at me. I have a really old laptop and [00:20:00] it has basic Word on it, and that’s what I use.

Sarina: That’s enough. You don’t need anything fancy.

Julia: I don’t need anything fancy. I literally don’t. I know Word. Before my current job, I was a professionally trained secretary, and I understand Word, I know how to use it. Everybody sort of lauds the benefits of using things like Scrivener, and I just look at them and think, “Why should I pay to have something when I have something that does the job just as well?” I’m sure Scrivener is fine, and maybe in the future it will be something I’ll explore but at the moment, I like Word, I understand it, and I tend to get things done, I understand.

Sarina: I do have a love-hate relationship with Word, because when it works, it works really well for me. I love using Word for editing. So, I write in Scrivener, and I edit in Word. But when it doesn’t work, and when it breaks down, I’m always ready to throw my laptop out the window because I feel like every now and again, for no reason whatsoever, Word just closes itself down [00:21:00] and restarts and I do not understand why.

Julia: [laughs] There are certain issues of Word, section breaks and pagination over section breaks that has caused me many a tear.

Sarina: That’s a formatting issue though. That’s not Word though, that’s just formatting being– it’s horrible, hell itself. 

Julia: Well, they made it as difficult as they could possibly make it. I’m sure there were easier ways.

Sarina: Thank God then for businesses like Platform House Publishing that make it so easy, and they just do it for us. Bless Becky.

Julia: I do all of the formatting so when I actually send my document across to Becky, it is in the correct template. It has got all the section breaks, it is paginated, it has all the dropped capitals, it has all the headings, it has the illustrations, everything is perfect. So, she literally just goes in, tweaks it, [00:22:00] make sure everything stays where it’s put. She does some kind of magic, arcane magic, some of the illustrations-

Sarina: It is. 

Julia: -so they don’t go wandering off. I don’t quite know what she does. I think she waves a wand and stirs up a potion. I don’t know quite what goes in there. Then, when it comes back to me, I know I can rest assured that I can upload that into KDP and it won’t move. When I go in and look at the preview, I won’t go, “What? No, that’s not what I wanted.”

Sarina: That was my problem back in the day when I first started writing my first book and I was still using OpenOffice. I swear I edited one thing, and everything shifted. Oh, I hated that thing. I’m sure it works perfectly fine for people who really understand it, but it’s not the program for me.

Julia: I remember early days, Becoming Lili is a huge book. I remember it was all perfect in the Word document, so I uploaded [00:23:00] it to KDP. When I went into the preview, it had all shifted ever so slightly, so it had knocked all my chapters out, knocked all the page numbers out. I had a lot of chapters that ended with a little orphan, just kind of one line at the top of the page, which I absolutely hate. I was going back in and trying to pull everything back and then uploading it and looking, “No, it’s still not right.” Then going back down, nightmare. Now, thank goodness for Platform House Publishing, and the adorable Becky, she just does it all for me. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: She loves doing it. I always think I may as well. Makes her happy, makes me happy, everybody wins. I think you’ve already mentioned this a little bit earlier, but what are three important things you need to have when you’re writing? I don’t know if tea was mentioned.

Julia: Tea first thing, definitely. I’m a tea drinker first thing in the morning. Then when I’m actually writing, a big glass of water. I don’t know if I breathe faster or I just dehydrate or [00:24:00] something but I get incredibly thirsty when I’m writing. I’m always gulping down water. Peace of mind, I have to have an uncluttered mind. If I’m worrying about something, then the words just don’t come. If I’m stressed or I’m really upset about something, it’s very hard for me to write because the way I write is literally just open up my brain and then it goes straight from my imagination to my fingertips. I think if there’s clutter in my head, it stops the process. It gets in the way of the thoughts, you know what I mean? So, a clear head definitely. 

A decent chair. I have slight back issues. If I slump or slouch, which I’m bad for doing, especially as I sit for long hours, sometimes I’ll sit for 8, 9, 10 hours writing and if I’ve not had my back, my spine properly supported, then I will pay for those 10 hours. Also, when it’s cold, fingerless mittens, [00:25:00] because if my wrists get cold– I find my wrists get really cold when I’m writing, and then I get really sore wrists and I get repetitive strain injury. I’ve found that just a nice pair of cheap woolen wrist warmers, fingerless mittens, and that sort of solves the problem. That’s my needs, quite simple.

Sarina: I was meaning to get myself some nice fingerless gloves for writing, especially in the winter.

Julia: They are amazing. My [crosstalk] pair there. 

Sarina: Oh, they look so comfy, too. 

Julia: They are. 

Sarina: I like anything that’s soft and fuzzy and warm. I’m very easy to please. You said about writing that you need a clear mind, an uncluttered mind. Do you find that you avoid writing if you’re feeling stressed or if you have something worrying you? Or, is there anything that you do to unclutter your mind before you start writing?

Julia: Believe it or not, a few rounds of Tetris will help or a few rounds of Candy Crush will just help. [00:26:00] It just take away– I think the banality of the game and the mindless repetition of the game just helps me, almost like a meditation sort of thing, almost like taking a deep breath before I go in. That can sometimes help. But if I’m really stressed and worried, then there’s no point in even opening my laptop because nothing’s going to come out. Or if something does come out, it’s going to be deleted next day.

Sarina: No, that’s fair enough. What do you do when writing gets difficult for you? I think some people call this writer’s block, which I don’t believe in.

Julia: I’m going to make myself hated by every single writer if I say I never actually had writer’s block. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: See, I don’t believe it exists, to be honest, so I’m right there with you.

Julia: I have the opposite problem. I have writer’s diarrhea. Is that a thing? 

Sarina: It should be. 

Julia: I have the problem, I have too many stories in my head, and it’s the, “Which one do I write next?” So many words. [00:27:00]

Sarina: Well, that’s good to know. I think with most people that when we talk about writer’s block, what they really mean is either that they’ve burned out on writing, and they need a break. Or, they’re procrastinating too much, and they don’t really want to write.

Julia: They’re overthinking it, maybe they’re just like we said, overthinking. I had one young writer who actually messaged me. I do get quite a lot of young writers who messaged me asking for advice, which is lovely. I’m not quite sure I’m the best person to ask, but I always do my best to help. One young writer said, “I just sit down and I’m just staring at a blank page and I can’t write anything. I’m trying to plot this book.” I said, “So just write a short story.”

Sarina: Yeah. don’t overthink it. Just write something. 

Julia: “Go away, and write me a 100-word story, and come back to me tomorrow. Here’s your title.” She went, “Oh.” She went to work. She came back next day and said, “I’ve written it and it was really good.” I said, “How do you feel?” She said, “That was amazing. It was so exciting.” Looking at the word [00:28:00] count, thinking, “[gasps] I’ve gone up to 101 words, what word can I take out.” She said, “I feel is also helped me in preparation for writing the blog.” This understanding that you can pare down a sentence to its absolute basic, and it still made sense. But sometimes, words are too much, that more is not always a good thing, it’s sometimes just more. She said, “This is a fantastic exercise, and I am going to use this quite a lot in the future. This little flash fiction I wrote has actually given me an idea for another novel.” I was like, “Oh, there you go then.” Last I know, she was doing really well. She finished a book, so that was wonderful–[crosstalk] 

Sarina: Oh, brilliant. Congratulations to this writer if she’s listening. Well done. This may be a slightly hated question, possibly for every author, but I’ll ask anyway. Where does your inspiration come from?

Julia: Oh, goodness me. I don’t know.

[chuckles] 

Julia: Usually out of the ether, spirit world, fifth dimension. [00:29:00] I don’t know. Sometimes, I can pin down the exact moment when a story idea comes to me. I remember before I wrote Book of Eve, I actually went to an aunt’s funeral. She was elderly and she’d been ill for a long time. I looked around at all these people at the funeral who I hadn’t seen some of them in years, and I suddenly thought how funerals are a great gathering place, maybe more so than weddings, because weddings are all about joy and happiness. Whereas a funeral is about hugging someone and sharing emotions, sharing these memories and nostalgia and regrets. I went away from that funeral with an idea in my head of starting a book at a funeral of actually starting the book with the death of the main character, their funeral, and then working from there. 

I was sort of kicking ideas around about that and the ideas were brewing in my head. Then, I went to bed that night. Normally, I don’t dream, but this night I had a very vivid dream, and I dreamt [00:30:00] of a woman sitting on a white marble staircase with actual blood flowing down staircase. I woke up before, “Good heavens, where did that come from?” I knew that was the pivotal moment of the book that I had in my head. I don’t give too many spoilers, but it is one of the pivotal moments in the book. If you want to know how those two things connect, you’ll have to read the book. 

Apart from that, all my other books have just floated in. Obviously, Black Ice, I was given the remit of Snow White. I had that as barebones to work from. The only others book that I can definitely pinpoint the exact moment and go, “There, that’s where that came from,” was The Forest. It’s a long time ago, it’s about 10 years ago, and I was at a big family party. One of those family parties that go from great-grandfathers sitting in the corner, clutching a pint of beer, down to babies and push chairs in the other corner and every generation in between, huge family party. It was getting towards the end of the party. [00:31:00] My brother and I were sitting there, finishing up a bottle of wine between us. Just sitting there and listening. There was a group of grandfathers, an elderly gentleman behind us having a wonderful conversation about the past and people they knew. Suddenly, my ear was caught by the most amazing name I’ve ever heard in my life. One old gent lent across to the other old gent and said, “Whatever happened to old Wally Twitchett?” 

[chuckles] 

Julia: My brother and I just looked at each other and I turned around and said, “Who?” [laughs] He said, “Wally Twitchett.” I said, “Please tell me that was the real person.” they said, “Oh, yeah, old Wally used to ride around the village on his old bike, he did. Wonder he didn’t fall off it.” By the time I got home that evening, I had Wally Twitchett in my head. I knew what he looked like down to the rickety old bone-shaker bike, down to his patched with clean clothes, his protruding Adam’s apple and [00:32:00] a big braggy nose. I had him in my head. I had to find a wonderful village for him to live in, a quirky village, full of equally quirky people as him. I had so much fun with the names in The Forest. I really did. The names are amazing.

This forest, plus village, the inhabitants of the village are very strange, very insular, and they never ever leave the village. “Ooh. [whispering] Why? Why never? Because the village is next forest that has a curse on. “[gasp] A curse. I like that.” That’s how my process goes. One idea sparks another, and it’s almost like the voices in my head are brainstorming. It’s like they’re having a session where everyone– and I can almost imagine the head of the meeting going, “Come on, think outside the box people! Throw the ideas in!” It is like that, it is a meeting with everyone just throwing in ideas and throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks. That one, The Forest, I can definitely pinpoint the inspiration for that one. The others? [00:33:00] Not so much.

Sarina: Well, I think I’ve learned two things from that. One, we have very similar approaches. Two, family gatherings are your big inspiration focal point. 

Julia: Yeah, [laughs] well, two of them. Yes.

Sarina: Yes. The book that you talked about that you started at a funeral, which book is that?

Julia: That’s The Book of Eve

Sarina: All right, thank you. I couldn’t quite hear it earlier, wanted to make sure that we had the right title there.

Julia: Oh, sorry. 

Sarina: That’s okay. Do you snack while you write and what’s your beverage of choice? You’ve already said tea and water.

Julia: Yes, tea first thing. I always have tea absolutely first thing in the morning because I find coffee too aggressive. But then mid-morning, I will always break it about 11 and go and have a coffee. I am rather partial– I have proper coffee, I won’t drink instant. The only time I ever deviate from that is, those little sachets you can buy a cappuccino and stuff? I like those. Yeah, I might treat myself to one of them. [00:34:00] But when I’m actually writing, it is a glass of water. A glass of water at arm’s length from my laptop. As to snacking, no, I have breakfast, I stop for lunch, and that’s it. I don’t eat at the laptop, I don’t snack. Well, also, because you get your fingers dirty and the keyboard gets really grungy and that.

Sarina: It’s actually quite annoying to do, isn’t it? For example, say if you were to eat crisps, then you’d have all the dust on your fingers and then you would just get the keyboard dirty.

Julia: I don’t want to clean my keys. Yes.

Sarina: Some of it you never get out again. Then your keyboard just forever smells of cheese or whatever it is that you had. 

[laughter] 

Sarina: I think you’ve already mentioned some of this as well. Do you listen to music while you write? I’m pretty sure that’s a no. 

Julia: No, I don’t. The only time I ever listened to music was when a long time ago, I wrote my novella Lifesong and that was inspired by the music of the composer Karl Jenkins, and his [00:35:00] extraordinary album, Adiemus. it’s the exploration of human voice vocalizing without actual words, just made-up words. Everyone will know this of a certain age because they did the music for the British Airways ad with the people on the beach, making the symbol, that sort of song. I did while I was writing Lifesong, I did very much put on that that album, and each track kind of inspired a different piece of the book. It was very, very specific, but that’s the only time. The rest of the time, ti’s silence for me.

Sarina: This is a mean question and I’ve had all kinds of interesting reactions when I’ve asked it. Which book has inspired you the most?

Julia: Ooh, okay. [pause] Oh, I have read so many books. I learned to read at a very early age. I was reading by myself [00:36:00] because I was a very lonely child, so books were my refuge. I would have to say that going back right into the dawn of time, obviously when dinosaurs roamed the earth when I was young, Enid Blyton, The Magic Faraway Tree was my first exploration of the fantasy genre. Now, I know some people may turn around and say to me, “It’s not a fantasy book,” but three children go to a fantastical wood and climb a magical tree that’s inhabited by elves and magical creatures, and has a portal to other worlds at the top. If that’s not fantasy, then what is? It is fantasy. That triggered a lot of books not just being an escape from your world, but being an escape into a different world, to a different world of people with other creatures and other worlds that didn’t abide by the same laws as ours, perhaps. That was very early on. 

Later, of course, the Narnia books. Absolutely. I don’t think there can be any [00:37:00] fantasy author who can honestly say hand on their heart, they didn’t read the Narnia books, and were not inspired by them. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: [unintelligible [00:37:08] haven’t read them.

Julia: Oh, my goodness, you have to. It was YA fantasy before anybody even knew what that was. Narnia is such– I have no words to describe, you have to read it. 

Sarina: Okay. Maybe I’ll make a point of it this year.

Julia: They’re short books. Seriously, I constantly go back and reread them, just touching base with where it all began for me. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I can read that in a couple of hours. They’re very light quick books. They’re children’s books with a heart and a message in them. The impact cannot be underestimated, the impact that these books had on a generation, are still having. So, the Narnia books, and then when I was slightly [00:38:00] older– [unintelligible [00:38:03] I read Narnia when I was eight, maybe younger, seven, eight that kind of age. When I was slightly older 11, 12, I discovered the amazing British fantasy books by an author called Susan Cooper. She wrote The Dark Is Rising series, which are extraordinary books. They really are extraordinary. What I liked about them was they are so British. The focus is on British mythology and British myths and legends. Things like the Green Man, the Wild Hunt, Wayland’s Smithy, just things like that. They instilled a love in me of British fantasy, which came through in my books, Erinsmore and in Forest, that sort of acknowledgement of my roots. I’m very British.

Other than that, I think one book that sticks out in my mind is, it’s an Agatha Christie book called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I remember when I was mid to late teens, I went through a [00:39:00] Agatha Christie binge where I think I read every single thing she ever wrote, one massive binge-fest, eat read of her books. This particular book blew my mind away because it was the first book I had ever read with an unreliable narrator. [crosstalk] Yes, where the person who was telling the story is lying to the reader. 

Sarina: Ooh.

Julia: Yes. It’s not until you reach the end– I don’t want to give any spoilers, it’s not until you reach the end that you realize that every single thing this narrator has told you has been a lie or has been from his point of view because he’s hiding the truth from you.

Sarina: That’s interesting.

Julia: That’s just– mind blown. The fact the narrator could lie to the reader. I read very few books since then that do that. I think it’s a very brave thing to do, and it has to be handled right. Of course, Agatha Christie was just the queen what she did. Her books are actually really short. [00:40:00] Nowadays, we always call them novellas, but she manages to get the entire story and it’s beautiful, and it tells you everything you need to know in that very small space of time. I think we could all do with reading a bit about and just seeing how she does it, how brevity of words can sometimes get across the message much more so than great big, long purple prose and everything. So, that one as well. Of course, Robin Hobb. I have long and abiding love for Robin Hobb.

Sarina: I had started reading Robin Hobb entirely because of you on Instagram. 

Julia: Aww. [chuckles] 

Sarina: I’ve still only read the one, but I’ve really, really enjoyed it.

Julia: They get better and better.

Sarina: All of her books are in my list now.

Julia: Yeah, they get better and better because she allowed herself the luxury of space and time and word counts to just have this amazing, epic story that she was like, “Okay, I’m not going to tell this in the first book. It’s not going to get told in book two, book three, book four. In fact, it’s going to take 17 books.”

Sarina: 17? 

Julia: Yeah. 17 [00:41:00] books to tell the story. You know what, you’re going to love every single word I write, and you’re going to hang on. When you finished book 17, you’re going to go, “No, I want more!” That made me unafraid to write big books. That actually inspired me that so long as a book is a page turner, it doesn’t matter how many pages there are. That gave me the courage to write books like Becoming LiliChaining DaisyBlack Ice. Big, big books, weighty books. But I have readers contact me and say, “I read Black Ice in a day, I couldn’t put it down.” That, I think, is the thing.

Sarina: On a very similar note, do you have a favorite book on the craft of writing?

Julia: Never read a book on the craft of writing. Is that a terrible thing to say? I’ve never ever–

Sarina: [crosstalk] 

Julia: I don’t like self-help books, full stop. I think they are mostly peddled by people [00:42:00] who couldn’t write an actual book, so decided to write a self-help book and scammed a lot of people out of money. 

Sarina: Oh, see, I have a few of those books. [chuckles] 

Julia: I just don’t have time to read them. I’m too busy writing. Is that crazy?

Sarina: No. You clearly are a reader anyway. It’s not like you’re a writer only and you don’t read at all, you do read quite a lot. 

Julia: [crosstalk] I do read.

Sarina: Because we seem to be so similar in our approaches, I’m wondering if maybe you’re missing out there a little bit because I love reading a good book on writing. If it’s a good book– I mean they’re not all going to work for you, because as you said, there are so many different ones and not everyone does it well, I don’t think. My favorites are the ones that I can close and I immediately feel inspired to pick up writing again. Those ones are my favorites, because I feel like I’m really taking something away from them.

Julia: Well, who knows? Maybe if I get a bit of time in the future, [00:43:00] I’ll have a look at one, but I do like that. Any spare time I have, I tend to like reading novels or other sort of works of fiction and usually of indie authors. Last year, I managed to buy, read, and review over 40 indie author books. I really want to do more, but it’s just a question of time. I’m just one person and there’s so many books on my TBR.

Sarina: Oh yeah. [crosstalk] 

Julia: Oh, I don’t look at my Kindle. I swear that thing growls at me every time I go [laughs] past it. 

Sarina: Yeah, I get the feeling. I’m now considering already the next books that I would quite like to buy and read, but then I think I’ve just bought a few they are still on my Kindle, I still haven’t read them. I should probably read those first. It’s not that simple, though.

Julia: Every now and again, I get a big stick and just stir up the contents of my Kindle and see what floats to the top. Sometimes, I’ll read a book that I actually bought [00:44:00] two, three, four years ago. I’ll finally get around to reading and reviewing it. It’s difficult, and I do feel guilty about it. But like I said, I’m just one person and I only have a certain amount of time.

Sarina: On to our last question, we’re nearly there. Do you have any advice for establishing a writing routine?

Julia: Don’t do what I do, probably. 

[laughter] 

Julia: I think sometimes establishing a writing zone can be a good idea. Now, I know most people don’t have big enough houses to have an actual writing room. That would be amazing. Wouldn’t we all love that? Just to have a proper study where we go and shut the door and that would be great? But most of us do have a corner or somewhere where we can put– even if it was just a little fold-up desk or a little table something that’s ours that we can leave or laptop or desktop or whatever on, we can have our pens, we can have our lamp, we can have our [00:45:00] writing books or notebooks or whatever. A zone that is ours and ours alone for writing in. If you have family and other people in the house, maybe rub into them that that is your zone, that they don’t touch it, they don’t dump their stuff on it, they don’t take anything from it. And when you are at that table, it’s because you are working. Unless it’s fire, flood, or blood, they must not disturb you. 

I think trying to get across to people that it is important to what you’re doing, maybe it’s not important to them, but it’s important to you. I think maybe you do have to be a little bit firm about that. Maybe be firm to yourself. I actually posted a meme a few weeks ago, which said, “If you clean a house, it’ll stay clean for a day or two. If you write a book, it’s out there forever.” I think sometimes saying to yourself, yes, I do need to go and [unintelligible [00:45:58] the bedroom, or, I do need to go and do the dishes, but [00:46:00] they will always be there for me to do. So, yeah, maybe be a little bit selfish sometimes, maybe just say, “Oh, hang it. I am writing, that’s what I’m doing.” I don’t believe in how you must write every day, because most of us have incredibly busy lives and it’s not always possible. If you’re a parent and you’re working, then obviously your job and your kids come first. But then, sometimes, I think you need to be selfish to say, [unintelligible [00:46:25] need to do it.” I hope that answered the question.

Sarina: It does. That’s wonderful advice. Thank you very much. I completely agree. That brings us to the end of our interview today. Thank you very much for coming back and talking to me again.

Julia: Having me anytime, I enjoyed it. 

Sarina: Very good. I’m glad to hear that. I always love hearing about other writers’ routines anyway, and I like to see how we all approach the same thing in slightly different ways. Today, especially I think I’ve come away with quite a few book recommendations. [00:47:00]

[laughter] 

Julia: Oh. Narnia, definitely read the Narnia books. 

Sarina: No, I’ve already opened– what was it? The Dark Is Rising. I have already opened it on Goodreads while we were talking. I’ve got it ready, and I’ll be sure to get it later because it sounds like everything I want. Thank you so much for that as well. 

Julia: You’re welcome. 

Sarina: Yeah, thank you very much for talking to me again today. Have a lovely day. Bye-bye.

Julia: Thank you, bye.

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarian_Langer, on Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


Transcript by speechdocs.com

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 30 | Holding One Another Accountable: Sarina’s April-June 2021 Goals

As requested in my reader group on Facebook, I will be sharing quarterly writing updates and goals. If that’s not why you’re here, don’t worry – it’ll only happen four times a year. Hopefully, my process, goals, and achieved deadlines (as well as surprise challenges) will be interesting for you whether you’re here as a writer or as one of my readers!
 
Listen to find out what I’m working on, what progress I’ve made on my WIPs, and what I’m planning next.
 
And if you’d like to share your goals with me, too, go right ahead! Let’s hold one another accountable *high five*

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[The Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Good morning, friends and Sparrows. It’s the 5th of April 2021. This is Episode 30, and this is my quarter 2 writing update. First of all, thank you so much to everyone who listened to the first update back in January. I know it’s not writing tips or routines or any of the usual stuff, so it means a lot to me that you listened in any way to hear me ramble about my own works and progresses. From now on, I will of course give you those writing-related updates too, but I’ll also make sure to let you know what’s coming up on this podcast to bring it back around. [00:01:00]

So, writing updates. It’s been a very busy three months. Blood Song is finished. Blood Vow, I’m currently struggling through. I’ve reached the midpoint. More on that in a second. I’m preparing to do the next big edit of Blood Wisp during Camp NaNo. Let’s unwrap that a bit. As I said, Blood Song is finished. That’s pretty much everything said on that. Actually, no, it’s not. I’m introducing quite a few new characters in Blood Song, which is book 2 in the trilogy. I realized, by the time I was diving into book 3, Blood Vow, that I didn’t really introduce any of them properly and that I didn’t actually know any of them, so that will be fun in the rewrites. Already dreading it a little bit, but I know them all quite well now, so it won’t be a problem, it’ll just [00:02:00] take up a lot of time. But I knew what I was doing to myself, so there.

Blood Vow, I am struggling through right now, but I have reached the midpoint last week. I am officially in the second half. Normally when I read books, the second half goes by a lot faster. I’m hoping that the same thing will be true when I’m writing the second half of this, but we’ll see. It’s not that I’m really desperate to be done with it. I think I said this on my last update back in January that I’ve just spent so much time on this trilogy already that I’m really itching a little bit to move on to different worlds and different characters and just plan something completely different. I also really want to finish it now because I’ve been on it for so long. That is my priority definitely at the moment, and it’s going well. 

I’m in my second 100-day writing sprint right now. Today is– let’s see, what day is it? [chuckles] [00:03:00] Where are my notes? Yeah, I’m currently on day 42, so I’m nearly halfway through it. It’s going pretty well. I’m on track to doing at least 100,000 words this time around. Yeah, I’m really excited to think that by the time this writing sprint is done, that the first draft of Blood Vow will be done, and I’ve actually done writing this damn trilogy. Again, no offense, I love the characters and the world, just ready for something else. 

Speaking of which, Blood Wisp, Book 1. I’m currently preparing to really dive into again during Camp NaNoWriMo next month. Sorry, I say it’s next month. I’m recording this episode, at the end of March. It’s the 29th of March as I’m recording this. Of course, by the time you listen to this, it’ll already be April, I will already be knee deep, or probably neck deep, to the [unintelligible [00:03:58] [00:04:00] in Camp NaNoWriMo edits. It’s got a lot of rewrites coming. I think the worst is probably behind me because I’ve done a massive restructure on Blood Wisp, which was not great, and it was not fun. I might talk about that at some point in case you also need to do a really big restructure at some point. Yeah, so the worst is definitely behind me. [laughs] Watch as I take that back in three months’ time. I think the main thing that I need to do really is just adding in a few more chapters where I have changed what happens in it quite a lot, and just making sure that all the chapters actually are in the correct order and that I’m not doing anything really confusing. 

I know at the moment because I have moved things around so much that I’ve got probably quite an early chapter that used to be a late chapter where I have something like, I [00:05:00] remember when this happened, but at this point now, it won’t happen yet, [laughs] so this sounds really confusing, I imagined, but as I said it’s just because I’ve restructured it so much, so that some of the chapters that used to be at the end are now at the beginning and some of the things that used to be around halfway through one at the end, so there is some inevitable crossover where I’m talking about things that used to already have happened that now haven’t happened yet. [chuckles] Honestly, I think you possibly need to have done a big restructure to notice how confusing this really is. But I think it’s fine and I should probably move on before I talk myself out of it. [chuckles] 

Silence of Magic was another work in progress I was looking forward to working on over the last three months. It’s benched for now, as are all other works in progresses by the way. My entire focus now it’s just this Blood Wisp trilogy. Everything else is benched, [00:06:00]. But it may be next, I’m not entirely sure yet because I’m now also drawn again to coming back to Dreamer instead, but yeah, I haven’t quite decided yet so. At the moment, unless it’s in any way related to the Blood Wisp trilogy, it is benched, and will need to wait its turn. It’s something to look forward to. I’m really looking forward to working on something else, I may have mentioned that. 

[sighs]

Ooh, deep breath, nearly there. As I said, I’m in the second half of writing Blood Vow, but that’s me coming back to the trilogy again, and I was going to move on. Last time we talked in January, I think I had just sent Dreamer to my editor and I was awaiting her feedback, and I was then going to send it to my critique partners. I’ve got it back now from both of those of course. What I have learned more than anything else is that I should never, ever pants a book. [chuckles] [00:07:00] Please don’t let me do it again. Terrible idea, I cannot do it. It’s all over the place basically. It’s very chaotic. Most of it doesn’t quite make sense or doesn’t quite work out in the way that I wanted. If you’re a writer and you can somehow improvise the entire book without a plan, I salute you. But I have now seen just how much of a bad idea it is for me to do this. So, please never let me do it again, it’s chaotic. 

My editor really liked it, or at least she likes the idea of it, and I think my critique partners also liked the rough idea of it or the premise, but the execution, hmm-hmm. No. Let’s talk about the execution. I know it will need some very heavy rewrites when I come back to it. At the moment, I’m more leaning towards working on Dreamer next, but we will see what happens by the time I’m done with the book I promise not to mention again in these episodes. [chuckles] [00:08:00]

To be honest, what I’ll do is, I just start over, which seems quite drastic, but I think that’s probably the best thing for it. Because I’ve wrote it as a novella, I don’t have a massive word count on it anyway, and I think because I would need to restructure it so much and just change completely what happens and because I would need to add so much to it, I think it makes the most sense to just keep it in the background, maybe come back to it here and there for the one or two chapters that might survive and make it into version two. But I think otherwise it will be easier for me to just start over completely from scratch, or the plan this time, thank you. No, I will really need to plot it. I know I do anyway. I am a plotter, so I don’t know what possessed me to pants this one. Oh, that’s right, NaNoWriMo made me do it one year. There you go. I don’t regret doing it, anyway, for the record. [00:09:00] I’m glad I tried pantsing a book and I can now say with certainty that I cannot do it. Yeah, I’m looking forward to those rewrites, but they will be very heavy rewrites and I think I’ll just start over from scratch with a blank document and just try again, and hopefully, make it much stronger, because I still like the idea too.

While we are on works in progresses, I think I said at the start of January that the new prettier version of Darkened Light would be on Amazon by my birthday. It is, I managed to get it up, so now when you buy it, it’s definitely the pretty new version with a shiny new cover that you will get. KDP is struggling a little bit right now with some of my other books and inventing problems where there aren’t any [ahem] but I won’t go into the will make myself angry again, so let’s move on. 

Moving on to the marketing front, I said that I was going to try a [00:10:00] few things there. For the first time ever, I’m seeing results with my Amazon ads. But let’s not jinx it, it’s still really fairly early days, I haven’t done a second version of any of the [unintelligible [00:10:13] where I have gone in harvested good keywords that are working or keywords that aren’t working. I haven’t gone into any of that yet. I know how to do it, I just haven’t done it yet. I know I can get a lot more out of them and I will do at some point, but it will take quite a bit of time. I’ll probably set aside a day for it at some point. In case, you haven’t guessed, I’m a little bit busy right now with the trilogy I will try not to dwell on again. [chuckles] Yeah, it’s difficult. I know I can get out a lot more of those Amazon ads. I’m really pleased with how it’s going so far. As I said, it’s the first time I’ve actually seen some good results on them. Not massive results, but good results. So, it’s a good start, and [00:11:00] at some point, I’ll come back to that to get more out of them. For now, I’m happy to just let them run in the background. 

I’m also trying some other promos. I’ve actually got four scheduled for April alone, so that’s exciting. But it’s too early, I think, to talk in detail about those. I’ve made a note, and if all goes well, I’ll do an episode on what exactly I’m doing, what exactly the results were, and how you can use it as well for your own books. 

In my first update roughly three months ago, there were two things I was unsure about. Patreon and short stories and writing and/or submitting them to anthologies. Patreon, I can now tell you is probably a definite no, because I know I don’t have the time for it, and there’s absolutely no point convincing myself that I have the time for it because I know that I don’t, so I won’t go anywhere near that. Short stories are a little bit different. I have actually [00:12:00] written two, I think– yeah, two sounds right. I have submitted three short stories and a drabble. A drabble for those of you don’t know are stories that are exactly 100 words long, which has been quite an interesting and fun challenge. I’m actually quite enjoying it. I’ve had said drabble and one short story accepted through an online magazine. Who wants to party with me? Yes, go me! It got accepted to The Raconteur Review, which I’m very excited about. I believe they will go live sometime in the summer. I haven’t got a date for it yet. The other two short stories I’m currently waiting on a response to, so I will see what happens with those. If they don’t get into those anthologies this time, maybe it’ll work out at some point with another anthology in the future. I’ve actually really enjoyed writing short stories. I’ve got a plan for it now.

I think that’s what [00:13:00] I was lacking, honestly. I have just mentioned how I can’t improvise stories. The same is definitely true for short stories. I realized that what I really needed for that was a plan, something that I could plot with. I’ve got now something in place for that and it’s going so much better. I actually feel like I can write short stories. Yay. Who’d have thought? I’ve got a few more ideas for others, and at some point, I will write them. Right now, my entire priority, as we’ve already mentioned, and I won’t go into it again. Let’s just move on. 

What’s coming up on this podcast? Well, quite a few things actually. I’ve had quite a few guests on, possibly more than otherwise. I haven’t had that many solo episodes. Whereas now I have a couple of planned, I haven’t recorded them yet. Just for April, I think I’m pretty much entirely scheduled already, everything is uploaded. [00:14:00] What’s coming up next is, I’ve done a writing routine shared with Julia Blake, she’s back to talk about her routine. I have recorded two interviews with Rachel Grosvenor, one about what a writing coach can do for you. And one, which I’m very excited about, about the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing with an unbiased look at both. I’m really excited about that one, because to know that, well, more pretty much every writer is torn between, which option is right for you, I have considered that and I know it’s such a big topic, so I’m really pleased to have someone with so much knowledge on both sides to talk us all through it. It’s a very exciting interview, but I don’t think it’s coming up until May. But yeah, it’s going to be a very interesting one. 

I have also, yes, got [00:15:00] [unintelligible [00:15:01] something on audiobooks, that’s finally coming up. Sorry, just quickly checking that. We’ll be doing an interview hopefully with Dana [unintelligible [00:15:07] hopefully being back. I have enough, so yeah. If she’s listening to this, we need to talk, Dana. [chuckles] I’m excited about that, and that’s pretty much all that I have got planned right now. Of course, there will be more writing updates coming in three months’ time. There will be more writing routine chats of other authors, which I’m enjoying immensely, and I hope you are too. 

The plan right now is to get to 50 episodes, this is 30, so we’re still a little way off actually, and to then possibly cut it down to, doing these two times a month as opposed to every week, but that’s not entirely decided yet, we will see. I’m back at work now, just two days a week at the moment I’m recording this, but I know that as we’re slowly coming out of lockdown, eventually I’ll be back [00:16:0] again five days a week, so I also need to think about how much time I’ll have for podcasting and whether once a week maybe be a little bit too ambitious, and it’s been a little way off. So yeah, we will see.

Those are my goals for the next three months. It’s basically all entirely Blood Wisp related. It’s finishing the trilogy, it’s finish writing Blood Vow sometime in the next one or two months, hopefully, and then editing Blood Wisp for Camp NaNo. Probably finishing it off in May, I’m not so deluded as to think that I can pull it all off in one month. And then sending that on to my critique partners, which will feel amazing and there’s cake planned for it, and possibly some cocktails and a [unintelligible [00:16:50] and some other very relaxing things which I will need very badly by that point. 

Then, the next work in progress that I [00:17:00] will tackle afterwards, I haven’t quite decided on yet. Currently leaning towards Dreamer, but it might also be The Silence of Magic, we will see. 

Thank you so much for listening in. Those are my goals for the next three months. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you maybe need some accountability for your own goals, feel free to get in touch, either leave a comment on this episode or better yet, maybe reach out on either Instagram or Twitter or via my website. Links for all those are coming up in a second. Let me know what you’re working on, let me know what you would like to achieve, and we can hold each other accountable. Thank you so much. Have a great April, May and June, and we will do the next one in July. Thank you very much, and bye-bye. Have a great day.

[music]

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me [00:18:00] on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, on Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


Transcript by speechdocs.com

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 29 | New-Writer Q&A with Marco Arzate

For today’s episode, I become the guest on my own podcast as Marco Arzate, a new writer who hasn’t published yet, asks me his questions on writing and publishing. We discuss things like character development, whether you can still query agents once you’ve self-published and vice versa (spoiler: you can!), how to find your tribe of like-minded writers, and many more!

To support Marco on his writing path, you can follow him on Twitter.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[The Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer. This podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Welcome back, friends and Sparrows. Today is the 29th of March. This is Episode 29, which has lined up very well. Today’s episode is a little bit different, and I’m totally calm about that. Today, I’m talking to Marco Arzate or rather, he’ll be talking to me. Marco is a relatively new writer who hasn’t published yet, and if this applies to you too, my dear listener, then you know just how daunting this process can be, and just how many questions you might have. So, this is a new writer [00:01:00] question and answer thing. Welcome, Marco.

Marco: Happy to be here.

Sarina: Yeah, very excited about this. I’m sure you’ve got lots of very good questions that I’m sure I can answer, or you might make it public that I’m a fraud. [chuckles] We’ll see. This will be fun. [laughs]

Marco: No, it’ll be fun. I’m nervous too. 

Sarina: Oh, you’re doing great. If this works really well, and if there are other people listening, who are also very new to this and also have lots of questions, maybe we could do this a regular thing. 

Marco: Yeah, of course. 

Sarina: Yeah, if you’re listening right now, and you would like to do this, let me know and maybe you can grill me on my own podcast in the future. That’ll be fun.

Marco: You never know, it’s a very tough task to work on a book, it’s just build the rough draft, and then the all the other drafts. Frankly, when you are new to it, [00:02:00] you don’t really know where to go, or who to ask. I think with the right community, which is on Twitter, an amazing community, I think it’s a little bit easier than it would be by myself.

Sarina: Absolutely. I agree. The writing community, in general, is so generous, I think, and so supportive and so welcoming. On Twitter, it’s really easy, I think, to connect and meet people, which is how we’ve met.

Marco: Exactly. I’m blown away by just everything that has gone on with Twitter, a lot of great ideas, a lot of great genres I blend together. It leads me to believe that I’m in the right place. I feel a little less nervous about the task of finishing my first book.

Sarina: That’s great to hear. I think many writers are maybe a little bit apprehensive about getting on social media, because it feels like they are [00:03:00] really entering the writing world at large. This is a really good example that it’s fine to just join us, maybe start small, maybe just start on Twitter, look both of us up, I’ll be linking to both of us in the show notes, just say hello and just join the community from there. We’re friendly. [giggles]

Marco: Of course. I know that when you’re new to Twitter in terms of the writing community, it’s very nerve wracking because you don’t know who you’ll meet. It could be gray, it could go awry, because you never know. But I can safely say that it’s been a great experience, it’s been very welcoming. It’s like, I remember tweeting a while back that come into the community is like being the new kid at school, and I’m wandering around, and I’m wondering, “Okay, who would I sit with?” and the community is, like, “You know what, new kid comes to with us.” It’s been a very great experience. If anything, I think it’s daunting, [00:04:00] because, frankly, so many good writers and it’s like I want to lower my inner circle, but it’s difficult to really see what happens with that, because I’m a very addictive type in terms of just wanting to be around people, wanting to digest stuff. But it’s been good overall. That’s how this came about.

Sarina: Yeah, exactly. I’m so pleased to hear that you found it such a nice experience so far.

Marco: Yeah, me too. 

Sarina: It does make it so much easier when you have a nice community. A lot of people have their family, for example, and their friends who are supportive, but a lot of writers actually don’t have that support. For them, social media is the only way to really get that, well, supporthood, to know that they’re not alone and that are that there are people who do care about their writing.

Marco: Yeah. I wholeheartedly recommend [00:05:00] it. It’s made a world of difference. Last year, in a year that I really needed good news in my life, coming to this community was actually one of the highlights of the year.

Sarina: Yeah, last year was odd. I think you joined us at a really good time.

Marco: I agree. Everything just lined up, and then I’m looking at it and going, “You know what? What am I waiting for?” I’m not getting any younger. At the time, I was 31. The time is now, just go for it. Make mistakes, but enjoy the process, just discover what speaks to you about this craft of ours? Is it a clear process? What is it exactly? When you discover what you love, [00:06:00] it just allows you to allow all that to come in, because you’re finding this critique partner and this one as well, and they’re all telling you this, and this, and this, and you can take that advice and piece all together, and that’s what will help you get to where you’re at. Because we all have our own critiques but at times, it can be a case of maybe it contradicts, so just take what works for you, and what works for your overall book and go with it.

Sarina: Absolutely. There are so many different approaches to writing. The more people you ask, the more different kinds of opinions you’re going to get. Some people say that, “You mustn’t ever edit your book while you’re writing the first draft.” Other people will tell you that it’s fine. Some people will tell you that you have to plot the book, others will say that you have to pants the book. When we also get started with questions in a second, the one thing that I want everyone to remember, yourself and the listeners as well, [00:07:00] is that you can approach writing and you should approach writing however works for you, there is no-one-size-fits-all thing. My answers to your questions, whatever they will be, I’m excited to find out, they are genuinely things that work for me, and that may also work for you. I will try to generalize it a bit more so that I really don’t want to tell you that you have to do things in one way and nothing else will work. Yeah, exciting things. Shall we start?

Marco: Yeah, of course. When it comes character, that’s a really, really important thing but it’s also an aspect of how do you go about it. Do you yourself plot it to a tee, or do you just have some details, or do you just go about it? Let it be organic, 100%.

Sarina: Is this specifically on characters?

Marco: Yes. 

Sarina: Right. [00:08:00] Normally, when I write a draft, a lot of characters tend to pop up as I’m writing. Every now and again, you will think that maybe you have this nice idea for a side character. Then as you write, they might grow into the main character, which you didn’t predict, but it might happen. Likewise, when I have my main character to start with, I have a relatively good idea of who they are because I think when you really know everything about your main character, you know what makes them tick, you know what they like and what they don’t like, you know what they want, then you can’t really get stuck at any time when you’re writing. Because then instead of wondering, what should happen next in the plot, you can just ask yourself, “What would my character do?” So, I think it’s really important that you do know your main character as much as you can before you start writing, but that shouldn’t mean that you can’t get to know them more as you write. You might, for example, go in thinking that your main character is going to be really serious, and [00:09:00] not have one funny bone in his body. You might then discover that actually within the first few pages, you might make some really nice jokes. You might then realize that actually, maybe you’ve had the wrong idea about him, which is fine. Characters should develop as the book goes along. I hope that answered that.

Marco: Oh, it did. It’s really important to know your character, because especially if you write a first-person point of view book, like I’m doing, you have to know your character, how they describe things, and just how they will react to certain situations because if you don’t, it just becomes much more confusing, and we don’t want that.

Sarina: Yeah. When you’re writing in first person, you have the benefit of really being able to get into the head because it’s in a way the reader’s head, if that makes sense, because you’re reading it from this, “I did this” perspective because that’s just your narrator in [00:10:00] first person, so that opens you up to a lot of that, which is great. At the same time, I think writers can maybe overthink it a little bit and maybe almost approach it in an unnatural way, if that makes sense. For example, you asked me on Twitter how we might handle character description.

Marco: Yes.

Sarina: Something that a lot of new writers immediately think is, “I know, I’m going to stand my character in front of the mirror, and have him describe himself that way, because he’s looking at himself.” When’s the last time you did that? I hate looking at myself in the mirror to that detail where I can tell you the angle of my nose, or roughly how far apart my eyes are, or how much my hairline may have receded. It’s just not something that people tend to do, unless you’re trying a new look, and you might have a look at yourself because of that, because you want to see how it works, and maybe you’re on a photo shoot, and they’ve done something really weird to you that you would never [00:11:00] normally do, but maybe you like it. Just normally in your everyday life, I don’t think most of us would just stand in front of the mirror and just really consider how we look. It’s just not something we do.

Marco: That’s what I did in my original intro, actually.

Sarina: Well, I did that with my very first book, the one we don’t talk about. [laughs] Yeah, it’s just something that many writers when they first start writing immediately flopped, because it seems like an easy way of describing a character. 

Marco: What book? I already forgot it.

Sarina: Oh, no, you wouldn’t know it. It’s not something I’ve published.

Marco: Even better, really.

Sarina: Yeah. 

Marco: I’m really happy that I show someone that, I guess, cliche way of just [unintelligible [00:11:51] because frankly, I went back and I redid the whole intro. Frankly, it’s a lot more [unintelligible [00:11:59] [00:12:00]. Thank you for that too, because that helped me.

Sarina: Oh, I’m glad to hear that, you’re welcome. Especially with your first book, you will learn so much about the process and about what works for you, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing with your second or your third book, because ultimately, every book is different. Something that works for your first book may not work for the third book, for example, or when you start another series, you may end up with a completely different process. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try a few things, and just see what works for you because it probably will change over time. I don’t have the same process now that I did when I wrote my first book, even the first one that I’ve published. I’m now writing the seventh book that I published, and my whole process has changed so much, and it keeps changing. It’s a very fluid thing.

Marco: That’s really cool how we evolve as writers if we [00:13:00] look back at our previous work, and maybe it makes us cringe a little bit, but it’s a time capsule. It’s what we were way back when and just maybe you got good ideas that were there, and you brought it to the present, you never know.

Sarina: Yeah. I actually think that if you do look at older work that you’ve written, and it does make you cringe, I actually think that’s a good thing because it shows that you’ve learned something since then and you have evolved as a writer, and you have developed new skills. That’s a good thing.

Marco: Of course, and that’s the beauty of writing, it always evolves. We never quite know what it will become, but it’s exciting all the same. I like it that you talked about organic growth, in terms of a character, maybe start off minor, maybe they become a main character, maybe they die off, I don’t know. That’s how I am [00:14:00] about all of my work. Every single character, well, not all of the characters, but they have been characters that have become much more important as time went along and it happened organically. That’s actually really cool, because we can map certain details, maybe even all of it, but sometimes stuff just happens and it’s pretty cool, actually.

Sarina: It is. It’s really cool. That’s just talking about individual characters, but once you put them together, even more of that magic can happen because you might go in thinking that’s a character A and character B. They might be enemies and you might plan them to be the hero and the villain, but then you put them together in the book for the first time, and they might actually have this instant connection, and they might actually be instant friends, which some writers especially early on might be tempted to say, “No, you can’t be friends. That’s not what I had in mind. You need to be enemies.” Actually, I’d say run with it and just say what happens [00:15:00] because it could give you a lot of tension potentially and a lot of conflict, which is always good in books, but also maybe you just didn’t have the right villain yet or maybe you just didn’t have the right main character yet. It’s fine to keep trying and just let your characters take the reins to a degree.

Marco: Of course, and you never know what will work best until you actually try it. I’m the kind of person that I’m set in my ways a lot of times, but I have to realize that writing is not quite like that. You have to be flexible, you have to let things develop organically, maybe try things out differently, switch things up. Maybe character A and B were together, but then maybe try character A and C or maybe the main character is with someone else before they get with the main love interest, you never know. I say just try it out. Enjoy it. Enjoy, experiment, let it [00:16:00] be as good as it can be.

Sarina: Absolutely. I think – What was I going to say? You keep talking, I’ll come back to it. [chuckles] 

Marco: Hey, no worries. I could talk for days about this creative process– It’s just great actually.

Sarina: Yeah, I think we can talk about character creation and story progression and all that for days. [laughs] [crosstalk] 

Marco: I know I can actually. I don’t know about you, but I know I can. I just marvel at how things have changed since I started my WIP, which stands for working in progress for those who are wondering. I remember talking to this author, and she gave me this really cool idea because, spoiler alert, I guess, my book starts with the main character in a dream, and he doesn’t know why he’s there. He’s getting married, but he doesn’t know [00:17:00] to who. Everyone else knows, but he doesn’t. There’s this really creepy vibe about it. Then when he sees the bride, he’s thinking, “Who is that?” Before he can kiss the bride, he wakes up. That ties into when he meets the eventual love interest. He’s wondering, “Wait, she looks familiar, maybe? Did I see her somewhere?” I think that’s just great when you tie that into what you already did and then readers are thinking, “You know what, that’s actually really cool. I like the way they he or she connected together.”

Sarina: Yeah, it’s always really satisfying, I think, for the reader as well, when you can set something up early on and then later on in the story, things start to come together, especially if you can set something up in the first book and they can [00:18:00] then come together, maybe suddenly in the third book, and everything just comes together as one cohesive story across several books. So, it’s very satisfying to read and to write.

Marco: It really is. I think people appreciate that. I know I do.

Sarina: Oh, I definitely do.

Marco: It just makes sense. Of course, that is how it happens, well, of course it is. It’s just really cool how you can put up all that together, it’s like you have all these dots, how do you connect it? That’s when the wheels start turning. Maybe if I do this, Maybe if I do it like this, maybe I switch this out, and then it just becomes even better. That is just so freakin’ cool. Actually, I have a little bit of a– the author actually gave me another idea. When he [00:19:00] starts liking the love interest, he has another dream. It becomes more vivid, and I’m thinking– and I even have some dialogue towards it. It all connected just out of nowhere. Then, I went to my computer, I’m like, “I’ve got to write it down because that is pretty freakin’ awesome, actually.” It now makes even more sense. I’m just blown away. 

Sarina: These dreams, they seem to be really important then to you character and to his development. Not necessarily something magical, but they seem to be scarily accurate to this main character’s life. Have you thought about where those dreams come from and to what extent he might be able to maybe control them?

Marco: Not yet. Well, that’s one of my weaknesses actually. See, the thing is, I [unintelligible [00:20:02] the service right, but I [00:20:00] don’t– Oh, sorry.

Sarina: You all right?

Marco: Yeah, I’m good. I knocked over my microphone because, of course I did. I’ll scratch the surface, do more than that, but I should dig deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper. The character knows that these dreams are important because he’s left wondering, “Who was that? I’ve never seen her in my life.” It’s a little creepy in a way, but he’s left wondering, “Is she going to ever come? What is this?” I think that’s actually a pretty accurate way of looking at dreams because sometimes when I do it, I’m thinking, “Why did I dream that?” 

Sarina: [laughs]

Marco: That’s just really weird. It’s not even close to reality. It’s all this insanity. Was it a random dream? Is it prophetic? What is it?

Sarina: Dreams are pretty cool.

Marco: They are pretty cool, [00:21:00] I agree. I think just having dreams, having the way I look at dreams go into the book, it makes it more personal because that’s what makes my stuff what it is because I know that in terms of what we write, it’s all been done before pretty much. So, the best way to make it special is make it your own. There’s only one you, there’s only one me, make it that.

Sarina: Absolutely. I think I’ve possibly already said that in another interview with someone else, I feel like I have. If not, I’m going to say it now because it’s important. Writers always think that, when new writers do that maybe they shouldn’t write this one thing, because the idea has already been done. That is true, but there is also this famous saying, and I feel bad because I forgot who said it. There was this famous saying that goes, “Yes, it’s been done before, but not by you.” That’s pretty much what you said.

Marco: Exactly. [00:22:00] Ask yourself this question, does this idea matter to you?

Sarina: Yeah. 

Marco: You say yes.

Sarina: I was just going to say that it’s your book. The one person who really needs to care about the story and everything is you because you need to write the whole thing. You need to love it enough to potentially put yourself through different rounds of edits and critique partner feedback, and you need to care about it enough to not be put off when someone sooner or later tells you that one thing in there that you really love about it doesn’t work, because that will probably happen sooner or later. I think if you didn’t love the idea enough to begin with, then that might be enough to put you off, but I think if you really care about it, then you’re more likely to take that feedback and work with it and transform your book into something even better.

Marco: Yeah, of course. I also was going to say [00:23:00] if the answer is yes, then go for it. I agree with what you said.

Sarina: That’s good to know.

Marco: Yeah, well, of course. That’s just the best thing about when you write, because when it matters to you, it’s everything, it’s your baby, it’s what you want it to be. It means a lot to you and it means everything to you. Just go for it. Don’t be off by, “Well, it’s been done before.” Yeah, well, everything has pretty much, so I guess, either write what has been done before or don’t write anything. What’s worse, I suppose, right?

Sarina: Yeah. Let’s not forget that it’s only a first draft. If you write it and you then think actually, maybe this needs a lot more work or maybe this doesn’t quite work for me, then that’s fine, because it’s just a first draft, you haven’t published anything yet. You can still make all the changes that you want, there is absolutely no commitment at that point. [00:24:00] You can still do as much as you want, so don’t even worry about it. Just write and get it out and see what happens.

Marco: Exactly. That’s a good thing you say that because frankly, one of the problems is that I expect perfection. Perfection of the rough draft, it ain’t going to happen. Let’s just be more realistic, just write, have fun with it, and just let it be what will be.

Sarina: Yeah, I think it’s already good that you’re already freeing yourself a little bit from that expectation of perfection because many writers do expect perfection, I think, but ultimately, it’s not a real thing. You’re not going to get it, definitely not in your first draft. By the time you eventually publish your book, you should obviously be pretty happy with it. Obviously, you should then think that it’s the best that you can make it, but if you look back on it even just one year later, chances are there are things that you would do differently. It’ll never work for [00:25:00] everyone anyway, so obviously do try your best to make it the best it can be, but sooner or later you need to let go of it. Perfection isn’t going to come, no matter what you do. Sorry, that sounds terrible, but perfection isn’t real, and the sooner we accept that, the better.

Marco: You’ve got to be honest. There are people that are listening, and maybe they’re wondering that same question, you never know. 

Sarina: Yeah. Especially if it’s only your first book, and you haven’t published anything yet, like with you, don’t feel forced to publish anything at all if you just want to do the writing. A, writing is fantastic therapy for one. So, it’s totally fine to just write for the sake of writing, that is fine. You wouldn’t maybe start painting today and really enjoy it and you then wouldn’t also feel the pressure of having to eventually [00:26:00] have this in a gallery because that’s what other artists have done. I think with writing more than other art forms, maybe there seems to be this pressure that if you write a book, you need to publish it, or else you’ve wasted your time. That’s not the case. If you want to write for the sake of writing and for the joy and the therapy of writing, that is fine. You can totally just write and enjoy it. You do not need to publish it, if you don’t want to do that.

Marco: That’s a really good point because it’s not always just 0 to 60. There’s always an in between. That’s actually really good that you mentioned that a while back as well, because, frankly, I don’t know where this will go. I’m hoping to self-publish it, but we’ll see where that goes when I’m done with it. I’m pretty at the beginning, so it’s like I don’t have to know now, but I should research it more anyway. Because [00:27:00] frankly, it’s like will you dive into the pool that has no water in it? No, you will not. You have to look before you leap. 

Sarina: That’s a very good comparison. 

Marco: Exactly. Otherwise, well, that’s going to be really painful.

Sarina: Yeah, you may break an ankle or wrist or maybe both or worse. Definitely do your research.

Marco: Exactly. That’s one of the benefits to the writing community. They have wonderful insight as to what this is, this is this, this, this and that, and just things I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m very thankful for it.

Sarina: Yeah, I think the only thing to consider, especially with a community as large as the writing community, is that you don’t need to believe everything, especially because one person, as I said earlier, might tell you that, “You need to plot your book.” Then, the next person you ask may tell you that you need to pants your book, [00:28:00] which is to just make it up as you go basically. Both versions are fine, but if two people you respect equally tell you those things individually, then you might end up feeling really torn and you may not know what the right choice is. Generally, in writing, the only thing that matters is how it works for you. It needs to feel right when you do it. Or, maybe else keep looking and see if you can find another way of doing it that does feel right to you. The only exception maybe is that you need to get your book edited and that you need to get feedback on it. But even then, there is no one editor who’s right for every writer. My editor may not be great for you, for example. 

Marco: Agreed. 

Sarina: It’s certainly a journey. [chuckles] 

Marco: It really is, but it’s an amazing journey.

Sarina: It’s really an amazing journey.

Marco: It’s great to see just what this means to certain people. Actually, to anyone really, because [00:29:00] they show photos of them with their own books and how much this means to them, and I’m like, “That’s amazing for you. I’m really happy for you.” One day that will be me, I 100% believe that, but until then just simply keep going, try new things. One thing about me that I know for sure is that I am a combination of details/organicness. I honestly [unintelligible [00:29:32] in terms of outline. Just simply write important stuff down, not everything, but write enough down to the point where I know what will happen, where this is going, and then let it happen organically, the balance.

Sarina: Yeah, writing an outline would also be a good way of seeing if the idea works for you at all. If you just may be writing 3000 words of outline and you realize [00:30:00] that actually you don’t really care about it, then at least you haven’t started a book.

Marco: Exactly. Just experiment. I actually had a few things that happened in my first chapter that were organic. I’m like, “That’s actually a really good touch.” You can’t always plan anything that’s good or bad. Enjoy them, enjoy the ride. Because this is my first book, there will never be another moment like this. Enjoy it, learn from it.

Sarina: You only get one first book. On the one hand, it’s going to be the hardest one, because you will have the most to learn. On the other hand, it’s probably also the most important one, and maybe also the most fun one, because there is still so much to try and there are so many things to figure out for it, which is really exciting. Daunting, but also really exciting. [00:31:00]

Marco: Yeah, I agree. That’s actually why I sat down and thought, “What would be the best first book idea that I can come up with?” I wanted it to be special, I wanted it to be as much as possible, as special as possible. That’s just what led me to my current WIP because, and I think that aspect of growing up, it’s the stuff that people can relate to. I think relatability is very important. It’s important to relate to characters in some way. Whether it’s their struggle, or whether it’s what they look like, or whether what the story is like, there has to be some sense of relatability there. Otherwise, it’s like, “Well, I can’t relate to it. Why am I reading this? I don’t know.” 

Sarina: Yeah, that’s a good point. As you said, relatability is so important, and there are so many different ways in which you can make a character relatable. It might be their background, it might be where they’re from, it might be [00:32:00] what they’ve gone through as a child, it might be what kind of school they’ve gone to, it can be so many different things. The only thing your character should never be is someone who’s immediately good at everything and immediately universally loved, because I don’t think anyone can relate to that.

Marco: Oh, I know I can. 

Sarina: No. I definitely can’t [crosstalk] 

Marco: It’s all right. You’ve got to know yourself. I found this character to be very annoying, because frankly, I turn off, I tune out immediately. Like I said, “I can’t relate to you. You’re smarter, you’re everything.” It’s like, “Well, why am I rooting for you?” What do I like you? I don’t know.

Sarina: Yeah, and I think a character who’s already immediately great at everything, even things they haven’t done before and therefore shouldn’t immediately be perfect at, they’ve got nowhere left to go. 

Marco: Exactly. [00:33:00] Boring.

Sarina: We don’t want that. Make them work for it.

Marco: Exactly. I think that’s really important. Pacing. As a writer, sometimes I think, “Go here, go here at this rate,” but slow it down, slow it down. Let it sink in, add more to the struggle. Let it sink in. That way when you do win, the reader is like, “That was well earned, and I’m happy I read it.”

Sarina: Yeah, I mean, some of the pacing will depend on your genre, but generally speaking, a character shouldn’t just run from plot point to plot point to plot point. There are some things that should happen in between as well, that helps you ultimately flesh out the story, so it’s not just one rush from one point to the next. There needs to be something happening in between that’s still important to the story, but that doesn’t just rush the reader along [00:34:00] like it can’t wait to the over.

Marco: Yeah, exactly. Plus, also, once again, relatability. How is that relatable? It’s like fix this, this, this, this. It doesn’t work that way. It takes time. It’s like, I can’t just build a car like this. 

Sarina: You don’t want your book to be a sort of blink and it’s gone thing.

Marco: Exactly. 

Sarina: Look, I’m bit worried that we’re completely forgetting about your questions, because I think you have four more.

Marco: To be honest, I actually had two more actually. I really want to ask above anything, because I think one of them was actually about organic growth and you already answered that. You actually did it without me asking actually.

Sarina: [laughs] I’m a mind reader. Didn’t you know, I’m psychic.

Marco: You are an X-Man clearly. 

Sarina: [chuckles] 

Marco: Let’s see. Do you ever do warm-up exercises? How do you warm for [00:35:00] your writing, if at all?

Sarina: Oh, I don’t actually.

Marco: Really? 

Sarina: Yeah. I don’t know if it counts as a ritual, but I make a tea in the morning and then I write. A large part of that depends on whether I’m allowed to go into work or not. At the time we’re recording this was still in lockdown, so I’m not allowed to go anywhere and neither are any of us. My routine is very much I get up in the morning, I make myself a tea, I maybe quickly catch up on a few things on social media, I reply to you. Then, I set myself a timer and I write for a bit. But I don’t warm myself up in any way. When I do go into work, when I actually have to physically be in my library, I know that I don’t have an awful lot to write. So, I know I need to write in the morning or it’s not going to happen, and then I know I’m going to feel bad. I get up a little bit earlier, I still make my tea and then I set the time a little bit shorter than I would now, then I still write and then I go to work. That’s my ritual. It’s quite boring, but it’s very effective.

Marco: Hey, whatever works for you. I’m not going to knock it. What kind of tea do you like?

Sarina: Well, honestly, a bit of everything. I grew up with tea. When I was a child, we always had tea, that’s what my mom gave me. I always had some, whether it was an herbal tea, I always remember we had peppermint tea and we had chamomile tea. We always had those in the cupboard. We also normally had something fruity like apple and cinnamon or berry medley. I think we did have a box of black tea but to be honest, I have no idea why because my parents are coffee drinkers, they don’t drink tea normally and I can’t stand coffee but also, I would have been too young to have caffeine. I don’t know why we had that box. It was this grown-up tea that just wasn’t meant for me, so I just never had it. I never thought about it. Nowadays, [00:37:00] I do tend to wake up either with a nice breakfast tea or having an Earl Grey, and I need my tea strong, so I always leave the tea bag in if it’s a black tea.

Marco: You know what? I’m all for rituals because I’m very ritual based. I can’t say that if I don’t do it, it feels off, but I really prefer it. I’m all for you having a ritual, frankly, whatever works for you.

Sarina: I did have this plan a while ago. When I say a while ago, we’re talking some years, where I thought, I have this really cool shirt, which has a dreamcatcher on it. I thought that might be really cool to wear while I write. Then that way, when I sit down and I put the shirt on, it instantly tells my brain that it’s time to write, so it’ll help me focus and get in the zone better, and then I just never wore it. So, I can’t say that would have worked because I kept forgetting that I had it, but yeah.

Marco: I’m the same way, I forget it whole time. It’s [00:38:00] very annoying, but that’s why I write stuff down a lot. I have one final question actually, and it’s actually a pretty big one. 

Sarina: Go ahead. 

Marco: As an indie author, what are the pros and cons in your experience?

Sarina: Oh, that is a big question, you’re right. [chuckles] Well, I suppose it depends on what you want from the experience. For me, I like to be in control of pretty much everything. A lot of readers and maybe also authors who have made it, if you can call it that, and have a traditional publisher, they tend to assume that indie authors are only indie authors because we can’t get an agent, which I don’t know maybe true for some people, but for pretty much every indie author I know, myself included, it’s not the case. I know that I’m an indie author because I need that control. When you have an agent and a publisher, for example, and it comes time to [00:39:00] make the cover for example, for your book, then that’s pretty much completely out of your hands as the author. Whereas I really like the process of filling in the brief of my cover designer off letting him know what I’d like, what I don’t like and then some weeks later he sends me back the first design of that. He tends to do two mock versions, so I can then choose the one that I like more and then we discuss what we like about it and what would make a good cover. 

I really like to be involved in pretty much every step, but when you have an agent for example and the publishing house, then you don’t have that. I read a blurb once, for example, for a very popular book, I won’t name it. The blurb basically gave me completely different expectations of what the book actually had. For me, that was very misleading. I know that the offer likely had absolutely nothing to do with a blurb, may even not like it themselves, but they wouldn’t have had any input in that. [00:40:00] Whereas I write my blurbs myself, I could maybe send them to my editor, and then if anything about it doesn’t work, she will tell me. But ultimately, it’s up to me and I think that’s what I like so much about the self-publishing path, is that everything is in my hands, and if it goes wrong, I have myself to blame. I can’t say, “Well, I wanted it differently, but so and so I decided that we should do it that way.” 

For some people that may be more off-putting because it is more work, pretty much in every area of the process. If that appeals to you, then this may be the right path for you. There’s also still some stigma that surrounds indie authors, some of it may be justified with some writers. Again, I won’t name anyone but it’s because it’s so easy to self-publish, I have had some books that I downloaded, and you could tell that it was basically a first draft that this person had [00:41:00] uploaded, which is, I think, where a lot of that stigma comes from. Please don’t do that. Please put your book through all the bells and whistles before you publish it. 

Likewise, there are some really fantastic indie authors out there. Some of them have done so incredibly, well, maybe even better than some traditionally published authors. Likewise, having an agent and publisher does not guarantee success. I have read some traditionally published books, which had errors in them, that would have ended– indie authors carries it in a heartbeat. I’m not talking things like a missed comma here and there. I’m talking things like mispresenting a mental health issue, which for me, is a really big no-no. But because it’s this big-name author people, I’m quite happy to overlook it and you barely see any mention of that in their review. But if an indie author did it, oh, oh, oh, that career [00:42:00] would be over, [unintelligible [00:42:00] that. You would need a whole new identity to publish anything again and have chance. 

There are certainly some complications there. I really don’t want to just bad mouth having an agent or anything, because it can be absolutely fantastic if that is the way for you. They help you with a lot of the legal stuff, which can be fantastic. There are a lot of readers also still who will read entirely only traditionally published books. There is certainly a lot of, let’s call it prestige, that comes with having an agent and it does feel good to say, I imagine. I don’t know, because I’ve never had one. For me, I like the control, and I think I need the control. There are certainly pros and cons to both sides.

Marco: Yeah, of course. For me, I don’t think about it, because like what you said before, once it’s out there, that say[?], I can’t be like, “Oh, [00:43:00] well, indie for my first book, then just had to go for traditional.” Well, you can’t do that, it’s already indie, so it’s like, next time. 

Sarina: Well, you say that, but well, actually, quite a few authors have done a bit of both.

Marco: Really?

Sarina: Yeah. There are quite a few authors who have maybe started off as an indie author, and they still have the series out independently, but then maybe for the next series, they’ve been picked up by a publisher. 

Marco: Oh.

Sarina: I say that like the publisher approach then, which is very unlikely to. I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations about what’s acceptable. There are some authors who have done both, and it’s possible and it’s actually relatively common. Likewise, there are some writers who may have published their first book or their 10th book or whatever, independently, but then later found for presentation for the same book, and then probably also got a new cover and a new blurb, and maybe also change some other parts because [00:44:00] it ultimately also then needs to fit the publishing house, you then no longer work alone, which can be grateful for the support and the expertise and all that. Those are things that when you self-publish, you need to find yourself, which can be difficult. Especially also because I think there are a lot of fraudsters out there, who will tell you that they can totally edit your 100,000-word manuscript for 50 quid, and they cannot. I may be biased here because I’m also an editor, but you cannot edit 100,000-word document in a week of developmental edit and everything and only ask for 50 quid. If that doesn’t take several months and a lot more money than that, then you should know that you’re probably onto someone who’s not going to do a very good job. You get what you pay for.

Marco: Exactly. I ask because, frankly, as someone that’s new to this, there’s a big difference between writing and writing in terms of [00:45:00] wanting to get published because that’s a whole different ballgame. Frankly, I’ll happily admit that I don’t know all that much, but that’s one reason why I’m happy to be in the community because frankly, I have had a lot of wonderful help, yours included. In terms of being indie, there’s the aspect of control, simply– I’m the same way, I’m a control freak. I want to control.

Sarina: It’s a good [crosstalk] to be in. [laughs] 

Marco: It really is because it’s like, like I said, I don’t want it to go badly, and then I’m like, “Oh, well, it went bad because this was your idea.” No, I want it to be because it was my stupid idea. I don’t want to blame anybody for my failures, That’s not right. I consider my work to be my baby, I don’t trust it with just anybody. I want to control. [00:46:00] I want to raise it and nurture it my way, 100% my way. I just can’t give it up, so that’s really attractive to me.

Sarina: I think that’s really important that you said that, because I think it’s quite tempting. Say, if you are hoping to get an agent, for example, I think it’s really tempting to hop on the first offer that you get, if you are lucky to get one. If anything at all feels off about the offer, if there’s something in there that you’re not 100% happy with, and the agent or publisher isn’t willing to budge on it, don’t go with it. One, there’s this one agent who’s already interested in your work, there’s somebody else as well. Ultimately, it’s your book and if they are not happy to cooperate with you, then maybe it’s just not the right relationship. Keep looking. It needs to be the right kind of agent for you, and it needs to be the right publisher for you. 

Same as when you self-publish and you find your own editor eventually, it still needs to be the right editor for you. [00:47:00] That comes down to so much more than money because you also need to be able to get along, you need to be able to agree. If your editor tells you, for example, that your whole book may be better off in third person and you may need to rewrite the whole thing, because right now, it’s a first person, it’s a big job but if your editor makes good points for it and you can see that, you may. Hopefully, you then have the kind of relationship where you can discuss things like that. It’s always a really big decision. Don’t just go with the first person who seems interested. By all means do your research, see how well you get on. If any of it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Marco: I agree 100%. It’s all about how important is this to you. It’s like this man writing. What comes after, what comes before, it’s like, “Oh, I wrote this book means a lot to me. I took a year to write it.” “Oh, my first agent? Well, let’s go.” [00:48:00] It’s like, no. Like I said, why don’t you just wait it out. Let’s see who comes along. Let’s see how well it fits because frankly, the best choice may be choice E. Who knows?

Sarina: Yeah, exactly. You asked earlier about self-publishing some books and maybe then traditionally publishing some others. There is no guarantee that when you do get a publisher, that they will represent you for the rest of your days. You sign a contract basically with them, and that contract may be specifically for that book, or it may be for that series. But once you have published that series with them, they may not be interested in your future ideas. You can then still self-publish your next book. You are then bound with a contract with that book according to the terms of the contract, but your next book, which may have nothing to do with what you signed there, that’s then entirely yours again, if you can find a different publisher too. You don’t always have to stick with the [00:49:00] same one if for some reason, it doesn’t work out anymore.

Marco: Yeah. That’s really important to consider, because it’s not just signed and done. You got to think about it. It’s like look before you leap, and that mistake can really cost you. I guess the term is horror stories, because, frankly, things just didn’t work out the way they planned. That’s just really, really unfortunate. It’s always important to do your due diligence, because if it doesn’t work out, at least you know that you put the time, you put the effort, it meant a lot to you to do the research.

Sarina: Just because it didn’t work out the first time or the third time, doesn’t mean it can’t work out the next time. Just learn from the experience and try again. 

Marco: Yeah. This is just a really fun craft. I say just keep going, and maybe it’s a case of your [00:50:00] first book, it was good, but it wasn’t great because you were still learning. Then, your second book is even better, and then you get better and better. Then, you find some of the apex at book 10 or whatever. Don’t be discouraged, just have fun, because this is one of the best mediums in the world. I will describe it like this. Our books, we as writers, we’re the kings and queens of our universe, of our world. We can do whatever we want pretty much. Just follow the rules and just do whatever you want. Maybe the protagonist is an alien, maybe the love interest is a human, whatever the case is. Just experiment, have a good time, just know that there are options out there so many actually, so many that I can’t even name. [00:51:00] It’s just going around and looking at all these wonderful ideas and different genres, and just knowing how passionate our readers are, it’s an amazing thing. I describe it like this, whenever I write, I’m home. No matter if I’m having a bad day, or if I’m in pain, or if I’m left wondering what’s happening in my life, I don’t know. But when I write, I’m good. It all melts away. If something means that much to you, don’t give it up. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: I think that super positive note of infinite writing potential is the perfect note to end our interview on, if you don’t have any more questions. 

Marco: Honestly, I ended on the perfect question, because, as listeners, pros and cons are very important. 

Sarina: I think so. There’s a lot to consider when you decide whether you want to be [00:52:00] self-published, or traditionally published, or maybe a mixture of both. I’m hoping to do an episode on the pros and cons at some point in the future. Hopefully, we’ll get even more information up there for that.

Marco: I hope so too.

Sarina: Great. Thank you very much, and I think that’s gone all right. [chuckles] 

Marco: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Sarina: No worries. Yeah, thank you so much for stopping by and for asking me so many of your questions on writing. I’m sure there’ll be many more, which we can also discuss. If you, as the listener, would also like to do this at some point and grill me on my own podcast about writing or publishing, just say the word and we can schedule something. Thank you so much, Marco, for coming on and making me the guest today.

Marco: Hey, no problem. Happy to do it.

Sarina: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

Marco: Take care.

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe [00:53:00] button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, at Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye. 


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 28 | Your Team of Pros: Your Cover Designer with Andrew and Rebecca Brown

This week, I had the great pleasure of talking to my cover designers, Andrew and Rebecca Brown from Design for Writers, about all things–you guessed it!–cover design! If you’re a writer who’s unsure about how to find the right designer or if there’s anything you should know before you hire, this is the chat for you. It’s also a great listen if you’re just curious about what exactly cover designers do and how they work their magic.

You can find out more about Andrew and Rebecca and get in touch via their Twitter and their website.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[intro]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started. 

[music]

Sarina: Welcome back, friends and sparrows. This is the 22nd of March. It’s Episode 28, and this is the final installment in this mini-series where I talk to my professional team of my editor, cartographer, and cover designer. Today, I’m talking to Andrew and Rebecca Brown from Design for Writers. They have been my cover designers, while since 2016, probably even started in 2015, come to think of it. We’ve been working together on every single one of my beautiful covers. [00:01:00] If you haven’t seen them, please do, because they are stunning, and while you’re there, maybe buy the book, I don’t know [chuckles]. Yeah, welcome, Andrew and Rebecca. 

Rebecca: Hello.

Andrew: Hello. Thank you for having us.

Sarina: Yeah, my pleasure. I really appreciate you being here because I know podcasts are terrifying. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Sarina: I don’t know if you’ve listened to my first ever episode, but it was incredibly awkward. [chuckles] What made it more awkward also was that my partner was sitting in the corner, so I wasn’t-

Andrew: [chuckles] 

Sarina: -even just by myself and I knew he was silently judging me when I did the thing of, “please subscribe” and all that.

Andrew: [chuckles] 

Rebecca: He wasn’t holding up scorecards, was he?

Sarina: No, he said he was ignoring me, but you know, he was listening. 

Andrew: He’s not there now in the corner too, is he? 

Sarina: No, he’s working downstairs. To be fair, I have no way of knowing if he’s just outside the room. I don’t think he is.

[laughter] 

Sarina: It won’t be anywhere near as awkward as that, I hope. [laughs] 

Andrew: Thank you.

Sarina: Where do I have my [00:02:00] questions? It’s just sad that my Word has died on me, so thank God I’ve written things down so I can refer to it on paper. Yeah, technology, eh?

Andrew: Absolutely. Yeah. 

Sarina: Well, as I have just said, you have been my cover designers for quite a long time now. You’ve done all of my covers. Some of them have been a little bit harder than others. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: [crosstalk] -bloodbath. [laughs] To start with, how long have you been in this business of creating book covers and what has attracted you to working with authors in the first place?

Rebecca: We were just saying this morning, we’re about to hit our 10-year anniversary. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: Oh, wow.

Andrew: April, it’ll be full 10 years, April of 16th. Before that, it was another couple of years where it was a bit of a side hustle. So, keeping the day job going and then working nights, early mornings on skills and trying to get contacts and things. [00:03:00] Probably 12 years altogether, but next month, it’ll be a decade of full time of business. 

Rebecca: Full time [crosstalk], yeah. 

Sarina: Wow. That’s a big anniversary. 

Andrew: We were probably working with you [crosstalk] for half of that time.

Sarina: Yeah, actually. [crosstalk] That’s weird to think about.

Andrew: Yeah. What got us into it is really– it started off originally as just general design. Design for anyone who wanted a design done but we really wanted to focus on something and we both love books. 

Rebecca: Yeah. 

Andrew: Not just reading the books, but the whole experience and book culture. 

Rebecca: Yeah, my [unintelligible [00:03:42] is full of books. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Rebecca: My [unintelligible [00:03:41] is actually covered in books.

Andrew: [chuckles] 

Sarina: Oh, yay. I need one like that. I’m surprised I haven’t got one already.

Andrew: That’s always been something sort of we just decided we’d focus on that, and we knew some people.

Rebecca: Yeah, through Twitter actually-

Andrew: Through Twitter.

Rebecca: -because I was doing a lot of writing at the time. [00:04:00] So, I had lots of writer friends, and a couple of them needed their book covers doing. So, I said, “Oh, well” as it happens.

Andrew: Yeah. We were starting a business and it kind of– went for it accidentally at first, but then also based on just something that we love, and it was a really, really good natural fit, wasn’t it?

Rebecca: Yeah, one of our very first clients was doing a really successful blog at the time on Self-Publishing’s Catherine Ryan Howard. 

Sarina: Oh, yeah. 

Rebecca: She [crosstalk] Catherine, Caffeinated blog, which seemed to be a really big hit among self-publisher at the time. Then, she did a book on self-publishing and then a second book of self-publishing.

Andrew: Well, prior to that, actually she did a book called Mousetrapped

Rebecca: Mousetrapped

Andrew: -about her experience working in Disneyland. I think in around 2010, that was one of our first ever project.

Rebecca: It was because our daughter was born in April 2010. One of the her first pictures still in the hospital had the Mousetrapped book cover in the crib. 

Andrew: Really?

Rebecca: Yeah. [crosstalk] -was out in the world. Yes, [00:05:00] so April 2010. Yeah.

Sarina: Wow, that was a big month for you, wasn’t it?

[chuckles] 

Sarina: Birth of your business and birth of your daughter, new pressure.

Andrew: It’s goodbecause working with authors means we’re always working on something with people where the design means something meaningful to them, like yourself. It’s not just another ticky box corporate design exercise. It’s working directly with people or via the publishers on things that are really meaningful to somebody and the whole project then takes on– [crosstalk] 

Rebecca: Yeah, it’s their baby, isn’t it? 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Rebecca: You want to do well, because you put so much work into it.

Andrew: Yeah. It’s always important to remember that as well when you’re working on a book design or web design for someone, but this is something that someone’s put possibly years of their lives into getting right.

Rebecca: Blood, sweat, and tears. 

Andrew: Yeah. That’s how we came to work with authors.

Sarina: All right. Did you do the cover for [00:06:00] Catherine Ryan Howard’s book, Self-Printed?

Andrew: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sarina: That may be how I’ve found you.

Andrew: Actually, she’s got us in there. She mentions us in the book.

Sarina: Yeah, because I borrowed the book from a library at the time, and then I ended up liking it so much that I bought my own copy. 

Andrew: That one?

Sarina: Yeah, that’s the one. But when then the time came for me to find a cover designer, I possibly looked in there and had a look at who she had hired, and that’s possibly how I came across you. 

Andrew: Catherine’s gone on to massive success. She is published in America and all around the world now.

Rebecca: [crosstalk] 

Sarina: I think she’s now also branched out into thrillers, is it, I think?

Andrew: Yeah, crime, uh-huh.

Sarina: Now that she’s a big-name author, do you still do her covers? Do you also–?

Andrew: No. It’s one of those where the publisher she signed with, they-

Rebecca: -have their own in-house team. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: Yeah, because I was wondering if you design covers exclusively for indie authors, or if you also work with [00:07:00] some traditionally published authors.

Andrew: No. [crosstalk] Both, yeah. 

Rebecca: We’ve done a couple of publishers. 

Andrew: We’ve done direct with the publisher. Sometimes, there’s been a couple where people have gone to a publisher, and they’ve allowed the authors still to use us. Then we work with lots of smaller publishing houses where we’re the-

Rebecca: White label. 

Andrew: -like a white-label third-party designer.

Rebecca: If they’re too small to have their own in-house team, they branch out to us.

Andrew: Yeah. It’s kind of a mix, really. I would say probably three quarters of our work is direct with the author, and the other quarter via the publisher, usually a small publisher.

Sarina: All right. Well, I know from personal experience that you are very approachable, so I’ve never thought that you were too big for me to contact or anything.

Andrew: Oh God, no.

Sarina: What really sold me way back when first on emailing you, I think [00:08:00] was possibly your “About Me” page where I think you both had portraits of yourselves, and you talked some about your experience and then you had some testimonials in there. I was thinking I really liked them, I hope they want to work with me. Well, it was my first book, I always had this idea of what if they just say, “Well, you’re too small, we don’t want to work with you.” In fact, one of the cartographers I emailed just never got back to me. 

Andrew: Oh, no.

Rebecca: [crosstalk] 

Sarina: Yeah, well, I ended up with a really good one, so loss on them. 

Andrew: Oh, it worked out well. Their loss. 

Sarina: Yes, it was fine. That’s always been really nice for me, I think. You’ve always been very easy to work with.

Andrew: Thank you. Yourself as well, obviously. When we were setting up the website, it’s hard because we’ve– for a long, long time, we didn’t even have our own website. We’d like the back and forth with people initially, so you’re getting a feel for who the person is before anything is [00:09:00] signed up. But then, also you want a website so that people can get more of an idea about you and who you are. So, it’s hard trying to get a balance, isn’t it, between your whole automated side on the website, and also having a little bit of dialogue with people.

Rebecca: We wanted to get the balance between being professional and being friendly and approachable. 

Andrew: Yeah. Gosh, exactly that.

[chuckles] 

Sarina: Well, I think you’re certainly doing that. With your 10-year anniversary coming up– well, 12 years, really, you must have designed an awful lot of book covers. At a rough guess, do you know roughly how many you would have done in that time?

Andrew: Oh my God. We don’t know for certain because we haven’t got like a tally. It’s definitely more than 1000. 

Rebecca: I think it’s closer to 2000.

Sarina: Wow.

Andrew: In the region of 2000 copies, and you can double that because most jobs that we do, we do a couple [00:10:00] of concepts at least, so probably double that for the number of actual concepts we’ve done, but probably around 2000 books, a few hundred layouts.

Rebecca: Formatting because that’s only quite a recent development. [crosstalk] 

Andrew: Yeah, we only added that a few years ago. Probably a couple of 100 websites over the years, but we’ve done quite a few now.

Sarina: You have branched out quite a lot in recent years as well, so you’re not doing just the book cover design. You say that like it’s a small thing, it’s not. You also do website design and some formatting and general design things as well. Like I know, you’ve done my massive banner that I took with me to the Brighton Book Bash some years ago.

Andrew: Yeah. The banners are really popular actually. Well, not so much now in lockdown, but prior to that, lots of authors were after it, it was a really good way of promoting yourself. We do all kinds of print, bookmarks, business cards, big banners-

Rebecca: Postcards.

Andrew: -postcards, basically anything that you can print on, we can do. [00:11:00] Yeah, it’s predominantly, I would say, 50%, 60% book covers, and then probably the rest is evenly spread.

Sarina: It’s quite a good variety for you. I imagine, just with the nature of the business, no two days are ever really exactly the same because obviously every author wants something different.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. At any one time, we probably have around 30-ish projects on the go. There’ll be different stages from sort of just signed up to the whole signup process. We’ll be working on different aspects of different covers most days, or different whatever it is that we’re doing. Yes, just give a good lot of variety because we don’t just focus on one genre. We do-

Rebecca: Yeah.

Andrew: -at the minute we’re working on crime, [00:12:00] children’s, few thrillers. Historical fiction, we’ve got a few of those at the moment.

Rebecca: Yeah, World War II saga.

Andrew: Yeah, World War II saga. Brilliant children’s fiction series about aliens playing football against children.

Sarina: That sounds fun. Where were all the alien books when I was a child?

[laughter] 

Andrew: So yeah, there’s quite a lot of variety in there.

Rebecca: A lot of variety, yeah. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: You really are designers for every author, basically. 

Andrew: Hopefully, yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah. We have a good handle now on what works for different genres. 

Andrew: Yeah, and we do– [crosstalk] for every single client, we start with a complete blank page and try and bring as far as possible, no preconceptions to it other than your own experience and things about what works and doesn’t, so that each author that you’re hopefully not giving the same cover with a bit of variety every time we’re doing something different based on whatever comes [00:13:00] up in the brief.

Sarina: Yeah. Every author, of course, also wants different things. 

Andrew: Absolutely. 

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sarina: The other lady I talked to this morning, Rachel Grosvenor, who’s a writing coach, we talked about a trend that we have recently noticed in romantic, in romance books, where a lot of covers seem to have half naked men on them. Which doesn’t really work for us, but then it’s not really our genre, but there seem to be a lot of those.

Andrew: It’s strange actually because when we’ve done romance, most people say, “Do not put a naked man on the front or half-naked.” Most of the authors that work with us on that, will specifically say- 

Sarina: Thank you.

Andrew: “I don’t want that.” 

[chuckles] 

Sarina: Thank you. You know from my briefs that I will normally always say please don’t put people on there because I’m not a fan.

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: Ironically, with Blood Wisp,we did kind of have faces on them, didn’t we? 

Andrew: Yeah. [00:14:00]

Sarina: People still haven’t seen them because you did them about two years ago, and I still haven’t published them.

Andrew: That seems like such a long time ago since that was on there. 

Sarina: Doesn’t it? 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Sarina: When I talk about how long I’ve had these covers, I always think, “Yeah, is it really been two years?” I have not published them yet, what’s wrong with me? 

Andrew: [chuckles]

Sarina: I think I’m probably struggling through editing and rewriting them about as much as you struggled with doing the third cover.

Andrew: Oh, yeah, that cover was a good one. 

Rebecca: Interesting. It was an interesting cover–

[chuckles] 

Andrew: It worked out in the end.

Sarina: It did. I’m sad that people still haven’t seen it because it’s so beautiful. Eventually, I’m getting there. I’m hoping to maybe finally have the first book out by the end of this year. They’ve not been easy to do. This is my fault for thinking that I could do a novella trilogy, which has since fused into the first book of a novel trilogy. So, it’s been a whole nightmare, to be honest. 

Andrew: There are too many ideas, that’s the problem. 

Sarina: Yeah. I could talk about why [00:15:00] not to do it this way for a long time, but I won’t. Okay, talk us through how this whole process works from your end and also for the author, the things that you consider, important things to know, before you start, etc.

Andrew: Do you want to start? Or me–?

Rebecca: Okay. Someone gets in touch, we book them in. At the minute, we have a mega long waiting list, which is a lovely position to be in, but we do have to sort of say– I keep saying on our social media like, “Get in touch sooner,” because we do quite a lot of work–[crosstalk]

Andrew: We can’t take any bookings now prior to June. We can’t take it if it’s got so late, if it’s expedited in somewhere, but ideally, no plans bookings prior to June now.

Rebecca: Like a hint to authors, you don’t have to have your book finished before you look for cover design. If you know that you want to be publishing in August, then get in touch and book your slot for July.

Andrew: Or, start even [00:16:00] just contacting potential designers. 

Rebecca: Yeah, because we won’t be the only ones in demand, so shop around, see who you like, and make sure you get your slot booked. Anyway, that was beside the point. People get in touch, they get booked up, and we start up a briefing. We have a briefing questionnaire, which we’ve worked on for quite a long time, I think, since day one actually.

Andrew: Yes, it’s kind of been tweaked on in the way, hasn’t it?

Rebecca: Yeah, but because, as much as we would love to, we can’t read every single book that comes to us. We really would love to. We have to use our questionnaire to get a really good insight into the book, and there’s been quite a few people over the years have said that it’s actually made them think of things that they wouldn’t have thought of before.

Andrew: How did you find the brief honestly, Sarina? Unless you think it’s awful, then don’t say it.

Rebecca: Don’t be– [crosstalk]

Sarina: No, I really liked it. As you’ve just said that some authors have [00:17:00] got back to you and told you that it’s made them think about the book in different ways, I’ve certainly had that. With my first book, as any author can probably tell you, you make a lot of mistakes, obviously. When I then went over the brief, and you asked me things like, “Are there any important objects in there?” Or, “Is there like a dominant season?” I was like, “Should I know these things?” [chuckles] 

For me, it was quite interesting on that, because it did make me think about my book in different ways, certainly. But I also think that it’s actually really quite an easy brief to answer. I think one question that any new writer is going to struggle with, is this comparison. If you saw your book on Amazon, what– [crosstalk] 

Rebecca: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: -authors you might compare to. Because, on the one hand, you obviously want to give good answers to that. On the other hand, I think some of my books in some way, are similar to Sarah J. Maas books, [00:18:00] in some respects. She’s such a big author for that, for me, putting that down feels so weird. I can’t believe I’ve just compared myself to this massive author, but they asked.

Andrew: There’s no reason you have to do that. [crosstalk] If you’re writing a book and you’re wanting to sell, which is probably why you’re getting a cover design done, then you do hope that your book is one day going to be in a position with those books, and therefore you want it to look good alongside those books. To start with that, we’re going to go and copy that off the style, but it helps us to identify where you want your book to sit in the market, and therefore– 

Sarina: Yeah. [crosstalk] identify the kind of style as well that the author might like.

Andrew: Yeah, because one thing that I think, especially indie authors definitely shouldn’t do, is try and reinvent the wheel and think, either, A, I’ve got a whole new genre that’s never come up before. 

Rebecca: Which you probably don’t.

Andrew: Or, B, I want to redefine how the genre looks, you can do that, and we can do it for you, but it’s going to give you [00:19:00] a lot of trouble along the line because really, you don’t have a massive HarperCollins budget. You want to press the buttons in potential readers, so that they get what they think they’re going to get from your book. This is quite a topic for writers, but genre design generally works if you’re starting from a standing start, and you want to make as much impact as possible and get the biggest bang for your buck.

Sarina: Yeah. I think to consider there also is that readers tend to have certain expectations of what books in various genres look like. 

Andrew: Exactly. 

Sarina: So, to come back to those romance books with so many half naked people on them, I think that’s probably something that readers expect so they can look at the cover and instantly know that it’s a romance book or probably more likely an erotic novel. 

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sarina: They want a cover like that, but if that’s what they’re looking for, it instantly helps them identify that. Knowing your genre ultimately really helps you attract readers in that genre because [00:20:00] they will expect to see various things. Likewise, there are things that they probably wouldn’t expect to see.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely.

Rebecca: Yeah. It helps you align yourself even within the genre. So, you’ve got a contemporary YA novel, or you could go John Green style, not that you think that you’re John Green, but that’s a very separate kind of way a novel compared to something like Harry Potter or Rick Riordan, or something like that. Even within the genre, having those similar authors that you would like-

Andrew: To align yourself with.

Rebecca: -those readers to– If you like this, then you will like me sort of thing, that helps you pick something up. Then if you do that, if you go John Green’s style, and then your books are full of teenage romance– readers of teenage supernatural romance, I should say, your reader is not going to be disappointed. It is worth considering that it’s not that you suddenly think that you are [00:21:00] John Green, or that we’re going to think that. It just helps us pitch you. 

Andrew: Yeah, definitely.

Sarina: Alternately, your book cover is the first impression that you’re going to make on a potential reader. So, you don’t want to mislead them at that point and make them think that your book is some other genre. Actually, my example of Sarah J. Maas was actually a terrible one, because while I feel like our writing styles are similar in some respects, she has people on the cover, so please ignore that. Please don’t start putting people on the cover.

[laughter] 

Sarina: From a design point of view, that was a terrible example. [laughs] 

Andrew: I guess, if the big publishers are designing genre books in a certain way, then absolutely we can design yours different, and that’s one of the good things about being an indie author, you get to call the shots. We probably advise you don’t, but if you want to, fair enough, but there’s a reason why genre covers look as they do, [00:22:00] and it’s because generally they work.

Sarina: Yeah. I don’t know, maybe many writers end up thinking that the book doesn’t really fit into any one genre because chances are there is lots of crossover in the book. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: For example, with my first book, Rise of the Sparrows, it’s an epic fantasy, of course, but there are also some– well, apparently, some horror elements, because for some reason, it’s been ranking on Amazon under dark fiction horror, which I can’t explain. I’m confused about that, but thank you. There are some mystery elements in there of “Ooh, what’s going to happen? What’s going on with this?” There are some slight romance parts in there as well, with the slow burn romance that I’ve got going through them, but predominantly, they are epic fantasy. The chances are there is one genre that will be stronger in your book than any others.

Andrew: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah. I think a good book probably does have [00:23:00] some different elements brought in, because that makes it richer and more complex, but it will still be identifiable to the reader. Like even the ones that don’t feel quite so much, they’re literary fiction, they still have a certain feel that you’re going for, a certain reader you’re going for.

Andrew: The main things we would look for, and when we’re reading the brief, we haven’t come up how many questions. This maybe is 15, 20 questions in there.

Rebecca: Something like that. 

Andrew: Not all of them might be relevant, but the idea is different questions that hopefully, by the answers we do get, we’ll be able to draw out the key things we need to know which are, where should the book sit in the market? What tone does the book have? Really important, what we always say, is what feelings do you want to evoke in your potential readers, because a cover is much more about feeling than details and things like that. If you can get that, then you probably well on the way of doing that. [00:24:00]

Sarina: Yeah, that’s very well put. What did you love the most about this business?

Andrew: You or me? Both? Who’s going first?

Rebecca: [laughs] I love seeing people on Twitter. The authors when they’ve got the new cover done, and hopefully their book formatting too and they have their big release day on Twitter and they’re like, “I’m really excited to show you my new book cover,” and everything. I love that moment.

Andrew: Yeah. When you get the email back or the comment back, and the clients really liked the cover, that probably is the best moment. Or, when actually doing the design and you know that the design has come together because you’ve done the research and you’ve developed the ideas, when you feel like coming together, that’s really good, but ultimately, it’s when the client– 

Rebecca: “Oh my God, I love these so much, I can’t choose between them.” 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Sarina: When I’ve been in that position, [00:25:00] I’ve asked my critique partners to help me and say, “Which one do you prefer because I can’t choose?”

Andrew: Also, just the other side of it, you’ll probably find this as well, but having the freedom during this sort of job, meaning you can do your hours at work and we can be there for the kids in lockdown and being able to help with schooling and things like that, which is a big privilege, because a lot of people haven’t been able to do that.

Rebecca: Yeah. When our kids were growing up, we could go to all their activity plays, and school fairs and things, and so many parents don’t get that chance. [crosstalk] 

Andrew: I think a lot of indie authors, or people like yourself who work with indie authors well with what you do, the editing, it’s good to have that freedom so that the business is very much part of life, so you never can leave it behind and shut the door but also– Well, it feels like I have a third child in lots of ways, doesn’t it?

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sarina: No, that does make sense. [00:26:00] For me, seeing my covers for the first time is such a big moment, it’s easily my favorite thing. It beats seeing my map for the first time, for example, or definitely beats seeing how many suggestions my editor has made and how many cuts she’s made. Because I think when you see your book cover for the first time, it helps make it real in a way that other things don’t because you’ve got your name on there and you’ve got the title, obviously. I think to just see your name with the book title on an actual book cover- 

Andrew: Yeah, it all becomes very real.

Sarina: – is just such a big moment for me every time. My favorite thing.

Andrew: We actually– Have you got your cartographer? Because we often get people asking for someone to do maps, I’m not sure if you’ve got yours to recommend. 

Sarina: Oh, [unintelligible [00:26:48].

Andrew: You can pass that along.

Sarina: It’s Glynn Seal. His business is MonkeyBlood Design. I’ll send you the link. 

Andrew: Yeah. 

Sarina: [00:27:00] Just this coming Monday now, I’ve done an interview with him that will go live then about cartography and what goes into creating a map for authors. 

Andrew: Oh [crosstalk] looking forward to that one.

Sarina: I’ll send you the name. 

Andrew: Yeah, because we actually get people asking for that, don’t we?

Rebecca: Yeah. 

Sarina: I can see people ask you potentially for quite a lot of various referrals because, obviously, you do have an awful lot of clients at this point, which is a nice problem to have. You clearly have a lot of jobs on at the same time, which is amazing. I can see that a lot of them, I’d ask if you know an editor or if you know a cover designer– Well, not a cover designer, but– 

Andrew: Throw us in though if anyone asks that.

[laughter] 

Sarina: Instant no if you know a good cartographer or– [crosstalk] 

Andrew: Actually, we should put something out on the website, shouldn’t we with people that we trust? Yeah.

Rebecca: [crosstalk] -make a note of that. 

Sarina: Just like that, it’s forever evolving. [laughs] [00:28:00] Do you have any tips for writers who are looking for the right cover designer for them? Maybe writers looking to change designer or looking for the first time? Is there anything we should know before we choose? Because with cover designers, maybe more than any other professional, there’s an awful lot of choice out there.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. I think I would try and see if you can build-

Sarina: A relationship.

Andrew: -relationship, if it’s someone you feel comfortable working with. Ideally, not just for this cover, but someone you feel you can build a relationship long term. Obviously, look on the website, work through their portfolio, check out testimonials.

Rebecca: Do you trust that they know what they’re talking about?  They’re probably going to give you advice on what’s a good cover. So, do you trust that they’re giving you good advice? I think that would be–

Andrew: Also, what do you want from a designer? Do you want someone who is basically going to move pixels around at your direction? Which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for? Or, do you want someone who [00:29:00] can bring something to the table and you’re kind of– your own mini business and as an author, and someone who can bring something to the table and advise you, and ultimately, you’re always going to make the decisions. But hopefully, if you get an editor, such as yourself, or a cover designer, whatever, you want some advice from them. That’s why you spend the money rather than just saying put this bit here and this font, and things like that. What are you looking for in your designer, is something to consider. Make sure they’ll answer questions. I think that they’re often–because that’s like a signal for what’s going to come down the line because it’s very much a collaborative process, isn’t it? 

Rebecca: Yeah. 

Andrew: Hopefully, we know what we’re doing about the design, you know your book, and somewhere in the middle of there, is the right answer for what your book cover should be. [00:30:00] If they’re not really open to that in the beginning, then maybe it’s not going to be a great collaborative process further down the line, do you think? 

Rebecca: Yeah, as long as you don’t take up the other way and start saying, “I am going to have this very specific symbol on there, and I will not budge.” 

Andrew: Which we can do. 

Rebecca: Or, this very specific scene. Well, not always.

Andrew: Yeah. Actually, something important is to realize that you don’t have the ability to have a photographic scene of a man riding a donkey, with these clothes on– you know what I mean, because you can’t set up that photography but also, that wouldn’t necessarily make a great cover anyway because like you said, the cover is about evoking a feeling so that the key elements, however complex the scene you have in your head that you might want on the cover, for example, there’ll be key elements in there that we can take out and make sure that your cover evokes what it is you’re wanting to evoke without having to get the level of detail that isn’t really possible, [00:31:00] with imagery that’s available at a decent budget. 

Rebecca: Yeah. 

Andrew: What else is important to look out for? Make sure you can trust them, which I guess comes from the conversation. 

Rebecca: Yeah. I would look at their portfolio, and I don’t know I’ll get hung up on– I’m doing historical, so this person has to have 10 million solely historical covers on books. Have they got a good grasp of what makes a good cover? So, I don’t [unintelligible [00:31:32] too focused on genre book. 

Andrew: Good designers, good design, basically.

Rebecca: Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to get at. 

Andrew: Yeah. As long as there are some examples that that designer–

Rebecca: Sympathetic to a genre.

Andrew: Yeah, and can turn the [unintelligible [00:31:45] to that, and have a conversation with them and have a conversation with whoever else you’ve narrowed your options down to, and then choose design for writers probably. 

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sarina: I think with something like a book cover, [00:32:00] really, your portfolio speaks for itself. If you as an author, find a website off of a cover designer, and there are no examples on there of previous work, then that’s probably already a red flag right away to begin with, because why wouldn’t you want to showcase what you’ve already done? Equally, if there are examples on there, but you don’t like any of them, then equally, maybe you should keep looking.

Andrew: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah. That’s one of the questions in our briefing, and what do you consider to be good design, bad design, not because we want everyone to turn up with an example of bad design to be in a picture with Comic Sans on, but because design is subjective, so it could be a really good design, but you personally don’t like it.

Andrew: Which is a good way that leads into a conversation for us saying, “Okay, why is it that you don’t like this?” Then from that, we can make sure that the designs we put forward, although this still needs to be relevant to the genre and to the market, because [00:33:00] the author doesn’t like this particular style, we can make sure that we avoid that or steer away from it. Or, sometimes actually, they say that, and then we explain why that might work. 

Rebecca: Oh, they do come around. 

Andrew: They thought, “Yeah, okay, that’s probably what’s needed.” 

Rebecca: I think that’s why it’s good to have a range, like not just all historical or not just all the way on your portfolio, because you have to show that you can make a good design that fits that author. If you have a proper range of styles, then there will be something on there that as an author, you’re going to warm up to.

Andrew: Yeah, because no one’s going to like all designs. 

Rebecca: Exactly. Yeah. I think we’ve got quite a few on our website, and no one’s going to like all of them, as Andrew just said, but hopefully you’ll see from the range that’s there, that there might be something that you think, “Yeah, I can where that’s going on.” “Yeah, I like that one, even if it doesn’t work for me personally.”

Andrew: For us, when people get in touch, the main thing that I’m always looking for, it’s just that there’s a chance that this is [00:34:00] going to be a respectful engagement. If someone comes on saying– Oh, you kind of learn signals. If someone comes on without a very nice attitude in their emails, it is a bit of a red flag that might not work out so well. It’s rare. It’s very rare. Most people are lovely. That’s what you want. You don’t want to go to work and be dealing with people who have got no respect either way. You want to have a nice experience together, hopefully build up a relationship. Like when we see you on Twitter, and we engage on Twitter on different things, or the same with other clients, hopefully it feels more like a friendship where we do covers for you than just some sort of transactional thing.

Rebecca: We really want your book to work. We love seeing– when we get the book club daily emailthing, I get actually thrilled when I see one of our covers on that because it means that the author is getting some really good reviews and they’re really getting out there. We really love [00:35:00] seeing our authors get success and get awards and all this. Yeah, we really, really want your book to work, probably as nearly as much as do. 

Andrew: And so do the kids, they love it when they see one of our book covers.

Sarina: Oh, there you go. I agree that that personal relationship makes such a big difference. You don’t feel any more so much like you’re just talking to someone you don’t know, rather you’re just discussing your next big project with a friend who really wants you to succeed. 

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. 

Sarina: Which is so lovely. 

Rebecca: I think– [crosstalk] I think if you’re doing the traditional publishing route, you’re quite a few steps remote from the design team. So, that is one big benefit of doing it this way. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Sarina: I certainly feel as the author like I have that extra level of control over what my cover looks like. I know that I’m involved in pretty much every step of the process with you, which is lovely. I know I’m not going to publish a book and hate the cover, but I don’t get a say in it. [00:36:00] You’re very open to feedback and really making it something that we both really love, which is so important.

Andrew: Then within that process, sometimes there will be differences of opinion on how it should go but, always hopefully, a respectful one, and that’s an important part of the dialogue as well. Then, from that, as long as the client is open to us and this is what we think and why we think it, then it’s totally down to the client then to decide, “Yeah, I agree with that,” or, “No, I still want to go this way,” in which case, we can have a set direction, which narrows down the options and helps us get to the right design for you either way.

Sarina: All right. We had one question come through on Twitter as well. From author, [unintelligible [00:36:47] RhianWilliamsAuthor on Instagram, that’s a username. How do I figure out what to put on the cover? I feel like that’s going to be an easy one for you to answer. [00:37:00]

Andrew: Does that mean if she is approaching a cover designer do you think or if she’s putting together her own cover?

Sarina: Well, I think previously, she hasn’t worked so much with the cover designer to the same degree that I have. So, I don’t think that’s been the kind of level of briefing or anything like that. I don’t think she’s used to the attention that I had with you.

Andrew: Okay. Well, probably the most important thing is I keep it simple. If you’re going to try out a cover foryourself and you’re looking to make that decision on what to [unintelligible [00:37:30] keep it simple. Don’t try and mess around with complicated font combinations and things. Go for classic fonts and then you’re not going to go too far along. Make sure that whatever fonts, images you’ve chosen work within the genre. 

Rebecca: Don’t get hung up on having to [00:38:00] have a very specific person on the front. 

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. 

Rebecca: Try and think of something that sums up your book or sums up a key part of your book or theme, but not scene number six from chapter five, line four.

Andrew: If think of your cover as a 100-foot view of the book or someone’s across– may be 100 feet is a bit far actually, I can’t see that far. If someone’s across the bookstore and something just catches their eye quickly, or someone is scrolling through quickly down Amazon, scroll, scroll, scroll, and something catches your eye, trying something simple in impact– which doesn’t mean you can’t have other things on this, when people get closer, then make them see more. Just keep it simple. Don’t try and be too clever with it, really.

Rebecca: Yeah. A lot of our crime and thriller books or Rebecca Bradley’s books, it’s like a snapshot [00:39:00] of not even an exact scene in the book– There was one of them where it was about children being kidnapped, so we had a snapshot of some children’s feet in a dark cellar, and that wasn’t an exact thing in her book, but it did kind of give you a feel straight away “Okay, so this is dark. This is about children.”

Andrew: Or Griff.

Rebecca: Yeah, Griff Hosker.

Andrew: Who’s a historical fiction writer. 

Rebecca: He’s [unintelligible [00:39:25] some millions now.

Andrew: Literally millions now, with our covers on our site. He’s been really successful. He’s got a great wide audience, and his are very much– they just place the book in its time.

Rebecca: Yeah, so he’s got a few different historical periods, so we make sure we get a figure that sums up that period and some real classic [crosstalk] typography and all of his readers know exactly what they’re going to get and what the cover is going to be. If you’re going to decide what’s on your cover, [00:40:00] whether it’s doing it yourself or getting someone to do it, I think enough to sort of think about what are the two or three things or even just one thing that you want your reader to take away? There’s a genre and YA fantasy of magic academies, and you get a girl standing on the front just posing with a ball of fire and a hand. It really doesn’t matter the exact story on those covers, you know what you’re going to get, because there’s a girl standing in a uniform with a ball of fire in her hand, and cover after, cover after, cover after. Theme from that book, it’s magic, and that’s what you put on the cover. We’ve got historical romance [unintelligible [00:40:44] the minute[?] series, and you want the couple in there, not necessarily with heads, and definitely not with shirts off. 

Sarina: [laughs] 

Rebecca: There’s a couple on there in historical dressing, boom, it’s historical romance.

Andrew: Yeah. [00:41:00] Just get a good image. Make sure you’ve got some good, classic fonts on which work for your genre. 

Rebecca: Make sure everything that you use is licensed. 

Andrew: Yeah.

Rebecca: Don’t go looking on Google for an image and then just pick it and think that’s fine, because it’ll come back to bite you. It’s not fair use.

Sarina: The only thing I would add to that is that if you do hire a cover designer, you as the author, don’t have to figure out what to put on the cover. 

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. 

Sarina: Obviously, when I work with you, I get a briefing, and I fill everything and I give you all the info, and then you take away from that what you will, and then you decide what to put on there. Unless I already have a very clear idea of what I want on there, like, with Rise of the Sparrows, I knew there was the sword, I thought maybe we can put that on there. But ultimately, I also didn’t really know what I was doing. I give you the info that I can and then you [00:42:00] as the cover designer figure it out for me in a way. So, that takes a lot of the pressure off me.

Andrew: That again comes back to what it is that each individual client is looking for in their design. Do they want a solid relationship like you have? Or, do they want to sit– if they’ve got a very solid idea that they want us to translate, so yeah.

Rebecca: Like I said earlier, we can’t read every book, but we’re way more than happy to spend time, like having a bit of back and forth saying, “Okay, so give us 10 scenes that you love, and what you love about them and then we’ll just tease it out.” That’s fine. If you do know exactly what you want, that’s great. If you don’t know what you want, then we’ll tease it out with you. 

Sarina: I’ve given you info on books where I needed covers where I personally had no idea at all what I wanted with them. You somehow still managed to put together something very beautiful. I think that was the way with Darkened Light and Brightened Shadows where I started the brief and said, “Look, I have no idea what I want. I don’t know what I’m doing. [00:43:00] Please tell me.” [laughs] 

Andrew: Those ones, they came together and then we struggled a little bit as we went on to the second one and then doing that, kind of redefined what it was you wanted done and went back over again, but the answer is always there, it’s all– [crosstalk] 

Rebecca: You just need to know where to look.

Andrew: You just need to know where to look. 

Sarina: Yeah. There, I hope that’s answered the question.

[chuckles] 

Rebecca: You can always email us and we’ll answer it for you.

Sarina: Yeah, exactly. I think you’re all very helpful with that, I know you are. I know you wouldn’t just ignore the email of someone [unintelligible [00:43:37]. Yeah, so I think that’s a good place to end the interview on. Thank you very much. 

Andrew: Thank you.

Rebecca: Thank you.

Sarina: I hope that’s clarified the process for all writers looking to hire a cover designer in the future.

Andrew: Thank you very much for having us, Sarina.

Sarina: My pleasure. Thank you so much. Bye-bye, everyone. Have a great day. [00:44:00] 

Rebecca: Bye. 

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, at Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter. And of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 27 | Writing Routines: Katie Masters

Once a month, I talk to another writer about their writing routine. We answer questions such as Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between? ,  Do you write every day? ,  Where does your inspiration come from?,  What’s your beverage of choice?, and many more! At the end of each episode, the writers recommend their favourite book on writing and share their advice for establishing the right writing routine for you.

This month, I talked to Katie Masters, a multi-genre author from California.

Her book recommendation is On Writing by Stephen King. Don’t forget to check out the all-new library on my website for all book recommendations from these routine chats!

You can learn more about Katie and her books on Twitter and on Instagram or support her directly via Patreon .

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[intro]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: All right, welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 15th of March 2021. This is Episode 27. If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve probably seen the advice around that you need to write every day or you can’t call yourself a writer. Da, da, da, da! Well, I can’t argue that writing every day can be great for progress. It’s also not realistic and it doesn’t work for everyone. Things happen, and you shouldn’t feel guilty when they do. The last two authors I’ve talked to about their writing routines, they do write nearly every day. [00:01:00] But today, I want to dispel the myth that this is what we need to do, or else we can’t call ourselves authors. Today, Katie Masters is with me. She has published– how many books have you published now, Katie?

Katie: I have one and a half.

Sarina: Okay. Katie has published one and a half book so far. She’s querying at the moment, I think, as we’re recording this, and her routine looks nothing like the dream that people have been trying to sell you. Welcome, Katie. How are you?

Katie: I’m doing great. It’s nice to see you.

Sarina: It’s really nice to see you because I think we’ve already been talking for years. 

Katie: [chuckles] Yeah.

Sarina: Including when I had my old Twitter account, which I have since deleted, and started over, and we found each other again anyway. [chuckles] 

Katie: Because it was meant to be– [crosstalk] 

Sarina: Clearly meant to be. 

Katie: -in my life. 

Sarina: Let’s do the most important question first. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or [00:02:00] are you somewhere in between? I think I’ll know the answer to this, but go ahead.

Katie: I’m a pantser.

Sarina: Oh, yeah, I am. I think most writers are actually.

Katie: See, I’ve met quite a number of author friends so far who are definitely plotters. My own mom is writer and she is a hardcore plotter, and I give her hives because I don’t do that.

[chuckles] 

Sarina: See, I always say that I’m definitely a plotter– Well, I do plot my books quite a lot before I’m happy to start writing, but I’m also– like, if something else comes up and my character says, actually, you were wrong, I’m not going to place A, I am going to place D which you hadn’t even thought of, but this is what’s happening, then, I’m happy to do that. I think most authors are somewhere in between.

Katie: Yeah. I have a beginning, a middle, and end. Mine is anything that gets me to point A, B, and C is [00:03:00] up to my characters and not up to me. I let them free rein it as long as I hit that middle crescendo, that moment you need, and then the end, that’s fine, do whatever you want. Every time I have tried to plot, and I mean, actually plot chapter or break it down piece by piece, which a lot of people I know do do, I lose interest in my own story because I know everything. I have a pretty good imagination, so writing for me is often like watching a movie in my head. If I plot things too well, I’ve already seen it, and now I don’t feel like writing it.

I don’t usually plot too hard because I’ve quit books for that exact reason, where I just went, “Oh, I’m bored. I’ve already seen it in my head. It’s there permanently, why do I need to write it?” and I just don’t ever finish them. They will never get finished. I learned from my mistakes and I only do beginning, middle, end, [00:04:00] everything else is up to my characters. It’s worked out great. 

Sarina: I love that comparison to watching a movie in your head. I love your approach because I think– Well, no, I know that I do it in exactly the same way with a little bit more plotting, but generally I do it in the same way. 

[chuckles] 

Sarina: My second question to you might take a while to answer, I imagine, or you might be really quick, I’m not sure. I have a feeling well what actually– [crosstalk] 

Katie: It will be a surprise. 

Sarina: What does your writing routine look like?

Katie: I don’t have one.

Sarina: All right. Onto question three.

[laughter] 

Katie: I’m always really bad. I do not have a writing routine. Not in any traditional or sane sense, so people should not copy me. This is probably not good for your health, but I tend to do a lot of research because I do historical [00:05:00] romance for right now. But just in general, I do a lot of studying and research, especially for fantasy world. I write everything, but to me, researching is big because I like to ask why. Because of that, I will spend months and months researching. Then, I will spend– how long did it take. I think each book I’ve written, that’s gotten published, took two months to write, and two and half months. I just all in one go write it, and so it’s not like I write every single day, every single week, every single month of every month. I don’t write for months, because I’m usually researching and just letting my brain stew in research and ideas, and then I just write. 

I write in weird hours, I have insomnia. [00:06:00] My best ideas and my best writing come when I write in the middle of the night, and not so much in the daytime. I have found through trial and error, and doing this a lot, when I write in the day, I almost always delete at least half of what I’ve written. When I write at night, I don’t delete things, it usually comes out– That sounds like boastful. It usually comes out I’m like, “Oh, I don’t have to delete this.” I always have to delete at least half when I write in the day. I don’t know what it is, that’s bad. 

But yes, I don’t have a traditional routine. I don’t write every day. The last book I had, I had a yearlong– Actually, this happened both times, for very different reasons, but I had an almost yearlong part where I didn’t write because I hit a roadblock and realized I didn’t know characters, my main character as well as I should have, so I didn’t write for nine months. [00:07:00] Research, and I try and write other stuff. I do other things because I have different other creative outlets that I do, but I just didn’t write because I was frustrated and couldn’t do it. I don’t write every day. I don’t think that you necessarily should. Your creative well takes far more to refill than it does when you put it out. But that refilling takes time, and for some people, maybe that’s a few weeks, maybe it’s a few days, maybe it’s a few months. The input that you need is in the daily life things that you do. Most of my ideas, when I get back into writing come from just a random song or reading a line in a book and it sparks something and then I’m like, go. But yeah, I don’t have a routine. I do not have a normal routine.

Sarina: Well, that sounds like to a tiny degree you do, because you start by doing all the research [00:08:00] for quite a long time and just getting to know your characters, and then get it all out of your system in roughly two months.

Katie: Right, but I don’t spend every single day, really.

Sarina: I think it’s good to see that those kinds of routines exist as well. 

Katie: Yeah.

Sarina: See, guys, you don’t have to show up every day to write constantly and you definitely do not do that-

Katie: No.

Sarina: -if you don’t wait for a week or a month because your process is your process, and whatever works for you is great. 

Katie: I will say this because I’ve done it myself and it’s very frustrating. If you feel like you can’t write that day, don’t write. I have written on bad days when I felt I should write even though I was upset or not feeling very inspired. They say, “Well, write anyways, write 100 words anyways.” Every time I did that, I would look at the words on the paper and hate them and it would reinforce the idea that, “I am a bad writer because this is bad writing, [00:09:00] so I am obviously a bad writer. Screw it. I’m not going to be a writer now.” If that mindset to me is dangerous of like, “Oh, well, it doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good, just put it down,” that might work for some people, I’m not saying that’s the worst advice, but I don’t think it’s good advice. I think if you are having a bad day and you are trying to force yourself to write, that’s not necessarily healthy to do because you’re going to go back and look at those words and hate them and feel worse about yourself. Yeah, you do not have to write every day and you don’t have to write when you feel you shouldn’t write or don’t want to.

Sarina: Self-care should always come first. If you feel like you’re just not in the right headspace, maybe something happened, and maybe it’s burnout because something what you described, it can easily be the lead up to burn out, and if that’s the case, you really do not want to push yourself any further. It’s fine to just have an off day, like as I said maybe– 

Katie: Yeah, or a week or a month.

Sarina: Yeah, definitely. Maybe [00:10:00] something happened and everyone is different anyway. 

Katie: Yeah.

Sarina: If you get up in the morning and that alone is a struggle, then definitely don’t feel like you have to push yourself even harder than that. Do what you can. You know yourself best, so don’t push past that, you know what you can do.

Katie: Yeah. I say it on Twitter every once in a while. I just remind people, “You not writing doesn’t make you not a writer.”

Sarina: I love all your different affirmations on Twitter. They’re so cheerful and they always brighten my day because it’s always something like, “Hi guys. Just Katie checking in. How are you today? Are you drinking enough water? Are you looking after yourself? Have you had cake today? You’re doing great.” Ah, they’re brilliant. I love them.

Katie: I think you mean salad. 

Sarina: Salad?

[laughter] 

Sarina: If you want to eat salad, if that’s your happy food, I don’t understand it, but good on you, enjoy your salad.

[laughter] 

Sarina: But I’ll be eating cake. Eat whatever makes you happy. 

Katie: That’s true.

Sarina: [00:11:00] Okay, so I think I may already know the answer to this one based on what you’ve said, but do you set yourself specific goals, like numbers of words you want to write, say every month because I don’t think you’re going to have a daily goal. Or, how much time you want to spend writing? I’m guessing you don’t.

Katie: No. None of those. I never set daily word goals for myself. I do sometimes to motivate myself. I will say every once in a while, I’ll say, “I’m going to write 200 words, and anything more than that is just icing on the cake,” because 200 is not a scary number. When you finish that 200 words, you have a writing sprint, and you’re like, “Oh, man, I wrote 800 words,” then you feel super motivated, and you’re like, “Well, I passed my 200 goal, might as well just keep going.” Then, usually it’s a good jumping-off point, at least for me, but I don’t do it all the time. Yeah, I don’t have goals. I just write until I finish.

[laughter] 

Sarina: Yeah, I think that’s a good approach. [00:12:00] It gets the words done, doesn’t it?

Katie: Yeah, no, it really does.

Sarina: My next question would normally be, do you write every day? But I think we’ve answered that. Let me jump to the next one and then ask you if your writing routine has changed at all over the years, and if so, what have you changed and why? Have you always approached writing this way? Or, did you at some point, maybe try to make yourself write every day because that’s what people tell you to do? 

Katie: I’ve been writing since I was in second grade, since I was eight. My writing has changed a lot over the years in your teens and how I did things. For this purpose of writing novels, I don’t think it’s changed much. I think it takes me longer to do research. I’ve found, at least with the last two books that I got writer’s block easier [00:13:00] than I normally did with other things I’ve written, which I found interesting. Frustrating, but interesting. I’m just trying to think if I have anything approaches that have changed. 

Again, I used to try and plot everything out, because that’s what they told you to do. I found that I would just not write things because of the aforementioned problem. That’s probably the only thing that’s really changed is allowing myself to not worry that I have to plot everything. Some of my best moments, and some of the biggest surprises in my books that I’ve written, have been because I wasn’t planning them. For me, it reinforced why I shouldn’t write a bunch of scenes and try and plot everything out.

Sarina: I think you always know that you’re on the right track when you’re just sitting there writing along, and suddenly, your characters go off in a completely different direction. 

Katie: Yeah.

Sarina: You did not see [00:14:00] it coming at all and it surprises you. 

Katie: Oh, yeah.

Sarina: I think there’s this popular saying of no surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. That’s true. Many, many, many, many years ago, I think I saw the advice somewhere that when you’re trying to figure out what should happen next in your book, don’t go with the first or the second, or even the third thing that you think of, instead go with the 10th or the 11th thing, because if it’s taking you this long to think of what should happen, chances are your readers didn’t think of it either. Then, the surprise would definitely be there. But to be honest, I don’t try to think of 10 things first.

Katie: Right. Yeah, I’ve never had that. My problem has mainly been my characters deciding to do and/or say something and me saying, “That’s a terrible idea. Why would you do that?” It makes sense later. I had in my young adult novel that came out, I had a character in there that was supposed to be a one-time character. He was only supposed to show up once, do the thing that he’s supposed to do and that’s it, and then he started showing up every time. I remember [00:15:00] writing, like, “What are you doing here? I don’t need you.” 

[chuckles] 

Katie: I was like, “I don’t need comic relief. Why are you here being comic relief?” He’s a mythological being, an Irish mythology, and when I ended up researching him more like what he actually was, I had to cross-reference things. It was crazy. I did all kinds of crazy research. When I found out what he actually was, I went, “Oh, my God, that’s why he’s here.” I didn’t know why he kept showing up until that moment. For me, I just let the characters do what they do. I don’t have to think of 10 things, I just have to question the 10 things that my characters keep saying to do. I’m like, “That’s a terrible idea.” They’re like, “Well.”

Sarina: That’s the kind of surprise that we’re looking for ultimately, isn’t it? 

Katie: Yeah.

Sarina: I don’t know what things are like in your corner of the world. [00:16:00] Has lockdown affected how you approach writing at all?

Katie: No. Only because I’m kind of– at the time COVID happen– Ah, I can’t actually say that, because I just gotten back from traveling from Europe when literally lockdown happened two days later, and they said, “Guess what? No one’s going anywhere.” It affected my daily life in my work, but it did not affect my writing schedule since I write at night, if that makes sense. But I did definitely get really lonely, because I’m very social, and I have groups of friends that I would get to see, and my routine got thrown that way. So, I definitely had some days where I didn’t write because I was sad that I couldn’t hug my friends or see someone. Yeah, it didn’t affect my [00:17:00] actual, “This is when I write,” that kind of a thing.

Sarina: I’m surprised a little bit because– well, this was a question that someone in my reader group had asked that when I first decided to do these interviews, I asked my reader group and on Twitter and on Instagram, if people had any questions that they would like writers to answer, and this was one of the things that one of my readers had asked in my Facebook reader group. Well, I think we both probably thought that more people would say, “Oh, yeah. At first, I couldn’t really write at all,” or just that it had affected us in some way. From what I’ve seen so far, most of us, if anything, I found it beneficial for writing. [crosstalk] 

Katie: Yeah, I was actually going to say I found more solace in writing– or solace? I think that’s it. 

Sarina: Depends [crosstalk] you are. 

Katie: Right. I found it nicer to escape the world by writing, definitely more [00:18:00] than the normal. I would say it helped me write a bit more than I normally was because I was busy with friends, or doing things or X, Y, Z. Because I couldn’t handle who we had as a president happening, I was constantly just diving into writing and reading to escape, which is pretty much what you do.

Sarina: It’s what all writers do, right? 

Katie: Yeah. 

Sarina: It is the best therapy, it’s the greatest cave. Writing is good for so many things.

Katie: Yeah, and reading. Lots of reading and writing.

Sarina: If the lockdown gets to you again, and you feel lonely again, let me know, we can talk more about our old English teachers. [chuckles] 

Katie: Perfect. 

Sarina: What writing program do you use? Do you use Word? Do you use Google Docs? Scrivener? Something else? [00:19:00]

Katie: I use Word because I’m, I guess, old school. Really, I just don’t like things telling me what to do. I don’t like being reminded, “You’re using this word too much.” I tried to use one of those programs, because I happen to be using a dialect, there was a word that came up a lot because that’s just how they talk. They were like, “Did you know you use this word five times?” I’m like, “Leave me alone. It’s their thing. It’s their catchphrase. It’s what they say. It’s a dialect.” They were like, “But you’re using it a lot.” I’m like, “Because they say it at the end of their sentences.” I didn’t like seeing the red squiggly lines or the little reminders, and I went, “I’m done. I can’t. I don’t like people telling me what to do, anyway. I don’t need a fake computer program telling me what to do.” I didn’t do Scrivener. I like Word because I feel a bit more freeform on it. That’s why I use, and it has a [00:20:00] thesaurus, which I really like. My thesaurus is good on Word. [laughs] 

Sarina: I think writing dialect is quite hard as well, so good on you for tackling that.

Katie: Thank you. When I went to Ireland, I listened really carefully to dialects. It’s important to me to get things accurate and right, especially how people talk. I found it really interesting because in the part of Ireland I was at, they use a very specific phrase. In another part, they reverse it. 

Sarina: Oh.

Katie: [crosstalk] -from one starts the begin– it’s all very like that and my computer program would say, “Oh, well, you’re using that word a lot.” I’m like, “because it’s how they talk.” I had one person say, “Well, we don’t talk that way.” But I literally have recordings of this is how they talk, you say this, this much.” They’re like, “Well, we really don’t.” I’m like, “No, you really do. I have the recordings to show [00:21:00] it.” I found that really interesting, just to pick up the dialects and dialogue and word choices, fascinate me. That’s why I like languages. I learn languages too.

Sarina: Oh, I love learning languages.

Katie: Right. It’s so fun. I would get the computer programs, it’d be like, “You’re saying this wrong.” Or, “You’re saying it a lot.” I’m like, “Well, go away.”

Sarina: Which languages do you speak? 

Katie: My major in college was American Sign Language, I was going to be an interpreter.

Sarina: Wow. Oh, I would love to learn sign language.

Katie: It’s super fun. I can’t teach it to you because you would have to learn British Sign Language, which is 900 times different than American’s. 

Sarina: Is it, really?

Katie: Yep. Each country has a different system for sign language.

Sarina: Oh, I had no idea.

Katie: Then, I speak Japanese. I was trying to learn Gaelic, but that’s really hard unless you have someone speaking it to you. Then, I was learning Farsi, I still am. I speak [00:22:00] Spanish-ish.

Sarina: I’m currently trying to teach myself with Duolingo, which is a great app by the way, not sponsored. I’m currently using it to try to learn Spanish and Japanese.

Katie: Is it Spain Spanish? Or is it Mexican Mexico Spanish?

Sarina: I think it’s probably Spain Spanish.

Katie: Where you have a lisp? 

Sarina: I think so. I’m on the first lesson, but– [laughs] 

Katie: For instance, in Spanish, if you were in Mexico or in a lot of parts of South America, it would be si, S-I. In Spain, it’s thi, with T-H.

Sarina: Oh. Just a few small differences in there, depending on whether it’s a male speaker or female speaker. 

Katie: Oh, yeah, because it’s Latin based, everything male or female. I had to interpret one time for people who were from Spain, because I could speak Spanish. I understand it really well, because of where I grew up. Speaking it can [00:23:00] sometimes be hard for me. It took me a hot minute to help translate because I realized– they said, “Do you speak Spanish?” I said, “Yeah, I can speak it pretty well.” I had to readjust my brain and really concentrate because they were from Spain. Anything that with an S sound was a TH and so you have to re– and they have a lot of S words. So, I had to adjust how they were saying things and then translate it into Spanish I knew, it was crazy.

Sarina: Yeah, it can certainly be quite difficult. I’ve had a weird situation last night where I was listening to my mom on the phone who speaks German while I was trying to talk to my partner in English, and my brain got a little bit confused doing that, but it was fine. I managed.

[chuckles] 

Sarina: Anyway, moving on. I don’t think people are here to [00:24:00] talk about languages, are we?

Katie: Right. Yeah, I will literally talk about languages all day. 

Sarina: I can. Every time I do one of these interviews, it gets all carried away, talking about something different. What are three important things you need to have when you’re writing? I mentioned a big cup of tea, use one of them [unintelligible [00:24:16] you can get it?

Katie: Yeah, big cup of tea, music with earphones. I can’t listen to it outwardly, I like having it inwardly. It helps just my world into the paper and music. Three things, and a fluffy place to sit. I don’t like hard chairs. Even when I go to my coffee house before pre-COVID, the coffee house I go to has couches and comfy chairs and that’s where I sit. 

Sarina: That sounds nice. 

Katie: It’s really nice. It’s all open windows and really friendly staff and lounge chairs. It’s really the best. It’s awesome. They do poet readings [00:25:00] and book readings on Fridays, twice a month, before COVID. 

Sarina: Yeah. It’s the disclaimer we currently have to add to everything. 

Katie: Yeah. Pre-COVID, I was not there, this did not happen last week.

[laughter] 

Sarina: When you listen to music, do you need instrumental music like me? Or can it have lyrics?

Katie: I actually curate a listening or like a playlist, because certain music, certain songs set the tone for me. I only need those four or five– That’s not true, I think I have 13 songs on one track. I will have certain songs for scenarios I know I’m going to have. It’s more about mood. Sometimes, it’s lyrics because it helps me get my character or the situation, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s exactly the situation,” and I need that music and those lyrics to help me really drive that home. It was really fun writing this last romance novel, [00:26:00] because it’s historical romance, like you know, Sarina but I literally use modern day music. I was like, “Why am I doing this? Why [crosstalk] classical music. It’s Victorian era.” They’re like, No, you definitely want some R&B,” and I was like, “Well, I guess that’s what we’re doing today.”

Sarina: If this is just the attitude that your characters want to have, then I guess that’s what you’re going with.

Katie: Yep, exactly. 

Sarina: I don’t suppose it’s really easy now to find good Victorian music on YouTube.

Katie: I love music of all kinds. I listened– I looked up Victorian era music because they do have records and they have other things, or people by the time records came out that still had the musical pages and stuff, so they recreated it with the instruments with the– and it is now my favorite.

Sarina: Fair enough. R&B, it is.

Katie: Yeah, I know. [00:27:00]

Sarina: I think we’ve already touched on that a bit, but what do you do when writing gets difficult, when you hit a roadblock?

Katie: I don’t write and I get really mad about it. I’ll read. I’ll either read comics, or I’ll read books. I’ll talk to friends. Generally, I whine at friends, and say, “Why isn’t it working? What am I doing wrong?” Then, eventually, I get over it, then I write. Usually, it’s because I’m trying to think– the last time I had blocks, it was because I didn’t understand my main character, and what it ended up being– and I had a block for three months, four months, because I was trying to make her be someone she wasn’t. The main character– the love interest for the main character is very– it’s Mr. Darcy, so very quiet, stuck up, proper, like, “Ugh, people.” [00:28:00] She was supposed to be Lizzie because it’s a loose interpretation of Pride and Prejudice. I wanted her to be witty and funny, and she was serious. I can’t have two serious main characters. I can’t do that. I tried to force her to be something she wasn’t. It took four months of being really scared of that I would have to delete like 20,000 words, and start– 

I “sat down” with my character and was like, “All right, let’s face this, and talk about why you won’t be funny.” Essentially, she said, “Just let me be serious and it’ll be funny.” I kind of had to trust that, which was really hard. I realized in making her serious, all of the catastrophes that happened to her, make her look like she’s not to the love interest. [00:29:00] Like that timing. For instance, she’s very put together, she’s everyone’s mom. She’s like the rock. She makes sure everyone’s not doing stupid things. Every time Alex meets her, she’s trying to help her friend out of a situation that looks terrible, like she doesn’t have her stuff together. I swear, I’ve got this and she’s like, “Sure.” She’s like, “No, I’m a very responsible person.” She’s like, “Oh, sure you are. Sure, you’re very responsible person.” It ended up working well, but I ended up with that writer’s block, because I refused to listen to– essentially my intuition of what my book actually needed. Facing that can be hard, but you have to do it.

Sarina: Just figure out what your characters really want. I had one character I was trying to write to who I just couldn’t figure out at all. I did what you did. I said, “Right, we’re going to have a sit down, and we’re going to talk this through because I need you to be in this book.” I realized through that– [00:30:00] well, not even through him because he just won’t talk to me. I talked to another character who had known him really well. This other character said, “Well, he’s just really secretive. He doesn’t like talking to people. He’s immensely paranoid and he’s created all these different personas so that if he’s tired of one way of life, he can basically escape into a different one. No one really knows this guy.” That’s when you click that, maybe that’s just his thing, that he is so mega secretive, and it’ll be part of my writing it that’ll help me get to know who he is, because my characters have to figure it out. 

Katie: Yeah. 

Sarina: We’ll hopefully figure it out together, because I still haven’t written that much of the work in progress. I’m still full of hope.

Katie: That’s going to be fun. I would say just let him do it because, yeah, like you were saying, you’ll probably just find out his actual problem or his actual thing, because you’re writing it. 

Sarina: He’s the main villain, so I know what he’s done. [00:31:00] But I don’t necessarily know yet why he’s doing it because he won’t talk to me. I’m hoping that my characters are going to come across a letter or recording or something and that’ll explain it.

Katie: Yeah, the characters are so annoying. 

Sarina: Seriously. Do your friends ever do that? My partner always says, “How can you not know what happens? You’re writing it.” I’m like, “It’s not that simple.”

Katie: Yes. 

Sarina: Yeah, I know, I’m writing it but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing.

[chuckles] 

Katie: Right. Most of my friends and the beta readers that I have know that that’s how I– know that I’m just beginning, middle, end, and I can’t tell them what’s going to happen because I don’t know, so they don’t bother asking anymore. got it. I’m like, “Okay.”

Sarina: The next question, it’s a bit of a mean one, but I think it’s probably the first thing that people ask us when we tell them that we’re writers. Where does your inspiration come from, Katie? [00:32:00]

Katie: The ether.

[laughter] 

Katie: It comes from a thousand different voices in my head. My inspiration is a lightning bolt idea that has probably been months in the work in the back of my head without me realizing it. I don’t know many authors that– and by many, I mean any that operate how I do. A good 40% of my stories come from extremely vivid dreams I have. I’ve had dreams where it’s a series, and I will dream of it chronologically for a week. I call it an instant download, usually I’ll something, or saying something or whatever. Immediately, an idea will drop in my head. [00:33:00] Then within, I don’t know, 10 minutes, it’s a fully formed story with characters that are complex and deep and whatever. Probably, what’s really going on is, for months, my brain has been just doing something in the back and then just waits for the right moment and then goes, “There you go.” You actually were doing it, but it really genuinely feels like an instant download of a book where they’re like, “Here you go fully formed.” Any questions I have, they’re like, “Here’s the answer.” 

Sarina: Well, now it just sounds like the Gods favor you. [laughs] 

Katie: I have been told that multiple times.

Sarina: It sounds just a little bit like a divine spark, and how dare you? [laughs] 

Katie: Right. I know. It creeps me out sometimes, I’m not going to lie.

Sarina: Some people are just born to be writers, aren’t they? Clearly, you’re one of them. 

Katie: To be fair, I was storytelling before I could write [00:34:00] because I come from a family of storytellers. My dad would make up stories all day in his head and then tell them to us for bedtime. That’s what he would do all day because we lived in the middle of nowhere half the time. I’d see him staring and just like have this weird look on his face, I’m like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, “I’m just thinking of part of the story that I’m going to tell you tonight.” Then, he would just like just keep staring off into the mountains, I’m like, “All right,” and I don’t know, go play with dirt or something. 

Sarina: [laughs] 

Katie: He’d always come up with these stories. I come from a family of storytellers. I was telling stories as a kid, and then I could write and I wrote “my first book” when I was in second grade. Then for extra credit, I wrote a sequel. I was like eight years old. I was like, “I’m going to write a sequel,” because I read a ton of books. I’ve always loved telling stories. I loved reading because books were my only friends as a kid, [00:35:00] barely literally. I don’t know why I get to have all these instant download ideas where they’re just like, “Here you go.” I got lucky, I guess. I know that I do work. Oftentimes, and writers this happens a lot, too, I can look extremely lazy to people because I’m just on my– I’m watching something or I’m reading something, and it looks like I’m being lazy, but it’s all progress. It all goes into the creative well. In a few months, something instant downloads and now, “Here’s the story. Okay, now write it for the next two months.”

Sarina: Well, Katie, I don’t know who the gods of creativity and inspiration are, but I think they like you.

[laughter] 

Katie: Cool. 

Sarina: We can’t argue with that.

Katie: It’s to make up for my height. I’m only five foot even. I guess they were like, “Well, we feel bad for you. Here, have some extra inspo.”

[00:36:00]  

[laughter] 

Sarina: I already know that your beverage of choice is tea when you can get it. Do you snack while you write and research? 

Katie: No. 

Sarina: Okay.

Katie: I don’t snack when I write because I wear earbuds and I can hear the sound of chewing if I have earbuds, so I don’t eat.

Sarina: Do you hate the sounds of chewing too?

Katie: Yeah.

Sarina: Oh, my God. Me too!

Katie: [crosstalk] -with the earbuds, but, yeah, no, it doesn’t really [unintelligible [00:36:24] [crosstalk] 

Sarina: I’m mostly okay with my own. I just hate it when I can hear other people chew.

Katie: Well, usually I can block it out, but when I can’t, it– 

Sarina: Yeah, but when I wear earphones– no. I’m normally fine with myself, but when I wear earphones, it gets out on us, I just disgust myself now. 

Katie: Yeah, I know. I try not to think about it, and then it’s fine.

Sarina: Okay. I guess we can mostly skip that. We’ve already said that you do listen to music while you write. So, thank you for preempting that question.

Katie: You’re welcome. I try to double whammy it. [00:37:00]

Sarina: This is going to be possibly a really big question, and I’ve had some swearing when I’ve asked this. Which book has inspired you the most?

Katie: As in to like be a writer?

Sarina: Either to be a writer or to write a specific book or just in general in life.

Katie: I know exactly which book actually. 

Sarina: Oh, go on. 

Katie: I read the Alanna series in sixth grade. I think they call it The Lioness Quartet. It’s by Tamora Pierce. It’s four books. At the very end, after I’d finished all four books, I very, very distinctly recall that I was laying on my bed and I closed the book and I was crying, and I looked at the ceiling, feeling like all the emotions ever as a 12-year-old going, “Oh my God, there’s just too many complex feelings.” But the one that kind of rang out the most was, [00:38:00] “I want to do that. I want to make someone feel how I’m feeling right now.”

Sarina: That’s lovely. I love everyone’s stories of what made them decide that they wanted to be a writer. 

Katie: Yeah. I wrote as a kid just because I liked telling stories, to I wanted to write and to write for others because of Tamora Pierce’s book. I wanted to make other people feel that way.

Sarina: I have to look them up.

Katie: Oh, they’re fantastic. I reread them. I mean I reread them anyways, but I had not read them in a long time a number of years ago. I was like, “I wonder if they’re as good as what my like 12-year-old self-thought.” I went and reread them, and they held up, they are so good. She’s actually the reason I write characters the way I do. The Alanna book, she is a flawed character. [00:39:00] She has flaws. She has a temper. She’s impatient. She’s not perfect. She curses at the gods a lot. They’re like, “We’re going to punish you.” She’s like, “Bring it on. I don’t care.” [crosstalk] “-do but too late now. Guess, I’ll just keep yelling at them.” She was flawed and it led to problems in the book and she had to be held accountable for those problems. 

Actually, one of the things was, she’s supposed to be a healer, it’s like a gift, it’s rare and if you get it, it’s a real gift, and she’s like “But I want to be a knight. I don’t want to heal people. I don’t want to kill people. I don’t want this.” The gods were literally, like, “No, but you have to because it’s good for your soul. You’re going to have to do this.” She’s like, “Well, make me.” 

Sarina: [chuckles] Oh, I like her.

Katie: Oh, she’s great. I had never up until that point read such a flawed character, where it was both a good thing and a bad thing and [00:40:00] that, for me, made me made sure every character I write has a flaw. They have to have a flaw, to me. 

Sarina: All character should have flaws anyway, because otherwise it’s just not realistic. 

Katie: We don’t need Mary Sues.

Sarina: Hell no. It’s boring. 

Katie: Yeah.

Sarina: We’re all flawed as people anyway, some more, say, than others. We’re all flawed. It only makes sense that characters are flawed. I think I once read a book where the main character was perfect in every way, and you just can’t relate to that. No one can.

Katie: Nope. I also don’t like it when they have flaws. I understand sometimes your flaw is also your strength. I found in YA books of recently in the past maybe seven years or so, that they have they’re practically perfect, or the flaw that they have is the thing they needed all along to defeat X, Y, Z. I’m they’re going like, “No, that should have been a thing that is the reason why they failed and it broke them, and now they have to deal with [00:41:00] the consequences because of that flaw.” That’s what Alanna had to do. She had to deal with the consequences of her actions and her flaws. That to me, I think you should– I think if you have flaws, and they get you in trouble, there shouldn’t be an easy out. I don’t think that your flaw should always necessarily be the thing that saves the day, necessarily.

Sarina: You’re really making me want to read these books.

Katie: They’re really good. She’s a master storyteller, honestly.

Sarina: I will look forward to them if I can squeeze them in some way in my ever-growing, possibly crushing to-be-read pile.

Katie: Oh, no. Well, I will say the Alanna series is shorter though because it was written a little bit a while ago, and so they were– I think the original book is like 300 pages or 280 pages or something.

Sarina: Okay, that’s short.

Katie: Yeah, because YAs used to be shorter, and they’re not anymore, but they used to be shorter, and so you could easily [00:42:00] probably read that book in a day or two.

Sarina: I don’t trust that I could, I’m a very slow reader. 

Katie: I don’t know how fast you read, I’m just saying–

Sarina: I’m a slow reader. 

Katie: Oh, you’ll finish it in a week then.

[laughs] 

Sarina: Thank you for your confidence. 

Katie: You’re welcome. It’s what I do.

Sarina: On a similar note, do you have a favorite book on the craft of writing?

Katie: Honestly, I have not read any [crosstalk] writing them. I know that Stephen King’s book is really good– the things– I have like ever passages from his how to be a writer books. They’re really useful. I would definitely recommend it. I see why people recommend it. He’s very no nonsense and doesn’t bullshit you. I like him. The parts that I have read I’ve really liked and I do want to read his book. I should just read it. 

Sarina: It is really good. I read it some years ago, and every year [00:43:00] I think I’m going to make this like an annual pilgrimage thing where every April I will read On Writing again. [unintelligible [00:43:06] ones. It is really good and it is really funny as well. I think if you’re into audiobooks, you might consider that because he narrates it himself. 

Katie: Oh, you know what? I’ll do that. I actually don’t usually do audiobooks. I actually don’t like them, and that sounds really awful because I have friends who are audio narrators.

Sarina: I think quite a lot of people either just don’t get on with it for one reason or another.

Katie: For me, because I have a vivid imagination, I hear characters voices when they talk. If I have a male protagonist or whatever, and it’s a female talking, I can’t. It totally ruins for me because I can hear their voice in my head. It’s very distinct. To have a girl being a boy, I can’t. 

Sarina: Doesn’t work.

Katie: Yeah, but I appreciate them. [00:44:00] I know how hard it is to be a narrator for audiobooks. I know, I have friends who do it, and they’re fantastic, and it’s hard. I them and they’re amazing. Thank God people like listening to them. I can’t. [laughs] 

Sarina: I don’t think you’d have quite the same issue with this one, because it’s just Stephen King reading his own biography basically.

Katie: Exactly, I’m good with that. 

Sarina: Just reading his own writing advice. I haven’t listened to the whole audiobook, but I know the paperback is really funny. I can only imagine how much of a hoot the audiobook would have to be.

Katie: I know, right? Yeah. You know what? I think I will do that.

Sarina: I’m looking forward to your reply to our last question, which is, do you have any advice for people wanting to establish a writing routine or struggling to establish a writing routine?

Katie: Well, I’m going to caveat this with [00:45:00] no one writing routine works for everyone. No one should copy mine, mine’s unhealthy. Don’t do what I do. Don’t do it. But I would say, from experience, from actual literal experience, the best thing you can do, especially when you’re scared, is to just do it. I have stared down at my computer having to look at the little word icon saying, “I can open it,” and I’ll spend 10 minutes just staring at it, knowing I have to open it and I sometimes psych myself out. It’s important to start. When I get intimidated, I ask myself, “If you don’t write it, who is?” [00:46:00] At a really young age– I’m from a big Irish family, and so someone’s always dying. I was going to as a kid, that’s just how it is, that’s fine. But I knew from a young age, time is short. I didn’t want to spend my life filled with regret, looking back and wishing, “Oh, I wish I’d done that.” I try my utmost to do things that I don’t regret when I look back. I want to look back and be like, “Good job, me. Good job” with as little regret as possible, I don’t want to have a whole bunch of it. 

If you think at the end of the day, and you’re 85 or 90 or 100, on your deathbed, is not writing the book or hitting send to a query going to be that regret? [00:47:00]

Sarina: That’s beautiful, Katie.

Katie: [chuckles] Thanks. I know it’s scary. New things are scary. Doing something big is really scary. It takes a lot of effort. Even to just push then, that is a big effort to do. The first time I hit send for my query, I laughed and cried at the same time, while I just stared at my thing going, “Just push send. Just push send!” I couldn’t do it for five minutes. Well, I just cried. Then, I know I’m going to regret it, and I pushed it. I would say my writing advice is just do it. You do not have to write every single day. You do not have to write when you’re sad. You do not have to write when you’re depressed, but you should anyway. 

I’ve had a few conversations with writers before on Twitter, where they said, “Well, I’m really tired. I had four kids that I had to [00:48:00] put down and I just got back from work and I had to do laundry. I know I should write, but I’m so tired.” I was like, “Then don’t write,” and but then I feel guilty that I’m not writing. I’m like, “Well, does you not writing for a day not make you a writer? You’re still a writer.” Your mental health is so much more important than your writing is. It really is. You can’t write if you’re dead. Take your mental health breaks. You are still a writer. If you don’t write for a week or a month or six months, I’m still a writer. I have published books, and I won’t write for like a year, that doesn’t make me less of an author or less of a writer. Starting is hard. Opening up Word is hard, writing gets easier.

Sarina: There you go. Thank you. That’s really beautiful [00:49:00] note to end on, I think. Just one little thing I would like to add to that, with what you said of just start, is I think for many people, when they first think that they want to write a book is that immediate fear of, “But what if no one wants to read it once it’s published? What if no one wants to publish it?” Look, you haven’t even started writing the thing yet. If you’ve written it and you don’t want to publish it, that’s fine. It’s fine to just write a book just to write a book. No one ever has to read it if you’re not comfortable with that at the end. It’s fine to really just write for the fun of writing. Don’t even think about putting that pressure on yourself, especially when you’re only just starting. No one needs to write this thing if you don’t want anyone to read this thing when it’s done. You don’t have to publish it just because you’ve written it.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. 100%.

Sarina: It can totally just be your passion project if that’s what you want it to be. There’s no obligation at all to publish your book just because you’ve written the book.

Katie: Yeah. Every book is practice. 

Sarina: Yeah. [00:50:00] Probably also therapy to a small degree, but not when you’re already feeling exhausted. If you need a break, take a break.

Katie: Exactly. 

Sarina: I don’t think we can repeat that often enough. [laughs] 

Katie: Yeah, take a mental health break. It’s okay. 

Sarina: Please, please do, it’s fine. I think that’s a good note to end it on. Thank you so much for having this chat with me and for letting us know what your writing routine looks like. Thank you so much.

Katie: Yeah. You are so welcome. Sorry that I don’t have one. That’s very good– [crosstalk] 

Sarina: Okay. I think this will hopefully resonate with lots of people and show them that you do not need to write every day. It’s fine to do you.

Katie: Yep. 

Sarina: All right. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for stopping by. 

Katie: Thank you, Sarina.

Sarina: Bye.

Katie: Bye.

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer[00:51:00] at Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter and of course, on my website, sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 26 | Your Team of Pros: Your Cartographer with Glynn Seal

This week I had the great pleasure of talking to my cartographer Glynn Seal from MonkeyBlood Design. He has done every map for my novels so far, and in this episode, he talks about how to find the right cartographer for your bookish map, what to know before you hire someone, and more!

You can find out more about Glynn and get in touch via his Twitter and his website.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[intro]

Sarina: Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow Podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Welcome back, friends and sparrows. It’s the 8th of March 2021. This is Episode 26. Today, I have a special guest, because it’s my cartographer, Glynn Seal. He’s done the beautiful maps for all of my books. He’s somehow done it from the terrible sketches I gave him. Welcome to my podcast, Glynn.

Glynn: Hello. Thank you very much for having me.

Sarina: Thank you so much for making the time to be here. I think you’ve been quite busy lately.

Glynn: Yes. There’s quite a lot going on. I’ve just [00:01:00] fulfilled a Kickstarter campaign for a role-playing game book. It’s an adventure for one, but it’s a box set. It contains four books, a couple of bookmarks, two posters. Yeah, there were 300 backers, so that’s a house full of packaging materials, boxes-

Sarina: Oh, congratulations. It sounds a-

Glynn: -type. Yeah, it is. 

Sarina: -lot of caffeine is necessary.

[laughter] 

Glynn: Yeah, Pepsi Max all the way. 

Sarina: [laughs] 

Glynn: Yeah, that’s been pretty much full-on. While that’s been going on, I have not been keeping up with the commissions and stuff, so I’m back onto the commissions now. So, yeah, very busy.

Sarina: I appreciate you making the time to have a chat with me.

Glynn: Yeah, no problem at all. I’m glad to talk to you.

Sarina: First of all, tell me a little bit more about what you do because [00:02:00] I think the bookish maps that you’ve done for me aren’t what you would normally do. I think usually you work more with game designers and people like that, is that right?

Glynn: Yeah. Primarily– MonkeyBlood Design is two parts, really. There’s my webstore, which sells role-playing game books and materials. Then, there’s the freelancing side of things, which is commissions, mainly for RPG books, but also for authors like yourself. The bulk of the freelancing work is definitely for RPG materials, though, which– my background is in technical drawing and kind of role-playing games from about 1985. [00:03:00] I guess, this was almost a destiny-

[laughter] 

Glynn: -of sorts that I was going to end up here. But prior to about four or five years ago, I was working in the security industry.

Sarina: Oh, wow.

Glynn: And worked for a company for 29 years, and started off doing drawing work on the drawing boards. Then, it turned into CAD, then became project engineering, then project management. I’ve run the whole gamut of jobs within that company.

Sarina: Yeah, you’ve done a bit of everything there.

Glynn: Yeah. Where I am now, which is working for myself full time.

Sarina: Which is the dream.

Glynn: [00:04:00] Yeah, it is the dream really. I’m really lucky to be in the position that I’m in. I see that the 29-year career, all of the things that I learned from that, like project management, the technical drawing side of things, all of those have combined with a love of role-playing game stuff to end up where I am now. So yeah, I see that this must have been a destiny. [crosstalk] [laughs] 

Sarina: It certainly seems like everything has sort of led up to this point.

Glynn: Yeah. I’ve always wanted to do something with role-playing games, but never realized I could potentially make it a career. [00:05:00] It was only when I’d had enough of the security industry that I realized that maybe I could because I’ve got all these other skills that I’d learned. That meant that I could manage projects, run Kickstarters, I know how to budget things and how to run a project. Yeah, it’s all worked out. I’m feeling very privileged and very lucky.

Sarina: Well, I know from personal experience that you have an awful lot of skill that you put into the maps that you do, because everything that you’ve done for me is just so beautiful. You say you’re quite lucky though, but really is probably also a lot of really hard-earned success.

Glynn: Well, yeah. I definitely work hard. 

[chuckles] 

Glynn: All the work long hours. I think anybody will tell you that working for yourself is a full-time [00:06:00] job above and beyond the normal 9 to 5. 

Sarina: It really is. 

Glynn: Yeah, I get up and work all day and work all evening. No, the evenings are spent mainly doing-[unintelligible [00:06:13]

[laughter] 

Glynn: -for all the things that I do during the day. Yeah, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sarina: Would you say that creating a map for an author like myself is any different to creating a map for a roleplay game?

Glynn: No, not really. I think they’re pretty much the same. Normally, you get a sketch of what the author wants. Whether it’s like a real-world map or a very fantasy map will depend on whether I [00:07:00] offer some advice about river and mountains and things like that. The most common thing that I come across is rivers kind of just ending or-

Sarina: I feel like I did that with the first map I sent you. [chuckles] 

Glynn: I can’t remember, it was a little while back. Sometimes, you might have a lake, and then two rivers coming off it, which is not really that common, I don’t think. The way to think about rivers is that they generally start off somewhere high and they’re always trying to get to the lowest point, which is sea level. You’ll have other rivers [00:08:00] that join them on the route down to the sea. If you always think about water wanting to get to the lowest possible point, which is sea level, then you can design your rivers to go from the mountains and hills and flow down. They might collect in a lake at some point, but then when that lake fills up enough to breach over the lowest point then, it will then spill down and carry on its way to the sea. 

If it’s natural geography, then I might make some comments or just provide feedback about why something’s like it is. But other than that, if it’s a lava world with floating castles, then you can have what you like. 

[laughter] 

Glynn: I don’t even question it.

Sarina: It’s things like that I didn’t really consider with my first map [00:09:00] because for me. Geography was one of my weakest subjects in school. When I did my first map, I honestly had no idea what I was doing with it. As I’m sure you know yourself very well, I cannot draw to save my life.

Glynn: To be honest, your sketches were really good. 

Sarina: Really? [crosstalk] 

Glynn: [crosstalk] -some of the sketches that I’ve had.

Sarina: That makes more sense and if it’s in comparison.

Glynn: Yeah, I’ve had some– just like blocks, like mountains and this bit sea. You get the whole list of variants of sketches. 

Sarina: [crosstalk] I think you said at some point to me that once or twice, you’ve only really had a description, rather than [crosstalk] sketch. 

Glynn: Yeah. This is more a role-playing game thing, but [00:10:00] if somebody wants a set of crypts or something, but they might just send me the text of the description from the game. It might say, a rough-hewn set of steps lead down 20 feet into a 30-foot square room, and there’s a door to the north and a door to the east. I read through the descriptions and then sketch something out based on what I think the author meant, and then send it to them just to check. Then, they’ll say, “Ah, yeah, you covered it wrong, it should look like this.” “Yeah, you’re right. Okay, brilliant,” and do the map.

Sarina: Wow. All right. So, you even kind of get to design a little bit what it’s going to look like?

Glynn: Yeah. Some of the work that I do is colorwork. All artists tend to have a style. [00:11:00] If normally people will come to me because they already know my style and how I draw things, there’s no expectation for it to mimic a certain type of way to do it. Although I’m working on a map at the moment, and it’s for a French RPG publisher, they’ve had a map done in a very distinct style. What they want is the new map to be in pretty much the same style. The warning that what we say is, it won’t look exactly the same, because I don’t have access to the same textures and overlay and brushes and things like that, but I can generally get it something close [00:12:00] to what they want. I’ve had an email this morning to say, “Oh, yes, that’s perfect.” 

Sarina: Oh, great. That’s a lot of pressure off.

Glynn: Yeah, those are the jobs with the most pressure where somebody wants something in a very specific style because the chance of getting it exact is nil. You’ll get something close because you don’t have access to all the assets the person who created the original map had. Like a Middle Earth map. I can draw a Middle Earth map, and it will look something like a Middle Earth map, but it wasn’t drawn by Tolkien. 

Sarina: No, it’ll be a new style. 

Glynn: [crosstalk] -Middle Earth map. Yeah, you need Tolkien to draw it.

[laughter] 

Sarina: It might be difficult these days, but–

Glynn: I’m definitely not Tolkien. Yes.

Sarina: When I first started to build my team five something years ago, [00:13:00] I for some reason, really struggled to find a cartographer the most. I had a list of cover designers to email and I just bumped into my editor on Twitter, so I didn’t need to do any searching at all with her. But when I looked into cartography, I found a lot of really high-profile, professional sites. Obviously, yours is professional as well, but I didn’t really find anything for fiction really, if that makes sense.

Glynn: Yeah. Not to do myself out of any future work, what I would tend to– if I was looking for an artist for illustrations for something in particular, the way to think of cartography is to not think of it specifically as cartography, to think of it as illustration, because that’s basically what it is. It’s just illustration [00:14:00] of a particular thing, like some people do character art really well and some people do scene, landscapes really well, and some people do cartography really well. I would visit places like ArtStation or DeviantArt and do a search for maps or cartography and see what pops up. There will be any number of people, and then you just choose a style that you really like or find a few artists whose styles you like, and then approach them and find out. But yeah, if you search for cartographers– I’m not sure where I would come up in the list. [chuckles] There’s a lot of them out there.

Sarina: You must have been somewhere on the first two pages, at least of [00:15:00] my Google results at the time because I literally just googled ‘cartographer,’ possibly ‘bookish cartographer.’ I don’t remember because it’s honestly so long ago at this point, but I don’t remember where I came across the idea that I should have a cartographer for my fantasy novel. It was mostly because all the fantasy books that I read, because they had maps and I thought [crosstalk] cartography and they are thanking a cartographer in their book, therefore, this is what I should search for. But it never occurred to me to look on places like DeviantArt, which is weird, because I spent many years of my life on DeviantArt, but it never had occurred to me to look there. That makes way more sense than what I did.

Glynn: Yeah, like I say, when I’m looking for a particular art– I’ve done it recently for something that I’m working on. One of them is a DeviantArt artist, and one’s an ArtStation artist and [00:16:00] their work is mind blowing, but the mind blowing comes with the cost.

Sarina: That it does.

Glynn: That’s another important point, which is, if something looks really detailed and looks like there’s hours of work being put into it, that’s because there’s hours of work being put into it. The hours that people spend doing something cost money, in the same way that you’d pay anybody, you pay them an hourly rate. If something’s going to take a whole week to do, eight hours times five, then 40 hours, then that’s a lot of money, because you’re paying for 40 hours of somebody’s time. I think that’s the thing that I [00:17:00] would always say to bear in mind when you’re commissioning art of any kind, and that is– the thing that you really want, that is really hyper-detailed and looks like professionals created it is going to cost probably quite a lot of money, but I’m cheap, so that’s– [crosstalk] 

Sarina: [laughs] But still very good. I think anyone looking into my books can see that, and I’ve got your maps listed on my website, and then we will link to the page on my website that people can actually look at them. Obviously, we will also link to your website in the show notes, it’ll all be in there. 

Glynn: Yeah, brilliant[?]. 

Sarina: Coming back to what you said about, if it looks like hours of work have gone into it, [00:18:00] it’s because hours of work have gone into it. 

Glynn: Yeah.

Sarina: I think too many people maybe who don’t do art themselves, beyond writing, it might look really effortless, but chances are that, as you said, a lot of work has gone into the art, so expect to pay for that kind of skill, because it is a lot of skill at the end of the day.

Glynn: Yeah. Another thing that I saw recently was sometimes you’ll see a map, or I think more– because I know how some of the maps are created, I can see where– if somebody is drawing a mountain, and then they’ve replicated that mountain all over the mountain range, I can see that that’s been done as a bit of a time save, but that’s [00:19:00] not to say that it devalues the amount of hours that have been put into it because what you tend to do is you pay for the– this is a quote that I saw, “You don’t pay for the hours, but you pay for the hours that I spent learning how to do it quicker.” There’s that aspect of it as well, which is– I think with your map, all of that was drawn totally by hand. There’s no shortcuts to creating it, and that tells sometimes because I look at maps and I go, “Oh, they’ve just copied that all the way down,” and I can do that, [00:20:00] but it doesn’t look as good as if somebody has drawn it totally by hand, because I can see that, I know that. Yeah, it’s interesting stuff when you get into it.

Sarina: I remember, your first email when you said, “I’ve got your map for you, it’s ready.” It was so quick as well, by the way, because I think with cover design, you expect that it’ll probably take a month or so and with editing, you definitely expect it to take a bit longer than that, but I think I got your maps always back within a week.

Glynn: Yeah. What tends to happen is, I can have 10 projects– I’ve got a list on my board at the moment. Well, rarely do you get somebody say, “Right. Here’s this is the information, carry on,” [00:21:00] then you pretty much just start and then get to the end and stop and say, “There it is. Do you want any changes?” There’s always things in the way. I might need to do a sketch first just to make sure that I’ve understood it. Then, you send that off and then you have to wait. It can be a week, two weeks sometimes for somebody to come back with some adjustments, because everybody’s got a busy life and they’re all doing things. What happens is, I have gaps quite often in projects that I think are going to take me a whole two weeks. It ends up they take a month or two months, with all of these big gaps in between. What happens is, I end up with space in the workflow to deal with the projects. I can’t quite remember what I was doing at the time that I did your map.

Sarina: It’s been a while.

Glynn: Yes. [00:22:00] Generally at the moment, I can get on to a project within a couple of weeks, make [unintelligible [00:22:10].

Sarina: I wanted to say was that, not that you just knock them out and then that’s it done, but every time then I’ve had your maps come into my emails, they’ve always looked really beautiful, and you can really tell the attention of detail has gone into it. You can tell looking at them that you really enjoy what you do.

Glynn: Yeah. Like I’ve said earlier, it’s probably a bit of a destiny. I was sitting here yesterday, working on– it’s a map of the Greek Empire, kind of fantasy style, because the Kickstarter is out of the [00:23:00] way as well, so I was probably thinking relief. I was actually sitting there thinking, “You know what? I’m pretty lucky to be sitting here doing this today rather than–“

Sarina: It’s a really great feeling. 

Glynn: Yeah. Some days are harder than others, but generally speaking, compared to the previous 29 years in a different career, where the days could be very stressful.

Sarina: I think having had an experience like that really makes you appreciate it when you have something like what you have now because you know what the alternative is.

Glynn: Yeah. I think the last few years of that were getting involved in online groups and sharing pictures of maps I’ve drawn and starting to build up a reputation for the cartography [00:24:00] side of things. I think I’m still working out when I launched the first Kickstarter. Yeah, 100 more things not to do, which is work full time and run a Kickstarter for your first 224-page offline game accessory.

Sarina: Oh, blimey. That seems extremely stressful.

Glynn: Yeah. Having said that, it was also a bit of escape as well. I had to finish the day job, and then I’d get totally distracted by the day job to something else. I was leading up to eventually doing this full time if it could possibly support it. It does, taking into account that the two sides of the business that there currently are, which is the webstore side and the freelancing side.

Sarina: All right. We’ve got two [00:25:00] more questions left, they’re quite similar. What’s something you wish we knew as your clients before we approached the cartographer?

Glynn: I wouldn’t say there’s anything that you need to know. You know your own world better than I do at the point of contact. Any good cartographer or freelancer should be able to work with a client, whatever their needs are, and whatever their skill level in geography or artwork or project management is. A good freelancer should make a [00:26:00] client feel like they’re valued and that you’re really engaged in their project.

Sarina: I’ve always had that with you on every project. I’ve never felt like-

Glynn: Oh, thank you.

Sarina: -you didn’t really care about the map or anything like that.

Glynn: Yeah, no. As soon as I’m sitting down, I want to be there, I want to be in that world, and I want to stand on that hill that I’ve just drawn. What could I see from standing on it? Also, I really enjoy being part of other people’s worlds and helping them imagine them. So, yeah, that’s great.

Sarina: As an editor, I really feel that because I always feel quite honored when an author says to me, “Can I give my book to you so that you can edit it for me?” It’s quite an honor really, because, obviously, our–[crosstalk] 

Glynn: Yeah, it’s a responsibility as well. 

Sarina: Yeah. Well, because our projects are obviously quite important to us, [00:27:00] and many authors refer to their books as their babies. So, I think when I give you my, honestly, really terrible sketches to transform into beautiful maps, and that’s because I trust you to do a good job of it, and because I know that you won’t take it lightly, or that you won’t care about it, I know that you do care, and [unintelligible [00:27:20], I think.

Glynn: Yeah. I’ve heard– people who have been in touch with me said, “I’d like to do this project,” but I’ll confess, I did have somebody else working on it originally, but I sent them an email, and I had some questions and stuff, and then they never responded. 

Sarina: Oh.

Glynn: I just think, “Oh, why?” Lots of things happen in people’s lives and I understand that. But for me, keeping people informed, and just making sure that I didn’t let them down, [00:28:00] that’s a really valuable skill. I learned that when I was project managing that clients don’t like not knowing what’s going on. They don’t like these big long gaps in between communication, because they want to know that something’s happening. Or if it’s not happening, they just like to know. Communication is just massively important, and I’ve heard some horror stories, and I just think, “Oh,” [sighs] [crosstalk] I don’t know how people work like that.

Sarina: I don’t know. I mean, I have worked with some people on different projects before where I did get the results eventually, but they sometimes are quite long gaps where I don’t really hear anything. From my point of view, especially, maybe if it’s the first time you’ve worked with them, there’s always a bit of worry in the back of my head of, did they just completely forget about it? Or, did they just–? [00:29:00] I made that at that point, I probably haven’t paid them anything yet, but there’s always– because I’m quite a paranoid person anyway. There’s always a [crosstalk] worry of– 

Glynn: That’s a good way to be. [laughs] [crosstalk] 

Sarina: I think so. I think there’s always this weird bit of worry of, “Did they just take my money and run, now I will never hear from them again?” Even if I’m–

Glynn: Yeah, and that happens.

Sarina: Yeah, I bet it does. I really appreciate being kept up to date. Even if they do eventually come back to me and then they do give me an update, or they tell me that they are finished with it, when there’s a really long gap, there’s always this worry that maybe they just forgot or maybe something has come up, and you just want to know as a client.

Glynn: Yeah. Just a caveat to something I said earlier about going on to DeviantArt and ArtStation, those people that you find will potentially be people that you don’t know. You don’t even know what country they’re in [00:30:00] insome instances. Doing a bit of due diligence is always worthwhile. Search for the artist in other places. Just make sure that– see if you can get any feedback on them and that kind of stuff. I’ve tried to make sure that my website, and all the stuff that I do, I’ve run eight Kickstarter projects now, and all of that helps build a reputation. That means that people– I hope people come to me, and them worrying about me running off with their money is the last thing they think about, because my online presence is such that it’s not a concern. I’ve got enough positive reviews [00:31:00] and stuff that hopefully that would mean that nobody would think that. [crosstalk] I mean run off with your money. 

Sarina: Yeah, it’s– [crosstalk] [laughs] in writing, it just comes back down to do your research and if anything in that doesn’t feel quite right, don’t do it.

Glynn: Yeah.

Sarina: If you have any concerns–

Glynn: You do get a feeling about some people, and they’re very eager on their first email. Then, it’s a week before you hear of them again, you’re just thinking, “I don’t know whether this is turning out to be the best decision.” [crosstalk] 

[laughter] 

Sarina: Final question. Do you have any words of advice for writers wanting to work with a cartographer for the first time?

Glynn: Yeah. I think we’ve kind of covered some of that in the previous discussions. I would say it’s more about choosing somebody that’s drawing a type [00:32:00] of map, that is the map you want, whether that be a full color, which tend to be more– there’s more style involved in that because of choice of colors and textures, and all that sort of stuff. But yeah, you just want to be comfortable and try and find somebody that’s got some background or history in doing it, and they’re already published, that nobody wants to do stuff and then get a bad reputation. So, if there’s people out there that have worked and got some reputation, they’re going to be highly unlikely to want to tarnish it. Just do your due diligence and pick a style that you’ve seen that that person does, because then you can say, “I want a map, but I want it to look like that one that you did for that.” [00:33:00] Then you can write, “That’s absolutely fine.” Then, send them a sketch. Yeah, and hopefully you get exactly what you wanted.

Sarina: Don’t worry if the sketch is rubbish because mine are too, and you still managed. [chuckles] 

Glynn: Yeah. We’ll turn anything into a map. 

[laughter] 

Glynn: Take a photo of some liner on your kitchen floor or whatever and put some dots on it or something, and we’ll make that into a map. 

Sarina: Maybe on my website, I should include the sketches that I sent you next to the map that you then sent back to me, so people who are interested in hiring a cartographer can really see just how well you can work with something truly awful. [laughs] 

Glynn: No, honestly, your maps were absolutely fine. I’ve had some horror story sketches. Well, sketches is [00:34:00] being kind. [laughs] 

Sarina: I was really surprised to hear that because I really thought, “This is terrible. He won’t see anything in it.” But clearly, I need not worry.

Glynn: Yeah. No, don’t worry at all. You can certainly send me anything and it will end up in a map.

Sarina: Well, thank you very much for stopping by. I really appreciate your time.

Glynn: No problem at all. Thanks so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Sarina: Yeah, thank you so much. Bye-bye. 

Glynn: Okay. See you, bye.

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @Sarina_Langer, at Instagram and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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