The Writing Sparrow Episode 41 | TikTok for Authors with G.R. Thomas

For this week’s episode, I had a chat with G.R. Thomas about how authors can use TikTok to reach new readers and sell more books.

You can find out more about Grace on her websitefind her on Instagram, or follow her on TikTok.

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 and welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 21st of June 2021. This is Episode 41. Today, I’m talking to GR Thomas about TikTok and what it can do for authors. Welcome back, Grace.

Grace: Thanks, Sarina. Great to talk to you again.

Sarina: Always nice to see you. I’m quite curious about this, because everyone’s heard about TikTok, but I feel it’s probably too young for me. [laughs] But, yeah, we’ll see. [00:01:00] I feel it’s maybe not quite the right choice for me, but I’m really excited to see what you’ve got to say about it. We’ve got quite a few questions come in on social media as well, so we’ll get to those too. Yeah, very excited. Let’s dive straight in.

As I said, probably everyone knows of TikTok at this point. It’s somewhat blown up, but for those more technologically challenged among us, like me, could you explain what TikTok is and how you use it?

Grace: Okay, I am a technologically challenged human being and me simply being on TikTok is quite an anomaly. But basically, TikTok is a short video-sharing social media platform. The way it works is advertising is it’s driving force. When you put up a video, [00:02:00] the longer someone watches your video, the more likely your content, whatever that might be, is pushed along by the TikTok algorithms, and that helps you be seen. It’s a platform that has a lot of really interesting stuff, a lot of weird stuff, a lot of stupid stuff. But what I’ve discovered, it has a massive book community. Huge, very untapped.

Sarina: All right, okay, that was going to be one of my questions later on, so we can come back to that. That’s good to hear. So, how long have you been on TikTok now?

Grace: I think it’s around six weeks. That said though, I did look at it a couple of times in the past, and I found it a little overwhelming. I didn’t understand it, and I thought, “I’m an old bag. I don’t know what they’re doing. What are they talking about? I’m not getting on there and doing weird dances and strange things.” [00:03:00] I just didn’t understand it, so I looked away from it. It was only when I kept hearing it pop up in social media chatter that it was a really great platform for authors and readers, I went back and had a look, and I thought, “Oh, well, I’ll just give it a go.”

Sarina: Well, good on you. See, this is where I’m with it. It seems a very strange place. It seems very weird, and I feel like I’m way too old to be on that. I’m only 31, so. [chuckles]

Grace: Well, if I’m on there, you can most definitely be on there. There are people on there who are much, much, much, much, much older than me. There are people who are clearly obviously, much younger than me. But what I think the misunderstanding is, it’s actually not just a young person, teenagers’ platform. There is a lot of business on there. All kinds of businesses, a lot of informative tools [00:04:00] and accounts on there for all kinds of interests. So, it’s not just about teenagers doing stupid, crazy stunts. It’s actually got a much more vast content in there once you get looking around.

Sarina: Okay. Well, that’s news to me, but obviously I haven’t really been on it at all. I’ve tried to stay away from it partially because I’m already so overwhelmed with the few social media sites that I do have that I’m not sure that adding yet another one is the right choice. But I keep swerving between it sounding and looking really fun and very exciting and it just looking like way too much for me. [laughs]

Grace: No, it is fun. I found that it was fun pretty quickly, but it is time consuming. It’s very addictive, very addictive, and it does require you to post very regularly. The positive for me is, [00:05:00] as you know we’ve met through the Instagram community, I can actually share my TikToks onto Instagram and sort of meld those two together, which keeps me connected to that social media. So, at the moment, they’re my two platforms that I just put my time into.

Sarina: Okay, so you can cross post directly from TikTok to Instagram.

Grace: Yeah.

Sarina: Okay, well, I can see how that would make it easier. So, you can kind of post–

Grace: You can share it on Twitter as well. I sometimes share the posts to Twitter as well.

Sarina: Okay, well, that would save quite a bit of time, I imagine. There’s something just now that you’ve mentioned, that brings me to my next question, which is about having to post quite regularly, and you’ve mentioned something earlier as well about how the longer people watch your Toks– [laughs] I don’t know, the more the more pleased the algorithm is with you. I’ve heard from a few [00:06:00] author friends that TikTok has been quite detrimental for their mental health. I was wondering what your experience with this has been. Does it feel more stressful than, say, Instagram?

Grace: I don’t find Instagram stressful at all. Instagram’s always been a really friendly, positive place for me. TikTok, now, at the minute, I find it fun. But, yes, there is that urge that you must post. I usually put three or four videos a day, and I have to think about content that might be of interest, because the whole idea is to get noticed. The only reason I’ve actually stuck with it, Sarina, is because the reaction, the interaction has been enormous. I get almost instant reactions, I’ve had an uptick in sales, that was unexpected. I’ve already had someone [00:07:00] review my book on their account, they’re massive into paperback books. Paperback books is the jam. People review, review, review them.

There’s a massive indie author community on there, and a lot of support. So, that’s what sort of driven me to be more interested and more engaged. Like I’ve befriended you and others on Instagram, there’s already same names cropping up with me, who we chat often and we interact, and then they come over onto Instagram or Twitter, and follow. So, there’s already this really rich networking, I’m discovering. There’s also a lot of really experienced authors on there who put really great tips for writing, writers, and that’s just what’s driving me to keep engaged with it.

Sarina: All right, I’ve got to say, you’re selling it very well.

[laughter]

[00:08:00]

Sarina: As I mentioned earlier, we have quite a few questions that have come in from social media. I’ve got quite a few more after what you’ve just said, to be honest. But I don’t want to preempt any of those. I have a feeling we’re probably going to get to quite a bit of my new questions just from going over that. So, if we get into those, so all of today’s questions have come via Twitter. The first one is from @constantvoice. “How does the book community on TikTok differ from Instagram or Twitter?”

Grace: As I touched on before, it’s more reactive, and I am getting interest and followers and conversion to sales much more surprisingly and rapidly than I ever have on Instagram. So, that has been the big shock to me. I was actually literally just about to pull my books off Kindle Unlimited, [00:09:00] because I just don’t really get much luck on that. I’m suddenly getting all these page rates on Kindle Unlimited, since I joined TikTok. I’ve had people messaged me privately. “Where’s your book?” “I’d love a copy of your book.” As I said, it’s been featured. So, I find the reaction and instantaneousness of it much different to Instagram. I find I get lost in Instagram, I don’t often get shared or seen as much. But this one, I do get that, I suppose, fulfillment and feedback more readily from the BookTok community.

When you hashtag what you’re doing, the hashtags you’re using, there’re billions of views on these hashtags that the community is massive. [00:10:00] I don’t know what it’s like for Instagram, but it just seems a more instant reaction that you get to your posts, particularly if you post something that ticks someone’s box, if you get what I mean.

Sarina: All right. Obviously, on Instagram– Well, it depends who you talk to, I think. Some people will tell you that it doesn’t really matter how many hashtags you use, it’s all about the content. And then, others will tell you that you should probably use all of them, so up to 30 is what it allows you. What do you say that’s just as important on TikTok? How many hashtags would you normally include on–? [crosstalk]

Grace: I use pretty much the same couple of hashtags. Less hashtags is more for TikTok, it’s the content. Again, I have to just say I’m no expert, and I’m very new. What I’ve learned in the time I’ve been there is that people want short, interesting, quick videos. [00:11:00] I did a book review the other day of Becky Wright’s book. I said, “Quick book review,” da, da, da. I did it in less than 10 seconds. I showed the book, said what I loved about it, bang, #IndieAuthorBookTalk, and now my hashtags, and that’s sort of what I do. People want a quick view, an easy view, and you don’t have to put so many hashtags, just something that’s relevant to what you’re posting about. I think it’s a very visual thing. People are looking for something interesting to look at. If they see something interesting as they scroll, because you scroll quick, like you scroll quick, and may stop on something that visually like, “Oh, okay.” If it’s sounding quick and interesting, I’ll stop and watch the whole video. But if it’s something really boring and going so, “Okay, I’ll go past it.” You want something quick and snappy [00:12:00] and interesting, and people will stop, hopefully, and watch the whole video through and then the algorithm supposedly works in your favor.

Sarina: Okay, so what you said there about people generally wanting shorter videos, how long would a normal Tok be?

Grace: When you go on it, there’s 15 and 60 seconds. I follow a few people on there that are social media experts, and they all say, “Do it short and snappy, seven seconds and under, because people have narrow attention span.” That’s common in this day and age on social media. People want quick gratification. I do some that are a bit longer. But when I do longer ones, I do that when I tag in what are the viral like– TikTok is merged with music, so music and sounds are a big part of it. you add in sounds that are [00:13:00] the top sounds, the viral sounds, the up-and-coming sounds, whether they be funny statements, or actual music tracks. If I’m going to do something a bit longer, I’ll usually try and find one of the viral sounds and add that in and then that will usually keep people watching a little bit longer.

Sarina: Okay, so how exactly do you choose the music for– Do you get like a long list? Or, do you just put in whatever you want?

Grace: You can put in whatever you want. You can use your own voice, you can talk, like, there’s some where I talk– [crosstalk]

Sarina: [laughs]

Grace: I’m brave now. It took me a while before it actually put my voice and face on. When you make a video and you press on sounds, you can scroll down, and it actually there’s lists and it says viral, trending, up and coming, new. You can also add things to it. There’s a favorite section. If you watch someone else’s TikTok and they got a song that, or a sound that sounds really cool and fun, and you think, “I could do something with that,” [00:14:00] you can just add that to your favorites list and you can go back to it later when you thought of something that you might want to do, because you can pretty much make a book post out of most songs. I just don’t use songs with swearing and stuff like that, because I write YA. But, yeah, I have a favorites list, and yeah, I try. I didn’t realize at the beginning to go and look for the viral stuff because that’s what people go looking for. I’ve learned that on my way. Trust me, I’ve used my 12-year-old daughter to help me.

[laughter]

Grace: She’s, “Mommy [crosstalk] for this.” Anyone who’s got children or teenagers, they will probably put you on the straight and narrow and then be embarrassed by you.

Sarina: As is your job as parent I think to be embarrassing, that’s how you know you do well.

Grace: Yes.

Sarina: Sounds like TikTok actually makes it quite easy then really to choose good music, let’s call it, to put with your post. So, that’s really nice to see, I think. [00:15:00] Then to move on, our next question is from @VillimeyS. How difficult is it to process/market on TikTok compared to Twitter or Instagram? Now from what you’ve told me, it’s very easy.

Grace: It’s easy. I work the same as I do on Instagram. I don’t just put all the posts about my book, I talk about other things, too, because I think people get bored from people who only saturate their accounts with their own material. You’ve got to, again, support others, market other things, put interesting, different content. But then, it’s as simple as, “Hey, look what I wrote,” or, “I did a thing.” There’s a thing, when you reach 1000 followers on TikTok, the common thing which I discovered pretty quickly is you do a giveaway. So, I did a giveaway. That got a whole lot of interest and got me a whole lot more followers. [00:16:00] That’s actually another thing too with TikTok. I’ve been on Instagram for five years, and I’ve just ticked over 2400 followers. I’ve got nearly 2000 followers on TikTok in six weeks. So, yeah, the interest just seems quicker and easier to get. But, yeah, it’s free to be on, it’s free to market. Yeah, I just think it’s important, like with the other thing, just mix it up with other things and interact with the other authors. Like I said, I have already had someone else pick up my book and showcase my book.

Sarina: It’s very exciting.

Grace: It is. Yeah.

Sarina: I’ve just thought of something to ask– Oh, yeah, there we go. There it is. How much time a day do you spend on TikTok? Because I know with Instagram, for example, it’s recommended that when you post, you don’t hang around for at least 20 minutes and all that, which makes it quite time consuming. Would you say that’s just as important on TikTok? And how much time do you spend on there? [00:17:00]

Grace: Okay, so this is a bit of a loaded answer, because when I started and actually sometimes now, because I’m very camera shy, and I’m like a million years old, and I don’t really know all the clever little tricks, I might sometimes have to do 20 takes or something before I feel it’s not an embarrassing representation of myself. Sometimes, I spend a ridiculous time, making sure that my post looks okay, but that’s just me not wanting to humiliate myself. Like now, I can put up a post in– I mean, I did one just before we started. I literally said, “I’m doing a podcast shortly. Hey, readers out there, is there anything you want to add in that we could help people who are new to BookTok?” And that was it. That took me literally like [00:18:00] 30 seconds to do. If I’m trying to be more creative, it takes me a bit longer. But if it’s just something short and quick, it’ll take me 30 seconds, but I don’t hang around to look for responses or anything like that, because you can actually go in, they’ve got analytics in there, like they do Instagram. I’ve worked out that my biggest audiences in America. What I’ll do, I’ll post stuff, during the daytime, in Australia time, and then I’ll leave it, and then I check in the next morning, and that’s when I see all the interaction overnight when America has been awake, and then I’ll react and interact then.

Sarina: Okay, so it doesn’t punish you for posting and then leaving and coming back to when you know your audience is there. It will still show your posts to those people in other time zones.

Grace: You are not supposed to stays there so my posts get picked up. There’s another thing too so, you have [00:19:00] people you follow and followers, and then there’s this thing called the “for you” page. I’m not adept enough to explain what it is or what it means, but to be on the “for you” page, I suppose is to be on the biggest part of the platform, it’s where the most people see you. If your posts get on the “for you” page, more people have the ability to see you if the algorithm pushes you forward. In terms of going back a bit, hashtagging, when you put on a video, you’re always hashtag “for you” page to hope that your video gets put onto that page. Again, I go back in the analytics and mainly mine are getting on the “for you” page, which is good because then that means my videos are getting pushed out more diversely. That’s my understanding of it. [crosstalk] -I’m wrong, but that’s my understanding of it.

Sarina: Okay. What do you need to do to get pushed onto that “for you” page? Is it [00:20:00] just enough to include that hashtag for it, or is there anything that you can do to appease the algorithm as it were?

Grace: Like I said before, I think it is about people watching your video from beginning to end. If people look at you for a second and scroll by, the algorithm doesn’t like that. They need people to sit and watch that the whole time. It all comes back to money, because however it works, the longer people stay on their platform, the more advertising they can push to consumers. That’s a whole other person’s domain to talk about but yeah, the idea is to keep you on for longer as all social media does. But, yeah, you want people to watch from beginning to end. I was just reading something today where a social media expert said, “Likes and comments on your posts are less important than people watching your video from beginning to end.” That’s why I tend to try and follow the rule of keeping my [00:21:00] posts short and snappy, and either 7 to 15 seconds, but I tried to keep them less.

Sarina: Also, then makes it less effort for you to get the post, I heard if it’s shorter, which is good.

Grace: Yeah. In a way, it’s easier than Instagram. I suppose the Bookstagram community, we got a lot of effort to set up pictures of books and stuff like that. Where on this, you can just say something. You hold up a book and say, “Hey, this was great,” or, “Hey, I’m on page this.” It’s very different from Bookstagram in that, it’s not about holding up pretty pictures and setting up scenes. It’s about your interaction about book.

Sarina: If I grab up a random book off my shelf, Red Rising. Ah, perfect. If I just did this, “Heartbroken, y’all.” That will be great? Oh, my God, I’m doing it. [laughs] [crosstalk] Okay, well. [00:22:00]

Grace: I pick that one, and I would say, “Want your heartbroken? Read this.” Done.

Sarina: Okay, well, that does sound very easy. I think I expected it to be a lot more time consuming to put up a post on there.

Grace: I still do that, I go back and look at other authors and readers and I look at what they do, and just see trends and what seems to work for them and things that I’m actually brave enough to do, to be honest. [laughs]

Sarina: Well, I’m going to have to start stalking your Toks on Instagram to see exactly what you do and start taking notes. Maybe make a spreadsheet.

Grace: I’d probably embarrass myself, but, hey. [laughs]

Sarina: I mean, if it works. It’s all about transparency for me, anyway. So, which is why we’ve heard dogs barking in the background and children come and screaming– I mean, not come and screaming but thinking they were on TV.

Grace: Yes. [laughs]

Sarina: Leaving it all in [00:23:00] about being transparent. Anyway, our next question came from @TLClarkAuthor. Who was the main market on TikTok, and she feels it’s more YA?

Grace: Now, there is a red-hot 18-plus sexy content market on there. My goodness. There is a market for all kinds of books. It is not just YA. There is a huge emphasis at the minute on, the biggies like, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo. Particularly, because her books had been made into the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix. There’s a lot of emphasis on those big popular books. But no, there’s a particular Aussie guy I follow, and he’s just all about fantasy. I’ve actually just bought my first Brandon Sanderson book just because he said he’s the best and he did a rundown of where you should start first. I literally just yesterday got the first book that he recommended. [00:24:00] No, it’s absolutely not heavy YA. There’s everything. In fact, a lot of people who follow me, sexy, XXX kind of authors. So, no, I see a bit of everything there.

Sarina: Okay, that’s very encouraging to hear. I know on Twitter, for example, the horror community is massive. While I have found a few epic fantasy authors on there, who I can talk to about epic fantasy, I think I would find it a lot easier if I just wrote horror, like seemingly everybody else on Twitter. So, that’s encouraging to hear.

Grace: I actually just bought a gothic horror from someone I found on BookTok. It sounded amazing. So, that’s coming tomorrow, I think, so yeah.

Sarina: All right. Well, there we are. One last question from @gambit190. What types of TikToks do you find the most effective for authors? I don’t even understand the question because I didn’t know there were different types of TikToks, but I trust you. [00:25:00]

Grace: Effective as in sales, or getting followers or interest? Getting followers was doing a giveaway when I reached 1000 followers. I did a giveaway and got hundreds of followers within a couple of days. In terms of sales, I actually did a few posts where I didn’t say anything. I never said buy this book or it’s on Amazon or anything. I just did something as simple as put my book covers up and said, “Which is your favorite? Tell me your favorite book cover.” Like a couple days later, I had a sale and then someone messaged me, and suddenly, I had Kindle Unlimited raids. It’s just simple things like that. I suppose it depends on what your goal is. Do you want followers? Do you want sales? Or, do you want commentary?

Sarina: I can answer that for [00:26:00] him. Let’s just assume it’s all of them.

Grace: Okay.

[laughter]

Sarina: Well, that’s us done with the questions that I’ve had sent in. You said that you’ve also put up something on TikTok to mention that we were doing this interview. So, if you’ve had any questions come in.

Grace: Like I said, unfortunately, because I seem– well, hang on. I seem to get a lot of stuff from the States. Oh, hang on. Oh, no, that’s not it. I might not have had any answers yet.

Sarina: Okay.

Grace: Oh, hang on, there’s one here. Hang on. No, that’s not it. See, [crosstalk] I need to go back and have a look. I’ve had nothing come through at the minute.

Sarina: Okay, that’s fine. I just thought I should ask so that we don’t exclude anyone, that’d be annoying.

Grace: [crosstalk] -actually adding though, just as a fair warning, like with every social media, there is a negative side to it. There’s quite [00:27:00] a virulent and aggressive community on there about attacking what they call problematic authors. So, you just have to be prepared either, you want to hear that and be involved in that, you agree with that or not, or you just keep scrolling. I keep scrolling. I mean that’s people’s personal opinions, but some of it is a little bit confronting, so I just scroll past stuff like that. But it is out there like with all social media. There is a little bit of negativity. But, yeah, I just thought, you do see people, literally, “This author is problematic. I’m throwing all their books in the bin,” and that’s a little bit confronting.

Sarina: Yeah, that is quite aggressive, isn’t it? To be fair, I do see some of that on Instagram. You do see quite a lot of it on Twitter at the moment, I think. That’s everywhere, to be fair. [00:28:00]

Grace: Yeah.

Sarina: But yeah, it is worth pointing out. Do you have any last tips for authors so that they can make TikTok work for them?

Grace: I think maybe just do what I did. I signed up, and then I just scrolled through it for a bit. I just looked at people and I looked up authors, I looked up readers, and I followed a few accounts and thought okay, yeah, I see what you’re doing here. And then, when I decided it was time, I should have a go at doing something, I just did the most basic thing, again, with the help of the 12-year-old, and I just built from there. I’m learning as I go, like what views I get, what interactions I get, and funnily [00:29:00] enough, the most views I have got, I’ve got nearly 6000 views now, but it has nothing to do with my books because I have said I mix things up. The other day, my daughter found a poor little bee on a piece of wood, so she took it some sugar water on a spoon. So, I’ve videoed the bee drinking sugar water, 6000 views. [laughter] Who knew?

Sarina: Oh, damn. I rescued a bee yesterday from my bathroom. We put it outside and my–

Grace: [crosstalk]

Sarina: Yes. My partner put in a bit of honey for him on the log and we put him on there and he had– Damn it. I missed an opportunity there. [laughs]

Grace: [crosstalk] See, animals, they’re really popular, and I do see quite a few authors who put pictures of their cats on their keyboards or their dog, their book. You mix a few things up and then it ticks everyone’s box, books, dog, cat, whatever.

Sarina: Okay, [00:30:00] well do I have quite a few, just random videos of my cat, so I’m sure I can do something with that. [laughs]

Grace: Yeah, literally, I just learn from other people I see, and I’m just getting bit braver as I go, but I do it at the minute because I enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t bother, but I think it’s a bit of fun. It’s a bit of a time waster at times, but I get up generally, I get up before everyone else in the house, and I have my coffee quietly in the morning, and that’s generally when I do my posts as a rule. Then, I’m off doing whatever I do during the day.

Sarina: All right. It sounds a lot more relaxed and a lot faster to do than I expected. So, I’m very happy to be proven wrong about that.

Grace: Actually, Ash Oldfield, do you know Ash? She’s on Instagram, she just popped on it. She just followed me today. So, I have brought someone over to the dark side. [laughs]

Sarina: Okay, well, you may just be bringing someone [00:31:00] else over as well, but we’ll see. [laughs] You know, you’ll be the first, by the time this episode goes live, I may well already be on there. Who knows? We will see. To very quickly come back to something you said earlier about how at the moment you’re on there about three or four times a day, or posting three or four times a day. Would you say that’s necessary to really get a lot of traction going? Or, is it fine to just post like once a day?

Grace: I keep reading two to four times a day, that’s what I keep seeing.

Sarina: It seems like a lot to me.

Grace: It does. I would say a few weeks ago, I’m like, “Oh, God, this is hard.” But I was less brave then. But now, I’m a bit braver. I just put up something random today like I literally did. I was actually working on my current book. I just had my phone next to me, and I’m typing. I just literally did seven seconds of me looking at the thing. [00:32:00] And then it was done in seven seconds. I just wrote, “Me trying to write, while not looking at TikTok,” I just posted that. People do stupid things like that, and people love it. It shows I’m writing, it shows I’m doing something and lots of authors do these things. You know the big trend right now, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s amazing, everyone loves it. We all have to wear a crown. Every author wears a crown. [crosstalk]

Sarina: I don’t have any. I’ll have to get myself one.

Grace: Yeah. People are gifting each other crowns.

Sarina: Really?

Grace: And you put song to it. There’s a song, Watch Me Wear a Crown and everyone just puts their crown on or you wear a crown while you’re reading. It’s silly little things like this, but it gets people interested in you and then they want to flick through and, “Oh, you wrote all that. Oh, you wrote that.” That’s sort of how it works.

Sarina: Okay. Actually, it does sound like a lot of posting like two or four times a day, but it does sound quite fun. The way you’re describing it does anyway. I think because unlike on Instagram, you [00:33:00] don’t have to wait around for 20 minutes, half an hour every time. That does make it a lot easier, I think because even though, you possibly don’t end up posting a lot more, you ultimately still spend less time on social media and more time writing, which is the goal for everyone, isn’t it?

Grace: Yeah. Like I said before, you will have noticed on my Instagram, I save my TikTok videos, and then I share them onto the Reels on Instagram. Then, that gets them– I’ve actually got more followers on Instagram since I’ve shared some of my TikTok posts on to Instagram. [crosstalk]

Sarina: Well, you are selling it extremely well. And you know the dangerous thing is, I have just yesterday, at time of recording finished a first draft. Today, I thought, “Well, maybe I take it a bit easier today.” So, do not be surprised if by the end of the day I’ve started TikTok. [laughs]

Grace: I’ll be watching for you.

Sarina: You’ll be the first to hear. [00:34:00] I won’t be your first follower, but you will be the first person I follow.

Grace: Oh, one more thing, I just have to tell you. This is really cool. It’s actually great for sleuthing out things you don’t know. The other week, I had some people contact me saying, “I can’t find your paperback anywhere. Amazon is saying it’s not available.” I put up a video and I said, “Hey, everyone, I need you all to be my super sleuths.” I said, “For some reason, Amazon is showing my book isn’t available in paperback when [unintelligible [00:34:33] released. Can you all jump on and see if it’s available?” Oh my God, I got hits from everywhere in the world saying, “It’s available here.” “It’s not available there.” “It’s available here.” So, it actually was a great research marketing thing because everyone wanted to help. [crosstalk] I was really just put in my hashtag #CanYouHelp, and then on the actual video it said, “I need your help.” And people were like, “Well, what did you need help with?” And bang, bang. [00:35:00] I actually did that the other week, and I still keep getting hits on it. “It’s available in Denmark.” “Oh, no, it’s not available in Ireland.” And that actually led me to a bit of problem solving as to why. I now know why, it’s not available in paperback everywhere on Amazon and then discovered where it is actually available in paperback. So, that was really helpful.

Sarina: Oh, brilliant. That sounds really useful. I really want TikTok now, so damn you. [laughs]

Grace: Make sure you get a crown. You need a crown. [laughs]

Sarina: I may need to cut myself one out of paper, possibly but I have to see what I got.

Grace: [crosstalk]

Sarina: I think I already know the answer to my last question to you, would you recommend TikTok for authors?

Grace: I would. I think it’s fun, it’s free. You put what you want on. You can’t guarantee anything out of it. But I’m having fun, and I think if [00:36:00] you’re having fun, do it. If it’s not fun for you or it feels a chore, it’s not for you. But for me, I quite like it.

Sarina: All right. Well, I think that’s a great note to finish on. It’s fun and it’s free, so why not? [chuckles]

Grace: Yeah.

Sarina: I want to thank you so much for chatting to me about TikTok. I’ve learned an awful lot from you. I’m very tempted to start my own now.

Grace: [crosstalk]

Sarina: I hope all of our listeners have also learned a lot and that this has answered everyone’s questions. It’s certainly proved me wrong on a few points. So, thanks for that.

Grace: You’re welcome.

Sarina: Yeah, thank you so much for coming on, and have a wonderful day and have a great week everybody. Bye-bye.

Grace: Thanks, Sarina.

[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 [00:37:00] and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter. And of course, on my website, at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 5 | Lessons Learned from Publishing a Debut Series with G. R. Thomas

This week, I had a chat with urban fantasy author Grace – G.R.Thomas – about her recently wrapped-up debut series, the importance of making connections, and what it’s like to get negative reviews. Grace started working on her books in 2014 and has learned a great deal along the way. She shares some of her gained knowledge in this week’s episode.

You can find out more about Grace on her website.

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Sarina Langer 0:08
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!

Hello again, friends and sparrows. And welcome back to Episode Five of this podcast. Um, today is the fifth of October 2020, and it’s a very special one because I have author GR Thomas with me, that’s Grace, and she has written four books. Now it’s a debut series. And I think it’s fair to say that she has learned one or two things along the way. And it’s our hope that by listening to us chat about her journey today that you will maybe learn a thing or two about just what’s in it for you on this journey, especially if you’re just about to start writing your first book.

So, hello and welcome, Grace. How are you? I’m so pleased that we can do this and just have a chat. So you have just published your fourth book by the time this podcast goes live.

Grace 1:25
Hi, Sarina. I’m really well, thank you for having me. Yes, in a couple days. So the 30th of September. Yeah.

Sarina Langer 1:30
So, this should go live on the fifth of October all being well, unless I’ve got my dates wrong, in which case sorry to everyone who I’ve just confused.

Grace 1:37
It will be five days old.

Sarina Langer 1:39
Yay. Very exciting. And I know from personal experience very well that to start with, this was, what, books three and four were just book three, to begin with. Is that one of the biggest changes that you’ve made since you started writing?

Grace 1:57
Um, yeah, huge. I think I didn’t actually understand from the beginning, that although I had an idea, that the characters and the story kind of, can get carried away with themselves. And it goes on and on. And the characters went on and went on. And I thought I was having a trilogy, that was my vision. Because they’re very common, a trilogy, I read a lot of trilogies, and it sounded like a reasonable thing to aim for. And then as you will know, it ended up quite massive. And it was a bit of a conundrum. And I think the splitting of it, in the end was probably the best thing that ever happened for it.

Sarina Langer 2:40
Well, I think we do that, don’t we? We as authors tend to get carried away a lot when we write the first draft. And then our characters also get carried away a lot. Just if we, if we’re brave enough to just give them the reins and just see what they get up to, it can go into a completely different direction. And then suddenly you have, you’ve written 100,000 words, and you were only ever planning on 70. And you have no idea what to do will all that. And of course, in your case, you had written a lot more than just 100,000 words.

Grace 3:08
Yeah, I think probably in all if I added up all four books before editing, it was probably I reckon about over 600,000 words, or–

Sarina Langer 3:19
That sounds about right. Yeah, I seem to remember seeing a little of word count like that and thinking oh dear, better make another tea.

Grace 3:27
Sorry!

Sarina Langer 3:28
That’s all right. You’re good.

Well, let’s start at the beginning. When did you first start writing this? What do you call it, a quadrilogy? Hmm.

Grace 3:41
Well, actually, Beverly Lee called it a quartet. And I quite like that.

Sarina Langer 3:45
A quartet, hm, yeah, that makes more sense. That’s a word, too, unlike what I just said.

Grace 3:50
But, um, I started writing in 2014. After I read a book by an author called Rochelle Maya Callen, and I loved the book, it was like an urban fantasy novel. And I read her bio, I often do that with authors.

Sarina Langer 4:10
I do now as well, it’s something I’ve started doing.

Grace 4:14
Yeah, because I think it’s interesting. And her bio was quite similar to me. She had always loved reading and had always wanted to write a story, but then she thought… she did life instead, she went to university and had a job and da da da, and then had a child. And when she had was… I think, when she was pregnant the first time she thought I’m gonna write that book. And it just resonated with me. So that day, I sent her an email, never thinking I would hear from her. I just sent her an email saying, Oh, my gosh, that’s really inspired me if you can do that, and you’ve written this amazing book that I really love.

Sarina Langer 4:48
I’ve talked about exactly something like that on the last podcast that I’ve just published about how I’ve written… you know, how I’ve read this book by Karen Miller and it’s inspired me to start writing again, and I’d written her an email, not thinking that she would get back to me and she did.

Grace 5:03
Well, that’s the same!

Sarina Langer 5:04
It’s exactly the same!

Grace 5:06
Yeah, within 24 hours, this strange lady from the US, massive, and I mean, this email gigantic. And I still remember, I don’t have the email anymore. I wish I had kept it. But remember that she said, My heart is bursting with joy that you want to write. And I wrote to her as soon as I read your bio, I started writing the first paragraphs of Awaken. And since then, to this day, we’ve remained friends, and she’s gone on this messy writing journey. She’s become a writing coach and all kinds of amazing things. And she’s republished one of her amazing books with a proper publishing house, like she was an indie author, and she’s gone through this huge metamorphosis. And I’m so… we still talk to this day. And I actually dedicated my first book to her because it was because of that contact with her that I literally picked up a pen and started scribbling something down,

Sarina Langer 6:07
That’s such a wonderful thing to get out of that. And only because you were brave enough to write to her in the first place, I mean, let that be a lesson to everyone listening that sometimes, you know, it’s literally all it takes is to just be brave and tell someone that they’ve inspired you and just see what happens. And maybe you just make a lifelong friend out of it. And I think also, what we should take away from this is to all of you thinking that you just knock your book out in a month, and then publish it and get famous right away. Jeynelle has started this journey six years ago in 2014. And, you know, four books and six years, that’s really good. I think that’s, that’s a good number I think to aim for, because obviously, there’s so much that goes into it, as you well know. And especially with your first book, you can’t imagine to just, you know, just sit down home, knock it out, publish it, and then you’re done. You know,

Grace 7:01
I think I actually shocked myself that I finished the first book.

I didn’t quite know that I was going to finish it. And then I did. But then it’s kind of sounds a bit weird. It was kind of like having the baby, My first baby. I had my first baby, I knew I wanted another baby. And

I literally… Oh my gosh, hang on a little, I’m not gonna answer that.

I um literally started the second book Surrender when I sent this other book off to my first editor. And it just sort of went from there. So.

Sarina Langer 7:37
Isn’t that great? See, I did, I did that sort of in a similar way. When I finished my first book, Rise of the Sparrows, in that I thought, well, I want this to be a trilogy, probably because I thought that’s what you do. I thought, you know, when, when you write a series, you write a trilogy, that’s the thing. But I wasn’t really sure exactly how it was going to end, and I had no idea whatsoever what I might be able to deal with books two and three. That was a problem for future Sarina, not a problem for Rise of the Sparrows Sarina. So when I was done with that, I still wanted the series, but also I had no idea what to do. So I went through the first book again, just to see what I might have set up. I mean, my process has changed so much from the first book where I had a plan, but really only for the first book. And now when I plan, I have an idea for the whole series. So I know where I’m going.

Grace 8:29
What’s interesting is that because I’ve always known the ending, and the ending that you know, is exactly the ending I always knew was going to happen. The filling in, in between, um, that’s what sort of evolved and sort of grew and I filled in and fleshed out like there’s certain elements I always knew were going to be there. And they did end up being there. But there were also characters in there who appeared, which I wasn’t expecting. And there was one particular character, which I won’t say, who was going to be a bad guy, but turned out being a really good guy. I thought just…

Sarina Langer 9:09
You should tell me all about that later. I want to hear all about that. I think this is probably one of the most exciting things for me, and I think it is for you too. So when you start with something, and you think you know where you’re going with this, and then suddenly there’s this new character saying, Hello, I’m going to be in your book now. And then maybe they’ll become the most important character, you just don’t know when you start. For me, that’s so exciting.

Grace 9:34
This one did become quite significant. But also what was a surprise I don’t know whether I’m jumping ahead here or not. But I’m in, I actually between Book Two and Book Three, I had massive writer’s block. I completely lost the voice of my character. Yep, I had six months, even though like I had this vision. I knew where my ending was going. I lost my character’s voice. She was coming out wrong, her… she sounded wrong, she felt wrong. Everything I wrote seemed wrong. And I felt, probably because I felt this urgency to finish it and get going. Because by the time I had started the third book, I was going to pop culture expos and selling my books, which, because mine is urban fantasy supernatural, really suited those things, you know, like, like, Comic Con in America, I have Comic Con in Australia, and we have another one called Supernova. And books, indie books, can do quite well there. And I was having a lot of people buy my books, but then I was having a lot of people saying, oh, I’m not gonna get your series until it’s finished.

Sarina Langer 10:48
There’s a lot of that, and I admit that I’ve done that.

Grace 10:50
Yes. And I felt this kind of urgency like I had to get it finished. But also at the same time I went back to work after having a few years off. And so you know, I was busy here, busy there, obviously being a mum. And it just occurred to me, I just had to put it away for a bit. I didn’t want to, but I did and there were six months, I put it away. And I actually deleted the first probably 10 chapters and started again,

Sarina Langer 11:18
I’ve been there, I feel that pain. I think quite a few writers have been where you were at the time that you just felt blocked, and you just could not get back into it. But also it’s supposed to be a series, so you have to. So, I have to ask, was the thing then that helped you get back into it that you just put it away for a bit?

Grace 11:39
Yeah, it was putting it away, and was actually admitting to myself I was stuck. And also, it felt like I had to cut my arm off, but I had to delete the chapters because I was rereading them, rereading, and I was trying to self edit them. But I couldn’t get past this dialogue that was coming out wrong.

Sarina Langer 12:00
Oh, that’s horrible. I know exactly what it feels like.

Grace 12:03
Yes. So I thought if I’m reading that dialogue and this narrative, and it doesn’t sound right, it’s not going to get out of my mind in my thinking. And I do remember highlighting it. And then I press Delete, and I felt a bit sick.

Sarina Langer 12:18
Oh, that must have felt horrible.

Grace 12:21
I felt a bit sick. Because for a minute I thought let me archive it. But then I thought I’ll probably go back to it. And I’ll stay stuck in it. But I knew it was wrong. And I knew, I knew how Sophia’s voice was meant to sound. And I’ll tell you now she was coming at angry. She was coming at angry and pissed off. And she, for anyone who reads my books or will read my books or has read my books, she has every reason to be annoyed and pissed off. But she was just, she’s coming out unlikable to me. And I thought if she’s unlikable to me, no one else is going to like her. So I had to delete it.

Sarina Langer 12:56
No, because she’s basically one of your children, isn’t she, I mean your main characters will do that. So if you can’t like your own child, you can’t expect anyone else to.

Grace 13:06
And it is really hard to read a book, even with a good story, if you don’t like the main character.

Sarina Langer 13:10
It’s really hard. Yeah, I mean, I always think that obviously, plot is important. And all the other characters and the relationships, they are very important. But the main character is your main character for a reason. And you want your readers to stay for their sake. So if they can’t stand the main character, then that’s going to make it really difficult to finish even just one book, let alone four.

Grace 13:30
And the interesting thing is, Sophia is a very close replication of me and my personality. And so maybe at that time, maybe I was feeling angry, maybe I was feeling stressed. So maybe that’s why she was coming out that way.

Sarina Langer 13:46
And hopefully writing all that down and her voice has helped you a little bit walk through it because writing can be such great therapy.

Grace 13:53
Oh, you know what? I recognise that now. Probably not then.

Sarina Langer 13:58
That’s always how it goes.

Grace 13:59
during this COVID lockdown as you know, I finished off the last two books. And I’ve started writing this novella, which I’m absolutely in love with. I’m obsessed with it. But, and it’s really therapeutic because I can’t go anywhere. And my mind is just ticking over. So yeah, I’m finding it now quite therapeutic, but without the pressure of feeling like I have to do or achieve anything for anyone else other than myself.

Sarina Langer 14:28
Yes, because it’s just the start maybe of something. And at this point, you know that it’s not part of a series. It’s not a sequel. So if you don’t publish it, then that’s fine. You can just write it for yourself at this point. There are no expectations and that’s got to be like such a, it’s, it’s probably such freedom.

Grace 14:47
Yeah, I’ll tell you something really funny and interesting that happened last night. There was a big storm here and the power nap for about eight hours. And we had dinner by candlelight with the kids, which was quite novel. And it was novel because they actually all wanted to sit at the table with us, they had no technology. So we all had to sit together. And I was telling them about what I was doing with this new story. And we all had this fantastic, all the different ages, we had this fantastic round table of what they thought about my story. I was going around, because my new story is going to be more horror based, which I haven’t written before. And I was saying, What do you find scary? What do you find scary, you know, sound, smells, tastes. And then in the end, we had this fantastic conversation where they kind of actually helped me change this vision of the ending of this story I’m writing, which was really great.

Sarina Langer 15:44
So often, just talking it through with someone, if you’re feeling stuck, can make such a huge difference. I’m always up for that, as you know, you know, if you’re stuck, I’m very happy to discuss it with you. And just…

Grace 15:57
It’s interesting, because I’ve never felt the confidence of joining a writers group. Because I constantly get told, join a writers group, join a writers group, but I’ve never felt like I’ve got something to contribute.

Sarina Langer 16:07
Yeah. I’ve got experiences with that myself.

Grace 16:12
But then last night, I thought, Well, that was interesting, because they said, Yeah, now that doesn’t sound scary. Why don’t you try this? Oh, but that sounds good, blah, blah, blah. And it was actually really interesting. So it’s made me think, oh, maybe down the track. Maybe I might try something like that, because I’ve got a thicker skin now than when I started.

Sarina Langer 16:29
Yeah, that’s something that writers definitely have to develop, isn’t it? So if you’re listening right now, if you’re just, if you’re still at the start of your journey, watching what Grace has just said is very true, you will need a thicker skin if you haven’t got it already. Get used to it now because somebody will hate everything you do, no matter how much work you put into it. It’s just a fact of the business. I’m afraid it’ll happen. And that’s totally fine. As you know, as I’m sure you know, for every negative review, we’ll probably get 10 or more positive reviews of people who love it.

Grace 17:01
Yeah, I think you’ll learn to take the good out of a bad review. As long as it’s not a mean review. I’ve never had a mean review. I’ve had some ones that have made me cringe a bit, but I try and take the good out of it like, Okay, well, what are they trying to say? I’ll try and learn from it.

Sarina Langer 17:18
That’s the best way to do it. I think. I mean, when I, when I review a book that I didn’t like, I always try to be constructive. So that it’s not just, I hated this, this was terrible, this was awful. I can’t understant that. Especially if it’s maybe an indie book, and maybe it only has like one or two reviews. And I don’t want to be the person who just completely ruins the experience. I think yeah, I think what you’re doing with trying to see the positives of them is a very healthy thing to do. If they indeed give you something positive, you don’t always know. But

Grace 17:50
No, I think, look, I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had any unkind reviews. You know, I’ve had a couple of which were a little bit cutting, but nothing was unkind.

Sarina Langer 18:00
Nothing that was an attack.

Grace 18:03
Yeah, exactly. And that, because they can can be particularly on Goodreads, you know, Goodreads is a bit unmonitored, unlike Amazon, and people can be a bit nasty. And you got to just keep that in mind. Like, I’ve gone, I mean, you can go on to bestsellers, like the biggest books ever written. And people write some terrible stuff about them.

Sarina Langer 18:22
Absolutely. I think the more positive, I think the more positive reviews a book has on Goodreads, the more every reviewer who doesn’t like the book almost feels compelled to really justify why they didn’t like the book, and they’re really laying into it. But I feel like that’s a Goodreads phenomenon. So again, also something to get used to maybe, don’t read all of your reviews, especially on Goodreads because they can get nasty. And I swear sometimes it’s just for the sake of nastiness.

Grace 18:53
Yeah. And you do have the ones that, I do have my one, my one one-star review with no words. And from what I understand there is that little group of people who like to just go and put one star on things they don’t even read just to bring people’s writing down. So you’ve got to keep that in mind. If there’s a bad review with not even a word, I don’t take that as a review. I just take that as very lazy, or just a bit of meanness. To me, that means nothing.

Sarina Langer 19:21
And also, a negative review doesn’t have to mean that your book is bad. As you probably know, I mean, I always have to look at why they didn’t like the book because you know, someone’s reason for hating a book might be your reason for loving the book. Yeah, you know, we all look for different things at the end of the day.

Grace 19:39
Well, I’m, see I’m, I’m totally not into constant triple x erotic fiction. And like, that like the biggest seller. Maybe I should write it. People just make scrillions out of that. No, I…

Sarina Langer 19:53
You know, I have to say, I thought I should try writing this, but I can’t. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

Grace 20:01
Yeah, it’s not for me, I just kind of think, yeah, but where’s the story? Well, the clothes are off.

Sarina Langer 20:08
I read one book, I won’t name the author or which book of course, but I read one sci fi novella, I think it was, which was supposed to be like an erotic space adventure kind of thing. And it got to a point where the whole station was about to blow up. And the character literally had something like, Okay, so this station, it’s about to explode. But let’s just have sex really quickly. So… no. Which part of the station is about to explode do you not understand? this is not the time to take off your clothes, and have sex with someone. This is the worst time for this. It’s just prioritise. Prioritise.

Grace 20:47
Oh, my gosh. Yeah, I know, I think yeah, I think Yeah, a bit, just having a bit of perspective. And I think, yeah, that thick skin, it takes a little while to grow.

Sarina Langer 20:58
Definitely, but you will need to grow it. And then it’s hopefully just something that will develop naturally, as you start getting negative feedback, which is unavoidable, and it’s fine, it doesn’t mean that your book is bad, or that you’re a bad writer, it’s just something that’s gonna happen.

Grace 21:14
I think it’s important to take, it is important to take feedback on things because they could actually be something fundamentally wrong. Like, I know some people are very stingy about typos. And, yes, they all get through. Um, but you got to be aware of that and be prepared to go in and make a change or understand to be, you know, more attentive to things like that. Yeah, sometimes I know, some readers are very, very sensitive to that very sensitive.

Sarina Langer 21:45
I do think that some readers, especially reviewers tend to maybe overthink it a little bit when they read books, and I can almost picture them with checklists of this book needs to have this and this and this and this. And then if they don’t have it, they give a negative review. And there’s no mention in their review about whether they actually liked the story or not.

Grace 22:05
So I have a tolerance, I have, I have a pretty high tolerance for mistakes in books, if I enjoy the story, because if I enjoy the story Oh, well, you know, I don’t mind. There’s mistakes in loads of books and stuff, as long as it’s not massive. So yeah, I do, I do think you need to take on board if someone’s picked out a legitimate error or something. And like, I won’t say it now but I do know, in time, I’ll go back and probably review things and maybe tweak things, because I’ve learned a lot over the time. But they’re things I’ll do in the future, when I feel I’ve got more experience under my belt.

Sarina Langer 22:46
Yeah, that’s I think, that’s quite a healthy attitude. I mean, you see even big name authors like, well, I can’t think of a good example now but, you know, you have seen some that have said, say on a writers panel, that they’ve read the first book again, and they cringe at how different it is to the stuff that they’re putting out now 10 years later. So it’s something that we all do, you know, indie published or traditionally published, we all evolve as writers. So, it doesn’t have to mean that you need to go back to your first book and adapt it to how your style has changed. Just, just leave it, write the next book, keep growing. And I know, again, from personal experience that you have done a lot of growing over the years. And I’m so proud of you, actually, of how much… of how far you’ve come from your first book now to this one, and how much work and effort you’ve put into it. I mean, you really haven’t shied away from having to do the hard decisions on this.

Grace 23:45
Oh, look, I’ve enjoyed your red pen wielding all over my manuscript. Some, you’ve been very kind in your words.

Sarina Langer 23:58
I should, I should say at this point that for Grace’s last two books, I have been her editor on the developmental edit and the line edit. So I know exactly how much these books have changed, because I’ve been behind it.

Grace 24:14
But you see, it’s interesting. A lot of, a lot of, a lot of writers say they hate editing, I actually quite like it. I do. I mean, as you know, though, it has been hard for me to let some things go. And you will see there’s a couple of things I didn’t.

Sarina Langer 24:28
Well, we all struggle with that.

Grace 24:31
But in the main, I let go the things that I did see through your eyes just didn’t work. And then when you go back and look at how it works better, and I’ve really, really learned through that. I think that is… it sounds really silly, but I thought I kind of chilled out of it, through it all and realising it…

Sarina Langer 24:54
I think we all do.

Grace 24:55
Yeah, yeah. The constructive criticisms are there for the positive end of the book.

Sarina Langer 25:03
that said, I mean, I remember when I wrote my first ever book, the one that we don’t talk about, years before Rise of the Sparrows. I was, I was so proud of that but I was terrible, and I mean absolutely terrible, at taking feedback on it. I remember my partner read over it, and I should also say he’s not a reader so he’s not really my target audience to begin with, but he would, he would just give me like some advice on where I got the grammar wrong. And I’d be so defensive of it, which I think is something that so many new writers do, because it, you know, it’s your baby, we get that. You’ve put so much work into it and you always think that no one will understand your book exactly like you do, because it’s come from you. But actually, you need that second opinion of someone who’s not that married to it, who can see it for, well, how a reader is going to see it because you can’t do that.

Grace 25:55
I think the thing… the first time someone who reads your book, particularly someone who is not someone you know, is honestly like.. You know that dream people have where you wake up and you’re like, you’re naked at school, or you’re walking down the street naked, it’s honestly like baring your soul. And I remember the first time anyone who wasn’t even related to me read Awaken I was, I felt sick, I felt absolutely sick.

Sarina Langer 26:22
That’s exactly how I feel with this podcast. I’ve got used to my books to a degree. But this now because I’m also putting my voice out there. And it’s not, it’s not edited. I think that’s probably the hardest part. Because obviously, by the time you publish your book, you’ve had so many different revisions of it. This is very raw. And that’s very scary. So

Grace 26:42
Look, you’re braver than me. I understand that.

Sarina Langer 26:44
And yet, you’re here. And you’re doing this with me. So you’re also very brave.

Grace 26:48
I’ve got braver, well, hey, I, I remember the first day I turned up to my first Expo with my one little book. And I remember when they opened and thousands of people walked in, and people were just kept walking by and by and by and I literally was shaking, I was so nervous.

Sarina Langer 27:06
Oh, they’re so terrifying. We should talk about this in a future podcast, maybe about your experience with those kinds of expos, because you’ve done quite a few and I consider you a bit of an expert on it. So we should have another chat about that at some point. I feel like we’re getting sidetracked a bit.

Grace 27:24
I’d love to! I’m so sorry.

Sarina Langer 27:25
No, that’s my fault. And, um, so over the last six years, since you’ve published your first book, or even just since you started thinking about maybe writing a book, what would you say are the main things that you’ve learned?

Grace 27:43
Oh! A, there’s very little opportunity to make some money out of it. You think you’re going into it with grand plans,

Sarina Langer 27:52
That was my first plan before Rise of the Sparrows.

Grace 27:56
So I’ve learned realism and some realistic options. I have learned that, particularly as an indie author, now, I was very invisible to start with. Just finding someone to read or beta read in the beginning was so so hard, it was so hard. And I had to work really hard to make connections. And to be honest, it wasn’t until I got onto Instagram, and I accidentally sort of dropped myself into someone else’s conversation one day on Instagram. And that led me to a particular offer, which led me to another author, which led me to you, which led me to Becky Wright. And it sort of just flowed from there.

So the biggest thing I’ve learned outside of crafting, writing and learning from writing is to make really meaningful connections and friendships through authors and readers and, and learn from them. And, like, help each other, helping each other is probably the most valuable thing I didn’t know I needed in the beginning.

Sarina Langer 29:11
Our community is so good at that, isn’t it. the writing community is wonderful. So if you’re having any second thoughts at all about getting out there on social media, just do it because we are there. And it’s such a welcoming and supportive place.

Grace 29:27
If I had have known at the beginning what I should have done then I would have started marketing my book and making those connections before it was out. I think that’s the thing I didn’t know at the time. So if I’d started marketing I would have had some momentum for it and that, because you know, my book was released and it was like crickets chirping.

Um, but yeah, making that community and it’s not… For me, over time, it’s not just been about the book. Now I’ve made some amazing friendships which I value, I value them more than just being about people who’ve helped me with my book. They’re wonderful. You know.

Sarina Langer 30:12
I know exactly what you mean.

Grace 30:14
I didn’t fly to England last year just to sell you a book did I. I came over to meet you guys, because it was an opportunity. And it was wonderful. And you guys all, you know, mean a lot to me. And it’s like, I’ve got this other life. I’ve got my home life with my family. And I’ve got my book life and my book life is kind of very centering to me outside, outside of the stresses of my normal life. And yeah, so these are things I didn’t know or anticipate when I first started writing.

Sarina Langer 30:49
Well, you’ve heard it here first. Get yourself on social media and just start talking to people. Writers are not weird people. Although we are all a bit weird, aren’t we.

Grace 30:59
We have to be because you make up voices in your head, don’t you?

Sarina Langer 31:03
I don’t make them up, they were already there. We just started collaborating. And now I have books?

Grace 31:09
Yes. You did that by listening to them and writing them down.

Sarina Langer 31:12
Yeah, that’s the only difference. And if you could look beyond that, I feel like we’ve kind of already covered it. But I’ll ask anyway. If you could give new writers who are just at the start of their journey just one piece of advice, something to consider for the years of hard work ahead. What would it be?

Grace 31:33
Ah, you know, I would say, and I warn people of this all the time now, don’t pay for reviews. Don’t go to vanity presses. Do not answer unsolicited emails saying we will promote and market your book.

Sarina Langer 31:46
Oh god, no never. They’re usually always a scam.

Grace 31:50
Everything I have done over the last few years when I was new, and had no one to guide me. I made all those mistakes. I’ve been ripped off, I’ve been scammed. So I… because I didn’t know, I didn’t know any better. I just believed that this was a thing. So I think indie authors, new indie authors, you’re sitting ducks, because you want to sell a book, and you want a review. And people know this and they’re fake, they lie. So really, making connections with real people, you know, read someone else’s book, and they might read yours. And, and keep reading other books, and someone else might read yours, talk about your book, but talk about someone else’s book as well, you know, sort of share the love a little bit and I think that’s how I found it. But don’t pay anyone for anything like that, because it’s just to take advantage of you.

Sarina Langer 32:49
Very well said and thank you very much for that. I think that’s a good point to end on, so thank you very much for having a chat with me, Grace, and thank you guys very much for listening.

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, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!


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