[dropcap]I[/dropcap]‘ve got vampires on the brain.
I blame it the kobo website, who has cottoned on to the fact I like books about bloodsuckers, so sends me daily emails about the latest fanged thrillers. I blame Poppy Z Brite, whose book Lost Souls restored my love of erotic horror, after it had been shattered by the Twilight books (which, to be fair, had a lot of the erotic but not nearly enough horror). And I blame today’s guest, New York Times Best-Selling author of steamy vampire urban fantasy, Jeaniene Frost, for getting my vampire on four years ago with Halfway to the Grave.
But Jeaniene Frost isn’t just an author, she’s in part responsible for bringing vampires and urban fantasy back into the mainstream, and her legions of fans worldwide (her novels have been translated into seventeen languages) attest to her remarkable ability to write amazing books and get them in front of the people who want to read them. I’m thrilled to sparkling bits to have Jeaniene here today for an Epic Interrogation about how she kicks ass with her creative business:
Firstly, we’d just like to know who you are, what you write, and what’s new in the world of Jeaniene Frost?
Thank you so much for having me. I’m the author of the Night Huntress series and Night Huntress World novels, which are urban fantasy romances containing vampires, ghouls, ghosts, demons, and a sprinkling of black magic. The most recent novel to hit the shelves was This Side of the Grave, and my next novel is One Grave at a Time, which releases August 30th.
How long did it take you to grow from a first novel contract to where you are today? Was there any one event that served as a catalyst for your success?
I completed my first novel almost eight years ago, and then went on to write two more before I started shopping the first one. After three years of querying, getting rejected, revising, querying again and more rejections, my first two books sold to HarperCollins in May 2006. My debut novel, Halfway to the Grave, released in October in 2007 and hit both the New York Times and the USA Today bestseller lists.
The biggest catalyst to my success, in my opinion, was finally finishing a book. You can’t do anything in publishing until you’ve at least done that, but as the cliché goes, it’s easier said than done. Roughly 80% of people polled say they would like to write a book one day, but I think less than 10% of them actually do it.
What are your tips for managing money as a full/part time author/entrepreneur?
Budget, budget, budget!
And don’t spend money that isn’t actually in the bank, especially when you don’t have regular royalty money coming in. Let me elaborate: Like most authors, I started out working a full time day job, but it was my dream to eventually write full time. That dream led me to some rash decisions, like quitting my day job prematurely after my first book hit the bestseller lists. I had delusions of money rolling in from that, but what I found out when I received my first royalty statement was that “bestseller” didn’t equal “financially stable.” I had no idea how high a percentage I’d have held in reserves against returns (which is the number of paperback units your publisher holds back and doesn’t pay you on in case book stores return your novel for full credit). Those reserves against returns completely gobbled up any royalty money I made for that first statement, and in publishing, royalties are only tallied twice a year.
So there I was, with no money coming in for another six months and bills that needed to be paid now. I had no choice except to crawl back to my old day job with many apologies and a lot of humility, and they were kind enough to give me my old position. Two additional bestselling novels later – and most importantly, a royalty statement with enough money that I could cover my bills until the next one – I quit my day job again. That was two years ago and I haven’t had to crawl back yet, so I’m hopeful that I’ll continue to support myself writing full time.
What promotional activities give you the greatest return / bring more readers and fans?
This is a tough question because ultimately, it’s a guessing game. For example, let’s say a reader first sees my novel on the shelves, but decides not to buy it for whatever reason. Then, months later, that same reader sees an online interview with me and remembers when she previously saw my book, only this time; she decides to give it a shot and buy it. Which was more important? The reader first seeing my book in the store, which she remembered when she later read the interview, or the interview itself? Both were components in the reader’s decision to try my book, and from there, the decision to try more of my writing rests on whether the reader liked the book.
So you have three things in play that, to me, are crucial. The first is writing the best book you can (quality of your product). The second is having your book available where the readers are (availability of your product). And finally, reaching out through personal appearances, online interviews, guest blogs, and other forms of social networking (promotion of your product).
Quality of your product + availability + promotion to let people know your product exists = a better chance at sales. It’s not a foolproof formula, but it’s using the tools I have available to me.
Do you get more out of face-to-face or online networking? What tools and techniques do you use?
I love to meet readers. It’s beyond cool to interact with people who are excited about my characters and paranormal plotlines. Because travel is time-consuming and expensive (for me as well as for readers!) most of my interactions take place online. In order to make myself available to readers, I have a website blog, a fan site chat forum, a Twitter page, a Facebook page, a Livejournal blog, a Goodreads blog, a newsletter, a YouTube page, a monthly post on the Supernatural Underground site, and I attend an average of two conventions a year plus do a couple independent signings. In addition to all this, I also do two interview/guest blogs each month – more if it’s during a release month. It is a lot of extra work in addition to maintaining my writing deadlines, but I feel that readers who want to reach me should have easy options to do so. Again, time/money/distance prevents me from meeting all my readers in person, but online, those barriers are greatly diminished.
What are three tools of your creative business you absolutely could not live without?
Reading, my laptop, and the internet. If I don’t read to refresh my creative well, I wouldn’t have much to write about, and if I don’t have a laptop to write my stories on, my hand would get really cramped *wink*. Plus, the internet is where I interact with most of my readers, and I wouldn’t last long without access to my email since that’s where most of my business correspondence comes through.
What have been some of the best things to happen to you because of your business?
I’ve made great friends through being an author, and these are people I might not have otherwise met. I’ve also pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I might not think I can muscle through X-amount of words per day, for example, but knowing that the book’s due date is right around the corner provides for excellent motivation! Lol.
Do you set goals for yourself? What kinds of goals have you set for the coming year?
In 2011, I still have two more novels to complete. The first of those I’ve already started on, but the second is still percolating in my brain. I also have a convention to attend, plus a couple signings, my usual online activity, and extra promotion for the release of One Grave at a Time, such as more interviews/guest blogs, and creating a book trailer for it. There are companies that will do your book trailer for you, but I’m very detail-oriented (a control freak, some might say ) so I pick all the pictures, video, and music myself, plus write the script. I do need someone to format all that for me, however, since my tech skills are dismal.
In 2012 I’m currently contracted to write two more books, and in addition to that, I’d like to write a couple short stories or novellas as a fun way to play in my Night Huntress universe. We’ll see how it goes.
What do you think the future holds? What exciting projects loom on the horizon or in the back of your imagination?
I’m very excited about the new series I’m starting, which features a side character from my books (Vlad) in a starring role along with a brand new character, Leila. I’m also looking forward to culminating the story line for my main Night Huntress hero and heroine, Cat and Bones. I only have three more books to write with C & B in the lead roles, and there are so many different events that will happen. I’ve known how their series will end for years now, so it’s thrilling to set these final events in motion. I hope readers are surprised and pleased by the results!
Thank you Jeaniene for taking the time to answer questions and . If anyone has any comments for Jeaniene, you can leave them here or on her own blog. And if you’re after some seriously wicked vampire urban fantasy featuring one of my favorite bad-ass heroines ever, you should definitely read Jeaniene’s Night Huntress books.
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