My path to publication is a bit meandering. I actually wrote my first book back in 2008, but I never queried it or tried to get it published because it was more of a practice novel (and it wasn’t very good). I started looking for an agent with my third novel, and I got a few good responses and requests for full manuscripts, and I started querying a second novel as well, and I got a good response from several agents with it too.
But the path to traditional publication is a long and grueling one that can take several years. Right around the time I was querying, all the self-publishing news began to hit (Amanda Hocking’s success, John Locke’s, etc), and I was deeply intrigued by the whole indie author thing. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to try self-publishing if I did get an agent and started on the traditional path, so I put a hold on querying and decided to self-publish a book I’d written for a friend that I’d never planned on trying to sell. It was TheCurse Girl. The book went live on May 15th.
I mentioned the agents because I think there is a notion out there that the only people who self-publish are writers who can’t get agents or who can’t get a traditional publishing contract because they “aren’t good enough.” That’s completely untrue. I self-published after much consideration and discussion with others in the industry, and I did it because I wanted to, not because I didn’t think I could ever get published the traditional way. I knew if I didn’t try self-publishing I’d always regret it, and now I’m so glad I did. I’ve learned a lot, and I relish the absolute control and the fact that I can write and sell whatever I want, not only what an editor thinks will sell.
I may not always be an independent author, who knows? But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it so far.
Was this your first book? If not, what are the other titles and genres?
It wasn’t! I think The Curse Girl is my 9th book (most of them are sorely in need of revision and rewriting), but I don’t keep a very strict count since I have about fifty partially finished novels on my hard drive and I occasionally finish one and the number goes up. The first book I ever wrote was called Chrysalis, and it was a space opera/paranormal/vampire story that I wrote for my friend. I’ve written a lot of books that weren’t (as far as I could tell) something an agent would be interested in (either the market was “dead” or “swamped” or whatever… the sort of stuff the agent actively requests that you DON’T send them), but now that I’m doing the self-publishing thing I’m planning to dust a few of them off and see if they’re worth revising for publication.
When is your next book coming out? What is it about?I am working on three books right now, and I’m not sure which will be finished and ready for publication first. Whiteout (tentative title) is a sci fi/paranormal mystery about a girl with amnesia who’s on the run from kidnappers. Nocturne is a young adult paranormal mystery with superhero overtones, and I’m also working on a yet-untitled companion novel to The Curse Girl.
What advice would you give other people who are thinking about writing their first book, but then that self doubt comes in?My advice is to write even when you don’t feel like you can do it. Don’t give up just because you think your writing is bad. All writers feel that way sometimes. Everybody, even famous authors with numerous successes, write terrible first drafts and experience loads of self-doubt. Don’t give in to it!
What do you think are the five most important things a new author has to "take care of" to give them the best chance at success?For indies specifically…
1. Write the best book you can. Edit, revise, polish. Make sure you have a tight plot, strong characters, and good pacing.
2. Proofread. Hire a copyeditor if you need. Make sure there aren’t errors or typos. There’s always about fifty more typos than you think there are!
3. Make sure you have professional formatting—no wonky stuff like paragraphs that split for no reason, missing indentions, or weird symbols in the middle of the text.
4. Be sure you have a professional-looking cover. No crazy colors, cluttered images, or amateur fonts. Take a look at what other books in your genre look like, and try to make yours fit. Be original, but also easily categorized into a specific genre. People will look at your cover and make a snap decision about whether or not to click to read more. Entice them.
5. Learn to market effectively. Tweet or blog if it comes naturally to you. Seek out free advertising (or paid ad space if it’s in your budget). Nobody can read your book if they don’t know it exists. Also, a lot of your infrastructure should be in place before you publish—like a blog, a Twitter account, Facebook, etc.
Let's talk a little bit about you as a person now. Tell me, what about life never fails to make you laugh?How I so often end up doing things I swore I’d never do. Case in point, going indie. I used to say I’d never do it.
What has surprised you about life that you were not expecting that is good?The first thing that comes to mind is the support I’ve received from my friends and family. I wasn’t expecting them to be so wildly excited for me. I’ve been humbled and delighted with the unconditional love and support they’ve shown me over the last few months.
How about same thing, but bad?I think I’m still taken aback at how petty, competitive, and downright mean some people can be. Especially when it comes to writing… I am blown away by the way some people bash their fellow writers. It’s not a race. It’s not a catfight. Some people feel like they can’t succeed unless others fail, and that really distresses me.
What do you enjoy doing besides writing?I seem to stumble across a lot of writers who don’t even own a TV, let alone watch any of it, but I’m the exact opposite. I love stories in any form, so I’m a TV junkie! I also love playing board games, composing music for the piano, scouring thrift stores for treasures, and gardening.
What book by another author do you wish you would have written and why?The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. Her books are all so densely woven, with carefully crafted fantasy worlds and subtle love stories.
Finally, let's play the old genie in a bottle game. You get 3 wishes. They can't be general wishes, like "peace on earth", or all disease cured. No I wish my family, etc would stay healthy. We all wish those kinds of things. These 3 wishes are for personal, material things. What three things would you wish for?Hmmmmmm. I’d wish for 1) a horse and a stable to keep him in, 2) a house up in Maine or someplace cool in the summers where I can escape to write, and 3) a skating rink in my basement complete with a disco ball.
Any last things you would like to tell people about you or your writing?I just hope that through my books I can inspire others the way my favorite authors inspired me. Whenever someone writes to me and tells me they enjoyed my book, or whenever someone writes a glowing review on Barnes & Noble or Amazon, I am speechless and humbled. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Thanks, Kate. Be sure to go to Kate's links, where you can read reviews, a description, and a free sample of The Curse Girl. I think you are going to add her to your list of favorite authors!
Buy Links for The Curse Girl:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/curse-girl-kate-ellison/1102099125
Kate's Twitter handle: