Today, my Featured Guest Author is Katie Jennings. Katie is a wife, a Disney enthusiast, an ambitious optimist, and a sucker for a good romance! She is also a proud Indie author with five self-published novels and two more on the way. Her debut contemporary fantasy series, The Dryad Quartet, has topped the genre bestseller lists on Amazon as has her latest release, When Empires Fall.
When Katie is not writing, she usually goofs around on Photoshop, watches her favorite show Once Upon a Time, and feeds people food to her cat. 😉
1. What are your books about and where can I find them?
The Dryad Quartet is a mythology inspired fantasy series revolving around the fictional land of Euphora, where beings such as the Muses, the Fates, Mother Earth, and Father Sky live and work to maintain the balance of life on Earth. The main characters are the Dryads, my own creation, who represent each of the four elements and are responsible for creating weather patterns, rising the ocean tides, growing trees in a burned out forest, etc. The series is set in modern day, and the characters interact with humans and demons from the Underworld, including one particular demon who wreaks havoc in their lives and is the central antagonist in the series.
When Empires Fall is book one in the Vasser Legacy series, which is a contemporary fiction series (much more adult than the Quartet) filled with romance, mystery, murder and intrigue. The book revolves around a prominent hotel family in New York City who discover that one of their own is a killer. The three young heirs to the family legacy fight to preserve their family’s reputation, all the while learning more hard truths that threaten to leave the entire empire in shambles.
You can learn more about my books at my website, www.katieajennings.com
2. Who are the authors you admire the most?
Nora Roberts is my hero. I’ve loved her books for longer than I can remember, and I greatly admire her. Not only is she a phenomenal storyteller, she also creates some of the most memorable characters I have ever read. Her books are my go-to when I’m feeling down and when I need a great romance to lift my spirits. Right now I’m re-reading Angels Fall, one of her best! I also love J.K. Rowling and am a huge Harry Potter fan. Her personal story is very inspiring, as she struggled and went through hard times before marking her success in this world. She is someone we should all look up to.
3. What is it about writing that you love?
For me it is not just the weaving of a great story, building it up and letting it fall and culminate at the end into something profound. It is also creating life, in a sense, through the characters who become real at my fingertips. They feel and think and get angry and fall in love, they riot and they weep…it is this fascination I have with people and with stepping into the shoes of another for a short time and experiencing life as they do that keeps me writing. Writing is, as I’m fond of saying, the greatest escape, and at the same time it is the greatest fulfillment. As writers, we learn things about ourselves and about our world as we write, and we fulfill this very human desire to communicate, to spread our message and share our thoughts. I heard a statistic recently that 83% of Americans have a desire to write and publish a book. And of course, with self-publishing the way it is these days, more and more of those people are having their dream fulfilled.
4. Why did you choose to self-publish instead of traditionally publish?
When I challenged myself to write The Dryad Quartet, I did not give much thought to publishing. It was more of a distant problem I was going to have to face later on, if and when I finished the books. Of course, once the books were complete, I faced the decision of how to get my work out there. I had remembered reading about Stephanie Meyer and how she had petitioned her agent, but I was nervous and, honestly, self-conscious about my work. I knew that I loved it and I believed in it, but I was worried about the rejection of an agent or a publisher. Then I learned about the opportunities Amazon had presented with self-publishing, and the free market ideals behind it really appealed to me. Let the readers decide if the book is good or not, not some publisher. Plus, I would retain all rights to my work and receive royalties that are pretty much unheard of in traditional publishing. The ceiling is, as we’ve seen with many self-published authors, limitless. If luck is on your side and your book is not just a good read, but a fantastic read, then you can make it. And the best part is, even if your first few books don’t take off, you can always write more!
5. What are the things every self-published author should be doing?
In my opinion, it is of the utmost importance that self-published authors take the care to not only look professional, but to act professional. It is important to not only have an eye-catching, well made cover for your book, but you should also have it properly formatted (especially if it’s an eBook, bad formatting makes reading a lot less enjoyable). Authors should also spend some money to have their books edited properly, beta-read to determine strengths and weaknesses, and they themselves need to read over their work several times before ever putting it out for public consumption.
It is also very important to present yourself as an author worth taking seriously. That means a professional looking website, a blog worth subscribing to, a great Facebook fanpage, a Twitter account, and a special email just for professional correspondence. All of these ingredients are key to presenting yourself as a professional on the web and to the world. LinkedIn is an up and coming tool used by authors, and Goodreads is another great site to at least have a presence on. Shelfari is ideal for adding extras to your Amazon book page, and it is also important to utilize the Author Central feature on Amazon. This will allow you to tweak your book’s page and add in editorial reviews and other extras.
6. How do you market your books?
Most of the marketing I do is through Facebook. I belong to many book groups, reader groups, author groups, etc and these are a fun and easy way to spread the word about my new releases, free promotion days, etc. I also have an extensive network of fellow Indie authors, and we share and post for each other often. Some authors argue over whether Facebook is a viable tool for marketing, but I don’t see the harm in getting out there and at least building up a great network of authors, bloggers, reviewers and readers. They are all book people, which means they may take an interest in your book and then recommend it to their friends and family, which is exactly what you want to happen! Book recommendations are the best way to get new readers, whether it be through Facebook, Twitter, Amazon itself (they have a “customer’s who bought this, also bought” section that can help sell your book), or even Goodreads, which was designed to be a place to share and recommend books.
7. If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
I would have established myself and my author brand BEFORE publishing instead of after. This is such an important piece of advice to those aspiring authors out there. If you have a book and are getting ready to publish it, make sure you take the time to do it right. Granted, there’s no exact science to self-publishing a book and you will make some sort of mistake along the way, but you can minimize it by following this suggestion. Get a website, a Facebook page, a blog, a Twitter, a Goodreads account, etc, and begin marketing yourself as a soon-to-be author. This works best if you already have a book cover (professional looking!) and if your book is almost done or is done. That way you take a month or two to establish yourself, if not longer, and then release your book to the masses with all of the key ingredients in place. You will have much more success off the bat if you plan ahead of time. That is what I should have done differently.
8. Random fun question time…what music inspires your writing?
My music library is very extensive and broad, I don’t just enjoy one type of band or artist. Though I will say that there are three lovely British singers that I have fallen in love with lately, Florence + the Machine, Ellie Goulding, and Emeli Sande. Their music is all very moving and expressive, very intense and filled with dark depths that really hit me at the core. It has helped me in writing my latest novel, the sequel to When Empires Fall, entitled Rise of the Notorious. Because the book is very intense, angst-filled and emotional, it has helped to listen to music that reflects those same feelings.
9. Where can readers contact you or learn more about your work?
Official Website: www.katieajennings.com