You’re obviously a multi-talented person, Lois. Did you have other careers before becoming a writer?
After graduating art school with a degree in graphic design and illustration, I worked as a layout artist for a major department store. When my children were born, I began freelancing as a designer of needlework and craft projects for kit manufacturers, craft and women’s magazine, and craft book publishers, eventually, becoming head designer for a craft manufacturer and editor of their craft book division.
I didn’t begin writing until the mid-90’s. After I sold my first book in 2005, the agency that reps me invited me to join them as an associate agent. I still continue to juggle three careers – that of a published author, an agent, and a designer.
I’m envious. needlework and crafts are not my forte. Do you have other talents? Or is there a talent you don’t have that you wish you did?
I’ve always loved Broadway theater, especially musicals, and wish I could have been on stage, but as I discovered early on, Broadway isn’t interested in singers who can’t sing, dancers who can’t dance, and actors who can’t act. Who knew?
LOL. How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve traditionally published five novels (Talk Gertie to Me; Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception; Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, and Revenge of the Crafty Corpse) as well as having been part of one non-fiction anthology (House Unauthorized: Vasculitis, Clinic Duty, and Bad Bedside Manner) and three romance anthologies (Dreams & Desires, Volumes I, II, and III.) I’ve indie published five novels under my Emma Carlyle pen name (Hooking Mr. Right, Finding Hope, Lost in Manhattan, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Four Uncles and a Wedding.)
In addition, I’ve indie published a mystery novella (Elementary, My Dear Gertie,) one collection of romance short stories (Once Upon a Romance,) a mini-mystery connected to my series (Crewel Intentions,) and a non-fiction book (Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected) under my own name.
It’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all my babies, and you shouldn’t show favoritism to one child over the others. But since Talk Gertie to Me was my first published novel, it will always have a special place in my heart.
Love your titles! How has your experience with self-publishing been?
I came a bit late to the self-publishing party, only putting up my first book the end of June. So I haven’t seen the huge numbers that those who began a few years ago have seen. My books are selling but not as well as I had hoped. Every day there are more and more books competing for attention and readers’ dollars. I also don’t write erotica or erotic romance, two of the biggest selling genres in indie publishing.
I’ve also found that there are so many free books available that readers don’t have to buy books. Other indie authors complained that they didn’t see the huge upsurge in sales right after the holidays this past year that they saw the previous year, even though the sales of tablets soared. With the introduction of the mini iPad, Surface, and Kindle Fire prior to the holidays, expectations were high for better sales than the previous year.
I believe the plethora of free books seriously impacted ebook sales and will continue to do so as long as authors continue to make their books free. However, I know of authors who write series and have found that going free with the first book in the series has resulted in huge sales of the other books in the series. Since the free book promos work well for them, they’ll continue to do them.
I have to admit that offering Book#1 of my first series free helped sell the other books when I first published. Now I tend to agree with your observations about FREE books flooding the marketplace. What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?
I think authors need to be aware that self-publishing is not a road to quick riches. Yes, there are some authors who have made gobs of money doing so, but just as most traditionally published authors don’t receive 6 and 7 figure advances and land on the NY Times list, most self-publishing authors don’t make hundreds of thousands of dollars on their books. We hear about the huge successes; they’re written up in newspapers and national magazines. Everyone knows about Amanda Hocking and E.L. James, but they’re the exceptions. Most writers who self-publish will find that they won’t make more than a few hundred dollars a year for their efforts.
That said, though, you never know what’s going to strike a chord with readers and start receiving buzz. If a writer wants to self-publish, she should do so, hoping for the best but being wise enough to understand the odds are against her.
I agree. It’s difficult to know why a certain book “takes off”. One of mine, Wild Viking Princess, has handily outsold everything else I have written! What was the deciding factor in self-publishing your books? Did you decide on ebook or print only or both?
I had the rights back to two of my traditionally published books. Seeing other authors successfully self-publishing their backlists made me realize I should give it a try. I then decided to publish some manuscripts that had never sold for one reason or another, even though most of them had won various awards, including two that were RWA Golden Heart finalists. I decided to take a pen name and publish the unsold manuscripts as Emma Carlyle. I’m still not sure that was the best decision. At the time it seemed to make sense, but Emma Carlyle has no fan base. It’s been difficult to get noticed in the over-saturated indie market. If I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t have taken the pen name.
I’ve wrestled with that too. I’m writing a contemporary novel-a big departure from my medieval series. I can’t decide whether or not to publish it under a different pen name. What did you do to promote your work?
I do guest blogs like this one (Thank you, Anna, for inviting me!) I also have my own blog, Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers (http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com) and two websites (http://www.loiswinston.com and http://www.emmacarlyle.com.) I’m on Twitter (@anasleuth) and Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/search/boards/?q=lois+winston).
I’m not on Facebook. I’ve actually vowed to be the last person on the face of the earth not on Facebook. I’ll also occasionally use promo sites; however, most of them require that you have a huge number of reviews on Amazon before they’ll accept you, and I haven’t reached that number yet. In addition, I attend conferences, teach workshops, and do book signings.
Does any of it work?
That’s the million dollar question. What ultimately sells books is people talking about them. All the self-promotion in the world won’t help an author if the people who read and like her books don’t tell others about them. Buzz is what makes an author successful.
All self-pubbed books are rumored to be shoddily edited. What do you say to that?
I’ve seen plenty of traditionally published books that are shoddily edited. I recently finished reading one such book from a major publisher. I was appalled by all the holes in the plot, clichéd characters, and poor writing quality. There’s a certain percentage of bad editing in both traditional publishing and e-publishing. The difference is, with e-publishing, the burden falls on the author. She needs to make sure her work is perfect before uploading it. That means taking the time and going to the expense of hiring a professional editor to do content, line, and copy edits, not just typing “the end” and uploading to Amazon.
How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
Extremely like, especially if they’ve been mean to me in the past. I’ve gotten even with a lot of childhood bullies by putting them in print. I own a T-shirt that says, “Careful, or you’ll wind up in my novel,” and I mean it. I’m always careful to change the person’s name at least slightly, though, so I don’t get sued. I’m sure these people would never recognize themselves, but I know who I’ve based the characters on, and that’s all that matters to me. Revenge is sweet. And cathartic.
The one exception to this is the mother-in-law in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Anyone who knew my mother-in-law knows that Lucille is based on her. But I don’t have to worry since my mother-in-law is no longer alive.
Sometimes friends inspire plots. Years ago I had a friend who had recently gotten a divorce and was plunging back into the dating scene. I went with her to Barnes & Noble once day where she proceeded to purchase an armload of books on relationships and dating. This was back when The Rules was a bestseller. That trip to the bookstore is what inspired me to write Hooking Mr. Right.
Love the T-shirt idea! Was your road to publication difficult or a walk in the park?
It was a ten year journey, uphill all the way. At first I didn’t know what I was doing, and the rejection letters reflected that. Very quickly I realized that I needed to learn how to write a publishable novel. So that’s what I did, joining writing organizations, taking workshops, reading books. All that work paid off, and I found an agent. You’d think a sale would be right around the corner at that point, wouldn’t you?
Not so. The writing gods continued to laugh in my face. I still received rejection letters, but they were mostly full of praise for my books. The reasons for rejection often had nothing to do with the writing but more about marketing. Or the editor had recently purchased a book with a similar plot. Or a similar book hadn’t done well for the publisher in the past. Several times I was “this” close to a sale that ultimately fell through because the editor left or the line folded or two publishers merged. It was very frustrating.
Give us an elevator pitch for your book.
Hooking Mr. Right
After writing a doctoral thesis that exposed fraud in the pop-psychology genre, thirty-two year old professor Althea Chandler has to sacrifice her professional integrity to save her family from financial disaster. She secretly becomes best-selling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy, a self-proclaimed expert on how to catch a man, even though Thea’s a miserable failure when it comes to relationships—especially those with the opposite sex.
Burned by a failed marriage, Luke Bennett finds himself pursued by Dr. Lovejoy toting women after a gossip columnist dubs him New York’s most eligible bachelor. When he at first mistakes Thea for one of the women out to snare him, sparks fly, but the two soon find themselves battling sparks of a less hostile nature, thanks in part to an alley cat named Cupid.
Luke believes he’s finally found an honest woman. Unfortunately, Thea is anything but honest. She’s got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her. Cupid definitely has his work cut out for him.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us, Lois. Here are the buys links for readers who would like to get to know you better: