In this column I’m asking subscribers to share their knowledge about writing, publishing, and marketing their books. I’m calling it “Ten Questions.” Thank you, Jenny Wheeler, for allowing us to learn about how a late-in-life writer from New Zealand found inspiration and excitement in the gold fields of California! – Marylee MacDonald
Author Tip: “Think like a career author. (Unless you are really happy doing it as a hobby.) Examine the market closely, and decide what sort of book you want to write and where it will fit in terms of publishing niches in the current market. Make sure you understand reader expectations in the genre you choose, and then do your best to satisfy them.”
Follow her on Goodreads.
If you’re on Goodreads, here’s where you can find this prolific author.
About her series: Of Gold & Blood: Readers’ reviews report “hooked from the first page.”
California, 1868. The three Russell brothers have been separated by time and tragedy. When they reunite in a proverbial promised land, they must heal the past and build a future for themselves and the strong women who hold their hearts. But the rough Western frontier breeds more danger than delight…
As they soon discover, in California’s Gilded Age, all that glitters can be love… or murder.
MM: A book begins as an idea in the writer’s imagination. Eventually, this grain of sand turns into a pearl. What was the grain of sand that fired your imagination?
JW: As a child we regularly holidayed down the Thames coast in New Zealand where the hills are riddled with old mine shafts from New Zealand’s own “gold rush.” We’d often venture into these old mines (hair-raising though it is to admit it now), and almost every summer I lugged home boulders of quartz as a keepsake. I think this sparked in me a curiosity about the “Gold Rush” period right around the Pacific – NZ, Australia, and California…
MM: How did you approach turning this idea into a manuscript, and eventually a book? Did you take classes, read books, or just plunge in?
JW: I was already an experienced nonfiction writer, having been a newspaper and magazine editor for more than a decade. I approached fiction as if learning a new skill – related to my previous experience but very different from it. I read a lot of craft books and attended craft workshops at writing conferences like the ones put on by Romance Writers of NZ.
MM: Authors today have many options when it comes to publication. Did you work with an agent, find a publisher through other means, or self-publish your book?
JW: After I examined the state of the market I concluded the best approach for me was to indie publish. I had written three nonfiction books, one traditionally published, one self-published by printing in Hong Kong ourselves, and one indie published digitally and as a Print On Demand paperback. I concluded the latter would be the best for me because I didn’t want to invest the time doing all the work of finding a traditional publisher – and likely failing – when I could use my time more profitably in writing books.
MM: What is the biggest single lesson you learned during the writing process?
JW: Craft-wise to turn off your editor/censor when you are writing the first draft and let your creative brain have free rein. Business-wise, that writing the book is only about 40 per cent of the process – the other 60 percent is learning how to market it.
MM: What would you advise others who are still at the idea stage?
JW: Think like a career author. (Unless you are really happy doing it as a hobby.) Examine the market closely, and decide what sort of book you want to write and where it will fit in terms of publishing niches in the current market. Make sure you understand reader expectations in the genre you choose, and then do your best to satisfy them.
MM: Were there any writing tools you’d recommend? Did you use apps like Grammarly, Scrivener, or another outliner to help you structure your book?
JW: Scrivener absolutely. I regularly consult the following books:
- Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham
- I’ve amalgamated some of Blake Snyder’s ideas from Save the Cat into that structure.
- Oh, and also The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. These three are my “go to” authorities…
MM: Was it hard to decide on a cover, or did you or your publisher hire a professional designer?
JW: I hired a professional designer recommended in Joanna Penn’s podcast The Creative Penn (www.thecreativepenn.com), another highly recommended source of indie publishing information….
MM: Who is your ideal reader? Who would particularly enjoy your book/s?
JW: Women from 35 up. Some men read and enjoy them, too, but “older” women are the primary target audience.
MM: How do you connect with readers? Do you like to do live events, such as book fairs or library talks, or have you found readers through social media, Goodreads, or Amazon?
JW: I reach out via my reader podcast The Joys of Binge Reading, where I chat with authors working in similar genres to myself. I do regular Giveaways through the podcast, newsletters and podcast blogs, and also regular Social Media.
MM: What has been your greatest reward in undertaking this publishing journey? (This doesn’t have to be a financial reward.)
JW: Discovering the joys of expressing my creativity freely and having the pleasure of talking to others engaged in the same effort.
Readers, check out Jenny’s podcast, too! There’s a lot of interesting content on there and more to come. www.TheJoysofBingeReading.com.
Links to Jenny’s books:
Here’s where you can find the books in Jenny’s series. Note that the first book in the series is free! I think it’ll get you hooked, and you’ll want to read the rest.
# 1 Poisoned Legacy on Permafree: ASIN: B07GZKJL1M Free Download here
#2 Brother Betrayed ASIN: B07H9S5J8B $2.99
#3 Double Jeopardy ASIN: B07JJ6VL1 $3.99
#4 Tangled Destiny ASIN: B07K9TQT1Z (New York Christmas Novella – 0.99)
#5 Unbridled Vengeance ASIN: B07YS24Y7L $4.99
#6 Hope Redeemed ASIN: B07ZYC462R (A Spanish Novella) 0.99
#7 Of Gold & Blood Box Set – Books 1-3 ASIN: B07KJFLRXF $6.99
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.