Occasionally on the blog we will talk with one of our author friends, gaining valuable insights into their behind-the-scenes world.
Today we meet with Sally Cronin, a brilliant writer and friend of the blog.
Be ready for a few surprises!
After working in a number of industries for over 25 years, Sally decided that she wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that she had always been fascinated with. “I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition. I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released nine others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories and you can find me daily on my blog Smorgasbord Invitation.”
See? I told you there’d be surprises. And there are more.
Sally: Thank you so much Dan for inviting me over.
Dan: Sure. Let’s get right to the important stuff. What kind of Chinese food do you order all the time?
That would be crispy duck and pancakes, and I have indulged in this starter all around the world, and rarely been disappointed. If I was off to a desert Island with just three dishes this would be number one… If you are interested, that would be followed by Beef Wellington and then Baked Alaska. If I am off to a desert Island on my own you can forget healthy eating!
I do love me some beef Wellington. Which is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?
Definitely edit sober… Preferably with an automatic translator from drivel to English! However, writing drunk has its merits although it can result in some emotional outbursts.
Why do some authors sell well and others don’t? (Indie or otherwise, but indie if possible)
There are a number of key elements involved when it comes to selling well as an Indie author in my view, and I am still working on getting it right myself.
- Quality of the writing,
- Well formatted and easy to read.
- Strong storyline or subject matter.
- Popular Genre or wide based subject matter.
- Opinions of satisfied customers.
Which mean very little without the following elements.
Online presence – People do buy people first, and if they cannot find out about you they are less likely to buy your book. In this day and age not having some form of platform as an author will not help with sales.
Marketing – the common approach seems to be a book tour launch over a couple of weeks with exactly the same format. This is a shotgun approach especially as most of the blogs hosting the tour are within the same community. Readers after seeing the first post, are not going to respond to any that follow.
A different approach, which I have found more productive, is to
set up a series of interviews spread over 8 to 10 weeks split between those contacts you regularly communicate with, and blogs that are outside the community.
Also, as interviews tend to have different questions each is unique, and you can introduce individual key elements each time about your book.
Also – for both non-fiction books and fiction genres there are groups online to market specifically. For example…. If you have written a book ‘How to self-publish your Novel’, the first thing you should do is create a list of all the writing groups that have an online presence, and drop them a line with the book blurb, your latest review and a link to buy. Your market is not all the authors who already follow you on your blog and social media, but all the aspiring authors out there who are terrified of the process!
Writing books in a series is also key. I have a number of authors on my shelves today that I continue to buy and read year after year. One of the key links between them is that they write series of books. Wilbur Smith (I bought his first book 53 years ago and every one since), Bernard Cornwell, Jean M Auel, Lee Child and a newer author Gregg Hurwitz, to name just a few. Not only is the writing wonderful, but I am invested in their various lead characters and automatically want to find out what happens to them.
As Indies we need to emulate these successful and best-selling authors, and whilst we might not have multi-million pound advertising budgets, we do have access to the worldwide web to market ourselves. It takes time, sometimes years, but readers are not lining up outside our doors to buy our books. They are sitting in front of a virtual bookstore with millions of titles looking for one that stands out from the masses.
I could not agree more. Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
I am into the 3Ms… Music, Movies and Martinis… Sorry but 2Ms did not sound right!
Music has been a food group for me since I was a child, and had dreams of being in the next 1950s musical with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Mitzi Gaynor; little realising that it was already the 1960s and the era of the Hollywood musical was coming to an end. But then I embraced the rock ‘n’ roll era with a vengeance, and even today I cannot spend time on my treadmill without Status Quo, The Boss and The Rolling Stones. Over the years I have found other styles that I enjoy including Country but admit to not particularly getting on with Rap which mystifies me… I sing along a great deal and have been known to perform certain party pieces in public.
Which leads me onto – If you could only listen to one type of music, what would you choose?
If I was back on that desert Island with my crispy duck and only had one style of music that I could listen to…
It would have to be rock ‘n’ roll
because country music can have some awfully depressing lyrics.
Which brings me to – What’s the best movie you have ever seen?
This was a tough one as I have so many favourite movies from the last 50 years. South Pacific, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Saving Private Ryan… But if I were to only have one movie on that desert island, I would have to go with The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis. It helped that the screenplay was adapted from such a wonderful book by James Fenimore Cooper. The opening scene still makes me catch my breath, and in fact I have used part of the music score from that scene on my radio shows as an intro to one of the segments. I have watched the film at least ten times and I have a digital copy in my files just a click away.
What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?
I self-published my first book 17 years ago and received a number of comments at the time about how sad it was that mainstream publishers did not think my book was good enough. I recently mentioned to someone that my 10th book had just been published and their response was exactly the same.
Some people will never find self-published books acceptable. However, attitudes are changing, but it will only do so if books are well-written, edited and presented.
As a self-publishing service we still get manuscripts through that have not even been spell checked or edited in any way, and we send them back with a polite note to tell the author that they are not ready to be published. However, with some of the programmes available for authors to publish their work without any human intervention, this can lead to books hitting the Amazon shelves in a format that does not do them justice. This results in one star reviews and the word self-published is often mentioned in a derogatory fashion. That is not motivating to the authors either, who inevitably give up writing which is a shame.
There are some amazing indie authors on the shelves which is why I love promoting them on the blog. Misconceptions will change, but we as Indie authors have an obligation to make sure we do not give skeptics any more ammunition.
How much structure is in your story before you start writing it?
Most of the story is in my head before I sit down at the keyboard. I do a brain dump then go back and read the whole thing before doing a line by line rewrite. Sometimes it just does not work, so I will save to my reject directory on my computer, and then revisit down the line and break it up like a scrap car; using the parts in other stories.
How did you rebel as a teenager?
It might be simpler to list the ways that I did not rebel. I was the third daughter born after a ten year gap. Then my mother had a son at 40 and I was more or less handed off to my two elder sisters to take care of after school. We lived abroad quite a bit and so there were plenty of adventures to be had. I played truant regularly at the age of 7 and 8 as I did not like school, but I always found something constructive to do; such as help out an old farmer and his donkey look after his prickly pears. I was earning my own money from the age of fourteen with a weekend and holiday job in a cafe along the seafront, and would regularly come home having undergone a major makeover. Including a Marilyn Munroe platinum blonde haircut which nearly caused my father to have a heart attack. I was fiercely independent and that has never changed; I have always been up for a challenge. To some that is rebellious!
Have you made any big mistakes?
Oh yes. And no doubt will continue to do so. Some more life changing than others, but I hope that the lessons I absorbed each time has made me more careful and resilient. Certainly my mistakes have provided a great resource for my stories, and with a touch of humour they don’t seem quite so bad at a distance.
The key to making mistakes and surviving is to make sure they do not impact others because then they are definitely life-changing.
Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?
I am very boring and give the same answer to this every time. Wilbur Smith, who is still very much alive and who graciously responded to a note that I sent him on Facebook a month or so ago. I wrote to thank him for 50 years of reading pleasure and how much I admired him. I am about to read his latest book War Cry, and I am as excited to catch up with the Courtney family saga as I was at age 11 when I bought When the Lion Feeds and spent all night reading it under the covers with a torch.
What do you love most about your writing?
I first loved reading with a passion, and from the age of five or six devoured any book I was given. Then I thought I might give it a go myself, and started creating stories in my head and then down on paper in prose and verse. Then work life intruded and apart from some fictionalised budget reports the only serious writing was the 120 letters I wrote to my parents from Texas in 1985 and 1986. They are a journal of our time there and I found that my father had kept them all after he died in 1996. I still have them, and I guess that sums up what I feel about my writing. The fact that someone treasures my writing enough to keep.
I would love to make a fortune, but every time someone takes the trouble to write a review or a comment on my blog and tells me they loved something I have written, I get quite emotional.
What an amazing thing it is to be doing something that not only you love, but others do too.
What is your latest book about?
What’s in a Name is a collection of twenty short stories prompted by either a female of male name beginning with the letter A through to J. Volume Two will be out later this year.
About the collection
There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
There are classical names such as Adam, David and Sarah that will grace millions of babies in the future. There are also names that parents have invented or borrowed from places or events in their lives which may last just one lifetime or may become the classic names of tomorrow.
Whatever the name there is always a story behind it. In What’s in a Name? – Volume One, twenty men and women face danger, love, loss, romance, fear, revenge and rebirth as they move through their lives.
Anne changes her name because of associations with her childhood, Brian carries the mark of ancient man, Jane discovers that her life is about to take a very different direction, and what is Isobel’s secret?
How do you want people to remember you after you are gone?
I hope that when I am gone people will think of me and smile. Remember the jokes I told, the stories I wrote, and more than anything that they remember me as a person they enjoyed being around.
Thank you again Dan for the opportunity to talk about some things that are dear to my heart… Like crispy duck and pancakes!
Thank you for sharing your writerly insights!
Gang, here are Sally’s links:
Her books are all on Amazon, most in print and Ebooks.
Her books are also available via her own publishing site, some at a reduced price.
Social media links