Greetings, Beloved Bloggers!
It was my pleasure to catch up with former-journalist-turned-award-winning-author, Fiona Ingram. The Internet is an amazing phenomenon. If we were digitally wired, I’d be interviewing her in the wonder of Johannesburg right now. Yet as it is, Fiona was gracious enough to pause in the middle of her day to chat with me. Here are her responses to my questions.
Claudia Moss: I love that you began writing Regency romances to entertain your beloved mother, who also enjoys reading about the period. What is your process for penning a historical romance from idea to finished novel?
Fiona Ingram: Confession time: I wrote my seven Regency romances as a whole lot of fun, wing-and-a-prayer kind of project. I’d think of a title and then see if I could write a book around it. I have never written like that before because my Middle Grade books are meticulously planned and my animal rescue books are factual, about the animal rescued or the rescue site, plus lots of interesting facts about animals. So, I would get a title in my head, progress with an idea (I never have any shortage of those) and away I go. From start to finish, about 3 months. However, I wrote The Lady’s Revenge in one month doing NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month). Now, if you want to forge ahead with a daily word count, then that’s the way to go.
CM: Congratulations on such an impressive slate of book contest wins and nominations. Please share your top three tips with writers for accomplishing so many well-deserved accolades. Why should writers place entering contests on their priority list?
FI: Believe me, entering contests is hard work and can be expensive with entry fees, especially if you live outside of the contest host country (like me), and the organisers want print copies of the book. It has become easier with some contests accepting e-books. However, generally, print is the leader here. I’d advise authors to make sure that, even if their book is only available as an e-book, they have a few copies printed (CreateSpace) for contests. There is nothing quite like a stunning cover and good layout for judges to appreciate the quality of your book.
My three top tips are pretty simple:
(i) Make sure your book is perfect and looks impressive, in either print or e-format.
(ii) Make sure you fill in the form properly/neatly, placing your book in the right category/genre.
(iii) Make sure your payment advice and anything else required (such as press release/fact sheet) is folded and inserted in the front of the print copy; and that you send the right material with an e-book.
Why should authors enter book contests?
Well, firstly, winning something looks absolutely great on a press release or book page. Contests either send real medal stickers or e-stickers so you can show off your win to the world. Putting a win sticker on your book cover or including it in the artwork on a re-print or re-release (e-book) will make a difference to a buyer’s perception of how good your book is. Many contests also send award certificates; these can be scanned and put on your web site while you proudly frame and put the real one up on your office wall. Secondly, your book is read by a panel of judges whose opinion really matters. The more contests you enter, the more people in the right places will read your book. Sometimes a contest teams up with a big publisher and you could get lucky. Thirdly, winning or even just getting a nomination in a contest is an indication that your book has merit, and has achieved a standard that is level with what the publishing industry expects. Let me add, fourthly, that in general the contest books are donated to libraries, and in that single gesture, you are getting more readers that you don’t even know about.
I have written a couple of blog posts on this subject Best Book Awards for Indie Authors and The Benefits of Book Awards. Included is a list of the best and most reputable book awards to enter, with details of what format to submit and entry dates.
CM: How long did it take you to pen THE SECRET OF THE SACRED SCARAB? What did you learn about writing between this book and THE SEARCH OF THE STONE OF EXCALIBUR? What did you do differently?
FI: I was working full-time when I wrote The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and I had no idea about writing, what to include, what to leave out, etc. I wrote in my free time. So, it took me around four years, off and on. Second time around, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur took me about a year, but has been delayed with family dramas and my mom’s illness and subsequent passing away. On a lighter note, the third book, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper took me about six months. I am now at the editing stage. In between all that, I have started Book 4, The Cabal of the Ouroboros and now that I have a quest, and plot plans for each book, I am writing much faster. What I did differently is look very carefully at what my wonderful editor did to Book 1; how she edited it; her advice; her comments – and then instilled them into the next books. A professional editor is vital to an author. Strangely, I also found that my editors at MUSA Publishing, my romance publishers, taught me so much because I had a new editor for each book. Each editor came with their own set of editing tools, and I learned fast.
CM: How much time do you allot for research and story plotting? Both were awe-inspiring in your work.
Here’s the secret – I started researching all the books while I was still writing the first one. Not a huge amount, but enough detail to build a unique adventure. As I wrote Book 1, I seriously researched Book 2. As I wrote Book 2, I seriously researched Book 3. And so on. I did this so I could weave in hints of what is to come, what will be important later in subsequent books.
CM: What is your Time Management secret? You are a full-time writer, who wears many hats! How do you accomplish it all?
FI: Ha Ha! Being a full-time writer only means you are subject to even more distractions. However, I do emails first thing in the morning and try to restrain myself during the day from checking. I do a lot of other stuff in the morning, like editing book reviews for a big United States, book-review site; I also teach novel writing online at a writer’s college. Then, in the afternoon I try to get stuck into whatever book I am busy with, either editing or writing. Right now, I am doing my last read-through for Book 2, and at the same time finalising Book 3 for my editor.
CM: What is your number-one tip for indie authors on marketing themselves and their work, based on what you’ve learned on your journey?
FI: Three easy tips:
1. Make sure your book is as perfect as you can make it. Please spend money on having a professional editor go through it with a fine toothcomb. Have a proper artist do your cover. Make sure the layout is eye-catching.
2. Writing the book is easy; now for the hard part … getting the book in front of a million eyeballs. No one will just buy your book on the off chance. You have to tell people every day about your book. Marketing does not sell books; marketing creates publicity and publicity sells books. Put up your profile on author sites such as Author’s Den, iAuthor, Independent Authors Association, Redroom, a Facebook Page, a Goodreads/Shelfari/Librarything/Jacketflap/AskDavid profile. Put snippets of your book on Bublish or Freado. You can also do this on Goodreads. Do blog tours, write articles, and let people know about your skill as both a writer and a reviewer so that you can exchange reviews and/or blog publicity with fellow authors. There is so much for authors now that you may even be spoiled for choice. Don’t forget to make up bookmarks and/or postcards featuring your book (with your web details, etc.) and give them out like confetti at a wedding!
3. Never give up. That’s hard. I give up every day, especially when I am lying awake at night asking myself why on earth I am doing this. Luckily, by morning I have forgotten the previous day’s angst and I fling myself back into the slog again.
Thank you, FIONA INGRAM, for joining me. You are a powerhouse of information! I wholly appreciate all the way across the water and land masses that separate our writing spaces. I love your sense of humor! It’s most refreshing.
And congratulations of what you have learned on this writing journey. I, for one, will definitely put many of your suggestions to use.
FIONA INGRAM is the author of the award-winning novel, THE SECRET OF THE SCARED SCARAB and THE SEARCH FOR THE STONE OF EXCALIBUR. Visit her at http://www.FionaIngram.com and http://www.secretofthesacredscarab.com. Follow her on Twitter@FionaRobyn.