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Interview: Heidi Garrett

In my previous post, I introduced indie author Heidi Garrett’s novel series, “The Queen of the Realm of Faerie”. The first book in the series, Nandana’s Mark, is currently available as a free download on Smashwords.

Here, Heidi answers my questions about her writing and her experience publishing e-books as an indie author.
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Your fantasy series is a re-telling of 15th century French faerie tale of Melusine, but told from the perspective of her sister, Melia. What drew you to this story and what is different about your “re-telling”?

When I conceived this story, I researched fairy tales. Sifting through stacks of books from my local library, I was thrilled to discover many that I had never heard of, the Melusine fairy tale being among them. My original idea was to include characters from several fairy tales, but it didn’t take long for that concept to become unwieldy. When I realized I needed to settle on one, it was Melusine’s story that clung to me. I started writing, but since this was my first novel and I had a lot to learn, I ended up writing several different versions before settling on the one that has been published. In the first version, Melusine was a minor character, and in the second version Melusine was the main character. Neither story felt right. After much brainstorming with my husband, I decided to experiment with making the middle sister the main character, and the younger sister an important character. This choice afforded me more freedom as writer, since Melusine’s sisters’ curses are never defined in the traditional version of the fairytale.

Who is your “target audience” for the Half-Faerie series?

Young adults and new adults, readers ages fourteen and older because I do believe that adults can enjoy the story as well.

Why self-publish as an e-book series? Have you had any feedback as to whether the e-book format is a better approach for your intended audience?

When I began researching Indie publishing in the beginning of 2012, starting with e-books seemed like a logical choice since the bulk of sales for indie authors and publishers come from e-books. Plus I have a few boxes of CDs in my basement from years ago, when I was a local singer/songwriter. I didn’t want to add any boxes of print books to that collection. And I do have some awareness of the limited resources of our planet. e-reading is pretty green, so that was another big positive for me. And finally, I am a very satisfied e-reader myself, to the point that I now avoid print books.

How much of the publication did you do yourself? What did you use other professionals for and why?

I use the writing program Scrivener, which thank you, Phillip, you highly recommended to me. I now highly recommend it to everyone I know who is writing, especially if they are considering publishing. It makes the publication of an actual e-book very easy. You can publish mobis for Kindle, epubs for Nooks and iPads and iPhones, and pdfs for folks who don’t have e-readers yet.

I have had both of the books I’ve published edited by a professional editor and I do not do the covers.

You have changed the cover of Nandana’s Mark for the second edition. What prompted this?

It is common knowledge in the industry that if a book isn’t selling well, the first things to assess are its cover and blurb. These two elements introduce the book to the reader; so it is possible that if these elements aren’t right, you could be missing potential readers. Initial sales of Nandana’s Mark were slow. I fiddled with the blurb quite a bit. That helped, but still didn’t have a significant impact on sales. Finally, I had a book reviewer who stated outright she didn’t like the original cover.

I had always wanted my husband to do the covers for my books. However, initially, he had refused as he had no experience with cover design. After the above-mentioned review, we discussed the possibility of him designing the covers again–as an experiment. I am really happy with his results and it seems that everyone else is, too. He went on to design the cover for the second book and right now, it looks like he will do the covers for the entire series.

I first came across your story through reviewing it on the “Online Writers Workshop”. How did workshopping the story change your approach to writing and / or publication?

Workshopping is critical. Novels are long. It is–perhaps–impossible for a writer to catch any, every flaw, or weak point in their story. Whether there are technical issues with the writing, plot loopholes, flat characters, etc., other writers can help one see where the work can be improved. It is so invaluable to see your work through the eyes of another writer.

I am not sure that my OWW experience changed my approach to writing or publishing. I had been writing for three years before I joined OWW and had worked with critique partners, so my writing approaches were pretty much in place and haven’t changed. What I hoped has changed, is the quality of my writing. The feedback of OWW critiquers covered every aspect of the story and was simply invaluable to helping me grow as a writer. I will always be grateful for the OWW writers who took the time to read and critique my submissions. Critiquing other writers is also very eye-opening. I think it can really help you understand in a visceral way, why certain things/techniques work and others don’t.

It was signing up with Twitter that changed my approach to publishing. Even though I knew some writers who were self-publishing, I never considered going indie, until I got on Twitter in the beginning 2012. Amanda Hocking’s story was breaking and it was incredibly inspiring. After spending years being a rather slow and tedious writer, her writing ethic inflamed me. When she was picked up by an agent and major publisher, she had already self-published nine novels. I didn’t know anyone who was writing with that kind of commitment, dedication, or enthusiasm. I don’t know if I will ever be as prolific as she is, but her story changed the way I looked at writing forever. Also, there is a huge, cutting-edge community of authors and indie authors on Twitter that constantly inspire and motivate me. I continue to rely on Twitter it as my primary social media and go-to for publishing-related news and information.

How easy has the e-publication process been? What would you do differently next time? What advice would you give others considering self-publishing in the e-book format?

The e-publication process has been very positive for me. Scrivener made a huge difference in the physical publishing logistics, but connecting with other authors through Twitter, who walked me through every part of the process and prepared me for the challenges ahead (of which there are many) has been what has kept me going. Also, by the time I published my first book, several of my writing partners from OWW had already embarked on the indie author adventure. Their insight and support has been invaluable as well. I don’t think I would/could do anything different. It’s not that I didn’t make any mistakes, it’s just that there is an enormous learning curve, and I think it’s just impossible to do everything right or the best way from the very beginning.

Advice? Hmm…be committed to your story. Take it on as an adventure. Give yourself time to get up to speed. I’d also definitely recommend signing up to Twitter and learning how to use hashtags. Getting active on Twitter for the seven months before my first book was published was one of the things I did right. It can take a little while to understand Twitter and find your voice on the platform. I would say it probably has taken almost a year for me to start to feel really comfortable, but at least, by the time Nandana’s Mark came out, I’d already learned a lot and had already started building a community. If you don’t already have an e-reader, invest in one; and read as much as you can. But the most important thing would be to enjoy yourself and be as genuine as you can.

Your stories are available from Amazon on Kindle. What other formats is the series available in? Is Kindle the most significant in terms of proportion of sales?

The books are also available for Nook, iPhone, iPad, and pretty much any e-reader that exists. As I mentioned earlier, we also have a pdf version for folks who don’t have an ereader yet. At this point, Amazon is more than 90% of my sales.

What’s next? Will it be another “half-Faerie” story? How many do you plan for the series?

My commitment right now is to finish the Queen of the Realm of Faerie series. It’s a story that is inspired by my beloved grandmother, so I don’t think I will have any peace until it is complete. The final number of books will be however many it takes to tell the story. My best guess would be a total of five to seven books, but I am not driving for a number.

Are you writing anything else at the moment?

No. I’m a rather plodding, one story-at-a-time writer.

Thank you, Heidi!

1 Comment so far

  1. Heidi Garrett February 27th, 2013 11:08 pm

    Phillip,

    Thank you for interviewing me! Maybe someone who’s considering becoming and indie author will find some inspiration! BTW did want to let you know, it looks like Nandana’s Mark is finally free in the UK!

    Heidi

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