An interview with…Samantha Wood

 

Last week I went all out and brought you an interview with me. This week I’m talking to someone who isn’t me – and yes, I’m aware of just how that sounds!

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Samantha Wood. Her novel Bay of Shadows is available now and, spoiler alert, we share an editor…

Ok, so we can get to know each other a little better, do you have a specific genre that you write in?

Ooh, tricky one. My first book was a travel memoir, but this one is ‘gothic noir’, which sounds decidedly mysterious. My readers have called it a psychological thriller – I quite like the sound of that!

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you manage or schedule your writing around it?

I do have a day job, but I’ve been on long service leave for three months now so it feels like a lifetime ago. I work remotely for a company called Access Innovation Media – they provide captioning for television and live events so that the Deaf and hard of hearing can have access to content. I come from a Deaf family so it’s really special to be involved in the bigger picture, so to speak. (And I get to work from home in my trackies.) It’s a struggle to schedule my writing around full-time work but somehow I manage, even if it’s only a few words here and there.

Where do you write? Office, coffee shop, all of the above?

Well, I moved my office lock, stock and barrel into the garage – which also doubles as my pottery studio – but whenever I’m in Melbourne I love to haunt the State Library of Victoria. I think it’s the smell of all those old books – it is like catnip for us authors! There is so much inspiration in that beautiful place. I write most of my notes in coffee shops or outdoors – anywhere or anytime ideas strike.

What about notes? Are you old school – eg journals or manual notes – or new, ie digital?

I’m old school when it comes to notes. I also have a slight obsession with notebooks so have about six on the go at any one time. They all have different purposes: blog notes, marketing schedules, story ideas; they’re also a good way of posting my progress – or lack thereof – on Instagram for whatever project I may be working on at the time.

What made you decide to go indie?

I got sick of waiting! I’d finished the manuscript for THE BAY OF SHADOWS back in April 2016, did a big mail-out to publishers and agents alike, then waited. And waited…and waited. I got a few responses from different publishing houses saying they loved the story and would get back to me in due course. By November of that year I still hadn’t heard back from anyone so, on a suggestion from my wonderful editor, I went down the indie road, and never looked back.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

Absolutely everything! When I published late last year I had no idea about author platforms or marketing strategies – I didn’t even know what SEO stood for. The past six months have been a monumental learning curve and while it has been exhausting at times, it has been a wild ride.

Any regrets? Things you wish that you’d known or would have done differently?

Probably that I waited so long to do this, although having said that, nothing happens until the timing is right. I had the mind-set that being traditionally published was the only way to go, but going down the indie route has given me so much freedom to do things my way – from the cover design of THE BAY OF SHADOWS to the design of my website and my social media platforms; I don’t think I would have found my voice as an author if I’d secured a publishing deal from the outset. As someone mentioned to me years ago, “That’s my name on the shingle above the door,” and they were right. As an author I’m a brand so I know how best to represent myself. (And maybe I’m a secret control freak after all!)

What about your team? Do you use the same team each time?

I use the same team every time for one very important reason: they are AMAZING! Nicola O’Shea has been my editor for many years and apart from being one of the best editors anywhere, she is also a beautiful human being. Keith Stevenson does the formatting for all my books, and is also exceptional. They can both be found at ebookedit. Xou Creative did my wonderful cover design and I have all my proofreading done by Pauline at In The Garret Writing Services. My friend Mark Flores at Falcon Creative does all my video production.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, definitely a pantser. I wish I was a plotter – they seem to have it far more together than I do.

Your desk – messy or neat? Care to share a photo?

Ah, somewhere in between. See the insulation at the back is a lovely touch.

Coffee or tea…or something else?

Coffee – as my Instagram page will attest – so so much coffee.

Music? Or do you prefer to work in silence?

I love music but I’m so easily distracted that it has to be silence. I’d even started putting in my earplugs but that was the kind of silence that was so absolute that you start to wonder if you’re still alive! The garage is down the bottom of the garden so it’s really quiet down there.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the rewrite of my next novel UNDER TEN THOUSAND STARS which is going back to my editor in August. I’ve had a couple of weeks away from it so I can’t wait to get stuck back in. Wish me luck!

Good luck…and thank you!

Bay of Shadows is available now on Amazon.

If you want to know more about Samantha and her books, you can find her here:

Samantha’s website

Samantha on Facebook

Samantha on Instagram

If you want to know more about Samantha’s team:

Ebookedit

Falcon Creative 

Xou Creative 

Pauline @ In the Garret Writing and Editorial Services – paulineprivate5@gmail.com

An interview…with me!

Over the next few months – or longer – I’ll be bringing you interviews with other indie authors or indie publishers. To get the ball rolling, I figured I’d interview myself!

 Ok, so we can get to know each other a little better, do you have a specific genre that you write in?

Absolutely…chick lit…women’s fiction…call it what you will.

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you manage or schedule your writing around it?

I do. I remotely work back to Sydney. I’m part-time, so 3 days a week I’m on spread-sheets and processes, and the other 2 days (plus whatever time I can grab on a weekend) I have for fiction. I make the absolute most of that time.

When I lived in Sydney and was working in the city 4 days a week, I’d get up at 5am and write for 45mins before I had to get ready for work – and then again every night. It all feels so much more balanced now.

Where do you write? Office, coffee shop, all of the above?

I write in my home office, sitting up in bed (promise you won’t tell my chiropractor), and also down at our local surf club at least one afternoon a week. Why wouldn’t you with this view.

What about notes? Are you old school – eg journals or manual notes – or new, ie digital?

For notes, I keep a journal that I write messily in. I’m in the process of organising my notes into bullet journal format (I wrote about that here) – and that, I think, is going to change my life #notexaggerating

What made you decide to go indie?

I’ve written about that before – you can find the post here. Essentially it boils down to creative control. Thinking about recently when I trashed my novel and decided to turn it into 3 novelettes, there’s no way a traditional publisher who had accepted my original pitch would have allowed me to do what I’m doing.

My next projects are a huge departure from what I’ve done before too – being an indie gives me the ability to take my career in the direction that I want it to go – for better or for worse.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

This whole thing has been a huge learning curve, but my biggest takeaway is that indie publishing is absolutely not about overnight success. I thought I knew that, but I’m not sure that I knew it…if you know what I mean.

Any regrets? Things you wish that you’d known or would have done differently?

No regrets. They don’t work (to quote Robbie Williams). The thing I wish I knew? Just how important an email list and social media platform is.

What about your team? Do you use the same team each time?

I do. I use Nicola O’Shea for my editorial work, and Keith Stevenson for formatting. You can find them at ebookedit. I also use the same cover designer – Jacinda May.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, although, for my next project (no spoiler alert) I’m going to need to learn how to plot…at least a little…

 Your desk – messy or neat? Care to share a photo?

I’m trying to be neat at present. My office is right near the front door, so visible to anyone coming into our house. Plus, I’m juggling partition with creative work, so need the clean lines of division. I even use 2 separate laptops. The one constant is my muse – Kali, @adventurespaniel

Coffee or tea…or something else?

Tea…or wine!

Music? Or do you prefer to work in silence?

I create playlists – or mixed tapes – for each project I work on. This really helps with re-writes. When I’m writing, though, I pop my headphones on and play anything from the classics to indie songwriters.

What are you working on right now?

The I Want You Back trilogy. I’m about to start the re-write and can’t wait to get stuck back into it.

Why I’m an indie author…

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I gave my mother a copy of Wish You Were Here for Christmas. There’s something quite confronting about your mother reading a story where the occasional swear word is uttered and sex happens.

It reminds me of the story when my brother was really young and we were on the farm just outside of Bombala (in southern NSW) helping with the lamb marking. If you don’t know what lamb marking is, I’ll explain sometime much later. Anyways, my brother was wrestling this lamb that was almost as big as him – it was one of the early born lambs that season – and he said ‘F’n hell, you’re an idiot, lamb!’

We all went silent. Ummmmm aaaaaah.

Tearfully, my brother apologised, ‘I’m sorry Mum – I didn’t mean to say idiot!’

Given that Mum’s reaction to my potty mouth is usually something like, ‘ you’re better educated that that, Joanne,’ it’s fair to say I was concerned that Mum was reading my book. I even joked about redacting the spicy bits. As one of my sisters said, I can’t believe you used the word “cock”.’ Really? What else was I going to call it. Hi Leese…

As it turns out, Mum loved the book and said the sex was nicely done. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing…in fact, I don’t want to know. I was, however, thrilled that she liked it – and was prepared to tell all of her friends that she liked it. She asked me, though, why I’d decided to self publish this book. ‘Surely it’s good enough to be published, Joanne,’ she said.

Yeah, I think it is – which is why I published it.

The thing is, after I self published Baby, It’s You, I made the decision to continue to self publish. I’m still not making a living – or anywhere near a living – from my books, but I’m proud of them, and I’m proud to be an indie author. It’s what I want to continue to do.

Why did I go indie in the first place?

I’d sent Baby, It’s You off to a few publishers. It got through the slush pile with one – who asked to see the first three chapters. Then three months later they asked to see the whole book – and requested that I not show anyone else while they were deliberating. Three months later the answer came back: sorry, like the story, like the voice, but not enough romance for us.

Disappointed, I repeated the process. Can we see the first three chapters. Sure. Three months later: we’d like to see the rest of the book – you’re not showing anyone else are you? After six months I got the same result: sorry, like the story, like the voice, but too much romance for us.

At that point I figured that if it was good enough to get through the slush piles and good enough to be considered for acquisition, the bones of a good story were there. It was then that I decided that I was tired of waiting. It was then that I decided that it was time to back myself and take control of the process.

What happened next?

A lot of research.

I sat down and worked out what it was that a traditional publisher would do. They’d hire a structural editor, a copy editor, a cover designer, and there’d be someone to do marketing and promotions. At least.

So that’s what I set out to do. Hire the same people that a traditional publisher would hire. Except for the marketing part – although, I’ve since done that too.

That means an investment?

Absolutely. Publishing costs money – especially if you want your book to be the best version of itself that it can be. When you’re publishing independently, you’re making the investment that a publisher would normally be making for you and in you. You’re also reaping a larger proportion of the royalties – assuming, that is, that you’ve done your marketing and sell books outside your immediate circle of friends.

If you’re with a traditional publisher, they hire the editors, organise the cover, and do your marketing (although many first time authors have been disappointed with the amount of marketing they’ve had to do for themselves). If you’re lucky you’ll be paid a small advance, and will be paid a portion of the royalties once their investment has been repaid. It’s basic business common-sense. If you’re successful, you have the support of the publisher for your next venture, and your next, and the one after that.

So why self-publish then? Surely it’s better to have someone do all of that for you?

The easy answer would be to admit that I’m a control freak. The longer answer is that as much as I love the creative process, I really enjoy the business of writing –  and I’m prepared to make an investment in my business.

I’m in this for the long haul, so the team I’m building around me is one I trust to help me achieve my publishing goals and to help me be a better writer.

Do I secretly yearn for a publishing contract?

Man, yes! Especially when I get great feedback about the books, but the sales remain slow – even though they are improving with each release. Would I go out looking for a publisher? Not at the moment – but I wouldn’t rule out doing that in the future. At this point I’m enjoying being the CEO of my writing career, although there’s no denying that I’d love to one day see my books in an airport – and have the instagram to prove it.

Can you keep the costs down by skimping on an editor and doing your own cover design?

In theory, yes, but would a traditional publisher skimp on an editor or a cover designer? No, they wouldn’t. And when you’re an indie, you’re your own publishing house. Just saying.

Is indie publishing for everyone?

No. You need to be prepared to be responsible for your business, treat your creative output as the product or assets of your business, and manage it in the same way as a traditional publisher would.

If you want to simply create and leave the business to someone else, then indie publishing is not for you.