My Interview with Sahara Foley!
I always appreciate authors and readers taking time out of their lives for me, especially during the holiday season when it’s so hectic. That being said, I wanted to begin by thanking you, Sahara. It’s always a pleasure!
1. I always kick off my interviews with the same question. Therefore, please tell us how you’d describe yourself?
I’m an introvert who suddenly found myself having to ‘put herself out there’ in the social media world. Scary!! I don’t consider myself smart or intelligent, but everyone around me always tells me I am. Boy, do I have them fooled.
2. Each writer has a unique trek into the world of publishing. I am curious to hear more about your particular story.
· What encouraged you to write in the first place?
o I have always been an avid reader since I was old enough to read and understand, but I never thought about writing a book. I didn’t have the proverbial stories running rampant in my head. But my late husband Bob did. He tried getting his stories published back in the late `1980’s, but none of the Trad publishers would even touch his manualscripts. Now, I understand why. Even though they were awesome storylines, they were horribly written. He never saw them as only outlines, and he refused to make any changes to them. So, after he died, I dusted off his stories and decided to self-publish them for him. Or, I should say, us.
· What led to your decision to publish? Did you try to go traditional, and query literary agents, or have you always been indie?
o Over the years before Bob died, I really wanted to try to get his stories published, but I knew he would never allow me to change any of his writing. If he could only see what I’ve done to them now. LOL. Anyway, self-publishing was just getting started when he passed, so I set my mind on learning everything I could about being an indie author.
o I went indie for several years before I saw a tweet from Creativia Publishing. I always knew I wanted The Secret of Excalibur to go through a publisher, so I checked them out, meet Julie, and through her I submitted my MS to them. I haven’t looked back or regretted my decision since.
· Did you ever self-publish? If yes, what made you chose to sign with a small press, such as our indie publisher, Creativia?
o Yes, for several years. The one deciding factor for Creativia is the fact they work with their authors. They don’t dictate and we end up with terrible looking book covers. I’ve seen some cringe-worthy covers from other small presses. But, more than that, they actually pay for promotions and really try to get our books noticed. I haven’t seen too many other small presses go to those lengths.
· If you could do anything different, would you? If you would, what would it be and why?
o Well, right now, I’m too busy with work to really promote myself. Once I retire, I might take the publishing reins back into my own hands and go wider than Amazon. But, who knows, by then, the whole publishing platform might be changed once again.
3. You’re not just an author, but you are a book reviewer. Just as you’ve received accolades for your writing, you’ve also been acknowledged for your reviews. I’d love to talk about that, if I may.
· What motivated you into becoming a prominent book reviewer?
o Well, it all started with having to have a blog in my author platform. I find it really hard to talk about myself, and even four years later, I still do. But I love reading, and I loved finding the indie author community.
o I’ve meet some really terrific writers, so I wanted to share their work and promote them at the same time on my blog. I hate to admit, but I’ve slacked off lately as I’ve been trying to get Book 3 of the Excalibur Saga finished. But I intend to start posting more Author Interviews, and book reviews, on my blog again.
· Did you commonly review books before you were a published author?
o No, never. To be honest, I never read an ebook until I started the whole ebook publishing gig. Now, I see how important they are to us small time writers to get noticed.
· If no, do you think being an author has impacted your book reviewing in any way? Has it contributed to your success as an accomplished reviewer?
o Yes it has. When I first started doing book reviews, I was pretty opinionated with my review. I’ve had some backlash due to being too honest and critical, so I’ve learned to overlook some things. But, they still factor into my star rating.
· What do you look for in a book when you are reading it? Does the criteria change when you are looking at it from a writer or reviewer stand point, and if so, why or how?
o I find I’m more critical now as a writer. I see sentence structures through a writer’s eyes, but, I’ve also learned how to become a better writer from some of the books I’ve read and reviewed.
o As a reader, I look for the enjoyment factor. Are the characters believable? Do they elicit a response from me, whether good or bad? Does the plot have any holes in it? Are there a lot of editing errors? One of my major pet peeves.
4. Let’s talk about the world of Indie for a moment. There’s never been a better time to be an independent writer, but even so, there are many pitfalls. Still, there’s this blessed community of indie writers and readers that makes it all worth it. In the next section of questions, I’d like to focus on the roller coaster ride of this unique niche of publishing and some of the obstacles and triumphs you have faced.
· When I first entered the industry, like all good writers, I did my research. However, I learned the most from the veteran authors I befriended. What resources do you think made the most impact on your knowledge-base of the industry? Has that changed over time or with your own experiences?
o Oh my gosh, I floundered around for a while, going from author group to author group, trying to find a niche. I always felt like an outsider as I felt like such a newbie. To be honest, I found the authors that were doing well didn’t always take the time with us new authors. I am now in a small circle of friends/authors with the intent to help us become better writers. We also help with new promotional ideas. But, I still have to say, the best feedback I get now, is through all the Creativia authors.
· What do you think is the biggest obstacle for an indie author? Was this something you or your friends have dealt with, or is this something you see as a trend in the industry?
o The biggest obstacle is getting our books noticed. Amazon is making this even harder since they started their own imprint of books. They push them over any others. Even the Trad publishers have to pay Amazon to push their books. Some people are saying Amazon will eventually kill the self-publishing world. We shall see.
· As I said, I think the best part of publishing has to be the community. The support is amazing from readers and writers alike. Do you agree, or what do you think is the best aspect of publishing?
o When you can find a good group of authors to hang with, Yes, they can really help you get over the bad times. They are also there to cheer you on when your books are doing awesome.
o As for the readers, I’m still in the process of improving my mailing list. I have received some great feedback from my readers there, and it’s always nice to know they love our books.
· Now, knowing you as I do, I’m aware of how involved you are with the indie community as a writer, reader, and reviewer. You blog and net-work better than most people I know – even those who are signed with the bigger publishing houses. Therefore, I feel like your opinion is not only valid, but valuable. That being said, what do you think is the biggest difference between traditional and indie authors? Do you think it’s just the funding behind advertising or does that really matter since readers have a more personal relationship with indie writers? I mean, you and I are certainly more accessible to our audiences than someone like Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King.
o Gosh, what a compliment!! I don’t see myself as well net-worked. But, the biggest difference is Trad publishers have the money to push their books onto the bestseller lists. They’ve actually rigged them. But I also know indie authors who have made the USA or NYT bestseller lists. It just comes down to money and how many fans you have to buy your books at just the right time.
o I do believe that indie authors are more approachable. Still, there are a ton of readers who will never buy indie. All they know, or want, are trad books. I just recently converted my Supervisor over to ebooks and indie writers. She loves them.
· What’s your view on the small press, traditional publishing houses, and self-pubbing? Do you think they’re all made equal as far as opportunities are concerned or do you think one option is better than another, and why?
o No, they are not all equal. Take Creativia. I run in some groups where the authors are with small presses like Creativia. Yet, their books have never been in the top 100 of their categories on Amazon. You know why? The small presses don’t promote their own books. Such a shame and a waste. These poor authors spin their wheels, spend countless hours marketing, and they just don’t get the reach needed. It makes no sense to me.
· What resources do you think made the most impact on your knowledge-base of the industry?
o How-to-do books on marketing and author platforms. Most are garbage, but the ones with good information really helped me get my platform going.
· What advice would you give to a novice author trying to publish?
o These are the musts: Get a good editor. Do not do it yourself! I did that with my first books and regretted it. Get a talented designer to do your book covers. DO NOT do them yourself. And read.
o Read other author’s books. See how they word a sentence, set up a scene, what makes you love or hate the book. Don’t emulate them, but learn how to incorporate those same mechanisms in your own wiring.
o And, of course, learn how to write. That’s a given. I didn’t even know that. There is a rhyme and reason why books have to be written a certain way. Learn it.
· What was the best advice you feel you received?
o Don’t take your bad reviews to heart. You will get them, no matter how well-written your books are. Beware, there be trolls!
5. Being indie, authors are required to do a large amount of promotion and networking whether they’ve signed with a small press or not. What’s your approach to marketing?
Well, I hate to admit, I’ve kind of taken a backseat to my marketing lately. I pushed it so hard for several years, I got burnt out. So, I’ve changed my focus to my mailing list now. My main marketing was Tweeter, but everyone and their mother promotes there now, so it just became redundant and pointless.
· Being friends with Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear, I’m able to get a perspective of the industry from authors signed with agents and large traditional publishing houses. What I’ve learned from them is that, even in their position, nothing beats connecting with your readers on a personal level; networking is vital regardless of advertising funds. What do you do in order to connect with your readers? Do you have a particular service that you feel is better than another, and if so, what is it and why do you think it works so well?
o This is where your mailing list comes in. So many authors dish them, but they are vital to your growth. I currently have about 1100 subscribers on my list. Most don’t interact, but the ones that do are priceless.
o I started doing Amazon Gift Card giveaways about every two to three months. They have to answer a question from one of my stories, so it gets them reading my books too.
o I’m also starting a street team from the ones interested in being my beta readers.
· A lot of indie authors invest in “swag” in order to help promote themselves or a particular book they’ve written. How do you feel about this? Do you think it’s a good idea, or a waste of resources?
o I’ve never tried it. The problem is, you have to mail them. I don’t drive, so that poses a problem for me.
· Working with other writers on a collective novel of short stories to showcase ones writing is a good tool for reaching new audiences. How do you feel about them? Are you involved in any anthologies – why or why not?
o I was. In 2014, Silent Night was a story I wrote for a Christmas anthology. The book received very few sales and no reviews. Unless you have some top name authors in the book, I just don’t see them as a good marketing device. A lot of readers don’t like anthologies.
6. We all have days when we question why we do what we do. I think that’s true no matter what industry you work in, honestly. On days like these, how do you motivate yourself? What encourages you to continue to not only create, but to publish as well?
Yeah, there’s been times when I ask myself, ‘why keep doing it.’ But, then the damn characters pipe up and say, ‘Hey, I’m still waiting in this stupid box! You’re not writing fast enough.’ Seriously though, what else do I have to do? It’s a hobby more than a job.
· Do you ever get writers block, and if so, how do you overcome it?
o Yes. Even though I’m working from outlines, there are times when I’m changing the story that the dialogue or characters just don’t seem to mesh right. My solution is playing games. I love computer games.
· What rejuvenates you, bringing you fresh ideas for stories?
o I try NOT to think of new stories. I have plenty on my plate already.
7. Question six leads me into a new grouping of questions because most indie authors I know have difficulties recovering from harsh, negative reviews. As an avid reader and prolific reviewer, I’m curious to pick your brain about reviews.
· I, personally, agree with the ideology that every review has merit. If, for no other reason, it helps to get you exposure. What do you think about this? Are bad reviews really bad?
o It’s taken me a while to learn this, but, no, they are not. Bad reviews actually legitimize your book. Readers will not be fooled by a book with all 5 star reviews.
o I recently did a survey with my mailing list, and most never really look at reviews. Or, if they did, they only read the 3 or below stars. Just like I do.
o I know the game authors play to get those 5 star reviews. And that’s why Amazon is cracking down on fellow authors reviewing each other’s books.
· Do you read reviews before you select a novel? If you do, what do you look for in the review that helps you chose the book or not?
o If I’m buying the book for my own pleasure, I will read the 3 and below star reviews. I also look at the date of the reviews. If they are complaining about editing errors, I’ll try to find newer reviews to see if they mention the same thing. I won’t buy a book full of editing errors.
· Has a negative review ever led you to picking up the book opposed to deterring you from reading it?
o Yes, depending on the review.
8. What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
· Do you maintain an annual writing strategy or do you sort of “wing it”, based on the characters and stories that dominate your mind?
o I’m really trying to write at least 400 to 600 words a day.
· What is your current WIP?
o Karrin: Warrior Child.
Thanks again, Sahara. You are a fascinating person and a beloved friend. I wish you all the best in life – you deserve it!
Thank you for having me on your blog, Julie. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am now.