The interview series with members of my Twitter community continues with author Rosanne E. Lortz. Enjoy!
Q: What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
RL: I write historical fiction. Growing up, historical fiction was the genre I most loved to read, especially novels by older HF authors like Rafael Sabatini, Samuel Shellabarger, Edith Pargeter, and Rosemary Sutcliff. The picturesque settings, the adventure, the romance--those were all aspects that drew me in. In school, I always had a great interest in history, and although doing research papers can be like pulling teeth for some people, for me it was fun! Writing historical fiction is a great way for me to combine my love of research and my love of story.
Q: How many books have you published? Legacy published, self-published, or a combination?
RL: So far I have published two novels. My first book, I SERVE: A NOVEL OF THE BLACK PRINCE, was self-published. I received a lot of help from a book layout designer/friend who works at a publishing house, and I think that together we turned out a very professional looking book. Before the release of my second novel, ROAD FROM THE WEST: BOOK I OF THE CHRONICLES OF TANCRED, my husband and I created our own publishing company called Madison Street Publishing. Having learned the ropes, so to speak, with publishing and marketing my first book, we wanted to be able to help other unknown authors do the same. So, I guess you could say that this second novel is a combination of self-publishing and indie publishing.
Q: Your novel, I SERVE, is set in the Fourteenth Century. Has researching and writing an historical novel impacted or reshaped the way you see the modern world?
RL: Spending two years of your life researching and writing about a subject gives you a lot of time for reflection. One of the values of studying history and putting it in story form is that it helps you sort through the messiness of real life--the same messiness we have in the modern world--and learn how to evaluate people's motivations as characters. Most of the time, historical characters are not all black and white, good or evil. Looking at the complexities and layers and shades of gray in the people of the fourteenth century can help you appreciate the same complexities of those around you today.
Q: Do you sell copies of your novel, or other works, directly from your website?
RL: Currently, I use my website to refer people to Amazon or B&N if they would like to make a book purchase. For a while, I was doing sales of my own book through Paypal, but the time it took to process orders and ship books wasn't worth the small margin of extra profit.
Q: How much time do you spend on Twitter each week? Do you have a Facebook Fan Page?
RL: My Twitter time fluctuates a lot, depending on what I need to get done that week. At the least, I get on Twitter once a day and skim through posts from my favorite Tweeps. I also use Triberr to retweet great posts by fellow historical fiction writers. Facebook is a lot harder for me to stay away from, even if I should be busy doing something else. I do have a Facebook Fan Page.
Q: Do you blog? How often? Strictly professional or a blend of all things?
RL: I typically blog about once a week. Mostly, I try to blog on historical subjects or the art of writing, although sometimes I do throw in cute pictures of my kids and then make a feeble attempt to tie them into my writing career.
Q: Do you have a motto or favorite quote you turn to on tough writing days?
RL: I love C. S. Lewis' line from Till We Have Faces: "To say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that's the whole art and joy of words."
Q: Have you outsourced editing, cover design, formatting, web design, marketing, etc?
RL: I have two friends that I trust who work as an editing team for me, one who does story analysis and the other who does technical proofreading. With cover design and interior layout, I have a friend who works for a publishing company doing that very thing. She has taken on my books as a side project, and I am very happy with her work. Setting up websites is something I know a little bit about, so I handle that aspect. My husband has taken over the role of marketing manager; he is very tenacious about seeking out publicity outlets through book blog tours, website ads, etc.
Q: Do you work with a writing group?
RL: In the last few months, I've joined a writing group at my church. It's a very mixed assortment of people, from high schoolers all the way up to almost retired folks. We also have varying genre interests, many of them working on screenplays or children's fiction. But an interest in the craft of writing is something we all have in common, and we've been using a FB group to post resources for each other and offer criticism and encouragement.
Q: When you did you first decide to self-publish? How much time did it take to get from an idea to an ebook on Amazon?
RL: Honestly, I never really considered going the traditional route. When I started writing my first novel, I did it for a sense of personal achievement. Then, when it was finished, I immediately wanted to get it printed for my family and friends--I didn't want to spend time querying agents and trying to find a publisher. I self-published, not hoping for much, but after about half a year of very limited paperback sales, my husband suggested putting it on Amazon as an ebook. It only took a few hours to format it for Kindle and upload it. Sales started to pick up, we did a little marketing, and they picked up quite a bit more. The success of this first novel on Kindle convinced me that self-publishing was actually a financially savvy move, and so I decided to do the same for my second novel.
Q: Have you published any of your work for free? Why or why not?
RL: At this point, I have not yet published anything for free. Once I finish the second book in my Chronicles of Tancred trilogy, I may set the price of the first book as free to encourage people to begin the trilogy and get hooked on it.
Q: What tips or advice would you offer to writers who are about to join the self-published community?
RL: Turn out a professional looking product! If you are not able to proofread your book adequately or to make the cover/layout comparable to that of books by legacy publishers, then pay someone to do those things for you! The self-publishing community often gets a (deservedly) bad rap because authors think their content is more important than their presentation.
Q: Is there another writer (or two) in the Twitterverse that you would recommend newbies follow?
RL: I really enjoy reading tweets by @stephaniedray who writes historical fiction novels as Stephanie Dray. Also, @ChristyEnglish, another HF author, has inspirational things to say for writers and is good at communicating a passion for her subject.
Q: What is coming up for you in the next few months?
RL: I suppose the next big thing coming up for me is baby number three. I'm due with our third boy at the end of January, and although I have some writing deadlines between now and then, third trimester pregnancy and the Christmas season are conspiring to foil them. FLOWER OF THE DESERT: BOOK II OF THE CHRONICLES OF TANCRED is slated to come out in late 2012, and I'm still hoping to meet that deadline if all goes well.
Q: Do you have (or are planning) any audio books?
RL: I haven't looked into the audio book scene yet, so I don't know how profitable it would be to go that way. The majority of my sales right now are for ebooks and I'm not sure if that is the same audience that
makes up the audio book market.
Q: Have you done a blog tour? Any advice or cautions?
RL: I did a blog tour with my last book ROAD FROM THE WEST, using Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours which is organized by Amy Bruno from Passages to the Past. It was an awesome experience! I suppose my only caution would be to have a thick skin to negative criticism if you are doing a blog tour. It's rare to get five star reviews across the board, especially from a diverse group of tour hosts, so don't get discouraged by a few negative reviews out of the bunch.
Q: Do you create an outline before beginning a new book?
RL: Yes, I most definitely outline my books before beginning them. I start with a chronological outline of the important historical events and then add items of important character development. With the trilogy I'm working on, I outlined all three books before beginning to write the first one.
Q: Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
RL: Usually, no. Although, last month I challenged myself to start a new project for NaNoWriMo at the same time as working on book two of my trilogy. I decided that it would be good to write something lighter that didn't require research so I could work on increasing my writing speed and becoming better at writing dialogue.
Q: Do you use specialty software?
RL: No, MS Word does the trick for me. I know there are a lot of programs out there that authors use, but I'm happy with the tried and true.
Q: Tell us about some of the hurdles you've cleared on the path to becoming an author. Did you have any idea at the start what the process really entailed?
RL: I suppose the biggest hurdle in being an author is actually finishing a book. So many people start writing projects and never finish them. Once I finished my first book, it gave me the confidence to start another. Initially, I didn't know how much time I would end up spending with marketing and social networking after the book was published. But I'm finding that I also really enjoy that aspect of being an author. It's fun interacting with the historical fiction community and the world of readers.
Q: What is the best comment/compliment you have received about your work?
RL: I think the best compliments I've received is when someone compares my work to Sharon Kay Penman or Elizabeth Chadwick. It's nice to know that people are ranking you with QUALITY writers in the same field.
Q: Let's flip things around for a moment. As a reader, which of the following do you take into consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase a book?
RL: Reader reviews: I definitely look at reader reviews when deciding
whether to purchase a book. It's nice if a book on Amazon has at
least ten reviews. Negative reviews don't always turn me off--it depends
WHY the reviewer didn't like the book.
Number of books already sold: This number isn't usually apparent at
first glance, so it's not something I typically consider.
Book cover: Very important! I won't buy a book unless the cover
Word-of-mouth: Somewhat important to me, but it has to be
word-of-mouth from someone whose reading tastes I trust.
Book summary: Probably even more important than the cover.
If the book summary can't catch my attention, chances are the
book won't either.
Author's blog: I usually don't go to look at this before buying a
book. If I really enjoy a book, I will look up the author's blog later.
Author's Facebook, Twitter, and other social media: Occasionally,
being connected to an author on FB or Twitter will make me interested
in purchasing their work, but it's usually not the first factor I consider.
Book price: Another very important factor. I'm a bargain shopper by
nature, and books are no exception.
Thank you, Rosanne, for sharing your publishing experiences with us. We wish you continued success, and hope you'll come back and share updates with us in the spring!