Describe your writing career to this point.
I have always been a story-teller. As a child, I got into a lot of trouble for “making things up.” Now, I’m rewarded for making things up!
I’ve been writing fiction since middle school and have the rejection slips to prove it. I even handwrote a script for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I had a massive crush on Ilya Kurykin, played by David McCallum, and I wrote myself into that script as his love interest. I was writing romantic suspense even then—I just didn’t know it was called that!
After graduating with a B.A. in Psychology, I realized my dream of working in the attic writing great novels would have to take a back seat to the simple pleasures of eating and having a roof over my head. Over time, I became a researcher, association executive, Registered Nurse, and an academic with a Ph.D. in Public Health.
Despite having published numerous non-fiction titles, including a best-selling health care management textbook, that itch to write stories (some call it an obsession), keeps me coming back to fiction. I cannot imagine not writing novels and I cannot believe my good luck in finding friendship, support, and opportunities to develop as a novelist with the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Since romance has over a dozen sub-genres, I have been able to turn my fascination with horror and mystery into paranormal romance and romantic suspense.
What do you enjoy the most about writing fiction?
I’m a research junkie. When I seize a topic, I become obsessed with it (there’s that word again!) For my latest book, Kiss of the Virgin Queen, I spent four years researching four major religions and related legends. At times, it was hard to get to the business of writing.
Is there anything about writing fiction that you find challenging?
Everything from managing story ideas (I have too many) to finding time to balance the demands of a full time job that I love, family responsibilities, and the demands of writing, researching, and marketing my work. Writing is a business, too.
How do you go about getting your books edited? Do you have beta readers, critique partners? Do you belong to a writers’ group? Do you use a paid editor?
I paid an editor to work on my first book, Some Other Child. It wasn’t cheap, but she came highly recommended. The first pass was very helpful; the second less so, and the third least helpful. After that, I continued to revise the book and submit it for publication until I got sick of looking at it. Eventually, I put it away and wrote a second book, Desire and Deception. It was accepted by Red Sage Publishing and was nominated for an RT Best Erotic Book of the Year in 2011.
All the work I did on the first book showed in my second one.
My third book, Obsession, published by Wild Rose Press, was a finalist for the 2014 EPIC Book Awards in the Romantic Suspense Category. Again, hard work on previous books showed in that one. It was a great feeling when an editor at the Wild Rose Press asked to represent my first born, Some Other Child.
Before I submit my work for publication, I have it read by my writers’ group, by critique partners, and by beta readers, many of whom are subject matter experts. Kiss of the Virgin Queen had 20 beta readers, all with different expertise, ranging from religion to forensics to nuclear physics.
What gives you the most gratification as a writer?
As noted above, I write textbooks as well as fiction. I pride myself on active voice and engaging the reader, a huge challenge in the turgid world of texts. The most amazing thing happened when I went to an annual meeting of health care management educators. A professor told me I was on her “bucket list” of people she wanted to meet. Not only did she love my text, her students voted it one of their favorites every year. Wow. I was overwhelmed.
As a fiction writer, I have the most gratification when people tell me the story moved them. Obsession is about a baby abduction and human trafficking. It was not an easy topic to put into fiction. I knew I had hit a nerve when it was named a finalist in the EPIC Ebook Awards for 2014. Also, AmazonEncore bought exclusive ebook rights from my publisher. That was another sign that tough topics can sell, provided the author tells a good story.
I’m working on new series and that is extremely gratifying as well, because it is different from other paranormal series. Kiss of the Virgin Queen, which came out October of 2015, is the sequel to the novella Kiss of the Silver Wolf. Edgy and suspenseful, the Kiss of the Jinni Hunter series explores diverse cultures and an array of supernatural beings. I invite you and your readers to join the Special Agents of the Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Anomaly Defense Division as they race to save humanity—and the people they love.
What advice would you give to writers about which marketing techniques have worked for you?
I’ve tried a lot of venues for advertising my books. The following are the types and placements of advertising I’ve used and perceived levels of effectiveness. Dollar signs ($) range from $ to $$$$$.
- Goodreads: $$$ They offer pay-per-click ads, which sounds great, but you still have to get the title viewed. I started with an ad for $150. (CTRs range from .05% to 0.5%.) My click-through rate was 0.09%. I could not see any sales resulting from this effort. I still have credit left. No one is clicking.
- Genre Specific Blogs and Websites: $ to $$$ The prices on these placements vary with the blog. I consider author pages on romance blogs my calling card. Most are very reasonable. In addition, authors can purchase ads for specific events (like TRR’s Sizzling Summers) or on a monthly basis. Prices vary with the size, type, and placement of the advertisement. I buy these to keep my name out there between new releases.
- Genre Specific Magazines: $$$$$ These are expensive even with a discount. The artwork may or may not be included and you have to be very clear on how you want it to look. I had a beautiful ad in one of the biggest magazines in mystery and suspense. It looked great, made me feel good. I doubt I made any sales from it.
- Advertisements on AOL or Yahoo: $$$$$ I paid a small fortune for a box ad targeted to Baltimore, where Some Other Child takes place. The sales person told me the target demographics for this ad was for households with incomes in the over $100K range. Surely they can afford my book, right? Apparently not. I could not track a single sale from this effort.
- Facebook Ads: $ to $$$$$ Prices vary with how many people you want to reach. You can target your ads by gender, age, country, etc. This is wonderful for getting the word out about free Kindle downloads or 99 cents specials. People will share your post and downloads will increase with the use of this networking tool. I do not recommend this for “OMIGOD, I’m so wonderful, I can barely stand myself” posts. You will be nailed for spamming. Stick to promoting freebies and 99 cents specials. While I cannot track sales directly from FB ads, I can track new signups for my newsletters, and newsletter subscribers are more likely to buy books. FB ads are ideal for generating leads. If you take care setting your budget, this can be very cost-effective.
- Independent bookstores: The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore is an indie bookstore that was kind enough to allow me to have a reading. I have a great relationship with Sandman Book Company, the largest independent bookstore in Southwest Florida. In addition to having a cat named Kitty-Wan Kenobe, the owners are incredibly supportive of Indie authors.
- Miscellaneous: I always carry copies of my print books in the trunk of my car, along with promotional materials. It never fails, I run into someone who heard I had a new book, and they want one. Yes, I’m shameless and prepared.
Bottom line: follow the readers. It’s easy to spend a lot of money trying to market your books and not see a lot of documented effectiveness. My recommendation, stick with FB ads to generate leads via your newsletter and advertise on genre specific websites and blogs. Readers on FB, genre specific websites, and blogs, talk about the kinds of books they like and give word-of-mouth advertising.
Thank you, Sharon.
Here are some links where you can find Sharon Buchbinder’s books: