I’m so, so excited to share my interview with Carol Beth Anderson with you guys today! Beth Anderson is a phenomenal author with not only great books but great insights into the indie publishing journey and community. I hope you enjoy the interview, and be sure to check out her latest book, The Frost Eater!
Hi Beth! It’s so nice to have you on the blog today!
B: Thanks so much for inviting me here, Savanna! It’s been fun to watch you grow as an indie author, while I’m doing the same. I’m looking forward to our chat!
When did you first decide you wanted to write? Was it your first career choice or were you planning on doing something else?
B: I’ve loved writing for most of my life, but it wasn’t my first career choice. After college, I worked as an admission counselor for my alma mater, then as a real estate agent. When I had kids, I kept my real estate license active, working occasionally. Then I worked for four-and-a-half years for my church, most of that time as a children’s pastor. During the last year of my time on staff, I started writing my first series. I’ve been writing as my main “job” since April 1, 2018.
Like many people, I’d often said (for decades), “I want to write a book someday.” At some point, I kind of gave up on the dream.
But in April 2017, I went to Half Price Books, a used bookstore chain. I was selling some books, and it going to take the staff quite a while to go through the huge boxes I’d brought. I browsed the store and came across a woman standing alone at a table, offering to sell and sign her books. I got in a conversation with her. She was a mom of six(!) and had two books out. I bought one of them and read it that night.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t crazy about her book! I’m so glad I met her that day, though. After reading her work, I thought, “I could do this.” I sat down that night and started brainstorming. A few days later, I started writing Facing the Sun, my first novel. I haven’t stopped since.
When did you first publish? Did you enjoy your self-publishing experience?
B: I published my first trilogy using a rapid-release strategy in October and November 2018. I’ve definitely enjoyed self publishing. It suits me. I like running a business. I like marketing. I enjoy having control over when and how things happen.
Tell me about your debut novel/series. What is it about?
B: Facing the Sun is about a girl with incredible magic confronting a group of men and women who’ve learned to subvert magic for evil purposes. Really, it’s a book about growing up as a girl, with themes related to self image, friendship, confidence, and first love.
And congratulations on your latest release, The Frost Eater! Can you tell us a little bit about it as well? The cover looks so juicy!
B: Thanks so much! The Frost Eater is YA fantasy with a side of romance. It takes place in a magical, post-apocalyptic future. A flying teenage boy and a princess seek a villain who’s stealing memories.
What inspires you to write?
B: I love what creativity does for me! It makes me more alive.
I also have an achievement-oriented personality. (For anyone reading who knows something about Enneagram personality typing…I’m a 3.) I’m highly motivated by the desire to find readers who will buy and love my books.
Who are some authors that inspire you to become a better writer?
B: Brent Weeks and Michael J. Sullivan, my two favorite fantasy authors.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written thus far?
B: Ooh, that’s a tough one! Maybe Krey from The Frost Eater. His personality is partially based on my husband!
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
B: Balancing it with the rest of my life. I tend to go whole-hog when I get really into something…and then it’s easy to neglect my family. For me, much of 2019 was about learning to have greater balance. But it’s a continual struggle!
How would you describe your writing style?
B: Smooth and easy to read with thoughtful themes underneath.
Do you have a favorite snack or drink you enjoy while writing?
B: Not one in particular. Sometimes I go to Starbucks to write, but even there, I vary my order. One weird thing about me is that I drink decaf coffee. I’m surprised other writers haven’t thrown me out of the writing community yet!
Just because I’d like to include it for readers’ purposes, what would you say your target audience is for your books? Is there any content in your newest one that I should warn readers about?
B: My books are YA. The first trilogy is appropriate for 12+, and the companion novella is for 14+.
My upcoming novel is appropriate for 14+. It includes some mild language and non-gory violence. The teenage characters discuss sex and birth control in non-explicit ways as they deal with the reality of raging hormones…but the romance stops at passionate kissing.
As an indie, do you have any advice for other indies involving the self-publishing world? Things you wish you’d known before?
B: Above, I said that I have enjoyed self publishing. That’s true!
That being said, soon after I published, I realized just how difficult it is to be successful in this business. I like to be open about this experience, because I’ve seen so many other indie authors go through the same thing I did. It’s good to prepare people. I’ve heard this advice: “Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.” I keep coming back to that!
A very small minority of self-published authors will find quick success. Let me repeat that: a very small minority. I hoped to be in that tiny minority. I worked hard for it. It didn’t happen.
As an indie, my books have done well, but you have to sell many thousands of books to do really well. I’m not there yet, not even close. That means I haven’t recouped all the money I’ve put into my business. Yep, over a year after I first published, I’m still in the red. I’m headed in the right direction, and I think this next series I’m about to start publishing will make me profitable. But as much as I’d love to be a rich and famous author (yes, I just typed that cheesy phrase for all the world to see!), I don’t expect it to happen. A lot has to go right to reach that point.
As indies, if we want the best chance of success, we need to do our best with the writing and publishing elements we have control over. Here are a few of those elements:
- Cover: Get the best book cover you can with the resources you have. Whether you’re designing it yourself or hiring someone or purchasing a premade cover, get a cover that fits your genre and is well made.
- Quality: Publish a book that’s well structured (Google “story structure” if you need help) and that isn’t full of typos and grammatical errors. Editors can help with a lot of this, but editors can also be expensive. (For this of you reading this, I’ve recently learned that Savannah is a very affordable editor! Ask her for a sample edit if you’re looking for someone!) For my first series, I hired a wonderful editor. I wanted to hire her for my next series, but it didn’t fit in the budget. Instead, I used a group of alpha readers (who read while I’m drafting), followed by a large group of beta readers, followed by a large group of ARC readers. Between all those readers, I’m producing a book that’s had far more eyes on it than most traditionally published books get, prior to publishing. It’s quality work: I’m confident of that. And I didn’t have to pay for my early readers. (I talk more about my process for working with early readers in this post on my website.)
- Learning from Feedback: This is one of the biggest ways you can improve as an author. I got a lot of pre-publication feedback on my first series, but once it was published, I started reading reviews. Overall they were positive, but I paid attention to the “buts” in reviews. (“This was great, but…”) My biggest “but” (yes, you can laugh at that phrase) was that my books were a little slow for some readers. I’ve focused intently on action and pacing for my second series, and the results reflects that focus. My upcoming novel is fast paced, and readers love it. If I’d said, “I’m writing for me, and I don’t care about reviewer opinions,” I wouldn’t have learned what I needed to learn.
- Learning from Other Authors: The single best place to learn about self publishing, in my opinion, is the 20Booksto50K group on Facebook. Besides that…read books on craft and marketing. Connect with other authors (social media, in-person meetups, conferences…whatever works for you).
What do you consider your definition of success, as an author? Have you reached it yet or are you still in the process of obtaining it?
B: My first measurement has always been profitability, which I haven’t reached yet. I’m usually profitable on a monthly basis, but I still need to “pay myself back” for the expenses I accumulated prior to publishing.
Once I reach that first goal, I’d love to eventually replace the income I made at my last job. These are reasonable measures of success that I can probably eventually reach. If I go further, that’s fantastic. But I can get so achievement-minded that nothing is enough. I’m constantly battling that.
Finally, I just have to say that your covers are EXQUISITE! I’ve always loved them, but I’m especially blown away by The Frost Eater‘s cover. Would you mind telling us who designed it for you?
B: Thanks so much! Mariah Sinclair designed my first trilogy and the covers for the upcoming Magic Eaters Trilogy books.
My first covers were custom designs, and I had very specific (and sometimes contradictory) requests for Mariah! She did a great job following my instructions, and the covers are lovely.
You’re right about The Frost Eater, though. It’s a stunning cover, the type of cover I’ve always wanted. The big difference is this: I bought that cover, plus the rest of the trilogy, as premade covers. Many designers besides Mariah make premade covers, covers that are based on a designer’s idea of what would work well in the market, rather than covers that are custom designed for an author. (Only one author purchases each premade–other books won’t share the same covers.)
Mariah’s inspiration shines through with this whole series of covers…and I learned an important lesson. With my first series, I didn’t trust her enough. I gave her so much guidance that it didn’t allow as much room for creativity on her part. The result was, in every case, very pretty. But these new covers are true works of art, because they came directly from an artist who knows genres and knows the market and wasn’t held back by my micromanagement.
And…because I got the covers when my series was still at the planning stage, I’m using the covers as inspiration in planning out the series. I don’t know if I’ll always be lucky enough to find premade covers that fit my idea, but I hope so. I love using covers that are so totally inspired by a designer who’s not held back by me!
Maria’s premade cover website is http://www.thecovervault.com.
Thanks so much, Beth, for letting me interview you! To check out her books and social media links, just scroll down. 🙂
Carol Beth Anderson is a native of Arizona and now lives in Leander, TX, outside Austin. She has a husband, two kids, a miniature schnauzer, and more fish than anyone knows what to do with. Besides writing, she loves baking sourdough bread, knitting, and eating cookies-and-cream ice cream.
Signed paperbacks: https://carolbethanderson.com/shop/
On my website, I have an Author Resources section. There’s a lot of really useful, free info for indie authors here: https://carolbethanderson.com/category/author-resources/