Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Author Interview with Lynn McMonigal

Today, I'm posting an inverview with Lynn McMonigal, self-published Christian Fiction author of Forsaking the Call, The Ladies of Faith and Summertime.

Please tell us about yourself, and your books.

This is always my least favorite question! Ask me about my characters or books and I can go on forever (and have been told that I do!!). But ask me about me and I hardly know where to begin.

I was born in Ann Arbor, MI and raised in Jackson, MI. My hometown is not perfect, but I love it! If my books are not specifically set in Jackson, they are set in a town that resembles it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed telling stories. When I was in early elementary school, I would line up my dolls and stuffed animals to tell them stories. Some nights, I would annoy my sisters with the stories I kept telling when they wanted to sleep. In 5th grade, I had a teacher who encouraged me to start writing down my stories. Ever since, I’ve written short stories and dreamed of publishing novels.

My relationship with Christ is VERY important to me. He is the reason I live and breathe. I’ve been so incredibly blessed. Writing is one way that I thank Him for all he has done. For years, I ran away from the knowledge that my story-telling ability was a gift from God and should be used for Him. Now that I have stopped running, I make sure that some aspect of my love for Christ comes through in everything that I write.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

This sort of goes back to what I said before. I spent a long time (nearly 20 years) running from God. When my youngest son was born in 2007, I stopped running. I didn’t have a job, so it seemed like the best time to really devote myself to my writing. In November, I took part in National Novel Writing Month, completing the first draft of my novel Forsaking the Call in just 30 days. As a part of that, I earned a certificate for a free copy of my novel to be printed by CreateSpace. Originally, I was going to just get that one copy, just so I could hold my work in my hands. By the end of 2008, I had completed two more novels and had outlines for nearly a dozen more. I thought if I was going to work that fast, I might as well keep up with the self publishing. It’s a quick way of getting my books out there.

What was the process like, from beginning to end?

With CreateSpace, the process is so very easy! I wrote the book, proofed and edited it more times than I can count, decided on the size I wanted my final book to be, created a PDF of the manuscript, created a cover, and loaded all of that onto the CreateSpace website. My favorite thing about CreateSpace (other than the quality of the final product, which is phenomenol!) is the cost. Some self publishing companies require a financial investment from the writer up front. This was not something that I could do. With CreateSpace, I only have to pay for the copies that are actually printed. That means I have a better control over inventory.

What have you learned about publishing, along the way?

The #1 thing I have learned is to not trust my own eyes when it comes to proof-reading! I am too close to the work; I know what is supposed to be on the page and that is what I see there. Most often, though, that is not what is on the page! And spell check doesn’t catch everything. For example, I meant to say that “she slid across the floor”. Only I put an “e” on the end. “Slide” is a real word, so spell check didn’t catch it. I read it and didn’t catch it.

Also, I have learned that I can’t be too touchy about the editing. There might be a phrase or a sentence or a paragraph that I really LOVE that doesn’t help the flow of the story at all. I have to trust the editors (my editor is the retired editor of a church magazine) to make or suggest changes that are for the betterment of the book.

How have you marketed/promoted your books?

The marketing is the hardest part for me! As soon as one story is done, I am ready to move on to the next. But I don’t have a marketing staff behind me. If I just move on, the published book might not be sold.

I do a lot of promotion on Facebook, Twitter, and on my blog and website. Also, I am a part of a few writers groups on-line. A lot of the people there have their own blogs devoted to books, and many are willing to host blog tours for me. It’s nice to have help and support from other authors like that.

Also, I use Vista Print A LOT. I have business cards and brochures listing my books with me all the time. One of my nephews LOVES to pass out my business cards every where he goes. When a new book is ready to come out, I have post cards and flyers printed up announcing them. I have a list of libraries and bookstores within 50 miles of my home that I send them out to. Also, I send postcards to a lot of area churches. I have been fortunate to be invited to speak at some churches and church conferences through these mailings. That helps a lot in promoting.

Anytime I do a book signing or speaking engagement, I make up a little gift basket that has to do with the book. With Forsaking the Call, the basket contains a can of Pringles, a cheesecake mix, a pacifier, and hazelnut coffee. The Summertime basket contains snickerdoodle cookie mix, a pair of yellow flip-flops, a small journal, and a flowery apron. People will almost always ask why I chose those items. I just smile and say, “Well, it’s all in the book. You’ll have to read it if you want to understand.” More often than not, that results in the sale of the book! And at the end of the event, I draw out a name from all those who signed up to be on my newsletter list. That is the person who takes home the goodie basket.

There is an awesome book by Janet Elaine Smith called Promo Paks that I have learned so much from. It is packed full of free and nearly-free ideas for marketing books.

Have you been able to get your books on bookstore shelves?

Yes and no. So far, I’ve had very little luck at getting my books into the “big stores”, like Borders and Barnes and Noble. But smaller stores are great! There is one independent bookstore here in town that I have a wonderful relationship with. The manager enjoys my work, and she enjoys being able to tell others, “This is the only store in Jackson where you will find Lynn’s books.”

For more information about Lynn and her books, visit her website - Lynn's Corner

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