I am absolutely thrilled to host USA Today Bestselling author Mary Buckham! I attended a workshop with her this past fall, and I was so impressed, overwhelmed, and energized by all the useful information she provided on hooks, settings, and building your brand. She is my new favorite writing expert!
In this interview, Mary shares incredibly valuable information on the publishing industry, time management, the business side of writing, and publishing the first book. Mary is such a smart, savvy, and funny writer; she will inspire you to stop making excuses not to write (I think she’s talking directly to me on this one!)
What made you decide to write romance novels?
When I started out I looked at the publishing market as a whole, what types of books were out there, how many books were being purchased from new authors, where were the biggest opportunities to get a foot in the door? Sounds rather cold and calculating, but it was a business decision. To me too many people look at writing as a hobby or as simply for fun and then go into publishing. Right from the beginning I knew that I wanted to be published, so I looked for who bought the most books and put out the most books in a given year. Romance novels being half the traditional publishing market made it a clear, easy-to-follow path that made perfect business sense. Plus I love the juicy complexities of relationships while also knowing I like a story that ends on a positive, we-can-do-this resolution.
What was your biggest challenge when you were trying to publish your debut novel?
What wasn’t a challenge when I first started writing for publication! I had five children under the age of eight. I also worked full time. I was like a lot of writers juggling a lot of demands on my time. I also didn’t know any writers or any writing groups. I didn’t know how one went about getting published, so it was a big new scary world and it took a lot of ramp-up time to get to the point where I felt that I was truly writing for publication as opposed to simply writing to learn if I was indeed capable of writing a full-length book.
How have you dealt with that challenge as you were published more?
Well, for one thing, the kids did grow up and what I discovered was, a piece that we all have control of in our career is how we focus on our challenges. I quickly realized that having children [five under the age of eight at the time], as young as they were and with their needs, they were the best time management tools out there. The same with the work environment. When I was at work it was work, but when I wasn’t there I had my choices, so instead of looking at the challenges as insurmountable, or using my children as justification for not writing; when they leave grade school and go to high school I will write. Or, when they leave high school and go to college I will write. I’m saying that, for me, learning to make time instead of focusing on why I couldn’t write, became a priority. The longer we can make excuses to ourselves, the longer the process of focusing on what’s not working and what is keeping us from writing, the easier it is to let a few months turn into a few years, into a lifetime with a project that never really gets finished.
What would you have done differently if you could start all over again?
I would focus more on my strengths and not listen to the ‘rules’. As an example, when I started writing I could write fast. I could write a lot. 20 pages in a day was not a challenge but I listened to too much feedback that said—No, that’s not right. You should only be writing maybe 10 pages at the most but 5 would be better. It took a long time to get over that pattern of working to others expectations, not my own.
Can you imagine having a different career? What would it be?
I don’t think joining the Circus is an option anymore, and being a pirate was much more glamorous when it was swashbuckling in wooden ships with swords! I love this career because it’s about people. It’s about challenges and overcoming challenges and learning to trust yourself and connecting, and it’s an ongoing career that never really stops. You never stop learning as a writer. You always have the opportunity to expand your horizons. I can’t imagine any other career.
How has the market changed since you first published?
I feel like the market has undergone this huge, amazing process and it’s exciting to be in this business at this time because it’s very much like the industrial revolution. When that showed up on the horizon a lot of people’s response was, I’m going to ignore it till it goes away or I’m not going to deal with that. It’s too big. It’s too scary. It’s too frightening. The reality is that the difference between when I started when my children were small and now is the difference between writing by hand and writing via computer. A world of changes. Access to the reader is so much greater now. The need to be an entrepreneur and a businessperson has increased dramatically, and I love that. I love that sense of opportunity that is available to writers now.
How has your life changed as you have published more books?
I think that for many of us when we start writing the goal is to get published and is a good goal and a clear goal, but we take it for granted that it’s an end goal. We don’t think enough about what happens after that book is published. What happens to the time demands and what happens if your publisher drops your publishing line or what happens if the return on investment for the time and effort and energy that we put into a book is not enough to be financially viable. So how has life changed? A huge world has opened up that was never there for me when I worked in an office and that has been wonderful and exciting. The demands have also changed. When I started in the business there were no e-books. There was no internet. Man, it sounds like I started in the caveman days! You really could focus on simply writing the book and sending it out, but that’s long gone and I doubt it will ever come back. Writers are in the entertainment industry. We have become personalities, and we have responsibilities to our readers. Access goes two ways between readers and writers, so the time allocation that is allotted to writing the next book must be juggled against the business needs. I would say that once you’re published and the more books you publish the allocation becomes 20% writing, 80% business.
What is the single most important thing an unpublished writer should do to get published?
This is a hard one! Writers, published and unpublished, should believe in themselves, but they should also learn what readers expect from the type of book that they are writing. Yes, write the book of your dreams, but then, if you want to publish it, you have to take it out of your fantasy, your needs, and now you have the needs of the reader to be met. So if you love this romance that you wrote with two cats and a goat and it is the book of your dreams that’s great. But if you bring it to the marketplace, and expect to make a living on it, you must understand that you’ll be selling to a much smaller niche market. Be aware of the trade offs of your decisions and don’t bemoan publishing because you’re not an overnight success with a cat/goat ménage-a-trois novel.
What is the single most important thing a self-published writer should do?
The same thing that any writer whether they are indie published, traditionally published or whether they are hybrid published. They should understand the marketplace. They should think in terms of the product that they are selling. They should plan for success and do everything possible to surround themselves with others who are also planning for success.
What is the best writing advice you have ever gotten?
Again, another hard question, because it’s not one piece of advice. Writing is a journey. As we progress in our journey, there are different pieces that we need to hear. There are different messages that can help us get over the next hill or around the next corner. I recently read an author who called herself a quote master, someone who actively looked for quotes that helped her do that next thing, helped her keep going when she thought she couldn’t continue. So, the best advice that works for one author at an early point in their career is not the same advice they need to hear when they’ve been writing for a number of years and are not where they want to be. It is different for the author who is juggling multiple projects while their home life is falling apart. The good news is that there is not one piece of advice. The better news is that there is always that quote, that word of wisdom that can help you as a writer keep going.
Do you have a favorite debut author? If so, who?
I don’t have a favorite debut author because I read like many romance readers started, voraciously. I look for debut authors because these authors are the ones who are competing against the published authors who already have a track record, have a relationship with a publisher, have readers in place. The debut authors have to bring more to the game initially. What I look for is the debut author who continues to improve as a writer because, at one time, for the publishing houses, ten published books was about the number that a writer needed under their belt before they started finding their audience, their core readership; before they started gaining traction. Those days are long gone. The expectation now is that the first book has to be a home run and it has to attract everything that you need without the experience to know how to handle it. Without the understanding that it’s now the next book, that now that you’ve gotten a lot of accolades, or you got good feedback, or you didn’t get good feedback, it’s the next book that becomes the biggest challenge, because you have to write that and the one after that and the next one. So I read a lot of debut authors to see how they play the game with their second and their third and their fourth books.
What I find is what a lot of publishers have found, that the first book may have taken 10 years to polish to that point, but for the second one the author is given a year or 6 months, bam! And maybe they don’t get as much feedback as they did before. Maybe friends that were willing to help them before they were published are no longer there for them. So that second or third book can oftentimes start falling off. And that’s a shame, because the writer who wrote that first book could write to that level again if she or he understood the changes coming once that first book has been published. So I think it’s important to us as writers that we know that we must start building our support groups, start honing ourselves and our craft for success, and start looking down the road. The first book is simply the first book. Whether it’s a home run or not, it just gets you in the game. It’s what we do at that point that determines whether being published was a dream that was reached and then we go back to doing something else, or whether we have a career as a writer.
The Underworld screws even a good plan and this one didn’t start out good.
Half-witch/half-shaman Alex Noziak must lead two fellow Invisible Recruit agents deep into the Underworld to track a powerful demon who rules his realm with a bloody fist and has kidnapped a teenage Seer. The team faced this demon leader once before and the result was devastating. Now? The odds are far worse this time. Alex and her team must stop the demon before he forces the Seer to open a portal, which will unleash the Seekers to wreak vengeance on humans and take possession of the mortal world. Everyone faces sacrifice, but this time Alex stands to lose.
USA Today Best selling author Mary Buckham learned to get into and out of trouble at a very early age. Time has added to her opportunities—detained by Israeli intelligence; strip-searched by a Greek border patrol while traveling with a priest, sneaking into Laos. When not personally avoiding nuisances caused by her insatiable curiosity she creates lots of disorder in her Urban Fantasy Invisible Recruits series. Her characters at least have paranormal and preternatural abilities!
Her Urban Fantasy series is centered around five women drafted to combat preternatural beings agitating for world domination and combines a fantasy/paranormal element with high stakes and the pace of action-adventure stories. Mary loves creating thrills, spills and spells as she follows the ups and downs of fascinating characters starting with Alex Noziak, the heroine of INVISIBLE MAGIC, INVISIBLE POWER, INVISIBLE FATE and INVISIBLE JOURNEY and Kelly McAllister, the heroine of INVISIBLE FEARS, INVISIBLE SECRETS and INVISIBLE EMBRACE. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestseller Dianna Love.
When taking a break from the paranormal Mary crafts Writing Craft non-fiction including, A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting (Writer’s Digest Books), Writing Active Hooks and Break Into Fiction® co-authored with Dianna Love. If Mary’s not hiding out, find more about her and her writing projects by visiting: http://www.MaryBuckham.com.
She can also be found on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/MaryBuckhamFanPage
Twitter at http://twitter.com/MaryBuckham
Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/MaryBuckham.
For information on Mary’s street team, Mary Buckham’s Book Ninjas, go to facebook.com/groups/MaryBuckhamBookNinjas/