Melissa Foster is the author of “Chasing Amanda”, currently #4 on IR’s “List Where Indies Count”.
AHE: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your life as a writer? Do you really have six kids???
MF: Yes, I truly have six children. I’m past the chaotic stage, though. I have four bio children (boys) and two step children (boy/girl). My husband and I met when our four older children were 4,6,7, and 9, and two years later we had our fifth, and then a year and a half later, our sixth. Quite a crew, but we’ve been blessed and we have all made it through teenhood X 4. Our oldest is now in graduate school, we have three in college, one in middle school, and one in elementary school. Believe it or not, my husband and I are still mad about each other–the man never fails to amaze me in his support and dedication to our family. I’m quite lucky, I think.
I write full-time while my younger boys are in school, and I also run The Women’s Nest, a free social and support site for women that I founded, and I’m launching the WoMen’s Literary Cafe, for men and women, in November. Prior to my writing life, I owned an HR consulting firm, and also worked as Director for a large corporation, and then, as a Realtor.
A little about me–I’m a lover of brownies, positivity, and all things earthy. Doing the unexpected is fun for me and someone recently called me “scrappy” in my approach to things. I take that as a compliment.
AHE: Did you originally try to find a trad publisher?
MF: Before publishing “Megan’s Way”, I tried to find an agent, however, I was told that the economy (2009 — height of the poor economy) made it difficult to sell books with a sad slant, and a few agents had wanted me to change the story a bit. I chose not to and decided to put “Megan’s Way” out to the public to see what the response to my writing style would be. Luckily, the response was very good. Over 100,000 copies of “Megan’s Way” have been downloaded and it’s now optioned for film.
AHE: At what point did you decide to go indie?
MF: I had queried agents with “Chasing Amanda”, and I had many requests, but no one picked it up. I was actually thinking that I might not even publish the manuscript. Then I met an author who worked with a small press. She offered to connect me with her publisher. Solstice Publishing signed me 24 hours later. I’m glad Geraldine Solon referred me, because had she not convinced me to go forward, because in September alone I’ve sold 30,000 copies.
AHE: What do you think are the major differences between trad and indie publishing? Advantages and disadvantages for each?
MF: I’ve recently been picked up by Jenny Bent for representation of my suspense books. There is an enormous difference in the writing that a publisher will accept and the writing that the general public accepts and enjoys. They are one in the same, as in, readers enjoy strong stories that are well written, but writing for a traditional publisher takes a more succinct writing style.
Another difference is speed of publication. Once sold, it will take a year to publish my books through a traditional publisher, whereas it takes only a day to self-publish. That’s an enormous difference for the reader.
Readership, I believe, is markedly different as well. By having your book available in mainstream bookstores (traditionally published), you are reaching a much wider audience.
I’ve self-published, Indie-published, and from here forward, will be Indie publishing as well as traditionally publishing. I see value in all three.
The one important thread that is common with all three is that authors will need to market their own books no matter which way they publish. Platforms are important to more than just traditional publishers. For this reason, I’m launching WoMen’s Literary Cafe, a cross-promotional site for authors, blogger, reviewers, and readers, where the literary community can unite under one, easily navigable umbrella. Our goal is to help all authors gain exposure and build a platform, while offering readers ready access to the most current titles and to the authors directly.
AHE: Many authors seem to be forgoing the “paper” book route entirely. Did you ever consider doing just an ebook? What do you think the advantages are (and any disadvantages) of having done a paper book?
MF: There are many readers who cannot use ebooks for many reasons, and there are other readers who choose not to. I would never want to exclude that market. Readers are the reason we publish–to have our books read. It costs nothing to self-publish a paperback book through CreateSpace. I can’t imagine why anyone would not answer a reader’s desire. No, I would not consider selling just ebooks.
AHE: Do you market and/or promote your books in a particular way?
MF: Kaira Rouda called me “scrappy” and she’s right. I have 25 years of marketing experience and know what solid promotional platforms feel like, so I go with my gut feeling on most of my outreach. Most of my marketing is word of mouth. I spend oodles (I’m bringing this word back–I like it) of time on social media and networking in person. I love meeting and talking to readers and I gain inspiration from our discussions, and insight into what they liked and didn’t like about my books, and that makes me a much better writer with my next manuscript. Before May I hadn’t marketed my ebooks at all. Dumb, I know, but I wasn’t tuned into them. I was spending all of my time writing instead of 50% of it marketing. Both are important, but truly, you need to put the effort into getting the word out about your book if you expect to see sales. I do a lot of cross-promotions, and I think that’s the path I’ll take in the future.
AHE: Since your books’ success, have you been approached by a trad publisher and/or an Amazon imprint?
MF: I have signed with literary Jenny Bent, and I’m very happily working with her. I have been approached by a few small presses and I have been approached about foreign rights and audio rights for “Chasing Amanda”, both of which Jenny is handling.
AHE: What do you think has made your books such a success? (I’d like to jump in and say that your book cover is fantastic. Do you think that’s played a role in its success? Did you design it yourself or did you have help?)
MF: Thanks about the book cover! That little girl lives about two hours from me. The photographer, Wayne Birnbaum, worked with me and he was amazing. After discussing what I wanted, he went out and did a few photo shoots, and we came up with the perfect lighting, etc. But the little girl (I won’t put her name because she’s young)–she nailed the look. Magnificent! I have received a multitude of emails and comments about the cover.
I think the book speaks beyond its suspense genre. I believe it speaks loudly to women, to parents, and to anyone who has followed their intuition or has wanted to. As for the volume of sales, I’m not sure what has driven this particular book so high so fast. I’m thrilled, and feel very lucky to have so many wonderful readers, but it’s all still a wonder to me.
AHE: Do you have a favorite book and/or character (of your own)? If so, which one?
MF: That’s such a difficult question! I don’t have a personal favorite book, because they all touch me in different ways, and I feel the same about the characters. Megan, in “Megan’s Way”, is very near to my heart. When I wrote her, it was easy to jump into her shoes. She has a strength that I don’t think I could possess, and I admire that. There are some lesser characters that really call to me, like Jason in Megan’s Way, and Lawrence. In “Chasing Amanda” I really loved Rodney.
AHE: What’s ahead for you, writing/publishing-wise?
MF: My third book, “Come Back to Me”, will be released November 1st. WoMen’s Literary Cafe will be hosting a virtual launch party — 35 talented authors will be joining me and offering books for 99 cents. “Come Back to Me” will be introductory priced at 99 cents as well.
I’m also working on a few rewrites of “Chasing Amanda” for Jenny, and I’m working on my next suspense book, “Traces of Tara”.
AHE: Tell us more about the WoMen’s Literary Café.
MF: The WoMen’s Literary Cafe was born from a desire to help authors learn to market their books and gain exposure. I help aspiring authors quite often, and I decided we, as a literary community, needed a gathering place where we could unite, pull together our strengths–we all have something to offer–and help each other succeed.
The WoMen’s Literary Café (welcoming both men and women) is an extension of the The Women’s Nest. We’re an online community that bridges the gap between writers and readers with the sole mission of promoting great literature. The WoMen’s Literary Café is ‘Where readers and authors unite!’
AHE: There are many changes happening in publishing right now. Any predictions on where things are going as far as indie vs. trad, ebooks vs print?
MF: I am not an expert, so please take this response as merely a guess — remember, I’m scrappy, so I have no statistics on this particular subject. It is obvious that ebooks are quickly outselling paperbacks, but I don’t believe paperback books will ever really disappear. I can see that traditional publishers and bookstores will have to do something in order to keep up with bookstores. It’s simply too expensive to continue to publish and keep inventory of, paperback and hardback books–but we still need/want them. My guess, and it is just that, is that traditional publishers will find a way to work on a POD platform in order to keep overhead down, and that they will, and I believe already do, offer epublishing arms.
I worry that Amazon will one day stop offering self-publishing for free, but again, that’s just a guess. There will eventually be a leveling of the playing field and a weeding out of the free arena, I would think.
That being said, I think ebooks and self-publishing is going to continue to soar, and even if Amazon put a price on their publishing, it would probably still be the preferred route for many.
AHE: Finally, what are you reading right now?
MF: I don’t get much time to read these days, and I’m lucky if I make it through one book each month. I’m reading “I’d Know You Anywhere” by Laura Lippman.