I’m pleased to announce that today’s Conversation is with another fellow West Australian! Hooray for local writers!
I first met bestselling romance author Claire Boston at the Rockingham Writers Convention last month when I attended her workshop on self-editing. I found her workshop really informative and loved hearing Claire talk about her own writing and editing process so I made up my mind to corner her after the workshop and ask her if she would do an interview for the blog. Luckily for me, she said yes!
I used to devour romance novels when I was a teenager but it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up one, so not long after the convention I thought I’d download one of Claire’s books on Kindle. I got hooked right away, and in the space of a week I’ve very quickly read my way through The Texan Quartet and am planning to get onto her Flanagan Sisters series next! Warning to readers looking to try her books – they are seriously addictive!
I’ve always found the romance writers’ community to be a warm and friendly bunch – in particular, there are a lot of romance writers online who quite happily share their tips and advice on writing with aspiring authors. Claire proves to be no different as she generously shared her writing and publishing journey with me, her thoughts on being a hybrid author as well as her own advice to aspiring authors. To find out more, read on!
Hi, Claire, and welcome to The Salonniere’s Apartments! I thought I’d kick things off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself!
Thank you so much for having me. I’m a contemporary romance author with two series, The Texan Quartet and The Flanagan Sisters. I also enjoy writing fantasy novels, though none of them are published yet. I’m currently president of the Vintage Motocross Club of Western Australia and Secretary for the Romance Writers of Australia. When I’m not writing or doing volunteer work I love making hand-made journals.
What drew you to the romance genre?
I have been reading romance novels since I was eleven. It was school holidays and I’d run out of books to read. My Mum handed me a Nora Roberts novel and I immediately fell in love with romance. I love the emotion, the giddy feeling as you watch two people fall in love and I adore the happy ending.
What was your journey to getting published like?
Long! I decided I wanted to be published in April 2005 and that’s when I really focused on being serious about writing a book. I had written part of a fantasy novel a few years prior, but then tried to write a romance and to be honest, it wasn’t very good. I switched back to writing fantasy and wrote four novels. The last novel, The Assassin’s Gift, was doing well in competitions and getting requests from agents and publishers, but not getting picked up. Then I went back to writing romance and wrote What Goes on Tour.
In August 2013 I attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference and submitted the first three pages of What Goes on Tour to a panel called Survivor: Submission Island. The panel consisted of four editors and two agents and the idea was to replicate the slush pile process. The first three pages of each manuscript was read out and the panelists would hold up a stop sign when they would have stopped reading if they had received the story via email. Then when all the stop signs were up, or the three pages had been read, the panelists would explain why they stopped. I was lucky that What Goes on Tour was read out – all three pages – and I received four requests for the full manuscript. I sent it off and in October 2013 I received an email from Joel Naoum from Momentum, saying he wanted to publish it. I was ecstatic!
You started off in traditional publishing, but then decided to independently publish the Flanagan Sisters series. Why did you choose to go indie?
The Flanagan Sisters was actually contracted by Momentum and they had the release dates already set. Then in February 2016, Momentum decided to scale back their operations and suggested I revert my rights. I had to decide whether I would look for another publisher, or publish them myself. I knew that if I looked for a publisher it would take months to get a response and then if they did want to buy the series, it wouldn’t be out until 2017 at the earliest. I wasn’t willing to wait that long. Break the Rules had already been editing by Momentum and Change of Heart had been submitted for editing. I decided to use the same editor as I had for Break the Rules and try independent publishing. I was keen to be able to track my sales on a day-to-day basis and to see what promotion was working.
For those who are interested, could you give us a quick walkthrough of the process of self-publishing from the moment you finish that first draft to the day the finished copy sees the light of day?
Sure. I write my first draft really quickly and I edit it myself initially. I probably go through four or five passes at the editing, tightening up the plot, adding description and emotion, deepening the point of view and that kind of thing. It takes me about 3-4 months to write the book. When I know what the story is about and have chosen a title, I’ll contact my cover designer and order a cover. When I’m happy with the story, I send it off to my editor. She does both a structural edit and a copy edit and sends it back to me. I then go through her suggestions and make the necessary changes. If I’ve changed significant sections, I might send it back to her for another pass, or else I’ll send it on to my proofreader. My proofreader checks the work for spelling and punctuation as well as checking whether I’ve used Australian terms rather than American terms.
When I get it back from her, I’ll do a final read through and then I’ll format the book. There are two types of formatting: formatting for ebook and formatting for print. After the formatting is done, I upload the book to the different platforms I use: Draft2Digital, Kobo Writing Life, KDP, CreateSpace and IngramSpark, and set a release date.
Now that you’ve tried both sides of publishing – traditional and indie – what is your opinion of the two? Do you have a preference for either and if so, why?
I think both have their advantages and disadvantages. Traditional publishing is definitely less work, but with that comes less control. You don’t have much of a say over title, cover or your editor and you don’t get to see your sales until 3-9 months after the sale has been made. The advantage is you also don’t have to spend any money to get your book published, because the publisher pays for that.
As an indie, you choose everything, title, cover, blurb, price, and that can be daunting for some. You also cover all of the costs. Book covers can cost anything from $70-1000 and editing costs depends on the length of the book but can be $1000+. The advantage is being able to set your price, change it for promotions and to see your sales every day if you want. This means if you run a promotion, you can actually see if you got an increase in sales which is important to judge your return on investment.
I like the idea of being a hybrid author – doing both traditional and indie publishing, depending on the genre I’m writing.
Earlier this year you wrote on your blog about feeling disheartened over marketing your books via traditional media. Do you still feel the same way? Also, in which area do you feel you’ve gained the most traction in terms of marketing your books?
That’s a really hard question. I think traditional media is quite difficult to get into because they don’t generally cover books unless it’s a huge best seller like Harry Potter or Fifty Shades of Grey. For me, getting in touch with bloggers and reviewers who cover romance is a good way to get traction. I also find that if I do a promotion where I set a book free or 99 cents and advertise it on different newsletter services, then I get a spike in sales for the other books.
I thought your self-editing workshop at the Rockingham Writers Convention was really helpful and informative! You mentioned at the workshop that you’re due to release a book for writers called The Beginner Writer’s Toolkit. Could you tell us a little more about the book and what folks can expect from it?
Thanks so much. I’m glad it was helpful. The book is actually Self-Editing and it’s part of The Beginner Writer’s Toolkit series. The Self-Editing book is basically full of everything I have learnt about editing my own work over the last ten years. It covers mistakes that I see beginner writers make time and time again, and are mistakes I made myself when I started. My aim with the book is to help other writers at the start of the journey avoid some of the mistakes I made and to show them how to analyse their work before they send it off. Self-Editing was released in September and I plan to write more books in the series next year.
What’s a regular day like for you?
I get up and take my dog for a walk. Then I sit down at my computer about 8.30 and start work. If I’m writing a first draft, then I tend to start writing, aiming for about 5,000 words a day. If I’m editing, I’ll aim for three or four chapters to be edited. In between working on my novel I answer emails, schedule marketing, book in my editors and do other admin work.
Do you have any particular writing habits and/or a particular writing routine?
Before starting a series, I’ll work out all of the characters, and create character sheets for them. Aside from that I don’t have much of a routine. I just sit down and write.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I found that setting up a routine helped me to produce words. Whether that’s setting aside one night a week to write, or writing every day for half an hour, just make sure you’re writing regularly. Also, give yourself permission to write rubbish. It really doesn’t matter if you’re first attempt isn’t perfect – and trust me, it won’t be – the important thing is to get the story finished. Then you can polish it.
Finally, what are you working on next?
I’m currently editing Place to Belong, which is book 4 of The Flanagan Sisters.
Thank you, Claire, for coming onto The Salonniere’s Apartments and sharing your writing journey with us! For those who want to find out more, you can visit Claire at her official website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.