Sandra Bass Joines is an active member of our writing community and an author who has written both Fiction and Nonfiction genres. Sandra kindly agreed to an interview for One Stop Fiction. As a follow up to Pete Adams’s invitation of a book tour last week, Sandra has some great tips for meeting potential readers.

Q: Hello, as an author that has successfully written in both fiction and non-fiction, do you prefer one to the other, do you find one more rewarding or easier to write?

A: Since I am a storyteller at heart and love sharing the crazy ideas that come to life in my mind, I would have to say that writing fiction is more rewarding to me than writing nonfiction. Fiction comes easy to me. Nonfiction feels more like work and requires more planning and structure.

It was gratifying, however, to write a book that allowed me to share with people things I learned before and after my surgery to help them better prepare for their procedure.

Q: Your non-fiction work told of your experience of undergoing spinal surgery. How many months were you recuperating? Did you still write during this time or did you take a long break? Was it difficult getting back into the writing habit?

A: It’s been thirteen months since surgery, and I am still in the recovery process. I have to say the journey has challenged me both physically and emotionally. In the earlier months after surgery, I had no extra energy for writing, and I found the many stories rumbling around in my mind no longer had a desire to find their way to my computer. I knew I needed the outlet to keep my mind off of the pain I was experiencing, so I decided to find some sort of accountability. I joined a writing group. This is when I decided to write a nonfiction book about my experiences through surgery.

After completing three fourths of the book, I realized it should not be about me. It should be about other surgery patients and how I could help them. Starting over, I found my voice and found the writing more enjoyable and easier. I also discovered the stories in my head were eager to introduce themselves to my computer and I was once again able to get back to fiction writing.

NB Further information on support for recovery from spine surgery is available here: http://sandrajoinesbooks.com

Q: When you finally press the publish button, do you have different marketing strategies between the two genres, do you use launch teams, promotional sites for both or have a loyal reader base etc.?

A: My first novel was published 2012. I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing. It was one of those finish-it-or-forget-it demands from my husband that made me finally (after years) publish it. Although it is a great story, the writing needs work.

Not knowing about promos, I had no idea how to get the book out there. When I offered it for free, there were many many downloads. When priced at 99 cents or $2.99, there were very few purchases. I think it is ranked somewhere in the zillions on Kindle, (no, I don’t want to promote it until I have a new cover and have done some rewriting). I have sold many more paperbacks than electronic copies.

A considerable amount of planning went into the launch of my non- fiction book, based on the formula presented by the writing group in which I was enrolled. I used a launch team and many promotional sites for marketing. Planning the launch strategy for the next fiction is in progress. Although I will utilize many of the same ideas, there will be new ones added.

Q: Do you agree with the marketing strategy of giving your work away for free, have you used it, has it been successful for you?

A: I did use the free-download strategy during the launch of my non-fiction book in April. I was overwhelmed at the number of downloads!!! I do not have enough experience with my own launches to know whether or not free downloads worked to my advantage. I do know that my next book launch might not incorporate free downloads. I am listening to what has and has not worked from other authors and greatly respect their opinions.

Q: A lot of writers are naturally hesitant about putting themselves out there in front of people in order to market themselves. Do you have this problem, are you happy meeting people, have you any advice on overcoming this?

A: I find it easy to put myself out there when I am promoting other people, however, am still not as confident as I would like to be when promoting myself.

Q: From your experience of attending book fairs / festivals, what advice would you give to make it a rewarding experience for yourself and potential readers, are there any essential items you always take with you?

A: I love book signing events, and they have been good to me. Interacting with readers and other authors is just plain fun.

At the beginning of the first venue I attended, I sat there like a knot on a log, expecting people to walk over and buy a book. Silly me. I quickly learned that I needed to find a way to engage them. So, I looked for something about them that I could use. For instance, if someone was wearing a hat or shirt with a military insignia, I smiled, asked them about their branch of service, and then thanked them for their service. People love to talk about themselves.

When the right time presented itself, I simply brought out something in the book I thought they might be interested in. It worked most of the time.

Instead of trying to sell a book, I shared something that caused them to want to know more about the book.

Essential items: books (confirm and reconfirm that your books have been received), professional poster, three or so nice pens (with quick-dry ink), a freshly ironed tablecloth or a paper one (often the tables provided are pretty bad), small notebook (to jot down the spelling of someone’s name), book markers (which serve as a business card – people love book markers), when possible, a bouquet of fresh flowers (they’re for me – because flowers make me feel more cheerful), breath mints (for me).

Q: What are you working on at the moment? Do you put a lot of research into your novels ? How accurate are you descriptions?

A: I am currently working on the second book in the Plata Hartman trilogy, Secrets of the Forgotten Bay. Yes, I spend a lot of time researching. It is important to me that my descriptions are as accurate as possible. On the other hand, it is fiction, and this provides me certain control over descriptions that might not be exactly right.

Q: What would be your advice for anyone just starting out on the writer’s road and wanting to create content?

A: For anyone just beginning a writer’s journey, I would highly advise them to invest in a course for authors. If they are interested in fiction, there are many excellent courses that teach the processes of writing content. There are courses that help people understand the difference between plotters and pansters and which might work best for them.

For non-fiction writers, I recommend the same; find a course that teaches how to write content in easy-to-follow formulas. AND write.

Q: About the courses you have followed yourself, was it successful, (keeping you accountable, marketing help etc)? Where do you feel help is really needed for self-publishing your own books?

A: I have taken several writing courses to help improve my fiction writing. A couple have been excellent, others mediocre at best. I have followed only one course for nonfiction. I think the course for nonfiction was successful in keeping me accountable, providing easy-to-understand instructions on writing, and providing some excellent tools and guidelines for marketing and promoting. Being the amateur that I am, there are many areas in which I could use help. Sometimes, just understanding the reality: does a novel really have to have three acts, 8 sequences, and so on and so on to be a successful book? Sometimes, can’t I just tell instead of show? The biggest thing for me is help with getting my books to publishing, marketing, and promotions. I just want to write.

Q: What do you enjoy reading to relax, what are your favorite authors, do you prefer the feel of a novel in your hands, or happy with your Kindle, have you a favorite place to curl up and read?

A: I love a good suspense, mystery, crime, romance, and a book that makes me laugh. I love to read books by Lee Child, Robert B. Parker, Karen Slaughter, Iris Johansen, and Randy Wayne White to name a few. I have grown to love the convenience of my Kindle. There’s a nice comfy chair in my living room where I love to curl up with a cup of tea or coffee and read. However, I find reading easy just about anywhere.

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