Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Lisa Cresswell, author of HUSH PUPPY. A native North Carolinian unexpectedly transplanted to Idaho as a teenager, Lisa learned to love the desert and the wide open skies out West. This is where her interest in cultures, both ancient and living, really took root, and she became a Great Basin archaeologist. However, the itch to write never did leave for long. Her first books became the middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Storyteller Series. Her first traditionally published work, Hush Puppy, is now available from Featherweight Press.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
Total planner – outline evangelist. I cannot seem to finish anything without an outline of where I’m going. An outline is like Peter Pan’s magic feather to me. I have to have one to fly.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
It takes me a long, long time because of lots of reasons, but I’m getting better. To give you an idea how long Hush Puppy took, I wrote the initial outline and first few chapters just before my son was born. He’s seven now.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I used to work on one at a time, but the more ideas I get, the more I find that I must multi-task to some degree. Even then, some projects get higher priority than others based on my goals at the time. I might outline a book when I get a new idea and set it aside for a while until I have time to start writing it.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Not fears really. I’ve certainly had frustrations when my writing wasn’t as eloquent or polished as I wanted it to be, but I’ve never been fearful. My biggest fear is no one will read what I write!
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
I don’t have an agent actually. I’ve never had any luck with agents, so I started approaching small presses that were willing to give me a chance. And I don’t have any trunked books really. If they are, it’s because I never finished them.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I guess I have quit on one manuscript, but it was my first attempt. I didn’t have a good outline and I felt overwhelmed. I think I could go back and write it now if I wanted to. That’s the thing about me. I don’t throw anything out, so I can always go back to it.
How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?
Shocked. My publisher told me the release date was August 30, but I discovered the e-book for sale on line on August 19. I’m still not sure what happened. Maybe the retailers got it posted sooner than planned? After waiting so long for publication and expecting to wait even longer, I was delightfully surprised to find out I didn’t have to wait anymore.
How much input do you have on cover art?
A lot actually. Featherweight Press sent me some draft covers, which inspired me to respond with some other ideas I had. Lucky for me, they took my suggestion and made it the cover.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
I was surprised to find out how many folks expect free books from you! I’ve approached several local bookstores about hosting signings and carrying my book locally, and they all expect a complimentary copy for their review first. If you want library journals to read and review your book, you have to send them free copies. And almost all of these folks want print copies. They haven’t moved into the digital age, for whatever reason, so there’s a fair amount of expense for the author involved.
How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?
Featherweight Press is very small and I am expected to do all the marketing for my book. Basically, they get it to the retailers and I do the marketing. Knowing that up front, I started researching book marketing early. I had a blog that I didn’t write much for and I knew I needed to “get with the program”, so I invested in a professional website and blog. It was a significant expense, but I knew I didn’t have the skills to make the site look the way I wanted by myself. After that was in place, I got in the habit of blogging more often and set up a blog tour for the book. I love twitter, so I do plenty of promotion there and on Facebook. I’m even on Goodreads and Pinterest.
When do you build your platform?
I would start now, wherever you are in your career, with a blog at the very least. There are so many social media outlets now it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You need time to figure out which ones you enjoy using the most, that fit your writing style.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
It’s a bit too soon to tell. My audience is teens and I can pretty much guarantee you the majority of my friends and followers on social media are adult writers. Some of them may read young adult fiction, but most are out there to promote their own books, just like I am. I look at social media as a way for my readers to find me online if they want and I hope that they will. I’m working now on ways to get my book into school libraries where I hope to reach more teen readers than I currently reach on social media.