AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Bestselling Author Cyndi Lord: Advice for Planning, Writing, and Marketing Your Book

Welcome! My name is Michelle Dalson, and I will be interviewing Cyndi Lord, a bestselling author of A Plain Wish. That’s right, she is a bestseller! And yes, she has experienced the stressful process of writing, publishing, and most of all, marketing. She has taken the time to share her author journey, along with some helpful tips for other writers and aspiring authors who dream of achieving that bestseller list!

Michelle Dalson: Hello, Cyndi. Thank you for taking the time to discuss your writing journey. I’m sure many writers out there aspire to be bestselling authors just like you! But first of all, let’s hear a bit about your background. How did you grow as a writer? What inspired you to write what you write?

Cyndi: I spent the majority of my adult life in Michigan where I met and married my husband. We have nine adult children, eighteen grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. My desire to write began as a teenager and in a journal. In my early twenties, I worked part-time for a county prosecutor’s office and fell in love with law. The aspects I enjoyed most were research and investigation. Later, when the children were older and I decided to continue my education, I achieved my Master Degree in Criminal Justice and a paralegal studies. My own business became a dream while I worked for a large law firm and a district court. In 1986 I opened my own Private Investigation and Paralegal Support Agency. Soon, I had eleven employees. During my academic and business life, I captured many experiences in short stories. In 1995, I wrote my first book, Chicky, from my journals as a teen-ager. I’ll be polishing that one, and believe me, it needs a lot of polishing, and presenting it for publication in 2015, if all goes as planned.

Michelle: Wow, I am impressed! I love how you started out with a law degree. It sounds like your experiences in the Private Investigation and Paralegal Support Agency inspired you to write your first works. Where are you now, both in your law and writing careers?

Cyndi: I am a member of The National Association of Professional Women, and vice president of Northeast Texas Writers Organization. I retired from private investigation a few years ago to write full time, and early this year, my authorship took off wildly with the publication of They Call Me Murdered, a paranormal murder mystery with a lady private investigator. Imagine that! The Sandra Derringer Chronicles have done well, and book two, They Call Me Missing will be released in the Winter.

Michelle: Ah, so you turned to writing after you retired from your private investigation. It sounds like you started off quite smoothly, too. Where did you publish your first few books?

Cyndi: White Bird Publications, where I am now an acquisition editor, accepted my second series, The Plain Series, with the release of the highly successful first book, A Plain Wish, holding Amazon’s Hottest New Releases for twenty-eight of the allotted thirty days, and being in the top ten bestsellers for sixty-seven days. At four months, it remains in the top 100 on Amazon. This Amish theme series prompted my five state, five week book tour this past summer.

Nick The Owlet’s Adventure is a children’s picture book published for my granddaughter. It became a best seller in three weeks. A pleasant surprise.

On the personal level of my bio, I am a Christian first. My husband and I actively participate in the clothing ministry for the homeless. I am a vegan and strong voice for educating against animal farming and abuse of animals. I love to garden, and paint in water colors and oil. I married my best friend, and my life is so blessed.

Michelle: Again…wow! It sounds wonderful that you’ve had a good start to your writing career. However, there are many authors who have not had it so easy. I’m sure you are aware of the prolonged challenges authors must face, both in their writing and in marketing. Let’s discuss a bit about how you planned your books at the beginning of your writing career, along with any problems you had to overcome in in the process.

The Planning Process:

Michelle: So Cyndi, pick one novel you would like to discuss today. Which one of your books would you like to use to demonstrate how you handled the planning, writing, publishing, and marketing journeys throughout your writing career?

Cyndi: A Plain Wish – my outline consisted of the first three books, and what part of Kristi, the protagonist’s story, I would tell in each one. From there, on a single legal pad page, I wrote ten scenes – just a sentence, and left five blank lines. I filled in the lines with ideas for the scenes. When writing the draft, I used the notes to prompt me. Of course, the scenes grew on their own, and twist I didn’t expect popped up.

I use an online, free, character development chart for each main character. I find this helpful, and in both series first books, reviews indicate that my readers feel my characters are real people who that “know.”   It is helpful to me to refer back to charts and make sure I keep facts about the characters straight.

Michelle: Hmm, an online free character development chart. Sounds organized! You’ll have to send me the link to find that—I would love to use it for the next novels I have in mind.

And your other planning methods seem very helpful. What advice would you give to aspiring authors about planning for a novel? Would you advise them to follow the same steps you took to plan your book? Why or why not?

Cyndi: I would advise aspiring authors to follow the brief outline process and use character charts. More importantly, I would advise them to understand the “hook,” and work with published authors who can edit and critique YOUR STYLE without trying to make you write in their style.

The Writing Process:

Michelle: Great advice—you are very right. Outlines and character charts are most helpful in developing the two most integral factors of novel-writing: the plot and the characters.

And I agree with you about working with published authors and developing your own style and hook. Let’s discuss this a bit more. Tell us a bit about the writing process of your book. How many drafts did you go through before you finally published your book?

Cyndi: Eleven. Yikes, I know. It goes from draft – or what you first pound out when your mind takes off and the characters start talking, do your own read and edit.

Michelle: Of course! Writers are always told to not worry too much about the content of the first draft—just write whatever comes to mind first. However, it is the rewriting and editing process that takes a lot more time and insight.

So what steps did you take after finishing your drafts?

Cyndi: First, I have an out loud read, where someone else reads and I listen. Stop them, make corrections, and they notify you of errors you missed. Then, you re-read, and cut. Re-read again, and correct the errors you made with cutting, and polish. When you have it to this point, you have to do what is a boring-to-me out loud read, again. Catch anything you’ve missed.

Now, present it to the publisher, who will make editing, cutting, and polishing suggestions. Do those, send back and it goes to the publisher’s editor. Back to you, and you go over it. At this point, I became certain if I ever saw the manuscript again, I’d scream.

But, you’re not done. It now goes to the line editor, and back to you to go over, again. When you’re done, it won’t be printed. It will be placed in the book format, and you get it back for a final chance to make corrections or edits. Send it back to the publisher who completes what you did – and sends it back for your review.

With your final approval, it goes to the printer. Are you exhausted reading the process? This is what it takes to be published by a publishing company. I suggest anyone who doesn’t think writing a book should be a lot of hard work get another profession.

Michelle: Writing a book definitely requires full-time commitment if one wants that book to be the best darn book readers will see out there. I’m glad you shared the fact that editing isn’t just a one-step process where you hand it to someone to fix and then you are finished—you actually get it handed back multiple times, always with more editing feedback. And it sounds like this has to happen with more than just one person! First, with your arbitrary reader who read your story aloud to you, then with a publishing company, then with the publisher’s editor, then with a line editor. The journey seems to never end!

I bet you also had other readers besides the publisher, the publisher’s editor, and the line-editor read and critique your story?

Cyndi: Yes, I have three beta readers, and two critique partners, and a group.

Michelle: That’s great. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about this prolonged process of getting feedback for your writing and fixing your story! So what important advice would you like to share with aspiring authors about writing, rewriting, and editing a novel?

Cyndi: Learn the craft of writing. Listen to those who have been published by a publishing company. Listen and learn and do. I clench my teeth, for example, when I see authors refer to people as “that.” As an acquisition editor, when I see a person or people referred to as “that,” getting me to read further is almost impossible. Do not listen to someone who wants you to write in their style. You want an edit and a critique, not a lesson in, “write like me.” Grammar is the beginning, a good hook the catcher, and a polished manuscript the key. It’s work.

The Publishing Process:

Michelle: You’re absolutely right about keeping to your own style of writing, even during the editing process. I’m sure as an acquisition editor, you have lots of extra advice to give to other writers out there!

But right now, let’s shift to the publishing process of your novel. What route did you take to publish your novel and why?

Cyndi: I started with large press and an agent, but soon went with small press. I prefer to put most of the money in my pocket. It’s my book.

Michelle: I have considered publishing through a small press at one time…although now I’m not so sure what publishing route to commit to. Is there anything you can say about why you didn’t choose the other publishing routes?

Cyndi: My opinion is very strong against vanity press. And, much of the Indie work I have read is deplorable. It looks to me as if writers do not want to hone the craft and put out great novels. They just write a manuscript and publish it – the results are obvious. I have read a few excellent Indie books, but they are far and few in between.

There are other reasons why I chose the small press publishing write. I attended the 2013 Northeast Texas Writers Roundup Conference, and speakers were there showing the financial aspects of indie, small press, and the big-four. They broke the dollars down, and I flinched. I learned a five or six thousand dollar advance means nothing in the long haul.

For me, writing is now my business, and I want as much of the profit in my bank account as possible. I went small press, and it’s proven to be the best financial decision for me.

Michelle: I see. Well, a small press might just be a little more appealing to me now, even though I have a long way to go! But I’d still like to hear a bit more about the small press publishing route. What were the pros and cons of this publishing route for you and your book?

Cyndi: The pros are the amount of money I keep from my book sales. The cons are not there. As in all publishing companies, big and small, the sales are directly related to the work the author puts into promotions.

Michelle: No cons? Hmm…tell us more about this publishing company. What was the name of the publishing company and why would you say there were no downsides? Would you recommend it for other aspiring authors?

Cyndi: White Bird Publications is my publisher. Yes, I would highly recommend this publishing company. Aside from offering all the editing, the cover, everything – they are available and helpful to the authors. The owner sets up events for the authors a few times a year, and is consistently expanding sales opportunities.

Michelle: Did you hire a literary agent before publishing this novel? If so, let us know how helpful you found this agent and why.

Cyndi: Yes, I had interest of two literary agents. One wanted me to change my Amish theme book where the protagonist is not Amish, to include drugs, sex, and alcohol for higher sales – I refused. The other constantly traveled and vacationed. She did not answer vital emails or calls for weeks.

I emailed both and advised them their services were not needed.

Michelle: I’m sorry to hear that. Both your literary agents seem very off-task.

Nevertheless, your dedication kept you moving forward on a successful path. Let’s hear another few words advice for the aspiring authors. What are the key factors a writer should think about before choosing one of the three publishing routes?

Cyndi: First of all, how do you want to present yourself as an author? As someone who has a book in print anyone can have if they pay vanity press? As a person who is able to use create-space to put a book together by following step-by-step directions? Or, as someone who honed the craft, became a great writer, and had an agent or small press accept your work for publication?

For me, it boils down to three choices. Not everyone has the same goals and purpose. Each must decide what they want from their book.

The Marketing Process:

Michelle: Now, we’re finally about to discuss the process that many authors struggle through: the marketing process.

Cyndi, as a bestselling author, you must have some good insight into attracting readers and getting your book publicized. Explain how you drew people to read your book. Any marketing strategies you used?

Cyndi: Social Media pushed all three of my books into bestsellers. Groups worked best for me. I have recently written a step-by-step article about what I did, and it will be published soon.

Being number one in Amazon’s Hottest New Releases for almost a month tilted the scales for me.

Michelle: I look forward to reading that step-by-step article of yours!

But for now, tell us about what you did in those social media groups—goodreads, for example, is a very popular site where most authors promote their books. How did you use goodreads to promote your book? How much time did you dedicate to connecting with others on goodreads?

Cyndi: I don’t dedicate any time to goodreads. Maybe I should. I paid for advertisement, the ‘per click” one, and didn’t see any results.

Michelle: You never used goodreads? Well, considering where you are now, I guess that can’t be bad.

How did you use facebook to promote your book? How much time did you dedicate to connecting with others on facebook?

Cyndi: I used groups. Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin are all I used.

Michelle: What about twitter? How did you use twitter to promote your book? How much time did you dedicate to connecting with others on twitter?

Cyndi: I first connected with 957 people, and 459 connected with me. In the first month after my book released, I tweeted three times a day; morning, noon, and night.

Michelle: That sounds convenient. Tweeting frequently is a good way of getting yourself noticed.

What other websites did you use to promote and sell your book? Are there any websites you recommend for other authors to promote/sell?

Cyndi: I had three or four reviews and interviews. Suite T, the magazine, interviewed me.

Michelle: Wow, I have so much more questions to ask you, although I will have to save these for the comments section of our interview!

Before we wrap up, is there any additional advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors about marketing?

Cyndi: It is work. You have to do it every day; promote, promote, promote. Regardless of the genre of your book, there are thousands of others on Amazon. You cannot expect to throw it on there and have it found. As in any business, you must advertise, and the more you advertise, the more you sell.

Michelle: Great advice! I’m glad we got to discuss your writing journey. You had great insight into the many key factors of writing: the prolonged editing process, the decisions to make when choosing a publisher, and the steps to publicize your book and get people to read it. I look forward to reading that article of yours and learning about all the step-by-step processes of your marketing skills on social media!

Thank you for sharing the story of your writing journey with us!

To Learn More About Cyndi Lord…

  1. Website address: http://cyndilord.wordpress.com/
  2. Facebook contact info: https://www.facebook.com/cyndi.lord.9
  3. Twitter contact info: https://twitter.com/Cyndi_Lord
  4. Goodreads contact info: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7786854.Cyndi_Lord
  5. Books (you can provide links):

http://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Murdered-Cyndi-Lord/dp/1937690695/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1410459361&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/A-Plain-Wish-Cyndi-Lord/dp/1937690830/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1410459361&sr=8-2

http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Owlets-Adventure-Cyndi-Lord/dp/193769075X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-1

  1. Where else can we find you?

My Fan page: https://www.facebook.com/sandra.derringerchronicles

 

If you have any questions about Cyndi, her books, or would like to know a bit more about how she handled the planning, writing, publishing, and marketing processes, leave your question in a comment below!

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23 Responses to AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Bestselling Author Cyndi Lord: Advice for Planning, Writing, and Marketing Your Book

  1. cyndilord says:

    Thank you, Michelle. I look forward to chatting with other writers.

    • Simon Palmer says:

      Hi Cyndi. I enjoyed your interview very much. Would you happen to have any advice for new authors trying to get noticed?

      • cyndilord says:

        Hello Simon – it’s so nice to meet you.

        Yes, I have information. Know your target audience, and put yourself in front of them. I wrote a paranormal murder mystery. The Sandra Derringer Chronicles, my fan page, is linked below. For facebook specific groups, I searched paranormal, mystery, thriller books- and joined those groups, along with book promotions, readers, etc.

        I did the same thing with the YA series, A Plain Wish. It is Amish theme, inspirational, Christian…. you get the idea. KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.

        Join a writing group, attend writing events. Have launch parties, do signings, pass out bookmarks with your book and synopsis, and where to buy your book printed on it – and pass it out everywhere. Books signings are great. Go to libraries and stores.

        You are known sooner than you can believe. I have been approached in a grocery store and laundromat while I was on book tour.

        Best Wishes on your book sales. You get what you work for – get known and sell those books. You can do it!

  2. Mary Sessions says:

    This was a most interesting interview, filled with a tremendous amount of information any new writer will appreciate. Thank you for sharing your publishing journey. This interview will help me advance in a new direction.

    • cyndilord says:

      Hello Mary – you know I am here to help writer succeed. I’ll help in any way I can. I cannot say it enough – it’s competitive and the you have to work at getting out there. Once you’re known, people are waiting for and asking about your next book.

      You’ll be setting next to me at the authors table before you know it!

  3. Simon Palmer says:

    Great interview. Very inspiring.

  4. Ruthie says:

    As a proofreader/editor for novelists like (and including Cyndi), I understand how frustrating the editing process can be. The one thing I would suggest any author do before submitting a manuscript to a publisher, have it polished and error-free as possible.

    WWhen I was in High School, I took a beginning computer programming course. Our instructor taught us something I will never forget. When we had an error come up, the compiler couldn’t necessarily tell us what or even where it was. Because we had written the program, many times we could read through it several times in a row and not find anything wrong. She encouraged us to have someone else read through it. A pair of fresh eyes is more likely to spot what’s wrong than someone who wrote it and hasn’t found what’s wrong.

    Translating that to the world of professional writing, don’t trust that you will see everything that’s wrong. So many times we’re used to our own errors and therefore don’t see them, or we’re unaware they’re even errors in the first place. Also, don’t run the spelling and grammar checker and assume you’re covered. The spell check programs really don’t know anything about context, and can really mess things up. Grammar checking is even less reliable. It works based on hard-coded rules that are totally inflexible. So there are times it tells us to correct things that don’t need correcting, and even worse are the times it doesn’t notify us when something is very wrong.

    So find a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, who is a good speller and pretty good at grammar. Ask them for a favor and have them go through the manuscript. Publishers are much happier when they know that you have a good handle on spelling and grammar, and that the editing process on their end will be just a little bit easier.

  5. Cyndi, thank you for taking the time to interview. I found it very helpful.
    I plan to submit my book to an agent once it is completely finished. I’m planning to get as much editing as I can done by myself. Should I contact an editor before submitting it to an agent, or should I do the editing myself first, and then wait until the agent contacts me with the “right” editor?

  6. cyndilord says:

    To be honest, Michelle, I can’t answer your question without seeing your first fully self-edited chapter. Most authors have a professional edit before submitting. An agent is as equally swamped as a mall press. You have to grab them, and not give them any pause, to be accepted.

    • I would like to work with an editor before submitting…however, I want to make sure I choose the right one. Are there websites, companies, or even specific people you would recommend looking into for the “best” editors?

  7. cyndilord says:

    Michelle, it depends on the type of edit you want. Some editors are grammar, typo editors, others are these, plus flow. Others, who are more expensive do all, including line editing, “to be” word catchers, adverbs – they are line editors, and will strike to cut unnecessary words, repetitive information, improper phrases, etc. When they are done, your manuscript is crisp and clean.

  8. This is a brilliant interview! Some questions that in our mind that we didn’t ask , were already asked by fellow readers of this blog. I loved how author Michelle throw her questions and how Author Cyndi answer them..This is the interview worth listening and keeping packed with brilliant tips and inputs where one can apply in her craft. Thanks to both of you ! You are awesome and more power 🙂

  9. cyndilord says:

    I’m pleased you found it helpful, Nancy Hallazgo.

  10. Cyndi Lord is a determined and talented writer. She can write lovely, compelling stories is all genre, children, mystery, and tender personal drama. I have read all her books and highly recommend every reader add them to their home library and to always have one of her books on their Kindle for convenience. If asked to review and rate her books, they have never failed to bring a Five Star Rating in my mind. This was a lovely interview and being lucky enough to know this talented writer personally, I am honored to leave this comment. As a writer myself, I am, of course, limited to the adverbs and adjectives I’d like to add in front of her name. Such as, humorously, thrillingly, excellently, beautifully…make up your own mind by ordering her book today.

  11. cyndilord says:

    Thank you, Bobbie. You were my most encouraging friend. So, here we are best selling authors, and I wonder….. are we having fun, yet? lol IT’S WORK and worth every minute of the labor.

  12. Excellent interview. There are a lot of actionable tips and advice in this interview. What comes across loud and clear is that writing is hard work. It requires sustained effort over a long period of time. Again, this is a very helpful interview for new and experienced authors.

  13. cyndilord says:

    Professor Baker, what an honor and pleasure to read your comment here. It is always my desire to encourage others and cheer them on. The best gift we can give is to share what we learn in the journey called life.

  14. I’ll begin my comments with a response from Michelle at the beginning of this interview, “WOW.”
    It’s interesting how we develop contacts with friends and other authors on social media but never get in depth insights into their backgrounds and accomplishments.
    Thank you Michelle for allowing Cyndi to share her amazing background and advice based on demonstrated excellence.
    Cyndi, what can I say? Your career and willingness to share insights into the process of writing and marketing should challenge us all to be better writers!

    Well done Michelle and Cyndi!

  15. cyndilord says:

    How kind of you to express those sentiments, Rich. I appreciate your friendship, and shoulder & eyes when a dark poem must be shared, but not with just anyone.

    My desire is to help, encourage, and mentor any writer who reaches for my hand. I don’t pretend to know everything, but what I do know I am willing to share. If it helps one person, or a hundred, I’ve reached my goal to leave behind something positive.

  16. Reblogged this on Rich Weatherly – Author and commented:
    I have had the pleasure of knowing Cyndi Lord mostly through social media. We are both participants in an annual charity event hosted by Tammy Thompson called Gathering of Authors and held in Texarkana. The event raises funds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
    When I learned Michelle Dalson featured Cyndi in an author interview I was determined to read it. Cyndi has leveraged experience as a private investigator and criminal justice professional to become a best selling paranormal mystery author.
    This post discusses Cyndi’s background, providers writing advice and important information on marketing your book.
    I hope you enjoy this as much as I.

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