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