Welcome! My name is Michelle Dalson, and I will be interviewing Kayla Dempster, author of The Unusual Isles. She has experienced the harrowing 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!
Michelle: Hello, Kayla. Thank you for taking the time to discuss your writing journey. Before we discuss your books, let’s hear a bit about your background. How did you grow as a writer? What inspired you to write what you write?
Kayla: I am currently a college student pursuing a degree in biochemistry. I first got into writing when I was in seventh grade. Before that year I was into reading really girly books such as The Clique Series and the Saddle Club. I then read the book Alex Rider: Stormbreaker which completely changed my view on book genres. I was suddenly thrust into a genre full of action, suspense, adventure, and mystery and I absolutely loved it.
Michelle: So you’re a college student too—so am I! I find it interesting that you are pursuing your degree in biochemistry, yet, you still love to write. You remind me a bit of myself—I, too, plan to major in either biology or psychology, while continuing to allow time to write my novels.
Anyway, back to you. What happened once you fell in love with action, suspense, adventure, and mystery genres?
Kayla: I then had researched all kinds of books about spies and I found mostly every series out there. I was then very disappointed to find I didn’t like any of the spy books about girls because they focused mostly on romance and other girly topics, and all the spy books with male characters barely had any female characters, or they were represented badly.
I then made the decision to write my first novel, The Year of the Elephant, a book about a girl spy who goes on a mission in Africa to “save the world” from a mad scientist. After that I really got into writing and have written many short stories and poems since. I’ve won various small and unofficial contests for both my short stories and poetry. I recently finished my second novel The Unusual Isles, which I self-published through Createspace.
Michelle: Wow, so it sounds like you wanted to write about something that wasn’t too common out there. That’s great! How have your writing experiences changed since you started writing about your original ideas?
Kayla: Many things helped me grow as a writer from when I wrote my first one and published my second one. Experience is the first one. It’s as simple as the more you write, the more comfortable you become with it, and that natural experience makes you better, just like with any sport you would play.
In my junior year of high school, I had a religion teacher who I will call Mr. Stu. He told us he had self-published a book and was currently working with an independent company on his second one. He also started helping out with the writers club at our school. He was the first person who I really saw as an inspiration with my writing, and he supported me and was happy to give me advice. I learned from him that you can still be a writer while also having a full time job and a family.
Michelle: That makes me smile. I would have loved to meet this teacher! I totally agree with him: you can definitely make time for your hobbies and passions while fulfilling other obligations at the same time. I’m hoping I will be able to do so once I graduate and begin my intended career in the future.
Kayla: Another thing I really have to credit is a Figment run competition called America’s Next Great Author. The competition has been running for three years, and I have auditioned all three year. I didn’t make it my first time, got 5th the second year, and I came away with second place the third second which ended this August. I could really see myself grow as a writer through this competition, and my improvement was most evident through the prompts for the contest. The challenges were always unique and they challenged me as a writer, and also helped me grow. The judges could be harsh, but that only helped me lean so I knew what to improve on.
Michelle: I’m glad to hear that you were very involved in this writing competition. It’s a great way to enhance your writing skills and your credibility as an author!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your writing background?
Kayla: Outside of writing, I love singing; I just joined my college’s acapella group, participating in theater productions, reading all kinds of books, watching anime, reading manga, and drawing when I feel like it.
The Planning Process:
Michelle: Kayla, I want to admit that I’m impressed that you are a passionate writer. It’s hard to find people your age you love to write novels. I’ve only had a very small handful of friends who have every written an entire story! So let’s move onto a discussion over your works. Pick ONE novel that you have published. Describe how you planned the storyline of this novel. Did you outline your chapters before you wrote them? Did you keep a document where you jotted down all your ideas as they came to you?
Kayla: I think that I have a very unorthodox way of writing. The idea for The Unusual Isles just popped into my head one day when I was riding a car. I wanted to write something modern that could be considered realistic, while also adding adventure to it.
I decided I wanted to write four different story lines and find a way to tie them all together at the end. That process seemed really cool to me and I wanted to give it a shot. I don’t write a lot of things down on paper or on my laptop; I keep most of the ideas in my head. I actually seem to find it counterproductive when I write things down on paper and it seems to slow down my writing process. I don’t outline chapters ahead of time. I actually don’t divide the books into chapters until the entire book is completed. I find it easier to do at the end because I know where to end it to create the most suspense.
Michelle: Ah, so you just go with the flow when you write, while keeping all your important ideas in your head. How does this play a role in the length of your book? It seems like people can over-write if they don’t have all their chapters and important events outlined in detail.
Kayla: I don’t feel like I need to meet a certain word count for each chapter. I started writing my novel with only a general idea of the plot. I knew the characters, and major events of what I wanted to happen, but none of the stuff in between. I wrote that as I went along. I also changed the story line a LOT while in the process of the book. Two of the four story lines ended up remotely similar to the original idea, one was completely scratched and another one added in its place, and the other one was changed so much it doesn’t even closely resemble the idea I had in the beginning.
Michelle: It’s typical for an author to change the storyline so many times! I wonder if the types of authors—like you—who write as they go revise their stories as much as the authors who choose to plan and outline their novels…
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?
Kayla: I would advise authors to do what works for them when planning for a novel. There isn’t a right way to do things and you should do what works best for you. If you don’t know what works best for you, then try out all different kinds of methods until one ends up sticking or you find a process of your own. Try outlining chapters, jotting down ideas, writing random scenes and them pulling them all together, write the end and work backwards, or write on the fly and see what ideas come to you. Something is bound to stick eventually.
The Writing Process:
Michelle: So you didn’t follow a complete outline for your book and developed your novel as the ideas came to you. Tell us about how that went for the writing process of your book. How many drafts did you go through before you finally published your book?
Kayla: I don’t even know how many drafts I went through while writing my book; I lost track somewhere along the way. If I had to guess, I would probably say about seven. I am one of those people who like to edit as I go, so while I was about halfway through I decided to go back and add in a story line and fix the intro and other issues I would forget about later.
Michelle: Tell us a bit more about the editing process. Did you work with an editor? Did you find him/her helpful?
Kayla: Once I finished the first draft, I looked over it and edited it myself and then sent it to my aunt who edited it. She sent back her edits, I fixed them, and sent it to her again. My aunt helped me a lot with grammar and spelling issues, but also with characters and plot elements. I took some of her suggestions into consideration as I wrote the next draft. I then got her edits back and edited it another time. After reading it a third time, I sent it to another person for edits and then fixed the edits from her. I then read it over and edited it another three or four times. She helped me tremendously with formatting, grammar and spelling, and also a few skimmed over details.
Michelle: So besides the editors, did you have anyone else read your story for feedback? Beta readers? Critique partners?
Kayla: I got a beta reader, but they only read half of the book and gave me incorrect advice about the formatting of dialogue. Her advice grammar and spelling wise was extremely helpful, but the plot elements she told me to fix I simply couldn’t. I was too far into the process of writing to change any major plot elements or cut out any characters.
Michelle: Yes, you don’t have to listen to everything a reader tells you about your book, although it is wise to keep any criticisms and suggestions in mind.
What important advice would you like to give to aspiring authors about writing, rewriting, and editing a novel?
Kayla: Hiring a professional editor would be incredibly helpful, but there are also plenty of people in the writing community who would be willing to read all or parts of your story and give their opinion on it. It’s always great to get multiple view points on your novels so you have a wide range of ideas of what you can expect from your target audience.
The Publishing Process:
Michelle: Now let’s discuss the publishing process of your novel. What route did you take to publish your novel? Large press, small press, or independent publishing?
Kayla: I self-published my book.
It was honestly the most convenient for me at the time. I really didn’t want to send it to publishing companies or to literacy agents. I also enjoy working alone and with self-publishing I don’t need the change my book for editors and could write it the way I wanted to.
Michelle: I understand. So what were some of your positive or negative experiences with this publishing route?
Kayla: The pros are that you can work by yourself, at your own pace, and do what you want. All of the responsibilities fall on you. Those are also the cons. You have to find an editor, cover designer, and beta readers all on your own. I’ve had to do all of the marketing myself, which is the biggest challenge I have faced. Getting the word out about my book all by myself has been a challenge and it’s even worse that personal commitments have limited the time I have spent marketing.
Michelle: The marketing process will be difficult, whether you self-published or not. You’re not alone! Before we start discussing your methods of marketing, is there anything else you’d like to address about the publishing process? For example, what are the key factors a writer should think about before choosing one of the three publishing routes?
Kayla: You should think about what you want to accomplish through writing your book. If you are writing entirely for the sake of hoping to make money, go the large press method. This method is much harder and takes much more work. You would first have to find a literary agent, and then appeal to large publishers, but almost all of the marketing fall on their shoulders once your books is accepted. It will also yield you the biggest profit. However, this also takes away some of your creative freedom. The editors will tell you to rewrite your draft many times in order to make it appeal to the public more.
It also deals with a lot of legal issues and if you are not careful enough you can sign the rights to your book away. If you do not have the time to market yourself, go the independent route. You still have to market, but they also help you out so the job doesn’t entirely land on your shoulders. It also can take away some of your creative freedom, but that’s sometimes perfectly fine because it can help you with plot holes and help you sell more. If you write for the fun of it like myself, if you’re willing to put in a great effort to market yourself, or if you already have a large fan base, go the self-publishing route. You can write whatever you want with complete creative freedom and you completely own the rights to your book, but however, you must put forth the effort to do all of the marketing yourself.
The Marketing Process:
Michelle: You pointed out some key factors that authors should be aware of when choosing a publishing route. Now let’s apply those factors to the marketing process.
Explain how you drew people to read your book. What marketing strategies did you use?
Kayla: I had created my Facebook page about six months before I published the book so I advertised on there as well as a couple of groups I was in. I of course told all of my family and friends about it, who in turn told a few other people as well. I also advertised on Figment. I love the writing community on the website, and a few people were willing to support me.
Michelle: Did you also use goodreads to promote your book?
Kayla: I didn’t use goodreads that much. I’m fairly new to the website and I’m still getting used to how things work. I’m planning on using it in the future though!
Michelle: Great! I’ve heard lots of good things about goodreads.
But many authors use facebook as well. How did you use facebook to promote your book? How much time did you dedicate to connecting with others on facebook?
Kayla: Facebook is the main source I used to promote my book. I have an author page with a little over 250 likes and I often post update and blog posts on it. I used that to promote my book once it came out and I pin a link to my book at the top of the page. I also belong to a few writing groups and I promoted my book in those as well. A few weeks before the release, I formed an event for the release and invited friends, families, and other writers who wanted to attend. I asked several authors for ebook donations and had a few giveaways to raise hype, and also gave away a copy of my book and free bookmarks to anyone who wanted one.
Michelle: Great strategies! Did you use any other social media sites, such as twitter?
Kayla: I’m currently working on setting up an author Twitter account so I can promote my book easier. I only have a personal account currently and I’m hoping to separate the two to make things easier.
Michelle: Yes, I would create a separate account if you plan to spend lots of time promoting your book and connecting with solely authors.
Are there any other websites did you use to promote and sell your book? Any websites you recommend for other authors to promote/sell?
Kayla: I am very active on a website named Figment. It is an online writing community similar to TeenInk and Wattpad. I have been active on the website for about three years now and have made many friends through the website.
I am in several groups on Figment and advertised in those groups, which did interest a few people in the book. In one of the groups I admin, the founder allowed me to host a contest based on my book in order to help me raise awareness for the release date. After the book was published, I contacted the staff and became a verified author. This means that I could post links where to buy my books on my profile as well as my social media pages. I think it has been helpful because a few people on the website have told me they read the description of the book and wanted to buy it, which was very encouraging.
Michelle: I’ve heard of TeenInk and Wattpad, but not Figment! I’ll have to ask you more about that website in the comment section. It sounds like you’re pretty active on that site!
Overall, you seem to have a solid online presence on the sites that you mentioned. That’s a great way to connect with other authors and readers and get them to notice your book. Is there any additional advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors about marketing?
Kayla: Make sure your are present through many different social media outlets. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, etc. The more outlets you are known through, the more followers you will acquire. There are plenty of people who have a Twitter, but not a Facebook. Those are people you would’ve never reached if you never had a Twitter account.
- Facebook contact info: https://www.facebook.com/KaylaDempsterAuthor
- Twitter contact info: https://twitter.com/KaylaDempster
- Goodreads contact info: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8431817.Kayla_Dempsterhttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8431817.Kayla_Dempster
- Books (you can provide links): http://www.amazon.com/Unusual-Isles-Kayla-Dempster/dp/1496002733/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405871968&sr=1-1&keywords=the+unusual+isles
- Where else can we find you?
If you have any questions about Kayla, 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!