How do you intentionally create an author brand that resonates with your readers? How can you write the books you love and make a successful living as a full-time author? All this and more in today’s interview with Gail Carriger.
In the introduction, I talk about some of the impacts of COVID19 on the publishing industry, as reported in The Hotsheet. Plus, Lonely Planet travel publishers closes some locations [The Guardian] and Bloomsbury issues shares and cuts costs [The Bookseller]. Plus, the Mysterious Women Storybundle, Writing books Kickstarter, and Ingram Spark have a new promo code: Use INGRAMSPARK2020 for free title setup and revisions until May 31, 2020.
Today’s show is sponsored by ProWritingAid, writing and editing software that goes way beyond just grammar and typo checking. With its detailed reports on how to improve your writing and integration with Scrivener, ProWritingAid will help you improve your book before you send it to an editor, agent or publisher. Check it out for free or get 25% off the premium edition at www.ProWritingAid.com/joanna
Gail Carriger is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of steampunk and urban fantasy, comedy and queer romance. Her books have sold over a million copies in print and include The Parasol Protectorate and The Finishing School Series.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.
- Travel as an important part of writing
- Writing about a culture other than one’s own without slipping into stereotypes and cliché
- Writing the books we’ve longed to read
- The research and planning that goes into a nearly 30 book series
- On having an author brand that includes a physical persona
- Ideas for thinking about author branding
- The importance of getting a newsletter started early in a writing career – here’s my tutorial on how to build an email list
You can find Gail Carriger at GailCarriger.com and on Twitter @gailcarriger
Transcript of Interview with Gail Carriger
Joanna: Gail Carriger is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of steampunk and urban fantasy, comedy and queer romance. Her books have sold over a million copies in print and include The Parasol Protectorate and The Finishing School Series. Welcome, Gail.
Gail: Hello, thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
Joanna: Very exciting. I was just saying before we started, I first heard about you like a decade ago. So I know you’ve been writing for at least that long.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Gail: I’m one of those who’s always written. I always joke that when I was a little kid, my mom would read me a book. And if I didn’t like the ending, I would be like, “No, that’s not how it goes.” And then I would tell it back to her how I thought the ending should go.
I think she should have known from that point on what my future was going to be. So I’ve always written. I was pretty sure I was unable to make money off of it.
I grew up with a bunch of poets and artists. I was like, “Well, that’s not a viable career path.” So I went off and became an archaeologist for a while, which of course, very lucrative.
Joanna: Yes, well known.
Gail: But yes, but I always wrote and since I’ve always written, I figured I might as well try getting published. And then my first book was a slow burn hit and I’ve never looked back. And that was about 10 years ago.
Joanna: That is when I first heard about you. And you mentioned used to be an archaeologist and that is one of those careers that in another life I would have been. But of course, we all have a romantic image of Indiana Jones and stuff.
How does that archaeological background play into your writing?
Gail: I’ve used the places that I excavated as part of my book, so places I’ve traveled. Like you, I really enjoy traveling. I don’t think I love it quite as passionately as you do.
I like visiting a place before I write about it because I feel like even though I’m writing alternate history most of the time, you get a sense of the light in a place and the topography and the smell of the sun on the stones. And all of these things that if you don’t actually visit the place, they’re really hard to access, even if it’s 200, 300 years in the future of when I’m visiting it.
I still feel like you get valuable information from actually physically visiting a place. So that is in my books a lot.
Because of archaeology, I see objects as very representative of culture and personality. So a lot of my characters have a signature gadget that represents them. My first character has a huge parasol that’s like a Swiss Army kind of parasol with all these secret devices in it and stuff like that. And she carries it with her all the time.
I think that’s definitely an arc of how does this object represent this person, and by extension, the culture that she belongs to? Which in that case was middle Victorian. I think that ties in a lot of aesthetics.
I probably put too much of a moral standing and branding, but it does help with that. It does help with me like manage branding I think.
Joanna: You mentioned the objects there and looking back at history, and I know that you incorporate some British side into your book.
Why the interest in Great Britain?
Gail: The aforementioned mom who used to read to me is, in fact, an ex-Pat, and she rather expediently used to ship me off as a kid to England quite a bit to stay with the grandparents in the summertime. So I spent a lot of summers in Devon.
I have dual citizenship. I went to school in England, took one of my master’s degrees there in Nottingham. So I’m pretty familiar with the UK or Southern England in particular and then the Midlands.
She raised me on sort of British children’s literature like The Wind in the Willows and The Borrowers and Thompson, The Garden and The Secret Garden, all those kinds of books. And that informed my writer voice I think.
People always get annoyed that when they meet me in person I don’t have a British accent because so many of my characters are British. And I’m, like, “That’s because you’re hearing my mother really.”
She’s just sort of speaking through me. It’s her tonality. It makes me very interesting for my copyeditors because I have a mix up of sentence structures that are UK and America and then I’ll slip in the British spellings of things sometimes because I went to school in the UK for a while.
Eventually, somebody will slap their hand on the table and be like, “Gail, which spelling are we using?”
Joanna: I know that problem and I slip into Australian and New Zealand as well, which is a bit of a pain. Although it’s funny because a lot of people think I’m American until they hear my voice just because most you know, online people seem to be American, which is funny. I’m interested in this.
You do have that British background. But you also write comedy or history and I wondered about that. It’s very difficult for people to write about another culture, especially with comedy because it can move into parody or even stereotype.
How do you manage that? How do you know where the line is between, “I want to do this because this is kind of a troupe of steampunk Victoriana, but is this moving too much into stereotype?”
Where is the line for stereotypes?
Gail: I write parody. I make no bones about it, quite frankly. I write absurdist, poking fun sometimes quite brutally.
Mostly I try to be gentle at the Victorians. I think they’re right for it. I think it’s like the Victorian society, particularly in London, in like the 1870s is just like gorgeously open to being brutally parodied. And to a certain extent, British humor lends itself to that.
You guys are very self-effacing and very self-aware of the absurdities in your past. You can look at some of the famous sketch comedy groups out of England like Monty Python and so forth. And so I figure it’s open to it.
Also, I’m not punching down. It’s a white-dominant, colonizing, nationalistic, imperialistic, agenda-driven society. So I don’t feel like I’m being mean to a weakling.
Joanna: Fair enough.
Gail: I haven’t had any complaints from many of my British readers about it. I think they realize it’s all in good humor. I put the supernatural into my world and they’re out in British society because I decided that that’s the only way to explain how the Brits managed to conquer an Empire upon which the sun doesn’t set.
If they had werewolves in their army and vampires in their intelligence community, how else would they have managed it? They’re just this tiny island. Obviously, they used the supernatural and they openly integrated them and the rest of Europe does not. And so this is contentious.
But it allows me from an archaeological perspective to go back and look at the history we know and rewrite it and be like, “Well, no, Henry the Eighth broke with the Catholic Church and he says it’s about divorce and all of this other stuff, but really obviously he wants to use the supernatural in his army obviously.”
Or, “Why were the Victorians obsessed with modesty and covering up women’s necks and things like that? Well, obviously that you have to like you don’t want to invite a vampire bite and/or you want you to hide it if you have been bitten.” So it’s just really fun for me to sort of read con reality.
Joanna: I love that idea. And all history fascinates me because it’s not something I’ve written at all. So when did you think, “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to write.” Did you come up with it because of that archaeology side or did you read books that were all history?
What drew you to that type of writing?
Gail: I’m a huge fangirl, like a total sci-fi fantasy geek girl. Grew up in conventions, all that sort of thing. And I was really into urban fantasy when it was having its first big bubble of the 1990s.
But I was noticing that I had a couple of things. It was very dark And it was always set in a modern time. And so I was like, “Well, where’s my really light-hearted urban fantasy with all this silliness that I love from comedic authors like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett?”
Or even the lesser-known British comedy writers like James Herriott, or Gerry Durrell. I love that kind of humor. And I would like to read it in a science fiction universe. I would like to read it with a female main character, maybe even written by a woman, and I would love it if it had an urban fantasy package.
And then of course, like why not also make it historical? I wanted all these things in a book and the book wasn’t happening. And so finally, I was like, “She who sees the problem is responsible for the solution. So I guess I’m writing this book.”
I started doing a thought experiment about historical, where would I set it? I happened to be doing my Ph.D. at the time and so I was studying the scientific evolution of the Victorian era because it is the unfortunate roots of my own discipline.
Victorians were alluding to ancient cultures. There’s no other way to put it. But it meant that I’m studying how scientists were practicing science during the Victorian era because that’s where my discipline had its roots. And that’s part of getting your degree.
And then I was like, “How would scientists react if monsters lived among us and early scientists from this time? How would the Industrial Revolution have been affected or not affected or respond to the presence of the supernatural creatures in its midst?” Then I went from there. It was just a fun thought experiment that turned into 20, almost 30 books.
Joanna: I love this. I think you’ve built this fantastic universe and I can hear some of the audience going, “Oh, that research sounds fantastic.”
I am a research freak. I love research. I think if I could just research all day, I would probably do that and not write the story.
With 30 books the consistency must be really hard. Did you plan the universe and do you have a story Bible?
How much of that is really heavily planned and researched and how much it’s kind of winging it and make it up per book?
Gail: I started out thinking that what I was writing was a standalone prequel to a series that I would write about the children of my main character or the next generation following it.
But when I was signing the contract for Solace, they were like, “Gail, we want another book in the same series with the same characters.” I was like, “Oh, all right.” So the first five books, which is the Parasol Protectorate, which is kind of a series I’m best known for is a bit cobbled together.
I wrote the first one very strongly outlined. And then I wrote the second one kind of like, “Okay, I guess I’m writing a series. I’m going to throw a bunch of threads in the air.”
Then I spent the next three books pulling all those threads back together again. About halfway through the second one, I was like, “I need a general outline of this series.” And by the third one, I was like, “Okay, two more books.”
And then I do like to finish series. And that’s because as a reader, I’ve had so many authors like betray me by not finishing a book series or very inexcusably die on me that I didn’t want to leave my readers like that. So I am a completist.
I do like to actually finish series and I actually gravitate towards standalones myself as well. And then by that point, the books were doing so well that Young Adult House approached me and they were like, “Would you write us a series set in the same universe?” And I was like, “All right.”
I pitched that one out as four books. So that one had an arc ahead of time. And then the spin-off series, which was always the one I originally intended to write, that’s also four books. But at that juncture, I was so comfortable with my publishing house. I knew they did two book contracts. But I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with traditional publishing anymore.
I wrote those books as two book sets just in case I got so mad with my publisher I stormed away halfway through. That also plays into it.
I guess you could say about halfway through my career, about five years in, I really think a lot more about longer arcs and series arcs and stuff like that. And of course, at this juncture now, I almost always write standalones. So it is a new learning process.
Joanna: It’s great to hear because I get so many questions. I answered a ton of questions today. And so many people ask about series like, “Do you plan all these arcs?” And I’m on book 11 of one series and I’m not a plotter at all. I’m a discovery writer.
So I’m like, “I literally don’t know.” You just kind of have to trust your unconscious that something will turn out right in the end.
I want to circle back because you’ve mentioned conventions. Of course, you’ve mentioned the parasol. How I first saw you was a picture of you. I think you were in your full cosplay with the parasol at some convention.
Tell us a bit about this author brand that includes a physical persona.
Gail: I’m going to circle back really quickly to the question we just did, which is just to say that what I use as a word writable is an open-source Wikia that my fans are also open to edit.
I have to say if you’re planning a really complicated sci-fi or fantasy universe that has a lot of Bible rules and stuff like that, I recommend using something like that from the get go. It’s one of my regrets that I ended up having to hire somebody to transfer all of my physical notes over to this virtual reality.
By all means, keep backups and all that sort of thing. But I do recommend that if you’re planning on something extensive that you actually use arc bows or world builders or something that like or just Wikia to keep track of everything in a easily searchable way, because in my case, it didn’t get a hold of me. So I just use Wikia, which is an open-source platform similar Wikipedia is built on.
Anyway, right, physical branding. When Soulless went off into the world, I knew I was going to use going to conventions as part of my brand-building for lack of a better word. I wouldn’t have used that word at the time, but I always knew I wanted to do conventions and go to conventions.
In fact, I met my agent, my editor, my publisher, my publicist for Soulless at a convention for the first time. I met them at Worldcon in Denver a long time ago, and I knew that like switching up my image would be part of that.
Partly that was to do with the fact that at the time I thought I would be a full-time, full-track academic. And I’m an archaeologist, but I’m a science archaeologist by training. I’m an MS or an MSc. So I was a little concerned that because of the romantic, frivolous, silly nature of what I wrote, it might negatively impact my career.
So I write under a pen name. That was all done. But I also was like, “I would really also like to keep the physical appearances of me different at different kinds of events.” So if I’m going to an academic event I would be one reality, the archaeology reality.
Part of that was for my own kind of emotional psychological stand. And it’s weird because it comes off as slightly schizophrenic. But the act of putting on the super cute dress and most of the time I dressed pretty rockabilly, retro, and honestly that’s also an aesthetic I wear and was already wearing at conventions in general. So it wasn’t difficult for me to make this transition.
It’s a little bit more girly than I sort of necessarily would be. But I knew I wanted to have a kind of armor that I put on that I’m like, “Okay, I’m putting on the cute dress. I’m putting on the vintage style glasses. And I go out in to the world representing my books.”
It’s almost like that clothing reminds me that I’m at this event for my readers. So most of the time, I don’t do events that are just author gatherings. I really go out and I do the convention circuit and I go to events because I want to meet my readers.
The best example I have of this is I was at San Diego ComicCon back in 2012 or what have you, which is as I’m sure you’re aware, and I’m sure the listeners are aware is a huge event. It’s at the time 200,000 people or something like that. It’s crazy huge.
I’m walking around as me. I’m not even in steampunk. I’m just in a little retro dress and I’m walking around the convention. And somebody like, spots me yells, “Gail, oh, my God, you’re Gail.” And goes like running across Hall H. “You’re Gail Carriger.”
And I was like, “Well, yes. Yes I am.” And it works. I was like, “Okay, this is proof positive that this is going in the correct direction.” So yeah, that’s why I do it. Both for my own psychosis, but also so that I’m recognizable to my readers because why else would I do an event if I didn’t want to say hi and meet them? And I’m lucky that they’re really awesome.
Joanna: A lot of your books have women with parasols on the cover as well. So your book brand resonates with your physical in-person brand. But obviously, you’ve designed this over time.
I wondered, if authors can’t come up with a brand themselves. I struggle with this. I have two names and I like having two names. But I love the idea of this armor and this physical self. But also it’s very difficult even a color scheme on a website, for example.
How might an author find that idea for branding or look at reader feedback or anything like that?
Gail: I like to say there are two elements to the author brand. There’s intentional elements that you think thoughtfully about and control or hopefully do. And then there are unintentional ones.
If what you’re struggling with is the intentional ones, then I would say sit down with some author friends or just actual friends and just talk about things like, “What reminds me of you? What colors you associate with me?” It can be as simple as that.
Or you can let your publishing house take the lead line on that in terms of like, if you’re traditionally published, the cover art that come up with that sort of thing. Or it can be influenced by the kinds of books you write.
For example, if you’re writing dark and gritty urban fantasy then obviously your colors are probably going to be dark blues, and purples and that sort of thing.
And so in my case, I let Orbit, my first publisher, take the lead on the style of fonts that I use on my website and that I use on my self-published books since then, and the style of cover art and the style of photography and the holding of the parasol and all of that sort of thing.
I let that start the information. But I knew that I personally representing myself online wanted to be more positive and happy go lucky than the darker colors of the cover. I leaned into peaches and pinks and kind of happy bright cheerful colors.
Then I talked to some sort of graphic designer friends of mine in terms of coming up with good complimentary colors for my website for like what links it would be and all that sort of stuff.
If you’re on your own and you’re feeling very solitary about this and you want to go on this journey by yourself, you can just take a look at some of your favorite authors or some of the comparable authors that you think your books are going to be compared to or you’re going to show up in their “also bought” or what have you and see what their websites look like and whether you find that attractive emotionally as a reader, whether you want to explore further on their website.
Just building your own mental awareness of like, “Oh, that color pulls me in. That makes me feel cheerful.” That’s emotional resonance of these sorts of things. There are a whole huge industries that are built up around that.
The flip side is the unintentional branding. And those are the things that are going to get associated with you because often the way you behave on social media. And my best example for this is I have this friend, and we’ll call him Sam because that’s his name. And he is a writer and he has a pug.
He would post pictures of his pug all the time. People who come on him and found him just as fans of his writing love the pug. And so what they would do is they would respond with pictures of their own pugs. And then if a pug was in the media for any reason, then they would send him pictures of the pug or they would tag him in videos of the pug. And so he kind of became this repository of pugs.
And we were talking, I had exactly the same thing happened to me with the octopus, which is kind of branded into my books. It is a favorite animal of mine. I do genuinely love the octopus.
Now anybody sees an octopus, and they will share the picture of the octopus. And that’s fantastic. Except when you have 30, 60, a 100,000 followers, and then 300 people share the same pug with you. And then you’re like, “Oh, my God, my feed is full of this one pug that has just hit the Zeitgeist.”
Sam was just annoyed that it just kept happening to him. He’s like, “I’m not really interested in other people’s pugs. I’m only interested in my pug.” And I was like, “That’s not the point.”
The point is, is that you can only write however many books you can write in a year. And in between the time while you’re writing and not actually publishing a book, someone saw a pug and thought of you. So the point is that you are in their brains between books, that they haven’t forgotten about you.
For me, that’s the whole point of being on social media. When they send you the pug and you’ve seen the pug 1,000 times before, you don’t get mad, you say thank you. And what you’re saying thank you for is maybe the pug, but it’s mostly that they thought about you.
That is brand. For sort of authorial emotional resonance reasons that his brand is the things that become associated with you that people think of you outside of context.
One of my favorite things in the entire universe is when somebody’s out shopping at Target and they see a stuffed hedgehog. And they take a photograph with a stuffed hedgehog, and they upload it and they share it with me.
I’m like, “How many steps they had to go through? Because when they were out about their lives, they saw something that reminded them of this author that they read maybe once or twice a year.”
For me that’s an enormous privilege and achievement to enter somebody’s life in that way. “Sam, just own the pugs. Just own the pugs. The pugs are now yours. You have the pugs, like say, ‘thank you for the pugs.’”
He didn’t control that. He was just sharing this thing that he loved. And it generated a response in his readers. They just want to connect with you. They just love you and what you have given them.
The biggest piece of advice I give authors all the time is pretty simple. It’s treat your readers the way you would want your favorite author to treat you.
We’re all readers. Authors are our heroes or heroines. So that’s what we want is as readers we just want an author to be kind and decent and to like be excited that we have a pug that we share this thing.
Joanna: I do actually tell people about my love of graveyards. I’m a taphophile and I take pictures and share them on my Instagram and people send me pictures of graveyards. I started doing that about four years ago and I felt embarrassed at first because I thought, “Am I weird?”
And then whenever I speak I often ask people, “So who likes graveyards?” And it’s about usually about a quarter of the room who say, “Yes, I love graveyards.” And I’m like, “You are my people. You’re my people.” Other people who don’t like graveyards might also like my book but there’s something about something we all like that connects.
Gail: So true. I feel like it enters that undescribable thing, a love of a thing. It enters your books and it reaches out to people who, for a lack of a better word, are somewhat like you in some way.
Another great example I have of this is I was walking towards the signing area at a Worldcon and I am signing and George RR Martin is signing. I’m, like, “Oh, my.” So there’s this enormous line for George and there’s a much less long line for me.
But still it’s a decent little line and I’m like, “Great, people came for me.” That’s always so exciting too is that the idea that someone would spend time waiting for you in order to get a book signed is just like a crazy thought to me. I feel so honored every time. I think, again, because I come out of fandom and I’m like, “Yay, I have people who want my stuff.”
But I could look and see immediately which line was my line. Because I know my fans and there they are, and at least a quarter to half of them are going to be wearing cute little retro dresses. And it’s not like I put rockabilly in my books or anything, but they’re probably going to have candy-colored hair. They’re probably going to have a tattoo or two somewhere on them.
And they’re probably going to be chatting with each other in line. I have really social cheerful fans. They tend to like make friends in the signing line and stuff. And those are all things I think that there are just parts of me that have leaked into my books and as direct results, it’s also the type of person who’s going to come up to an author and is going to chat to an author and also has certain qualities as well. But it’s sort of joyful to like walk in and be like, “I bet I can guess which ones read me.”
Joanna: I agree. You did mention about your publishing journey that you’ve been published by Orbit, I think was your first publisher and you’ve had self-published books. And you also mentioned anger potentially at a publisher.
How has your experience of publishing changed over time?
Gail: I was quite trad to start with. Over a dozen books with a traditional publisher. And they did great for me.
I had unprecedented influence and control over my cover art, which, let’s be very clear, most authors have nothing to do with their cover art if you’re traditionally published. They were shocked I think by the success of my quirky little book, and so they were kind of like, “Okay. Well…”
I’ve always been super experimental. So they were like, “Well, Amazon is offering us this weird gold box thing, but we have to drop the price of your book to like $2.99.” And I’d be like, “Okay, do the thing. Yes, please do the thing.”
I got that reputation with traditional publishers that you could experiment with Gail. And Gail would be like, “Sure. Whatever, let’s do it. I’ll give it a try. What do you want to do?” I’ve actually had a great relationship with my traditional publisher. It is traditional publishing that I’ve had some challenges with over the years.
I’m a bit of a control freak because someone who’s as careful with their image as I am, you can probably tell, I have control-freak tendencies. And it was just a lot of stuff about the publishing industry started to wear on me in terms of length of time before a book had come out, lack of information in terms of sales. So if I’m going to do something, I want to be able to see if it’s an effective thing.
One of my great joys, at least early on in my career, was that Amazon would let me have access to demographic data. So they won’t tell you the specifics for your traditional but you can go in on Author Central and claim all of your books and then you can sort of see distribution.
One of the things that I could see at least early on was after I left an area, for an event, I could see the spike in book sales to that area. And it’s just Nielsen data. But still, it was data that I like I was, “Oh, okay.”
I went to Seattle and then I go a couple weeks later, and I look at the demographics. And Seattle has gone up to the top of the list of like places that buy my book. So it’s like okay. In-person things are actually effective because you never sure when you’re on the ground what’s working and what isn’t.
I wasn’t getting that kind of feedback directly from my publisher, where I would be like, “I did the interview for the Huffington Post but did we get a spike of any kind? Can you give me any feedback?” And so I just started to get frustrated by that kind of thing.
Eventually, I was like, “All right.’ Fortunately for me, my agent is a ballbuster. I have a fantastic literary agent and she has been with me from the start. And so she gave me an iron option clause. It’s one of the tightest option clauses I’ve ever seen, which is author slang for saying the clause in the contract that says what books the publisher has the rights to buy from you next. That’s your option clause. And so that option clause can be, “We the publisher would like to buy any book you write next,” which is not good.
Or, “We the publisher would like to write any book written under the name Gail Carriger that is for an adult marketplace that is over 40,000 words that is set in an alternate historical fantasy setting.” That is an incredibly tight option clause and that is what you really want.
Because mine was very tight, I could just be like, “I can write stuff in this universe and I have a wonderful foundation in the universe and they’ve given me a consistent brand.” Even though I have a different publisher for my young adult stuff, they still stuck with the same style of cover art and everything.
I have this lovely brand of cover art and that sort of thing that is relatively cheap for me to imitate self-publishing because of their photograph-based covers. And I was like, “I’m just going to start doing this myself. It can’t be too hard.” It is really hard, as it turns out.
And then the other thing for me is podcasts. I’ve listened to you forever and it feels like and I have tons of friends who are in the podcasting universe like Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine or Scott Sigler who were publishing fiction in audio.
That by its very nature was, “How do we market it? How do we self-publish?” I paid very close attention to everything that all of these other authors were doing. Even though I have New York Times and all of these traditional accolades, I’ve always kind of behaved like a self-published author anyway because of all my friends started that way and now are that way.
I had a good foundation of resources so that when I started doing self-publishing I was like, “All right.” My biggest regret and I will say this to anyone in your audience whether self-publishing or traditional, is not getting my newsletter going sooner.
Joanna: Yes, number one regret of everyone.
Gail: Although as soon as I had a newsletter, because I have an in-person brand and this is something that people drop. So again, big piece of advice is take a physical paper signup sheet with you when you do events. Like a newsletter signup sheet, a pen and a piece of paper that says, “This is for my newsletter,” whatever the name of the newsletter is. Mine is called the Chirrup.
And then name and then your email address. Don’t do it digitally. They have apps for that. People don’t like touching other people’s technology. There’s a psychological thing there. So just a piece paper, spare pen.
Gail: Just the signup sheet puts them into the start of the funnel. I have the privacy in GDPR thing as part of the funnel. So it just starts the process of them. They get a little thing that says, you know, “This is the beginning process for a newsletter. Are you really interested? Here’s the privacy notification law,” that sort of thing. So that’s how I handle it.
Joanna: Fantastic. I think it is interesting to see, as you said, it sounds like you’ve been pretty much indie even though you were with traditional publishing, you had quite an indie attitude which is obviously serving you now.
We’re almost out of time and I did want to ask you one more question because in your 2019 Roundup and you have a really substantial website with lots of articles and useful things. So I really urge people to go check that out.
You mentioned in 2019, you had several business crises. You’ve been doing this a long time now.
How does your author business shake out and how are you managing this full-time life?
Gail: I’ve been full time for I guess about six years now. And since I am a control freak and I try and do too much. I’m a workaholic, which I’m sure many…I’m sure you’re familiar with.
Joanna: Me too.
Gail: Yeah, I’m sure many authors are. I did have to have people come to me and be like, “Gail it’s time for you to get an assistant.” Eventually my agent who I do listen to was like, “Get an assistant. It’s time.”
I was spending like six hours a day just responding to fan emails and calling cards and dealing with Facebook and all this sort of thing. And so I have an assistant now and she comes in once a week. She’s here right now actually giggling as I’m talking to you.
And she does things like mailing. That’s why I have someone who’s in person because I do a lot of physical giveaways of books and stuff mostly for my newsletter. So an assistant is one of the ways I handle it now.
She’s in once a week and then remote the rest of the time and she’s essentially part-time. Sometimes she does more hours, sometimes she does less. So that was a big one for me and how to handle things.
I turned LLC. That was exciting. For the American audience, that’s always a thrill and a half is to deal with all the taxes and stuff like that. My thing now and I have always been like this is I know that I could, for example, learn how to change the oil in my car. But I would rather be writing. I should be writing. So I find a mechanic to change the oil in my car. And that’s how I handle my self-publishing road as well.
For example, someone was like, “Why don’t you use Vellum?’ And I’m like, “I could take the time and learn how to use Vellum and maybe I will at some point.” But right now I have a formatter who I work with who I really love, and she’s fast, and she does it quickly. And so I use a formatter for that stage of the process.
I have experts. I find and identify experts. And I’m like, “If you’re going to do this, you’re going to do and I will pay you and I pay well.” I have a developmental editor that I hire even after 30 books. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a very necessary thing.
I like to write short and tight. So I need somebody who’s going to keep me on track. I have a copyeditor. I have a proof-editor. I have a formatter. I have beta readers. So I basically just have put myself together a team.
That’s how I manage and I would be lost. In fact, I get lost if someone leaves it leaves my team. I’m like, “Oh, my God, please be available. Please don’t leave me.”
Joanna: I think that’s a really good tip. I’ve said that as well. The word self-publishing is actually totally wrong because those of us who do it full-time or professionally, we all work with other professionals and other professional creators in their fields.
So I think that’s fantastic as a lesson learned.
Where can people find you and your books and everything you do online?
Gail: You can search Gail, the British spelling G-A-I-L and Carriger, which is C-A-R-R-I-G-E-R. I’m very good on my SEO so I will come up right away on most things, on most platforms if you want to connect with me on social media.
Although, like I said, I do my social media for my fans almost exclusively. If you’re not a reader of mine, you’re probably not going to get much from an octopus wearing a flowered hat. You’re welcome to follow me if you’d like to. Right now it’s hedgehogs all the time because I’m obsessed with hedgehog these days.
However, if you go to my website, which is www.GailCarriger.com, there is a resources in the drop-down and I have collected articles by myself and others some of them for new writers, some of them about marketing.
I do have a whole section for new authors or middle of career authors depending on where you are and what you’d like. And also if you are looking for some of those experts I’m talking about if you go to my contact page on my website, I’ve just filled it in with the names of all of the people I work with. So all of the people who do my copy editing and cover art and all that sort of thing.
If you’re looking for that information, that is also there. Everything is on my website. You just have to poke about a bit.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Gail. That was great.
Gail: Thank you so much for having me, Joanna. It’s a real pleasure and an honor. I feel like it’s been 10 years in the making.
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Author: Creative Guest