I’ve been super excited to share this interview with you today. Allie Boniface is stopping in to chat with us and I’m proud to say that Fumbling with Fiction is the first stop on her blog tour to promote her latest book, One Night in Memphis (Samhain 2008).
The book release is tomorrow (yay for Allie!) and in honor of that Allie has been holding a running contest. Every comment you leave on this blog post will enter you to win a free download of One Night in Memphis, plus an autographed copy of one of her other novels, or any book from her home shelf.
Hi, Chandler, and thanks for featuring me on Fumbling with Fiction today! Great interview questions, so let’s get right to the answers…
So, this is an exciting time for you, release day for your new book is tomorrow! Can you tell us a little bit about One Night in Memphis?
Sure! One Night in Memphis falls into the genre of contemporary romance, but it’s a little different from your ordinary romance novel. The entire book takes place over a single day and night: twenty-four hours, and twenty-four chapters. It will actually be my second published “One Night…” book; One Night in Boston released in 2007. In both cases, I wanted to explore the possibilities of love budding overnight. Typically, romance authors develop their characters and relationships over a period of time, months or even years. But I think we all know people who believe in, and experience, “love at first sight” moments as well. In One Night in Memphis, the heroine, Dakota James, breaks up with her boyfriend and then jumps on a plane from New Hampshire to Tennessee to visit her best friend and heal her heart. She meets the hero, Ethan Meriweather, in a blues club on Beale Street…but only after she realizes that her ex-boyfriend has followed her to Memphis, and that his intentions are not only dangerous but deadly. The rest of the novel is a pretty fast-paced cat and mouse story with some romance thrown in for good measure!
Sounds like a great read, especially for these steamy summer months! How, as the author, do you prepare for the release of a new book? Any tips on marketing/promotion on a budget?
Well, Samhain releases its books in electronic format 10 months before the print versions come out, so ebook promotions and print promotions are somewhat different. I tend to increase my web presence, send out newsletters and press releases, mail bookmarks to conferences, etc., around my release dates. Either way, however, my two biggest recommendations for marketing are to develop a strong web presence and keep writing good books. It’s very easy to spend a lot of money promoting your books, but as a new author, you have to look carefully at the cost-effectiveness of your dollars and what your return will be. At minimum, I recommend having a website (many web designers will create one for $200 or less, or you can also build your own and pay a low hosting fee for less than $10/month). Beyond that, get your name out there on different electronic forums. Post on message boards that relate to your genre. Participate in chats hosted by your publisher. Blog. Write articles for different ezines. Create a MySpace or Facebook page. Conventional wisdom says that someone must read your name seven times before they’ll remember you, so publishing something every year is one of the other best things you can do as an author to boost your name.
Of course, you can also take out print ads, host launch parties, donate books to contests and raffles, hold book signings and writers’ group appearances, and travel to regional and national conferences, but if you don’t have the money, don’t sweat it. Work your way up (that’s what I’m doing!).
I wrote an article on Budget Promotions a few months back – here’s the link if you’re interested: http://longandshortarchives.blogspot.com/2008/01/article-promotional-tools-for-faint-of.html
Thanks for sharing that link and those are some great tips. Can you tell us a little about your path to publication and what is it like working with Samhain?
I started writing for publication around 2002, but mine was a pretty long learning curve. I wasn’t even sure what genre I really fell into, for a while (I straddle the line between contemporary romance and women’s fiction, if you’re wondering). I wrote 4 novels and queried all the major publishing houses and agents before I sent One Night in Boston to Samhain. My editor picked it out of the slush pile there, and since then I’ve published 2 additional novels and a short story (which will appear in Adams Media’s anthology My Mom is My Hero in May 2009).
I love working with everyone at Samhain – they’re incredibly professional and absolutely aggressive about marketing and promotions. The owner worked at Ellora’s Cave for many years, so she has terrific publishing savvy and contacts. My sales with Samhain have been quite respectable for a first-time author, and I’d recommend them to anyone who’s looking at small presses.
I’ve heard wonderful things about Samhain and am thrilled to finally get to chat with one of their authors. Are you looking for an agent or do you feel like, at this point, it’s not necessary?
While I am still looking for an agent, I’ve become more knowledgeable about the publishing business in the last year and realize that having an agent is not crucial to becoming a successful author. Obviously, if you’re looking to break into the big New York houses, it’s easier if you’re agented. But you also have to realize that some agents submit their authors’ works to publishers who take unagented submissions – Samhain is one of them. And those authors are paying 15% of their profits directly to their agent. Also, snagging an agent doesn’t necessarily mean your book will go to auction and sell for six figures; I know a fellow Samhain author whose agent has been shopping her book for three years! If I get to a point where an agent can do significantly better for me than I can do for myself, then yes, I’ll sign on.
Interesting perspective for those of us who get so caught up in the agent search. On a different tangent, we know you are a writer, but, as I understand it, you are also a teacher. What age group and what kind of books are kids interested in right now?
I teach Education and English to high school seniors – yes, really! In one of my classes, my students are required to read one book every month, and then we talk about their choices. They can choose any book they like, and what’s neat is when one book becomes a class favorite and gets passed around during the course of the year. What kinds of books do teenagers like? Anything that’s a good story, really. Here are some of the class favorites from the past few years:
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini
Bleachers by John Grisham
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Thanks for sharing. As a YA writer I’m always dying to know. What’s your writing schedule like? How do you fit it into your daily life?
Well, I blog every morning, and I try to write every evening. At times I might sneak in some writing at lunchtime, too, but that doesn’t always happen. Weekends are good for solid hours of writing time…and since I’m a teacher, summer is perfect for me to get in some serious writing too!
It’s always good to see writers with careers succeeding in the publishing world. But, more specifically, how do you approach the writing process? Do you outline? Do you start with characters or a premise, etc?
Oh, I’m a huge outliner. I have to have the entire plot in place before I begin a novel. This is not to say that things don’t change; they always do – the characters take me on wild turns I’d never dreamed of! Usually, I begin with some kind of “what if” premise, and then figure out how many conflicts I can work into the story from there.
I’m jealous of your outline abilities. Prior to publication, how did you deal with rejection as a writer?
Um…prior to publication? I’m currently collecting rejection letters from agents that I sent my latest women’s fiction novel to. One of my Samhain colleagues also has a women’s fiction novel she can’t find a home for. Another fellow author has queried agents every year for the last five and still hasn’t found someone to take her on. My advice to both pre-published and published writers is to develop a really, really thick skin. This is true when the reviews start coming, too: some people will like your book, and some won’t have anything good to say about it. You absolutely must be tough in this industry, or I don’t think you have a chance of lasting.
Good to know what to expect, although I think everyone would agree that an end to rejection would be nice. On a happier note, what was it like the first time you heard your work was accepted?
- Hugely relieving.
I bet! I love hearing authors’ reactions to success! It was a ton of fun hearing from you. Please come back and visit again!
Thanks for having me here today, Chandler – readers can find out more about One Night in Memphis by visiting this link: http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/allie-boniface
Hope you’ll join me in celebrating my release day tomorrow ~ that’s the nice thing about ebooks: they cost about as much as Starbucks latte and last a lot longer!
———-Samhain is the gold standard of small presses. If you’d like to know more about submitting to small publishers, check out 10 Things to Look For When Submitting to Small Presses