Glass Spider Publishing Author Interview: Heatherly Bell
As a writer or a first-time author, do you ever wish you could get expert advice from the trenches? Crawl inside a published writer’s mind about the creative process? Ask an experienced author how exactly she gets reviews? Do you wonder where to start when it comes to marketing your book?
At Glass Spider Publishing, we’ve got you covered.
Author Heatherly Bell has achieved what every writer dreams of the moment he or she dives into that first draft. She’s published a collection of popular romance novels, has an impressive Facebook following, and gets solid (sometimes hilarious) reviews on Amazon. She’s also recently been snatched up by a famed romance publisher: Her 9th and 10th consecutive books will be released by Harlequin in 2017.
We couldn’t wait for the opportunity to chat with a seasoned pro like Heatherly. And as it turns out, she isn’t just a sweet and sassy romance author, but bubbling with insight about the book writing and marketing process.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in a small town which is a good mix of the rural with the suburbs. We still have working farms nearby, and plenty of vineyards. I wasn’t born here, but it’s home. I’ve lived here for most of my life and I love it. When I visit other parts of the country, I really appreciate the diversity and progressive nature of where I live.
Not surprisingly, I’d rather read than watch TV. But I do enjoy many of the cable run series, such as Game of Thrones, Homeland and recently, Bloodline. Interestingly, what I watch on TV is quite different from what I read. I love to read light and funny contemporary romance that leaves me walking away happy.
When did you start writing?
I started writing as a teenager when we had a short story project due in English class. I poured my heart into that story and it was semi-autobiographical. After, my teacher found me and told me she thought I had talent. I never forgot that, and teachers should always be intensely aware of their influence on the life of a child.
I think I started writing again about 2003-2004. For some reason, the idea just came back to me with absolutely no other goal than just writing and enjoying it again. At that point, my life didn’t really have much of a creative element to it, and I missed it.
I started with short stories; the thought of writing a book was a little too daunting. Around 2010, I entered a Writer’s Digest contest for a YA story and won honorable mention. I guess that’s really what motivated me into writing books.
How would you describe your books, and who is your ideal reader?
My books are set in small towns and are sweet and funny contemporaries centering on the lasting importance of family, starring sexy Alpha heroes (often ex-military) and smart, capable women.
My readers are usually women who enjoy a funny, quirky, but emotional romance with high stakes—who love reading about the wonder of falling deeply in love with that one person in the world who is the only one truly right for you. If they’re my perfect reader, they enjoy a small-town setting and a hero who is one hundred percent male, or as we like to call it in our world, the “Alpha hero.” They will enjoy a tough heroine who isn’t always beautiful on the outside, but is always strong, loving, and able to carve out her own destiny.
How many books do you have out now?
I have six self-published romance books; five in a series, and one that fits in the middle. I decided to create a series because I noticed quite a few other authors doing this as a strategy for selling books. I like to watch and learn.
I’ve also published two other books with a small press under another other pen name. When you want to dive into different genres, it’s a good idea to have a pen name. That way, you don’t lose readership where you already have a following—or offend anyone with a new writing style.
The next books will be coming out with Harlequin in a three-book series based on Air Force pilots and their lives and loves post-military service.
How does it feel, as an author, to have signed with a major publisher like Harlequin?
I’m excited to connect with new readers. Harlequin has a built-in readership based on decades of being the first name in romance publishing. One of the first things I’ve been asked to do will happen this month on their “So You Think You Can Write” blog, where I will be sharing my “call story.” Many readers and aspiring authors follow this blog.
Do you have a formula or a strategy when you write books?
I’ve always been a pantser, meaning I don’t have any outline going in, just a general idea of characters who start out apart and end up together. And in romance, you typically want to have a happy ending. With that in mind, I just think of the story as a natural progression, let the characters lead the way. I’m definitely a character-driven writer.
I did recently take a workshop by Michael Hauge, the Six Point Plot Structure, that has me loosely plotting some of the things I’m working on now. I like it because as a pantser, that’s about as much plot as I can handle. I will have the story until about the midpoint, but after that I don’t know what happens until I’m done.
You seem to have a pretty decent number of reviews for your books. How can new authors start getting reviews?
It’s really hard! I think a lot of new authors figure they’ll just sit back and wait for the reviews to come in, but no, it definitely requires some work. The easiest method is probably just asking everyone you know to read and review your book.
I think one of the best things I did as far as getting reviews was to put my first books out on Amazon. When you publish exclusively to Amazon, you have the opportunity to offer your book for free, or very cheap, for a limited amount of time. It’s also advertised to a group of people who subscribe to the Kindle lending library. Literally thousands of people will download it and maybe two percent will leave a review, but at least you get some activity. You may have to do it several times, but it does work in getting reviews on your page.
You can also do a blog tour, which is basically getting a few blogs to do a short post or an interview about your book. You can also find co-ops for NetGalley, which is a service in which readers can get a free copy of your book, and in exchange must promise to review and post to their site. Traditional publishers use this site, and now indies can as well. It’s very expensive, so the co-op helps. Unfortunately, they’re not obligated to post reviews to Amazon, and this is where most books are sold.
Do you have any other tried-and-true methods for promoting your book?
I’m continually working on gathering subscribers for my author newsletter. It’s a list of email addresses of dedicated readers I can count on to respond when I have a new book coming out.
In my newsletter, I include excerpts, cover reveals, and book giveaways (both my own and books by other authors). It helps grow my fan base, and it keeps my current audience interested and engaged.
One really effective way to get people to subscribe is to including a link to my email in all my self-published books. I put it both on the inside cover and the back cover. And as an incentive, I give away my novella for free for joining my newsletter subscription.
What kinds of things do you share on your social media pages, and why?
The things I share on my social media pages are about my life. It is said that for every “promotional-type post” you share, you should have at least five or six “life” posts. I post about food, my dogs, my kids, funny things my husband says. I also share funny memes with hot-looking men (which my readers appreciate) and those that have to do with the importance of coffee. I will always share promo posts of my fellow authors and their book releases, especially if it’s a friend or someone in my agency or with my publisher. It’s important for readers to see I don’t just plug my own work.
What advice do you have for someone writing his or her first novel?
I think one of the most important things you can do as a writer is to pay to have your book professionally edited. An editor is going to catch things you can’t see. Good editing is absolutely critical to selling your book.
I also believe there's a big learning curve to doing it all yourself and that a company such as Glass Spider Publishing can really make a difference! Write what you love to read, and write the book that’s in your heart.
Intrigued by Heatherly and her advice? Visit her author website or connect with her on Facebook. And if you like sweet and spicy romance, do yourself a favor and get a sampling of her sweet and steamy romance books on Amazon.
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