I’d like to welcome USA Today’s Best Seller, Jennifer Probst, to the Authors and Editors Interview Series here at The Literary Mom.
Jennifer’s latest book, The Marriage Bargain, was published by Entangled Publishing a small press/eBook publisher.
It has sold over 43,000 copies in the first month alone. Jennifer is here today to tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with Entangled Publishing, as well as discuss her work as a writer. Thank you so much for being here today, Jennifer.
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about becoming a published author? How did break into the publishing business and what processes did you go through (querying, pitching, conferences, etc). Did you get “the call?” What was that like? How long did you write before you became published?
Jennifer: I have always known I wanted to be a writer since I was twelve. I wrote my first manuscript by hand and brought it into my school to read to my friends! It was a teen romance, so I knew that would be my genre of choice. When I was in my early twenties, I penned my first adult romance and sent it off to an agent for representation. I had no idea she’d say no. Fortunately, this was the first in many steps for me to learn how hard the field is, and how I needed to dig deep and believe in myself. I revised, then sent it off to Harlequin – the whole manuscript – and waited 9 months to hear back. I received an excellent rejection letter – they didn’t want to buy it, but loved my work and encouraged me to send something else.Then I joined my local RWA chapter, the Hudson Valley RWA, and began learning much more about the business, contacts, and my craft. That was a turning point for me. I wrote another book, and sent that off. Again, Harlequin loved my query and asked for the whole. I waited almost a year, my editor left, and I received a rejection. So, I kept writing. I joined a local critique group. I read a lot of writing books. I pitched to agents. I pitched to editors. I got close several times but never made a sale. This went on for several years and four manuscripts.
I finally got a call from LionHearted publishing (who is no longer here) that they wanted to publish my first book, Heart of Steel. I remember when the editor called me, I told my parents my book was going to be published and they didn’t believe me! They kept gazing at me in shock, because it had been such a long process! I waited two years for the book to come out, but was finally able to hold it in my hand. It is an experience like no other – simply surreal – and an author will never forget that first time.
After that, I published an erotic novella with Red Sage rather quickly, and then my life exploded. I got married, had a baby, had another baby, and pursued a master’s degree with two young toddlers and a day job. Whew! Finally, I received my degree, kids got a bit older (at least potty trained – lol!) and I went back to writing like a demon. That is when I started to sell.
Me: Tell us what a day for you is like, in terms of writing. What’s your schedule like? Where do you write? Do you have any weird quirks or habits?
Jennifer: Schedule? Oh, boy, I wish I had a schedule! When I was working full-time, I stole time to write. I wrote on my lunch hour, into the late hours of the evening, and weekends. I wrote in fifteen minute stretches. I learned that is what I had to do to produce. I do much better with long hours to write uninterrupted, but that will not happen in my life, so I learned to make do with what I can! I write in my office which is a cluttered mess. My boys share a room because I’d never give up my writing space! I write now when my little one is in school for a few hours, evenings, early mornings, whenever I can! I was once writing a literal love scene while my kids were chasing each other around my chair and crawling under my feet and I never even paused -lol! And, no, no quirks or habits. Boring, huh?
Me: Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be an author for Entangled Publishing. What is their publishing process like? What do you like best about working with them? What is the hardest thing about working with them, if anything?
Jennifer: Oh, I’m so excited to talk about Entangled! First off, The Marriage Bargain got rejected numerous times, but I believed in this book like no other before it. I kept polishing and researching to see where it could fit. Entangled was new on the block but had gotten some good press for the quality of their work, so I decided to submit. This, as you know, changed my life!
First off, the process is immaculate. The publisher and the editor conferenced me in to let me know they wanted to buy my book and how much they loved it. They saw all the wonderful things in it that I did. Then my editor ripped it apart! In a good way, of course! She made it so much better and made me re-write until it was perfect. The process goes through several intense re-writes. I received a publicist! How cool is that? I was so used to doing everything by myself, that it was such a treat to have one person help me do guest blogs, schedule things, line things up, and always check in if I needed something. Every time I emailed someone, they got back to me ASAP. I never felt alone in the process, and that’ s a big thing to an author. Another strong positive was their enthusiasm about a long relationship – they wanted more work from me and looked toward the future. And information is always shared, the authors are very supportive and cheerlead for everyone in the group. Honestly, it feels like I belong to a family!
Me: I’m planning to cover large publishing houses, exclusively E-Book publishers, and self-publishing in addition to small publishers/e-book publishers like Entangled. Do you have any thoughts/ideas on these other forms of publishing? Am I right in thinking that your book, A LIFE WORTH LIVING, is a self published book? Can you tell me some of your experience with that? How doe sit compare with the books you’ve had published through Entangled?
Jennifer: Really great question! Yes, I dived into self publishing for one particular reason. I haven’t felt strongly enough yet about one of my romance novels going Indie since I like the support of a publishing house backing it, along with a strong editor and team to push it ahead. That’s my personal opinion. But while I was writing my romance novel, the voice of a dog haunted me for over two weeks. I am a strong animal advocate and volunteer at my local shelter, along with owning two rescue dogs. I finally gave in to the voice and wrote a story about a shelter dog, coming from a dog’s point of view. And then I had no idea what to do with it! I had a few people edit it for content, and sent out some queries to some dog magazines, but nothing came of it. I decided to self-publish and give half of the proceeds to the animal shelter. I did it all myself, found the cover, uploaded it, and finally published it. I did some local advertising on social media and slowly, the sales began to build. After I did a presentation for the local library, sales began to increase steadily, and I began receiving some amazing fan letters on the short story. Then it hit #1 on Amazon in Pets/Animals category and I’m thrilled to report I am now able to present a nice check to the shelter every month, which has made a huge difference!
So, it’s definitely a different experience, but I followed that path because it was out of my usual genre and I wasn’t sure how else to get it into the public’s hands. I think every avenue is worth considering depending on the author’s comfort zone and what they expect out of their book. My main motto is always one thing though: quality. Don’t just put anything out there and think it will sell. If it’s low quality, you can lose readers forever.
Me: You’ve sold over 43,000 copies of your book The Marriage Bargain. That’s Very impressive, especially for a smaller publisher like Entangled. How do you think that number was achieved? Was it purely through the marketing strategies of Entangled, or did you hire a publicist, do social media tours, etc?
Jennifer: I’m so excited about those figures I didn’t sleep for a week! Honestly, I think it was a good combination. Entangled did some pre-publicity on the launch of the Indulgence line, my publicist lined up guest blogs and spots right away, and I think they had built a solid reputation on quality books that buzzed some interest. I did not hire my own publicist, and I did not do anything out of the ordinary. I did a 20 stop blog tour to get my name out there and used social media as much as possible. I had made some solid contacts in my previous book with reviewers who loved my work, so I told them about it.
My publisher was also pretty savvy though – when it launched and she saw some solid numbers – she immediately purchased a Goodreads ad to see if sales would spike. They did, so she quickly followed through with the other books. This is a sign of a good publisher – she didn’t just sit back and tell the author to promote. She was pro-active about the book, which I loved.
Me: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for my readers hoping to publish a book? If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were just starting out, before you had any success, what would you say?
Jennifer: When I am asked this question, I always answer in the same way, over and over. Do. Not. Give. Up. Ever. I have no regrets in my journey. No matter how many rejections I received, I pushed onward, and tried to believe in myself. I learned my craft, spoke with other writers, and kept writing new manuscripts.
I will share this tiny story that could have defined me. I had an English teacher who at the end of the year, came over to my desk and literally told me she didn’t think I could cut it in the honors English class and that I’d never be a writer. Yes, I know, horrible right? In the same vein, I had other teachers who supported and encouraged me. But, the moral of the story is this. I went home and almost decided to give up. After all, this was a professional telling me I wasn’t good enough, right? Instead, I dug deep and decided to prove her wrong. I even dreamed of writing a dedication to her one day in one of my books as my revenge – lol! I could’ve let her win, but I didn’t. Life is always going to knock you down. You need to just get up. (Yes, I have a thing for the Rocky movies, sorry.)
It’s a very hard journey for most of us. You have a dream and you don’t know what’s around the next bend. Many need day jobs (I did) to pay bills, because the writing isn’t enough. The good news? It can always happen – it can be the very next book you write that makes all of the difference. My close friends cannot believe my book hit the USA Today bestseller list. They tell me they remember how I always dreamed of this and never gave up, and it makes it that much better. Remember, we write because we have to – it is a part of us that will not go away. Don’t ever get into this business for the glory – there rarely is glory – but the satisfaction of seeing your dream on paper in the world cannot be explained. It is pretty much one of the greatest things on earth!
Me: Thanks again, Jennifer, for being here today. You can find Jennifer at various places throughout the internet:
Website and Blog: http://www.jenniferprobst.com
Author Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/jenniferprobst.authorpage
Buy The Marriage Bargain here:
Barnes and Noble:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-marriage-bargain-jennifer-probst/1108825359