Nashville-based YA author Caroline George has been passionate about stories for as long as she can remember. Writing went from being a cathartic activity in her pre-teens to a burning passion and life calling. She tells us about her journey, how an extrovert copes with the isolation of writing and her top two secrets for book marketing success.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
I’m the author of The Prime Way Trilogy and The Vestige. I write for Pursue Magazine, lead startup company Local Publishing and work as a part-time publicist for recording artist Autrey. When I’m not attached to my laptop, I’m attending college classes at Belmont University, meeting with friends at Nashville coffeehouses or serving with ministry My Local. All that said, I’m a productivity junkie who believes in making the most of time and living life to the fullest.
What made you want to be a writer?
Stories have been my passion since I was a toddler. Before I could hold a pencil, I told my mom stories, she’d write them down and let me illustrate the pages. In middle school, I started writing with fervor and made it a goal to be published by my sixteenth birthday.
Writing began as a therapeutic escape from my preteen troubles but morphed into a vision fueled by calling, determination and stubbornness.
What inspires you to write?
Life is my inspiration. I’ve made it a goal to live a story worth sharing so I can write stories worth telling.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I worked for HarperCollins Publishing last year as a marketing intern. When I first walked into the office and met my boss, I asked him what makes a book a bestseller. At that moment, I felt like a hiker who’d just climbed to the top of a mountain, met with a guru—I felt like I’d asked, “What is the meaning of life?” My boss shrugged and said, “I’m not sure. We just try things until they work.”
Although I was shocked by his response, I realized the subjective quality of the publishing industry. There isn’t a perfect equation or method for achieving bestseller-status.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Successful writing, in my opinion, is the product of a tenacious attitude and purpose-driven mindset. My advice:
1. Write with purpose. If you don’t believe in your work’s message, you won’t be an effective writer and will most likely give up when the process gets tough. However, if you’re certain your words will make a difference, you’ll write with urgency and will remain steadfast in the trials.
2. Write with an audience in mind. Answer the questions: Why am I writing? For who am I writing? What do I want readers to gain from my work?
3. Write to write, not to publish. If your main goal is to get your words on paper, you’ll be satisfied whether or not your work is published.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
1. Know the publishing industry. Do your research. Publishers hate receiving queries/proposals that do not align with professional standards.
2. Hire an editor or recruit someone with knowledge of current market trends to review your work before submitting to agents or publishers. Don’t exclusively rely on friends and family to edit your writing.
3. Treat your writing as a business. Look for innovative ways to market yourself. Get on social media and build your platform! Publishers are more likely to sign an author who has an online presence.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Market saturation is the biggest challenge for new authors. Due to advancements in technology and publishing, writers have the ability to easily share their content in multiple formats. Although this is good news for aspiring authors, it presents the challenge of exposing a book and generating revenue. To combat this, authors need to target niche audiences.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Marketing is a gamble. A certain tactic could be used with several projects, yet yield different results. I’ve tried foundational book marketing tactics—media list, blog tour and social media campaigns, but have found more success with out-of-the-box methods.
My secret: Instagram.
I’ve built a following by connecting with book-lovers and bloggers. The use of hashtags is helpful as well as direct messaging potential readers.
Another secret: Partnerships.
Teaming up with other authors and businesses helps to boost promotion.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Great question! I often tell people my job is to be rejected. Writing is a fragment of an author’s responsibilities. The other duties include marketing, public relations outreach, and receiving countless rejections before acceptance.
I view rejection as a closed door. As an author, my job is to knock on as many doors as possible. How can I mourn a closed door that was never open to me in the first place? If it was never mine, how can I feel deprived?
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
Author Isaac Marion said it best: “No, writers don’t write in coffee shops so people will see us writing. What kind of loser would do that? It’s because we’re incredibly lonely.”
Unlike a lot of writers, I’m an extrovert—I love interacting with people. That said, writing can become a lonely experience. I fight the ache of silence by working a lot at coffeehouses, scheduling my days so I have writing time and people time, and communicating with my readers and author friends. Talking with a core group of people about my work keeps me encouraged and inspired.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
There is always a way. If one publishing path doesn’t work out, brainstorm and strategize other options, revise your work, and try again. The word NO is subjective. Someone will eventually tell you YES.