Whatever book marketing method you are passionate about is the one that will be most successful. Why? Because you’ll follow through, you’ll work at it, and you’ll enjoy yourself.
Fantasy author Erika Gardner has always been a storyteller seeking to find magic in the mundane. We talk to her about evocative soundtracks, why you should polish your work to perfection prior to submission and the value of taking a break.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
I’m a bona fide geek who writes fairy tales for people who don’t want to grow up. My stories are set in our world, but I always like to look around and say, hmm, if a gryphon came out from around that corner- how would THAT go?!? My first book features a woman, Siobhan (pronounced Sha-vaughn), who discovered her talent for seeing the truth in all things at the age of five. She looked at a statue in her grandmother’s garden and realized it wasn’t a statue at all. It was a dragon in hiding. Hence the title…The Dragon in The Garden.
How did you begin writing?
This likely gets said a great deal, but the truth is that I’ve always been a storyteller. I think most children are, it’s simply that society tends to encourage people to leave that behind as we grow up. (Parents are nodding their heads, remembering the tall tales their children have sprinkled through the years- sometimes on a daily basis.) Growing up I played Dungeons & Dragons and any good Dungeon Master needs to be a storyteller at heart for a campaign to be successful. To this day as I lie in bed at night I’m making up stories in my head until it’s time to dream them real into the night. Once I learned how to write and later type I’ve always been working on one book or another.
What inspires you to write?
Lots of things… I’m a huge fan of heavy metal, Northern European Symphonic heavy metal to be exact. Think bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Blind Guardian, etc., oh, and I adore Iron Maiden. The music creates evocative soundtracks for my books as I write them.
I love to run and hike. That time, where my body is busy and my mind is free, is usually when I do most of my plotting. Nature inspires me, the change of seasons, the whipping of the wind, because I write fantasy it just takes some random spark to light the creative flame. And yes, I have a rich fantasy life.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
A few years ago I was at a writers conference and spoke to a fabulous agent who asked for a novel I had recently finished. I sent her the manuscript. Her response was suggestions on rewrites and she said she’d be willing to take another look at it once I’d reworked it. I was crushed. I had put a year into this story and now I felt rejected. Plus, the thought of starting all over again (I wouldn’t have needed to but it felt that way at the time) was crushing. Now looking back, I see that I had been offered a Revise and Resubmit. It was a GOOD thing, but I was so ready to be rejected I missed the opportunity.
So, do as I say not what I do. Stay positive. Look for the good. And for the love of Pete if an agent or a publisher says rewrite something… YOU REWRITE IT!!!!!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I always say the same thing to this question because it’s the same thing I tell myself as I approach each new level to my career. Just don’t give up. You haven’t failed unless you’ve walked away.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
DON’T RUSH! I know you’re excited. You’ve just finished your book. It’s your beautiful newborn baby. To you it’s perfect. And that’s all well and good. Newborn babies may be beautiful to their loved ones, but some other people might say they look like a combination of Winston Churchill and a plucked chicken. Don’t rush to the baby beauty pageant. You can only enter once. Take your time, polish that manuscript, draft and redraft that query letter. Put your best foot forward.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
It’s that word…platform. Building that dratted platform. Be consistent, keep at it, be kind to other authors, be responsive to readers, celebrate the good and don’t the bad break you. Setbacks will happen. Take my situation…Tirgearr Publishing put my book out two years ago and it initially did well. Then life conspired to pull me away from writing. All that momentum I had is gone. I have to start from scratch to get buzz going regarding Dragon and to pave the way for its sequel The Gryphon in The Tree. I can be upset about my shrunken platform or I can roll up my sleeves and get back to building. Again, it goes back to…don’t quit!
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Whatever method YOU are passionate about is the one that will be most successful. Why? Because you’ll follow through, you’ll work at it, and you’ll enjoy yourself. That enjoyment will shine through, letting the world see YOU at your best and most positive. People want to like other people and positivity, humour, and fun are always very attractive.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Is it okay to say with wine? LOL! I do hail from Northern California after all- I need to support the local industries. I’m just kidding… er, mostly. I don’t know that anyone handles rejection very well, honestly. Some are better at partitioning their feeling, not letting the hurt show, but in the end it really does hurt. The thing is, that’s okay. What we do is deeply personal, and it’s allowed for you to have your feelings hurt. Have a good cry, punch a pillow… just don’t kick the poor dog! When I am rejected I have my mantra, that’s their opinion, their filter. My tribe is out there. I just need to find the other wacky, whimsy souls who will get ME.
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
I use it. That is the place where I put my head down and WORK. Then when I’m that other Erika, the Erika with my family, my friends, etc. I’m completely in the moment and I enjoy everything to the fullest. It also helps to have other writers around you. They understand the work, the isolation, and the rejection. They know how little we make for how much work we do. Empathy can solve many ills.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
While I say be consistent and don’t quit, that isn’t the same as don’t take a break. If the emotional well is empty then step away for a bit, recharge, and love yourself. Many writers are incredibly hard on themselves. Ease up, even if just for a minute, and breathe.