Raised in Iowa and now a sophomore at New York University, Sophia Hanson, author of the Vinyl trilogy and Hummingbird, has amassed an impressive 35 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards including two National Gold Medals for science fiction short stories. Her decision to publish at the age of 18 attracted undue criticism, but she decided to push on regardless, eventually reaching number one on the Amazon bestseller list with her first novel.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
I published my debut young adult novel Vinyl: Book One of the Vinyl Trilogy in November 2015. To my shock, it became a #1 Amazon Bestseller! The sequel, Radio, comes out April 5th. Last December, I published a collection of poetry called hummingbird, which tells the story of my first love and heartbreak. After The Vinyl Trilogy, I plan to tackle a space opera called Coldstar. I have some other ideas for a young adult high fantasy series and another collection of poetry rattling around in my head…but one step at a time!
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
I was a reader before I was a writer, as is the case with most authors. I became a bibliophile after my mom read me Harry Potter in first grade. From then on, I could not seem to get enough stories. I started writing because, quite simply, I ran out of books that interested me in my elementary school library. It seemed logical that if I could not find a book that suited me, I would just have to write my own. And here we are.
What inspires you to write?
For me, writing is more than just a pastime or a potential career path. It is a necessity. I know that sounds overwrought, but I mean it. Writing is my release. When life gets tough, it lifts me. When life is good, it enhances my happiness. It allows me to explore worlds I could never touch with my hands; to comb through thoughts I could never vocalize.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
Receiving my first piece of fan art was pretty moving. The fact that somebody not only took the time to read my book but loved it enough to create a work of art based on it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write every day. Even if it is just a sentence or two. If you allow yourself to fall off the wagon, life will start to encroach on your craft. One day of no writing will turn into a weekend, then a week, then a month. So write every damn day.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
Though I am an indie author, I have approached publishers and literary agencies in the past. Here are a few tips:
1. Address each agent or publisher specifically in each query. Triple check the spelling of their names. Nothing is more off-putting than getting their name wrong right off the bat.
2. Follow the specific query instructions put forth by each publisher or literary agency. Your manuscript will likely be thrown out if you do not. Plus, it just shows you mean business and have done your homework.
3. Make your cover letter short and sweet, unless otherwise specified.
4. Try not to get discouraged when you are rejected. I say when because the truth is it will happen. Shed a tear, take a deep breath, then keeping moving forward.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Getting readers to take a chance on your book. This is especially difficult for indie authors as we are not branded with the trustworthy stamp of a beloved publishing house. Building a loyal social media following and getting an agent are tough, too.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
I have tried multiple paid advertising services and none of them were particularly effective. The only successful means of paid advertisement I have come across is BookBub. They have 7 million subscribers! If you can land an advertising deal with them (which, mind you, is not easy) you are set. My sales skyrocketed and the echoes remained for many weeks after the advertising burst.
As far as unpaid organic marketing, I would say book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are most important. You can post about your own book as much as you want, but in the end, very few people are going to take your word for it. However, if they see thirty, forty, fifty people gushing about it on Amazon…
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Have a little cry. Take a deep breath. Keep moving forward.
Whatever you do, do not complain to the publisher, agency, or reader that rejected you. This is a very small community. Word travels fast. Be poised. Be polite. Thank them for their consideration if it feels appropriate. Then let it go. Your time will come if you let it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
I was eighteen when I decided to publish my first book. A lot of people turned up their noses, saying I should wait until I was older, a better writer with more life experience. To me, that smelled a lot like bullshit. The truth is, all authors are constantly working to improve their craft. I am a better writer today than I was when I jotted down the first sentences of Vinyl. If you have a story to tell, tell it now. If you let it sit until you are “ready” at some undeterminable time in the future, it might just be too late. Life gets in the way of art all the time. Write now.
The latest novel in the Vinyl series, Radio, is due to be released on April 5 2017. You can find out more about Sophia (plus her passion for StarWars, Supergirl, feminism, and books) via her Twitter and Instagram. For more information about the Vinyl Triology or Hummingbird head to her Website or Goodreads page.