Theresa Ragan, whose books include Return of the Rose and the Lizzy Gardner series, talks about her approach to writing and her plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
Writing is something I have always liked to do. When I was very young I loved to write poems and in a daily journal. I liked writing essays in school, etc. I also had a fascination with words. I always loved the idea of memorizing the dictionary. Ha. I never did that, though. In 1991, I read my very first romance novel and I knew instantly that I wanted to be a romance writer. I started writing that very day.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Brenda Novak has always inspired me. I met Brenda after I joined the Sacramento Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She wasn’t published at the time. We critiqued each other’s work. She would bring three chapters and I would have three pages. She’s a prolific writer and the queen of marketing and promotion. She makes raising five kids, writing, and balancing life look easy.
I don’t know if I would have started writing romance if it weren’t for Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor, so she will always be special to me. Susan E. Phillips writes wonderful contemporary romance novels and inspires me to be confident and write what I love to read. After many rejections, I read Lisa Gardner’s story of how she transitioned from writing romance to thrillers. I decided I was going to write a dark thriller and kill off my characters. Writing Abducted was therapeutic and that book is responsible for half of my sales to date.
Why did you decide to self-publish Return of the Rose?
Return of the Rose took me five years to write. It’s definitely the book of my heart. The book also finaled two-times in RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart competition which told me that readers liked this book. Return of the Rose gained me the interest of my first agent. She loved that story and almost sold it to NY years ago. I worked with an editor and made changes and then that editor left for another publishing house. Return of the Rose is a special story with a special hero, Derek Vanguard. When I decided to self-publish, I knew I was going to publish my stories in the order I had written them, starting with Return of the Rose.
If a traditional publisher made you an offer to publish your books, would you consider it or are you happy being self-published?
I love being self-published, but I did recently sign a contract with Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint. They bought Abducted and Dead Weight and Book 3 of my Lizzy Gardner series. I wanted the exposure that I knew Amazon could give me and I am enjoying working with an editor. I still own the rights to my five romance novels and I plan to keep self-publishing romance novels and time travels. I wouldn’t mind selling a book to each of the big six publishing houses in the future because I want to try everything. Right now, for me, it’s about discoverability and finding readers. And having fun!
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I must write a minimum of 1,000 words a day. That includes writing the answers to these questions. I like the 1,000 words a day rule because it’s a goal that’s easy for me to achieve. Many times I write 3,000 words and every once in a while I hit 5,000 words in a day. I do a lot of cutting too. Sometimes I write 1,000 words and then cut 3,000 words–two days forward, one day backwards. But, the pages do finally add up and suddenly I have the first draft of a novel.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
No. I don’t worry about things I can’t control. For nearly 20 years, I wrote every single day and I didn’t make a dime. I had dozens of 400-page novels and zero readers. When you write for that long without finding an audience, without making any money, you realize that you’re writing for the love of writing and nothing else. I was lucky enough to have a supportive husband to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, so not everyone can do what I did. I was home raising four children during this time, too, but I was lucky enough to be able to do what I love. I can’t imagine one company ever having a monopoly. If that happened, then I believe somebody else would step up and offer authors 80% royalties and everybody would swarm over there. I’m just going to take it all one day at a time and keep writing.
How have you marketed your books? Do you use sites like Facebook and Twitter a lot?
Not a lot, but I do spend five minutes a day on each. I made a free website/blog using Blogger. I use Facebook and Twitter. I try to blog twice a month. I also blog once a month on WG2E. I used Windows Movie Maker to make book trailers that I put on YouTube and Author Central. I did a blog tour with IBC. I say yes to interview like this and I try to comment on other interesting blogs. I am a regular on the kindle boards and I am a member of many on-line writers’ groups.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out self-publishing their first novel?
Okay, so now you have a book that you believe in and stand 100% behind. Now it’s time to hire an editor and/or proofreader to make your book shine. If you don’t know where to find an editor or a cover artist, go to EMS, a resource site run by Amy Atwell. Once that is done, decide how much time you are going to spend marketing yourself and your book before you begin writing your next book. Find wonderful resource sites like WG2E and read, read, read. There are so many articles out there for indie authors. You just need to put in the time and see what other authors are doing. Put out a positive message. Try everything at least once to see what works for you. If you do not like to blog or do interviews, then don’t do them. Your time would be better spent writing! If you write romance, join Indie Romance Ink where you will find over 1,000 members who are willing to share all sorts of information. Once your book has been released, don’t fret over number of sales. Sometimes it takes up to six months to start seeing an increase. Make sure your cover and your blurb are the best they can be. Believe in yourself! Enjoy the process. You can do it!
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am working furiously trying to finish book 3 of my Lizzy Gardner series. It’s a thriller and it’s dark, but hopefully entertaining, too! I want this book to be the best it can be. My editor, Alan Turkus, at Thomas & Mercer is waiting patiently for me to send it to him. This is the first time I have ever had a deadline that wasn’t self-imposed. Be careful what you wish for. Ha! Truthfully, I am enjoying every single minute of this crazy new ride. I have sold over 300,000 books in a little over a year. The future looks bright.