Samantha Young, whose books include On Dublin Street and the Fire Spirits series, talks about her approach to writing and her plans for the future.
On Dublin Street has become a big hit. What do you think has been the single biggest contributing factor to that success?
I think the success pertains to months of building a readership. I’ve been self-publishing for just under two years and have released eleven novels and a novella in that time. I’ve built up a fairly strong readership for my YA books, and my older readers created a buzz around On Dublin Street – my first adult fiction novel – before its release. When it did release, their enthusiasm pushed it into amazon’s Top 100 and from there it had visibility.
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?
I’ve been writing since I was about seven. My dad has this memory of when I was kid and I said, ‘Dad, I’m going to be a teacher,’ and he smiled and said, ‘No, sweetheart, you’re going to be a writer.’ He was right! It wasn’t really until my years at university though that I became serious about writing as an actual career.
Your first books were YA, but On Dublin Street is an adult romance. Why did you decide to make that shift, and did you have to make many conscious changes to your writing style?
I always intended to branch out into adult fiction but the intention had been to wait until my latest YA series was complete and release my adult contemporary novel in 2013. However, the characters of On Dublin Street, are quite personal and indeed persistent, and once I started writing their story I couldn’t stop until it was done. Hence the early release! As for making conscious changes to my writing style… yeah, to a certain extent I did. My voice had to belong to a more mature, more experienced narrator. The style of my prose, however, remains the same.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
There are lots of authors who inspire me. C.S. Lewis, Laini Taylor, Suzanne Collins, Richelle Mead, Stacia Kane, Margaret Atwood, Orson Scott Card, Patrick Ness… the list could go on and on…
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I plan everything out first. Everything. And once I have pretty comprehensive chapter summaries written, I sit down at the computer and I try to write at least 5,000 words a day.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
I did. I didn’t opt for the route of querying agents at first, although I did try that later, and went straight to publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. After a few rejections I came across Amanda Hocking’s books and was amazed to discover she was self-published and how successful she’d become. She really inspired me to pluck up the courage to self-publish my own series.
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
I’m probably like every writer on the planet – I have that one big dream (for me? To be a New York Times Bestseller), but in the realm of every day, I feel successful if I’ve managed to make enough money that month to warrant writing full-time, and so far every month has proven to be a good month.
How have you marketed your books?
I market and promote my books using Social Media and book bloggers. Without book bloggers I doubt I would have even got my books off the ground. They were amazingly supportive of me. Facebook has been a really good tool for promotion – I have an FB page for my YA and an FB page for my adult fiction. I update nearly every day on there with teasers and giveaways and just chatting with readers. I also use Twitter, although I’m not nearly as good at using it as I am Facebook, but I announce anything that needs to be announced on there too. And of course Goodreads has been a great marketing resource. I send out events on Goodreads, I have my blog feed on there too, and I interact with readers. Another free promotional tool is KDP select on Kindle Direct Publishing. You can make your book free for five days. It gives it some visibility on Amazon, and I’ve found my sales increase for my other books whenever I make a book free. Plus, it’s great for readers who want to try one of my books but whose budgets are a little tight.
The only time I paid for advertising was an inexpensive book Ad on a book blog. I didn’t feel my book benefited from it, so I’ve never paid for advertising since.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
I have the fourth and final book in my YA Urban Fantasy series, Fire Spirits releasing at the end of November in 2012. After that, I’ll be returning to the characters of On Dublin Street for some more adult contemporary romance releases.