Getting down to business is a new series in which I interview successful authors, not about the writing process, but about the business side of publishing. Today’s author is with Cassandra Carr who has racked up an impressive backlist of titles in just over two years.
Cara Bristol: Please share how many titles you’ve published and the time frame in which you published them. What is your typical format? How many novels, novellas, short stories have you published?
Cassandra Carr: Right now, a total of 19 works, not including anything I did for free like the Passionate Cooks cookbook for AllRomanceEbooks. I have two more coming soon. Of those, nine are considered novels or short novels, 2 novellas, and 8 short stories/anthology inclusions. I write different lengths so my readers have choices. Plus, I have a short attention span and get bored.
As far as time period, I sold in November 2010, was first published in March 2011 (there were two other small things which I don’t consider my debut). For some reason, since mid-November I’ve had releases left and right. That might be due to the fact I wrote five hundred thousand words (the equivalent of about six paperbacks) in 2012. It was nuts.
Cara Bristol: When it comes to your writing career, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a specific strategy or concrete goals for your career or do you make it up as you go along?
Cassandra Carr: I’m a pantser, which works well except when you can’t figure out what should come next. 😉 I do put some outlined ideas below what I’ve already written and erase them as I complete the section. That doesn’t mean I’ll stick to those – sometimes the story demands something different.
Cara Bristol: At what point did you decide writing erotic romance was going to be your full-time occupation?
Cassandra Carr: April 2010. I was laid off from a contract position and asked my husband if I should go get another job. I was writing pretty seriously by then but had not sold. My husband told me to stay home and write, because that’s what made me happy. He showed an awful lot of faith allowing me to do that six months before I ever sold a book.
Cara Bristol: When you look back on your career, what turning points do you see that had a significant positive impact? Did you realize the impact it would have at the time?
Cassandra Carr: Having my novella Caught win Best BDSM Book 2011 from LoveRomancesCafe was a turning point. I was up against industry heavyweights and it really seemed to propel my sales to the next level. Did I know the impact? Well, I knew it was a pretty major award to win, so I would guess I’d have to say yes.
Cara Bristol: What’s a typical working day like? What percentage of your time is divided between editing & writing v. promotion? Are you one of those authors who works on multiple projects at a time or do you write one and then move on to the next?
Cassandra Carr: I seriously never have a typical writing day. I write at six o’clock in the morning, two in the afternoon, and up to two am the next day depending on what’s going on. I only have part-time childcare, so that makes a difference in how productive I’m able to be on any given day.
That being said, I prefer to be in the first draft stage of only one book at a time. Being in edits with another one through the publisher at the same time is fine. As far as writing vs editing vs promotion, much of that depends on what’s going on externally. For the past couple of months I have been more promotion because of all those releases I mentioned above. That’s winding down and now I’m back to writing the first draft of a novel while doing edits on one I’ve sold.
Cara Bristol: How has working with a virtual assistant improved your productivity? What tasks do you have the assistant do?
Cassandra Carr: It’s been a huge help. I recommend it to anyone who can afford it. My assistant does my entire blog – I write two posts a week myself, but she schedules guests, puts up most of the posts, and similar things. She also keeps the tally of points for my Street Team members and other miscellaneous things I ask her to.
Cara Bristol: How much does the potential salability of an idea affect your decision to write it?
Cassandra Carr: Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I know that’s probably not a good answer, but it’s true. I write stories – especially shorter stories – that I know might have limited marketability, but will expand my backlist. On the other hand, for example, I wanted to try my hand at writing male/male. I knew that story would sell since male/male is really hot. Plus I wrote that for Loose Id, which has a good male/male following.
Cara Bristol: What has your agent been able to do for you that you can’t or don’t want to do for yourself? At what point do you think an author should seek representation?
Cassandra Carr: My agent has been able to get my work in front of editors that I couldn’t myself. It’s hard for me to say when you should get an agent. Some people should never get or need agents. Others might need them as soon as they sell or before. It all depends on the individual situation. For me, I decided to get an agent when I sold to a place with a more complicated contract than the others I’d signed.
Cara Bristol: Many published authors have since turned to self-publishing at least some titles. Is this anything you would consider? What are your thoughts about indie-publishing?
Cassandra Carr: I, generally speaking, have no interest in self-publishing. I’m far too lazy for something like that. 😉 But I admire others who can and are successful and have no problem with the concept.
Cara Bristol: Other than improving craft (because that’s a given), what three things do you think an author can do to further her career?
- Learn how to do promo and ACTUALLY DO IT. Knowing how to do promotional stuff and actually carrying out plans are two different things. Authors today have to do promotion. If you’re uncomfortable, get over it or resign yourself to the fact your sales will probably languish since you have less discoverability than authors who do promote. Part of promotion is branding. For instance, when people hear the name Cara Bristol, they know what kind of book to expect.
- Read in your own genre. It’s imperative you know what’s hot, what’s working, that sort of thing.
- Pick a pen name people can easily remember and spell. No cute spellings, people. No really long names. When you’re making your pen name is not the time to exercise creativity. Leave that to your stories.
Cara Bristol: What promotional activities have worked best for you?
Cassandra Carr: Oh wow, that’s hard to say. I do so many. I think going to conventions and meetings readers has been really good for me. After I went to the Romantic Times (RT) conference last year and saw a spike in sales that lasted for about three months. Sure, there may’ve been other factors, but the same thing happened when I went to Ellora’s Cave’s Romanticon conference last October.
Cara Bristol: What promotional activities haven’t worked for you?
Cassandra Carr: Probably the regular ads on websites. There are so many you get lost in the crowd. However, I still do them every month because if people see your message consistently, they will remember you. It’s not the most efficient means of doing promotion, but long-term it probably helps.
Cara Bristol: What do you think has been your biggest success? Your biggest disappointment?
Cassandra Carr: At the end of 2012 me or my books were nominated for a number of awards and were named to a bevy of Top Ten for 2012 lists. That’s probably my biggest success. My biggest disappointment has been the sales of Master Class, which I really thought would take off and fly. It’s a great story and a little different from the “average” BDSM story since Ryan is a new Dom who meets an experienced submissive. Ryan learns and makes mistakes – he’s definitely not one of those all-powerful, all-knowing Doms.
Cara Bristol: What mistakes have you made in your career? If you had it to do over again, would you do anything differently?
Cassandra Carr: Mistakes? Yeah, I’ve made plenty of them. I think sometimes I’m too nice so people don’t feel like they need to do things for me because I’ll never call them out on it. I don’t know that I would do anything differently, though. I’ve had incredible success considering how long I’ve been in the business. That’s a combination of a number of factors, including the mistakes I’ve made.
Cara Bristol: How do you measure your success? What kind of tools/tracking measures do you use, if any?
Cassandra Carr: I’m one of those authors who does track my sales through NovelRank. I know it’s not one hundred percent accurate, but it’s better than nothing. Considering probably seventy percent of my sales come from Amazon, it’s nice to know what’s selling and what isn’t. Those trends are usually reflected in the other third-party distributors.
Cara Bristol: What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were just getting started?
Cassandra Carr: How freaking many hours I would be doing things other than writing. 😉 But I choose to do that because I think promotion is important. Some authors don’t and so they have more time for writing.
Cara Bristol: Where would you like to be in five years?
Cassandra Carr: A New York Times bestseller. Aim high, people!
For more information about Cassandra, her books or to purchase the books shown here, please visit her website, BooksbyCassandraCarr.com
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