There are so many of us who want to be writers. Some of us want to have careers as authors, and some want to pursue the art in our free time. But in our day and age, the publishing industry is incredibly competitive. Your work may be good, but they want more. We see more and more young aspiring authors spending time to build a platform as well - doing an amazing job of juggling writing with blogging and social media. With all of these new requirements on their shoulders, many of them are turning to the new alternative: indie publishing. Abigayle Claire is the 19-year-old author of Martin Hospitality, which won Honorable Mention in 2017’s Readers Favorite Awards, and today she’s here to answer questions about her writing life.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I'd love to! I'm nineteen years old and live at home with parents and seven younger siblings. Purple is my favorite color, and period dramas are my favorite pastime. I'm currently pursuing creative writing and freelance editing through self-education and experience. As a writer, it's also quite important that you know I'm left-handed.
Q: Can you give us a bit of an introduction to your two books (and maybe your current project too)?
A: Martin Hospitality is my debut novel. It was inspired by a crazy dream, and while it was by no means the first story idea I had, it was the only one I completed with the intention to publish. The book follows a pregnant teenager who is taken in by a Christian, homeschooling family and follows how their lives are impacted as a result. People say "write what you know," but I only half did that because my personal experience is as a part of a large Christian family, not the harder experience of the main character.
Andora's Folly is a novella (baby novel), so much shorter than my first book. I decided on retelling Pandora's Box in a medieval setting during Camp NaNo of 2016.. It required some research, but I enjoy Greek mythology, so that was really enough to jumpstart my imagination. I wrote the entire first draft during July 2016 and published it on Kindle a year later!
As for other projects in the works, I still have a gazillion "serious" ideas that you can find storyboards for on my Pinterest page. The genres are all over the map, so I'm really not sure what I'll land in for the long run, besides Christian Fiction. Martin Hospitality is supposed to have at least one sequel following the same main characters. A sequel to Andora's Folly following one of the side characters has also been requested, but we'll see if I ever dedicate much time to that. I also have the first draft of an entirely different novel titled Behind the Act that follows an actress which I would perhaps like to traditionally publish. So "what's next?" is a big question! Due to an overused wrist from all the typing, I've had to significantly scale back my writing for now and am instead focusing on my editing for others.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: This sounds dumb and cliché, but I have honestly written stories for as long as I can remember. At first, it was movies and books that would inspire me. So I was quite the plagiariser in the beginning! I've gotten away from that, but my spontaneous inspiration process is still much the same. Even then, I only finished two stories when I was little. The Dolphin at Grandpa's Hut (cringe!) was inspired by the Free Willy movie and The Muted Secret was inspired by the Mandie books. I haven't tried to write an animal book or mystery since!
Q: How did you come to the decision to try and publish as a teenager?
A: Growing up, I always assumed that I'd be an author. It never even crossed my mind that I wouldn't publish something, even though I have dozens of partially completed stories to suggest otherwise. When I got the idea for Martin Hospitality, it was my first idea in a while, and unlike all my serious ideas so far, it really came together when I sat down to plan it out. That was my sign that this was the story I was going to finish. This would be my first book. I think I really have to credit all of that to God.
Q: What does indie publishing mean, and why did you decide to go that way?
A: Again, this wasn't as much a conscious decision for me as it was a given. For my first book, I had every intention of digging in, learning the ropes, and doing it all myself. That's really all indie (or self) publishing means! You're doing it independently, instead of marketing the book to a publishing house that will take charge and help you out. I loved that everything was within my control with indie publishing, even though that also meant everything was up to me.
Q: Can you give us a glimpse as to what self publishing requires and includes?
A: It will be a little different for each person since everyone can decide just how independent they want to be. For me, I made the decision to hire an editor, interior formatter, and watercolor artist for Martin Hospitality's cover. My own skill set was not satisfactory to me for the quality I wanted to achieve. Other independent authors do everything themselves. Yet everything is still within the author's control, and that's what makes it self-publishing. To actually publish, I used CreateSpace (Amazon's company). They have the required steps (ISBN, trim size) and instructions all laid out, and it comes down to uploading the interior file and cover image to publish a book and have it available on Amazon's website! That was a huge help, as I wouldn't have thought to address everything.
Q: What are the challenges you've come across as an indie author?
A: Marketing is hard. That's something I really wish I could hand over to a publishing house! Publishing is just the first step. Having my books sitting on Amazon doesn't sell them without work on my part. As I look into traditional publishing with a publishing house, though, I'm realizing that even publishing houses are getting tired of the work it takes to market a book no one has heard of or read. That's why many publishers are requiring authors to already have a significant platform (online following) in order to consider their manuscript. Marketing is easier for everyone if you already have a crowd interested in what you're doing. Even though I've only done indie publishing so far, I started a blog before I published which helped me find a community and build one of my own. There's also a bit of a social slant against being independent as if that makes you an inferior author. That's why having an impressive appearance as well as well-written content is essential. (That's why I hired professionals.) Even the skeptics who flip through my books come away with congratulations.
Q: Would you recommend others to pursue indie publishing?
A: I would absolutely recommend independent publishing! It's no less "real" than traditional publishing, nor does it have to be less quality. All of that is in your hands as the author if you decide to publish yourself. It is as respectable and notable an option as you make it, and I like having that control, even though it does come with responsibility. You do have to be willing to learn and dedicated to see the hard work through if you want to see your book self-published and selling.
Q: What have been your most helpful resources as writer?
A: Other writers have been the most helpful. Making some close writer friends who have already done what I'm doing, write what I write, or are figuring things out alongside me has been amazing. I mean, let's face it ... "regular" family and friends are terrific, but they're not going to have any idea what you're talking about. Writer friends are incredibly supportive and helpful. I wouldn't have made it very far without them. Attending writing conferences to learn from the greats and reading books on the writing craft have also helped me grow as a writer. You should never, ever stop learning!
Q: I have heard it said that no matter how one wants to publish, a writer must build his/her own platform. Can you tell us how you have done this and what tips you'd give others looking to do the same?
A: Ah, yes. I mentioned this briefly earlier! Publishing and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Without publishing, you have no book to market. But without marketing, no one will ever find out that you're published. In order to effectively market anything, you have to have people to market to. That's what a platform is; it's the fan club and followers that you gather online to tell about your product. I began a blog about a year before I published my first book. By giving my blog the focus of books and writing, it made it natural for me to talk about my work-in-progress. However, not focusing only on me and instead trying to be personable, helpful, and friendly, is what helped me make friends and get followers. I've continued to build upon my blog following by slowly expanding to different social media sites. Of all the ones I've tried, Twitter and Instagram have not only gotten me the most numbers, but also connected me with more people that I consider true friends. Blogs aren't for everyone, but they work because they're personal. That's the real key. You have to actually be willing to take time to invest in strangers so that they can become friends because friends are worth having.
Q: What is the best thing you've experienced so far in your author's career?
A: Okay, the one specific thing was when Martin Hospitality won a Reader's Favorite honorable mention in Christian Fiction. I'm pretty sure it doesn't get better than that! A: That made me realize just how far my writing could take me. But it always comes back to the people, and that's coming from an introvert! The intersection of lives has been astounding. I've met hundreds of people I never would have if not for God's calling me to write. The ability to touch their lives with my writing and to help them with their own stories is such a privilege. I've been really blessed to have such a positive response to my work and I hope to keep expanding the circle of people I touch as they continue to touch my life in return.
I want to say a big thanks to Abigayle Claire for doing this interview, and I wish her all the success in her career. If you are interested, check out her books, and look her up on social media @abitheauthor or on her blog.