Today I am interviewing Jennifer Becton, hot new author, whose latest book, Absolute Liability, is now in the top 100 in sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Carey: Jennifer, I know you have also published a Jane Austen sequel about Charlotte Collins, what else have you written?
Jennifer: Until I published Charlotte Collins, I had written primarily nonfiction articles for various regional publications. These articles fell into one of two categories: Southern lifestyle or equestrian. So writing an Austen sequel was a big departure from my other published work. In addition to Charlotte, I have also attempted one piece of literary fiction, which is in dire need of major rewrites or perhaps dynamite, and I have completed two other novels: Absolute Liability (A Southern Fraud Thriller) and Caroline Bingley, another Austen sequel that will be out in early September 2011. I also have one short story available: “Maria Lucas.”
Carey: Dynamite, now that’s something I have never tried when my plot was struggling! Tell me, why did you start your own publishing company?
Jennifer: I have worked for thirteen years in the traditional publishing industry as a proofreader and editor, so when I decided to pursue publication of Charlotte Collins, I went the traditional route: querying agents and publishers. One publisher liked the book, but said she thought the market for Austen’s minor characters was too small. I disagreed, of course, and she said that if I could prove there was a market by selling 1,000 copies, she would reconsider. So I began my own publishing company—Whiteley Press—and published my own book using the traditional methods I’d learned through my work. Charlotte sold the required number of copies in slightly more than four months, but the publisher still declined on the basis of market size. This rejection turned out to be a great benefit to me because I loved publishing so much that I decided to continue with Whiteley Press and have since sold more than 10,000 books, and in the future, I plan to add anthologies and nonfiction to my self-published catalogue.
Carey: You are the goddess of internet promotion. How much time do you spend online everyday promoting your books?
Jennifer: Goddess of internet promotion? I don’t know about that, but depending on my writing schedule, I devote between two and eight hours each day to marketing. This includes social media, interviews, website creation, and blogging. My techniques don’t resemble traditional marketing. I do not use any print ads, bookmarks, or commercials; I do buy ad space at pertinent websites occasionally. Most of my marketing is done simply by making friends through social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I don’t get out there and sell, sell, sell; I talk to people and hope they become interested in my books.
Carey: Why did you set Absolute Liability in the area of insurance fraud? Do you have experience in the insurance industry that you were able to use?
Jennifer: Insurance fraud is not exactly a popular topic, is it? But when I contemplated writing a mystery, I neither wanted to write a cozy, in which a non-police person has to solve a crime, nor a police procedural, in which I was required to follow law enforcement protocols to the letter. My main character had to be a professional law enforcement official, but not one of the usual type; I wanted her to be unique. In addition, I wanted to incorporate funny criminals with my more dangerous ones. And in my research, some of the most ridiculous crimes were insurance-fraud related. I do not have professional insurance experience, but my in-laws do run an independent insurance agency, so I have sources to consult on the minutia of the industry.
Carey: That’s a clever idea- it is hard to reinvent the wheel when it comes to mystery/suspense books. What other types of books are you interested in writing?
Jennifer: I’ve always wanted to write a spy novel, and I’m in the research phases now. And of course that’s a difficulty in itself. How does one learn about secret organizations? I’m spying on spies.
Carey: Hope we are not going to be seeing you on CNN for stalking CIA agents…What do you like to read?
Jennifer: I go through phases. For a while, I read a lot of Regency novels, especially Jane Austen. Then, I read vampire novels and comedic mysteries, but I’ve moved on and am currently reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I may try sci-fi or fantasy next.
Carey: That’s quite an eclectic mix! Do you prefer to read paper or electronic books?
Jennifer: I enjoy both. I own a Kindle and love it more than I expected. The e-ink screen is non-reflective and easy on the eyes, and the device is convenient and effortless to hold. I still buy paperbacks and enjoy those too. I’ve never been a fan of hardcover books because they are so difficult to keep open, hold, and transport, so I’d probably buy an e-book over a hardback, but it’s a toss-up between paperbacks and e-books for me.
Carey: That sounds exactly like my feelings about my Kindle- I like it more than I expect. I never thought I would be and electronic reader, but it is easy on the eyes…and when you get to be my age mass market paperbacks have print that is way too small! Any advice for those promoting their own books?
Jennifer: Make friends. That’s the best advice I can give on the subject of social media marketing. A great deal of what I do online looks like I’m wasting time and chatting with people. I am chatting, but it’s not a waste of time. It’s marketing. Social media marketing is about developing relationships, not putting the hard-sell on people. I try to make 80 percent of my social media posts personal and only 20 percent direct marketing. This results in the cultivation of a passionate group of friends and fans who will tell their friends about your books and whose books (or products) you will want to promote in return. And it’s just plain fun.
Carey: Sounds like great advice, Jennifer. Thanks for coming and sharing your insights with us, and I hope Absolute Liability keeps going to number 1!