I was really excited to book Emily in for a stop on her mammoth blog tour (other dates and blog stops here). Not only is my first time hosting a blog-stop, I’m also a big fan of Emily, and have been following her blog since the beginning of the year. Her first novel, That Time of the Month, has already proved a huge hit (and it’s really good, guys), so I’m chuffed to have her here today answering my questions.

Hi Emily, and welcome to my blog! I hope you’re enjoying your blog tour, and thanks for visiting us today. Now, That Time of the Month was released in June this year – how have sales been so far? 

Hi Joanne!  Thank you so much for having me today.  When I first released my novel, I initially had a modest amount of sales.  I accounted friends and family for some of the initial sales.  Happily, even though it has been somewhat slow, sales have managed to trickle in ever since the initial boom I had at the release.

Is this the first full-length novel you’ve written, or are there more lurking in a drawer somewhere? And did you try to go the traditional route – agent etc – before choosing to self-publish? (And if yes, what happened along the way?) 

This is the first full-length novel I actually finished.  I have several stories that only made it to a few chapters before I threw in the towel.  I also have some novelette’s that I have written, and am contemplating putting them together as a series of short stories.

I did try the traditional route with That Time of the Month.  My initial round of queries got a few rejections and a lot of non-responses.  I decided to re-do my query letter, and had several agents ask to see my work after that.  I had some requests for the full manuscript, but ultimately, the agents all passed.  There was one agent who did give me some very positive feedback that told me I was on the right path as far as my writing style.  After trying the agent route, I submitted to some smaller publishing companies.  I had some interest, but ultimately it didn’t feel like the right fit.  It was then that I decided to pursue self-publishing, and so far it as been a positive (even if sometimes frustrating) experience.

I really love the cover – it’s very different to other books in the same genre, but somehow instantly recognisable. Did you design this yourself? 

Thanks!  I have to admit, I love the cover as well.  A dear friend of mine, Sarah Lepak, had volunteered to help me proof my drafts.  We had met for dinner one night at a diner to talk about the book, and it just so happened she had printed a copy of it off on pink paper.  In honor of the story (the main character, Ellie, is very fond of pie), we decided to order some pie.  Sarah thought we should commemorate the moment by photographing the pie with the manuscript, and she snapped a picture with her phone.  At that point, I had no idea it would end up becoming the cover.  When I finally decided to self-publish (over a year later), I was going to have a cover designed, but then I remembered the pie picture. I did a little photoshopping for the title/author info, and the rest is history.

I know that you’ve been getting the paperback edition of TTotM ready for publication – tell us a bit more about the ups and downs of that process. 

The proofing process has been a little frustrating.  A margin that looks fine on your computer, may look totally askew on a printed page.  The biggest issue for me was indentations.  It is a habit to hit the “tab” key when starting a new paragraph, but it is a big no-no if you want to put your work in e-book or print format.  Instead you need to use the first line indentation feature (if you are using Word).  That is a lesson I will never ever forget after spending hours removing indents from this story.

After several internet searches, and the advice of other authors (thanks again Joanne), I finally have gotten my book into the proper format.  Right now I am doing a very thorough proof to make sure any typos or grammatical errors are taken care of, and I think my book will finally be ready for paperback.  My goal is that it will be available by the time this book tour starts.

One thing I love about the book is the focus on lists! I’m a great list writer myself, and as you know, Can’t Live Without is based around a kind of wish list. How much of yourself did you put into Ellie’s character? Which of her characteristics did you find hardest to write? 

The lists are a definite pull my from own life, whenever I am bored or feeling a little chaotic, a list helps me sort everything out.  I didn’t realize how much of myself I had put into Ellie until people who know me, read the book, and said “I kept imagining you”.  Ellie definitely talks the way I talk and has crazy bouts of daydreaming like myself, but the actual story is basically fiction (though I may have broken my foot a time or two).  The hardest part to write, were the moments where Ellie is thoughtless to her friends.  She starts to become a little self-centered and misses out on some important moments in her best friend’s life.  I really like Ellie, so writing anything that might make her unlikeable, was difficult.

I’m not going to talk about the story too much (no spoilers here!) but I’d love to know which part of the process of writing a novel you enjoyed the most? Do you love the finer detail – editing etc – or are you more comfortable in the creating stages?

I really loved the creating stage.  When I start a story, I have a very bare-bones outline of where I think the story may go.  It’s usually less than a page long, so I have a lot of fun deciding how I am going to get my characters from point A to point B.  Editing, for me, is both fun and daunting.  Sometimes I do a read through and suddenly a whole new scene will come to me, and I feel the story is getting better.  On the other hand, I have had moments where I decide something really isn’t working, and it is hard to go back through and re-work the story to fix it.  I definitely lean towards the creating stage, when everything is new and undecided.

Lots of the blogs you’re visiting will be reviewing TTotM as well, and I’m looking forward to reading these, but you’ve also been quite successful in getting your novel reviewed by book bloggers prior to going on tour. For those of us hoping to follow in your footsteps, can you tell us which sites were the most responsive to reviewing self-pubbed books, and which to avoid (those who ask for payment for reviews, perhaps?)

Since my book falls pretty firmly into the “chick lit” genre, I just did internet searches for sites that review chick lit books.  I would read their review policies, and unless it specifically barred self-published novels, I would email and ask if they would review my book.  I have yet to get a negative response.  Some sites weren’t interested in a review, but would at least offer to put my book on their site. The majority of the time, though, the reviewer is happy to a do a review. It’s all free advertising, so I take every opportunity.  The reviewers schedule may not allow for an immediate review, so it could sometimes be a few weeks or months before they will get to your book. None of these sites ever asked for any type of payment (I would steer clear of any reviewer who wanted to charge), but it is common to provide a copy of your book (whether print or e-book) to the reviewer at your own cost.  Chicklitplus.com, chicklitclub.com, chicklitcentral.com, chicklitbee.com are some of the sites that immediately come to mind that were open to doing reviews and/or posts.  Another benefit, is many of these sites will also cross-promote on their social media sites when your review is available.

What marketing activity have you discovered so far that you feel had the most significant impact on your sales? Was it reviews, or social media, or something else? 

I feel like the reviews have definitely helped.  Whenever a site has mentioned my book, I do seem to get a few more sales coming in.  I’ve also think my blog, emilyanneshaffer.wordpress.com, has been helpful in publicizing my book.  With one post I can reach a lot of people, and potentially bring in even more people.

As far as other marketing avenues, I have been exploring them all.  I’ve learned that some local libraries will have events where local authors can come and do signings and sell their books.  I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a press release to the newspapers in my hometown area.  I’m also looking into some women’s conferences, where I might be able to set up a table and advertise my book.  There are lots of free or relatively inexpensive marketing approaches, if you just do a little digging. I am also looking around for sites that are doing short story contests, as another way to get my name and my work out there.

Finally, I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to know when you expect to release your next book! No pressure, but … 

I am asking myself the same question! I have a personal goal of having the first draft of the sequel to That Time of the Month, finished by the end of the year.  I have another book I have been working on that is very close to being done, and hopefully it will be ready for editing in the next couple of weeks.

 Thanks so much Emily! Click on the button below to learn more about winning a $10 Amazon voucher, and to visit more fantastic blogs along with Emily’s tour. Bye for now!

More about Emily: I am a Tennessean by birth, and have lived pretty much everywhere. My Dad always says that when I was born, and the doctor tried to slap me to make me cry, that I stood up on the table and slapped the doctor instead…and from then on, I never did anything that I didn’t want to do. Luckily, what I want to do is write…and not carjacking or vandalism.

Like my main character, Ellie, I love making random lists…so here are some random facts about me:
-I’m nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. The world looks like a fun-house mirror if I don’t wear my glasses or contacts.
-I was almost kicked out of Graceland for using flash photography in the peacock-mirrored front room, and my tour group shunned me the entire rest of the tour. That made for a lonely trip through the Jungle Room.
-I was once mistaken for a member of Hanson…granted, they all had long hair at the time, but still….not what you wanna hear as a girl.

When I wrote That Time of the Month, I really saw it as though it was a movie. I can see every scene, every character and what they are wearing, every piece of pie, perfectly in my mind. I’m currently writing the sequel, That Time of the Year. I love the story and characters so much, that I am tempted to turn the series into a trilogy.

Connect with Emily! Twitter:  https://twitter.com/EmilyAShaffer Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/EmilyAShaffer Blog: http://emilyanneshaffer.wordpress.com/

Buy the Book! Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/That-Time-Month-ebook/dp/B008CUGYOG/