In this episode I chat with award winning author Kristin Ward. Kristin is the author of After the Green Withered
and Burden of Truth,
lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, three sons, and many furry and feathered friends. Fueled by dark chocolate and coffee, she has been writing poems, prose, and academia for over twenty years.
We talk about her books, her life, the ups and downs of being a self published author and more. If you like to listen, click the play button below. Or if you are more of a reader, check the full transcript below.
Let’s talk about you. You are an award winning author, blogger
, mom, and probably about eight other titles that I missed, right?
Kristin: Indeed I do, but I think a ton of people do these days because we are constantly multitasking
Colin: So you’re an author, you wrote two novels within a year, can you tell me more about that?
My debut novel, After the Green Withered
actually began quite a few years ago. I was writing a course in Environmental Education, a graduate course. As I was doing research, I was learning about the history of the earth, building on content knowledge that I already had as I was coming up with course materials and activities. While I was doing that research a seedling of an idea started to begin to form:
i began to wonder what would the world be like if we had a global drought?
we have this necessary thing in our life that seems so accessible to us in the USA in particular. if we didn’t have fresh water for even the simplest things we would be in trouble.
So I began to think of the repercussions of that. The idea was there as I was course writing but then I taught some graduate courses so I didn’t have time to actually start writing. But eventually I began, my first book took about 5 years total. It was really because of career and kids, and everything life throws at you.
Colin: And because it is like 300 pages, that would take a long time even with out all of those other things, right?
Kristin: Absolutely! Absolutely! You know, my impetus to complete it when I did was that things started coming up in the news environmentally. I recall vividly when I saw an article on Cape Town and their water crisis and the prediction at that time was they were going to run out of water by April. It was explaining their ongoing three year drought and I looked at my husband and told him
I have to get my book finished
So, that was the final push where I started spending hours and hours getting it finished and the editing process. Then once you publish, since I couldn’t get my entire story in one book, I knew I had to publish the second one out quickly, so that is how I got both out within a year.
Colin: You had 5 years for the first one but you were able to get the second one done in 6 months?
Kristin: Yes, about five months. It’s interesting because I already knew how the story would end. I actually wrote the last scene first. Everything was shaped on that culminating event in the second book. It was actually easier for me because I knew the story I wanted to tell. There was just know way I could have done it in one book. It would have been over 600 pages and I don’t know if people want to invest that much time in a new author. So I broke it into the two to be more digestible that way.
Colin: You are making all of these key decisions, are you making them all yourself, do you work with a publisher, how does that work for you?
Kristin: We live in an interesting time in publishing. I decided to self publish and there are a few reasons for that:
I have a story to tell that I think is really relevant today with everything that is going on environmentally. I didn’t want to go through a process where that story didn’t get in the hands of readers just to raise awareness. I wanted to be able to get it out there and the self publishing industry allows you to do that.
There are so many platforms and you have an incredible community of indie authors that are so supportive of the process and peoples goals. The other thing is
I have complete creative control
I go against a lot of tropes in my books, the ending is the way I wanted it. If I have an editor and publishing house, they are able to put their hands into it and potentially change the message of my story. I didn’t want that to happen, I was really passionate about what I wanted to write and how I wanted to tell the story. Now, if I was ever approached by an agent or publisher there would have to be some decision making. It is an incredible amount of work being an indie author, but I am pleased with the fact that it was on my terms and I was able to make it happen for me. I made a dream come true with my own perseverance.
Colin: You can only blame yourself then if things don’t go to plan!
Colin: With the self publishing, if you are writing, editing, doing every bit of it. What part of it do you struggle with most, or what part is hardest for you?
Kristin: Well, I do have an editor, David Taylor of theeditors.com he is amazing! He took a look at the initial portion of my first manuscript and loved it. He knew the story that I wanted to tell and never tried to change anything, just helped me flesh it out.
i believe strongly that indie author or not, you need to have an editor.
We tend to read our own work, we read and read and read, and then we don’t really see it any more. It is really hard to then get that outer perspective. So I do have someone that I just REALLY respect looking at my work and he has been fantastic. As far as the editing process I can tell you it is really lengthy. Nothing is ever really done. I can go back and reread either book and I can find things that I want to change. I think that is just being a writer.
Colin: That is just a creative thing in general I think.
Yeah, absolutely. It is never how we fully envision, but I am happy how it came out. The other thing I did was creating my own covers. I started out with Powerpoint
honestly. Finding free images through Pixabay.
I had developed a symbol in my book that was very important, I had it on my covers. People that were close to me were involved in the cover images. So I had a lot of creative fun with that and ended off sending it off to someone to spruce it up. But it was still my ideas and my work and I really like that it is individual. It is not a typical young adult cover, but it has the feel I wanted, it is very stark. It matches the whole tone of a dystopian story to tell. Those were interesting parts of the journey. Going through the whole editing process, revision after revision. Going through the creative process of the cover. Marketing is the biggest channel and what I like least.
Colin: No way, marketing is fun! Marketing is where it’s at! It’s a lot easier than making 300 pages of a story make sense start to finish.
Kristin: For me it is so much harder. When you are an unknown author it is hard to get your name out there in front of readers. It has been a learning curve. I have been very appreciative of what I have learned thus far, but I know I still have a long way to go. I’ve been trying to balance that. Trying to not fixate too much on getting the word out so that it takes over writing my third novel.
Colin: Gotcha, you talked about the struggles of building your platforms and getting people to pay attention, social media woes. What have you used in the past to get your name out there and building your following?
Kristin: What I started with was a web page, I started blogging.
Kristin: Yes, I did that because I wanted to talk about my life. I feel like if I am writing a blog or a newsletter it is a way for the reader to get to know me beyond the pages of a book I am writing. You get a somewhat humorous life with my three sons and a menagerie of animals. It is a lot of fun to write kind of cathartic at times. I started with that, I wanted it to be a platform for someone to go to if they read a book and wanted to know about me personally. Then I branched out into Twitter, and this is going to sound so lame, but my first tween was January 2018:
I was really behind. From there my eldest son convinced me to join Instagram
. So I have Instagram, Twitter
, and Facebook
. I write a lot of poetry so I tend to post a lot of poems. Twitter
has a lot of great hashtags where you can write a poem in 140 characters. I like the challenge, I get to practice my writing chops. Then I post them on Instagram
as well. So I love to hear from readers. I love to engage, if you have any listeners that want to reach out, I am very accessible on social media.
What about Inkitt
, have you ever explored it?
Kristin: I have heard of it, but haven’t explored it.
Colin: It is a cool idea, the idea is to put your work out there either as pieces at a time or in full and the community decides what happens to it. The more views, reads, reviews that it gets it gets a higher ranking. When the book gets to a certain ranking then they will publish it for you and you can get royalties. It seems to be getting more momentum in the last few years. It could be a good way to get new eyes to pull to your other platforms.
Kristin: I will have to look into it. I am so appreciative and open to new recommendations because there are so many things out there and many are not productive. To find a new resource is great. I will have to add it to my list.
Colin: What I like about it is the whole idea of building your whole community there but not focusing on sales. So if you are working on a 300-600 page book, you could break it into 10 part stories and put them out individually. The feedback that you can get might be an editing tool in itself. Something to think about.
Kristin: That is a great idea to test out different ideas and themes. I like that.
Colin: You have your books listed on Amazon, every authors goal. How do you decide pricing? I noticed your prices are different for your ebooks and hard copies. Do you keep your pricing the same, play with pricing to see if it changes sales? Tell me about pricing
Kristin: Because I have two books, I have the first book priced at .99, an intro price due to me not having a small following. People are not always willing to take a chance at a higher priced book. So it is kind of a give back to readers to say,
“Hey, take a look, it’s only .99, much less than a cup of coffee.”
The second book then, its a longer book and is priced more inline with similar ebook prices. I actually just published a special edition recently on Kindle Unlimited that has BOTH books! My strategy is to have gone wide with my books and have them available on Nook and other online retailers. I did want to tap into that Kindle Unlimited resource.
Colin: Out of those platforms, do you notice better traffic or sales?
Kristin: Amazon by far. I think they are just such a huge global entity that people gravitate more frequently towards Amazon than Barnes and Noble. Not that other platforms are not loved by readers but Amazon just has such a strong reach. Well, you can find anything on Amazon!
Colin: I love Amazon, you can’t find anything on Amazon, but it’s close. You can however return anything to Amazon.
Kristin: Prime is our friend. The two day shipping, yeah, it is a special relationship.
Colin: It is a struggle with anything that isn’t free two day shipping or people who want to charge for shipping. A lot of times, I just say I will wait for Amazon.
Kristin: Exactly! That is so me!
Colin: So you mentioned you are working on a third book, when do you think that will come out?
Kristin: My goal is to release that in the spring. Realistically after editing, probably in May. I am about 1/3 through it,
I need to devote more time to writing. The weekends and evenings go by so quickly.
It is not the same story line, it is a totally different story. It’s basically a science fiction crossover with an environmental theme. I’ve written a few Twitter Poems about it that were inspired by the story. My most recent blog post talks about the main character. The main character is a lot like me, I have infused a lot of myself in her. The storyline having connections with the environment is also very much up my alley.
Colin: You said that you use some of you in your characters. Are there any friends or family that have stopped you and asked about if that was them in the book?
Kristin: Ha ha, not yet! I have had a few friends say that they have heard my voice coming out in my writing. But no, not yet. I do have other story ideas that I do want to start that there are pieces of many people that I know.
Colin: You keep saying your voice comes out in your writing, when are you coming out with an audio book?
Kristin: You know, I have looked into it a little bit. When I was on draft2digital, the pricing was a bit out of my reach right now. I know some people produce it themselves, but I do not know if I have the voice for it. I am very interested in entering that arena but haven’t taken the time to research it and contact people who do voice overs.
Colin: Yeah, it could be costly to have other people do it. Like you also said, a lot of people are apprehensive to do it themselves as well. But in my opinion, who better to read the story than the person who wrote it. Set up a small recording area in the house. If there are male characters, make your sons give up their afternoon and come help mom. You can make it happen.
Kristin: That is a great idea! As long as I can keep the dogs from barking and birds from tweeting it would be fine!
Colin: Absolutely, just lock yourself into a closet!
Kristin: I need a padded room is what you are saying. A little recording studio.
Colin: You could build yourself a studio for cheaper than some people charge for an audiobook production. Especially if you are going to have a ton of books down the line, the studio could pay for itself over and over.
Kristin: That is a good point.
Colin: Something else that I talk about with my author marketing clients is, if you have a new 10 chapter book coming out and use podcasting to put out a 10 minute snippet each week to give to your fans to keep their attention and make them want to buy the book. If you give pieces away for free and sell it as a whole, it can make people guilted into buying your stuff!
Now that I have the Anchor App,
there are a lot of interesting features that I am interested in exploring. I like the idea of using it as a platform for that.
Colin: Another thing I started to try out was going through and narrating all of my blog articles. I go through and read through the article and add thoughts that didn’t make it into the final draft. That way people have an audio version of what I am talking abut as well. Just like you said you are on multiple platforms, being in different mediums is equally important. If people are driving around listening to a podcast and they hear your story or hear your book mentioned at the gym, they can consume you while doing other things.
Kristin: That is a great idea, think about all the time we spend driving to and from work, there is an opportunity.
Colin: Why yell in traffic when you can sit and listen to a story!
Kristin: Absolutely, keep me from turning the air blue!
Colin: Ha ha, can you tell me a bit about the award your book won?
Colin: How do you get nominated, or how do you win that?
Kristin: I had submitted my debut novel, After The Green Withered to the contest. One of the reasons I looked into contests at all is that it is a great way to get your name out there. Hoping readers would see that the author won an award and gain more interest. But also I wanted genuine editorial feedback. I’ve got what I think is an original idea. It is kind of a risk to put yourself out there but I also sent my book to Writers Digest. It was very validating when I got the email from Best Indie Book award. I was so surprised being it was my first book. I also got a beautiful trophy and publicity on social media.
It was such a gratifying feeling.
The five years spent going over the idea and chipping away at the writing was worth it. It meant my story had merit. It was a great part of the journey, so unexpected. Writers Digest also gave great feedback. I think my book being open ended knocked me down a bit, but I enjoyed the honest feedback. Both books have been since sent off to other awards and hoping to hear back from them this year. At bare minimum, I will get constructive criticism.
Colin: You set up transitions so smoothly, it is like we planned this haha… For people who are trying to be self published, win awards, get a career in writing, what type of advice would you give to the up and coming writer, or those ready to give up?
Kristin: I always go back to Walt Disney when he said:
If you can dream it, you can do it.
I really believe that. Being an author is something that I dreamed of since I was in middle school. It took many years to come to life, but it was that perseverance, that not letting go of the dream. Being that we have this platform that we don’t have to wait on an agent who has a stack of amazing novels that they may not even get to in years, or publishers who have equal stacks. We can go head and publish on our own and put our work out there.
My advice is, GO FOR IT!
If it is something that you dream of, do it.
because YOU CAN.
The other thing is that there is a supportive writing community on both Facebook
, all free to authors. It is a nice group of people who are open and willing to help you out. When people are feeling down and out about the process, you have plenty of places to turn.
A big piece of advice that I have for someone on the cusp of publishing is going back to the editing.
DON’T THINK THAT YOU CAN SELF EDIT.
You have to hire an editor. There are some amazing ones out there. David Taylor of theeditors.com is fantastic. He will actually look over your first 3,000 words for FREE and decide if its something he wants to work with you on. There are so many people who are reasonable. I firmly believe we all need that outside perspective. To look at the story itself, to be able to analyze not only the language but all of the different connections that you made. Does it all make sense, does something need fleshed out, etc. It is a vital part of the process that can not be skipped.
Colin: Excellent, to thank you for your time I like to give everyone at the end of an interview what I call the “30 Second Soap Box”, your chance to tell the people anything you want. Send them away with whatever message you like.
Kristin: I’d like to read a piece of the prologue from my debut novel to give you a taste if that is ok?
We’ve all heard the stories of how it began, but nobody really knows the truth because nobody owned up and took the blame. Anyone who was there when it all started is long dead and all that remains is their awful legacy. All I know that is real, true, is that the world wasn’t always like this. It used to be green. I suppose the awareness of a looming crisis began slowly. Perhaps with a faucet that ran dry or maybe a water restriction where there had never been one. Whatever it may have been, there was a turning point. And from that moment on, the United States of the Past disappeared under a burning sky.
Colin: And you think you can’t do audiobooks, that’s crazy! Go lock yourself in a closet with a microphone Kristin!
Kristin: Ha ha ha, thank you so much!
Colin: Thank you, we will talk soon
Kristin: Take care!
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