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Mary Elizabeth shares the wisdom she’s learned through writing her books. Her advice is pertinent to all writers, especially when she talks about publishing independently versus trying to get published traditional.
We discuss various aspects of the differences and pros/cons of which choice that you make when publishing.
[00:00:50] Stephen: Let’s talk a little author stuff, but let’s, we’ve talked the books. So hopefully we got some people reading it. So you’ve written several now through the last couple of years, what are some lessons you’ve learned writing from when you started to now?
[00:01:08] Mary: Oh, my gosh. I’ve learned so much. It’s amazing. It’s like you, you started kindergarten and now you’re in college. It’s such a journey for writing and nobody’s journey is the same. And just in the time period from the very first book, if I wrote it in 2013, I was connected with who turned out to be my co-writer for the next two books we met in 2015 to 2016.
[00:01:31] Mary: We got it. Published a contract in 2017. It was released. So it’s a long journey in there. I think I’ve learned more about what works and doesn’t work in a book what’s attractive to readers. I hope so. At least we try to be a good writer and learn those things and what, what is going to appeal to a reader because you want your books to be out there and people to buy them.
[00:01:52] Mary: But I, you really have to research what are you in this for? Because unless you have, and this is just the truth about it, unless you have lots and lots of money. You can’t go into this going, oh, I’m going to write a book. It’s going to go on the shelf out of a, make a million dollars. There’s so much more that goes to, it goes along with it.
[00:02:14] Mary: So that’s, I want to parse that bubble there because it is not the truth at all. And you need to have a five-year plan, I think, going into it. Where do you want to be in five years for your. With your books or as an author, my journey has so much that came into it that I never even saw was going to happen.
[00:02:33] Mary: And I’m so grateful for it, but research whether to be traditionally published or self-published. And I say that even more now, today, because I just went through being a part of two anthologies that were published. They were self published and in eight hours, 29 women. And not even all of us participated all it’s all the ladies, not all of them participated I did, but within eight hours we went to a number one best-selling Amazon book and stayed in the top 10 for two weeks.
[00:03:06] Mary: I’m not sure where we are today. Cause I haven’t looked. Yeah, it changes all the time. It changes hourly. I actually, with, with Amazon’s algorithm. It’s so interesting. I, because I have worked with someone who’s traditionally published, she’s actually getting ready to publish his 33rd book. And so his mindset is totally traditional route that’s that’s he will not do anything else.
[00:03:29] Mary: That’s where he is. And that’s okay. Because that’s worked for him really well. But then I go through this experience and I see what happened and with the support. So support is very important. If you’re going to be a writer, if you are by yourself and putting a book out there, you’re going to it’s, you’re going to struggle unless you have got a lot of support and people who will.
[00:03:51] Mary: And, uh, share your book on Facebook and recommend it to others and post those links for you. And that is one of the most valuable things that you need as an author is to have that support system of those around you and networking so that when you meet folks like Terry Shepherd, for instance, right, then you share things with each other, Hey, will you share this for me?
[00:04:13] Mary: And what can I share for you? And it’s a win-win for everybody, but you need to. Research about getting traditionally published, what all goes with it and definitely. If you’re going to go with a traditional publisher, see if you can talk to some of the authors, like if find out, go look at their portfolio and their website, and then look at who their authors are.
[00:04:35] Mary: See if you can friend them on Facebook and ask them a question. Hey, do you like your publisher? And what’s been your experience with your publisher, cause I’m really, I want to submit to your publisher. So I think it’s really good to do that. And the publishing world is so it’s like in a closet when you’re not sure where or how you find them in my.
[00:04:54] Stephen: Yeah.
[00:04:55] Mary: Yeah. So you got to do your research and for self publishing. I think you really have to go in and look how much money you’re going to put out, versus how much are you going to make? Do you have that capability to put out that money, but then you are the owner of everything. You control everything.
[00:05:12] Mary: You’re not splitting your money with anyone. So there’s plus a minus thing to both worlds. I just think for each person they have to do their own research. Don’t go into it blindsided. Okay.
[00:05:24] Stephen: I was going to ask, are your books, self published or traditionally published?
[00:05:29] Mary: Mine are traditional, except for the anthologies.
[00:05:32] Mary: Those have been self-published by the person who headed everything up and all the proceeds of those books go to nonprofits. So that’s another thing that’s a little bit
[00:05:41] Stephen: different. So you have experienced both sides?
[00:05:44] Mary: Yes, I have. And so my mind. My understanding and mine has changed a little bit about self publishing and the success of it.
[00:05:53] Mary: But when you’ve got that collaboration of people to support or be a part of the book or help you getting your links out and sharing, it can make all the difference in the world. There is something that people need to be aware of. If you’re looking to get published, whether you think. Are lucky enough to land with their top four or a medium-sized publisher or self-publish you have to do your own marketing.
[00:06:19] Mary: You still have to market your. You have to bust your hump. It’s not a job for people who don’t really want to work, unless you just want to publish something to say, Hey, I’ve published a book and you use it like a business card and some people do.
[00:06:34] Stephen: Right. I know a lot of the authors I talk with there’s two routes you can choose to self-publish or you can choose to pursue traditionally publishing because there’s no guarantee that you’re going to make.
[00:06:48] Stephen: So, how did you get your book published? What did you do to get someone to notice and say they want this et cetera?
[00:06:55] Mary: I was, this is one of the reasons I do my show. This is one of the reasons that I spend time talking to people about the publishing world and giving advice, because I was lucky enough to team up with Thorton Klein.
[00:07:09] Mary: Now, at the time we teamed up together in 2015, we were introduced to each other. And he loved the manuscript for the first book. And he asked me, can I write 10 songs for the book? And I was like, yeah, sure. And so there are 10 sweet, beautiful. You can find them on Amazon as well. They’re under perfectly precious Policious and it’s a CD.
[00:07:31] Mary: It’s got 10 original songs on it and they’re just beautiful. 10, 20, 30 seconds songs. And my girls ended up going into the recording studio and recorded the music. So it’s a family thing that this all turned into. But so Thorton loved it so much. And so I got in with my, the first book was really, it was, we worked together and he already knew how to write a pitch and he already knew how to write a query.
[00:08:00] Mary: And so we, I learned from him. And so my advice is, would be it’s that same advice that’s been around forever. Whatever you want to do in life, be around someone who’s already doing. Ask. If they can mentor you to teach you how to do it the right way. For me working with Thorton, he’s got such a strong, powerful work ethic.
[00:08:25] Mary: I’ve learned from him what it takes, what it’s taking, I’m going to take to get where you want to be. And that’s creeped into all different areas of my life with all the things that we’ve talked about that I do. Here’s Thorton. Oh my goodness. He’s got two books. That have movie contracts right now, major motion, picture, movie contracts.
[00:08:46] Mary: He has three. He’s a songwriter. Also he has three artists or four artists that are, have been number one in the Euro in indie charge. Just in this year alone. I’m talking about, this is a guy who he’s never sleeps. I don’t think. And maybe 65 years old writing Tina he’s writing pop music. And it’s going to number one, the tenacity, the desire, the drive, the inspiration to move forward and produce has got to be a factor in what you’re doing in order to get where you want to be, because he knew how to already do that.
[00:09:23] Mary: He was able to teach me, and then that’s how we got our first contract together. And since then I do ghost writing as well. And I’ve done lots of book proposals. So I have learned that whole aspect of it, where you’re writing a synopsis that a chapter for each paragraph in your book and that’s that they much lengthier type of pitch.
[00:09:46] Mary: Instead of we started out with a pitch, just a one page pitch of, and we had a whole marketing plan there. Think about beyond your book. What else can you do with your. Can you provide classes or webinars or right. You’re laughing.
[00:10:04] Stephen: Yeah, because that’s where my mind has been for a while now. And this summit I’ve mentioned over the weekend, coalesced a few of those thoughts again, and I’ve come to realize there’s a lot of people there this weekend that wanted to be full time career authors.
[00:10:21] Stephen: Wonderful, great. That’s the purpose of this whole convention? That’s nothing to sneeze. They’ve got a great choice, but I’ve come to realize over some time that, from what I want to do, I don’t want to just book after book for kids. Subsequent things to go with that. So in a lot of ways I’ve realized I just need to go back to my roots, which is I’m an entrepreneur.
[00:10:48] Stephen: And right now my product is this book and all these related services and things I can do for the business. And once that coalesced in my mind, suddenly some things started clicking and I realized that. So for the lesson, There is not everybody should be an entrepreneur and worry about their books, secondary.
[00:11:10] Stephen: It is figure out what works for you and your writing and do that and continue to do that. That’s the
[00:11:18] Mary: less, yeah. And think beyond that, if you go and research like the one people who are very successful, you’ll hear over and over again, you have to have more than your. Your books, your business card, and you got to offer services, are people who are coaches and things like that.
[00:11:36] Mary: They can use a book to get clients right, to grow what they’re doing, but you really do have. When we sent the pitch letter for the first Policious book, we had a whole marketing plan that included all kinds of merchandise and everything that I’m still working on because there is that opportunity. I just got done finishing up a proposal for someone local here and the story.
[00:12:02] Mary: There are two stories of, gosh, they’re amazing stories. I can’t wait to see this published, but I said, okay, what I’m already seeing through this. His second and third book, which don’t ever be a one hit wonder. You’ve got to do more than that. And publishers, if you’re looking for a traditional publisher, they’re like songwriters.
[00:12:19] Mary: So I’m producers, music, producers. They want to see, okay, this person’s going to make me money because when it comes down to it, how much money are you going to make this person who’s going to sign a contract with you and upfront. It’s just how it is. That’s the way the
[00:12:31] Stephen: world is totally different. One, the song doesn’t make an album doesn’t make a successful group.
[00:12:37] Mary: So I’m right in the middle of that with my daughters, because they both sing. So we’ve got to ready because you always need to have a second one ready after the first one releases. So, yeah, but I would say that, think beyond just your book, what could you teach from it? Does it have a purpose behind it?
[00:12:54] Mary: Does it have. Uh, education or learning. Can you connect with a college? Can you write curriculum? There’s just so many different things. Can you do merge with what you’re talking about? Because somebody who’s going to take you on is going to want to see how much, what else can you do for me? And I don’t mean to simplify it like that and make it sound cheap.
[00:13:15] Mary: But in the end of the day, that’s really kinda what it boils down to you. Hopefully go
[00:13:20] Stephen: ahead. Oh, I was just going to jump in with. Like you said, there’s the indie publishing there’s traditional publishing. Either one can be a good choice for any person, but you have to do the research. You have to know pros and cons of each.
[00:13:36] Stephen: And what worked for you for the person that really just wants to sit at home and write the traditional may be the best thing for them. And then they get a good deal and they hire somebody for publicity. They need to know that they need to know themselves. They need to know their brand. They need to know their books.
[00:13:54] Stephen: And what’s what are publishers looking for? And like you said, do the research, you can’t just buy, wrote a great book handed to an agent and expect to be that millionaire next week,
[00:14:06] Mary: that in there about what was it? You just, you touched on a 0.0 esteem. You can put aside a budget for a publicist. I didn’t have one the first time around.
[00:14:15] Mary: I have one this time. I’d never be without. I would just wouldn’t because there are opportunities there that you may not be able to get for yourself, especially self publishing. It’s very hard. To be able to get on, unless you’re like, you’re a go gather. There are podcasts that you may not ever see or find and live stream interviews, radio television.
[00:14:39] Mary: In the beginning. I, Steven, I did all that myself. You know what I mean? I called up the libraries. I called up the radio stations. I call that the TV stations. I got myself booked on all that stuff, but it’s, it’s so nice. And I still do that kind of stuff in, but I have a publicist who, uh, It’s just been, it’s just been a totally different experience.
[00:14:58] Mary: It’s been really wonderful and very
[00:15:00] Stephen: helpful.
[00:15:04] Stephen: Publicists may work for some people may not work for others, and there are good publicists and bad publicist. Do your research, find out what you need and what to look for. And if you do make a mistake and get a bad publicist, cut it off and move on and do better. Next time. It’s a learning thing. If nothing else I had early on.
[00:15:27] Stephen: It was, I’ll take a lot of the blame. Now. I was too early in my career to even worry about a book coach, but I said, oh, if I get a book, coach, they’ll help guide me in the right way. But where I was at and what her coaching was, didn’t click. So it didn’t work out. And I had a bad taste in my mouth. I felt I lost a lot of time and money, but I see now I learned things from that and I didn’t really do any research or look it up.
[00:15:50] Stephen: So I think that’s our overall message here for everybody.
[00:15:54] Mary: It is because it’s a bit, see, that’s the same thing that happened to me. Stephen and I got there was, it was painful a couple of years ago in 2019, when there was transition happening. Now, the publisher that I’m with absolutely a love Tuscany bay books.
[00:16:08] Mary: Jim is my publisher and whatever. He’s not huge, but he is very efficient and very much I can, most of the time I can reach him. I’m not just a number. He calls me, I call him, we have conversations. We talk about the book world, Hey, let’s come up with this idea. And that is just after having the other bigger publisher who I was.
[00:16:34] Mary: Uh, number and a lineup that got attention for this amount of time. And then that was it. And then it was on with the row of books that are coming along the row of authors that are coming along. Yeah. But you feel like part of the cattle. So I would say it’s, when you get a diagnosis, you need to research what the doctor has just told you in order to do what you need to do for yourself.
[00:16:57] Mary: And that’s the same thing with this. Do your research. And check it out, look into everything that you can. It’s so easy on the internet now to research stuff and find out backgrounds. And is there any, is there anyone who said anything against this situation or is there, what are people saying that’s for this particular publisher or literary agent, or you can usually find those things out and not everybody’s for everybody.
[00:17:22] Mary: Just like when you go to the thank goodness restaurants have wide variety of things to eat. Cause not everything is for everybody.
[00:17:29] Stephen: So, let me ask this for your writing as the author, what tools do you use to write?
[00:17:34] Mary: Oh, right by hand. It just depends on where I’m at. If I do always have a notebook with me, I will say that I learned this from the very first book.
[00:17:43] Mary: Because it came to me so fast and I was in the middle of taking care of my newborn. I had to write it down super quick. I learned that. And since then inspiration comes and the metaphors come, especially if I’m out in nature, if I’m stuck, I go in there. And I sit there and in our metaphors will come about life for me.
[00:18:05] Mary: And it usually will open up the door if I’m, if I feel stuck, but it doesn’t happen very often, but I do the creative aspect of it. So I do go in nature as often as I can. And I know that may sound very cliche, but it is really true. It’s just so it’s so peaceful. And nature vibrates at the same vibration as us.
[00:18:23] Mary: That’s why it’s always so good to get outside fresh air and barefoot as much as you can. And if that’s being from Florida, I’d like to be verified. But I would say, I always have, I use the recorder on my phone. The audio recorder, because sometimes in the car, things come and I’m like, oh, I need to, because what I learned is that if you don’t write it down, even if it’s in an, if you’re a writer, this between two and four o’clock in the morning, usually at three o’clock, you get woken up with some idea and you’re like, oh, so attire, no, you got to write it down right then, because it never comes back to the same.
[00:18:55] Mary: So I do use my, my laptop. Obviously it’s with me pretty much all the time. And it’s so funny. My 17 year old daughter is writing a fantasy. She has about 65,000 words right in this. I know I’m like 17 and she’s already a public. She’s already a published illustrator. So I’m very excited for her. She, and I usually fighting over the tablet.
[00:19:20] Mary: No, I need to work right. Need
[00:19:23] Stephen: finish your book and publish it and then buy your own iPad
[00:19:28] Mary: badly. What I’ve said to her. I always, I have my tablet. I have a notebook and I always in your audio record is always on your phone. So I would say that’s the way I do it. I had to learn and I always tell people do not wait for your cabin in the woods or your cottage by the beach.
[00:19:43] Mary: You have to it’s like picking battles in like. You got to find the moments. So I take every single moment. And a lot of times I have to schedule those times, like, okay, between one and two today, I’m writing. That is my time. And then, then I’m zoned in a laser-focused so I can get done what I need to get done.
[00:20:03] Mary: But I, the early mornings are usually I have not met an author yet, who early morning was not one of their best times because the world hasn’t woken up yet. And so it thought that real, a theory you’ll feel to it. Like it’s so quiet. And that’s one of my favorite times to write is early, early in this.
[00:20:20] Stephen: Mary Elizabeth, this has been a wonderful discussion. I’ve loved talking to you before we go. Do you have any last minute advice for new authors?
[00:20:29] Mary: If you’re, if you have a desire to write, if you have an inkling, if you have a nudging follow that and don’t keep putting it on. Like I wrote this manuscript in 2013 and I put it on the shelf because I was like, I’ll save it for my kids who wants to read this?
[00:20:45] Mary: I don’t know what to do. I don’t know a publisher, but I kept getting this like tapping on my shoulder saying you have to do something with this. So what I learned is that if you don’t do it, it never ever gets done. So you just need to do it. And even if you’re not even sure what you want to write, you want to write, just start writing, even if you’re writing, like.
[00:21:06] Mary: You’re mad at somebody, or you need to process through something that’s blocking you from writing. I would say, just do it because if you don’t, it never ever gets done. And you’re 10 years down the road in 20 and you’re like, then you’re kicking your butt. Why didn’t I just do this? Or I’m I have kids. And I don’t want to hear that don’t ever say any of that to me, because if I can write in the car rider line and I can write waiting or whatever, hustles and practices and you know why the music’s on and the TV’s on and my little guys running around, you can do it.
[00:21:41] Stephen: I agree with that completely. I love that. Thank you. And there’s always the, nobody can say anything because Stephen King wrote his first novel in a laundry room at his house while he taught during the day, uh, you know, school. So look where he got. So there’s nothing. And we had that this weekend at the writer’s conference, honorary quarter got up there and said, so you guys all want to be writers?
[00:22:05] Stephen: Yeah. You all want to be a professional Raider. Yeah. Who wrote the. That’s right.
[00:22:11] Mary: I know. Yeah. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. And did you know that this is one of my thought inclined? My writing part is one of his very first stories is about Stephen King Carey. Did he throw it in the trash? So that story and his wife found out and said, Hey, you should do something with this or whatever she said to him.
[00:22:31] Stephen: So even Stephen King had that imposter syndrome that I’m not good enough inside. He probably doesn’t care and feel that way. Now he was that way and
[00:22:41] Mary: wonders. Why do people write, what breed would I
[00:22:43] Stephen: write? Oh, I’m sure he does. He said that a few times, but I think all the negative critics have gotten them.
[00:22:51] Stephen: Like, I don’t care. You guys are going to like it or not. Here it is. So that’s a good attitude then. So I appreciate it. I’ll let you get back to your son by this afternoon. It’s been a great talk.
[00:23:03] Mary: Thank you. So my Steven. Yeah. And let’s collaborate on some,