Kindle Bestselling Romance Author:
Chatting with Mona Ingram
Authorship: Thoughts on Books and Publishing
MEET Mona Ingram
How many books have you written?
Seventeen. The first five are traditionally published, and the more recent ones were self-published via Amazon’s kdp platform.
Your thoughts on the pros and cons of traditional versus non-traditional?
With a traditional publisher, a new – or even a seasoned – author benefits from the ‘machine’. Your book will be edited, which almost always results in a better book, plus the publisher takes care of cover design, marketing, distribution…all those pesky details that eat into the time of today’s self-published authors. Of course all of this happens after you’ve waited the requisite amount of time to hear back from them, and even after they offer you a publishing contract, you’re still a year or two away from publication date. I think that’s why so many authors who were previously published with traditional houses have gone the self-publish route.
In my opinion, one of the biggest advantages of non-traditional publishing is the Freedom that it brings to the author. I type Freedom with a capital ‘F’ intentionally. I write romance, and in addition to the interminable waits, I quickly become disillusioned about the guidelines imposed on romance authors. How many words, what level of sensuality, how quickly the main characters must meet; even subject matter are set, and it’s stifling. What a joy to be able to write scenes, and ultimately stories, the way you ‘see’ them unfolding in your mind. It makes for a fresher, more realistic story.
Don’t get me wrong. There will always be a happily ever after in romance. Without the HEA, it isn’t a romance. But the reader benefits by being able to lose her/himself in a fresh, original story that rings true.
The cons of self-publishing are that a large percentage of your time is absorbed by formatting, cover design, uploading, promotion, and the dozens of items you never thought about when you were with a publisher. Even so, more and more authors are going the self-published route, and many are doing well, as evidenced by the names on the New York Times best-seller list.
Is Romance a preferred genre, or what you fell into at the request of publishers, or book demands?
I was about to say that I’m not a romantic, but that’s not true. I would, however, insert a qualifier, saying that I’m a practical romantic. Perhaps that’s why I write contemporary romance, and that while some of my stories are classed as ‘sweet’, I particularly enjoy the ones with a bit of grit. I have one story where the heroine became pregnant as a teen (a definite no-no to a traditional publisher), I have one who became addicted to prescription drugs, (equally taboo), and I have one where the man who seems like he’s going to be the love interest dies. I don’t have to tell you how they’d react to that one. Sure, romances are basically fantasy, but when combined with real life situations, the result is usually a compelling story.
One of the oldest and most frequently offered pieces of advice to aspiring writers is to write what you know. I would add write in the genre that makes you comfortable. I read lots of mystery, sleuth, and action books, but I don’t see myself writing any of those. I do intend to stray slightly outside my genre some day with a historical romance, but that’s not much of a detour. So to answer your question, I fell into writing romance because it feels natural to me. Most important is the fact that I enjoy it. Bonus!
How do you celebrate each book and do you feel differently about each title or finished product?
I usually celebrate by getting caught up on all the paper work I’ve been avoiding. Then, a couple of days into that process, exhaustion catches up with me and I take a few days off.
Each book represents a different set of friends. I like them all, and I’ve been surprised a few times when books that I thought were wonderful weren’t as popular as I’d anticipated. But then if we could all write best-sellers every time, what would be the challenge? I become attracted to most of my leading men. I write men who appeal to me. Strong men who know who they are and don’t need to brag about it. I confess that after a few months I sometimes can’t remember the names of some of my characters, but I remember their stories; I can see their faces.
Any favorites, or special titles that mean something more to you than the others?
For a gritty storyline, I like Fallen Angel. For a larger-than-life hero, I like Fool Me Once. For a feel-good story with a happy ending, I like Full Circle. And for a hero I wish I’d known when I was younger, I like Fixing Freddie.
Writing Process: Putting it together
What got you started?
I’ve always wanted to write. But unlike those authors who say that they write when they can, even if it’s fifteen minutes a day, I knew I had to be able to devote myself to writing full time. I’d always planned an early retirement, so when that happy day arrived, I got set up and started bashing away at my keyboard.
How do you get ideas for your plots? And how do you like to develop your plots? For instance some people write their endings first, or jot an outline, or write a draft and then rewrite. What is your ritual or process for developing plots?
My stories usually start with a small idea. Not very inspiring, huh? My inspiration can come from anywhere. But once the kernel of an idea gets in my head I let it rattle around, usually for a month or longer. This generally happens when I’m working on another book. At this stage I start writing down ideas. What if such-and-such happened, or why doesn’t she know that when it’s obvious to the reader? Things like that. I admire authors who write a draft, but I don’t work that way. I don’t want to know too many details in advance. I know where the story starts, and where it’s going to end, but I love to be surprised along the way when one of the characters does or says something surprising. I see the books evolving as a series of scenes. I rarely know the last line until I get there. That’s a bit of a nail biter, let me tell you!
What are your biggest writing challenges? For instance, some people are great with description but poor at writing dialogue.
I’m not sure. I’m not very good at padding out a story to a required length. I also tend to use a word or a phrase too frequently. It’s a different one for each book, so thank goodness for the search function.
What do you like best about writing?
This is going to make me sound like a control freak, and maybe I am, but I love the idea of manipulating events so that characters or events come together at the right time. I like things to make sense. I ask myself “why?” a lot when I’m writing.
Another part of the process I enjoy is editing. I like taking out words, phrases, sometimes whole sentences or scenes that don’t add to the story. The process of tightening up a story gives me a feeling of satisfaction.
Does any of your writing, even fictional, reveal truths to you about yourself you didn’t know existed until you discover it in your plot?
I’m not telling.
Okay, that’s not much of an answer. My truths are revealed in the actions and dialogue of the best friend. I often make her larger than life, and she usually has a bit of a caustic tongue. That’s the me I’d like to be, but never will. I wasn’t raised that way, and I can’t change now. I’m lucky to have that outlet in my books.
Marketing: The Toughest Part
What types of marketing work now for you that didn’t when you first started?
I’m still trying to figure it out. You know the old saying ‘every time I figure out where it’s at, somebody moves it.’? Well, that’s the way I feel, sometimes. There’s always chatter on message boards about Amazon changing their algorithms and we all sit around and nod our heads wisely, but does anyone really understand them? Perhaps a few people do, but by the time they figure out the latest wrinkle and share it, Amazon has changed it again.
Back in November, things shifted noticeably. At that time I decided to invest in some paid advertising. I call it display advertising. The type of ad I prefer to buy is a clickable cover. I didn’t see immediate sales from those ads, but that’s okay. Every person who saw one of my covers also saw my name, and eventually that name recognition kicks in. That’s basically what’s working for me now.
Has digital sales helped or hurt your sales, or has it shifted your marketing process? For instance, book signings for unknown writers seems to have faded where blog interviews or twitter chats have driven audiences even for the unknowns. You probably have had success in both worlds; what do you advise?
Almost all of my sales are digital, so my efforts are geared toward sales of my e-books. My marketing process has been admittedly hit and miss, so I am currently learning how to focus my energies and my resources. I’ve only just started. One more thing to learn!
What two social media outlets seem to work best for your marketing needs?
I hope to have a better idea on that after a couple of months of working with my marketing expert. However, I expect Facebook will play a large part. We’ll see.
Any advice for new writers? How about for the pros?
I wouldn’t presume to offer advice to the pros. I ‘know’ a few big names through I group I belong to, and even though I consider myself a hard worker, and focused, they leave me in the dust. Seriously…they work exceptionally hard.
For new writers, I would repeat what a lot of successful authors say:
* Put out the very best product. Don’t expect to make money right away, because you won’t. Expect to spend more than you make for the first year or two. Go ahead and read those articles that tell you you’re going to get rich self-publishing, but don’t believe them.
* After you’re published, grow a thick skin; somebody will hate your work and tell the world about it on Amazon. Don’t try to follow today’s trends. Write another book and make it better than the first.
* Most importantly of all, enjoy yourself, and I hope you prove me wrong and have a best-seller the first time out of the gate.
Here is a list of Mona’s Books: