From Major Publishing Contracts to Self-Published Freedom: An Interview with Kate Perry

To celebrate our awesome community of NOOK authors, as well as the recent launch of the NOOK Press print platform, we’re talking each month with authors whose books are making a splash with NOOK readers.

Kate Perry was an author with multiple traditionally published books on bookstore shelves when she decided to take a different path. Seeking out the freedom to write what she wanted, as fast as she wanted to, with covers she could love, she turned to self-publishing, where she’s found international success with bestselling series including the Laurel Heights and Bedford Falls books. We talked to her about deciding on success, what you’ll find in her latest book, and how a great story is its own best publicity.

Tell us a bit about your writing background.
I decided to be an author when it became clear I was too old to be a Raiderette. It’s a shame, really—I’ve got mad pompom skills. So I set my pompoms aside, put on a tutu, and began writing.

I’d never taken any writing classes (I studied Medieval French in college), but I read all the time. Now, I realize I understood story on an intuitive level. Still, my first book was a mess. My second book was better. My fourth book earned me my first agent, but it was the sixth book I wrote that sold to a New York publisher. That was over the span of two years. My third book is what later became Perfect for You, my first indie bestseller.

What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?
Truthfully? Frustration. Every proposal I gave my agent came back rejected with “This is fabulous! I love the characters and the writing! But our marketing team can’t sell it.” By that time I’d been published for six years. I had five books out with major publishers, and I wasn’t getting the traction I wanted. I wrote faster than they wanted, and I didn’t love the way my books were packaged. Plus, I didn’t want to write to trends—I wanted to write what I wanted to write.

Then digital publishing happened, and it became feasible to reach readers on your own. Before, it was impossible to distribute your books independently—the cost was prohibitive. Digitally, you could reach millions of people easily, and when retailers got behind the movement it was a game changer.

I dithered a little in the beginning, but then I grabbed my balls and decided to go for it. The rest is history.

Did you work with other professionals—editors, cover designers, etc.—on your path to publication?
In the beginning, I worked with this really awesome person who I saw in the mirror every morning.

Wink.

So, yeah, in the beginning, there was just me. I had traditional publishing experience, so I understood how to get a book ready for publication. I designed my own covers. I wrote my own editorial letter. I formatted my own books.

But as soon as business picked up I contracted everything out I could so I’d have more time to write.

How did it feel to hit publish on that first book, sending it out into the world?
Anticlimactic, especially when only two people bought the book the first month it was out.

Can you describe how it felt watching your first self-published book find a readership?
I didn’t focus on that. I focused on getting the next book out and tweaking the covers to attract people. It wasn’t until my third book that sales took off and I started to develop a loyal following.

What does it mean to you to have achieved success and connected with an audience outside of the usual publishing avenues?
You decide what you want and go for it, no holds barred. You shouldn’t let anyone dictate what you can accomplish.

I was always going to be successful—it’s what I’d decided before I started writing. When I was blocked in the usual publishing avenues, I found a different way of doing it. It doesn’t mean anything special. I just didn’t listen when I was told “No” or “You can’t.”

How do you determine when your books are ready for publication?
My books go through two rounds of content editing, copyedits, and proofreading before their release dates. Trust me—when they’re released, they’re ready.

How do you handle publicity around your work?
I stand on a high roof with a bullhorn. I’m usually in a tutu, and I sprinkle fairy dust on the world around me. You probably aren’t going to want to do that, though. Shrug—your choice.

If you’re a new author, or just getting started, the best publicity you can have is a kickass cover and your next book.

If you’re a veteran with thirty books or more, the best publicity you can have is a kickass cover and your next book.

In short: as a writer, your stories are your best publicity.

Other effective publicity: placement with retailers. You can’t pay for more effective publicity than having your book visible in stores. The best way to achieve it is to get on bestseller lists, even in the more drilled-down categories.

How do you interact with your readers?
In every way I can. I love them! I’m active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I don’t post every day because I like to keep it organic and real, but I’m always around if they want to contact me.

How has being a self-published author changed your life?
It hasn’t really. I still travel, I still write, I still laugh. I paint and dance and sing. I lived that way before I self-pubbed, because that was how I’d decided I wanted to live my life.

Tell us a little bit about your most recent book.
Stars Shining Bright Above is about a woman who’s starting over in a new community. It’s also about a hot contractor all the women in town dream about, who’s more than he appears.

What can you look forward to in Stars Shining Bright Above ?
Lists.
Wishing on stars.
Native drums.
And kisses—lots of steamy kisses.

Tell us a bit about the books and authors that have inspired you.
I fell in love with Chrétien de Troyes in college. He was one of the first major French writers, telling stories of heroes and justice and love. I just reread his story Yvain. The Lymond series, by Dorothy Dunnett, has an extra special place in my heart. I want to say it’s the best book series I’ve ever read. She’s the only writer who has surprised me with plot. She’s utterly masterful. David Eddings ranks up there in inspiration. I love all his books—great myths and awesome characters. I don’t often remember what I’ve read, but I will always remember the first page of his book The Diamond Throne. He’s the one who taught me that things other than people can be characters in a story. Like a horse. Or a garden gnome. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has also been a great inspiration. She’s a great writer—her dialogue!—but more importantly she’s modeled grace and kindness in the face of success. She’s a lovely lady.

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