Interview – Kristen James
Everyone welcome Kristen James to the site today! I am so in awe of this girl. 20 books in 2 years and 100k in sales. She’s ranked in the top 100 Bestsellers in Kindle US, UK and Canada, #1 in eight different categories, and #1 in Movers & Shakers and free rankings. She mainly writes emotional romance with family drama. Basically, Kristen is a self-publishing phenom and one of the nicest authors I’ve met. Today, we’re talking about her journey, the lessons she’s learned, and her best advice. You can follow Kristen on her Facebook page, and of course, devour her great blog. 🙂
1. Congrats on your 100th blog post! It’s an incredible site! And congrats on many of your other milestones too! 20 books, 100k in sales and a new book! Let’s start with your website first. You have a great media presence. How did you begin to build it and what are the best ways an author can utilize it?
Thanks so much, Bethany! It’s been a fun and crazy ride since I made the leap into serious writing and publishing. I started my website and blog about the same time as an author page on Facebook, back in 2011. I think the site, Facebook, and my books all worked together to get my name out there. My blog attracts all kinds of different groups because I blog about writing, travel and the outdoors, so that helps me touch more people than just a writing blog would. There are people who read my books and also like to read about my mini adventures around Oregon on my blog, and I think that helps me connect as a person.
A blog is a great way to share with readers who you are and what you’re passionate about, and then people will check out your books. I’m also okay with people who connect with my blog but don’t read my genre; my ultimate goal is to connect with others.
2. How important do you think social media is to an author? Does that differ if you’re self-published or traditionally published?
Social media is very important for building your brand, especially for self published authors who aren’t in bookstores. Of course, no one wants to see someone pushing their books all the time. You have to focus on the “social” part of social media and interact as a person. With the internet, we have the opportunity to connect with people around the world through shared connections, passions, hobbies, and books—both our own and books we love to read. There are so many ways to connect. When you have a special combination to offer, that attracts people.
3. Speaking of, you started out as a self-published author. Can you talk about your journey from the first time you wrote a book to when you decided to publish it?
I was writing books on a typewriter even before high school, and then I spent eight years writing and submitting after that. I was finally published by a few small online publishers, before the big ebook explosion. Not much happened. But, I saw what those small presses did and realized I could do it too. So I published The River People in paperback and began contacting local stores. Several called me and let me do a book signing.
4. What are some things that have surprised you most about self-publishing?
It’s been a gradual learning curve—I began studying publishing at an early age—so I don’t think I had any big shocks when I began publishing my own work. I have been surprised several times when my books took off. Sometimes there didn’t seem to be a reason.
Some of my bigger surprises have come from the connections I’ve made with readers. Sometimes I’ll get an email that says how much a certain book touched the reader or even helped them through an emotional time. I’m amazed that my fiction can do that.
5. You recently mentioned in an interview that you were branching out into the New Adult genre. How has that been for you? The genre is fairly new, so how would you describe it?
New Adult encompasses college age characters dealing with first serious love, extremely strong friendships, being on their own, and healing from childhood hurts. There seems to be a theme about healing from past trauma like a broken family or painful relationships. This genre really reflects life as the new generation experienced it. It’s raw, but it also reflects the excitement of turning into an adult.
I wrote and published a novella called The Cowboy Kiss, and then realized it fits into the New Adult genre–maybe a crossover between contemporary romance and New Adult. That got me interested in the genre, especially when a new book idea hit…which I’ll share shortly!
6. I love how determined you are, and how, if you can get it done today, you get it done! You don’t wait, which is very conducive to writing! Where did that attitude come from? Is it something you’ve had to work at over time? You write multiple novels a year! I’m sure that mind-frame helps with that. 🙂
I don’t like things hanging over me. If I can do it today, I do it. I want to get my stories ready, polished, and out to readers. There isn’t a point to a story until people are reading it. I’m not sure why I’m so driven like that, except maybe my brain is wired funny. J
7. Let’s talk about Montlake Romance, an Amazon imprint. How has it been working with them? Is it very different from working with a traditional publisher?
Well, Montlake Romance is very like a traditional publisher except they don’t ship books out to bookstores. The team was incredibly friendly and excited about my book. Because they sell through Amazon, it’s a bit like what I was already doing, but with Amazon behind the book.
8. I hear Amazon imprints don’t accept queries; they must contact the author. And having read Point Hope (and having all the other ones downloaded and waiting for me to devour) I can understand why they came to you. The book is romantic and fast-paced and it’s everything I want in a story. I read it in one sitting! Is it fair to call that story your breakout novel?
Yes, in many ways, Point Hope is my breakout novel… so far! It all started with a spark, when I suddenly wondered what would happen if a couple decided to divorce but then found a baby on their doorstep. I had to change that idea a bit to make it more realistic, but that initial “image” and idea carried me through the writing process. (The baby is actually Trey’s orphaned niece, which added another plot layer and more emotions to work with.) Even while writing that book, I just knew it was different.
I wanted to develop a deeper storyline with that story, and I looked at what I wanted to write, not what I thought I should write according to romance genre rules. So I feel my storytelling and technique reached a new level in Point Hope. I really enjoyed looking at the story from each of the character’s perspective and stepping into how they would feel.
So I definitely feel this was a breakout novel, but I also have a few others that have sold more copies. More Than Memories is my all-time bestseller, and I think it’s because readers really connected with Trent and Molly in that story, the same way people connect with Trey and Rosette in Point Hope. In some ways, I feel that many of my novels have huge potential still, and I’m just being discovered by readers.
9. You teased us a bit on your website about your newest work in progress, Star Struck. Can you share anything more about that? (Read a small excerpt here.)
I’m having so much fun with this story! Let me share the blurb for Star Struck (working title for now) and then I’ll explain more.
Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head. An oversexed male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants quiet so she can read, go to her English classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her that way. Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, hike and basically take over her life. She can’t tell anyone without sounding like she’s lost it. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…
It’s a different kind of story, as Marcus exists inside Avery’s head. The two of them are very different, and stuck together, and it wrecks havoc on Avery’s life, especially when Nash asks her out on a date. Her crush is finally returning her feelings… but now she’s completely confused.
Marcus is worried about what will happen if she tells anyone—actually she is too. So she tries to carry on with life as usual and go to class, but things keep getting more complicated.
10. Advice time! What advice would you give someone who’s trying to decide whether they want to self-publish?
It’s a very personal decision, influenced by personality type. If you want to have complete control over everything, self publishing might be for you. It takes work to polish your book, work with editors, format and publish. Of course it takes work to get a traditional publishing deal too, and you do need to promote with either route.
I think really good stories can do well regardless of how they’re published, and many authors are self publishing in order to attract a publisher. If you self publish and do well, you might have the choice to accept a traditional publishing offer or continue on your own. I’ve been approached twice about selling rights to my self published books—first Montlake Romance contacted me about Point Hope, and then AmazonCrossing contacted me about the German rights to More Than Memories.
For me, it’s all about getting my books out to more readers. Self publishing made that possible, and so does traditional publishing. I think it’ll help authors to change their thinking to just “publishing” and figure out how to make different routes work together.
Thanks for the great interview questions, Bethany!