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Romance Writers of New Zealand Interview!

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A very exciting day for me: Featured in the March issue of “Heart to Heart,” the newsletter of the Romance Writers of New Zealand!

The article is excerpted here:

Gobsmacked” was the word a fellow Kiwi writer used when she first heard about Rosalind James – an American indie author who has not only written romances set in New Zealand but completely embraced our land, our culture – heck, even our All Blacks! What’s more, she is doing very nicely at the e-pubbing gig. RWNZ member Joanne Hill talks to Rosalind about writing, ebooks, and the reaction of her family to her career as a writer of romance…. Pp 2-3

Just for … the love of it

Joanne Hill talks to writer Rosalind James about her writing and love of New Zealand

Rosalind James fell in love with New Zealand when she lived here for 15 months, a period which coincided with Rugby World Cup fever and the Grand Final, watched with friends at a pub in Wellington. Fascinated by the spotlight the All Blacks were under, she got to thinking about how hard it would be to find a life partner in that environment, someone who didn’t want you for your money or celebrity, and who would understand the stress placed on you being an All Black. That was the genesis of the book “Just This Once,” the first in the “Escape to New Zealand” series. Now living in California with her engineer husband, Rick, she is working on the first book in a new U.S.-based series. Rosalind has an MBA in marketing, and a background in publishing and marketing.

Heart 2 Heart (H2H):What was your background in writing?

Rosalind James (RJ): I’d been a marketing writer for years, but my fiction career was confined to a single story about Betty Bacillus when I was nine. I’d always had stories in my head, but I just thought of that as daydreaming, and would tell myself to stop that and get to work. The difference is that, for some reason, I gave myself permission to try to write one of those stories down. And it just—boom, it took off from there. Within a few weeks, I had written a BOOK, and it was the most fun I’d ever had. Total shock to me.

I was really naïve about how hard it would be to find an agent and a publisher. I honestly thought that I’d send the first book out to a few agents, and somebody would want it. I sent it to 38 agents and three publishers. Three agents and one publisher asked to see more, but everyone eventually said no.

One day, I heard back from the third of those agents, who’d asked to read the entire book. She said she liked it, but she thought “New Zealand rugby” was too tough a hook in the U.S. market. An hour earlier, my doctor had called me and told me she was referring me to the oncologist, and it might not be too good. My first thought was, thank God my children were grown. And my second was, thank God I’d had a chance to do what I loved. The one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to die without publishing my books.

The other thing I knew for sure was that “New Zealand rugby” was a GREAT hook. I finished writing “Just for Now”, two days before I went into hospital, and started editing a few days after I came out. If people say “Just for Now” is too heartwarming, my answer is, I was on a LOT of narcotics, and thinking hard about what mattered in life, when I wrote it.

I also started thinking about what it would be like being a New Zealand sportsman if you just couldn’t help being a Tall Poppy. (Guess which then-All Black inspired THOSE thoughts.) So when I finished “Just This Once” and was in ‘book withdrawal’, I started “Just Good Friends” to explore that. And it went on from there.

H2H: You put out four books last year–it must have been a hectic schedule.

RJ: Not really. I’ve been writing for a living for a long time, and writing my own stories is so much fun, it just goes really fast. I spend about three weeks thinking a book out in my head. It takes me six weeks to write the first draft, and another few weeks to edit and revise. About three months per book. I quit my “day job” after I finished “Just This Once,” so my life now is fairly leisurely, except that by the time I’m 50% into the new book, I’m pretty focused. I do write seven days a week, normally.

H2H: Do you have your books professionally edited before you publish?

RJ: Not copy edited, but that’s because I was a professional editor myself for many years. If you can stay alert enough to get law books right, you can copy edit romance novels! I do go through each book many tens of times. I have a small critique group of friends who are extremely helpful for content editing. They tell me exactly what isn’t working. My books are 100% better because of them, especially “Just Good Friends” and “Just for Fun.” They really ripped those, first time around.

H2H: Your covers are gorgeous. What was your brief in a book cover?

RJ: Simple, tasteful, intelligent covers. Something that still says romance,’ but not ‘embarrassing.’ The books are funny, playful, sexy, and occasionally tear-jerking. Not completely frothy, there’s a serious story in there too. Because I had a series, I asked the designer, Robin Ludwig, to tie the books together, and she achieved that with colour and lay out.

H2H: What expectations did you have about your books, and with that, what did you know about indie publishing?

RJ: I believe my exact thoughts were, “What the heck. Might as well try.” I just hoped I wouldn’t crash and burn. I had a wild hope that I’d make back my investment in covers and website—about US $1400—before the end of the year (four months). (It actually took about a week. Shock.) I knew nothing about indie publishing either. Just Googled around and
figured out how to do it. It was really scary, but I thought, hey, I have a whole career here in publishing and marketing. I should be able to figure this out.

H2H: Tell us your experience with KDP Select on Amazon and the free days?

RJ: KDP Select has been pretty fantastic; definitely my best tool in promoting the books. My first three-day period, a week after publishing, generated 14,500 downloads, which was overwhelming; my latest, in January (five days) generated 92,300! I wrote a blog post in response to other writers’ questions about what I did and why I thought it worked (beyond “magic” or “luck,” which is how it seemed); you can see that at http:// www.rosalindjames.com/just-this-once-is-free/.

H2H: What do you think the appeal of your books is – your sales are impressive when there are so many books fighting for recognition, especially e-published novels in the romance genre.

RJ: For one thing, the armchair travel aspect. Even though many Americans don’t travel much, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to. And New Zealand is a VERY romantic destination to American women. Beyond that—I guess they are a bit different than a lot of what’s out there. Right now, the trend is for lots of drama—what a country song calls “knock-down, drag-out, cryin’ in the rain.” As a reader and a writer, I’m much more about Elizabeth Bennet being witty in the drawing room than Heathcliff wandering the moors, and maybe that appeals to some people. (While others think it’s “boring.” Oh well, can’t please everyone.) Other than that, I don’t know!

H2H: How did friends and family react when they learnt you were writing romance?

RJ: My kids thought it was high-larious. When I told my oldest son that the hero was a rugby player, he said, “Mom. Mom. Wait. Is he an All Black?” Then stomped around the kitchen holding his stomach and laughing. My younger son and his girlfriend, who live in Australia at the moment, were reading the excerpt for “Just This Once” on Amazon when it was first published, and my son reported that he screamed and just about had to poke his eyes out. But actually, I think they’re proud of me. My husband has been incredibly supportive and wonderful about the whole thing right from the start, which is what counts. And if my friends rolled their eyes, they did it behind my back.

ROSALIND’S TIPS ON E PUBLISHING

  • Cover, title, blurb: These things sell your book, and you have only a fraction of a second to catch the reader’s attention. So polish them just as much as you did your prose.

  • Make sure your book is edited.

  • Put maximum information on the Amazon page such as a short excerpt from each book on the product page, so people won’t have to click to “look inside” to see that the writing doesn’t stink!

  • To get exposure, since nobody knows who you are, consider signing up to Amazon Select which offers free days. You may have written the best book ever, but nobody’s heard of it. There’s a rule in marketing, especially direct mail marketing, that it takes 7 to 12 ‘touches’, or impressions, to make a sale. Anything you can do to let people know about you is going to help.

  • Your fate is truly in your own hands, so experiment. There’s no template out there for this; it’s all too new. Try stuff and see what works.

(Copyright RWNZ, March 2013, ISSN 2324-1799)
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