I’m excited to write about an author who inspires me: Cambria Hebert. She is not a New York Times Bestselling author. She’s won some awards, made it into the Amazon Top 100 a couple of times and is one of the best writers I’ve ever read. I love her books, and I love her style. She’s kind, honest, responsive, and is in the position I one-day want to be. This is why I have chosen to highlight the amazing Cambria Hebert. To me, she is a true hero in this indie business and an author I am very happy to call my inspiration.
Cambria was nice enough to answer some interview questions for me.
Melissa: How did you get started in the writing business?
Cambria: I started writing a book years ago (like in 2008) that I had an idea for and just felt compelled to write. It wasn’t until I was almost done with that series (its four books) that I worked up enough courage to let someone read it and I remember they really loved it. It made me want to see if I could get it published. I got over one hundred rejections. It was hard, but I kept writing. Years later, in late 2011 my first book came out with a very small publisher. The publisher closed down not long after and I got the book back, I decided to publish on my own because I wanted to control my own career and because I didn’t want to get another one hundred rejections. I just kept writing and publishing and working toward building my brand.
Melissa: Was there a point in your career where something shifted…one particular book or different marketing technique you used…or was it a slow build?
Cambria: I feel like it’s mostly been a slow build with me. I can say that my career started to shift and grow more when I started writing contemporary romance. My fourth contemporary romance book, TEXT really seemed to give me a push. It got my name out a little more because that book was very popular. After that I put out seven more books, but I didn’t have another book that really seemed to get a lot of attention until the first book in my Hashtag series #Nerd released at the very end of 2014. The Hashtag Series changed my career. I wrote the entire series (6 books and one novella) in 2015 and it has been very well received. That has helped get my name out further.
But I can’t say it was any one book. I have over twenty-five books out, I honestly feel like I’ve worked hard for each one. Some have had more success than others but I feel like overall my career has been a slow build. I have not had anything that has been an instant success.
Melissa: Are there any writing tips you can give authors who are trying to start out in the indie world?
Cambria: Be patient. Patience is very difficult, I get it. But that’s what it takes.
Start somewhere. You don’t have to do everything at once. You don’t have to have a huge marketing plan in place when you first start. Just start. Learn. Grow as you learn.
Find what works for you. Not everything you see other authors doing is going to work for you. It’s not fair. It makes no sense. That’s the way it is though. You have to try different things to know what will work. Once you find a good base you can build from there.
Be willing to work. You have to work harder than you think you will. It’s long hours. It’s discouraging at times. You just have to hold onto your passion and remember why you started.
Melissa: Are there any marketing tips you can give newbie authors?
Cambria: Be kind. Seem’s silly, huh? You are your brand. You wouldn’t believe how many readers tell me they are surprised or so grateful when I reply to their email or message. Apparently, not many authors do that. If someone takes time out of his/her life to send you a kind message about your book, then take the time to reply. Even if it’s only a sentence. Same goes with other authors. The competition is hard. Some aren’t very nice to each other. You want people (not just readers but writers, bloggers, etc) to think of you highly. You’re reputation in this business means more than you think.
Be grateful. You might have a book (or more!) do really well. You might hit the top 100 or rank on a list. You might get a lot of glowing reviews. Be grateful. Be humble. Don’t get a big head.
Talk less. Listen more. People like to tell you about themselves. They like to be heard. Ask them questions. Show interest in them. Let them talk. The conversation will always turn to you and then you can talk about your book, or something. People who feel like you are a “real” person are more inclined to purchase your books and follow you online.
Don’t spam. Don’t email established authors and ask them to share about your book. Don’t expect people to share about your book. Don’t send your link to people you don’t know. Don’t comment on other author’s social media with your own book links. It’s tacky.
You can spread the word by finding reputable blog tours and advertising companies to help spread the word.
Have a cover reveal. Have a release day blitz. Do a blog tour and offer review copies for reviews. If you can’t afford to hire a company to organize it, then do it yourself. When I started out I organized everything on my own. It’s a lot of work, but it spreads your name and builds relationships with people in the book community.
Melissa. In your opinion, what are three key things to becoming a successful author?
Cambria: Being nice, having a quality product, getting that product in front of readers.
Melissa: What is your workday like? How do you divide your time between writing, marketing, social media, etc?
Cambria: It’s a hard balance. Some days I do good, somedays I’m a hot mess. Ha! Usually I start the day by getting the kids off to school. I *try* to get a workout in, then I check emails, post to social media, etc. Then I write until the kids get home. Sometimes I write until it’s time to make dinner. Usually after dinner it’s homework, etc. I check emails and social media during that time as well. Once everyone is in bed I do more writing (if I can) or more marketing, social media, etc.
Some days I don’t write because I get caught up in making newsletters, teaser images, ads, etc. It’s just about fitting in what I can when I can.
Melissa: Your Hashtag series has been hugely successful, if it’s not a secret, what are your writing plans for the rest of 2016?
Cambria: I don’t know if I’d call it hugely successful. It has been successful in the fact that it’s gotten a large fan base. Romeo and Rimmel are very popular. I’ve never been on a list or anything for it though. It sells well and has gotten my name out there though. For 2016 right now I’m working on the GearShark series, which is a racing series. I also plan to write a couple Take It Off novels. I don’t know what else I will do this year, I’m still trying to figure it out. Lol.
Melissa: How far in advance do you schedule your releases? Do you know what’s coming up over the next twelve months or do you take one book at a time and base your decisions on the success of each release?
Cambria: Usually I take one book at a time. I’m not an author who can plan out an entire year. I wish I could, but I write more on my brain’s whim. I like to write what I’m inspired to write. I think if I had a list of books I had to write and when to write them it would un-inspire me.
Melissa: Out of all the things you’ve tried when releasing a book, what has been your most successful strategy?
Cambria: I do the same thing for every release. Cover reveal, promote with teasers, etc. Then I release, do a release blitz and usually a blog tour. I do newsletters, ads on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes I get ads at various book sites (such as PeopleReads). I stay active in my fan club as well. I just try to cover all my bases across the board and hope for the best.
Melissa: How much should a writer listen to their audience? Do you think it’s essential to follow trends in the marketplace?
Cambria: I think when an author listens too much to their audience it becomes stifling. An author has a creative mind; someone else can’t dictate that. In a lot of ways you need to write what you feel you are best at and in the genre you feel best at. But pushing your limits as a writer is good, stepping out of your comfort zone also can result in great books. As far as trends… I think it’s good to stay mindful of them. I think you also have to try and find a way to stand out in a crowd because the market is very saturated right now with new books coming out all the time. I think you can write what you want, but you have to find your audience for it. If it’s a smaller genre and niche you have to realize that and adjust your marketing, etc. for that.