In November of 2012, tired of fielding rejection letters but confident in her work, Ruth Mancini self-published her debut novel, SWIMMING UPSTREAM. It didn’t take long for the rave reviews to flood in and catch the attention of Booktrope, a cutting edge publisher based in Seattle. They offered Ruth her long-awaited contract and released a new version of her novel this past December.
Stories like Ruth’s are the reason I began doing this interview series in the first place. Every once in a while, all writers could use a reminder that no matter how bleak things may seem, there is always hope. After the interview, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of SWIMMING UPSTREAM for your e-reader, tablet, computer screen, etc.
1. You have one of those publishing stories that thousands of struggling authors cling to. After deciding to self-publish your debut novel, you wound up landing a traditional deal with Booktrope. But before we get to that, how did you decide on self-publishing in the first place? How did you feel about it at the time?
I actually wrote the first draft of SWIMMING UPSTREAM twenty years ago and I’d always read that self-
publishing was a big no-no – that if your book was good enough then you shouldn’t have to publish it yourself. But that’s just not true these days and it’s honestly not considered “vanity” publishing anymore. It’s easy to do, it’s generally free or fairly inexpensive and there are loads of indie authors out there who have huge followings. I was advised to do it by a friend of mine who had been a marketing director for one of the big UK publishing houses. He said that publishers were now looking online on sites such as Amazon to gauge a self-pubbed writer’s popularity before picking them up, which makes sense as the market has already been tested for them. Once I made the decision to do it I was pretty excited. It felt as though I finally had some control over my own destiny as a writer.
2. Spreading the word is one of the most daunting aspects of self-publishing. What did you do to get your title out there?
At the time that I made the decision to self-publish SWIMMING UPSTREAM I didn’t even have a personal Facebook account. I didn’t know what Twitter was for and I hadn’t a clue how to go about marketing my book. But I read everything I could on the subject and asked for help from friends and by the time the book went live on Amazon in December 2012 I had a website, a healthy Twitter following and a Facebook Fan page. I had joined author social media sites and groups, sent my book to bloggers and reviewers and was busy tweeting, sharing and networking with everyone I could. I am a naturally sociable person so making new friends online came easily to me. It wasn’t just business for me; it has been wonderful meeting other authors and readers – likeminded people. When I had my first giveaway and 34,000 copies of my book were downloaded, that was when the reviews started to come in. It could have gone either way, of course, but fortunately the reviews were very positive! I now have 4.6 out of 5 stars over 56 reviews on Amazon UK and 4.1 over 86 on Amazon.com.
3. And you obviously did something right, because SWIMMING UPSTREAM wound up catching the eye of Seattle-based publisher, Booktrope, and landing one of those elusive reprint deals. What did this development teach you about the industry and your writing? What did you learn in the process?
I learned that having an online presence is a must for any author. I had spent years sending my book out to agents with no luck. I realised that I needed to demonstrate that I could help market it before a publisher would get interested. I was also glad that I had got it properly edited and had got lots of feedback from more than one editor and a literary consultant. It doesn’t matter how many times you read your manuscript, you won’t spot everything that’s wrong with it yourself. And neither will your mum!
4. The new version of SWIMMING UPSTREAM came out in December and tells the story of one woman’s pursuit of happiness against all odds. What do you think people will love most about this book? What do you love about it?
I love that it’s inspiring, yet easy to read and relate to. I wrote it after a painful relationship break up when issues from my own past came rearing up to haunt me. I wanted to read something similar, to know that someone had been through what I had and survived. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I decided to write it. I wanted it to help and inspire others who are going through something similar and am delighted to have found that it has done just that. But I also wanted to write a story with lots of drama. I love psychological thrillers so wanted to create a story that had some of that aspect to it too. It’s been described as “Thinking Women’s Chicklit” and I love it when I hear people say that it was gripping enough that they read it in one sitting, but at the same time made them think about and question their own life.
5. So what’s next? Can you say anything about what you’re working on now?
I am currently writing the sequel! I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to give away what happens next.
6. What is your writing process like?
I write at home at my computer but I refine the plot when I’m out and about, walking or driving. I come up with the idea, then a rough plot and then I just write, edit and write some more until it’s done.
7. There are many rough patches on the road to publication. How did you weather those storms?
There were times when I felt utterly despondent but I never gave up. I always knew that my book would be published one day and that I would do whatever it took to get there. My very first submission to an agent back in the mid 1990s was a positive one. The agent liked the first three chapters and asked for the rest and I think that kept me going, even though she didn’t ultimately take me on. I could tell that agents and publishers were almost looking for a reason NOT to accept me. They get 200 plus submissions every week. It’s the equivalent to something like 1300 applicants applying for every job. I realised that going down this route was pretty much like buying a lottery ticket and hoping for a bit of good luck. Fortunately things have opened up for authors with the advent of digital publishing.
8. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors who have tried the Big Six route and are now contemplating self-publishing?
Definitely do it. But be prepared to work hard. Do your homework as regards promoting yourself and make sure you get your book edited and formatted properly. Everything you need to know is available online.
For more information about Ruth, take a look at her website, ruthmancini.com, where she blogs and posts updates about her writing. Be sure to also keep up with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. You can find her book at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Nook UK.
WIN A BOOK!
Enter to win an e-book copy of SWIMMING UPSTREAM by leaving a comment below. The giveaway will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, January 30, after which time we’ll pick a winner.
Best of luck to you all and a valuable inside tip: Even if you don’t win, SWIMMING UPSTREAM is on sale for 99 cents through Monday, February 3! You can’t lose!
Sign up here for exclusive updates about DESPERATELY EVER AFTER and advanced notice of giveaways.
If you are a published/soon-to-be-published author and would like to be interviewed for Skipping Midnight, please click here.