Happy Sunday from The Indie Tea! And welcome back to On the Couch!
This is an every-Sunday segment that features an inspirational interview with a bestselling author who lets us inside her writing space, reveals her own personal self-publishing journey, and offers her honest, heartfelt advice for authors old and new!
We hope that these interviews keep you motivated and inspired for the rest of the week, and that you take away something from each author’s words. We also hope that you enjoy learning from their experience and advice as much as we do!
Today, we’re sitting down with an author who we adore:
Wall Street Journal & #1 Amazon Bestselling Author Winter Renshaw!
Welcome to ‘On the Couch,’ Winter Renshaw! We’re totally honored to have you here today to talk about your author journey. Can you tell us a little bit about how you started self publishing?
Writing has always been a passion of mine, and I distinctly remember knowing in first grade that I wanted to be an author someday, but as I got older, I told myself that it wasn’t going to be that easy, and I decided I should pursue something more practical … which led to changing my college major four times because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. Finally, I ended up just graduating with a Liberal Studies degree from Iowa State University and taking an office job at a local private college with terrible hours, a lackluster salary and mediocre benefits. I spent most of my twenties professionally miserable and unfulfilled, waiting for some flashing neon sign that would point me in the right direction.
Oddly enough, that flashing neon sign came in the form of a Reddit post I stumbled upon by pure chance one day when I was bored at work. Someone was talking about how they were making a living self-publishing books on Amazon … which I didn’t even know you could do!
Long story short, in the year that followed, I cashed out my retirement, quit my job, studied the craft of writing like CRAZY (listened to about 40 hours of RWA seminars and read 20+ craft books, took notes, studied those notes, read a gazillion indie bestsellers, networked with authors, joined online author communities, started a beta reading circle, etc.) and dedicated every spare minute of my life (while raising twin newborns and a toddler!) to learning my craft inside and out.
Almost a year to the day that I quit my day job, I published Never Kiss a Stranger. The rest is history.
So, since establishing yourself in this industry, what do you love the most about being an indie author?
Control! I’m a certified, grade A control freak. Also, I love the connections I’ve made and the friendships that have grown out of those. There are so many amazing, kind, talented, and wonderful people in this industry, and I’m grateful and humbled to be working alongside them.
And of course, on the other hand, what do you dislike most about being an indie author?
The never knowing. I’m a planner, so not knowing how a book is going to do after I’ve poured my heart and soul and time and energy into it is extremely difficult! Every month is different. Every release is different. It never gets any easier in that regard.
To date, which book of yours has been your biggest publishing success, and why do you think this book did so well?
Royal for sure. It hit #1 in the entire Amazon store and #6 on the Wall Street Journal Best Sellers list in March 2016. And I only knew it had hit WSJ because I was Googling my book to see where it had been pirated and stumbled upon a Daily Mail article. I had no idea a KU book could even make a best sellers list, so like a total noob I emailed WSJ to make sure it wasn’t a misprint. I still have the email they sent back confirming it was legit! But I digress. Royal’s success was completely unexpected … for starters, the two books I published before that kind of flopped (by my standards) and I figured maybe people were “over me.” Also, Royal was missing a “Look Inside” for a solid week, which I was convinced was going to completely derail my launch. And to top it all off, my Facebook ads weren’t doing well and were crazy expensive, so I ended up shutting them all off. I’m convinced the entire release had some sort of divine intervention thing happening because it defied all logic and expectations. The only other thing I can think of was that people just really wanted to know why the hero disappeared seven years ago without a trace and then all of a sudden returned. Never underestimate a compelling hook! Plus, the second-chance trope is something I think a lot of readers can relate to. We all have a first love.
Did you do anything special to celebrate your accomplishment?
I treated myself to a Goyard Saint Louis bag and booked a trip to visit my best friend in Phoenix. Maybe I went out to dinner with my husband, but I can’t remember …We had 18-month-old twins and a 4-year-old at the time, so nothing too crazy!
If people are still reading and buying my books, I consider myself a success. I try not to fixate too much on rank/review numbers/sales numbers, etc. because those things are beyond my control.
As our industry continues to change, how do you keep yourself motivated day in and day out to continue publishing?
I love to write. That’s what keeps me going. There’s nothing else I’d rather do!
How do you deal with all of the stress that’s related to the Indie World? (Pressure from fans, requests, etc)
Sometimes I unplug and disappear from the internet for a day or two and focus my energy on being a mom and a wife and a human with interests outside of books, but most of the time I just vent to my close author friends. It helps to talk to people who completely understand and ‘get it.’
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, can you tell us what you do to find inspiration to write again?
I don’t get writer’s block so much as I find myself lacking the motivation/discipline to write sometimes, especially when there’s a lot going on in my life. The best way I’ve found to combat that is to read a book by one of my favorite authors. It helps to get someone else’s words in my head for a change, and when I’m reading a really amazing story it reinvigorates my love of writing and I find myself wanting to get back at it ASAP.
I typically write between noon and 4pm on weekdays, and I prefer complete silence and fresh air, though I’ll trade those for a good, stormy afternoon any day of the week. I do most of my writing in my office, but occasionally I’ll write in bed where it’s warm and cozy or downstairs in the family room where it’s dark and quiet. Also, I make sure to block sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. using my Self-Control app or I won’t get anything done. Lastly, I do 20-25 minute sprints, and I tend to give myself outrageous word count goals (which I rarely hit, lol) to keep myself focused and on track.
What’s your biggest fear as an indie author?
That the bottom’s going to drop out. All it would take is Amazon making one little change and it could potentially affect hundreds/thousands of indie writing careers. And more specifically, as a KU author, my business model—for better or worse—is centered around that. Any major changes to KU could have a huge impact on my career. It’s a constant concern.
Keep your head down and write. Don’t waste time worrying about what anyone else is doing because that time is better spent working on your next book.
Before we get off the couch, Wait! Burning question for lots of our readers here: How do you deal with bad reviews?
I’m probably in the minority here, but I always read them! With each book, I study the bad reviews and look for common issues/complaints, and then I know what I need to work on going forward.
What’s one thing (or huge dream) you hope to accomplish in your career over the next few years?
I don’t care as much about making best seller lists or getting movie deals or accolades as I care about longevity and stability. I just want to be able to do what I love for as long as humanly possible. That’s my dream. The rest is gravy.
Lastly, for anyone who is currently reading this and is just starting out as an author or struggling to get to where they want to be in his/her career, what’s one piece of advice you would give to encourage them?
Just do you. No two careers will ever be exactly the same, and what works for one author might not work for another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not by aping other people’s covers/titles/blurbs/styles. Readers can pick up on in-authenticity from a mile away. If the passion and authenticity is there, your stories will be unputdownable, and no one will be able to do what you do you the way you do it. Standing out is a good thing!
Lightning round questions:
Favorite genre to write? Contemporary romance
Alpha Male or Beta Male? Alpha
Standalone or Series? Standalone
Tea or Coffee? Tea. Earl Grey, please!
Ebook or Paperback? eBook
All Platforms or KU? KU
Thank you so much for sitting down with us on the couch this week, Winter Renshaw! We truly enjoyed having you and we appreciate your utter honesty! We hope to see you still writing stories when you’re old and grey 🙂
If you want to check out Winter Renshaw’s awesome books or say ‘Hello’ to her on social media, be sure to check out her links below!