Heather Sunseri interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Sep 26, 2017 10:56:15 PM
Heather Sunseri interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: Heather Sunseri is a recovering CPA who began writing novels in order to escape the mundane life as a muggle. After twenty years in the corporate world, Heather decided to use her business savvy and curious mind to start a publishing business anchored by fictional stories. She is proof that one can be a numbers person and a creative… And that it’s never too late (or too early) to get a do over. She’s married to the love of her life, mom to two amazing kids, and caregiver to the best golden retriever and one very, needy cat. When she’s not writing, she’s making homemade pizza and drinking Kentucky bourbon.
1. How do you pronounce your name?
SUN-sari. Kind of like sincerely, but with different vowels and without the “l”.
2. Where are you currently living?
I live in the heart of bourbon and thoroughbred horse country, Aka, the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
That success is defined by many things, and how much money a single book makes is just one piece of a giant puzzle.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Most of my plot ideas come out of long walks with my husband and my Golden Retriever, Jenny. Jenny doesn’t help much, but my husband is great at coming up with evil plot ideas.
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I am indie published, which means I control 100% of my rights. I self-publish all of my books in eBook and print formats, but I sold my audio rights to two different publishers, and one of my series is being considered for television. I sell way more eBooks than print books, but I love having my books in multiple formats because one size does not fit all readers.
I don’t really have an opinion about traditional publishing because I’ve never done it. I talked to agents at a couple of conferences early in my career as I was learning the industry, but I quickly decided that I simply didn’t like how slow the industry moved. Since I was a pretty good businesswoman already, I decided I could run my own publishing business. So I hired editors, cover artists, assistants, and others, and I got to work publishing my own works and managing my rights.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
My biggest piece of advice for getting a book published: Write a great story! You’ve got nothing unless you have that one thing. Step two: Hire an amazing editor. If you’ve done these two things, publishing can be done with Internet and soul searches.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
This is such a touchy subject, depending on your perspective of the publishing industry. When I first started writing, publishing was competitive. Now? It’s insane. It can take years to find an agent, and then it can take years to find a publisher. Initially, I would not hire an agent. But that’s just me. I use the word “hire” because that’s what you’re doing. You’re paying someone for the lifetime of the book you’re trying to sell to perform a service for you—to find a publisher. And I don’t need to pay someone for the lifetime of a book to find a publisher when I can publish the books myself. What I do hope to need someday is an entertainment lawyer. Maybe people believe an agent will help you with contracts and the other legal documents surrounding a publishing deal. They can do this, of course, if they’re also a lawyer, but you would be paying them a share of your royalty for the life of the book. By hiring a lawyer, you pay them once, not a royalty share.
However, if I were looking for an agent (and I’ve thought about doing just this with a series I’m planning for 2018), I would quiz my author friends to find out who likes their agents and then query those people. I would also attend conferences and pitch to agents and publishers. That way I would be meeting these people in person. Conferences are great places to find out what other authors are doing. Indie authors who have published traditionally and indie published can be some of the best business people. If I were new to the industry, I would meet these people and find out what they’re doing. Staying on top of the industry is very important, but only after you’ve written an excellent book. And an agent barely wants to even talk to you until you have a complete and excellent book.
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Write a lot. Read a lot. You can only find your unique voice by writing a lot. Find out what you truly like to read, then write to find out what you truly like to write. I don’t measure success with how much money I make. I measure success by how much I enjoyed writing a book or series, and then by how much my readers enjoyed the stories.
I also recommend writing in many different ways. Write in first person. Write in third person. Write romance. Write suspense. Write humor. Write angst.
Don’t stop learning. When I’m between books, I read craft books to learn how to better structure stories, and I’m always listening to podcasts on the status of the industry. It’s a business and a career. This means we should know our industry inside and out, and we should never stop learning and improving.
You saw my steps for publishing a book above? Here are my steps for new writers to form a career out of writing: Step One: Write a great story! Step Two: Hire an excellent editor. Step Three (This is the most important step for developing a career no matter how you get your books published.): Write another great story! Rinse. Repeat Steps 1-3
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
Writing a great novel is so difficult! It’s simple to critique novels and novelists, but once you try it yourself, you’ll never be overly critical of another author again. It’s also easy to write bad stories. But a great one takes a lot of hard work.
10. How many books have you written?
I’ve written 12 novels, published 11. I’ve written two novellas (one is out now, and one is set to release in November). And I’ve written and published one short story. So yes… there is one super long hot mess of a story that is on an old computer somewhere that probably won’t even turn on.
11. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
My best advice is to read good books and study what you like about those books. If you liked how scared you got during the last thriller you read, study what the author did to make you more afraid. Did he/she use shorter sentences or shorter chapters? Did he/she use cliffhangers at the end of scenes? Did he withhold information that made you worry greatly for the characters?
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Twists are the magic of all page-turning commercial novels from thrillers to sweet romance and everything in between. I like to put my characters in a tough situation, then I’ll take some time to brainstorm the possible outcomes. I’ll ask questions like, “How can I make this situation worse for my characters?” That is usually when something brand new pops up. And if I can surprise myself, I’m surprising the reader.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Every author has his or her own unique voice and worldview. With that uniqueness, each author must find that special quality that is different from other authors and other books, then capitalize on it. And the way you capitalize on it is through your platform and advertising, which is much easier for me to say than to put into practice. Writing and publishing a novel is one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, but being heard in the noisy climate of social media and the publishing world is even more difficult.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
The most important way I promote my writing is through a newsletter list. I also use a launch team of early readers to get a buzz started. I’ve used Facebook ads, Amazon advertising, and promotional tools for free and discounted books. A few years ago, the most important thing I did to grow my brand and my readership was to make the first book in a series free and purchase online promotions (like BookBub).
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
This is such a difficult question, because I pretty much jumped in and learned as I went. I’m having a pretty decent career, and I love what I do. Writing and publishing make me extremely happy. So, no regrets. However, if I could have predicted the future and have the special superpower of hindsight, I would have chosen my favorite genre to write in and stuck with that genre to build a consistent brand. I started writing young adult, which I loved writing, and it did very well, but I love writing thrillers even more. It is very difficult to build two different readerships, and it’s wrong to assume that all readers will cross over from one genre to another.
16. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I pretty much live by the following two statements:
“Your best is all you can do.”
“Don’t be afraid to dream the impossible and then go for it.”
17. Anything else you would like to say?
This is a very difficult and constantly changing industry to navigate. To build a career or to even publish one book that resonates with readers takes a certain amount of perseverance and heart. And there are so many distractions out there that are lined up to attack your drive and love for succeeding in this industry. I’m always telling my kids, “Guard your heart.” And this is good advice in everything. What it means to me is this: Guard what you love about the thing you’re doing. Don’t let others—agents, publishers, internet trolls, mean reviewers, family, friends—take your love away from what you’re doing. Everyone has opinions. “Guard your heart” from those people and opinions that aren’t relevant to what you’re seeking.