The Making of a Book Series: an Interview with Author RJ Thesman

I’m delighted to have RJ Thesman with me today for this month’s Friday Feature author interview. RJ’s publishing credits include 500+ articles, four books, and 13 anthologies. And like me, she’s a writing coach. Grab your brew of choice and sit back for a great read. RJ imparts some terrific tips for writers to add to their publishing toolbox.

Author RJ Thesman Interview

RJ Thesman, author of Intermission for Reverend G

RJ, thank you for being here today. You already know I absolutely loved Intermission for Reverend G. So my readers know, I proofread Intermission for the publisher CrossRiver Media (if you find mistakes, that’s on me!).

I don’t want to spoil the story for readers so I won’t mention specifics, but I got attached to these characters. I cried, I laughed, I got angry. You nailed the ending. My only frustration is that I don’t know how long I have to wait for the next book in the series.

Debra: How long did it take you to write Intermission for Reverend G?

RJ: I’m a fast writer, so the first draft took about six months. Then I took it to my critique group for suggestions and started the editing process. Within one year, I was satisfied with the end result.

Debra: At what point in writing the book did you begin to look for publishers?

RJ: Because this is a series, I wanted to go back to the same publisher. CrossRiver Media has been good to me, and I have liked working with them.

Debra: Did your idea for Reverend G start as a series, or did you make that decision after you started writing?

RJ: I made the decision for the series after I started writing. I was rapidly falling in love with my characters and I didn’t want to let them go, plus I knew from experience that Alzheimer’s is not a sprint – it’s a marathon and there was so much more to tell. I wanted to fully explore Reverend G’s journey, and I was still learning about that journey from my mother’s Alzheimer’s and my siblings’ experiences as caregivers.

To tell the entire story in one book would have required about 150,000 words — way too long. I actually had a reader at a book signing thank me for keeping each book within 55,000+ words. She said she doesn’t like to read books that are too big.

Debra: How did you initially find CrossRiver Media?

RJ: I was lucky enough that they actually chose me. I read my One Sheet for the first book in a writer’s meeting – not realizing that an acquisitions editor was sitting right next to me. After I finished reading, she said, “I want that.” I guess that proves how important the One Sheet can be.

Debra: The One Sheet is an item many of my readers may not be familiar with. Would you explain what it is and what information it needs to contain?

RJ: A One Sheet is probably one of the most important documents as writers begin to pitch their book. At many conferences, the One Sheet will get you an audience with a publisher/editor/agent and can take you the next step up the ladder. It also can become a tool for marketing. Some of the phrases from my One Sheet ended up in the blurb on the back of Intermission for Reverend G.

At the top — in the header — is the author’s contact info. Then comes the name of the book and the author’s byline.

The One Sheet needs to have a fantastic hook so the publisher/editor/agent wants to keep reading. I often use the same hook for my first sentence of the book. Then include a short blurb — maybe 2 paragraphs about the book — basically a very short, short synopsis written in 3rd person.

Then comes the author’s bio and marketing experience, including publishing credits, memberships in professional organizations and maybe even something really unique about the author — such as mine that says I live with an elderly cat.

Debra: Since the CrossRiver acquisitions editor asked for your book on the basis of the one sheet, did they still want a book proposal?

RJ: They didn’t require any particular type of proposal, but I’ve done this for enough years that I know I need a good synopsis, a marketing plan, and enough info to make it intriguing. I always write the proposal as I am writing the book, especially the chapter by chapter synopsis. That way, the synopsis and my first draft are similar and the proposal flows. I would actually rather write an entire book than put together a proposal with a marketing plan. But I’m getting better at it.

Debra: I’ve never thought to write the proposal that way. It’s a technique I’m going to try. Could you give us a general run down on the process once Intermission was accepted.

RJ: Once the contract was signed, it was mostly a waiting game. My publisher had several books ahead of mine, so I worked on my blog, built my email list, hinted at the new book on all the social media places I’m active on, reviewed other books for authors and started praying that my book would find its way to the hearts who needed it most. I kept up to date with my publisher and all the preliminary marketing ideas as well as putting together my own plan. Since this is the 2nd book in the series, I’ve spent this waiting time staying connected with all the places where I marketed the 1st book.

Debra: What specifics can writers expect to see in publishing contract and how would advice them on contracts?

RJ: Rights Granted, Quoted Material, Editorial Changes, Proofs, Title, Cover Art, Publication, Copyright, Royalties, Accounting, Warranties, Termination by Author, Option, Competing and Future Works, Force Majeure and General Provisions.

You can study up on contracts through books in the library, but I think it’s important to remember that you basically want your book published. Don’t be a pain to the publisher. You can negotiate some things, like how many free copies you’d like, but don’t try to get the highest advance and don’t try to negotiate on everything. You’re supposed to be working together as a team, so make the book your priority. When you’ve won the Pulitzer, then you can ask for more.

Debra: Did you work with an editor from the publishing house during the publishing process? If so, how did that go?

RJ: My publisher is great at macro and line edits, pointing out things that I might have missed. Plus, my critique group is a great resource. And I am brutal with my own editing. I actually love rewriting and making it better. For this 2nd book, I paid for a critique at a writers’ conference and that critique was so valuable. The woman who critiqued it found a major flaw in the first chapter. I was so grateful.

Debra: How much marketing will you handle?

RJ: All authors now handle a major portion of the marketing. Although my publisher works with me and doesn’t push me to do anything I’m uncomfortable with, I appreciate her advice and try to learn new things. Because I also do marketing at my other job, I’m learning more and more how to do it well. It’s tricky, because writers need to remember that readers want to be entertained and educated as well as feel emotion. So the most effective marketing does more educating and entertaining rather than promoting. Otherwise, readers will cut you off.

Debra: Is your marketing strategy for this 2nd book any different than for the first book?

RJ: Marketing a series is somewhat different, because you’re hoping that the same publisher will want the next book and the next. I think the focus on characters helps to sell a series, readers want to know what happens to those people. Then you can target that through blog posts, newsletters, Facebook posts, etc. I’ve done several short stories on my blog about the characters, keeping them alive in between books. I don’t think a plot-driven novel would garner as much interest in finding out the next plot.

Also, when you market to book stores or other venues, you always want to offer each book in the series because some readers may read the 2nd book first, then want the 1st book.

The sequel is fed by the ending of the previous book. You have to leave the reader wondering about the rest of the story. So you can also use that as marketing fuel. For example: I asked my readers, “Will Rev G and Chris get married?” I also wrote a blog post about whether it’s a good idea for people with Alzheimer’s to marry.

Marketing a series also concerns the graphics and the cover. With the Rev G books, each of them will have some unraveling — more and more unraveling as she goes further into the disease. We’re just changing the color. So that helps give a consistency to the series while at the same time, keeping each book unique.

And since I love to do speaking events, I can market each book of the series with a different type of workshop. For book 1, The Unraveling of Reverend G, I spoke about the 7 Tips for Caregivers. I’m still giving that speech at various venues, and I’ve been doing a video on each tip.

For Intermission for Reverend G I’m developing a workshop on the Importance of the Life Story, and that’s going to be interactive and fun for the audience, as well as informative for caregivers.

In some ways, marketing a series is a bit more difficult. You have to juggle a few more plates in the air at the same time. Both kinds of bookmarks, transporting both books at each signing, I sign Book 1 with a different Bible verse than Book 2, etc. But a series is also fun — especially when you love the characters.

Debra: What advice do you have for writers concerning this whole process from finding a publisher to book release?

RJ: In today’s world, it’s becoming easier to publish your own book. Create Space is such an easy tool, but if you want the credibility of a traditional publisher – you need to go to writers’ conferences and meet them face to face. Forget about trying to find an agent. That’s harder than finding the perfect purse. The best way to find a publisher is to write amazing content and then don’t give up.

As you wait for the publisher to do their work, keep writing. Work on the sequel or work on other projects. The more you write, the more you’ll improve and be ready for the next book. My goal is to write one book each year and I’ve done that for several years. Not all of those books are published yet, but they are written. Also, be patient. The process takes a while. Sometimes writers wait six or more years to see their books in print. Wait and pray and keep writing.

Debra: What’s the status of book 3 in the series? Do you have other projects in the works as well?

RJ: The 3rd book is written and waiting for final edits. I’m taking it to my critique group to polish it up. Meanwhile, I’ve finished writing my memoir, and I’m also working on the plots and characters for my next book which will be a stand alone book – not a series. I like my publisher and want to stay with CrossRiver Media as long as they’ll continue to publish my work. And just the other day, I had the germ of an idea for another book. I’m always writing.

Debra: Wow, I expect many writers are envious of your prolific capacities. And you do it all while holding down a full-time job outside of your writing. RJ, thank you again for joining me here today and for all the great tips you’ve given my readers (and me). This has been very informative.

Readers, do you have a question about today’s interview? What did you find most helpful? Leave it in the comments. I’ll be here to respond. As you can see RJ is a very busy lady, but she’ll do her best to respond to your comments in a timely manner.

Did you enjoy today’s post? Please share it with your friends. Just click on the social network button of your choice below.

ABOUT RJ THESMAN:

RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Eventually, she had to take a break from writing and go to school where she earned an education degree and taught at various levels. Thesman is a Certified Christian Life Coach, a Biblical counselor and a Stephen Minister.

With a variety of communications skills, Thesman is always writing and building more publishing credits to add to her 500+ articles, four books, and 13 anthologies. She teaches writing workshops and enjoys helping beginning writers birth their words. As a writing coach, Thesman loves to help writers find their focus, decide on a writing plan, and move closer to their writing dreams.

Connect with her via her website http://www.rjthesman.net, on Twitter @RJThesman, or on Facebook http:www.facebook.com/RJThesman?fref=ts

ABOUT Intermission for Reverend G:Intermission for Reverend G book cover

Intermission for Reverend G is the second novel in a three-book series. Using humor with a sprinkling of inspiration from the Bible, Intermission for Reverend G continues the story of a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Written in the first person, Reverend G continues to struggle with memory issues, and as the story progresses, more of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s surface. Paranoia, anger, and fear torment Reverend G although she continues to minister to the residents at Cove Creek. Despite her own tragedy, Reverend G finds herself in an intermission between Alzheimer’s stages. She meets a resident who reads the same book over and over, she finds the words to conduct a funeral service and continues to follow Gabriel, her cat, who forecasts death. The story ends with the bittersweet romance of Reverend G and her lifelong friend, Chris.

Reverend G summarizes, “Ever since my diagnosis, names and the faces that belong to them sort of melt together—kind of like the colors in a box of 64, left outside in the Kansas heat. That’s what happens in my brain. Sometimes I forget where names belong. Sometimes I don’t remember if I ate lunch, but I’m still the same old Reverend G.”

Available at CrossRiver or on Amazon.

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Ladies. I will be applying this great advice!

  2. RJ shared lots of practical marketing strategies about the use of blogs, newsletters, speaking engagements, workshops, consistent cover designs, and using social media. The One Sheet was a new concept for me, but I can see its usefulness. Thank you Debra for this excellent blog post.

    • Thanks, Donna. I’m glad you found useful information. That’s the goal of all my posts, and I find it interesting to hear the different ways authors write and promote their work.

    • Donna – I’m so glad you found the post useful. Hope to see your published byline soon!

  3. julielcasey says:

    Great information and advice! Thank you RJ and Debra.

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