Karyn Almendarez – Reaching Amazon Best Seller Status

Best selling author Karyn AlmendarezI’m trying something new today: a recorded interview with Amazon best seller Karyn Almendarez. We’ll be talking about her book, Tragedy’s Treasures: A Mom’s Journey Through Grief and what Karyn did to reach the Amazon #1 best seller spot for her book.

You can view the video or read the post that follows. The post is not a verbatim transcript, but the highlights of our interview.

Karyn Almendarez is a second-grade teacher, writer, and blogger. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Albert. When she is not teaching or writing, she enjoys visiting her daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren in Texas. She also enjoys snow skiing and hiking.

Interview highlights:

Me: Please give us a brief description of the book and what prompted you to write it.

Karyn: Tragedy’s Treasures: A Mom’s Journey Through Grief is the story of 12 faith-based treasures I experienced before, during, and after the death of my 16-year-old son, Bart, in an early morning car accident.

At the time, I was teaching was a Bible class, and I thought, I just can’t…this is too painful, I can’t keep working. Two weeks later I said, “Oookaaay, God, I know You want me to go back,” so I went back. In the years that followed, I would tell my students what I called “Bart stories.” They were things that were just so obvious God was giving me comfort or letting me know Bart was where he was supposed to be. They encouraged me to write a book.

Fast forward, I had a lot of life changes … divorced, remarried, moved to Colorado…I mean how can you get any more drastic than that, right?

I knew I wanted to write a book, but I still didn’t know what kind. On a horseback ride on vacation with my husband, it was just the three of us; it was Albert and I and the guide. The guide was young and the whole time he was kind of telling me about his family, some struggles, and relationships. He really opened up to me, and I started talking to him.

By the time that two-and-half-hour ride was over I had the name of the book, and that each chapter was going to be a treasure. So when the ride was over we went back to the resort, and I starting dumping everything that was in my brain. By the time that was over I even knew the names of the chapters and what each treasure was… the sequencing of it all. I mean it was a very eerie experience… and scary because then I knew I had to write the book.

Me: It’s so awesome when I hear stories about how God has communicated to other authors. I got goosebumps listening to how he gave you all of that. And I can’t imagine after two weeks going back to work. I know with myself when everything happened in my life and discovering my husband had been sexually abusing my daughter, I was devastated.

When I started to write my book, I found that in relating the story I relived some of that pain. Did you experience any of that while you were writing Tragedy’s Treasures?

Karyn: Yes, about a hundred… thousand percent [laughing]. It took six years to write the book. A friend kept telling me when God wants it finished, it’ll be finished. But it was painful and not just the part about Bart, but this book starts kind of in my youth and it tells why teaching became so important and then how God used teaching to have me in the right place when Bart died. You can’t pick and choose what you want to write. It’s an evolution of God’s grace. And I stopped and started so many times because it was too painful.

Me: God gave you time for greater healing. One important aspect when we write a book about our own painful experiences is that we have to be fully healed from it or there’s bitterness that’s cropped up or other things and those negative things can end up coming through in the book.

One of the things I would really like to touch on today is how you successfully got your book to Amazon #1 best seller. I’d like to start with how you began your writing, what was the writing process?

Karyn: I’ve touched on how it began, just scribbled notes, and typed notes and I have files everywhere! One of my biggest challenges was that I would write a paragraph and stop and want it to be perfect and so I’d try to edit it right then and there. Baaaad mistake because it completely stops and starts the flow of what you’re trying to get on paper and the feelings and the emotions. Then I had to go back and put more of the feelings and emotions into it. But that was pretty much process.

I joined a local writers group and worked with them for a while. They said your writing needs more emotion in it. And I think if I quit stopping and starting and trying to make it perfect, it would have had that. So one piece of advice I’d give a writer is just dump it. Just dump it and edit it later.

Me: Was there anything in particular you learned as you got started?

Karyn: Oh, tons, tons and tons. It’s a lifetime learning course to write a book. It really is…almost, squeezed into six years or twelve years or however many years you write. But right off the bat I learned I needed other people, their help. I’m an introvert. I don’t like asking for help. But I learned I needed a plan from point A to point Z of what to do when and what not to worry about.

I bought writing courses and once you buy one you start getting emails, thousands and thousands of people that want you to buy theirs. I’d suggest you find one, read about it, maybe even talk to people that have taken that course and get their recommendations and then do it start to finish. I bought so many online courses and some of them still sit there half finished. One I would highly recommend is Shelley Hitz’s Christian Book Academy [affiliate link]. It guides you through step by step, what you need to do to be successful.

The first day your book goes for sale on Amazon, the more people that buy in a small amount of time the greater chances you have of becoming #1 in a category. You have to know how to pick the right categories, then you learn about keywords, it’s just impossible if you don’t have a mentor or a great online class with a support group. So I would definitely suggest investing in a course, and maybe Scrivener. But don’t just hop in and buy everything.

Me: I’ve made that same mistake in buying courses and never finishing them. When you talk about that short amount of time are you talking about a 24-hour period?

Karyn: A 24-hour period. Actually I think it goes maybe for two weeks, but the crucial part is the first 24 to 48 hours. Your rankings pretty much stay there for 30 days and then after that new authors’ books move in.

It’s so important to not only just write, but to start a website, to start blogging, to start an email list. I knew so many people in Ft. Worth that knew Bart and that was my core, my supporters. And then people here where I live, and my daughter and my 4 grandchildren and her husband live in Beaumont, Texas. And she knows a lot of people there and a lot of college friends. You just start kind of gathering your tribe from everybody that’s important to you. And then you have to know how to let them know. That’s where a friend of mine, Laura Cole Gonzalez, helped me so much with all the social media ins and outs, how to get Amazon #1; she even showed me how to make an author page on Facebook and more.

Me: So you had this core group of people, a support team. What did they do to help you reach this level?

Karyn: It was Laura’s communication with them. She helped me form this Facebook author group and she was also able to post things there. So as the launch got close, she sent them messages through FB on what to do next. Text this, Twitter, FB, put it out on social media, send this to your friends to buy the book today. And that’s what pushed it to #1 on Amazon in its category.

Me: Every book has its category, its own genre. Even the best seller lists in the New York Times, they’re broken out by genre. That your book made #1 in its category is still saying something, very much so. Laura actually provided the text so they didn’t have to come up with what to say?

Karyn: Exactly, she provided the framework, the steps, do this, do this, do this, and I had other core people. They’re like pebbles in the pond. They would send this email, FB message to their friends, and then they would send it to all their friends. Not all those people bought the book, but it sure does help when you’re nearing your launch day.

Me: You only have so many friends on FB and in your email list, but each of those people have a number of friends that they know. That exponentially increased that reach.

A lot of authors fail to understand we can leverage our fan base. Fans really do want to help promote your book; they like to feel that “hey, I’m a part of this person’s success.” It’s like seeing a movie you absolutely love. You don’t keep quiet about it. You’re telling your friends you gotta go see this movie.

Karyn: Exactly.

Me: But what I think is hard to learn, is creating those tweets or those FB posts, those things you can send out for them to share. Tim Grahl’s Book Launch Blueprint has a full chapter about how to do that, to share the graphics, how to make those available. Making that as easy as possible with your friends and your fans to get the word out.

How did you feel as you watched those numbers go up and it hit #1?

Karyn: I pretty much just cried all day out of joy. I took that day off from teaching, because I knew there was no way I could teach. It was constant watching and communicating with all my friends and family. Actually Laura did a live interview with me just like you’re doing today. It was a steam roller day, but once the snowball started really small that morning when I got up, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. It was exciting and I’m grateful. When we write books, we market our own books. Now it’s my job to make sure people know about the book. You have to get the message out. That’s what I’m working on now.

Me: Tragedy’s Treasures launched last year, so is there anything new you’re working on now?

Karyn: I’m working on blogging consistently, and building my email list. I want to build that so when I do start on a new book I can ask for their input and make them feel like they’re involved in that process. I want to do a companion journal to go with the book.

Me: Thanks for being here with us today. If people want to find you online where can they go?

Karyn: OpenYourTreasures@gmail.com My website: OpenYourTreasures.com or KarynAlmendarez.com

Tragedy's Treasures book coverIf I may say, Tragedy’s Treasures is not just for parents who have lost children. One part of the book tells what helped me as far as what people did or what they said and what was not helpful. People have commented that really helps them know how to relate to people who’ve had a tragic loss. Her book is available at Amazon.

Thank you, readers and listeners for being here today. Let me know whether you enjoyed today’s format or not. I may do more in the future if you’ve liked this.

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