About the Episode
In this episode Rachel discusses indie publishing, book marketing strategies, lead magnets, newsletters, and so much more with Christian romance novelist, Tara Grace Ericson.
GET TARA’S NEWEST BOOK, Hostile Intent, a romantic suspense story ✅CLICK HERE 👉 https://amzn.to/40IIgvN
About My Guest
Tara Grace Ericson is a best-selling author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her stories of faith, hope, and happily ever after connect with readers from all walks of life with their memorable characters and uplifting plots. Tara is a stay-at-home mom to her three children and married to her favorite romantic hero of 11 years, her husband.
Tara’s Newest Release
Click for Transcript
Tara: [00:00:00] If you can get somebody on your newsletter, and hopefully you’re not just selling them one $14.99 book, you’re going to sell them multiple $14.99 books over the author career as they become a super fan of yours. they’re your warmest leads, you know, you’re most supportive. I’m a big, big proponent of be good to your newsletter subscribers. Occasionally if I have a, a book coming out, I’ll just be like, Hey, this comes out next week. Here’s your free copy. Or I’ll put a book for free and not tell anybody else, but I’ll give it away to my newsletter.
Rachel: My guest today is Tara Grace Erickson, and I’m so excited to have her. Tara has written. Lovely Sweet Romance. Would you call ’em Sweet Romance or do you call them just clean romance?
I know there’s different term terms right now.
Tara: I I call them Christian romance. Christian romance firmly. Like this is Christian fiction, there’s a lot of Jesus in here. Don’t be [00:01:00] surprised to find it .
Rachel: Okay, well that’s a good clarifying thing. Christian Romance novels and quite a few of them. Right. What number are you up to now?
Tara: I think my 15th full length book came out this week.
Rachel: Amazing. Amazing. Like you have put words down for 15 books! That’s impressive. And so I’m so excited to get to talk to you because you have, um, put this in action. You have been writing words, you have been publishing them, getting them into a hands of a reader, and I think this is going to really give us a chance to talk about that business side of Christian fiction that we kind of all know about, but we don’t really talk about.
I’m excited to get to ask you some questions because you actually made the decision to just self-publish right off the bat. You didn’t go the traditional publishing route, so I think that’s gonna be a really interesting conversation that we’re gonna have today. But before we dive into that, why don’t you just tell us a little bit more about yourself, about who you are, who your family is, what you write, all those things.
Tara: Yeah, so [00:02:00] I am Tara and I live in Missouri with my family. I have three boys and they are ages six, three and 18 months.
Rachel: So Oh, you have littles.
Tara: I have Littles. And yes, so challenges abound. Um, when it comes to that. I have been writing and publishing for about four years. Mm-hmm. , and before that I actually worked as an engineer in the corporate world.
Rachel: Okay. So I read that, I read that on your website and I was like, I need to ask her about this because how does one go from being an engineer to writing Christian romance novels?
Tara: And, um, it’s a very, a windy path and very much a God thing. Um, okay. I resisted for quite a while that I was supposed to write in published books because that was not my plan.
I think, you know, most authors when you ask them this question, how’d you start writing? And when? When did you think about it? And it’s [00:03:00] always, oh, way back when I was a kid. I love to tell stories. Yeah. And I was not that, I’m not,
Rachel: you weren’t that kid. You weren’t Not that kid.
Tara: Oh my goodness. Okay. I never had ambitions to be an author.
I wasn’t one who wrote for fun or anything. I read millions of books. You know, uh, and one day. I was on an airplane and I started writing this book that the story in my head, and it wasn’t until a couple years later that God was like, Hey, remember that book that you kind of have finished? Um, it’s time to, it’s kinda time to pull it out.
And I was like, what? No, I have, oh, that’s, I have you know, world dreams. Yeah. And, uh, God really had to change my view of success and purpose and to redirect me and continues to do so. every day. Yes.
Rachel: So how did you make that deci, like you are a full-time writer, you are no longer in the corporate world, are you?
Right? [00:04:00] Yes. Had you published already before you made that decision or did you just say, Nope, this is the line in the sand? Yeah. What God’s calling me to do, I’m just gonna do it.
Tara: There was, uh, God called us out of my, my current position at work. Um, we relocated. My husband took a new job.
And when, when we did that, I said, , I don’t think that I’m supposed to get a new one. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And we kinda went, ooh. You know, how do you go from two full-time engineering incomes to one and Right. Um, made some, made some tough decisions, but God has been really faithful and blessed us, and I have been able to stay home, uh, even when I wasn’t earning any income right. From my writing. So that has been the biggest, uh, the biggest relief is I don’t. , I don’t have the pressure to earn from my, from my writing. I have been blessed to be able to do so. Mm-hmm. , but I’ve been able to focus on the [00:05:00] writing in that season.
Rachel: Do you approach it like it’s a business or do you approach it like it’s a, this is the thing I do and then I just have to do these things to get it out in the world. Are you like, this is my job, this is what I do and this is how I need to think about it? .
Tara: It’s, it’s very much my job. Um, okay. I think, I mean, I love the writing.
Mm-hmm. , but I do really enjoy the business side of it. And coming from the corporate world, it was sort of this natural transition of, oh, instead of selling this product that I worked to sell as an engineer. Mm-hmm. , now I’m selling my books and so I really love this. Uh, uh, I feel like the writing, especially as an indie author, like it’s a, it’s a business.
Mm-hmm. , it’s an art. And for the Christian, it’s a ministry, and so I think it’s really cool that it can be all three, you know? Mm-hmm. , it doesn’t have, you don’t have to sacrifice the ministry just because it’s also a business and you don’t have to sacrifice the art just because you want to [00:06:00] produce a lot of product or anything like that.
Rachel: Those are wise words. Very wise words. And I love that you brought that up because I think sometimes as writers, once you start throwing out words like, oh, you need to know your reader. You need to know how to market to them. You need to position yourself, you need to build your platform. They start to twitch and they start to go, but it’s supposed to be about the art or it’s supposed to be about Jesus.
And you’re like, well, it can be also about the, the business side and um, let’s, let’s make the money so we get the book in the hands of people so they can hear about Jesus, you know? Yeah.
Tara: I think the marketing aspect of it and the business aspect of it is, how can I get this story into the hands of the most readers possible?
Mm-hmm. , and that’s by selling the most copies possible. Mm-hmm. and presenting it in an attractive package with a great cover and a great story and good editing, and, um, something that they’re gonna enjoy and recommend and you know that it’s going to be. Something that people share.
Rachel: [00:07:00] Yes. And your, your books do that.
They have beautiful covers and your writing is very, very well done. And so, um, and you know, I I , I read on your website, you’re like, I love Hallmark movies and I’m not ashamed of that. And these are the type of books that I write. And I loved that you owned it because I, I’ll be honest, I’m not, those are not technically the books I read. that’s okay. Like I don’t have to be your reader. You’re not trying to reach me. You’re trying to provide a certain story to a certain demographic. And the more you know that, the more you hone in on that, the more you’re able to target them, right, and get your book to them. Yeah. Because then you can find them.
So as you have taken on this role of both writer and entrepreneur, writer and business owner, has that been an easy thing for you to do, um, to kind of think through those things? Like, who’s my reader and how do I get to them and how do I market to them? .
Tara: I [00:08:00] think in some ways for me that has been the easier side than the, than the learning, the writing side.
Rachel: Well, that’s true. You weren’t, you weren’t wanting to be a writer.
Tara: Wasn’t a writer. So not only was I trying to learn the publishing industry and all that went along with that, I was trying to figure out what the heck is a story beat and what is a black moment? And I had no clue. Mm-hmm. , my first book, I just Totally pants.
I had no idea what I was doing. Um, to some extent I still don’t feel like I do . I still am a pantser. Um, we’re a premise writer or however you want to describe it, but, um, the entrepreneurial side of it came easier after I had written a few books and I had kind of the, the shift of, oh, I actually do have enough books to make this work.
You know, I, I see authors doing this with, I think I. Or four books out. And I was like, [00:09:00] I should be, I should be earning a little bit more money than this. Like, they’re not taking off for me. People aren’t finding them. So what do I need to change? And so when I, when I did that and I really dove into the learning, the marketing and the business side of it, you know, everything sort of clicked and, and I was, I could, I could draw those connections of. What I had learned previously in corporate America. Mm-hmm. and what I was learning in, in the book, the book world. Okay. And, and kind of tie those together to make, to make a strategy. Right. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.
Rachel: But that’s business in general, right? Like you have to be willing to try things and I think half, half of our problems are when we give up too.
Like when we’re like, oh, this isn’t working. Cuz I tried it a couple times and it didn’t work and it’s like, well, did you try it the fourth time? Maybe that will time it will actually kick off, you know?
Tara: Yeah. One of my favorite things about being an [00:10:00] indie is that you have that freedom to try again or change something.
I rewrote the endings to my, my whole, my first series, uh, because I wasn’t seeing read through and I said, well, right. Talk to some other authors. And I said, well, if you do this, you might see better read through.
Rachel: Oh, are you. From the E-books? Like does it track the, oh, it tracks the e-books. How far long people go in their books?
Tara: No, no, not, no. From like book one to book two. Oh, okay.
Rachel: Okay. I was wondering.
Tara: Yeah. . Yeah. So I changed the ending to the, to book one so that people were more enticed to go on to book two and, and same for book two to book three. And that was after the books had been out for a year. But because you’re an indie, you can do that, right?
You don’t, if you’re not, if you don’t get caught up in the sentimentality of, but this is my baby and I wrote it this way and I can’t change it. you can, you can really be flexible [00:11:00] and pivot and respond to some of the things that are working or not working.
Rachel: That’s a really interesting point.
I’ve never heard anybody use that point as a pro for self-publishing, that’s a very interesting perspective and I wanna point out that you used the phrase indie publishing or independent publishing. Yes. And I’ve noticed that in with fiction, people call it Independent Publishing, but when you’re in the non-fiction world, they call it self-publishing, but they’re actually the same thing, right?
Yes. Yes. Okay. I just wanna make sure. So when you’re saying indie publishing, you mean self-publishing. You mean utilizing the tools of the trade out there, whether print on demand or eBooks or audiobooks or whatever you might have access to, you’re using all of that to produce a product that you can then put out in the world.
So how did you make that decision that you weren’t even gonna bother with traditional publishing? You’re just gonna be like, not, not interested. Let me just go right to publishing.
Tara: Yeah. So when I [00:12:00] was in college, I was broke and reading any sweet and clean hallmarky romances, right, that I could get for 99 cents and free.
And I discovered a ton of really talented indie authors. And this was in, you know, 2012. Okay, 20, 20 13, something like that. And so I started following a few of these independent authors and seeing what they were. I’m not even sure if I realized at that time that they were independent. You know, I don’t know if I knew that there was a difference, right?
They were just books and they were cheap , and I was poor . So I, uh, as I started writing my book or came, came back to the book that had been sitting on my hard drive for two years and felt like God was telling me I needed to publish this book. Uh, there were some resources that I. Kind of come by in happenstance of [00:13:00] how to indie publish because authors had shared them that I happened to follow, which it’s a whole, it’s I looking back, I can see over and over again God like having his preparing there because I don’t actually subscribe to author email newsletters.
Yeah. But the one author email I actually ended up subscribing to, she ended up having a platform where she worked with writers on publishing stuff. So it. It was an interesting kind of learning journey, but I know some things about myself that lent. towards me not wanting to pursue traditional publishing.
The first being that I’m very impatient
Rachel: and, and you couldn’t wait two years to get your book out there. Exactly. Or two plus years. Right? Like, let’s be honest, two years from contract, not necessarily two years from the time you write your book.
Tara: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And going through the whole querying and trying to find somebody, somebody who wants it, and all of that is not, not something that I wanted to sign [00:14:00] up for.
Right. In any way, shape, or form. I also, I like to make the decisions . And so I really was attracted to the idea of I get to choose, you know, what the cover looks like and what the story is, and if something stays or if something goes mm-hmm. . And, you know, I was able to put some things, some tough topics, especially into my first few books that I felt like were really on my heart.
Mm. There’s no way a publishing house would’ve touched those books. Yes. Just because of the content. And so, um, I’m a very, I say I’m a leap before you look type of person, so I had probably published two or three books before I even realized that there was another option, but looking back, I, I can see that it was 100% the right choice for me at the time.
Rachel: Yeah. And I would assume that coming at it with that corporate background where you kind of [00:15:00] understood sales and marketing, like here’s a product, this is how I’m selling it, that that probably helped a little bit in being okay with the self-publishing side of things like owning it. But I liked what you said, I liked what you said about wanting to like own the decision making process because I think as writers we need to really be aware of that, that, you know, if, if you are that type of personality where you wanna have more ownership over the craft, if you wanna have more ownership over the decision making process of rewriting the ending of your book, if it needs to be right, like taking in market feedback and being able to adjust and, and, um, move.
Your readership and being able to provide a really good product for them. If you want that, then something like an independent publishing is the way to go. Traditional publishing is not gonna meet your need if that is where your personality lies. And so being really honest with yourself and [00:16:00] being okay. And you know, we kind of have this perspective in the Christian publishing world that like having an one of the bigger publishers, especially with fiction, publish your fiction somehow makes it better than if it’s indie published. And I mean, I know you have said on posts and stuff in the past that that’s not true.
And what would I, what would you say to that person who’s saying, well, but yeah, isn. it A little bit better. Like if there’s that gatekeeper person, the agent and the editor, if they have that gatekeeper, it helps with the quality. What would you say to that person?
Tara: I would say that it’s okay to let the reader be the gatekeeper.
Ooh. And if the book is good enough for the reader, then it doesn’t matter if it was good enough for the agent or good enough for the publisher. It’s good enough. And it can be a book that is enjoyed by a hundred [00:17:00] thousand people and still not be the right fit for a publisher or an agent. And it has nothing to do with you or the quality of your work or the story. It just is the timing and the, you know, the genre and whether or not they feel like it’s a good business decision for them in that moment. But, I’m all for letting the readers decide whether it’s a good book or not.
Rachel: Oh my gosh. I got goosebumps when you said that. That is so good. That is gold right there.
I love that. Let the reader be the gatekeeper. I am totally quoting you on that and making a post of it. I love it. I love that so much. And I think that’s, oh, that’s so good. Yeah. So good. And if we all approached it that way. Oh, what we could do for Christian fiction if we all approached it that way.
Tara: Yeah, I, you know, I think I know [00:18:00] about myself that I am the type, and despite my, you know, my wise quotes here, I am the type of person who will seek my validation from people around me. Mm-hmm. . Um, I am the type of person who will want to make a name for myself. You know, I want, I want those things and God has used it Indi publishing kind of to humble me in that way. Mm-hmm. You know, to say, Hey, you’re not gonna walk into a Barnes and Noble and see your book on the shelf, but your book still is important. You know, your, your book, your words still matter.
Rachel: Because it’s about obedience at that point, it’s not about what you produce, it’s about being obedient to the calling that God’s placed on your life, right?
Tara: Yeah. So the validation comes for me from, you know, the readers who message me and say, hey, this book, you know, really, really helped me at a time when I was going through cancer treatment or, you know, somebody in my family died or [00:19:00] whatever. It made me wanna read my Bible more. Like that’s the validation. Like it’s not about seeing my name on a book. Right. Um, on the store shelf or, you know, knowing that I was published by this publisher and they said I was good enough. God has, has been really faithful to validate me in ways that are less grandiose, but in my opinion, more, um, more heartfelt or more mm, more touching to me, I guess.
Rachel: I love that. That’s so, so beautiful.
So you have published this, you just published at the time of this recording, you just released the book on Monday, which congratulations on number 15. Um, that’s a huge accomplishment. Do you, you said you’ve been doing this about four years, so that’s a lot of books in a short amount of time.
Tara: Yeah, I’ve, I’m averaging about four to five a year.
Rachel: Four to five a year. Yeah. You have three littles. [00:20:00] How are you accomplishing that? Because I know every mother who is listening to this podcast is like,
Tara: how the heck are you doing this? Okay. Um, I will say, For the first year or so, I was, I called myself, um, a trophy wife cuz I had my kids in childcare, full day daycare.
And I was writing and not earning any money whatsoever. So there was some, there was some time there where I was a able to, uh, you know, just focus on writing. After that, after I felt God saying, no, this isn’t why I, this isn’t why I called you to writing. God called me to bring my kids home Okay. From daycare in January of 2020. Okay. Right before the pandemic. So he was really gracious to, to allow me to do that willingly instead of whenever, because you had to on me anyway. Yeah. Um, but it’s been.
It’s been a [00:21:00] challenge. It’s been a lot of, you know, sacrifice. It’s been a lot of creativity in when can I sneak a few words in here and there. You know, I dictated one whole book while I was nursing one of my babies, essentially. You know, I had my little recorder on my, on my shoulder and I would just speak the words.
Rachel: That’s amazing.
Tara: It took some. So there’s a learning curve there for sure. Yeah. Um, but a lot of writing on my phone. A lot of late nights, some early mornings, less early mornings, but , um, yeah. So you just do, you do what you have to do. Right. You know, it was, I had stories to tell. I had business goals to work toward and I just did what I could. A lot of support from, uh, a wonderful partner is probably the most underrated thing.
Rachel: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I have, I have one of those too. [00:22:00] Yeah. And it’s, it’s definitely makes a difference when you’re working as a team towards a common goal. You’re outlining writing as a goal that your family’s trying to accomplish together, not just.
Tara: Yes. So there were some, you know, full Saturdays where I was able to, to sneak away or writing a retreat here and there. Mm-hmm. with friends and things like that. Okay.
Rachel: You just mentioned goals, like do you set out a goal for yourself at the beginning of the year, like business goals, quarterly goals? Do you do like goal forecasting like that, or are you kind of like just per book.
Tara: I try to . I have not, you know, I, I love goal setting, I love strategy, I love, you know, looking forward and all of that. Uh, but I have in the last year really struggled to make time to carve out and do that process. I am more productive the months or quarters that I know that I set out, set that time aside.[00:23:00]
Um, so I do like to do it quarterly for sure. Okay. I’m, I do monthly goals are, are good too, but I like the quarterly system just for. Uh, I have a tendency to squirrel a little bit, you know? Mm-hmm. and see the new shiny business thing that people are trying and yeah, and think that I need to go over there and do this right now, where if I set out quarterly goals, it kind of gives me a little bit more laser focus of, okay, right now these are the priorities and if something else comes up, it can wait until next quarter.
If it’s important, it’ll still be there next quarter. That’s true, and that has been helpful.
Rachel: So walk us through, once you get the idea for a. . Okay. Maybe not an idea for a book, cuz I’m sure you have like a notebook full of ideas, don’t you? Yes. Okay. So once you get like, okay, I’m going to write this book , this story is gonna get into the hands of my readers, right?
What is the timeline that you go through, like from that start to when it’s actually published [00:24:00] and what’s kind of the marketing that you do along the way with that? Okay,
Tara: so I always plan my series as a whole. So, uh, I always know kind of where. Where the book is going and where it fits in the series, which helps a lot.
Um, it also helps for the marketing. Mm-hmm. . Um, I think that that reader expectation of, oh, this is book one. I already know that there’s gonna be more afterwards. That’s true. So I tend, I write shorter books. Mm-hmm. , I should, I should put that out there as a disclaimer to everyone who’s like 15 books. Um, my,
Rachel: how many words does your books end up being?
Tara: Yeah. Typically 45 to 60,000,
Rachel: I would say. Okay, so you’re on par with a normal, like a nonfiction trade book. . Yeah.
Tara: Yeah. They’re shorter than trade romances. Right?
Rachel: Because those are more in like the 80,000,
Tara: right? [00:25:00] Right. Okay. Yes. And if you write in another fiction genre like fantasy or, oh my gosh, those are like no long thrillers or anything.
Um, they’re much, much longer. So I should, I should always caveat my 15 books with like, Hey, but they’re short .
Rachel: But they’re still, you’re still telling a story and you still have those words on the page, like, don’t sell yourself short.
Tara: Um, so I try to plan out my production schedule for the year at the beginning of the year.
It always changes, um, especially this year. I had some major burnout in the spring and pushed back some releases, but, um, try to plan out realistically how much I can write in a day or when I have a designated writing day. . And then so how long it’ll take me to write the book. So right now, um, I actually have four mornings a week dedicated to writing.
Okay. So I have a good decent chunk of time, four mornings a week to write, which means I can write about 10,000 words in a week. Pretty, pretty [00:26:00] comfortably, right? And so then it takes five or six weeks to write the first draft, a few weeks to edit it, self-edit. I have a, uh, content edit done, and then I’ll make those changes.
That doesn’t, it doesn’t really take very long to do that. Um, a week or two, and then I’ll send it out for a copy edit, and probably when I send it out for a copy edit, it’s going to release within the next month or so.
Rachel: Okay, so you don’t use beta readers.
Tara: I don’t use very many. Okay. And sometimes it will depend on the book if I’m feeling a little bit more hesitant about it.
Mm-hmm. or asking for specific feedback, I’ll send it to you, just a very few. Okay. trusted people. Um, my content edit is the biggest one. And, um, that’s, it is probably closer to just a really deep beta read. Okay. From somebody who knows what they’re talking about. . Mm-hmm. . [00:27:00]
Rachel: Yeah. And,
Tara: um, and then the other ones are just a couple of author friends who you know,
Rachel: and I would think that by this point you pretty much know what your readers expect from you. And so you need more of that content edit support, like making sure you’ve done this well, of telling the story versus like meeting the, um, the reader need of like, oh, does this story intrigue you? Is it confusing? Is it right? Right. You don’t really need that. You need more of like, Hey, am I, am I being consistent in his eye color?
yes. Am I being consistent with, you know, the overarching story?.
Tara: it’s, for me, it’s a lot of, I do forget to mention physical characteristics at all. Every time one of my, one of my beta readers, she’ll always be like, I don’t know what they look like yet. It’s chapter five. I have no, I have no visual. since when I’m writing I have no, I can’t see it at all.
I can’t see when I read it. [00:28:00] What? Yeah, so
Rachel: I, that is interesting, it’s like mind blowing to me. Cause like, that’s how I, like for me, when I write, it’s an image that I’m capturing. No, mine is, mine is just words and story, which when you were talking about that you like talked into your recorder. I was like, that would never happen for me.
I cannot do that like, but I can see that if you’re more of that mind of like, you’re not necessarily like seen an image that you’re capturing on the page, you’re more of just like, Are you hearing the story or is it just like an intuitive thing that, you
Tara: know? I, I don’t know. I just know that I always forget to include physical description of places.
Okay. And people, and so one of my beta reader’s like only job is to be like, Hey, you forgot to tell me this and I’ll just go back and Interesting. So it’s figure it out. But
Rachel: so it goes to the copy editor?
Tara: Yes. About a month before publication, it goes to the copy editor. Okay. Um, she’s really fast. [00:29:00] Um, she gets it back in about a week and I go through and approve her changes and all of the commas that she added or took away.
Um, and then I format it and I send it to advanced readers and, uh, uploaded to Amazon. Do
Rachel: you use just like the KDP mm-hmm. formatting tool?
Tara: No, I format in Vellum. Vellum. Okay. Yes. And it’s wonderful. I, I love it. I formatted my first several books in Word.
Rachel: Oh my gosh. Oh, you poor thing.
Tara: It was awful. So, um, Vellum was a much. Like the investment. Yes. And I don’t even have a Mac. I have to use like the virtual Mac and all that. Oh, that’s so funny. It’s a little tech headache, but it’s so, it’s so worth it. So
Rachel: I’m gonna have to look at that anyway cause I haven’t invested in that yet.
Tara: But this in December of 2022, I have a book coming out.
I wrote it starting October [00:30:00] 2nd and I finished, I sent it to the copy editor November eighth or 10th or something like that. Um, it’s a short, it’s a novella, so it’s only 40,000 words, but Okay. Five weeks from draft start to copy edit.
Rachel: That’s amazing. Um, yes. But I think that just shows you the power of like, the power of indie publishing in that, like your fast turnaround, like you can create a product. So when you’re talking about it from a business standpoint, the more products you have out there, the more revenue streams you have, right? Yeah. And so the more you like, of course you wanna be marketing each of those. And I, and we can get in that in a second.
I don’t wanna miss out on that, but when you have. Products, you have more options to mess around with. Like you’re talking, like you, when you are planning it out as a series and your reader knows that you’re [00:31:00] gonna deliver that series pretty quickly. Then it’s the likelihood that they’re gonna be buying that series quickly is higher.
The fact that you can market it a certain way, the fact that you can tease interest, like you’re just doing yourself a favor. Mm-hmm. by having the ability to create products quickly. I mean, yeah. No business could survive. if they were publishing or like, not publishing, but like if a, if a business put out a product once every two years, they would go under.
You know what I mean? Right. But yet we expect that of writers, Hey, publish a book once every two years. Like that’s a lot to have somebody to do. Um, which is why people have a hard time like eating. Getting us, you know, a, a solid source of income as a writer is very hard to do because you’re not publishing frequent.
Tara: Yeah. The other side of it, I think, is, um, you become more efficient through iteration of the process. That’s true. So, you know, my [00:32:00] first book took two years to draft, right? Mm-hmm. , my second book took six months. You know, my third book took three months. Okay. Now, like, you see, you, the more you do something, the the more efficient you become at doing that same thing over, over.
Rachel: you feel that you approached your later books differently and more efficiently because you knew that they would have a return on your investment of time?
Tara: I think so. I mean, I, when I first started writing, it was very, you know, very casual. Like, I don’t have any wifi on this plane. I’m. You know, open up this document and, and see where it goes. Uh, and now it’s okay, you know, I need to finish this. I’ve got a target word count, you know, I’ve got the story in mind.
Somebody’s waiting for it, you know? Mm-hmm. , I am a big fan of pre-orders on my books. , um, because I like to see that readers are excited about getting my next story. Mm-hmm. [00:33:00] and I, I like to see them, you know, comment on the social media post and say, I’m looking forward to this one. Or right. Those emails that say, oh, when is the sequel come out?
And that’s encouraging and motivating for me to know. Yeah. And, and I also think that as I, as I go through the process of writing a book, I tend to, I get to know myself and where I struggle cuz I always know I’m gonna hit like 55 or 60% of the way through the book. Mm-hmm. and feel like this is the worst thing I’ve ever written.
Yeah. It’s horrible. I can just like trash it and start over. Um, but it’s so predictable that I get to that point and I have to go. Nope. You just power through and you’ll fix it later. And. and that has been a very consistent theme. And I know, and not every writer is at that point, but some writers are different places or I’ve tried, you know, plotting out scene by scene.
I’ve tried [00:34:00] plotting out the overall beats I’ve tried, right? No, no plot whatsoever. You know? Um, and it’s fun to try new techniques and see what works. Um, just trying to make my system better.
Rachel: So after you, like, you get to that point where it’s gonna be published, like how far in advance do you start marketing it?
Tara: Hmm. I mm-hmm. I’m probably marketing books that won’t come out for another six months right now.
Rachel: So early and often.
Tara: Well, yes, because I think of marketing is not just sharing about the book. Mm-hmm. , the process of marketing is deciding which book to write, you know, deciding on the cover, deciding, you know, all of those are marketing decisions.
Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, I have two books up for pre-order right now. One is. March of 2023 and one is for, um, July or August. I gave myself a [00:35:00] long, long time
in right. Say that again? March, 2023. In July, 2023. And they’re already out for pre-order? Yes. So what are, okay, so talk us through this, . So you, you don’t have a book up, right?
It’s just like a cover and a premise. Mm-hmm. . And have you written those books? No. No. Wow.
Okay. The only thing I’ve written on those books is the blurb.
Rachel: Okay. Mm-hmm. , this is interesting. So you’re approaching it a lot like, um, business coaches kind of in the business world, in the online entrepreneur space, when people are launching a product, they start talking about and they pre-sell.
Yeah. Hype it up to hype it up. Mm-hmm. , and then they, as they’re pre-selling, they’re developing the product. Mm-hmm. . . And I would assume that that gives you collateral, not collateral. Is that the word I’m looking for? It gives you the [00:36:00] financing to put into the book for development of cover and all that stuff, right?
Not, no, because you’re not really don’t, you don’t get the money until it sells. It Get paid until the register. That’s true. Yeah.
Tara: But you can see that the money will be there, right. Cuz you can see the number
Rachel: of That’s true. It kind of gives you that, um, it validates your product idea and then it. , yeah. You know, gives you an incentive to actually complete the book.
Tara: Yes. I have talked to authors who will put up pre-orders for two different books and two different, you know, blurbs and they’ll decide which one to write first based on which one gets the most pre-orders, because clearly people are more excited about this.
Rachel: Right. No, that makes sense.
Tara: So I was like, interesting. I have never done that, but I see the, the validity of the approach.
Rachel: Okay. Well that’s interesting. That really does make sense that you would do it that way. Yeah.
Tara: The other fun thing about having the book available to talk about and you know, people know it’s coming [00:37:00] while I’m still in the process of creating it, is for people that are kind of in my, you know, my reader circle.
I can get their input, you know? Mm-hmm. , Hey, I’m looking, I just, the one I is releasing in December, um, she goes on a bunch of blind dates. Okay. And so I was asking in my reader group, I need your worst blind date story, right, . Yeah. Give them, and it was so funny. Give ’em to me. Yeah. Yeah. It was so funny. And you know, some of them made it into the story and um, it was just really fun to write.
Rachel: That is nice. So wait, what’s this reader group that you have? Is this like a, a private Facebook group? Is it a newsletter.
Tara: It’s a Facebook group for. You know people, it’s called Tara’s book Nook, and it’s, you know, just people who have read my books and like to come hang out with me in a little bit more casual setting.
Rachel: So do you show up in there pretty frequently?
Tara: I try to, yeah. That’s okay. If I’ve got something to, something fun to share or I’ll share a little bit about, you know, my kids and what we’re up to and you know, funny pictures of me like writing in the [00:38:00] car, waiting for the pickup line at preschool.
Rachel: Oh, that’s fun. Okay. That’s cool. I’ve never. I haven’t really heard about an author doing that for just like a select few. I mean, not select few, but essentially that becomes like an insider. Insider. Yeah. It’s like an insider circle. Yeah. Yeah. That’s cool. So what other marketing things do you do along the way Before, before or during the launch of your book?
Tara: Um, the biggest thing is sharing it with my newsletter and other, you know, other authors sharing it with theirs.
Rachel: Do you have a large number of subscribers to your newsletter?
Tara: I have, uh, just under 5,000 subscribers. I think that’s,
Rachel: that’s really a good decent size.
Tara: Um, my newsletter. is my number one marketing tool. Uh, I, I’m very passionate about authors having a newsletter.
Rachel: So let’s dig into this a little bit right now because this is like the number one thing that when I talk to other fiction writers, they’re like, I just don’t know what to, [00:39:00] like, how to get people on my email list.
This is so hard. And so I noticed that you give away. two books and an audio book, or at least you do right now. Yes. When I joined your email list, that’s what he came to me. Yeah. I was like, man, that’s really generous.
Tara: They’re not, they’re not full-length books. Okay. They’re, yeah. Well, they’re stories. One of them is only 9,000 words, and one of them is only 12,000 words
Rachel: that Like a short story?
Tara: Yeah. They’re short story, novelette, whatever you wanna call it.
Novelette. Okay. That’s a, there you go. That’s a marketing word you can use.
Yeah. But I, I’m very upfront, like this is a full story story with the happily ever after. It’s short.
Mm-hmm. , but like you’re not gonna be left on a cliff cliffhanger cuz that’s what everybody’s scared of when they get a prequel or something is
Rachel: Well, I hear people say like, oh, give them the first chapter or give ’em and not like, so I actually like that they’re short because this is the thing when people are like, [00:40:00] well I should write this novella and give that away for free.
And I’m like, oh my gosh, you’re giving away so much time. Your time.
Tara: It’ll still be worth it. It would be worth it.
Rachel: I suppose, but like when you’re talking about, wait, well, okay, let’s, in the marketing online space, they talk about an email is worth like $3, three or $5, right? And then you’re supposed to give 10 times the value.
So we’re talking like a $30 product, which I guess makes sense. But when you’re end product. You’re selling for like $14.99. You know what I mean? Like you’re like, okay, where are we? Like where does this all balance out in the long run? So that’s where I struggle sometimes with the like whole magnet thing.
Tara: Yeah. But if you can get somebody on your newsletter, And hopefully you’re not just selling them one $14.99 book. You’re going to sell them multiple $14.99 books over the author career as they become a super fan of yours because they’re That’s true. That’s true. Uh, they’re your warmest leads, you know, you’re most supportive.
Um, I’m a big, [00:41:00] big proponent. of Be good to your newsletter subscribers. Yes. Um, I will. I agree. Occasionally if I have a, a book coming out, I’ll just be like, Hey, this comes out next week. Here’s your free copy, like .
Okay. Um, I’ve done that a time or two just for, just as a thank you, like mm-hmm. or I’ll put a book for free and not tell anybody else, but I’ll give it away to my newsletter.
Rachel: So do you, so before you had the book that you could do that with be, when you were first starting out, what did you do for your lead magnet reader magnet? What did you do?
Tara: I didn’t have one for my first two books. I didn’t have a, I think I had a newsletter sign, like sign up. Mm-hmm. in the back of my books.
Um, but pretty quickly I was like, this isn’t, this isn’t working. Mm-hmm. And so I wrote, I wrote a novella. It’s not a, it’s not one of my magnets right now. , but it was like a book two and a half in my series. Okay. Um, some of the stuff happened concurrently in, within the book that was booked two, and I [00:42:00] gave that I, that became my reader magnet for a long time.
It’s about 25,000 words, so it was a bigger investment. I hit publish on that the morning I went into labor with one of my children. It’s like
done. I’m done .
Rachel: I can go, I can go have the baby now I have, I got this one done over here.
Tara: I got it formatted and I put it up on book funnel and I went into labor.
You said book funnel, right? Yes. Yes. So that’s, um, that’s a tool that fiction writers can use mm-hmm to deliver a ebook. So it’s not like just the PDF file. Right. Okay.
Correct. But the most powerful part of Book Funnel is actually the ways that you can use it to collaborate with other authors.
Oh, okay. And so, um, what authors will do on there is they’ll all pool all of their newsletter magnets onto one landing page and everybody will send it out to their newsletter. So you’ll get 15 authors, they’ll send to their [00:43:00] newsletters, and you’ll have a landing page with all the magnets and their readers can look and download all of the ones that they want and sign up for all of these other newsletters.
Okay. So I grew my list from, I think I probably had like 15 people on it um, to
your, your, your mom and your aunt, right?
Yes, 100%. Um, and very quickly it was 500 people. Okay? 700 people. And so once you had. People on your list that you didn’t know. In real life, it was much more fun to send a newsletter mm-hmm.
and to like, oh, this isn’t just for, you know, these 10 people. You know, not that I don’t love those 10 people, but it, it did. it definitely made, made it a little bit more of a priority. Um, you could see the opportunity of, oh, if even if only half of these 500 people would open my email with my book in it, like, oh, maybe 5% of them will click it.
You know, there’s Right, [00:44:00] there’s power there that you don’t see other places in the marketing world. Yeah. That’s really interesting. My number one advice for almost any new author is create a newsletter magnet. Set up a newsletter and, and go get some subscribers.
Rachel: Okay. And so would you, you suggest the novelette or novella, what other leader magnets would you do you suggest?
Tara: I think it, it’s very dependent on genre. Okay. I think, um, you know, non-fiction, there’s tons of options. Yeah. Um, for articles and lists mm-hmm. and principles and, you know, all sorts of, all sorts of those things. Right. Um, in the in the fiction world, um, even flash fiction, like can, can be a suitable right lead read ma reader magnet.
Um, but a short story is great. Uh, I, I think a short story is probably a little bit better than flash fiction just because they get a taste of like, can they tell a story? Yeah. Versus [00:45:00] one scene. um, a full book is 100% the best. Like, okay, conversion.
Rachel: You, I will say you have changed my mind on that cuz I was like, why would you give away something like that?
But if you’re thinking long term, so if you’re being intentional about it and like, I’m gonna have more than one book coming out, this is long term investment into my readership, then I can see it being very be.
Tara: The most successful author friend that I have, actually used her first full length book as a reader magnet before it released.
Used her second full length book as a reader magnet before it released and still released them and still had great sales and really launched a really successful career. And she had a newsletter list of like 2,500 people because she gave away books one and two of her series. Yeah. They exchange for their email address right off the top.
And I was looking at that, uh, you know, like, this doesn’t make sense, but yet it does. Yes, it makes sense.
Rachel: Yeah, I know [00:46:00] exactly, exactly. . Okay, so we only have a little bit of time left and so I wanna make sure there’s, I mean, I could like just keep, you know, asking you questions. We can come back again. Yeah, we might have to, we might have to do another, we’ll do one all on newsletters.
Yes, yes, for sure.
Two questions, two final questions. One is, what marketing. business strategy or whatever you wanna call it. What do you wish you had known when you first started that you know now? And then two, what piece of advice do you, would you give to somebody who wants to be a fiction writer and who wants to go the, like the indie publishing route?
Yeah, okay. If those aren’t too difficult, get it through the, like, the really deep ones that you’re right at the very end.
Tara: You’ve got three minutes and go. Alright. Okay. Uh, number one piece. or what I wish I had known. Mm-hmm. Right. That’s the first one. I, I wish I had been willing [00:47:00] to spend money on my books sooner.
Mm-hmm. Okay. I really. What do you call it? Book strapped. I bootstrapped my first several releases. You know, I didn’t pay for covers. I made ’em myself. I didn’t pay for editing and had, you know, my mom proof, freedom.
Yep. And formatted them myself in Word. And you know, made lots of technical mistakes. And so I feel like I it set me behind because I ended up, you know, maybe not launching quite as strong or there were readers who tried me when I was really new and it wasn’t a great experience with them. And so while I love my look bef leap before you look mentality, I, I wish I had waited a little while and learned some things and spent the money to do it right the first time.
Mm-hmm. So I have since gone back and professionally edit all of those and paid for new [00:48:00] covers and rewritten a bunch of things, but, uh, I wish I hadn’t had to do that . Right, right.
Rachel: So you wish you had taken the time to see it as a business investment that you’re going to get your money back on eventually.
Tara: Yeah. Yeah. And it wasn’t, it really wasn’t until about a year in, I really felt like God was being, was telling me, no, be bold. Be bold. And so I, you know, I was ner I didn’t wanna pay money to run a sale or anything like that. And so when I kept getting that message, I was like, okay, okay. So I spent money on, you know, give spent money to give books away for 99 cents.
Mm-hmm. , and you know, and that was when things really started to. Kind of take the upward trajectory and, and I, so I wish I would’ve done that sooner.
Rachel: Right. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Mm-hmm. . And then what advice do you have for somebody who wants to be a fiction writer?
Tara: I would say be [00:49:00] patient because you can do everything right and it can still take time to build up a following and find your audience, uh, and.
and have enough books to be able to do some of the things that are powerful marketing wise in the indie world. Um, there are things that you, that aren’t as effective until you have more books out. Mm-hmm. . And so I would say be patient and keep writing. Be patient, keep writing.
Rachel: That’s good. That’s good.
Well, Tara, I loved this conversation so much. I wish we could just keep chatting, but we both need to go to bed so we can get up and go write tomorrow, right? So, um, can you please let us know where to find your newest release and all the other things, um, so we can make sure we can go and support you in the work that you’re doing.
Tara: Thank you. Yes. I’m on Facebook and Instagram at Tara Ericson, [00:50:00] author, and you can find my website, taragraceericson.com. And I also have a prayers for Writer’s book coming out that will cover Oh, that’s so cool. Um, craft and business and different seasons of writing. Um, more of a devotional prayer journal style that I’m really excited about. So that’ll be up on my socials as well when it’s available.
Rachel: Awesome. And we can, can. Can they buy your books on your website or do they need to go to like on Amazon? On Amazon. Okay. Amazon’s a big one, but if they go to your website, they can get to the books too, right? Yes. Okay. And um, so once again, congratulations on the release and what was the book that released this week?
Tara: Hostile intent. It’s a romantic suspense.
Rachel: Ooh, that was something else I wanted to ask you about cuz you, like, you have written in a couple, like they’re Christian romance, but they’re like more on the like small town field type. And then now you have this like
Tara: [00:51:00] Yeah, the suspense is new. Suspense. Suspense is new. Really, really fun, uh, to, to branch out and give myself a little bit of a, you know, exciting challenge.
Rachel: Yeah. Well, that’s so cool. I I love that. I love that you aren’t necessarily pigeoning holing in yourself into one specific aspect of, um, Christian romance. So I love that. Uh, well, maybe you’ll have to talk about that on another episode too.
I love it so much. All right. Well thank you once again for being here and sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. It has been so enlightening. I know I have learned some new things. Um, I know those who are listening will have learned some new things as well and will be encouraged to continue to think about this as a business and think strategically and with that investment mindset.
So I really do appreciate our conversation.
Thank you so much for having me.
You’re welcome. And for those of you who are listening, make sure you come back next week as we continue this conversation on [00:52:00] the business of Christian fiction. Bye.
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
You can learn more about how I’m in your corner here.
And you can learn more about my personal journey here.
One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.