Sandra Carrington-Smith has jumped into the big time. Her novel The Book of Obeah has become one of those once in a lifetime bestsellers that has jumped into the world of the movies. Since Obeah she has written a string of hit books each with its own golden sales halo. I have been waiting for a long time to do this interview. It’s one of those wonderful experiences that allows me to pick the brains of someone who has made it to the very top of their profession. Has success changed Sandra? No.. I think she is still committed to helping every single newbie writer make it to the bestsellers list, too. Let’s go check out what actually happened when I met her…
Q) Great to talk to you, Sandra! Let me start by asking how it feels to be a ‘bestselling’ writer?
A) It feels like a reward at the end of a long journey. It is really hard for a writer to break through — you want to yell at the whole world that you exist, and maybe it should give you a chance. And then, one day, it finally happens.
Q) Your rise to the top has been startling and well deserved. Do you think self-publishing has made it harder to get noticed or do you think the great books shine out more amongst lesser neighbours?
A) I think self-publishing is the way of the future; and in fact, I think it is easier for authors to spread word of their work that way, without the limitations imposed by publishers. There are a lot of tools authors can take advantage of, and if one does the appropriate homework and learns how to use those tools, the sky is the limit.
Q) I guess some of the tools available are social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Many writers I have spoken to have told me that frequent use of social media doesn’t sell many books. How do you feel about that?
A) The trick is to use those tools appropriately. Many people think they can just go on Facebook and Twitter to post about their books, but if they do so, the people they connect with come to see them as spammers. Social networks are wonderful tools to spread the word, but they need to be used indirectly. If you go online and interact with people on a personal level — comment and take an interest in what is going on with them — those very same people are usually happy to share your posts. The upside of it is that you also get to make many new friends. Social networks are just that — social networks. They help you connect with people. Another great thing they are good for is to share other sites such as personal blogs, links and groups that can be of common interest.
Q) I can totally agree with you there. If you don’t spam and you make a connection– it can be a golden resource. Okay, changing the subject– Let me ask you about your writing technique. What works best for you? Are you a morning writer? An evening writer? Do you like to write with music or in silence? How do you get into that groove?
A) I am a nocturnal writer, for the most part. I write during the day, a little, also, but the bulk of my work is produced at night, when everyone is asleep and there are very few distractions. I write in silence, although, if the weather permits, I like to open the window to listen to natural sounds.
Q) Do you find writing has become easier or has it become harder now you have a following? Do you have to write to please your fans?
A) Knowing that there are people out there who are waiting for more books is more of an incentive than it is pressure. Inspiration can’t really be forced, so I don’t set up timelines for the release of future books, but I try to create goals for myself. This year, my plan is to release two more books. I’d better start writing!
Q) I discovered your writing through one of my favourite guys in this world– Ed Powers– he raved to me about your work. Do you think word of mouth is one of the most important promotion tools out there?
A) Absolutely! My work began to spread by word of mouth when I was an active blogger. I blogged daily, and the people who followed my writing got curious about my upcoming first book. When it released, many of them bought a copy and told their friends and family about it. That’s how it all started. Statistics show that word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools still available. A single negative or positive comment can be shared with ten people, and then, if each of those people shares it with ten more, you have, that comment can reach 100 people in no time at all.
Q) You have to work at it though, right? It’s a case of adding new content and building your viewing figures? Like everything else it takes time and energy… Many writers tell me that they don’t have time for a blog. What would your advice be to them?
A) The harsh reality is that if a writer doesn’t have time for marketing and interactions, then, maybe, he/she should think of changing jobs. Even if an author is traditionally published, he is responsible for 90-95% of his own marketing. The willingness to establish a platform is the first requirement to be traditionally published. Agents and publishers won’t even look at someone who’s not committed 100%.
Q) It’s certainly a myth that publisher will do all the marketing for you then! Now, I’ve been told that your big hit book is being made into a movie! How does that feel? A MOVIE! Every writer’s dream!
A) It is a surreal feeling, and, in all honesty, I am still pinching myself. I never even hoped such a crazy outcome in my wildest dreams. Well, maybe in my wildest dreams I did, but I never believed it would turn into reality.
Q) Well, good things come to those who work hard and dream! You mentioned two books earlier– can you tell me more about them? How are they going? Do you think these two will be your best yet?
A) Ahhhhhh…that’s hard to tell. One of them is going to be the third book in the Crossroads Series, the other one another Tom Lackey Mystery. Both series have been received well, so I hope to meet readers’ expectations again.
Q) You know many top flight writers have ego problems– they don’t want to mix with younger writers or the newbies– how do you feel about that?
A) I think those writers need to step off their pedestals and remember who they used to be. There was a time when ALL big writers were newbies and needed the support and advice of more established writers. It would be nice for them to remember those days and pay it forward.
Q) That’s so refreshing to hear! If you could go back and change anything about your books– what would it be? Is there anything you look back on and think, “Oh man, if I had only…”?
A) Every day! I think that, deep down, every writer is a bit of a perfectionist and prone to changing things a little at every reading. No matter how many times I have read my own work — and how many times I have changed it — I will always find things I wish I had written differently. At some point, you just have to let it go and know that it is perfect in its own unique way.
Q) I guess it is the imperfections that make books loveable in a way! So, what do you like to do outside of your writing? Busy family life?
A) Don’t even get me started….with three kids, I am surprised I am able to write anything at all. I have also started a new publishing venture to help out other authors. It’s a hybrid between self-publishing and traditional publishing, and so far, I am having a lot of fun with it.
Q) Really? That’s a wonderful idea! I think writers need all the help they can get. There are a lot of sharks out there. Are you taking authors on right now or is it a future project?
A) It is a very new venture, so I am still learning the ropes. I am hoping to be ready for authors by the end of this year. So far, I prepare and format files for authors, set up their accounts on sites such as Kindle and CreateSpace, and make it easier for them to start their own thing. I am working on my first project for someone else right now, a book of poetry this gentleman has been wishing to publish for over twenty years. He now has a real book he can call his own, he is happy, and I am thrilled for him.
Q) That’s so wonderful! Hey, Sandra, send him over for an interview if you can– no charge– I’d like to help him get the word out! I think it’s wonderful that he is getting his book out there!
A) I will for sure! Thank you so much! He is so excited right now that he doesn’t even know what he will do next. He is a disabled gentleman and will use the book to inspire others when he speaks to different groups.
Q) I think that’s fantastic! I think it’s important that everyone gets a shot at their dream and I am so happy for him! Now, I have to ask! Have you seen any of my previous interviews? Did you know what you were getting yourself into with me?
A) I have. I think they are wonderful, and I am honored you asked me to be part of one.
Q) Thank you so much! Well, I guess I wanted to be a writer and I got my wish, in a different way! So, last question! If you could give one piece of advice to a newbie writer– what would it be?
A) I know it sounds trite, but my most honest advice is: DON’T EVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS! Do your homework and be open to constructive criticism. Be willing to work on your flaws but never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do it.
Q) Thank you so much for your time, Sandra!
A) Thank you for having me, Nick. It has been a pleasure talking to you.
In addition to The Book of Obeah, Sandra has written the sequel, The Rosaries, as well as Housekeeping for the Soul. You may find her on Facebook, Twitter, her website and, of course, Amazon and Goodreads.