As part of our Audiobook Month series with FindAway Voices, we have a conversation with Cozy Mystery author Sara Rosett.
Learn from the brilliant USA Today bestselling author Sara Rosett who writes lighthearted mysteries for readers who enjoy atmospheric settings and puzzling whodunits. She is the author of over 30 novels in the genres of cozy and historical mystery. Sara writes nonfiction for authors, including “How to Write a Series” and “How to Outline a Cozy Mystery”. She is also the co-host of the “Wish I’d known then podcast for writers”.
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E.S. Curry, Kevin Tumlinson, Sara Rosett
E.S. Curry 00:02
Welcome, everybody, to Findaway Voices’ and Draft2Digital’s webinar series with authors. We’re celebrating June audiobook month 2022. And today I have with me co-host Kevin Tumlinson from Draft2Digital and murder mystery master Sara Rosett. Welcome, guys.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:27
E.S. Curry 00:29
Great. Yeah, great to see you. First, I want to just introduce our co-host here. Kevin Tumlinson is a best-selling award-winning author and content creator, known as the voice of indie publishing. He’s director of marketing and PR for Draft2Digital. And he’s the world’s largest distributor of books for independent authors and publishers. Not you personally, Draft2Digital is. I like to think it’s all you. Yeah, yeah. And Sara Rosett is a USA Today best-selling author who writes lighthearted mysteries for readers who enjoy atmospheric settings and puzzling whodunnits. She is the author of over 30 novels in the genres of cozy and historical mystery. Sara writes nonfiction for authors, including how to write a series and how to outline a cozy mystery. And she is also the co-host of Wish I’d Known Then podcast for writers. So welcome, Sara.
Sara Rosett 01:34
Hi. Glad to be here.
E.S. Curry 01:37
Cool. Well, Kevin, where do you want to start today?
Kevin Tumlinson 01:42
You know, first of all, Sara, you and I have talked numerous times, it’s always good to see you. I’m glad we kind of, now we’re swapping roles at this point. Because I think last time you and I spoke I was on your show. So extending additional welcomes to you. So one of the first things we wanted to dive into, and I’m particularly curious to hear your take on this because of your genre, we have very close genres. But when it comes to craft, what is your writing process? What do you consider to be your writing process?
Sara Rosett 02:19
Well, of course, it’s changed a lot over the years. But what I’ve found works best for me is like really diving into the research first and learning all kinds of stuff. I’m writing historical now. And so 1920s is the time period, and it’s a very rich time period, and there’s lots of different things that I can learn about. And that really gets me excited. So I’ll research, I’ll pick an area and just start researching. And I’ll read a lot of fiction that was published during the 1920s as well to kind of pick up the language and how people lived and interacted and, you know, kind of the cultural side of it. And then I do rough drafts, I do dictation to get a rough draft down. And it’s terrible. It’s awful. I know people who’ve released their audio recordings, I would never do that. Because it’s so bad. Because I’m not real articulate. And it’s all stop and go, because I think, oh, I didn’t mean to say that, I have to start over. But then I put it in Dragon, transcribe it. And then it’s all there on the page. And once it’s on the page, it’s easier for me to get in there and edit. And it’s still pretty messy. But then I just work on it and edit it. And I’m a slow, slow and steady writer. You know, my goal is like 1000 to 2000 words a day at the most, if I can get that I feel really excited. And sometimes I’ll dictate and then I won’t edit it until the next day, just because of the way things happen. But yeah, so then, and I’m very linear. I start at the beginning and go through to the end. And then I go back and revise. And I know some people jump around. And I just can’t do that because my brain doesn’t work that way. And so yeah, and then once I have it down, go back and just keep editing it until I feel pretty good about it. I don’t know that I ever feel like yay, it’s great. But you know, it’s close.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:16
So you don’t outline? Is that what you’re saying?
Sara Rosett 04:20
No I do. I do. It kind of like, when I do my research, I’ll start getting an idea for a plot. And I’ll have like these, I use kind of a framework where I have, okay, I know this is the inciting incident. This is going to be, this is going to happen, this is gonna be the big turning point, this is gonna be the middle. And I know how it’s gonna end. And I always know, I do like a big kind of mind map kind of thing where I put the person who gets murdered in the middle. And then I have like, all these spokes coming out from it. And everybody who comes out could be a suspect, and I know all their motives, and then I know who did it in my mind. So that’s just the way I have to do it. I can’t sit down and just write.
E.S. Curry 05:03
Oh I love mind mapping, Sara.
Sara Rosett 05:04
I just do it on paper. And then a lot of times I’ll transfer it to, you know, online on the computer and stuff. But when I’m first starting …
Kevin Tumlinson 05:24
It’s a murder board. Just like on TV.
Sara Rosett 05:31
Yeah, I need a big like whiteboard or something. Keep my family in line.
E.S. Curry 05:29
Sara, you hit on something Kevin and I were talking about the other day, which is how prose from different periods of time is so vastly different in books. And I’m wondering, like doing a 1920s historical cozy mystery. How much do you lean on the prose of that era versus today? You know, do you mix it up?
Sara Rosett 05:53
A lot. Yeah, yeah. Especially in the dialogue, because the way they spoke was very different. And I’m writing like this, the series is this high society lady detective. And so they had all these, like, the jargon that they used then was full of adjectives and adverbs, and they’d be like, oh, darling, I went to this ghastly party. And you know, it was like, they describe everything. Or it will be like, it was too too boring. You know, things like that, that we wouldn’t like, it’d be horrible. It would be frowned on now in prose, like your editor would be like “delete, delete.”
Kevin Tumlinson 06:30
It would be like we were imitating them. Yeah, yeah.
Sara Rosett 06:33
I read a couple of early Agatha Christie books. Patricia Wentworth is another author kind of from that era, and had some books written in the 20s. And so I just, like, absorbed all that language. You know, and it’s British, so it’s not my, you know, but I’ve always loved to read British authors. So I try and give it that flavor with the dialogue.
E.S. Curry 06:57
Oh, that’s so cool. I love that. So how do you know when the book is finished?
Sara Rosett 07:05
Usually, it’s when … like, I have to get the mystery down, and make sure the mystery makes sense. And then I have to make sure that all the characters are growing, changing, like I want them, you know, they don’t have huge arcs, because it’s more episodic. It’s like a flat, flat arc character. So but there are little things that happen, and I interweave all that together. And then I do, you know, all the drafts where you’re checking to make sure you got enough smell and sense, you know, all those things that, you know. I don’t know, when I feel like I’ve done everything I can do. And then I get to the point where, you know, that quote about you took a comma out in the afternoon and put it back in the next day or something. And that’s all you’re doing. When I get to that point I’m like, okay, I think I’m done. I think I’ve taken it as far as I can. So that’s kind of my signal. If I’m just messing around with punctuation, then it’s probably time to send it to the editor.
Kevin Tumlinson 08:05
That’s your line? Okay, that’s interesting.
E.S. Curry 08:09
Do you have an editor or a proofer?
Sara Rosett 08:17
Oh yeah. Yeah, I have a specific editor I use for the historicals, that she edits historical fiction. And I send it to her, she sends it back to me. And then I have two proofreaders because mystery readers are very particular. And they pick up on all the little details. And sometimes there’ll be a mistake. And they think it’s a clue. Like one time I, it’s a series. So one time, I had a character named Lucas, and in the next book, his name one time was mentioned as Lewis. And I’ve had two people email me to let me know. So I try and get all of that, you know, taken care of before it goes to anybody else. So yeah, so I have one proofreader, and then I have another proofreader just to help.
Kevin Tumlinson 09:03
So when you are picturing your book, when you’re writing that book, you now know that when I get to the punctuation stuff, I know that I’m done. But how long is a book?
Sara Rosett 09:19
You mean, like how long does it take me to write it? Or how many words?
Kevin Tumlinson 09:21
In your world, when you define a book, when you say a book is, how many pages or how many words? What’s your perspective on the length of a book?
Sara Rosett 09:33
So I naturally seem to fall about 60 to 65,000 words. And every once in a while, the story kind of gets away from me, and I end up with like, 85 to 90, but I feel most comfortable, that seems to be kind of where it falls. And it’s interesting because I was traditionally published before I was indie. And my contract stated that my books would be 75 to 80k. And I do remember thinking, okay, I hope I can make it. But to do that I had more subplots and more red herrings to, you know, extend the story. So now I feel like, I naturally like to have a smaller number of suspects, instead of like, Agatha Christie would have like 15. I don’t like that. I like to have like 5.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:28
Do you find that you’re able to get that richness of, you know, to throw the reader off enough when you have a limited number of suspects?
Sara Rosett 10:41
Yeah, because what I’ll do is I’ll plan it out where I know that like, in act three or four, probably act three, I’m gonna have at least one person cleared. And you’re gonna know that they probably didn’t do it. Because I don’t want to have like, at the last scene, where you got all five people, and you’re having to run through all of them? You know, like, you didn’t do it, you didn’t do it, you know. You don’t want to be a list where you’re marking people off. So I clear one or two of them early, early-ish. You know, back to three. And then at the end, you’re pretty much down to maybe three potential. But I have done it a different way where, like, I clear somebody early on, like, oh, they’re not a suspect. And then you have to circle back and you find out oh, their alibi wasn’t good. And so that’s kind of how you keep it …
Kevin Tumlinson 11:31
Yeah. So what are your tricks? Like how do you draw the reader in? Like, how do you make this an engrossing experience for the reader?
Sara Rosett 11:41
Well, I try to make them … I try to include enough detail that they feel like they’re in this setting, you know, and I try to convey with language that they are in this time period, so that it immerses them, I hope, in that world. And so there’s like the fine line of how do you do enough of that, but not too much? I feel like that’s always a balancing act. Because if I’m describing, you know, a landscape or a beautiful country home, you know, we don’t need all the details. We just need enough. But it’s like figuring out what’s going to convey that. You know, how much do you need without going overboard? And when I know my books are going into audio, I haven’t really thought about that as much in the beginning. But now I’m starting to think about that more when I’m writing like, right, is there enough, like, dialogue tags? How am I going to handle these things? And so it’s kind of a balancing act to figure all that out.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:49
So we should probably shift into audio because that’s kind of why we’re here. But first I want to talk to the audience a little because apparently, there is a way for you to post questions. There’s a questions tab. I’m not as familiar with this platform as Scott is, I’m gonna let him tell you how to do that. But please, please, if you have questions, we want to hear them. We’ll probably take them at the end of the broadcast. But there’s a place for them so we see them.
E.S. Curry 13:18
Yes. Yeah. If you look down in the lower right there, there’s a questions tab. Don’t put your questions in the chat, put them in the questions thing so we can make sure they’re answered. Will and our team is in there answering questions right now, talking to folks. I see the chat flowing as we’re talking here. So if you have something you want to ask Sara, we will have a Q&A portion at the end of the broadcast here for about 15 minutes. And we will get through them, as many as we can. So awesome.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:48
And we’re not mad at you, by the way. I saw some people apologizing. We’re not mad at you. We just want your questions to get answered.
E.S. Curry 13:55
Yeah, exactly. And we’ll make sure they get answered. And if we can’t get to them in the broadcast, we can answer them offline as well, too. And if you have questions related to Findaway Voices, too, our customer experience staff is on the webinar right now. I see some questions about, “How do I make an audiobook with Findaway?” Will’s in there helping people out and you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have the best customer service in the world. They’re all writers and they love helping people.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:29
Well I don’t know, Draft2Digital’s customer support … We’re equal.
Sara Rosett 14:41
You guys are both top tier. I speak from personal experience. I have emailed help on both sides and received help.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:46
That’s good to hear.
E.S. Curry 14:48
That’s awesome. That’s fantastic.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:48
Scott, why don’t you lead us in?
E.S. Curry 14:51
Sara, I’m super excited to talk about your audiobooks. I guess one of the biggest questions we get from authors is, how do you choose your narrator? And you know, what are some of the things you look for? How did you pick your narrator? You know, can you kind of talk us through that a little bit?
Sara Rosett 15:13
Sure. Yeah. So with my earlier, I had two books that I did early on, in, I think it was 2014 and 2015. And I auditioned people for that, you know, listened to samples. And you can search through like, Findaway now has the site where you can search and find narrators. So that’s what I did. I just looked for people who kind of sounded like what I felt like the book sounded like in my head.
E.S. Curry 15:44
And what was that? What were you looking for? Was it accents, dialects?
Sara Rosett 15:48
Yeah. Well, the first series I did was kind of a travel cozy series. And I needed an American accent, I wanted a woman. And I didn’t want her to be too young or too old, you know. So you know, I just kept searching until I found somebody who kind of fit that thought for me. With my historical series, I looked around. I didn’t do it until about 2018, I think. 2017, 2018. And I just started, I noticed that one narrator had narrated some other 1920s mysteries. And I was like, oh, let me go listen to her stuff. And I loved her narration. I emailed her, and she emailed me back right away with a sample. And it was like the character in the story. It just took it to another level. I was like, she caught it exactly. It was like exactly how I imagined my character sounding because it’s a first-person narration. And I was like, this is perfect. And so I’ve been with her. She’s done all my books since then. And the funny thing is, it’s Elizabeth Collette. And the funny thing is, she is actually American. She does a British accent and an American accent, so she can do all my books. She can do my British books, and my American cozies, which is fantastic. And she actually lives in the same city, in Houston, which we didn’t even realize until we started working together, which I thought was hilarious.
E.S. Curry 17:18
That is that’s fantastic. Oh, my goodness. So you kind of touched on this a little bit. You’re now thinking about your audiobook when you’re writing. Do you read your manuscript out loud? What are you thinking about when you’re writing?
Sara Rosett 17:34
I don’t read it out loud. I used to listen to my manuscripts to proof them. It’s a good way to catch mistakes. But it just, it takes a long time. And now that’s part of the reason I have a second proofreader is because it just takes so much time. But when I’m writing, I’ve had readers in other threads and on social media say something about like, why does this author have to keep using the word “said”? It gets annoying in an audiobook. And so I’m very conscious of, you know, like, if you’re having dialogue, and you have Tom said, Sherry said, Tom, you know, like, if you keep repeating that, it can become an annoyance. So I try and find other ways to just like, I’ll have them do an action, like Tom picked up the phone, and then have his line of dialogue or whatever. But that’s something that I check, like, as I’m into one of my other rounds of editing. I don’t worry about that early on a whole lot. I mean, it’s kind of in the back of my mind. But I try and make sure my sentences aren’t too long. Because I love long sentences, and I have a tendency to do blah, blah, blah, but blah blah blah blah, comma, so … all in one sentence. And that’s really hard to read, I think. Although my narrator is a pro and she handles it, but I try not have it be too long. I think that’s something I’m aware of. And names and sounds. That’s the other thing. So I didn’t think about this early on, and I do now. I had a character named Jack. And if you have the word, if you have the sentence, “Jack asked a question,” it’s really easy to make that not sound like those two words. You know what I mean? So now I have to think about characters’ names and how they sound when you say them, because they’re gonna be repeated so so much.
E.S. Curry 19:33
So many times. Yeah, that’s great insight. I love that. Do you do any audiobook bonus content? Do you do anything?
Sara Rosett 19:43
I have not done audiobook bonus content, although that is on my list. I do have like a short story I could do. I’ve done like, get the audiobook early from me. You know, buy it direct and get it from me. And that seems to be, like getting it early is like a bonus I feel like, but I haven’t done … Like I have a short story I could do as an audiobook bonus. And that’s on my list that I think would be a great like, it could be a reader magnet, specifically for a list of audiobook listeners. Because I tag people in my newsletter list when they click to buy an audiobook when they say they’re interested, or they want to be on my audio arc team, then I know who they are. But then I could continue to build that list if I had a specific, like I could have download your free ebook short story or your free audiobook short story.
E.S. Curry 20:43
That’s fantastic. This is a great segue into building your author platform, and marketing, which we wanted to get into. So, again, you’re fantastic at doing this for us. You’re making this super easy.
Sara Rosett 20:55
You guys ask good questions. What can I say?
E.S. Curry 20:58
So you know, so building your author platform, you’re talking about lead magnets and your arc team and everything. You know, how do you think about marketing? Kind of what’s your mental framework? What’s your approach to marketing yourself as an author and your books?
Sara Rosett 21:17
So that’s kind of changed over time. I used to feel very kind of self-conscious about it, and be like, oh, here’s a book you might like, you know? And now I’ve learned that there are people who love historical mysteries, and they’re looking for mystery set in the time periods or the type of like, kind of lighthearted mystery that I write, there are people who want that. And it’s much easier to think, okay, I’m just going to show people what kind of book this is, and talk about it a little bit. And if they’re interested in it, they’ll be drawn to it just because of what it is, you know? So I guess, it’s attraction marketing is what it’s called. You say this is what I have, and people who are interested are drawn to it just because of what it is. That’s kind of that’s much easier for me to think of marketing that way.
E.S. Curry 22:05
Okay. Sorry, Kevin. You talked about your email, lead magnets and building that, you know, Kevin and I talk about this all the time, email is such a powerful tool for authors because you own it. There’s no social algorithm between you and your constituency. You know, how do you approach email marketing and building your platform? And what do you put into your newsletters? What’s your voice and tone? You know, what do you do there?
Sara Rosett 22:34
Yeah, yeah. I try and make my newsletters fun, and a little bit of like, what I’m doing kind of behind the scenes, and I try and share content that they’re interested in. I always try and move people to the newsletter list, but some people are just not interested in it. So I’ll say, you know, I have like, the free short story at the end that they can get. And I’m like, it’s totally cool to come up here and get the short story and then as subscribe if you don’t want to stick around. But you can follow me on BookBub or Amazon, you know, to stay updated. But I do say, you know, Amazon especially is kind of hit or miss on whether they notify you about a new book or a new release. So if you really want to know, you can stay here. And I divide my list into people who just want to know about new releases, and people who want all the emails. And that way, you know, they can get the new release update without getting all my chat about things that are going on. So yeah, I try and like, share, you know, things that they’re interested in, like a little bit about the writing. Sometimes things are going on in my life. We just had raccoons in our attic. And so I wrote about that in my email, and oh, my goodness, I’m still answering email about the raccoon email.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:01
Those are the ones that get you the most responses. When you open up about, I told a story about accidentally, like, shocking myself with a with a tens unit. And I think I still get people emailing me about that to this day. So you kind of, you’ve hit around this. This is something I think everybody is going to be interested in. Because when we talk about platform, I think sometimes people don’t completely understand what that means. And you’ve mentioned email, and you’ve mentioned some other sources, but what do you consider to be in the spectrum of your platform?
Sara Rosett 24:40
You mean, like where I’m present around the web?
Kevin Tumlinson 24:44
Yeah. What do you count as being part of your platform?
Sara Rosett 24:49
Okay, well, I feel like I’m on all the retailers. I’m wide. So if someone’s looking for my book, whichever store they’re on it’s probably there. I’m on social media but not a lot. I really don’t enjoy Facebook, so I just am not in there very much. I am on Instagram some, but not as much as I used to be. Let’s see. I do have podcasts, I do a podcast for writers. And then I’ve just pretty much kind of restarted this mystery books podcast, which is just for readers. I just talk about books that I’ve been reading, and kind of give a quick summary, no spoilers, because of course they’re all mysteries and you don’t want to know who did it.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:37
Is that the name of the show? No Spoilers?
Sara Rosett 25:38
It should be. That’s much catchier than Mystery Books Podcast.
E.S. Curry 25:41
I love that Kevin.
Sara Rosett 25:44
Maybe I’ll call it Mystery Books Podcast: No Spoilers. But yeah, like for SEO, I was like, Mystery Books Podcast. If somebody’s looking for that, then hopefully they’ll find mine.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:57
Okay, you just said something that I think we need to just pause for a second and deep dive into because that is, you just mentioned SEO, search engine optimization is what that stands for. And you’re thinking strategically about that. Like is that, what sort of best practices do you think authors should keep in mind when they are thinking about their marketing?
Sara Rosett 26:20
Well I think it’s like when you think about your keywords on Amazon, or whatever store you’re on, you know, you want the … I want 1920s historical mystery to be up there, you know, in the title, subtitle, series title, something so that it pulls attention. And when you’re thinking about what you’re posting as your podcast, or your blog post, or even on social media, you know, keywords, your hashtags can drive traffic. So I always try to think of, and I’m not very good at this. There’s lots of people that are a lot better. But I do try and think of, you know, if someone is … because I did this, I went on my podcast app, and I searched for mystery podcast, mystery book. Mystery books podcasts, mystery, you know, thriller, you know, and there was not a lot. And I was like, okay, that just makes sense to me that I’ll choose. It’s a slightly boring title. But if somebody’s searching for it, then it will help them find it. And I think that’s what you have to think of, what are people going to type in? When they’re looking for books, people might not type in “1920s historical mystery,” but they might type in “what to read after Agatha Christie,” or “what to what to read after I finished all the Pro books” or something like that. And so I should do that blog post.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:47
You should do that blog post. You should have a podcast episode is titled that, and then do the blog post that is a transcription of that podcast episode.
Sara Rosett 27:57
Yes. And I do do transcriptions for my mystery podcast, because that helps people find you.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:05
Right. Yeah, talk about SEO, that’s a keyword rich document that you generate just by talking.
Sara Rosett 28:13
Yeah, yeah. For sure. And I think, you asked about platform and like in newsletters, and one thing I was thinking of, is, I try and create content that my readers want. And so one of the things that I did that they absolutely loved was, I was like, when people read historical mystery, they’re really into certain eras. Some people will only read Victorian, some people will only read medieval, some people will only read, you know, whatever. But it’s really hard to kind of sort it out on the retailers. So I created this list, I started a list. And I was like, hey, here’s 1920s books, here’s your 30s books. Here’s your post-WWII books. And my assistant helped me put it in a spreadsheet. And I gave that link to my newsletter list. I was like, hey, you know, check this out if you’re interested. And you can sort it by time period. So like if you’re only interested in medieval you can sort it. And they love that. So I’m trying to think of things that they want and that will make them happy. You know? So like, and that’s free, and anybody can access it. But I’ve had tons of readers say, hey, I sent this to my book club group, we’re going to use it to find mysteries. And I’ve had other readers say, you know, I’ve shared this with my library, because I love it, you know, so you never know the impact of it.
E.S. Curry 29:45
So helping your readers find great reads. Yeah, valuable advice. So, Sara, this is a question I get quite a bit in being a marketing strategist. If you had to, if you had zero dollars, what would you do? Where do you start as a bootstrapped author that’s just getting going? You know, kind of the second part to that question is, what do you think authors potentially waste their money on?
Sara Rosett 30:17
Okay, so like if I was starting over right now, I would do … one of the things that helped me when I started, because I basically had to start over when I went indie. A lot of the reviewers and followers I had, they were not interested in reading my travel cozy, and they weren’t interested in reviewing it. So I did giveaways, I did a giveaway on Goodreads, I did a giveaway on LibraryThing. And that was back when you could do a Goodreads giveaway without it costing anything. Now it does have a price to it. But I feel if you’re going to spend money, then that’s the place to do it. But you can still do it on LibraryThing for free. And I believe on LibraryThing, you can also give away audio. So that’s kind of unusual for them. You just have to have a way to deliver it.
E.S. Curry 31:07
What did you give away? I’m just curious,
Sara Rosett 31:09
Just first book in the series, give away the first book.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:14
Not to like everybody, right? It was like a contest?
Sara Rosett 31:19
Yeah, you had to enter. And then like I had, I can’t remember how many copies that I gave away. You entered, and there were certain number of copies that you could win. So that was what I did to help get the word out. I think networking with other authors is a great thing to do. You know, Jamie, who’s on the podcast with me, the I Wish I Knew Then podcast, she uses newsletter swaps to help her grow her list. And I don’t do those as much now. But I think that’s a way, if you can develop some relationships with other writers who have an audience. But it needs to be really close to yours. Like it doesn’t make sense for me to switch with, say, a paranormal cozy author, because there will be a couple people that will cross over. But it would make much more sense to find somebody who writes in the same time period as me. And then we both benefit, you know. I’m trying to think what else I would do. I’ve really focused recently on getting professional reviews of my books. So I’ve used Reedsy, I’m a member of the Historical Novel Society, and they have a review service, but you don’t pay for it. You just send it in and they assign it to a reviewer who you have no contact with. It’s kind of anonymous, but then you know, you get a review. And so I’ve focused on that as like, cuz you can put those in your editorial review section on your retailers. And then, like if you do a hardback or you can put it on your cover. But what I’ve done is eventually I’ve started doing hardbacks releases, and I’ll put them on the back cover. Because you need to fill up a lot of space on a wrap hardback, you know, you have all that space on the back that maybe you don’t normally have anything there. So because on your paperback, you know, you don’t have that, you know, because you have flaps on your hardcover wrap. So yeah, I would try and do some things like that. One thing I did with my new release was do a giveaway that was a book box, I found this woman who did book boxes, and she curated a single book box for me to give away, and people like that, you know, so just anything you can think of that can kind of showcase your books and kind of maybe stand out a little bit from everybody else. I don’t know that I would do ads. I think that’s kind of a big learning curve. I suppose if you had a good chunk of cash that you didn’t mind losing, you could do ads, you know.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:59
Yeah, that always seems to be the advice that people go to is, there’s all these courses and things about how to run Facebook ads. And my experience has always been that ads can be very effective if you’ve got a budget to throw at it. If you’re bootstrapping, and these are the authors I talk to the most, these are the ones who have a budget of approximately 10 bucks. And they need to know how to stretch that. There are so many services like you mentioned, LibraryThing is one of those. If you’re going to spend the money, there are promotional services out there like you know, Bargain Booksy and Freebooksy.
Sara Rosett 34:41
Yeah, start with those.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:45
They have a low barrier to entry.
Sara Rosett 34:46
Yes, and if it’s brand new, people are gonna be excited to see it.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:51
Right. Now talking about spending money on services like that, though, like, how do you make sure that you’re not Just wasting money?
Sara Rosett 35:02
On any advertising site or like the …?
Kevin Tumlinson 35:06
Whatever tool you’re using, like you mentioned Goodreads, the Goodreads giveaway costs money. You know, how do you make sure that you’re not just throwing money away as you’re trying to build your platform and market?
Sara Rosett 35:17
I think that’s really hard to tell. Because I mean, now we have, you know, you can check your ad ROI and find out how you’re doing. But you know, it is hard to tell, because if you have several things going and you see a boost in sales, you’re not sure exactly what caused it. And sometimes you don’t know, it’s just the magic of the algorithms liked you that day or something. I don’t know. So yeah, I think that some people, like I’m not great at tracking data and spreadsheets, that’s not my favorite thing to do. And some people would be in there every day going, obviously, I turned this ad up, and I saw this. So I mean, if you’re good at tracking, I’d say do that. If you’re not, then maybe … What I do is, I tend to do things in seasons. And I market for a while around a release. And then I write, and I don’t do as much marketing or promotion when I’m writing. And so like switching gears like that might help you figure out what’s working, because if you’re like, okay, I’m gonna leave this ad on, but I’m not gonna do anything else, then that could help you see. I kind of just go with my gut with a lot of things. So I think it’s hard to track and be absolutely sure where certain spikes or dips came from. And a lot of times the market just changes.
E.S. Curry 36:39
Yeah. That’s true. Absolutely. Well, let’s see here. We’re at about 11:37. Just a couple more questions from Kevin and I, before we open up any questions from the audience here.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:57
I do see we have a good number of questions in there, so.
E.S. Curry 37:00
I want to get to those. But I wanted to ask you, you know, what do you think, from your perspective, what do you think the secret to your success has been? Like, personally, being an author? And how did you measure? What was success to you?
Sara Rosett 37:17
Oh, well, you know, that’s like something when I first started, if I could just get a book published, because that was back in the traditional days. That was like, that will be fantastic. And now I think it’s being able to write what I love, and contribute to the family income, and help put my kids through college. It’s just being able, it gives you that little extra financial freedom, but being able to do it in the way I like, and choose my own covers. I love the freedom of indie publishing, and I think that’s my definition of success, is like seeing something that I’ve created out in the world, making people happy. And also being able to do things financially with the benefits of it. So yeah, that makes me happy.
E.S. Curry 38:15
Those are great. That’s fantastic.
Sara Rosett 38:19
Yeah. And I think, I tell my … oh, go ahead.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:24
No, no, no, go ahead. We’re on a little delay. So I apologize.
Sara Rosett 38:27
I was gonna say the secret to my success, that’s a tough one to answer. But I think maybe it’s just the, like being willing to start over. And I’m not like a super adventurous, you know, I wouldn’t say like, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was growing up. But when traditional publishing kind of started waning and I heard about indie publishing, I was like, huh, that sounds interesting. Let me check it out. And basically, I did have to start over. And I feel like now the industry is at a point where it’s changing again. And we may all have to kind of, not necessarily start over, but modify what we’re doing and maybe not do things the same way. So yeah, just being willing to keep going. Keep trying things. I think that’s the key.
E.S. Curry 39:14
What do you think of …
Kevin Tumlinson 39:15
Go ahead, Scott. I think we’re about to ask the same question.
E.S. Curry 39:18
I was gonna ask you, so what are you most excited about with the book industry evolving?
Sara Rosett 39:24
Oh, my goodness. There’s so much interesting stuff going on. I cannot wait until I have my own AI who will proofread for me.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:33
Sara Rosett 39:34
Who will help me with my, you know, I love to research but I want to … Yes. Yes, I’m so looking forward to some of the tools and stuff we’re going to get. I think they’ll be really, really helpful, and I think that they’re going to be integrated in a way, like right now like Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly and those things, like we’re not scared of them. And I think, eventually when we get these tools, we’re all going to be so happy to have them. I don’t think we will be … I think there’s a lot of fear right now about what might be coming. But yeah, I’m excited about that.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:11
You brought up Pro Writing Aid and I have to ask, because, did you have the same … So my initial reaction to things like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid was, you know, they felt bossy to me. Like they were telling me, don’t use that spelling, that’s the British spelling. Like, did you ever have that reaction? Because you mentioned being comfortable with it. Was there a point at which you were not comfortable with that technology?
Sara Rosett 40:35
Oh, yeah. It takes a while to get used to things, right? I mean, I love being in a routine and stuck in my rut, some people would say. But like, once you see what it can do for you, and it can save you from those embarrassing mistakes that your readers are like, oh, did you really mean to say this? And you’re like, oh, no, thank you. You know, I appreciate that. But it is yes. It’s like the same thing. Like when I get back my copy edits, I’m always kind of cranky, because I’m like, well, shouldn’t they realize that I already said this over here. And it’s like, I have to calm down a little bit, and then go back to it. I don’t reply. But I argue to myself. And my family’s like, “Oh, she’s reading copy edits. Don’t bother her.”
Kevin Tumlinson 41:20
I get my coffee, or depending on the time of day, my scotch. And I sit down with my comments and edits, and then I yell at my screen like, no, idiot. I didn’t say that that way, and then I realize I did say it.
E.S. Curry 41:43
I got one last question for you, Sara. Who’s kind of your inspiration? What author have you modeled yourself after? Not who do you like to read? Like, who did you want to be like, you know, when you’re writing? Who did you want to be when you grew up?
Sara Rosett 42:06
There are certain authors who I love their style, and I would love to write like them. But as far as like molding myself on, like, following somebody’s path. I can’t really think of anybody that … Because I’m in such a weird, I mean, this is such an unusual time. Like, the authors that I admire their writing style were traditionally published. So you know, for years, I thought that was what I wanted to do and be and then now things have kind of swung, and I can do indie. And I don’t know, I think just authors like Joanna Penn, she has a lot of really good advice. And I’m always following her to see what she says, because she’s very interested in what’s coming. And I’m not very good at seeing what’s coming. So I’m always checking to see what she’s saying about the future. So I’m always following her. Yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:04
You can’t go wrong following Joanna Penn. There’s no way you’re going off the rails.
Sara Rosett 43:09
I know, right?
E.S. Curry 43:10
Yeah. I mean, it sounds like you’re your own author and indie’s giving you the freedom to do that and be who you are. I think if anything you’re a testament to the power of indie. You know, you can be who you want to be.
Sara Rosett 43:29
And sometimes I think about like Agatha Christie. And she used to write all kinds of things, like we know her for her books, but she wrote plays, she wrote short stories. She wrote under another name as a romance writer. She had like three published romances. And, you know, she was just always innovative and creative. So sometimes I think about her as a writer. And I’m like, yeah, I want to be like that in my writing career.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:56
Sounds like you need to write a biography. You just told me things I didn’t know about Agatha Christie. You need to write all that stuff down.
Sara Rosett 44:00
She’s a really fascinating person. She’s really, most people only know about her that she disappeared for, like, seven to ten days or something? I can’t remember.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:11
Yeah, it was like a week. It wasn’t very long. There’s so much mystery in that one week that I’ve seen television shows, movies, and all kinds of things about it.
Sara Rosett 44:21
They keep going back to that, but she had a lot of other interesting things she did too.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:25
Yeah, exactly. Well, I know we’re gonna get into some questions, but I wanted to read something from the comments actually, because VT Bond said that you can train Pro Writing Aid to your style of prose and dialect. So you can actually train, I love Pro Writing Aid by the way, that’s my first … I have what I call my edit stack. And that’s the first thing, first round. Yeah, because it can edit the Scrivener files directly, work directly with my Scrivener files which is, I use Scrivener to write my books. You can do it with Word as well. But that was a big selling point for me, was that there was a kind of integration there. So good tip, VT. Thank you. Do we want to just jump into some of our questions now?
E.S. Curry 45:13
Let’s jump in. I’ve got one from Roy Saunderson. Roy asks, “I am a beginner. How did you learn to create narrative and dialogue, the starting to write after you have created an outline?”
Sara Rosett 45:30
Well, for me, it was just getting some words down and working with them until I felt comfortable with them. I was an English major. So it’s really hard to unlearn that every sentence must be have a subject and verb be complete. Like, dialogue is okay if it’s just a fragment, or if it’s just a word. And even if you’re doing, you know, a paragraph of description, it’s okay if it’s not a complete sentences, you know, it’s whatever style you want to go for. But I think that just comes with time and practice. And I’ve heard other people say that they’ll listen to, or they’ll use the books that are their favorites, and maybe they’ll rewrite them, rewrite the dialogue scenes. But I like to eavesdrop on people. I like to listen in on conversations.
E.S. Curry 46:27
Yeah, I think all writers love listening to people talk.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:30
That was one of my favorite things about van life was, we were in different regions of the US for two years, and just stopping in on any given cafe or restaurant or whatever, and hearing, the dialogue is always so different from place to place. So that’s gold.
Sara Rosett 46:48
Yeah, I love doing that.
E.S. Curry 46:51
Yeah, me too. I like to just imagine the people talking. And I think that’s a great, narrative and dialogue is a great way to adjust your pacing in the book to keep that reader moving, you know? Yes. I really enjoy that. Yeah. Cool. Well, thanks, Roy. Thanks for that question. Let’s see here. Judy Hudson, “Do you add dialogue tags for audio? Of course, we recognize change of character visually on the page.”
Sara Rosett 47:23
I do. I’ll have some, you know, he said, she said, in my dialogue for the audio. But I’ll also have lots of, I try and have more action if I can. You know, so and so cleared their throat, or, you know, so and so walked across the room, and then said, you know, but you don’t say and then said. I’m gonna just walk across the room period, and then the dialogue. But basically my books are pretty much, you know, whatever I have for my ebook, that’s what I use for my audio. I don’t have a separate audio, edited version just for audio. But my narrator, most narrators are very good at like, distinguishing slight differences in the voices like so that you know, like the dialogue is bouncing back and forth.
E.S. Curry 48:14
Yep, for sure. Awesome. Thanks for your question, Judy. Let’s see what else we got here. Carolyn Goldsworthy said thanks for the Patricia Wentworth idea, Sara. Now I have a whole series of roaring 20s mysteries. Let’s see here.
Kevin Tumlinson 48:37
I feel like I don’t read enough in your genre yet, Sara. I’m gonna have to plow through your books first. Then go to that Agatha Christie lady.
Sara Rosett 48:47
Yeah, she’s slightly well known.
E.S. Curry 48:52
Oh, Judy Hudson has a question here. “Do you separate your audio reader newsletter from your reader newsletter?”
Kevin Tumlinson 48:59
Ohl, that’s a good question.
Sara Rosett 49:01
Well, I use ConvertKit. And I tag, so everybody, if they click on something, they get a tag. So I can send just a newsletter to my audio listeners if I want. You know, and I have done that occasionally. But generally, I try and make my audio release come out at the same time as the book release. And so I’ll mention, you know, the book is out. Here’s the links. And I’ll include links to the to the ebook and the audio and print. Because I have a lot of print readers too, mystery readers like print. So I try and include everything. But yeah, I don’t normally separate it out. And I do have readers who want the audio, like they want to preorder the audio. And you can do that on some sites through Findaway. You can get on my Google Play, Kobo, and yeah, there’s another one. I can’t think of the other one. But anyway, like I’ll say if you want to preorder, here are the links to the audio where you can preorder. So I just tell everybody on the main list because some people, you know, it seems to be like, it’s easier just to do one list and say, here’s the links for everyone. That’s normally how I do it.
E.S. Curry 50:12
Got it. You bring up a really great point, something that we talk about a lot, too, which is the concept of simultaneous release, which is all three formats at the same time. You know, how do you approach that as an author, Sara? When do you start producing your audiobook, so that you’re able to do a simultaneous release?
Sara Rosett 50:32
I know that I need about at least three to four months, because I’ve got to do the copy editing, the proofreading, and then my narrator narrates it, and she’s pretty quick, but it still takes time. And then my assistant helps me, she does audio proofing. So she’ll proof the audio. And then if there’s any, she creates a spreadsheet, and if there’s any changes between the audio and the book, she lists them out, and then we go back in and fix whatever we need to. And she proofs it again. So that all that takes time. So I know it’s at least, you know, a three to four month lead time. And I just plan for that. And I like long preorders. And I think that’s why my readers were like, where’s the preorder for the audio? Because they are used to that with my books. So you know, I’ve told them, and I’ll just tell them, hey, you can only preorder the audio here on these three places, or you can get it from me. And a lot of times I’ll do, you can get it from me early. You can preorder it from me and get it this week. And they really like that.
Kevin Tumlinson 51:36
That’s great. That’s awesome. So why do you like the long preorders? What is it about that, that works for you?
Sara Rosett 51:43
Well, I feel like it lets readers know that there’s more books coming, you know. And I only put a book on preorder if I have a draft, I have to know. Because I’m a big chicken. I’m not motivated by deadlines at all, I’m terrified, petrified by them. So like, if I have it done in a draft, then I’ll put it on like a long preorder. And I like that because it lets readers see that there’s another book coming. And then if they finish one, they can just order the next one. It helps capture those sales, you know, when people are reading the book, whereas some people, they might want to preorder it or might want to buy the next one. But if it doesn’t come out for six months, you know, they might forget.
Kevin Tumlinson 52:24
So how many manuscripts ahead are you?
Sara Rosett 52:29
Well, what I did with the historical was, I wrote book one and book two. And then while those were going through copy editing, I wrote book three. So I had a draft of three before I released one. And now, I’m all caught up now. So like now my readers are just like waiting, going, where’s the next one? I’m like, I’m working on it. So I said that’s why you need a newsletter because then you can stay in contact, saying, hey, I’m working on this. Yeah, it’s coming.
Kevin Tumlinson 53:03
You did exactly what I tell authors to do. But that’s so hard to do it. Write three books at a time without releasing them.
E.S. Curry 53:11
It kind of drives me crazy.
Sara Rosett 53:15
And there is a culture, I feel like we’re in this culture of speed with authors that like, you need to write faster, write faster. And so I just tell my readers, I’m sorry, I can’t write a book a month. You know, it’s just not happening, but I am working. And I have so many of them reply and say, it’s fine. You know, don’t stress, we’re willing to wait. And I think most readers are just excited. And I sometimes hear that as hurry up. And they’re not saying that. They’re saying, we’re looking for the next book. They’re trying to be nice, you know, encouraging, and I’m like, I gotta hurry. But that’s not what they’re saying.
Kevin Tumlinson 53:49
Yeah. That’s a good perspective to have.
Sara Rosett 53:53
I have to tell myself that like every day, though.
E.S. Curry 53:57
Well, I have to say, it is a challenge. I’m writing a fiction series. And there’s three books, and I’m done with the first, and I want to release it. But I’m not going to, because I gotta get the second one done. So I’ve got a question here from Pepper Frost. “How do you know when you’re selling enough in ebook and print to consider audio, relatedly? Do you have an opinion about the cozy audio market versus other genres? Who listens to cozies on audio? Are they the same people who buy books?”
Sara Rosett 54:29
Oh, that’s a really good question. So I’m not sure on what you should be selling in ebook. I think your ebook needs to be selling at a pretty good clip to make it worthwhile, because audiobooks are pretty expensive. So I mean, I don’t know what arbitrary number I would pick. But especially if you’re seeing your ebook sales increasing over time, and maybe talk to some other authors in your sub-genre and have done audio and ask them, I think that’d be the best thing to do for that. I think the cozy audio market is pretty small actually, because it is expensive, but there are cozy listeners, cozy audiobook listeners. But I’ve found that my audiobook listeners are generally younger than my ebook readers. So I feel like audio tends to skew younger. I think cozy mystery readers tend to skew older. And so I think by doing audio, I’ve brought in like a new group of readership.
E.S. Curry 55:32
You’re widening your audience by doing audio. Yeah, and it’s a different consumer, right?
Sara Rosett 55:39
Yeah, I think so.
E.S. Curry 55:42
All right. Cool. So thank you for your question, Pepper. Judy Hudson, “Sre the book box giveaways just to your newsletter?”
Sara Rosett 55:53
Let’s see. Yes, I think that’s how I did that one. I’ve only done one. But I think I promoted it to my newsletter. And I was like, sign up here. I think I had a sign up. And I was like, one person will win this. So that’s what I did. But you could definitely use them, you could promote them on Facebook, on social media. And you can run like a king sumo giveaway or something where people sign up. So you could certainly do them on social media as well.
Kevin Tumlinson 56:20
I have to compile a list of all these things you keep recommending. I need that list, and I know everybody watching needs the list.
E.S. Curry 56:33
From Brenda Spalding. “Why did you switch from traditional to indie?”
Sara Rosett 56:40
Oh, I just, I could see that traditional was, the revenues were going down. And I could see that I was a midlist author, and I was not … Unless they wave the magic wand and make you a bigger author, you’re always gonna be midlist, you know? And I was like, I’m not gonna go anywhere here. So I kept writing traditional, but I started releasing books indie, and I started writing books specifically to release on my own. And I really liked the being able to control my cover, and the formatting of the interior and the pricing. That was a huge deal was just being able to be in more control. So yeah, that’s why I did it.
Kevin Tumlinson 57:22
I think you made the right choice, because now the midlist really doesn’t even exist anymore. You know, I was kind of in that crowd briefly, and then kind of sniffed the wind and saw the future a little. And was fortunate enough to get out, lost that book when I when I did it, but that’s fine. I got it back eventually. But I think you made the right choice. But let me put it to you, like, how’s it feel?
Sara Rosett 57:56
Oh, I’m a very happy indie author. And I have 10 books, that were published traditionally that I will probably never get back. But I just started over, and those are fine. Yeah, I mean, there is that clause that you can ask for them back after like, 30 years or something. So I’ve got that on the calendar. So maybe someday.
Kevin Tumlinson 58:21
I only have five years to go.
Sara Rosett 58:25
Yeah, I’m very happy. And I am glad because I feel like I just, I have more options now. And I think more options are better. And if you’re traditionally published, and you’re only with one publishing house, that’s really only one revenue stream. And I feel like now I’m able to write a book. And by doing an audiobook, that’s another stream of income, and print is another stream of income. And then you know, whatever other things we can come up with, like some authors do merchandise, or you know, all these different things. So it can just help you diversify.
Kevin Tumlinson 58:57
Something that authors don’t think about too, when it comes to traditional houses, is that they have their marketplaces worldwide. But that’s it. They may not reach every country, they may not reach every market. So as an indie author, you actually have the control to be in every single market if you want.
Sara Rosett 59:18
Yeah, to be worldwide. Yeah.
E.S. Curry 59:20
For sure. We got time for one more question before we end here, from Louisa Emerson. “You say you don’t do much on FB. Do you advertise there? I’m trying to figure out where mystery readers hang out online.”
Sara Rosett 59:37
Okay, so mystery readers are on Facebook, and I just don’t use it that much. Because I’m just not, it doesn’t appeal to me as much. It did back in the beginning, but now I’m kind of jaded and tired of it. But I don’t do many ads. I have done some ads in the past, but I usually don’t do ads. But I would say if you go on Facebook and search for cozy mystery groups, there are tons of reader groups. And I’d say get involved with those. And you don’t have to advertise. Just get in those groups and become part of the discussion and say, hey, I’ve been reading this, what have you been reading? There’s a group that all they do, it’s called first reads, I think. And they just post the first line of what they’re reading. And then then, you know, some people will chime in, oh, I’ve read that, it was great. You know, so get in some groups that do cozy books. And I think that would probably be where you can find cozy readers.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:00:34
Yeah. They don’t want you to spam them with “buy my book.” But there will be natural organic opportunities for you to say, by the way, I mean, especially if you befriend like the moderators and people who are you know, kind of blocking comments, things like that, you can pop in, I’ve done that in some of the groups that I participate in. I don’t do as many these days, but you know, popped in said, hey, I’ve got a new book coming out. It fits this genre. Would you be willing to post something about it? And let them be the one.
Sara Rosett 1:01:09
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s great. Yeah.
E.S. Curry 1:01:13
Right. Well, we are at noon. I want to thank you so much, Sara, for doing this today. It was so great to get to know you, and learn all about your craft and your books and your platform. I think everyone that joined us today learned a whole lot from you.
Sara Rosett 1:01:33
Thanks for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.
E.S. Curry 1:01:37
And Kevin, thanks so much, man. This is always a pleasure, every time to hang out together I love it.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:01:42
We’re gonna be doing a whole series of these things with some really impressive authors. I don’t have the link handy, unfortunately. But do you, Scott?
E.S. Curry 1:01:52
I sure do. You guys can hit up findawayvoices.com right on our homepage there. There’s a link to audiobook month 2022. We’ve got five more authors. Up next, we’ve got Kennedy Ryan, in romance. She just won a big award. First black audio cast to win an award, black author. Really cool. It’s going to be a really good one. Our team member Dave just popped it in the chat there. So you can jump on there, take a look at the list of authors. We’ve got a really nice lineup for the rest of the month. We got MK Williams, Eddie Rice, talking nonfiction and toasts and speeches. So jump on there and register for our other ones. It’s really going to be a lot of fun. So yeah, I’m excited about it myself. And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. And if you need any help with your audiobooks, hit us up at email@example.com. And we’ll get back to you. If you want to email Kevin or I or Sara, you got some follow up questions or anything, send it to that email address, and we’re happy to follow up with you. And until next Wednesday at 11am Eastern time, Kevin I will be back here with Kennedy Ryan. Other than that, have a great rest of your week. And thanks, Kevin. Thanks, Sara.
Sara Rosett 1:03:18
It was great to talk to y’all. Thank you for having me.
E.S. Curry 1:03:21
You betcha. Take care everybody.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:03:23
See you, everybody. Bye.