Jennifer Oberth writes mystery with a touch of humor. Her love of writing as an art is evident both in her novels and her approach to her craft. In this interview she discusses her books and explains what new indie authors should do from day one.
1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
Married To Murder is a short story mystery set on the wedding day of Ella Westin.
Ella doesn’t recall adding ‘solve a murder’ to her bridal to-do list but when she stumbles over the body of her matron of honor, she has no choice; her groom is the only suspect. Throw in a deaf hairdresser, a ruined wedding cake and a not so retired pirate and Ella wants to throttle everyone in sight. Can she catch the killer before the wedding is called off? Or will she be Married To Murder?
I wrote this for a short story contest. I’d already done the background work – Ella & Joe are the grandparents of the Westins in my upcoming novel series, The Masked Rider. They’re a lot of fun to write.
2. How have your sales been?
Pretty steady and growing with pockets of nothing. I’m focusing on the writing aspect and getting more books published. (I have several in the editing process right now.) It’s interesting, I view my writing as a business but then I get disheartened by various factors
such as sales or reviews or forum comments. If I look at it as a hobby, it’s a wonderful addition to my life and setbacks and cost of professional editing are in line with the leisurely pursuit of publishing books. But it’s not a hobby, it’s how I want to eventually make my living.
3. Have you sought a traditional publisher? Why or why not?
I did for the simple fact that it was what you did. There were no other options. Then the e-books came along and Smashwords appeared and Amazon opened its doors. I’ve been a member of the Sisters In Crime National and Chicago chapters for years (even served on the Board) so I put my resources to use, found a professional editor and published Married To Murder. Then I published Honeymoon Homicide.
My editor recently sent Masked Rider: Origins back and I’ve got work to do before publishing it in early 2012. I’ve also got some more short stories to send her. My intention was to continue in my attempts to secure an agent who would find a publisher but with the industry so topsy-turvy, they can’t do their jobs as they have in the past. It’s true, I’m learning everything from scratch, going on my own, but they’re having to rebuild and learn different ways to do what they’ve done for years. I have little interest in letting them learn on me while I’m perfectly capable.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
I love it! I like the creative control and being the one in charge. The drawback is that everything is up to me and I have to learn everything from scratch – which can be fun but mostly it takes away from writing. If I was traditionally published, I’d be doing everything I’m doing anyway; publishers today do not wave a magic wand and sell your books for you. I love that with self-publishing and the e-book market, I’ll never go out of print. There isn’t the stigma of not selling 10,000 books and my agent/publisher dropping me. If/when I sell 10,000 copies I’ll be feeling celebratory – not relieved.
5. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
It’s a lot of work but it’s doable. It seemed so overwhelming to the point of impossibility but I just tackled each task and learn as I go.
6. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
Slow and steady wins the race. Keep writing. Write, get it edited, publish quality work and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Marketing is a separate entity from writing and just as individualized. Try everything you hear, and see what works and what you like and keep doing it. Build up slowly and steadily. Create a marketing plan before you publish so you know what to do or try before it’s the day of. (You’d have to do that even if you went traditional. Agents nowadays want you to do all the work they and the publishers used to do.) I like contacting blogs that do reviews or interviews to get my name and book in front of readers.
7. What projects are you currently working on?
The 3rd Ella Westin Mystery, Toxic Train. It’s in the editing process. I also have another short story series in the editing process, Georgia Meets Virginia. It’s about a chef who ends up helping a widow solve a murder. I also have my first novel, Masked Rider: Origins, almost ready for e-book and print publication.
8. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – what would it be?
Quality, character-driven, humorous mysteries.
9. How can readers learn more about your books?
Head on over to Smashwords (Married To Murder, Honeymoon Homicide) or Amazon (Married To Murder, Honeymoon Homicide) and read about the books or check out my Amazon author’s page. For a more learn-as-you-go read, visit my blog. I talk about everything from writer’s conventions to my cats, Copper & Outlaw. (Yeah, I’m a big mystery fan.)