What I Learned My First Year- A Q&A with Shannyn Schroeder

This post originally appeared on The Verbs by Pronoun, August 2016
As a new author I’ve experienced my share of highs and lows, and learning to ride the roller coaster is as much a part of becoming a professional as mastering Deep POV.
One of the best things about this job is the constant discovery, and authors who are willing to share their experiences are the best teachers.
Contemporary romance author Shannyn Schroeder’s debut novel, “More than This” was published by eKensington in January, 2013.  She has since released seven novels and six novellas with Kensington and her current release “Under Your Skin” was published by Kensington’s Zebra line in June, 2016.
From first cover love to realistic expectations, Shannyn shares a few lessons learned.
The Verbs: Tell us a little about your path to publication
Shannyn:  “More than This” was the third manuscript I completed. However, I wrote it in 2009/2010 when contemporary romance was in a downswing, and no one wanted it because the market was so poor. Then people like Marie Force and Bella Andre started self-publishing their contemporaries and found a huge audience. I signed with my agent in the fall of 2011 and had an offer from eKensington in January 2012.
The Verbs: What were your initial thoughts following your first sale?
Shannyn: My initial thought was “What next?” Publishing is a process of hurry up and wait. Everything moves sooooo slowly. Although I did lots of homework to understand what to expect, you don’t really understand how slow it is until you’re in it.
The Verbs: What did you enjoy most about the lead-up to your debut? What was most difficult?
Shannyn: The best—and I mean absolute BEST—thing was getting my first cover. To this day, it’s still my favorite. What was most difficult was not knowing what to do or who to ask about things. I knew as a debut author, I wouldn’t get a huge promotion push from my publisher.  I’m realist, but not knowing what they were going to do so that I could plan my end was frustrating.
The Verbs: When your book was released and in the year that followed, what surprised you?
Shannyn:  It sold more than I anticipated as a new author. I made enough with my first royalty statement to join PAN (published author network of RWA).
The Verbs: What were the things that lived up to your expectations? What didn’t?
Shannyn: I kept my expectations very realistic. Because of this, I can’t think of anything that didn’t live up. As far as promotion goes, I figured it would all be on me. I had to learn what to do and how to do it. That’s not to say that my publisher did nothing, but they certainly weren’t holding my hand.
The Verbs: If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be?
Shannyn: I would’ve asked more specific questions earlier. I had no real point of contact at my publisher except for my editor, who wasn’t in charge of any marketing/promo. I ended up going to him for a lot of things. While it worked, it wasn’t the most efficient way of doing things. I also wish I had more reader interaction. This is something I still struggle with because I’m not very good at social media.
The Verbs: What are you glad you did?
Shannyn: First, I’m glad I learned everything I could before I sold. I knew what to look for in a contract and what to expect for royalty rates. After I sold, I’m glad I kept my expectations realistic. I had no real thoughts of hitting a best-seller list or making gobs of money. So when I got that first royalty check, it was an awesome bonus. I approached promotion as a means to get my name in front of people more than to sell books. So a lot of the time, I wrote posts and did interviews and sold nothing. In my mind, it was all about building my name and my brand. I’m also glad that I kept writing even though I didn’t have a second contract yet. It allowed me to be ready when they did offer me the next contract and I never felt overwhelmed when staring at deadlines. And finally, I’m glad I turned to other writers in my RWA chapter for support. I asked questions and they shared their experiences. Sometimes that’s all you need so you don’t feel like you’re going crazy.

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