M J Rose is a bestselling author and marketing expert. I won a copy of her book, The Memorist, at a Baltimore Writer’s Meeting, and have been hooked ever since. I just finished (and loved) The Reincarnationist, and I’m looking forward to the release of her third book in the series, The Hypnotist, in April. A television series called Past Life based on the series, started on Tuesday and continues tonight at 9 PM on Fox.
M J was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my writing questions. You can find out more about her books, her blogs, and her business by clicking on the links. You can also download a free sample of each of the books in The Reincarnationist series by following this link.
Let’s talk about how you got your start. I was interested to read that you began as a self-published author ten years ago. Why did you decide to self-publish and would you recommend it?
For fiction, in today’s market I would not recommend it unless the book fits into a very specific niche. Nonfiction is a little different, but for the fiction writer who’s been rejected by agents and publishers and thinks they have a great book, I would not recommend self-publishing. I don’t think self publishing a book that’s been rejected over and over again by agents is a solution. First hire an editor, make it a better book, and then try again.
I didn’t set out to self publish. I had an agent and some great rejections from publishers. They kept saying the book was wonderful, but they didn’t know how to market it because it didn’t fit neatly into a genre. I had ideas for marketing the book, however, so I self published it to test the market. I ended up selling 2,500 copies and became the first self published book selected for the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club. I got a traditional publisher from there.
Your interests are broad, and range from erotic fiction to literary suspense and thriller. Have you had any trouble switching from one genre to the next? Do you prefer to write in one over the other?
All of my books can be classified as suspense. Some of the earlier ones had erotic elements, others didn’t, and the Reincarnationist books are really suspense with historical elements. I write the kind of books I want to read, without thinking of where I fit in the marketplace. I understand why publishers talk in terms of genre, but I can’t write to fit a set of genre criteria. I have great respect for genre writers–it’s not any less artful than other kinds of writing–I just can’t do it. I grew up reading good books, and that’s what I want to write.
What originally drew me to your Reincarnationist series was that it was set in multiple time periods, and featured music, art, and history. What inspired you to write the series?
I studied art, and wanted to be an artist, so that heavily influences my writing. I also live with a musician. But my interest in reincarnation began when I was a child. My great-grandfather believed I was reincarnated because I told him things about his childhood in Russia I couldn’t have known. My mother was skeptical, but we researched reincarnation together. On the anniversary of her death, my niece–who was a toddler–told me things about my mother she couldn’t have known. I’ve been hooked on the topic ever since.
In addition to writing, you also have a successful marketing business, Authorbuzz. How do you fit in writing? Do you have a set schedule, or do you write when time allows?
I do have a schedule. I write in the morning before anything else. From late morning to lunchtime I work on Authorbuzz. I write again in the afternoon, and then back to Authorbuzz at night. I probably work too much, but I do take time to rest now and then.
Can you explain the difference between what you do and what a publicist does?
Yes, a publicist pitches a book to various media in an effort to get press, coverage, or reviews. I advertise the book. I create an advertising campaign, buy ad space, do ad runs, and try to find creative ways to market the book. I place the book to expose buyers to it. Either way, there are no guarantees. With fiction, all we can do is try to generate interest to get people to read an excerpt from a book, and hopefully, buy it.
What’s the most important thing a fiction writer should do to build platform?
Novelists shouldn’t focus on platform. We need to focus on writing our best books. Once we have our best book and a publisher, we need to sit down with our agents and figure out how much to spend on marketing.
We can find ways to use other people’s platforms to market our books. For example, if your historical novel deals with the French revolution, find blogs and websites devoted to the subject and find ways to partner with them before the release of your book.
Six months before The Reincarnationist was published, I started a blog with news about reincarnation, stories, and links to books on the subject. Once I had a lot of people following the blog, I told them about my novel when it came out. Now, not all fiction lends itself to that, but you can find creative ways to use other’s platforms to help your own. I teach an online course at Backspace in January all about buzzing your book
But the bottom line is always to write a great book.
Thanks so much, M. J.!