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SPS-318: Rising From Non-Writer to Amazon #1 – with Meghan Quinn

Meghan Quinn takes an unusual approach to writing her romance novels; they aren’t written in series. But that hasn’t stopped her from reaching the top of the Amazon charts or pleasing her fans.

Show Notes

  • Announcement of this year’s SPF Foundation winners
  • The parallels between elite sport and indie publishing
  • On the importance of a back list
  • Letting readers decide what the next book should be
  • The pros and cons of writing some books for a trad publisher
  • Meghan’s favorite tropes in romance novels

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

SPS LIVE: Click here to get your tickets for the live event in June 2022 while they last

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

SPS-318: Rising From Non-Writer to Amazon #1 - with Meghan Quinn
Voiceover: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show...

Meghan Quinn: I was like, "I need to bust my butt to make sure that when this baby comes, I can work and support my family at the same time." And so it was kind of like, "You have no choice, make it work." And so that's what I did.

Voiceover: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome, it is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Welcome along to a Friday. Hello, Mark. Exciting few minutes we've got ahead of us, because we've got lots to announce and then a really good interview. Really fun, absorbing, interesting, inspiring interview, with somebody who's very recently number one in the entire Amazon store, Meghan Quinn, coming up very shortly. A couple of things to say before then. Mark, I think we have a Patreon supporter to welcome.

Mark Dawson: You were going to do the patron support and I was going to do the foundation.

James Blatch: I'm going to do it. I'm going to welcome-

Mark Dawson: What I'll do is Rosa Lee, isn't it, Rosa Lee from very near me in Tollesbury, actually. So she emailed me yesterday and thanked us for all the free stuff we put out, which was very nice to hear. And she's in Netheravon, so near an airfield, actually, James, you'll be excited to hear.

James Blatch: Indeed. Very excited.

Mark Dawson: But yes, thank you to Rosa. It's much appreciated.

James Blatch: On the aviation front, I'm glad you mentioned it. So yesterday I-

Mark Dawson: Oh God, what have I done?

James Blatch: I posted on TikTok. So I'm doing odd things, I'm editing our TikTok for Authors course, which is going to be released in a couple of weeks, at the same time as trying to get onto TikTok and establish something on there. So I'm jumping ahead of what I'm being taught and guessing some of the time.

I'm suddenly realising things that I should be doing. One of the things is Jayne Rylon, one of the instructors in the course, talks about how often you should post, which is surprising, the answer. I hadn't posted for a day or two. And in about five minutes yesterday morning, I saw there was something happening on Twitter with B52s flying from America to Europe. And I knew they'd be based at Fairford, because that's normally where they are. So I went on and I said, "Oh, update, some B52s are travelling across the Atlantic, probably to do with the Ukraine buildup. They're going to be at Fairford." I had nearly 100,000 views on that. So I've got 90,000 views-

Mark Dawson: Wow.

James Blatch: As we're standing at the moment.

Mark Dawson: Amazing.

James Blatch: Yeah, absolutely blew up. Which reminds me also, a TikTok thing is, any social media, I've never had that level of exposure before. And of course you get a fair amount of abuse, you just do in this world. People think they know more than you, they think you're something you're not, and you do have to have a thick skin in this world.

I've seen a few comments in our Facebook group that women in particular get some unwanted attention. And I've certainly had personal comments about my appearance, I've had comments about what I should and shouldn't be saying, and you just I think delete a few if you want, but just ignore them. Let them wash over you. I've got 300 comments on that.

Mark Dawson: Wow.

James Blatch: Maybe more than that now, on that thing.

Mark Dawson: I'm going to check that out.

James Blatch: Yeah. Check it out. They're near you actually, Gloucestershire way, the B52s. You might see them flying over.

Mark Dawson: You haven't got COVID, have you?

James Blatch: I hope not, because I'm going skiing on Saturday.

Mark Dawson: Oh dear.

James Blatch: My wife will divorce me if I go down with COVID. But I might do a test.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, always best to do a test.

James Blatch: We don't have to do a test to travel. But we do of course have to have a small metric tonne of paperwork, which I now have printed out on my kitchen table as is today. Look, let's crack on. We've got stuff to do.

So we've done our Patreon, but very exciting because it's the new year, which means your wife Lucy has been very busy in the SPF Foundation department and we have awarded our Foundation winners for 2022. And we are very, very excited to announce them today. So Mark, should we do one each?

Mark Dawson: Sure. So the first one, writing under the name IRL Giddings, is Rick Giddings. He writes in sci-fi and he has been sponsored by Reedsy.

James Blatch: Thank you very much indeed. And we have another one sponsored by Reedsy writing in romance, and that is Lily Hammond who writes under Lix Robinson. Good name, Lix. Congratulations, Lily and Rick.

Mark Dawson: And then we've got, sponsored by SPF, we have Marco Blank who writes as Marc Layton in horror.

James Blatch: Congratulations, Marco. And a thriller writer sponsored by our friends at Written Word Media, you'll know them for Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy in particular, is Peter Rebetz. Well done, Peter. He writes under the name Peter J. Black.

Mark Dawson: And an SPF sponsored Foundation winner, Isabel Hardisty who writes young adult. So congratulations, Isabel.

James Blatch: Now, sponsored by Lucy Score, therefore a romance writer, is Jo Preston. Congratulations, Jo, on your award of the Foundation money and resources. J. Preston, she writes under.

Mark Dawson: And then in women's fiction, sponsored by Katherine Karen, is Halima Khatun.

James Blatch: Well done, Halima. Thank you, Katherine and Lucy for those romance and women's fiction sponsorships. Now, sponsored by Marc Reklau, our friend Mark, in writing in the fantasy genre, this is Brogan Thomas. Congratulations, Brogan.

Mark Dawson: And last but not least, Stuart McCallum, who writes on famous Stuart Clyde, thrillers and military fiction, sponsored by James Russon.

Congratulations to Stuart and to all of the other winners this year, and they get SPF 101, SPF Ads for Authors, plus $2,500 to spend on author services at Reedsy. And also this year we've added an author planner from the guys at Purpose Action Success, a document, a planner they can use to plot out their path to success over the next 12 months. And also for Stuart, James Russon is also very generously offering to personally mentor him as he cracks on. I think Stuart is a military veteran like James.

James Blatch: Yes. I think James's sponsorship is for a military veteran. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Congratulations to all of those guys. Lucy and I were talking last night, I think this is either the fourth or fifth year we've done this now. So we've probably given away over $100,000 now I suppose, something like that. It's got to be up there somewhere. So it's really great to see that.

And as we've mentioned before, we've had several authors doing really, really well after getting their start with the Foundation. People like Britt Andrews last year, who is a five figure author now, I think, and doing really well.

James Blatch: And Elle Thorpe the year before, I think.

Mark Dawson: Elle Thorpe, yeah. So there will be, I suspect, in that group we've just announced, one or two or maybe more who this time next year might be retiring their husbands or wives and getting on with a full time career as a writer. Good luck to everyone, and thanks very much to all the sponsors who've worked with us, especially the guys at Reedsy, but everyone else as well who have been doing this for several years now. It's one of the things we love doing.

Also, I'd be completely remiss if I didn't say thank you to Lucy, who's been working bloody hard on this over the last couple of weeks to pick out the winners, with the help of the sponsors. We had hundreds of applications, as you'd expect, for the Foundation. So thanks to her, and provided she's not burnt out completely, we'll be doing it again next year. So look forward to that.

James Blatch: Yeah. And that's the most we've awarded in one go before, and so the Foundation grows year on year, and that's down to Lucy, and John I think working in the background with her as well on that.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: That's probably, just doing a rough calculation, that's probably about $35,000 worth of stuff we've awarded today for this year and look forward to growing that over this year. Great. Well done. Thank you very much indeed. And yeah, looking forward, we'll pick out one or two over the next year and talk to them on the podcast and see how they're getting on. Right, Mark, I think we might be ready to move on to our podcast interview.

Mark Dawson: No.

James Blatch: No, we're not. No, we're not, because we've got something else to talk about, which is the live show.

Mark Dawson: You're lucky I'm here. Yeah, so today as this goes out, we record this a week in advance, so this will be going on Friday the... Just checks his watch... The 18th of February. And we think hopefully, fingers crossed, nothing seems to be suggesting otherwise, we will be offering tickets for the live show on the 28th and 29th of June this year, they should now be available.

So you probably will know about this already, we would've told people on the waiting list, it will be mentioned in the Facebook community, and the cart is probably open now. What would the URL for that be, James, if you were to check?

James Blatch: It would be selfpublishingformula.com/spslive.

Mark Dawson: SPS live. Worth going to the show. We think it will sell out. We've got about 900 tickets and there's more than 3,500 people on the waiting list, so it will probably sell out. We're trying very hard to make sure it's as equitable as possible, and so that everyone who wants to come gets a fair crack of the whip. But if you are interested, I wouldn't hang about, I'd get yourself a ticket as soon as you can, because I doubt they'll be available this time next week.

James Blatch: Good. Very exciting. I had a site visit this week and we walked around the venue. Obviously the big thing for us this time is we're going to have the whole venue, so that does open up some exciting possibilities. And we're going to spend the evening there as well. People will go out and have a coffee or a drink probably more likely and then come back and we'll dance the night away, Mark.

Mark Dawson: Well, you can. I'll stand at the side tutting disapprovingly.

James Blatch: All right, Grandad. Okay, good. Are we ready now for our interview?

Mark Dawson: Yes, we are now.

James Blatch: I've got Meghan waiting in the wings here. So Meghan Quinn, a really delightful interview. I enjoyed it because she's very positive, very successful. And I found it very inspiring. Yes, she writes in romance, I don't write in romance, but that doesn't really matter. It's genre fiction.

This all came from the fact that a few weeks ago, I noticed that numbers one, two, and three in the entire amazon.com store were all SPF people. And that was headed up at the time I looked at it by Lucy Score, but they all rotated around each other. So all three of them have been on. We've had Lucy on a couple of times on the podcast. But this time it's the turn of Meghan who also, as I say, got that number one spot. So here's Meghan, and then Mark and I will be back for a quick chat.

Meghan Quinn, welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. What fun to have you on, because we are celebrating with you a number one hit just a few weeks ago. And what was so brilliant about this is that you were number one, at one point Lucy Score I think was number one the next, Amy Daws I think was at number two and three as well. But anyway, one, two, and three of people who know each other, who are indies, who help each other, part of the SPF community as well. So it was thrilling, I think, to see that happening.

Feels like big things happening in the indie world at the moment when we're dominating charts like that. Congratulations, I should say, first of all.

Meghan Quinn: Thank you so much. It was very, very exciting, and all cheering each other on, sending each other messages. And it didn't necessarily feel like competition, it was more of like we're doing this together. And we even said a few times, "I'm so glad that I'm doing this with you, I'm so glad that we're all of us together at the same moment doing this."

James Blatch: That's a very indie thing, isn't it, to help each other. Rising tide raises all ships, that was it. Okay, well let's talk a bit about you, Meghan. I know you're with APub now, which is the in house Amazon publishing wing. Is that right? I think with Montlake?

Meghan Quinn: Yes, I'm with Montlake, I release about two books a year with them, and then I release five indie books.

James Blatch: Okay. Excellent. So you're still doing indie, mainly actually on that.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: But let's talk a bit about you. You've got a very interesting past, because I've just read some of your notes, which is really interesting, I want to get into that a bit.

Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up writing?

Meghan Quinn: So I didn't think I was going to be a writer, which I feel like a lot of people say, but I was working for Special Olympics in New York at the time and I had some downtime there. And so I asked my wife if she would get me a Kindle for Christmas, and she said, "No, you don't read, why am I going to get you a Kindle?" And I was like, "I'll read if I have one." And so she gave me one.

My commute to work was an hour and 20 minutes one way, and so during that commute, I would just think of these stories that I was constantly reading and how I would like tweak them here and there, or like what if this happened, or what if that happened? And one day I just decided maybe I'll write a book, we'll see how it goes. And it took me a week, which let's be honest, it was pure trash.

James Blatch: Right.

Meghan Quinn: But it was me just spilling everything out on the computer. And it was fun for me and I didn't think much of it. I refined, refined, refined. And then this was back in 2013 when I self-published for the first time. I made my own cover, I edited myself, which I'm sure everyone's cringing, you don't ever want to edit the book yourself because you miss everything. And it was shown, because I got many reviews saying, "This is the worst edited book I've ever read." And so I just did it as a hobby and I didn't really think much of it. I got some traction here and there. I remember after I published the next day it was like, "Check your sales." And I was like, "Oh," and it was three people bought my book and I was like, "Oh my gosh."

James Blatch: Yay. People you didn't know?

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. I was like, "This is so exciting, people bought my book." And so I was just winging it or whatever.

Then I got a job in Colorado with a national governing body, which a national governing body is basically an Olympic sport. So I given my path, I don't say what the sport is, but something like rowing or gymnastics within USA Olympics. So I got a job within USA Olympics and I was working for them and writing.

At the time I was just releasing books and it was more of a side money thing for me, not thinking too much about it. And then I was like, "Maybe someday I could be a full time author." But my wife and I were trying to adopt a baby, and so we were actually using my book money to help with the process, because it's really expensive.

James Blatch: You were selling to more than three at this stage.

Meghan Quinn: Yes.

James Blatch: You'd obviously you moved up in sales a bit. I know we won't delve into numbers necessarily, but it wasn't quit your job money at this stage for you.

Meghan Quinn: No, it was about like low five figures, if anything. I remember the first time we bought a house out here and I was able to contribute like $7,000 from my book money to our down payment. I have never felt so much pride. Because my wife was the money maker and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I can help buy this house."

When you're working for a national governing body, they don't have a lot of money basically. And so my income was, I want to say like $30,000. I wasn't making a lot, but I was enjoying what I was doing and I was travelling around the country, and so it was exciting. But I wasn't the one bringing in the money my wife wanted.

So when we started the adoption process, it was like whatever I made book wise was going towards the adoption so that we could afford it. And when I was working at my job, basically when you're going to have a baby, they want to have this baby plan for you. And they asked me, "What is your baby plan for when you do adopt?"

They want to know how much time you want off, if you're going to work from home, all these different things. And so I gave them my baby plan, I went on my Christmas break, and then I came back from Christmas break and they brought me into HRs office and they were like, "We're going to have to let you go." And I was like, "Why?"

James Blatch: Wow. Do you know, for someone sitting in Europe, you've just described so many things that are illegal.

Meghan Quinn: I know. And it's a for employment state, I can't remember the exact terms. Because my parents were outraged. They were like, "What's going on?" They told me the reason why I was being let go is because I wasn't doing my job. Mind you, at the end of the year you get a bonus if you went above and beyond and did your job. I got my bonus at the end of the year.

James Blatch: Right.

Meghan Quinn: So I was like, "I'm so confused."

James Blatch: Well, that sounds pretty awful.

Meghan Quinn: I know. And I'm not that person who will get into confrontation. I just am like, "Okay, thank you. Have a good day." And move on, and I think about it later and I stew about it later and then I'm like, "Ah, this is what you should have said, Meghan," but I'm not that person. I was absolutely devastated. Immediately I came home and I was like, "Well, I'm going to stick it to them and I'm going to do unemployment. I'm going to get that unemployment," or whatever.

I told our adoption advisor who was helping us through adoption. And I was like, "I'm so sorry, I lost my job today. I hope this doesn't affect the adoption." And she was like, "Well, did you collect unemployment?" I was like, "Yes, collected the unemployment." And she was like, "No," she's like, "you need to get on the phone right now and you need to reverse that and strike it from your record." And I was like, "Oh my gosh, why?" And she's like, "The state won't allow you to adopt if you're on unemployment." And so I was like, "Okay..." And so I quickly called, I spent I think two hours on the phone with the unemployment office and they were able to strike it from my record and not move forward with it or whatever.

Unfortunately at the time my wife just started a new job, and so she didn't have any time off to be with the baby. And I can't start a new job because I wouldn't have time off either. And so my wife and I sat down and I was like, "I don't know what to do at this point." I was making about like $30,000 with book stuff, and I just released a book the day after I got fired and I was like, "Should I just go for it? Should I try? Should I try to make something of this?" And she was like, "You don't have a choice, so yes, go forward, make something of it." 11 days after I was fired, our adoption advisor told us that a birth mother wanted to pick us as a couple. And we talked on the phone with her and she was like, "You guys are perfect." And so I was like, "Oh my God."

James Blatch: Pressure's on.

Meghan Quinn: The baby was due in May. Or well, he was born in May, we have him. But I was like, "I need to bust my butt to make sure that when this baby comes, I can work and support my family at the same time." And so it was kind of like, "You have no choice, make it work." And so that's what I did.

James Blatch: Wow. What a situation to be in though. Motivating factors all around, but also pressure that some people wouldn't necessarily thrive under, but clearly you did.

Was that connected, do you think, to working in elite sport, which also has that sort of pressure and expectation on it?

Meghan Quinn: Because I was a division one athlete, I had a full ride scholarship in college. I played at an elite level, and I think that you just get used to that kind of pressure. I played softball, and I can remember in high school pitching and standing on the mound and looking to the backstop and the people behind it. And it is like 10 to 15 college scouts lined up along the backstop with their hats and their gear and radar guns to see how fast I'm throwing and watching. And that is the kind of pressure that I grew up with and that I'm accustomed to. I would definitely think any sort of pressure situation that I'm under now as an indie author, I would say comes from that experience.

James Blatch: Okay. Well, let's talk about the journey since then. That first book that you wrote and published quite quickly, at some point you transitioned your writing style and as we all do, the more writing you do, the more experience you get, the better you get preferably.

Did you take any particular craft courses? Did you read books? Or did you just simply develop your own way of telling stories?

Meghan Quinn: My form of research is reading other people's stories, and I still do it today. And I'll read more traditionally published books because their style is much different than, let's say like an indie author, there's a different cadence sometimes. And I'll do it now too, where I write in first person, but I'll read a lot of third person because it gets me out of my head and makes me think differently of how someone would describe something or say something or someone's different way of telling a story. I read all the time, I was just constantly reading.

James Blatch: Well, that's funny because you said your wife said to you, "I'm not going to buy you a Kindle because you don't read."

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: You weren't a reader before you started writing.

Meghan Quinn: I read a little bit in high school. I did the whole Harry Potter thing and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. But when college hit, I was just like, "Please, help me get through college." I was not the best student. I actually took a creative writing course and I got a C in it, and not from the lack of trying, my teacher just didn't like me, didn't like my stories and my flair for humour, and so she gave me a C. But I didn't have time to read. And my wife, Steph, she met me in college. When I graduated from college, she was like, "You don't read." And I'm like, "Well, I could."

James Blatch: "I can read!"

Meghan Quinn: I know. But the best thing that happened to me was getting a Kindle. And she forced everyone in my family to give me an Amazon gift card so that I had money to buy books. But I was so frugal, I would make sure I would go to the top 100 free books and I would scan and go through. And I'm like, "Oh, that..."

I've always been a romantic comedy movie person. And so I would look for all the free books. That's actually where I found Marie Forrest, her Made for Love was free, perma free. And I was like, "Oh, this is so good." And then like 20 books later, I was like, "Oh, she got me."

James Blatch: Free works, right?

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. Oh, it was so good. I just started bingeing constantly.

James Blatch: And your books, that first one you wrote, you've done romantic comedy. I should say your books are, I hope this is not a personal thing to say, but your books are straight? Male-female?

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: Yeah, okay. I hadn't misread that.

Meghan Quinn: They're male-female. That was a conversation my wife and I had when I started writing and I was like, "Is this okay, that it's male-female?" And she was like, "I prefer that it is."

We both agree that if I wrote a female-female relationship, people know about my life, which the coming out to the readers was a whole different story. But people know my life now. And I would hate for them to think... It's very personal, especially if there's sex in a book, a lot of people don't necessarily know the intimacy between a female and a female and I would be writing from experience. Whereas writing male-female, it's just like everybody knows how it happens.

James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. I see that.

Meghan Quinn: So we wanted to keep it really private. And that's not to say that I don't have LGBTQ characters throughout all of my books, because I do. And I even have secondary story lines. But the main couple is always male-female.

James Blatch: I think a lot of romance writers will say, particularly mainly female romance, they will sometimes attract the wrong type of attention. So it's a worthwhile conversation to have, I think, and make your decisions on that area. But okay, well, that's great. I love your covers by the way, they stand out, they look brilliant.

Meghan Quinn: Thank you.

James Blatch: So you wrote romantic comedy, did you... I mean, there's so many sub genres in romance, the billionaires, the bullies, whatever. I could go on, I've read a few of them now.

What did you choose to write and what are you writing now?

Meghan Quinn: When I first started, I actually was very into the whole drama of it all, and my books had humour in them, but they were more of drug and cheating and love triangles and all this different stuff. And people will go back to my back list now, solid readers of mine, and they were like, "Meghan..." I'm like, "I know, I know." Things got crazy back then.

It wasn't until I wrote the The Virgin Romance Novelist, which was my first real romantic comedy, that I actually was like, "Whoa, hold on a second. This is my cup of tea." I don't know why it took me so long. Every Friday night my parents and I would go to Blockbuster and we'd get a romantic comedy and I would sit down and watch it. It was like my thing to do. I don't know why it took me so long to find that voice, but ever since then, I've just been solid romantic comedy.

I like to focus a lot on sports romance since I have that background, especially baseball is one of my number ones. I've ventured into hockey this past year, which is, the amount of research I have to do on that, hockey is a hard sport. But I will also do a lot of, I like a New York City office setting, I think it's just very classic rom-com. And then this last one was teacher romance. So just whatever I feel like doing, I go around, I don't really stick to a lot of stuff, I jump around a bit. But there's always going to be humour in it.

James Blatch: So you are side by side with Lucy Score, and you're pretty similar genre writers, I would say then.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. We are very much compared to a lot, so I'm in good company, right?

James Blatch: You're both amazing, I will say that now.

How have you divided your writing in terms of series?

Meghan Quinn: It's funny, because people always ask, "Meghan, you have all these books that are in a series, but you don't list it on Amazon as a series." And I'm like, "Yeah, I know," because most of my books are in series, and I call them standalones, but they're interconnected. Interconnected standalones basically. But I don't ever list them in a series because Amazon, whenever I put my books in a series, they always seem to ding me for the third book.

Put Me in Detention is the third book in my teacher series, the first one was See Me After Class and then Earn Your Extra Credit was the second one. So this is the third one. If I put it in a series, there's no way I would've gotten the same kind of look at it from readers. They would just be like, "Oh, it's a third book in a series."

So I always market it as a standalone. And then in the back, I'll say, "If you want to read about this person, if you want to read about this person, here's the information." And then later on, if this series is kind of old, like I have one called the Bromance series, I connected those because I do a lot of stuff with Prime and sales and I try to keep the continuation in the reading. But when it comes to a new book and the series isn't finished yet, I'll just market it as a standalone.

James Blatch: Right. So all your books, even the ones you have linked as a series, you could pick up one in the middle of the series and it would work as a standalone?

Meghan Quinn: Yep.

James Blatch: That's really interesting. I'm hopefully publishing my second book this year in a completely different genre, but interconnected, same universe, but standalones. I hadn't really made a decision whether I was going to link them as a series or not, but interesting listening to you talk about that.

Maybe the way ahead is to treat each one as this standalone book, and you feel it gets a little bit more attention that way?

Meghan Quinn: I do. I don't know the inner workings of Amazon. I wish that I did. But what I do know is from when I have linked books to when I haven't linked books, the difference between how far it goes in rank and how long it stays within the top 100 is vast. I have learned that I don't link anything until maybe a year later. And so I just keep it as standalones and then I use my back matter to propel my back list. The back list pays for everything basically.

James Blatch: Yeah. That's where the profit comes from.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: So in terms of, we're talking about writing process and marketing, I want to carry on with writing for the moment. So where you are now, what is your plan for 2022, for instance?

How many books are you going to write and what which series, in inverted commas, are they going to go into?

Meghan Quinn: So right now I'm releasing seven books. Two of them are with Montlake, like I said earlier. The first one comes out in February and the second one comes out in October. And then I'll fill in, I usually base my releases off when Montlake releases.

Within there I'll have five releases, and one already did, which is Put Me in Detention. And so that closes off the teacher series, that will be complete and done. April will be the second book in my hockey series. And then I don't like to plan too far ahead, because I'm a kind of a nut case and in the middle of the night I'll come up with an idea and I'm like, "I have to write it right away." I don't like to future plan things out because I change my mind constantly. But I do know when I have to release and I have my editing schedule set up and audio booked and all that different stuff.

James Blatch: In terms of your writing then, obviously you write quite fast, seven books in a year is going some. What does your writing process look like?

Meghan Quinn: Right now I have a book full of ideas, and depending on how a certain book does; so for instance, A Not So Meet Cute release November 2nd and that book hit number one, it was in the top five I want to say for like a month, it was insane. The craziest release I think I've ever had. It's number 15 now. It's just kind of stayed there.

Whenever I write a book, especially a new one, I always insert some sort of side character that could possibly get a book in the future. And if the book does well, then I will take that side character and I will develop it into another book. So Kiss and Don't Tell was my first hockey book, and that came out in September, that hit number two, it's done exceedingly well. So I wrote the second hockey book, which comes out in April now.

I looked at A Not So Meet Cute, I have two characters in there that I wrote in there that people are like, "Oh, can we have this story? Can we have this story?" And so I'm like, "Okay, that's doing well," I look at my story ideas, and I go, "How could these two characters fit within my story ideas?" And then I pick one and then I start writing.

So I really base it off of how a book's doing, what I want to write, and when I should write it and how quickly. And usually it takes me about, I would say three to four weeks to write 100,000 to 150,000 words. It depends on how crazy I am. But yeah, I will just blast it out real quick and then edits are where all the magic happens.

James Blatch: So you're writing 8,000 to 10,000 words a day, are you?

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: I love the way you do that, by the way, allowing the books to tell you, allowing the readers effectively to tell you where you're going to go next.

Meghan Quinn: To me, it's just smart business. You have to see what the market's doing. You have to see what's trending, I'm always looking at the top 100, I'm always seeing who is in the top 100, what they're writing, what readers are saying. I'm in a bunch of other author groups and I'm always observing and seeing what readers are saying about different things that they've read from other authors. And really just learning, and one of my biggest things is I sit back and I just watch. I like to see what everyone is doing, how they're doing it, what's successful what's not successful. And then I will look at my own stuff and I'll see what did readers like, what do reader not like?

Sometimes I write a strong female character, and I hate to say it, but it's not as widely accepted as someone who is maybe a little bit more sassy and fun and witty or whatever. I've learned that a lot of the time, you can see the trend of a strong female character, book didn't do as well. Strong female character, book didn't do as well.

I really watch for that. And then when I write my next book, I'm like, "Okay, what have we learned from reviews?" Because I read them, even the horrible ones. And then what's trending, what are your readers wanting? Then I form it all together with a bunch of tropes that I like.

James Blatch: So properly writing to market, I mean really paying attention to the nuances of the market.

Meghan Quinn: My Montlake stuff is a little bit more high concept rom-com. And so that one, I'll really sit down, it's not necessarily geared toward any market research that I've done or what's happening in the book world. It's more of, how can I turn this book into a movie? And so I really think of it that way and formulate it so that there's a lot of different story arcs within it. And they've been doing really well.

James Blatch: How does that work with Montlake? Do you have to pitch ideas to them and they choose one, or do they just accept what you're going to write?

Meghan Quinn: When I first started with them, my first contract, I obviously had to pitch a story to them and I had to do, I think it was 2000 words at the time, had to write 2000 words. And then with my next contract, they were like, "Toss us some ideas and we'll see what we like." And that's kind of how it's been recently.

It's just, I throw down some ideas. My book that comes out in October was supposed to be a completely different book. And in like 11:30 at night, I was talking to my wife and I was like, "I can't write this book. This is not for me. This is not what I want." And she was like, "Okay." And I was like, "I have to start it tomorrow. I literally have no time for this to mess around with different ideas."

So I laid in my room with a little light on, 11:30, writing down different ideas and looking at different tropes, and how can I make this more high concept rom-com? Luckily I came up with an idea and I sent it to my agent and I was like, "Please can I switch it to this?" And Montlake was like, "This is amazing, go for it." They're really accommodating and they've been amazing to work with. So they kind of just go with whatever idea I have, which is just amazing in general.

James Blatch: On the subject of Montlake, I am going to return to process in a moment, but on the subject of Montlake, why do you sign a deal with them when you're obviously doing very well as an indie author?

Meghan Quinn: I signed with them, I think it was back in 2018, and I was very adamant about wanting to develop a team that I could work with that would help me expand my readership. Being an author who's all in Kindle Unlimited, I knew that Montlake would be my best option to help expand that readership.

I remember when my first book came out with them, it was That Second Chance. And I had these big hopes and dreams of what would come from working with a publisher, and the book did well, but it didn't do what I thought it was going to do. I almost felt a little let down.

I remember having a conversation with my agent afterwards and freaking out. Embarrassed about it now. But she was like, "Meghan, it's the long run. It's the marathon with them. You have to put in the time, and it will take time, it's not going to happen overnight." And so I was like, "Okay, I'll see this through." With every single release I've seen it grow and grow and grow. And the last one that I had with them was The Highland Fling, and that one came in August, and it has done exceedingly well. I was blown away with how well it's done. It was on two billboards in New York City.

James Blatch: Wow. I hope you got pictures.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. It just expanded things to a point that I was like, "Okay, I see this partnership," and I really consider it a partnership with them. I don't see it as me asking them to do stuff. Whatever I release with them, I do the same exact release marketing plan that I do with my indie stuff, because I know that if I'm putting in the time, they're putting in the time and we're working together to make this release amazing.

Sometimes, not everybody, but sometimes authors just rely on a publisher, which is fine. But if I'm going to be a part of this, if I'm releasing this book, I don't want to rely on somebody. I want to do just as much as they're doing. The teamwork and the partnership with them has been absolutely amazing.

James Blatch: That makes perfect sense. You say the billboards in New York and even within the Amazon ecosystem, presumably being an internal Amazon publisher, they can reach parts that we can't reach, they are going to find readers for you, which inevitably you will benefit from. They'll benefit from and you'll benefit from, for your other books as well.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah, exactly. And they actually did, my book The Wedding Game came out in February last year and they put it as an Amazon First read. And that was one of the first steps to actually expanding that readership. And oh my God, they were like, "Prepare for some horrible reviews. They're like, "We don't know if there's a group of people who are like, 'Okay, the AFR list is out. Let's see who we control.'" I was like, "Oh my gosh."

There's a gay couple and a lesbian couple in the book, and I got hit for that, got hit for using foul language. I was like, "Okay, well I'm glad they prepared me. I'm just going to go sit and cry in a corner for a second and then I'll be ready to go." But it did expand the readership. I've seen a huge difference between last year and the year before.

James Blatch: I guess the higher above the pulpit you are the more thicker skin you're going to need at some point, but that goes with success. That's tough though. It's horrible. But you can wipe your tears with your dollar bills, can't you, from selling the books, and then post a picture to them of that.

So back to process. You say the magic happens in the editing. So once you've finished your first draft, what does that look and feel like in terms of where it's going to end up?

Meghan Quinn: Usually the first draft I'll finish and I'll be like, "Oh, thank Jesus that's over with, I'm so glad the book's finished." But I always have this inkling in the back of my head that I'm like, "This book sucks. I know that I have repeated myself a million times. How many times can they catch their breath? How many times is he going to smirk? My God, Meghan, come up with something else." And I know that first draft after I finish, I'm like, "Thank God it's done, but I know this is crap."

I will go through and I will usually add about 10,000 to 20,000 words, just really drawing out the comedic humour and making sure if there's some sort of slapstick situation within the book that I'm really driving it home and I'm making the reader feel that embarrassment, which makes it funny. I really explore different options, I fill in the holes that I'm like, "This is how the book ended, but I'm totally missing the connection points in the beginning of it ended." And so I'll really navigate through. My wife absolutely hates that I live in my brain constantly, because she'll be telling me something, we have two kids now-

James Blatch: You'll be off.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. She'll be like, "Are you listening? And I'm like, what? Huh? Sorry?" But that's how it is. If I'm in the middle of a book, especially edits, I will be constantly thinking of how I can make that book better. The edits are just me refining those, making sure that I'm not using the same description. I have a few books that I use for that. I wish I could remember what they are.

James Blatch: Oh yeah, I know what you mean.

Meghan Quinn: I don't know, I'll send you an email later.

James Blatch: Yeah. I know what you mean. The description books, yeah. They're very good.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. Description books that really help. And so I'm like, "Let's see. Oh, yep. Okay, that's how you describe a kiss better than what I did."

James Blatch: I'm going to have to start using them. There's a lot of shrugging goes on in my books, I've just realised, a lot of shrugging.

Meghan Quinn: Yes.

James Blatch: You can only shrug so many times, can't you?

Meghan Quinn: I have a lot of looking with the eyes everywhere.

James Blatch: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all have that. I was going to ask you a little bit, it goes into edits, and so you make those changes, but how long does that process take you, having written it quite quickly.

Is the editing process the same length again?

Meghan Quinn: It's usually about a week. I don't usually use beta readers or anything like that. I have tried that once, and it resulted in an absolute disaster. The only person that I really listen to when it comes to the book is my editor, who does kind of a beta read to begin with, and then it'll go to grammar and then it'll go back to her and she'll refine and she'll take out all of what I missed. I like to say little a lot apparently, so she'll take out a lot of that stuff and then just really tighten it up. But yeah, it'll take me about a week, depending on how much I'm feeling the book or not. And then I'll send it off to edits.

James Blatch: And you have the same editor for a while? Because that can be very useful when you're writing in the same universe, because they hopefully will pick up things that maybe two books ago, you want some consistency, right?

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: Because I haven't got to that stage yet, but I know lots of authors do say they struggle sometimes to keep track of everything.

Meghan Quinn: I've used Marion Archer for about five year years now, and I just started using someone for grammar maybe two years ago, and then a solid proofreader in the last year. So I really have a team that comes together and my wife is the final person who reads it. She'll still do the final read.

James Blatch: Was your wife a romance reader before?

Meghan Quinn: No. And it's so not her genre. She just read Verity by Colleen Hoover, and she was like, "This is my cup of tea. This is what I like to read." And I was like, "That's not what I write. I'm sorry."

James Blatch: Yeah. Other genre.

Meghan Quinn: But she actually works with me full time now as well. And so she'll do like all of the, make sure we don't go to tax jail and all the different stuff. And then she's the final eyes on the book just to make sure that there's nothing that was missed. And there always seems to be something at one point. It gets read by five different pairs of eyes, and I want to say six or seven times, and we try our best, but there always seems to be something.

James Blatch: Yeah, of course.

Meghan Quinn: Marion at this point, she's like, "Meghan, when are you ever going to learn?" And it's something like, I'm so bad of like lay and lie, like lay on the bed, lie in the bed. I'm so terrible. She's like, "When are you ever going to learn?"

James Blatch: That's a hard one.

Meghan Quinn: And I'm like, "That's why I hired you."

James Blatch: Yes, exactly. You do that for me.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: You can't understand everything. You're busy bringing people together and splitting them up in your books. There's a lot of work gets involved in that.

Meghan Quinn: Exactly.

James Blatch: I was going to ask you about that. Are you a friends to lovers, enemies to lovers? There's different ways, tropes within romantic comedy. What's your particular one, or do you mess about with different ideas?

Meghan Quinn: I love a neighbours to lovers, a friends to lovers, an enemies to lovers. I think particularly my favourite is enemy to lovers just because you can drive up the tension very quickly.

I just started a book this week and it's enemies to lovers. And it immediately is like sparks are flying because of the fact that they hate each other so much. And so you can build that tension so easily so when they do finally kiss, readers are like, "It finally happened." I particularly like an enemies to lovers, but I just go about friends, neighbours, coworkers, whatever. I like them all.

James Blatch: And in sports, you always get a bit of testosterone about, don't you? I can see why sport lends itself to a lot of romantic books and a bit of that rivalry and all that stuff. So there's a long tradition of that, isn't there?

Meghan Quinn: They have all that adrenaline they have to get rid of, right?

James Blatch: Exactly. Although it does mean you're now having to learn the rules of ice hockey, which is quite interesting.

Meghan Quinn: I know. I was like, "How long is this penalty? He just punched somebody." Google's my best friend.

James Blatch: Yes. Thank goodness for Google. And so you play with all those different tropes within the books, and in terms of the level of steam in the books, do you stay consistent with that? Is it under the covers, over... I've done so many interviews with romance authors, I'm quite an aficionado of the levels of spice now, but what...

Meghan Quinn: It is full force, all the way, graphic.

James Blatch: Okay. It's the train into the tunnel cutaway shots.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah. It's funny because my Montlake books have full on sex scenes, but they're a little bit more on the romantic side. And just because I feel like I know my editor and my agent so well at this point that I feel sweaty and nervous to write a super sexy scene knowing that they're reading it. I know that sounds stupid, but...

James Blatch: You still feel self-conscious after all these books.

Meghan Quinn: Yes. I feel self-conscious. But with my indie stuff, everything's up for play. Like A Not So Meet Cute, so much stuff happened in that book. And people were like, "That was the most innocent cover I've ever seen with the most spicy inside ever." And I was like, "I know, I don't know what happened, but things got a little crazy."

My indie stuff tends to be a little bit more on the spicy side, and my Montlake stuff more romantic. And Steph actually, my wife, she loves my Montlake books for that specific reason. Sometimes she'll read my indie stuff she's like, "Jeez, Meghan, what are do..."

James Blatch: "How do you know this?"

Meghan Quinn: And I'm like, "It's okay. People love it."

James Blatch: And A Not So Meet Cute, the book exploded for you, and I've just looked it up and you're right, it's 14 in the charts today. Do you know what it was?

Have you tried to analyse why that captures people's attention?

Meghan Quinn: I really think it has a lot to do with one, the cover's amazing. And it really has a super rom-com feel, but on the inside it is very, very spicy. I think it's almost confusing at first because you think you're going to get this fun rom-com, when inside you're like, "Oh my gosh, what's going on in here?"

But it also has a, sort of like a retelling of Pretty Woman, but like a modern day tale of it and without the hooker part or whatever. But it just has this classic enemies to lovers type story, which I absolutely love. And also has a fake fiance trope in it, it has a deal they make, they strike up a deal to help each other out, which I know is a very popular trope as well. I think it just hits everybody's boxes. Everyone's like, they love it because it encompasses all these different things about romance that they enjoy.

James Blatch: Well, that's great. I'm so pleased for you. It's been great chatting to you and as always, I always learn a lot when I talk to romance authors, but don't work too hard. It sounds like you have a very full on existence.

Are you going to slow down at some point? Or is that the driven athlete in you again, you're back in the glare of the lights in the softball?

Meghan Quinn: It is, it is. Honestly, I don't know if you pay attention to the enneagram scale at all, but the personality type, I'm a three, which is known as the achiever. And basically their self worth is based upon what they're producing and how well they're doing, and if people are praising them for it. And it is me to a T, and it is hard for me to slow down.

It is hard for me to stop and stop my mind. It's not necessarily me just always like, go, go, go. It's my mind saying, "Here's a story and here's a story and here's a story." And so it's hard for me to just sit back and not write it. I know at some point I probably will slow down a little bit, but right now I just have too much to say. And so I'm going to just keep going.

James Blatch: And it has been life changing for you.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah.

James Blatch: I think you slipped in there that you've basically retired your wife as well from her job, whatever she was doing. And that's a great trope we love to hear in the indie circles where people retire their partners and they all become part of the family business, and that's a brilliant thing.

Meghan, well done. Thank you so much indeed for coming on, it's been really fun chatting to you. I hope we get to meet at some point and maybe one of the conferences and I can buy a drink to all these amazing authors who sit next to each other at the top of the charts, which is always fun to see.

Meghan Quinn: Yeah, it would be amazing.

James Blatch: There we go. Meghan Quinn, really enjoyed talking to her and just great to see the success, the indies are pretty dominant in the... In fact, I'll tell you who else is dominant. We mention them from time to time, but I've been looking at doing some Fuse Books stuff and been looking at some suspense titles recently. I was looking at the suspense charts and I think with six books in the top 30 or so were Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti. I mean, their books are everywhere in every chart you look at, they do-

Mark Dawson: Suspense.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, it's suspenseful elements, but rubbing shoulders with JK Rowling and these big sellers and Richard Osman here in the UK and whoever's big selling in the state. So really brilliant to see, it really feels like indie; well, we've said it's come of age some time ago, but you can't ignore it now. And the publishing companies won't be ignoring it, they'll be seeing the sales figures in those charts, which is great. Good. I think that might be it, Mark. It's been a bit of a bit of a mammoth podcast episode.

Mark Dawson: It has. Yes. Well, hopefully if you're going to get a ticket for the show next Friday and... Well, actually this Friday it's out.

James Blatch: This Friday.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I'm slightly confusing them. But yeah, get that, check it out right now, and hopefully see you in June. But for that, we should probably call it a day, I guess.

James Blatch: Yeah. In London, baby. Thanks very much to the team behind the podcast, and especially this week we're saying another thank you to Lucy Dawson, who has looked after the Foundation winners. Congratulations to all them again. I suppose we should add that if you're interested in applying for the Foundation, if you go to selfpublishingformula.com, you will see there's a Foundation tab at the top. Obviously we don't make the awards till later in the year, we start that process, but you can look at the criteria now. That's it. Okay. All that remains for me to say is it's goodbye from him...

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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