Spotlight 008: Grace Wynter
Mark Dawson: I’m Mark Dawson from The Self Publishing Show and this is Self Publishing Spotlight, where we shine a light on the indie authors who are changing the world of publishing one book at a time.
Tom Ashford: Hello and welcome to The Self Publishing Spotlight. We meet indie authors at all stages of their careers and ask them a series of five questions. Five questions about their process, their mistakes, and their successes. Five answers that will help you level up your own author career.
Tom Ashford: My name is Tom Ashford and I’m part of The Self Publishing Formula. Don’t forget that you can get your self-publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starter kit.
This week’s guest is Grace Wynter. She’s a writer of romance fiction and she lives just outside Atlanta, Georgia. Welcome Grace.
Grace Wynter: Thank you.
Tom Ashford: How are you doing?
Grace Wynter: I’m great, actually.
Tom Ashford: Cool, it’s just morning over there, isn’t it?
Grace Wynter: It is close to noon and it’s already almost like 100 degrees outside, but I’m inside and the AC, so I’m great.
Tom Ashford: Nice, okay, so do you want to tell us a little bit about the romance books that you write?
Grace Wynter: I’ve published one so far. The title is Free Falling, my protagonist’s name is Free, Freedom, so Free for short. It’s set in a fictional town in Georgia called Pointe Hill. And the plan is that my series, is the Pointe Hill series and my series of stories will take place in Pointe Hill, Georgia.
Tom Ashford: Nice, so that’s an ongoing series, is it?
Grace Wynter: Yes, I’ve only written one so far-
Tom Ashford: Got to start with one.
Grace Wynter: But yeah, but I’ve learned and so I knew when I started, I wanted to make this a series and so the first series introduces my main character. But then you also meet her cousin and her future love interest. And so there’ll be featured in book two and I set it up that way, so that I can always do something in the town. The town is the center, so I can always create stories around the town.
Tom Ashford: Awesome, sounds great. Okay, well let’s jump in with the five questions. And the first one is, why do you, write?
Grace Wynter: I’ve been reading since… I mean my parents say that I started reading at a very early age and Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers and I’ve always imagined myself in her stories. Growing up, I was born in Jamaica, the West Indies, but raised in America. Growing up, I didn’t find a lot of stories, particularly romantic stories, where black women were centered. So I knew that when I started writing fiction, I wanted to write romantic stories where black women were centered.
Tom Ashford: Great, so when did you start writing your first novel? Or did you have other sort of drafts before your first published one?
Grace Wynter: Oh yeah. I probably wrote about two that are on a hard somewhere and Free Falling started out as a short story. But my critique group and I we’re going to do sort of a group of short stories. But when they read it, they said, “No, this needs to be a full length novel.” And that’s how Free Falling came about. So that was my first novel that I published, but not the first that I had written.
Tom Ashford: Okay and that was… you self-published that first novel?
Grace Wynter: Yeah, self-published. It had always been my intention to self-publish and I will always self-published that series.
Tom Ashford: Okay, so when would you go for a traditional contract? Maybe for a different series or something?
Grace Wynter: Well, yeah, as a matter of fact, I’m working on a YA sci-fi novel and for just various reasons, I knew that I wanted to pursue a traditional deal for that. But not for the reasons a lot of people pursue. I mean I’ve learned so much about what happens in the traditional environment and a lot of it doesn’t appeal to me, but there’s a reach and there’s a specific audience for this kind of YA SFF and I’m very interested in that audience and so I am working on something for that, yeah.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, I think we had a previous guest called Kim Thurlow, who I think she mentioned that with young adult, it can be good to get books on like physical bookshelves and stuff. Just for like reach and things.
Grace Wynter: Absolutely, yeah.
Tom Ashford: Cool, well, question two is how do you write? Which is a bit easier to answer. So are you more of like a plotter or do you just sort of wing it as you go?
Grace Wynter: I think I start out with the idea, which we, most of us do. We start out with this idea. I usually know how it begins and I usually know how it ends. When I was writing Free Falling, I didn’t plot at all, I kind of pantsed it. It took me three years to write that and I spent so much time revising. I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that the second go around.
Grace Wynter: So now that I’ve been working on the second book in the Free Falling series and also the YA that I plan to [inaudible 00:05:12] I’ve really put together a tight outline for them. But then I’ve also learned that the outline is great and I need it. But I give myself permission to vary from the outline and that allows me to be more creative. So I guess I’m in the middle.
Tom Ashford: Nice, probably the best way.
Grace Wynter: Yeah, for me, yeah.
Tom Ashford: No extremes and do you have a particular time and place that you like to write?
Grace Wynter: I have an office in my house. I work from home, so I have an office here. And the time and place… The time I write varies, used to be that I could wake up really early and do it first thing in the morning. Then I got older and I can’t do anything much first thing in the morning any more. So I find that sometimes the evening works best. So that actually varies from day-to-day. But I know that I need a dedicated spot. I can’t write on my bed or in my bedroom, so it’s either my office or I go to a coffee shop.
Tom Ashford: Nice and in terms of software, when you’re writing, do you use things like Scrivener or Word or that software?
Grace Wynter: Yes, so I draft in Scrivener and I revise in Word. For some reason that works really well for me. I think the Scrivener part works because as I’m putting the scenes together, I can move things around. If I find, well this works better here, I’d like this to happen here. But once I’ve compiled it and brought it into Word and look at it in Word. Any changes I make happen and Word. For some reason I can’t shift my brain back to the sort of blocked method of Scrivener. So I find both… I use both and I use them a lot.
Tom Ashford: Cool and in terms of formatting, do you use Vellum or Reedsy or how do you approach that?
Grace Wynter: Vellum, I’m Mac based, so I bought Vellum and I’ve loved it. I’ve changed my cover after I launched and I just found things that I need to correct and Vellum has been a lifesaver worth every penny.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, okay, well question number three is, are you a full-time author? If you are, how did you get there? And if you aren’t, what steps are you taking to make it happen?
Grace Wynter: I am not a full-time author. I hope to be in the future. A few months after I published Free Falling, I was laid off from my full-time job, but I had sort of known it was coming and so I had been preparing. I took some courses at University of Chicago, so I decided to just go full-time freelance and working for myself, which I have been doing.
Grace Wynter: But that also cut into my writing time because now 100% of my income, it comes from me. So everything I do comes from me. So I just, right now I’m juggling between doing the things that pay the bills now and writing, which I know will pay the bills later. So the plan is to continue to work on the writing when I can, so that I can release book two and three and continue to release books in the series.
Tom Ashford: Nice, yeah, it’s always a balancing act, isn’t it? Until you do it full-time. Okay, question number four is what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Grace Wynter: Whew, how much time do you have? And I wouldn’t call it a mistake because I did what I thought was right at the time, but then I learned from it. The biggest one was I had the wrong book cover. I
was targeting a romance market, a straight romance market, when I should have been going after closer to women’s fiction. And so I had to change the book cover, a couple of the first reviews I got, made a clear that the audience I went after with the, with my cover wasn’t the right audience.
Grace Wynter: So I changed the book cover and saw a big difference in the type of reader I was getting. So that was a ‘mistake’ I made that I’m glad I was able to fix. The second thing I would have done is, I’d always said, “Well, everyone says you should publish two or three books at once.” That had been my plan and I’d been really impatient. So I published the first one and at first I thought that was a mistake, but then I realized something. Had I published all three, I would’ve had all three covers in the wrong genre, right?
Tom Ashford: Yeah.
Grace Wynter: And would have had to go through the expense of changing all three. So I liked the fact that I published the one, able to learn the things I did about my market and my audience with that ‘wrong book cover’ and so now, moving forward books two and three will be a lot better. Those are the two main things I did wrong.
Tom Ashford: Yeah and of course any book that’s published rather than sitting on your computer is earning money.
Grace Wynter: Yes, oh absolutely and that’s the other thing. I mean, one of the things that I did do right was publish the ebook and a paperback when I started out. I was in Kindle Unlimited, but Kindle Unlimited allows you to do paperbacks. So I, through CreateSpace and IngramSpark created paperbacks and I sold quite a few paperbacks. Not only that, I was able to get into, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Ripped Bodice. It was US’s first and only, for a while, all romance bookstore. I was able to get my paperback in that bookstore, so that was-
Tom Ashford: Very nice.
Grace Wynter: Yeah, that was good, I was happy about that.
Tom Ashford: Awesome, okay, well the fifth and final question is, what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Grace Wynter: I think a lot of people starting out see it as just, they’re sort of very focused on one thing. And if you don’t do steps A through F and don’t do them in order and don’t do them right, you’ve messed up and you can’t start over and it’s done. I like to take a broader view of my self-publishing career. For one, this is something I’m going to be doing for as long as I can write and type and create stories. So I don’t see these failures or these mistakes as stopping points. I see them as building blocks and so I would encourage everybody not to let one setback get you down.
Grace Wynter: Like the second day I published, I got a one star review and it was so… it was a hard review to read. But I took all the lessons I learned and in a few days I had reviews that countered that. I’m up at 4.5, 4.7 stars now. So I would encourage people to take the long view of self-publishing and look at avenues in which you can help. I’ve gotten speaking engagements because I self-publish. I’ve taught workshops because I’ve self-published. So it isn’t just about the one book or the 10 books you publish. I encourage people to look at the broad picture and what else can come from being a self-published author.
Tom Ashford: Fantastic, well that’s five questions and there were some fantastic answers in there. So thank you very much for coming on.
Grace Wynter: Thank you and thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this weeks Self-Publishing Spotlight. Don’t forget that you can get your free self-publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit. If you want to appear as a guest on the show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at selfpublishingformula.com/spotlight-guest I’m Tom Ashford and I’ll see you again next week.
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