Spotlight 29: Brenda Felber
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.
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/starterkit.
This week’s guest is Brenda Felber. She’s written nine books in the middle-grade mystery genre and she lives in Wisconsin.
Brenda Felber: Thank you Tom. Good to be here.
Tom Ashford: Would you like to start maybe talking about the books that you’ve written?
Brenda Felber: My intent is to have one book set in every State in the United States and since I’m in my late sixties, I hope I live long enough to do that. But that’s a good goal to have and I like it because it shows the readers, hopefully I’ll enjoy all of the States in the US and perhaps get to travel there someday and see with their own eyes. But that’s my intent is to do all of those and I’m starting… actually started just a few months ago under a pen name, a cozy mystery series for adults.
Tom Ashford: Nice. Location hopping has worked for people like Dan Brown in the past, so why not?
Brenda Felber: Yes. I enjoy it, it’s tons of fun.
Tom Ashford: Cool. Okay, well diving into the questions.
Question number one is why do you write?
Brenda Felber: I was never had this in my mind for years and years, but I came back, returned to Wisconsin after living away from many years when my parents got ill. So I did a semi-retirement and I missed seeing my grandkids. So I would take them on trips to some different States and that evolved into, “Gosh, I won’t get them everywhere and they’re getting too old and don’t want to run with grandma anymore.”
So that led me to this idea of sharing this with them and with other people and so that’s why I write. It started out as, I guess you might say, a bit of a hobby and something to do with my time, but that was in 2011 and it’s evolved since then. My first book was published in 2015, so it took me a while to get the first one out, but I’m working on all of them now. It’s going much smoother.
Tom Ashford: Was there a reason that you chose middle-grade mystery as a genre?
Brenda Felber: I think because that’s when I could capture the age of my grandchildren was one thing at the time. But then I could also capture those readers before they get into young adult books, which I think is probably starting at a younger age now that they’re reading the young adult.
I catch them when they’re just beyond the chapter stage and share with them the… Whether it’s around the world or I’m in the US or wherever, to be able to share with them the small histories and I think I can just hook them maybe with doing the mystery with a bit of paranormal and to engage them that way.
Tom Ashford: I presume you’re an indie publisher.
Would you go for a traditional contract if offered?
Brenda Felber: At this point, probably not. Boy, it would be tempting as many authors, indie authors consider all the marketing and things that we have to do. But looking at it from the perspective and listening to the different experts like Joanna Penn, I listened from the beginning, I’m a member of ALLi and certainly with the Self-Publishing Formula to listen to how indie publishing has evolved and it’s getting easier and easier and the opportunities for us and certainly the control.
I’m a Virgo and I tend to like my organization and control. I don’t know that I’d be willing to give that up. But if I was offered some huge amount, I probably wouldn’t say no, but I’m not looking for it.
Tom Ashford: Were you ever attempted by writing as a profession or even as a hobby before you started sort of the series?
Brenda Felber: In volunteer organizations I belonged to, where I volunteered, I did writing for newsletters and things like that. But I found an old college paper in my memory box of things and I must have had some spark of it.
It was a critique from a professor and I went, well, maybe that was something and forgetful in my old age. Maybe I thought about it a bit more, but not writing. I love the fiction, so I don’t pursue any helping with newsletters and stuff like that anymore.
Tom Ashford: Yeah. Okay.
Question number two is how do you write? Do you plot your stories out in advance or do you see where the story takes you?
Brenda Felber: You know, Tom, that’s evolving. The last book I did was set in Mackinac Island in Michigan and I really tackled it with trying to outline. I had taken Patterson’s masterclass and saw his outline process and I loved it. It was hard to push through that part of the void as the writing goes better for me.
I tend to go down research holes with the books because I love reading about the history of different areas. But I get too stuck in that. So the outlining help me keep focus, gave me a more specific outline to work with. Maybe I had the beginning, middle and end before, but I plotted and laid out scenes and I’m going to use that going forward I think.
Tom Ashford: What sort of software do you use? Things like Scrivener Word or Vellum and things like that?
Brenda Felber: Yes, I use Scrivener, which was wonderful using this technique, being able to move the things around the scenes and settings and have the history in there in my notes.
Then I use Vellum. I’ve been using Vellum probably last four or five books because invariably I’ll have some corrections to make and it’s just amazingly easy to put them in and then reload them up to Ingram or Amazon and things like that.
I think the tools that are out there now, like I said, have made this journey so much more comfortable and easy for me. Yeah, those are about the only tools I guess I can think of. I’m starting to consider working in the audio book, so I’ll have to work out what tools are available there as far as getting that out in audio, working with an independent reader and things like that. So it’s always something new.
Tom Ashford: Is there a particular time and place that you’d like to write?
Brenda Felber: I have a home office that I’m sitting in now and I try to write. I’m better in early afternoon, morning I do the marketing and posting. My brain doesn’t turn on easily in the mornings, it takes a little warming up and once that brain engine is warm then I can relax in the afternoon and enjoy the writing. So it’s generally in my home office in the afternoons.
Tom Ashford: Nice. Well that leads into question number three which 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?
Brenda Felber: I think Tom, I’m probably it’s my case is maybe a little different. As I said, I was sort of put myself into a semi-retirement about 10 years ago and now I can sit in myself, retired, but I write and work at this authoring business full time.
I have the luxury of not having to use it to support myself other than that’s my intent and I use it for the travel to research. I get to every State I research and so I am doing it full time, but I’m not using it to support myself. Is that a fair answer?
Tom Ashford: Yeah, I think that’s reasonable.
Brenda Felber: Okay.
Tom Ashford: Question number four is what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Brenda Felber: I think it’s in the beginning I spent so much time researching, but which was wonderful, but I have tons of books now from I would buy every book about areas and enjoy them. But my goal of getting it done before I die, getting to all the States, I realized I needed to kick into gear.
So I am at about three books a year now and when I introduced this other series, maybe I’ll have to cut back on that. But that was one thing was too much research.
Then a couple of learning curves with the Amazon and Facebook bids and the bid price, some oops of not cutting it back down before I launched and spending and losing a lot of money that way. So those were my, I guess you’d call them mistakes. But you learn from them.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, good mistakes.
Brenda Felber: Yeah.
Tom Ashford: Is there anything that you’ve got particularly right? Any sort of success stories behind it?
Brenda Felber: In so much of the information that’s out there and there is so much for the indie authors, I just love it. I love it. But it’s some of the middle-grade is a little bit of a harder marketing. Like I see Karen Inglis doing so well and she put the book out for it. But I think that is something that I need to figure out better.
I’m looking forward with the closing mystery to the marketing I’ve learned. In fact, a Facebook consultant called me, which he was wonderfully helpful. I think they do that periodically with different authors. So I’m seeing them reach out and try to keep a positive attitude about Amazon even as they change.
They’re trying to get, yes, themselves, but they’re trying to get help us too which we bring something to them. So I think trying to keep that positive attitude about that all and it’s been coming to good fruition. It’s good.
Tom Ashford: Nice. Okay.
The fifth and final question is, what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Brenda Felber: I found and it took along to get my wheels going and those first four years were just researching and building my website and learning and I think it is important to immerse yourself in some of that because I know there’s that I’ll just keep writing. I mean, certainly that’s the end goal.
But I think to be successful and be publisher, you have to learn internet and all the ways to work around it. I think it’s hard not to do that. I know some who try and it is more difficult.
So I would say immerse yourself in all the information that’s free out there. Maybe start taking some of the courses, get some of the craft books and keep that positive attitude, enjoy the writing part of it. If you’re writing to market is certainly different than if you want to write a passionate memoir.
I’m speaking to a retirement group at our local university campus here about writing as is it a hobby or is it that you want to be published and earn income from it, and advice is given in which path you’re taking. I think there’s different advice for each one. So that’ll be interesting to talk to my generation of people who think about writing.
Some just want to get that memoir out. You could do that and maybe get it public. It’s amazing how easily you can put your work up now. So I would encourage them to do that. But if you really want to delve into the world of the marketing and publicity, it’s amazing what’s available and it goes on and on and on and there’s always a bright new shiny object out there to grab onto. So my advice is understand what path you want to be on and then keep focused on that. Don’t get drawn down on all the other ones.
Tom Ashford: Very good. Awesome, well those are your five questions. Thank you very much for coming on the show.
Brenda Felber: Well, thank you Tom. Thank you for having me and keep up the good work there.
Tom Ashford: Thank you.
Brenda Felber: Seriously, you do a lot. Thank you.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week, Self-Publishing Spotlight. Don’t forget that you can get your free Self-Publishing Resource Kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit and 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.
Grab Your SPF Freebies!
Sign up to receive your SPF starter package, which includes a free 3 part video series on getting started with FB ads, and inspirational and educational weekly emails.