Spotlight 30: Whitney Evans
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’s 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 Whitney Evans. She’s written 18 books in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and she lives in Florida. Welcome Whitney.
Whitney Evans: Thank you for having me.
Tom Ashford: Do you want to start by talking us through the books that you’ve got?
Whitney Evans: Yeah, absolutely. So I write under the pen name S. Usher Evans, and I have, as you said, 18 books out. I have six series, they range from space pirates to teenage magicals.
My latest is basically a young adult fantasy princess who is basically Batman. So that’s a four-book series that actually it’s an award-winning book. It won the Young Adult Florida Book of the Year.
Tom Ashford: Nice.
Whitney Evans: So that was a nice little end to the year this year, and the fourth book in that series, and the final book, will be coming out in March of next year. That’s my next release.
Tom Ashford: Very cool. Okay. Diving in with the questions.
Question number one is why do you write?
Whitney Evans: I write because I have stories that need to be written. For me, writing started off as a very therapeutic thing when I was in middle school, and I was very lonely and bullied, and all of that stuff. So I came up with all of these characters to basically be my friends, and over the years it sort of became my coping mechanism for being bored or being in a place I didn’t want to be in as I would dive into these stories and think about them.
I noticed that when I write them down, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the book The Giver, but when The Giver gives the memory to the young boy, he loses the memory.
That’s kind of what writing is for me is once I write it down, it’s gone, and then I have room to think about other stories. It went from there, and I actually went through what I call my quarter life crisis, where I quit my six figure job and just took a leap of faith to move home. This was of course before I met or became familiar with Mark’s course. So it took a little while to get my feet wet, but now I think I’m cooking with gas, so.
Tom Ashford: Are you indie entirely or are you hybrid?
Whitney Evans: Yes. Yeah, 100% indie.
Tom Ashford: Would you take a traditional contract if you was offered it?
Whitney Evans: Honestly, no. I’m very much a control freak. I’m a project manager by trade, and I like being able control every aspect of the process from cover design to what’s actually in the book.
I also am incredibly impatient, so having to wait a year and a half after I’ve completed a book in order to get it out is just ridiculous to me. I like the pace of indie. I think it works best with my brain. Not to mention the fact that I get to keep all my royalties instead of splitting them with a publisher and an agent.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, I don’t understand the 18 months sort of thing, because as soon as I finished writing a book, I’m excited about the next one more than the one I’ve just written. So I can’t imagine writing like 48 books in the time before the previous one comes out, and then still being excited about that one.
Whitney Evans: Yes.
Tom Ashford: Question number two is how do you write, do you plot your stories out before you start or do you just see where they take you?
Whitney Evans: I definitely do more plotting. As I said, I am a control freak, so I like to know at least where we’re going. The interesting thing about the series I’m working on right now is that it started off as a duology, so it started off as a two-book series, and I always knew what the ending was going to be, but then as I wrote the first book exactly as intended, and I started writing the second book, I realized this is going to take more than two books to detangle.
It’s fairly high stakes, and if I resolve it too quickly, then, you know… And so then it became three books, and then as I was writing the third book, the same thing happened again, and it became four books.
Generally I know exactly what I’m doing. I outline, I’m very clear, stick very, very strongly to it. But with this series, it’s been a little bit more unwieldy, and I have to say I do not like it, so I’m ready to get back to plotting like normal for the next books that I do.
Tom Ashford: What sort of software do you use for your writing process?
Whitney Evans: I am 100% a Scrivenerphile. I love it. I use it for formatting. I use it to make my Kindle books, my print books, my hardcovers. In fact, I for a brief spell was formatting other people’s books using Scrivener too. I can’t say enough wonderful things about it, for Mac anyway, I can’t speak to the Windows, which is, as I hear, a nightmare.
Tom Ashford: Is there a particular time and place that you like writing?
Whitney Evans: I am full time. I have an office here at my house that I work at. Sometimes I like to go sit on the couch. Sometimes I’ll go out, we have a nice little backyard, you know, this is Florida.
Right now it’s in the 60s here in the winter time, so I can go outside and sit for a few hours, and that’s really nice. But usually it helps me focus to sit, put my headphones on, and get to work.
Tom Ashford: That sounds a lot nicer than London at the moment. Don’t know what it is in Fahrenheit, but it was three degrees yesterday evening in Celsius. Not great.
Whitney Evans: Yeah.
Tom Ashford: Question number three is are you a full-time author, which you answered, yes.
Whitney Evans: Yes.
Tom Ashford: How did you get there?
Whitney Evans: So I got there by, first of all, I had a lot of savings. As I went through my quarter life crisis, I came to a point where I said, “Okay, how do I detangle myself from this house I own, and this career that I have, and all of these things to move a thousand miles back home?”
I had a plan, put together the plan, executed the plan, moved home, I got into house-flipping with my dad, he’s a contractor so he’s been doing this for 40 years. So he and I together have done four or five houses, and so that’s been able to fund the writing, so to speak.
Now the nice thing is that, thanks again Mark, I’ve been able to turn a profit every month for the latter half of this year based on ebook sales alone, which generally really hasn’t happened yet. That’s been nice.
I’m still trying to play catch up for the first couple of years, but I think hopefully soon I’ll be at a point where I’m actually funding myself, which is a nice place to be. But if not, then I’ve got house-flipping, and rental properties, and things like that.
Tom Ashford: Question number four is what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Whitney Evans: Definitely trying to keep up with the Joneses. I do write a little bit in the young adult realm, and there’s a lot of competition with traditional authors. They have a lot of swag, they have a lot of bookmarks, and bags, and I’m a coffee cup addict. I’m actually drinking out of a coffee cup that is branded for one of my books right now.
Tom Ashford: Nice.
Whitney Evans: And I really didn’t have the sales to justify spending that much money. If I could go back and do it again, I think I would definitely invest more in covers.
My very first book I put out, I did it just to do for myself, and so I didn’t invest in a cover artist or editing. I went back and had it edited twice actually since then. But those were the two things really is not taking it seriously upfront, and then when I did take it seriously, spending money on the things that didn’t matter, and the things that didn’t actually bring me revenue.
Tom Ashford: Right.
Whitney Evans: What did I get right? I think in this particular series, the first book I wrote in a month, which I’ve never done before.
Tom Ashford: Nice.
Whitney Evans: It’s not a small book either. I mean, it’s a 100,000 word book, so it really flowed very easily for me. I think just sticking to, and making sure to keep the joy in the writing, because it can get difficult to keep happy, and to keep joyful doing this stuff, especially when you’re in the throes of writing a three-country war as I am right now. So trying to make sure I keep happiness in the work is really I think one of the things that I’ve done the best.
Tom Ashford: Question number five is what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Whitney Evans: Definitely is invest in the smart things that will actually bring your revenue. The things that I always tell people are invest in a cover, invest in editing, and then really it all boils down know what you want to do, know what you want out of this process.
There are people that say, “All I want is just to get my book on a shelf, and that’s it, and that will be fine.” That was me, and that’s fine, but the problem is is that if you keep a view that narrow, then you might end up setting yourself up for having to redo everything later. So if there’s even a ghost of a chance that you want to make this into a career, make those investments in things that, again, will bring you profit, and then keep your focus.
We always talk about setting an intention in yoga, I practice yoga, and that will help you make smarter decisions that help you get towards where you want to go versus getting caught up in, well I have to keep up with this author, and I have to keep up with this author.
Tom Ashford: Yeah. Okay, well that’s good advice, and those are your five questions up.
Whitney Evans: Awesome.
Tom Ashford: What’s your science fiction series called?
Whitney Evans: The science fiction series is called The Razia Series.
Tom Ashford: Nice. I might check that out.
Whitney Evans: She’s an interesting character. She does everything possible to shoot herself in the foot and to make things more difficult for herself, but she gets there. It’s a good series.
Tom Ashford: Very relatable for a lot of indie authors then probably.
Whitney Evans: Yes.
Tom Ashford: Nice, well thank you very much for coming on.
Whitney Evans: Awesome. Thanks Tom, appreciate your time.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week’s 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.
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