Spotlight 33: Sandy Lo
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 Sandy Lo. She’s written 12 books in the romance genre and she lives in New York. Welcome Sandy.
Sandy Lo: Thank you. Welcome. Oh, sorry. I messed up. Thank you. Thank you for having me, Tom.
Tom Ashford: No worries.
Would you like to start by talking about the books that you’ve got so far?
Sandy Lo: Sure. My most popular series is the Dream Catcher series. And I also have written The Watch Dog and Indigo Waters and Lost in You, which was my first book, and it was a boy-band romance.
Tom Ashford: And you spoke a little bit before about a bit of the paranormal coming into some of your more recent novels.
Sandy Lo: Yes. The Watch Dog is about a ghost dog that helps the main characters seek redemption. And then I have Decaf For The Dead, which is my most recent novella that came out this October, and that is about a haunted coffee shop.
Tom Ashford: Very cool. Okay.
The first question is; why do you write? So is there a particular reason that you started writing in the first place?
Sandy Lo: I always had a really big imagination as a kid, and I used to love to play Barbie dolls and act out these elaborate stories. And then when I was too old to play, or at least what society deemed as me too old to play with Barbie dolls, I had all these stories within me and so I started to write them down.
I would involve my friends in these stories and it would be fun for all of us. I’d read them over the phone to them, and just became kind of something that was inside me that I had to get out. And if I’m not writing, I get pretty depressed, honestly.
Tom Ashford: Are you indie-published or traditional?
Sandy Lo: Indie-published all the way.
Tom Ashford: Nice.
How did you come about publishing indie, I guess? What brought your attention to it?
Sandy Lo: I started an online magazine when I was just 18, and I fell into that. I wanted to get experience in journalism. And through that experience, with that actually becoming successful, I realized that I liked doing things my way and releasing things on my timeline. So I decided that the indie route was for me.
I also spoke to some traditionally published authors who had nightmare stories about it. So I decided that indie was the way for me.
Tom Ashford: Fair enough. And speaking of journalism… now, I always do a little bit of stalking of the writers before I interview them.
Did I see that you interviewed Taylor Swift?
Sandy Lo: I did. I was the first person to interview Taylor Swift.
Tom Ashford: That is amazing. That is a podcast episode in its own right.
Sandy Lo: It definitely is. I have some stories from a lot of the backstage experiences I’ve had.
Tom Ashford: That’s cool. Okay.
Question number two is; how do you write? So do you tend to plot your stories out beforehand or do you just see where the story takes you?
Sandy Lo: I am definitely what the writing community would call a pantser, where you write by the seat of your pants kind of thing, and you don’t really know the plot beforehand. I always start with a small idea, and as I write, the story grows.
I try to do some plot things here and there. But I find if I plan too much, I lose interest. I like to be surprised as if I’m the reader too. So I’m basically very much a fly by the seat of my pants kind of writer.
Tom Ashford: Yeah. Fair.
What sort of software do you use?
Sandy Lo: I’ve been wanting to try Scrivener. I hear really good things about it. But this far, I’ve only used Word. I use that to format things and I design my own book covers. But I think I’m going to try Scrivener out. I just have been an old-fashioned person with my software pretty much.
Tom Ashford: Are your books wide or Amazon-exclusive?
Sandy Lo: They are Amazon-exclusive. I started out where they were wide. And then at the time Barnes and Noble was doing this thing where they were trying to get indie authors out of their bookstores and off their website, there was this big… I don’t know if you remember it, but there was a controversial thing going on.
So I kind of was, “Well screw them,” and, “Amazon will get all my books then.” And then they changed their mind.
But most of my sales are on Amazon anyway. I liked the fact that it was in the Kindle Library and things like that.
Tom Ashford: Is there a particular time and place that you prefer writing?
Sandy Lo: It’s weird. I either write really early in the morning or late at night. It depends on what my schedule is that day or when inspiration strikes. But I tend to want to write early in the morning.
Tom Ashford: Yeah. Well, question number three, it kind of leads into this.
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?
Sandy Lo: I am not a full-time author. I would say I’m a full-time artist in a way.
Tom Ashford: That’s cool.
Sandy Lo: I still have my magazine that I’m running, StarShine Magazine. I do marketing for a cybersecurity company. And then I also have my own entertainment marketing business where I do graphic design and public relations and things like that.
I would love to be a full-time author obviously, but I can’t see me either giving up the other two items that are part of my career as a whole either.
But I definitely want to focus more on my writing. In 2020 that’s one of my biggest goals; is to write more in 2020.
I have the next book and the Dream Catchers series that has been pretty much ready to be released, but I’ve just been sitting on it for whatever reason. So I’m going to get that out this year.
And then I’m working on the second book of the sequel to Decaf For The Dead, which is the Haunted Cafe series. So it’s going to be the second book in that trilogy.
Tom Ashford: Very cool.
Is that the same publication that you started in the first place or has that evolved as a career as time’s gone on?
Sandy Lo: No, that’s the same publication. Actually, I took a break from StarShine Magazine to start writing books actually.
Tom Ashford: Okay.
Sandy Lo: But I took a break in about 2012 to 2017. I focused more on my writing and then just lost the love for journalism for a while. But I rediscovered it, and have really been focusing on that a lot the past year and getting the magazine back up to its former glory.
Tom Ashford: Awesome.
Question number four is; what mistakes do you think you’ve made? And what have you got right?
Sandy Lo: Mistakes? I would say that I feel like I went into things with no plan whatsoever, which is very much my personality. I kind of just get excited about something and then run with it.
I do think I should have planned a little bit; planning my budget for marketing and just spend more time marketing. That was a big mistake. I feel like in the beginning I did that, and then I kind of released the book and no one heard about it because I just didn’t put it out there enough. So I’m trying to change those mistakes for sure.
The things that I did right? When I do market my book, I actually am very good at it since I am a marketing person. I’m definitely good at creating environments where fans feel welcome in talking with me and interacting with me.
Years ago on Twitter, I created Twitter accounts for different characters in the Dream Catchers series, and I’d have little conversations between them. And then fans would ask them questions and things like that. So it was really fun.
Tom Ashford: That’s cool. Okay.
Fifth and final question is; what’s your final piece of for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Sandy Lo: Definitely do a lot of research on how you want to release your book, where you want to release your book. Everyone has different goals. Some people, their goal is to see their book in a physical bookstore.
You need to find the right way to do it in an affordable way, because there are a lot of scams out there. Don’t fall for the vanity presses that charge you thousands of dollars to print your book when there’s so many other publishing tools out there that you don’t have to spend any money for really.
I would say, do a lot of research. Keep writing. Don’t get discouraged because you will get better. And you need to do it for yourself more than anything else. Whether you sell one book or a million books, it has to come from your heart over everything else.
Tom Ashford: That’s good advice.
I’ve got a little extra question, which is; given that you’re Amazon-exclusive, do you find that most of your income comes from sales or page reads?
Sandy Lo: It varies. I would definitely say throughout my career it’s come from sales. But there are certain months, for some reason or whatever, my page reads will be way higher than my sales. So I think it just depends on what’s happening out there in the market or who happens to stumble across your book that month.
Tom Ashford: Fair enough. Awesome. Well those are your five questions, and you’re off the hook.
Sandy Lo: Thank you. It was fun.
Tom Ashford: Thank you for coming on. 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.
Tom Ashford: And if you want to appear as a guest on this show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at selfpublishingformula.com/spotlight-guest.
Tom Ashford: I’m Tom Ashford and I’ll see you again next week.
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