M.J. Rose is one of those rare authors that has an equal amount of business sense as she does creativity. I first came across her name when doing research about publishing, and I quickly saw how determined she was to reach an audience for her book Lip Service in 1998. After getting several rejections for the book (it touched across a couple of genres and editors weren’t sure how to market it), she decided to self-publish it as an ebook and sell it from her website. In 1998, this was a revolutionary way to find readers.
She sold 2,500 copies of the ebook, which soon became the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club. Since then, she’s written nine other novels, including In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying In Bed, The Halo Effect (MIRA), The Delilah Complex (MIRA), The Venus Fix: A Dr. Morgan Snow Novel, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist (The Reincarnationist).
She also used her years in marketing to help show authors how to promote their works. She co-authored How to Publish and Promote Online, and Buzz Your Book. She also founded the first marketing company especially for authors: AuthorBuzz.com.
Enjoy this interview.
You’re someone I consider a pioneer in the publishing industry. When you self-published Lip Service in 1998, did you feel it would change the way publishers would look at books that didn’t seem to fit into one genre?
No! I didn’t expect it to do anything but give me some statistics to give my agent so she could show the publishers who’d liked my work that indeed cross genre fiction wasn’t tough to market. (The reason they had rejected my first two books).
Do you think the industry has changed the way it approaches new authors?
No – it was always open to new writers. My problem wasn’t that I was new – it really was that my writing just doesn’t fit easily into pre-existing categories.
You’ve written 10 novels. Do you have one book or character you hold more dear than the others?
The most recent is always my favorite.
What’s the number one mistake that writers make when trying to promote or publish their books?
Thinking that their book will be different and they don’t have to listen to people who offer advice. And I say that having been there/done that. I kept thinking – but that won’t happen to me! I don’t have to worry about that.
Tell us about Author Buzz. How did you first come up with the concept, and what are some of the Buzz success stories?
Authorbuzz is the first marketing company for authors – but publishers buy too. The idea was to finally give authors a way to get their own words about their books to the people who buy and sell and read them – not just ad-speak – but in the authors own words. I also wanted to create a company to help authors do marketing that they could afford! And trust.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about writing?
Getting lost in the dream.
Share some of your writing goals.
I want to learn something with every book I write… and I want to write books that people can disappear into but feel when then finish that it was really time well spent.
Is there a specific time of day you like to write?
I prefer to write in the morning but it doesn’t work out that way most days.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
Interesting is an interesting choice of words – rather than best, huh? Interesting, okay, probably Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.
When did you first realize you wanted to give up corporate life and become a writer? Did you transition into writing full-time?
Ha! But I didn’t. Here I am – writing plus running an ad agency. But I always wanted to write – and I always did write. For years it was writing ads, then scripts, then novels. And yes, I did transition – I went from full time creative director at a NY ad agency, then part time advertising and part time writing. Then a few years of full time writing. Then I added back the ads but for authors.
Book you’re currently reading.
The Strange by Ron Base.
Any type of writing ritual you have?
Yes. I buy a journal and a pen for each new book – and I spent about three months doing research and creating the journal from the pov of my main character – it contains mementos and facts and fantasies and images from his or her life.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
I do but I don’t think it is what most people think it is and have written about that here – and it also answers the above question about my rituals – http://januarymagazine.com/features/artofprocras.html.
Advice for other writers?
Do it for the love of it – it’s not a secure way to earn a living unless you get really lucky. And don’t rely on your publisher to do enough marketing. And read. Nothing helps your writing more than reading.
Where can we learn more about you?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, please stay tuned for Past Life – which premiers on Foxtv in March after American Idol. Past Life is a new drama series that is based on my Reincarnationist series. The Reincarnationist (2007 and available now, The Memorist (2008 and available now), and The Hypnotist (will be released May 2010). And sign up for my newsletter at mjrose.com.