Since the age of eight, after reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, L. R. W. Lee knew she wanted to write a book that contributed to others in a way that could change their lives. Because a degree in Accounting at Cedarville University, as well as work in public and corporate accounting, did not provide riveting fodder for such a book, let alone a best seller, she waited. She founded and, over a decade, grew a company. During part of this time, she worked closely with a mentor from whom she learned more than business; she learned uncommon life principles that changed her life. Upon selling her business in early 2012, she now had time to write and, more importantly, something significant to share.
L. R. W. Lee lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband, a daughter who is a Longhorn at UT Austin and a son who is in high school. Her favorite musical is The Sound of Music. She hates scary movies, but loves piano and strings music, sunsets in Hawaii and a good cup of decaf, French press coffee (yes, decaf!). She’s a healthy-eating fanatic (lean protein and complex carbs, if you please) and she exercises regularly (even though she hates it!). She also loves Ansel Adams prints and all manner of kinetic art.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, L. R. W. Can you start by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
I published my first book, Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, in April 2013. Book 2 of the 7-book MG, coming-of-age, fantasy, adventure will be available in January.
I self-published my first novel. After querying several agents, it became clear to me that as a debut author, agents and publishers are hesitant to take on authors without an established platform. Coming from a business background, I understand and I don’t blame them. It costs real dollars to publicize an author sufficiently to drive profitable sales. Given the choice between a previously published author and a debut author, I’d choose the author with a following. So, I took on the responsibility and challenge of building my platform. Seven months later, with almost 100 reviews on Amazon and a Twitter following of nearly 3,500, I’m satisfied with my progress to date but won’t stop working to earn new fans.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I remember receiving the proof copy of the book. I opened the box and stared at it for a minute. The meaning I felt embodied in a simple paperback struck me – it represented 40 years of my life – and sent a chill down my spine.
Q: What was the first thing you did as a promotion when you were published for the first time?
From my business background, I knew success in making readers aware of my book would come slowly – unfortunately, there are no silver bullets. I read everything I could get my hands on to understand what marketing actions are effective in the publishing industry. Then I experimented with a variety of advertising platforms. Not surprisingly, most were not worth the time or money, although in the process I found a handful of advertising sites that are effective. At the same time, I joined a couple indie author groups online and learned from participants. I actively solicited reviews by giving away lots of free copies and started working to build followers on Twitter.
Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?
I’ve learned SO much from my editor in terms of the craft of writing – sentence structure, active vs passive voice and so much more. I’m continually learning how to craft more effectively. As well, in writing book 2, I found that starting from a detailed outline works better for me than starting and seeing where the story takes me, which is the path I took with book 1. I found knowing where I’m headed before I begin the journey, reduces the number of edits.
Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
I’m amazed that many writers don’t understand they are a business. So many folks approach a career as an author thinking all they need to do is write and readers will somehow find them. They fail to understand that just as much time needs to be spent marketing as writing. It saddens me to think how many amazing books are written, but don’t impact many people because no one knows about them.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
I write because I am passionate about sharing with readers uncommon life principles that changed my life and can significantly improve theirs, too. These principles include overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and many more. Being an author allows me to share these truths and change others lives, which is deeply meaningful to me.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Know why you’re writing. When a book is published, as an artist, you expose your heart to other’s assessments, both positive and negative. Most people offer their opinion freely, with no thought to how personal an experience writing a book is. If you are not firmly grounded in why you are offering yourself for public assessment, the hurts can easily defeat you. If, on the other hand, you are passionate about sharing for some deeply personal reason, the negative comments will still sting, but will not easily defeat you. Take comfort in knowing that the negative comments that come are from folks who, for whatever reason, cannot understand your heart and passion. Don’t fault them, but be okay that not everyone will understand. Seek to help those who understand and appreciate your work.