“Be confident in your work, but first make sure your book is your very best work,” advises Darcie Chan, whose debut novel The Mill River Recluse sold over 650,000 copies and appeared in the New York Times bestsellers list for 28 weeks.
What’s the secret of your success?
Truthfully, I’m still trying to figure that out! My best guess is that the story of The Mill River Recluse itself, and especially how it resonated emotionally with people, is responsible for driving sales. No amount of marketing I did or could have done could have sustained the book on the various bestseller lists. Only word-of-mouth recommendations from one enthusiastic reader to another can do that.
What was the single best thing you ever did?
I remained confident in the story I’d written, even though it had been rejected many times by both agents and publishers. I made it available in electronic form in the hope of finding a few readers and getting some valuable feedback.
Did you get lucky? What happened?
I was incredibly lucky. I tried some different kinds of marketing to get my book on readers’ radar screens. Some of it worked, but some of it didn’t. It was all trial-and-error for me. It was fortunate that what I did caught the attention of enough readers to start a word-of-mouth chain reaction.
How do you get/stay in creative mode?
When I’m in the writing phase for a book (as I am now), the story is constantly at the back of my mind. The things I do and see during the day often trigger a connection with a character or something that I’ve been working out plot-wise, or they might give me ideas to incorporate in the story. When I’m actually at my computer writing, I try to complete a chapter each week. I always begin a writing session by reviewing/editing what I wrote the day before, and I try never to stop writing for the day without knowing exactly what I’m going to start with next. So far, that has helped keep me from getting stuck!
How do you prioritise?
I find that I’m constantly juggling family/house responsibilities with writing. My family comes before everything else, of course, but most days, it feels more like I’m playing “mole-in-the-hole” than adhering to an orderly, prioritized “to do” list.
My second novel has been accepted for publication (Ballantine Books, March 2014), so I’m preparing for the copy editing and design phases of that. I’m also beginning to write my third novel which, like the first two, will be set in the fictional world of Mill River, Vermont.
What’s your top tip for other indie authors?
Be confident in your work, but be careful not to put a book out into the world until you are sure that it is your very best work and professional in all respects (writing, editing, cover design, formatting, etc.). As with anything, you get only one chance to make a first impression, and every reader deserves a quality product.