August 1, 2011

Interview with Stacy Juba

What is your name?  Stacy Juba
What part of the world are you located? I'm from New England.
What is your company name, website, FB page name, twitter name and anything else you use?

Mysteries, Murder & More blog    
Twitter:  @stacyjuba

Are you a SAHM/WAHM?  Tell us about you (mini-bio!)
Yes, I stay at home and work out of my home office. I've always been a writer and had my first book, Face-Off, published with Avon Books when I was a teenager, followed by many years of rejection. After college, I worked as a newspaper reporter and as an administrative assistant/publicist. I stopped working full-time after having my first child, and for awhile did freelance writing for a parenting magazine and freelance newsletter-writing and press releases for non-profit wellness clients, in addition to pursuing publication for my latest novels. I was fortunate to finally get my books published a couple of years ago, and now I focus on writing books and marketing them. I mainly focus on writing adult mystery novels with a touch of romance, and have two published by Mainly Murder Press, titled Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim.  Mainly Murder Press will also publish my paranormal young adult thriller Dark Before Dawn in January 2012.  I independently published my children's picture books The Flag Keeper and Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise, (illustrated by my father) and I also self-publish the e-book versions of my novels as I hold the e-book rights.

When did you start your blog/online/at home business?
I started my web site in the summer of 2009, a few months before Twenty-Five Years Ago Today was published in trade paperback by Mainly Murder Press. About a year later, I launched the Mysteries, Murder & More blog to enhance my web site and keep getting the word out about my books. It really became a business after I started self-publishing my books into e-book format for Kindle, Nook and Smashwords and after I self-published my children's picture book The Flag Keeper in both paperback and e-book formats. It was exciting to  have royalties coming in from different places and to have money coming in every month, after all those years of rejection.  I have five books out now, in various genres and formats, and should have four more out by the middle of 2012.  

How did you find yourself getting started with your business/venture?
I launched my web site after receiving a contract from Mainly Murder Press for my first mystery novel, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. I started out just promoting that one paperback, then with the whole e-book revolution and the popularity of devices like the Kindle, I realized that I could use my entrepreneurial skills to carve out a real niche for myself. I now have three kinds of books published for three different audiences -- for adults, children, and a few upcoming young adult books.   

How did you go about seeking your information?
The first couple years was a lot of research and trial and error. I read numerous books about web sites, blogging, Twitter, marketing, and book promotion. I joined author book promotion groups and book blogger forums to network and exchange tips.  It took a lot of time to find out what worked and what didn't, and to lay the groundwork.

Do you have a mentor?  Would you consider mentoring someone who wanted to start a similar business?
My publisher at Mainly Murder Press, Judith K. Ivie, has been a mentor to me. I've learned a lot about the book business from her. She is a talented author who penned the Kate Lawrence mystery series among other books, and she also has a keen business sense.  I admire how she has succeeded in combining her creativity and business sense to launch a publishing company that has introduced many talented new authors to readers. 

As far as mentoring others, I've had several authors email me asking for advice on topics such as marketing, uploading to Kindle, and self publishing, and I'm always happy to answer a few questions to help someone get pointed in the right direction. I don't have time to read manuscripts or coach someone through the whole process due to my own time constraints, but I'm always happy to direct them to some resources that might be helpful. I've asked my own share of questions of authors over the years and I still do from time to time. 

What mistakes did you endure to figure out the right path?
I hired someone to design my web site, and it was a beautiful design, but the problem was that it was done in Dreamweaver and I couldn't update it myself.  I tried to learn it, but it was a disaster. My mistake was looking at the short-term of having one book to promote, rather than looking at one and two years down the road when I might need constant updates to add more books, reviews, and events. Last December, I realized that for my career to grow, I needed the ability to update my web site myself so that I wasn't putting anymore money into maintenance. I switched the whole thing over to Wordpress and now handle the maintenance myself. I also spent a lot of time doing guest blogging on other sites and hosting guest bloggers on my own site, but I found these weren't effective marketing strategies - they took up too much time for not enough sales. I very rarely write guest blog articles now unless it's a real niche audience that I'm trying to reach, preferring interviews as they are much easier to complete than writing a full-fledged article. I no longer host guest bloggers on my blog on a weekly basis - I might host someone once in awhile, but in general, I am cutting back on my blogging. I realized that a blog is important for an author, but that less is more.

Moments of brilliance?
Revamping my web site so that I could maintain it myself was one of the smartest decisions I've ever made. Spending less time on Facebook and really working to build my Twitter followers and take advantage of Twitter networking was a smart move.  I've made a lot of contacts on Twitter and find it much better than Facebook for interacting with readers, writers, reviewers and bloggers.

Giving away a couple of e-books for free has also been helpful. I have a free mystery short story Laundry Day which also contains excerpts from my adult novels and an author interview, and I've arranged for that to be free from a variety of retailers including Amazon and B&N. You can access all the links on my web site. It gives people a flavor of my writing through a short story, and they can also sample my novels. It has had thousands of downloads on Amazon and some of those readers have gone on to buy my books. I wouldn't feel comfortable charging for it as the story itself is short, but I think it's a nice download for free. On a shorter-term basis, I've also been offering my children's picture book Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise for free from various retailers including Amazon.  Thousands of readers have downloaded it for free to share with their young children - over 5100 downloads on Amazon in the past 4 weeks. It includes an excerpt of my picture book The Flag Keeper, a book that I'm trying to build word of mouth about, as it teaches children about U.S. flag etiquette in a fun way. This has led to an increase in sales for The Flag Keeper, and once people hear about that book, many buy multiple copies for their troops, schools, or for children in a family that have a parent or close relative in the military.

Advice to others that are considering an online business?
Don't expect to make a profit immediately as there is a lot of trial and error involved. It took me about a year and a half before I started making a profit and spending my money more wisely. I'd recommend spending some time on Twitter as that is a valuable resource.  Start a business page on Facebook. I'd recommend using a resource such as Hootsuite to manage your social networking - you can easily view columns of lists and can schedule tweets/posts. I recently switched over my email newsletter to TinyLetter as I was looking for a simple (one-click) and free way of sending out a newsletter a few times per year.  I subscribe to HARO (Help A Reporter Out) so if a reporter is seeking an interview source on a certain subject, I can respond to pitches that fit my background. Lastly, be sure to determine who your target market is and then make a plan for how you can find them online.

How do you balance mommyhood and online work?
I try to stay as organized as possible. I have one weekly planner calendar which focuses on our family schedule, and another that is just devoted to book marketing with my schedule of radio interviews, blog interviews, on-line chat dates, dates paid ads are running, dates of blog or Twitter hops to check in, and the schedule for my own blog. I have a big dry erase board in the kitchen that combines all of our family dates and my really important marketing dates - things I absolutely need to make sure I remember! That way I can look at my board when I'm walking by and what's coming up sticks in my mind. I update my dry erase board every month. I work in the early mornings and for an hour or so at night, and on days when my parents or in-laws babysit. I'm fortunate to have a very supportive husband who gives me time to work on the weekends and during his time off, and who does tasks around the house like laundry. I also set realistic goals for myself. I haven't been at a place in my life the past few years where I can pull off writing new books and marketing my published books at the same time, so I've taken a long break from the actual act of writing fiction. Now that I have a good handle on marketing, I'm editing some completed books that have been sitting in my drawer and getting those ready for release. Once those are done, and launched, I'll be able to focus more on writing new material.  You can't do everything at once and have a balanced life. You have to chip away at it in smaller, manageable chunks.

What are some of your favorite “mommy sites” to visit?
My favorites are voiceBoks (The Voice of Motherhood)
The Mom Bloggers Club. I've met lots of women that share common interests or are trying to balance family with a career or an interest such as blogging.

Are there any aspects of your business/life that aren’t covered here that you want to share?
I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking and I'm also trained in energy healing/Reiki. I believe in energy and "good vibes" as I've sensed these things myself.  I have a vision board in my office which blends my personal life and career goals, and I keep it updated. Basically, I have a very clear picture in my mind of what I want and I ask the universe for help.  I want a thriving career where I make substantial money for my books, but I also want balance as career isn't as important as the people we love. Being on grueling book tours, having constant deadline pressure, and not being able to go on vacation or have time to read a book isn't for me, yet I'm very ambitious and driven in accomplishing the goals that I have set.   Whether you believe in positive thinking and the Law of Attraction or not, at the very least, having clear cut goals that you reevaluate from time-to-time helps you to trust your intuition, make better decisions and stay true to yourself.    

What else can you share with us?
I think it's good for moms to take time for themselves, whether it's following a career dream or making room in their life for a special hobby or pastime. It sets a good example for children if they see that you make room in your life for what speaks to your heart and fuels your passion. With day-to-day life so busy for all of us, it can be easy to let your own goals and interests slide, but you can accomplish a lot by having a weekly list of five or six goals, crossing those off, and then having new goals the next week.


Lelani Black said...

This is so brilliant, and thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas! We live in a society where pursuing your heart's passion isn't always understood in terms of emotional satisfaction. Your blog has given me a clearer direction in finding that balance of marketing, and writing. Sometimes I feel I'm not doing enough of both adequately, but a weekly list of goals, a set amount of daily writing time and time set aside for marketing will eliminate some of that confusion. I love the idea of a vision board--I already see exactly how I can put one together that is going to look wonderful and be even more helpful to me in my work space. Thanks again.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I so enjoyed your interview because I'm about to put some of my out-of-print children's books out in ebook and paper format. I don't often meet authors like myself who write mysteries, books for kids, and YAs.

Stacy Juba said...

Thanks so much for coming by, Lelani. I've found that you can accomplish a lot with a small list of goals each week. I've been working my way through what I call "old business" - following up on promo leads for the current books, getting finished books edited, formatted and available for sale, etc.- and I'm so excited that by next year at this time, I'll finally be ready to be in a maintenance phase for marketing the published books and can move onto "new business" - writing new books. It's a lot of small steps, and this reminds me that I need to update my vision board this fall because there are so many more positive goals that I want to focus on. You'll have to let me know how your vision board turns out!

Thank you for coming by, Marilyn. It's great to know that your writing is as diverse as mine is. We should put our heads together and find some strategies for marketing the children's books and YAs - this is new territory for me.

And Wendie, thank you for hosting me. You have such an informative and inspirational site for moms!

Kaye George said...

I didn't realize you started out slowly. From where I sit it looked like you came on strong from the beginning. You're the person I keep an eye on for marketing strategies, Stacy! Lots of good info here, too. Thanks for bringing us this, Odd Jobs Mama.

Stacy Juba said...

Thanks for coming by, Kaye, and for the nice words! The initial problem was that I was spending all my royalties so I wasn't making a profit. There were a lot of expenses up front, such as paying for the web site, sending out copies of the book to reviewers etc. Over time, I got a lot smarter about where I spent my money - for example, now I will usually only approach reviewers who accept digital review copies unless they have an unusually large audience; and I no longer put money into the web site now that I can update it myself. It takes awhile to find out what is worth putting money into and what isn't.

Anonymous said...

Stacy - your stats are huge for this interview. I'm going to leave it up for today and re-advertise for it. I hope it generated a lot of interested on your end too!
You really do know how to share and explain in detail and I thank you for your advice too!!
I think I need a ghost writer though for what I want to do as I am a terrible writer and have a scatter brain. I think they're good ideas, but on paper in front of me, well......

Stacy Juba said...

Thanks so much, Wendie! As a journalist, I can tell you that you asked great interview questions. You're a great blogger, so I'll bet you won't need a ghost writer - maybe a writing group or a few critique partners, like we all have, to help you get on track. I think most writers have some other writer friends that they bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators is a good place to find writers of children's books, and you could probably find children's writers/critique partners if you browse the groups on sites like Goodreads and Library Thing. I'm pretty scatterbrained myself!

Morgan Mandel said...

Some people like handing over the reigns to their webpage to someone else, but as you mentioned, there is the problem of getting it updated regularly.

I do my own, but fell behind for a while. At least I have the security of knowing I can change it when I want to.

Helen Ginger said...

Really enjoyed reading your answers. A lot of good information about you. I'm going to look for TinyLetter. I've been sending my newsletter through Topica for 12 years, but lately they're having problems that are frustrating.

Stacy Juba said...

Thanks for coming by, Morgan and Helen. Yes, I update my web site much more often than I ever thought I would. Little things like snippets of new reviews, upcoming events, etc. If I had to pay someone, it would be months before those things ever got updated just because of the cost - I used to just have it updated a couple times per year.

I love how TinyLetter lets you have a form on your web site. People seem to like filling out a form to subscribe. It's very simple and no frills, but that's all I need, just an easy way to send out mass emails a few times per year about book releases and the latest news.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good interview. I wasn't online until about a year before my first book came out.

Stacy Juba said...

Thanks for coming by, Alex!

Post a Comment

Content © Wendie. All Rights Reserved | Design © 2011 Infusion Design Studio
Unauthorized use of this site's design or code is strictly prohibited.