Thursday, December 1, 2016

Heather Day Gilbert - An Author Interview at the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Amazon Norse Bestseller author Heather Day Gilbert. She is the author of Hemlock Creek Suspense, Vikings of the New World Saga, and A Murder in the Mountains series. Heather writes Historical Fiction and Mystery Novels.

Author Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction

Website: Heather Day Gilbert Author
Author's Blog: Heather Day Gilbert Author
Heather's newsletter
Twitter: @heatherdgilbert
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University, and she and her husband are raising their children in the same home in which Heather grew up.

Heather's Viking historical novels, God's Daughter and Forest Child, are Amazon Norse bestsellers. Heather also authored the bestselling Murder in the Mountains mystery series, the Hemlock Creek Suspense series, and the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: Forest Child. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Actually, I'm kind of taking a little break and letting my mind idle, as it were. Forest Child was a book that was about three years in the making, and since it is a historical based on a real character, it did take a lot out of me as I tried to get it just right. But I will say that in 2017 I will probably release another Hemlock Creek suspense novella or Murder in the Mountains mystery novel (or both!), if all goes well.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

You know, initially I held out and didn't want to get on Twitter. But one of my agents suggested it, and I soon found it was a relatively easy way to connect and build a following. At first, I just followed everyone I knew in the writing business. Now I think people find me more organically, generally due to my indie publishing tweets. I try to share helpful tweets with indie authors and readers, including giveaway links, helpful blogposts, inspirational quotes on Pinterest, etc. I know some readers have found me via Twitter, as they have through Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram. I look at all these venues as tools to build relationships, whether your followers are buying your books or not. But I don't neglect to tweet all my book deals.

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thank you very much! It's always been extremely important to nail my cover art and get something that tweaks my readers' interest, otherwise, my book will likely go unnoticed in the sea of books on Amazon. I have streamlined the cover development process somewhat based on the tastes of my reader base. I definitely have a hands-on approach (just ask my brother, who was cover artist for my first and second books!). My readers don't play a part in cover development, but they do help me hone my Amazon/back cover blurbs. I like to surprise them with the finished cover, and when I get an immediate "Wow!" response, I know we've done it right. Basically, I try to create covers that look professional and would pull ME in as a reader of that genre.

A couple of your novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience for you?

Yes, I would say audiobooks has expanded my reader audience, though not exponentially. For me, it's a nice little source of income, but not one I would rely on. It is very difficult to know how to advertise audiobooks. The best advertisement I've had is having a perma-free book connected to an audiobook. People pick up the book free and get the 8 1/2 hour audiobook for $1.99. Not a bad deal!

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called Smoke and Mirrors: A Romantic Suspense Collection. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other authors? How did you put something like that together?

Yes, the Smoke and Mirrors set is coming down from Amazon soon (might be down now!), after being live for six months. It was a great group of 7 other authors, and all the romantic suspense novellas were well-written and based on a hidden identity theme.

The purpose of boxed sets is generally to increase newsletter signups for individual authors and to bring new readers to each author, although some sets specifically target making the USA Today bestseller list and other lists. While we didn't target or make USAT, this set did indeed help new readers find us and it increased newsletter signups. As for the process of putting a boxed set together, I wrote a couple of blogposts about that at Southern Writers Suite T and at Novel Rocket. Those say about everything helpful I could say on the subject! ;)

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do you sort of play it by ear?

Right now, my family schedule is a bit insane. I was actually really amazed to get Forest Child out on the date I had targeted (Nov. 1). I will often write at night or during any snatches of time I can get during the day. When I'm writing a draft of a book, I try to write something on it each day so I can stay in the flow of the story. I picked up that habit when I wrote my first book during a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

Going permafree with the first book in my Murder in the Mountains mystery series, coupled with a Bookbub ad, has definitely increased my income due to consequent sales of book 2 (Trial by Twelve). I have also done personal giveaways of softcover book bundles when Forest Child released. That doubled my number of newsletter subscribers because I did the Rafflecopter paid option and made signing up for the newsletter a requirement to enter. I hope to continue building sales by adding books to the mystery series. So far, I haven't had any obstacles or complaints with going permafree. I like having that series on all vendors so I'm not relying on Kindle Unlimited for my income. But I only got traction on Nook and iBooks (Kobo is still lagging) after offering my first book free.

How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?

I usually scrawl initial ideas for each book in a notebook, but let me tell you, they're pretty random notes! LOL. As for timeline, I work that out on paper because I often have a past/present storyline for my mysteries. I also do a really loose plot outline based on chapter numbers, but that is prone to shift around as I write. I don't use software—I can't understand Scrivener. I'm a very linear writer and I like to write straight through that first draft, then I go in and tweak things I messed up (my critique partner and beta readers always help me spot those issues!).

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

I do have reader lists—one for my mystery/suspense readers and one for my historical readers (although some are happy to read both genres). When I first started, I would give a generalized shout-out in my newsletter list and on Facebook for early readers. Now I know my faithful readers and I have made a list of requirements for early readers, so it can be a beneficial thing for both of us—those early readers are also my key influencers, and they are comprised of other authors, reviewers, and loyal readers who are enthusiastic about my writing. I have secret Facebook groups for influencers in both genres so I can contact them easily.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

For my debut novel, I knocked on every reviewer door I could. If I saw another author get a review in the same genre I was writing, I would track down the review site and ask for a review. I had a lot of doors slammed in my face, because this was three years ago, when indie books were just starting to be taken seriously. Over time, I developed my "go-to" group of reviewers I trust to be honest, yet I know they like my style. With every new book, I approach new reviewers. I believe it's key to keeping your books out there. I also think growing your newsletter helps—it gives you an ever-growing pool of eager readers to tap into. I have also utilized a book club site that distributes books to Christian readers for reviews (similar to NetGalley), and I did appreciate that when I was just getting my mysteries off the ground. Now it doesn't make as much sense for me to pay for reviews when I have a pool of readers eager to read (thankfully!). If I switched genres again, I might try to do that to gather a targeted initial audience.

Author's Book List
Forest Child - Vikings of the New World Saga Book 2
Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate "forest child" of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland...and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store

God's Daughter - Vikings of the New World Saga Book 1
One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.

In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a journey to North America.

But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself--and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.

Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God's Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir--daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.

This novel is based heavily on the Icelandic Sagas and is written from a Christian worldview.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

Out of Circulation - Hemlock Creek Suspense Book 1
Katie McClure always dreamed of becoming an FBI agent like her father, but an injury has permanently sidelined her as a librarian in her rural West Virginia hometown. Katie's peaceful life is torn apart when armed men burst into the library, targeting her. Her fears mount after a break-in at her apartment, and she reluctantly accepts an offer of protection from Ace Calhoun, the Manhattan bodyguard who rushed to her aid against the library invaders.

But Ace didn't show up in Hemlock Creek by accident. Even as he hides his true motives for protecting Katie, he's pulled in by her indomitable courage and her undeniable attraction to him.

With the Russian mob breathing down her neck, the clock is ticking for Katie to find out what happened to a bank stash that went missing years ago. To her dismay, she discovers her father was not the man she believed him to be...and neither is Ace.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Trial by Twelve - A Murder in the Mountains Book 2
Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa's back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry.

As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia...a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.

When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer's sights have zeroed in on her.

Unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series.

This novel is written from a Christian worldview.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

Miranda Warning - A Murder in the Mountains Book 1
Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her.

But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox—a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting—Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer...or the next victim might be Tess herself.

Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains' lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

Indie Publishing Handbook - Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher
Are you dreaming of your own career as an independent author and self-publisher?

This concise handbook covers the four key elements every self-publisher must oversee for successful book publication: (1) editing, (2) creating cover art and blurbs, (3) formatting and uploading books, and (4) marketing. Focused advice will help you maneuver these key elements, whether you outsource or learn to master them yourself.

You'll also find a bonus section with practical tips from seasoned independent authors.

Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher is your one-stop for basics on everything you need to get started and excel as an independent publisher.

Order the Book From:

Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS Author's Spotlight
eBook Author’s Corner
Top Shelf Author Advice
Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the interesting interview questions and for featuring my books today, James! I really enjoyed being in the author spotlight.