Tell us a little bit about yourself, your books and any new projects you are working on.
I am the author of The Mermaid Mahjong Circle – A Fairy Tale for Women, published by Gatekeeper Press in May of 2020. The novel follows two lifelong friends and artists, Evie and Hannah, as they embark on an adventure that takes them from the present to the past and back again, thanks to a tale about a mysterious mahjong tile crafted a century ago. Their amazing journey tests the parameters of how far they can open their minds and their hearts to the power of friendship, of art, and of believing in something outside of reality that will change them forever. The novel is a nod to women empowering themselves through the things that matter the most to them and is a grown-up, feminist fairy tale that is both engaging and enchanting.
My creative essays have been published in the Los Angeles Times, in Victoria magazine, and in blogs for both More magazine and skirt! magazine, among other places, and I have also authored a series of children’s educational books about Jewish culture. I write a blog of often humorous life observations entitled Rice on Your Head (www.riceonyourhead.com).
I am currently working on a second novel – it is just beginning to take shape.
- When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Almost from the time I learned to read! From children’s storybooks, fairy tales, and illustrated books to favorites like Pippi Longstocking, the Little House on the Prairie books, Harriet the Spy, and Eloise – all of these fueled my imagination, leading me to create my own stories.
- How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?
My whole life! The Mermaid Mahjong Circle is my very first published novel, and my creative essays have been published in magazines for several years. I’ve spent my entire career as an advertising and marketing communications copywriter (think Peggy Olsen in Mad Men), so words and wordplay have always been a big part of who I am – like writing headlines, for example, or naming nail polish colors, a job I held for a decade. Combine my passion for words with a really big imagination, and writing a novel became something I just had to do. It took many years for me to find my story and for my story to find me, but when it did, it was like magic.
- What made you want to self-publish?
I pitched my novel to probably 150 literary agents and received several promising responses and requests to see the entire manuscript. But it quickly became clear from there that it could be at least a year if not more before my book would be seen or purchased by a traditional publishing house and even longer before it would be published.
I didn’t want to wait that long. I believe in my novel – I feel that it is a little jewel. And I wanted the world to see it and fall in love with it sooner rather than later. That’s what drew me to self-publishing. Also, I really didn’t want to edit my story to suit someone else’s vision. I wanted my novel published the way I wrote it and I wanted it to look a specific way. Self-publishing with Gatekeeper allowed me to achieve all of these goals.
- Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend Gatekeeper Press?
I would wholeheartedly recommend self-publishing and doing it with Gatekeeper Press. My Author Manager, Nicole, was incredibly competent, confidence-inspiring, and patient (when you’re a neurotic creative like me, that last quality is especially important!). The process went exactly as promised and as scheduled, and I am so happy with the final product. The Gatekeeper package I selected included making my book available as a paperback and an ebook. I did not use Gatekeeper’s editorial services and I chose to provide Gatekeeper with my own design for my book cover (one that I created with the use of a purchased stock illustration). Gatekeeper’s designers then perfected it. Gatekeeper’s Author Questionnaire is such a valuable tool – so be as detailed as you can when filling it out. It really made a difference in my book turning out to exceed my expectations. I can’t say enough good things about Nicole and the other Gatekeeper pros who worked on my novel.
- What did you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your boos?
- I announced the publication of my book to everyone I knew (and everyone they knew!) via social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram. I sent free copies of the book to about 20 friends and asked in return that, if they liked it, they post reviews on the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads websites as well as “like” and share my social media posts. They all did – and the ripple effect of that networking effort was quite extraordinary. I also submitted my novel for additional free reviews to sites such as The Girly Book Club.
- I gave my book a “signature” visual personality by creating dozens of different posts to use in rotation on social media. I purchased pop-art-style stock illustrations to complement the book cover image and wrote clever accompanying sales copy for these posts – and people started looking forward to and sharing them. I also created mini marketing blitzes for the book around specific occasions – its debut, summer weekends, fall holidays, Christmas and Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, springtime, etc. I’ve made sure to keep the book in front of people’s eyes on a regular basis, with a steady stream of posts.
- Because my book focuses on a mysterious mahjong tile, I created a marketing campaign to reach mahjong players and teachers. Because women’s empowerment and friendships are such an integral part of the book, I reached out to women’s groups. And because the book is so book-club-appropriate, I emailed book clubs. I also made sure to feature my book on the home page of my website.
The result was numerous invitations to do book talks (over Zoom) to large organizations and small book clubs, both in the US and Canada, as well as requests for podcasts and interviews. The feedback was highly positive in terms of connections made and in terms of book sales.
- I have donated books for fundraiser gift baskets and sweepstakes prizes and have done a Goodreads giveaway, all of which helped garner reviews; published an essay (with links to purchasing my book) with tips for writing a novel; even worked with a jewelry designer to create a pair of earrings inspired by my book (we cross promote each other on our respective websites as well as through social media posts). In short, I have sought out and continue to take advantage of every opportunity to promote my book.
- So many readers have told me that they would love to see my novel as a movie, and have asked me whom I might cast as the various characters, that I’ve reached out to numerous actors to generate interest. In response, I have received several requests for a copy of the novel – what comes next, if anything, remains to be seen.
- What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?
To not give up. To write for yourself and for the love of writing. To believe that your story is worth writing and reading and sharing. And to look forward to the joy of holding your book in your hands. Also, I have found that it’s important to view the marketing of your book as a long game – the process is an ongoing one. Think out of the box.
- What social media platforms are you on?
I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
- What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you were first starting out?
I wish I’d known how rewarding the self-publishing process could be. So much so, that once my second novel is complete (fingers crossed!), I plan to go directly to Gatekeeper to self-publish once again. I also wish that I’d taken the pressure off and allowed myself to enjoy the process of creating the book more – worrying about who would publish it and if it would ever see the light of day would sneak up on me from time to time. I wish I’d known just how successful self-publishing could be in helping me to get my book into the world and to reach readers.
- What do you believe is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2021 (and beyond)?
I believe the biggest challenge remains in cutting through the clutter of so many titles being published each year, both through traditional publishers and self-publishing. Finding unique ways to make your book stand out and be noticed is vital and remaining persistent is so important.
Please share your website/social media links below: