Rachel Thompson: The Light & Dark Sides of the Award Winning Author

Rachel ThompsonRachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning book Broken Pieces, as well as two popular humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed.

She is the founder of BadRedhead Media, a company that creates effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors.

As a freelance writer, her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Rachel is the creator and founder of Twitter’s #MondayBlogs and #SexAbuseChat. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

The Rachel Thompson Interview

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Books by Rachel Thompson

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Rachel Thompson Transcript

Tim Knox: Hi everyone, welcome back in to Interviewing Authors, Tim Knox here. Rachel Thompson is my guest today. Rachel is an author. She is a columnist for the Huffington Post and the owner of BadRedhead Media, a company that works with authors helping them do social media – Twitter, Facebook, that sort of thing.

Broken Pieces is her latest books. It’s quite different from the first two. This is not a humor book. This is a book that deals with serious issues like childhood sexual abuse, grief, trust, even suicide. Broken Pieces is winning a lot of awards.

She’s working on a new book now called Broken Places, so a really great interview with Rachel Thompson. We talk about how she got started as a writer, how she writes, how she comes up with the ideas for her books of course but then we go into things like social media for authors and her work through BadRedhead Media.

Remember, if you’re an author, writing the book is only part of it. Getting the book out there in front of people can be the biggest task you face.

So sit back, relax and let’s listen to an interview with Rachel Thompson, owner of BadRedhead Media, author of A Walk in the Snark, The Mancode: Exposed and Broken Pieces on this edition of Interviewing Authors.

Tim Knox: Rachel, welcome to the program.

Rachel Thompson: Thank you very much, Tim. I’m happy to be here.

Tim Knox: Well for folks that aren’t familiar with your work, give us a quick background on Rachel Thompson.

Rachel Thompson: Sure, I started writing professionally in probably about 2007, 2008, having always been a writer of course since a very young age. I started a blog and I primarily write non-fiction and I released my first two books of humorous essays in 2011 – one in January and the second one in December.

The first is A Walk in the Snark and the second is called The Mancode: Exposed. I started writing the third book in the humor series and a confluence of events occurred and I started writing some very serious type of essays. I just felt like I needed to go with it and it ended up being my third and most successful book, titled Broken Pieces.

It covers very serious topics like childhood sexual abuse, the suicide of an ex-love, grief, loss, those types of things. It’s essays and poetry. That’s been out now for about a year and a half. It’s won seven awards and continues to maintain a very steady number one sales rank on Amazon, on the eBook version.

Meanwhile, through all this I decided to start my own business helping other authors learn social media and marketing and branding. I have 15 years of pharmaceutical marketing and sales experience so I decided to put that to work in order to supplement my income from the royalties and I love it.

I have some wonderful clients and I either teach them social media or branding or I do it for them or we just basically work out an entire customized plan for their book. I just really put into effect what I’m doing on my own for my own books and what I have learned what works and what doesn’t.

Tim Knox: That’s one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show. I kept hearing this name Rachel Thompson from everybody and when I went out and did some research I’m looking at the kind of books that you have written, the humor.

When I saw the title for The Mancode: Exposed, I’m like, I don’t think the Mancode needs to be revealed, but you really do; you’re very diverse. The humor is great. I love the stuff you do for Huffington Post. We are going to talk about all of the books. I do want to talk a lot about your business, what you’re doing helping authors with social media.

We were talking on the pre-call that a lot of authors just don’t have a clue or they don’t really want to take the time to do it. Let’s talk a little about the process of writing. You said you’ve always been a writer. Were you writing even when you were young?

Rachel Thompson: Yeah, I remember being in 4th grade and my teacher reading The Secret Garden to us and I was just fascinated. I just couldn’t wait to get to school the next day because she was going to read another chapter. I was like that geeky girl that was totally into books and always a reader.

After that book, when she finished it I was just so fascinated. I made my parents buy me a hardcover copy of it. Most kids want dolls and I wanted a hardcover book. I wanted a writing desk for my 10th birthday and my parents, God love them, got me this cheap little plywood desk and paper and pencils and pens. I just spent hours putting together stories. That’s really when I started writing. I took it very seriously.

I had my little reporter’s notebook and everything. It’s interesting how I ended up writing non-fiction and I even have a journalism minor from SAC State, which is California State University of Sacramento. So it is interesting how that started that young. Even though fiction is what has always fascinated me, non-fiction is what I write.

Tim Knox: Do you do that because you find non-fiction even more entertaining and interesting than fiction?

Rachel Thompson: I do. The other… what’s the word I’m looking for? The other I guess focus of my studies all along has been psychology even though I don’t have a psych major. I took a lot of psych classes and so I think I’ve just always been fascinated by how people work, when things sort of go off the rails, why that happens.

I had an aunt and an uncle actually with mental illness and to me they were kind of funny, the things they did. Now that I’m older of course I realize how sad some of the things they did were. So the psychological aspect of humans, to me, has always been really, really interesting. If I look back now, most of my stories were non-fiction or were based on people watching and trying to create lives for these folks, or explaining the weird behavior that I saw because I didn’t understand a lot of that kind of stuff. So I kind of gave it my own spin.

Tim Knox: Are you one of these people that go to a restaurant and people watch and make up stories for all the diners?

Rachel Thompson: Oh yeah, totally.

Tim Knox: I knew it. You started writing very young. Do you remember the first thing that you wrote that you were proud of? Maybe you showed your mom and she probably still has it in a drawer somewhere.

Rachel Thompson: You know, only because the timing was really interesting, my younger sister was born and I was already 10 years old, almost 11. She was sort of the “oops” baby but, you know, I have an older sister as well, so three girls.

My dad basically went gray early. With regard to that I wanted to create a story talking about how much I loved her. She was like a live doll that I go to play with so I remember writing a story called… her name was Leslie. She was Leslie the Little and she was a little fish in a fishpond who got picked on and she had an older sister who would keep an eye out for her and of course that was me. My mom still has that somewhere and we laugh about Leslie the Little pretty frequently.

Tim Knox: Cute. Is this a book you may pull out some day and make a children’s book out of?

Rachel Thompson: I may at some point. I haven’t honestly really even thought about it or gone back and read it.

Tim Knox: That may be one of those books that you put in a drawer and never go back to.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah, it’s going to stay there but it does talk about bullying, which is obviously a situation that a lot of kids are having to deal with. It might actually be something. I hadn’t thought about that.

Tim Knox: There you go. That’s a free idea from your Uncle Tim. Do you remember the first thing that you wrote that you thought was good enough to actually sell?

Rachel Thompson: You know, in high school I had a history teacher who was also the wrestling coach. I remember writing something. I had read The Red Badge of Courage and I wrote a poem having to do with that for a project. He was sitting up at his desk and tears were streaming down his face. Here’s this big, husky guy and he calls me up there. “Rachel, come up to the front of the room.” I’m like oh my God what did I do, right? He gave me an A+ and told me I should do something with this because he never cries and I made him cry. I thought, okay, that’s something.

Tim Knox: That’s a pretty good accomplishment right there.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah I remember that very clearly.

Tim Knox: How did you finally end up selling something? What was the first thing that you wrote or was it an article or a book? What was the first thing you put out there that actually got some attention?

Rachel Thompson: I remember in college, my major was communication studies and my minor was journalism, and part of the journalism… I loved my teacher. She was amazing, very well-known, published, reporter, all that kind of stuff. She had us create a story that was research based and I ended up writing about – I can’t remember what they’re called – it’s a certain kind of collectible doll.

I was able to go over to a neighbor’s house who was a nut about Madame Alexander Dolls; that’s what they were, very collective. She had a whole entire wall of them so I took pictures and got tons of information about it. I contacted the company and wrote a pretty well researched article.

Part of the class was to query magazines and see if anyone would be interested and they actually purchased my story. It was a Seattle based magazine, like a collectibles kind of thing. This was back in the mid-80s. I was so thrilled. I totally did not expect that at all and I think I got like 50 bucks. Hey!

Tim Knox: Hey, that’s 50 bucks. The thing about it is that, and I remember doing something similar, that really validated that you were a bonafide writer that people would pay you money for your talent.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah and I think I was maybe one of two people in the class who actually sold a story, which guaranteed us an A, which was pretty cool also. She sort of had that sense of competition that she was engendering in us. She was very supportive and absolutely helped me kind of shape a story further and then I submitted it and they ran it. That was really exciting to know that something that I created basically from an idea in my brain could be worth some money. That’s a little addicting I think.

Tim Knox: It’s a great aphrodisiac to get that first check, especially when we would do it for free but if you want to pay us that would be good too.

Rachel Thompson: Exactly.

Tim Knox: You went to school for communications and journalism. Did you ever think about going into a reporting or newspaper?

Rachel Thompson: Yeah, I did a few internships where one was more PR based and one was more reporting; it was for a running magazine. I hated it and I thought, okay, this is not what I wanted to do with my degree. I ended up going into pharmaceutical sales which had nothing to do with writing.

Tim Knox: That was kind of a left turn, wasn’t it?

Rachel Thompson: Oh big time, yeah. It was just a matter of graduating and going to some job fairs and meeting some folks. At the time my sister was working for a company and I met her boss. It was just sort of a weird planet alignment that I ended up being offered an amazing salary for a kid out of college.

I thought how could I not do this? It was a car and vacation and bonus so I took it. I didn’t really like it but you end up getting sort of stuck in that mindset of making good money, I have bills to pay, I have kids, I have a house payment. How am I just going to stop and become a writer? So I did that for about 15 years to the point where I was becoming physically ill. I just couldn’t do it anymore and that’s when I decided I needed to make a change. That was in 2004 I quit pharma sales.

Tim Knox: During this period were you writing? The one thing that I’ve noticed in that situation is a lot of times it just kind of sucks the genius right out of you. Were you writing to be creative or what were you doing?

Rachel Thompson: You know, I really wasn’t. I was journaling. I think maybe, gosh, in high school or junior high school we started journaling as a class exercise and I’ve taken creative writing classes kind of all along, even some online classes while I was still working the soul sucking pharma.

Tim Knox: Was that the corporate name?

Rachel Thompson: Yeah. I journaled for many, many years through good relationships and bad and getting married and having children. So I have those to look back on even if it was just a silly “had three cups of coffee today”. It was some form of writing. I did not do any sort of creative writing except for in the class kind of situation.

Tim Knox: Tell us how did the first book, A Walk in the Snark; how did that come about?

Rachel Thompson: I started writing. I had my second child, a little boy, in 2005 and at the time everybody was talking about having a blog, being on Facebook and I thought well I’m just so busy as it is; I already have a daughter who was six at the time and I was helping my husband with his business and I thought well I’m not going to have time to do anything like this. Then I got sucked in of course to Facebook. I’ve never really loved it 100% but I realized it’s sort of a necessary evil. Then I started blogging. I just decided, okay, I’m going to put up a couple pictures of the kids and share it with my family. Then I sort of started writing opinion pieces about various topics and then my humor, I have a very sort of sarcastic sense of humor, and that just came out in the writing.

One of my very first posts that was very sarcastic, I was really irritated with my husband for 18 years of not changing the toilet paper roll so I wrote about it. That’s the thing about living with a writer is everything becomes material.

That post, I probably went from having three or four people read my blog to a couple hundred. For some reason I called it the Mancode. The name already existed. It wasn’t like I originated it or tried to make claim to it. For whatever reason people related to it and I started getting emails saying write more Mancode. It’s hilarious. We want more.

So I just kind of did not really just Mancode but I did essays and articles and blog posts about being a mom and just dealing with family, husband, the whole Mars Venus kind of thing. That really is what became the basis for my first book, A Walk in the Snark.

Then pretty much the second book was almost all original material but really just focused on the whole Mancode thing.

Tim Knox: Do you feel that writing is easy for you, that kind of – it’s not necessarily commentary writing but I guess you are doing commentary on your man and other snarky things.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah and the thing is that we talk about branding, which of course is a very basic kind of marketing term and I was very familiar with it from having been in pharma. Not only was I rep but I went back to the home office and was a sales trainer. I worked in the ad agency. I did some marketing. Even though I hated it, I didn’t really get to do the creative part of it except sit in on a lot of those meetings, I found that that fascinated me and that was very interesting to me. So I was able to take that and then put that together in the book and also in the topics that I wrote about.

Tim Knox: Are you a big fan of people like Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, folks that write that sort of book?

Rachel Thompson: You know, I read Erma growing up just because she had like a column in the paper.

Tim Knox: She was way before your time.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah but I knew of her of course. Then I definitely liked Dave Barry. I think my favorite humor writers are David Sedaris; I think he’s brilliant. He’s really able to put together kind of that heartbreaking family dynamic with some really hilarious humor. So that was kind of my goal in this to show that not everything has to be funny. Even really sad situations you can find humor in it and that’s kind of how you get through it. So that was really always my goal. I like Chelsea Handler, her books as well because she’s actually a really good writer, a very talented gal, very funny but again there’s just a lot of kind of sadness in some of those stories.

Tim Knox: Well you know I think there’s a lot of sadness in most humor when you think about what’s back there, don’t you think?

Rachel Thompson: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s really that arch of comedy and tragedy which has been around forever. It’s just a matter of how much of it you reveal. I think you have to really go for it. I think you have to talk about the things that are difficult and that way people can relate. There are definitely universal truths there.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk about the latest book. This thing is winning awards, Broken Pieces. It’s really a different kind of book because it’s not a humor book. It talks about. It talks about some really serious issues like childhood sex abuse, grief, trust, even suicide. How did that book come to be and what was the process of writing it since it was not a humor book?

Rachel Thompson: Well I was pretty much thinking after I put out the second book that I would write a third book. I think Chickspeak is what I was going to call it. I started writing it and it just didn’t feel right. It was just sort of forced and my other books have not been forced at all. So at the time I had sort of a few experiences that kind of came together about the same time.

An ex-boyfriend who I was very serious with in my early 20s; we broke up and really didn’t speak again. He contacted me on Facebook and said, “Hey, I’m really sorry for being such a jerk. Would you want to reconnect?” I said, “I’m happily married and have two kids. I’m not interested.” He was like, “I’d really just like to touch base.” I talked to my husband and he was like whatever you need to do is fine. That was long before us.

So he and I really – I refer to him as D in the book – just talked on Facebook for a couple of months and he kind of talked about all the stupid stuff that he did and apologized for many things. Then we spoke at lunch and by dinner he said he’d be on later. I went on Facebook just to chit chat with some folks and I noticed he wasn’t there. Come to find out by reading his wall that he had killed himself.

So that’s part of why I don’t love Facebook. That was pretty devastating. I come to find out a lot more about what had happened with him in the time that we had been apart, which was a lot; it was a lifetime. But he was definitely suffering from depression and alcoholic and there were just a lot of other things that went on that you find out after the fact.

It was really just processing a lot of those emotions and I just wasn’t in the mood to write humor for understandable reasons.

Financially things were tough and I ended up moving from Southern California up to Northern California because of the whole kind of dive of the whole market. My husband’s business pretty much was crashing and burning. So it was just sort of all those events. At that point I thought it’s time. It’s time for me to share what happened when I was 11 and a neighbor abused me several times. It was a dad. He had four or five kids and there were also some other little girls in the neighborhood that he also sexually abused.

I kept that hidden for most of my life and I just felt for whatever reason why all these things came together and made me decide to write about it, I don’t really know. That’s something I’m looking at and will probably write about it in the future. I felt it was time to share not only what happened – I don’t go into great explicit detail – but just the effects it had on me as a girl and also as a woman and a mother.

Tim Knox: It had to be a very emotional book to write. Was it almost therapeutic though?

Rachel Thompson: You know, people ask me that. I’m certainly not done. I’ve learned so much. I’m in therapy. I’ve been in therapy. I suffer from depression and anxiety and some post-traumatic stress and I didn’t really understand why I was having reactions to certain things. So to put a name to what happened to me and to understand a lot of my reaction to it has been very helpful and very therapeutic.

I’m not crazy, that kind of thing. I think even more than that I was compelled to connect… the stories I got from people who would contact me privately after reading the book were just heartbreaking. Some people had never once spoken about the abuse that they had suffered from anybody. A lot of it is incest, which is just so sad.

I decided to connect with and start a group, a private, secret group on Facebook for survivors of sexual abuse. At this point we’re up to 50 members, almost all women. There are about two guys.

One of the gals in there is a certified therapist who also as I was just saying, she suffered abuse at the hands of her father for about 12 years and has just had an enormously difficult life. At this point now though she has her degree. She is a therapist. She’s going for her doctorate. Her name’s Bobbi Parish. She’s very open with her story now. She and I… I had this idea to start a Twitter chat called Sex Abuse Chat. There wasn’t anything like that. I guess about a year, year and a half ago I was looking into it but I’m not a therapist. I’m not certified. I didn’t want anyone to come to me and expect any kind of therapeutic answers for what they’re going through or diagnosis.

So I brought Bobbi in and so now we’ve started that about six months ago. We started Sex Abuse Chat and it’s every Tuesday at 9 PM Eastern Time, 6 PM Pacific Time on Twitter. It is public. We have a lot of people who – what we call – gawk. They basically just watch and we have a different topic every week. We have guests.

Some people then contact me privately and say, you know, I could never speak publicly about this but thank you for having this available. I think it’s just a way to get information out there to survivors and that’s what’s most important.

Tim Knox: Well yeah the one thing that really struck me about the book is the cover. It really is a great cover and it really is perfect for that book. Who did that cover for you?

Rachel Thompson: I actually ended up using a stock photo.

Tim Knox: Did you really? It’s amazing.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah but I didn’t find it and Natasha Brown is my graphic artist. I don’t know anything about graphics. I’m very much a believer in hiring professional help. I hired her on the recommendation of another author that I really liked her covers. I think that’s kind of the best way to do it.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk about how you went from being a pharmaceutical sales rep to award winning author and now you have a company called BadRedhead Media. Did you get that right?

Rachel Thompson: Yes, you did.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about it because the services you offer authors I think are services that are greatly needed because I talk to so many authors that do not have a clue about social media, Facebook, Twitter, all of that stuff. Tell us a little about BadRedhead Media.

Rachel Thompson: Sure. I started my own writing of course in 2010 and released the two books in 2011. I self-published, again hiring an editor and a proofreader and a graphic artist to do the covers. At that point I really wanted to understand and learn how to market the books. I knew that it wasn’t just going to be a matter of release the book and everyone’s going to buy it. It just doesn’t happen that way.

There’s millions of books out there. So I had my marketing background. I started working with authors free of charge for about a year and a half as part of a collective that I helped found. It was really just a matter of a bunch of us getting together. Some of us had more marketing experience. Others had social media. Others were just writers who wanted to learn more. We all just sort of pulled together our resources.

That fell apart after about a year and a half but it was great experience for me to understand what I needed to do to market my work and how to really get in to Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and all those various other social media outlets or channels, and understand what I liked and how best to use it to communicate and find a reader base.

The thing that I always tell authors is… most authors go on Twitter or Facebook and follow other authors because we’re usually pretty avid readers as well. But you need to find readers. You need to find these fans who will do anything to get a peek at your next work or to help you get the word out.

So I’m always telling people to really focus on book bloggers, book reviewers and reading terms like bookworm or book club. I think Twitter’s great. It’s a wonderful way to connect with readers. I think that authors just don’t, as you were saying, understand that they can’t just spam their book link, “Buy my book, it’s great. Everybody loves it” 200 times to strangers because they end up getting unfollowed or reported for spam or blocked.

Tim Knox: I think one of the important things that I’ve learned in doing this show is a lot of the authors, not just the new authors, but a lot of authors who have been in the traditional world for a long time and relied maybe on their publisher or their publicist, now they’re wondering how the heck do I do this? How do I get my book out there? I’ve been there, done that as well. You tend to think all I have to do is write the great book and then everybody’s going to do everything for me.

I talk to people like Hugh Howey and Joe Finder and guys like that that are even heavily involved in doing their own promotion in social media, so it is important that they learn how to do that.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah it is and I think it’s an old sort of world that, you know, paid the advance and said okay, here’s where you’re going to go and here’s where you’re going to sign and just sort of pointed the author in a certain direction. That whole traditional model has had to change with the advent of self-publishing.

The other thing that I think is really interesting is that I started writing a lot of articles really just to offer free advice to authors. Here’s what I’ve done. Here’s what works. Here’s what doesn’t. I don’t charge for them or write for Huffington Post and I write on my own blogs and I write for another great site called BookPromotion.com, all free stuff. I think that the one thing that people really have to understand is that you have to spend at least half your time marketing.

This is a generalization okay but most writers, including myself believe it or not, are fairly introverted. So we’re pretty happy just sitting in our office with our ear buds in listening to iTunes while we write and we don’t want to interact with other people. It’s uncomfortable. That’s kind of the beauty of social media.

You can still sit in your office with your ear buds in listening to iTunes while you interact with people. You don’t have to shove the book down their throat. There’s a lot of other ways to go around it. That’s what I work on with people is getting them to understand branding, marketing and social media.

Tim Knox: How important do you think it is that the author has a backlist? One of the things I keep hearing over and over from the really successful self-published authors, every one of them will tell me the same thing – just keep writing and write and write and concentrate on the work. At some point if one of the books catches fire then you’ve got the backlist that they can also go buy and that helps build that brand, which is all a part of marketing.

Rachel Thompson: Yeah, absolutely. It is really important and the one thing that I think a lot of authors, first time authors, don’t realize the critical importance of it and they really need to manage their expectations. It’s very, very rare that their first book is going to be priced at $8.99 and it’s going to sell a million copies and they’re going to get a contract with Simon & Schuster but everybody thinks that’s going to be the case. It’s very rare.

I’ve had so many people come to me and say, “Okay, I need to pay my rent and my car payment with my book sales so how can you help me do that?” I tell them I can’t. It’s just not possible. I’m sorry, no offense, but most people don’t care about who you are or what you’ve written. You have to find your audience because they’re not going to find you.

Tim Knox: That’s another great point. You can’t be so introverted and humble that you don’t want to market the work. There comes a point where if no one else is going to blow your horn, you got to blow your own horn, right?

Rachel Thompson: Yes, yes and the way of doing it, instead of doing the “buy my book, my book,” kind of thing on Twitter or Facebook is really to blog. You have to look at things like SEO and Google Ranking and all those go into increasing your visibility.

I think that there’s a lot of authors, including myself when I first started, I didn’t really understand. I was already blogging, okay, but I didn’t really understand keywords and tagging and categorizing and optimization and all those things that are critical to getting you higher in the Google Ranking.

Most authors don’t even give a thought to it. It means nothing to them. Unfortunately that’s how you get found. Whether you’re going traditional or you’re going indie and now of course there’s a third option, which is hybrid publishing. I was actually signed by a hybrid publisher last summer. Booktrope is the name of the company. It’s a much more involved process.

You still have to submit like you would for any type of publisher. There’s no advance but you’re much more involved in the process and the creation of your book. Then you are paid more. Traditionally authors are paid anywhere from 10-15% of the book sales after the publisher makes their money back, whereas a hybrid publisher… each model is different but the one with Booktrope is that I’m paid about 30-40% of sales almost immediately, which is great.

Tim Knox: So you’ve gone on both sides of the fence. You’ve done self-publishing. You’re an indie author and now you’re doing the hybrid publishing. Is either one better than the other? Would you recommend either or?

Rachel Thompson: You know, I think it really depends on the person. I find that for my next book… I’m working on Broken Places now and the contact I signed with them I had already released Broken Pieces as an eBook and it was doing very well. It had won many awards and was selling quite well and I’d already paid for everything upfront – the publishing, the graphics, proofing, formatting.

That was all done so to hand that over to a publisher and say here, take another 40% for nothing didn’t seem to make sense to me financially. But they said, “For you, Rachel, because you’ve proven yourself…” and this is where the marketing comes in, right, “… we’ll go ahead and just sign you for the print version and you keep all of your eBook sales. For future books they would like to have the option of doing both. So my next book is actually social media and marketing, branding for authors.

It’s basically what I write about on BadRedheadMedia.com put all together and of course edited by my editor. We’re putting that through Booktrope’s process. I don’t have to do as much work on it to put it together or spend as much money upfront. They foot the bill for that but then I make less on the backend.

For the eBook version of Broken Places, which is the book I’m working on now, I’m thinking I’m going to go ahead and do it the way I’ve always done it which is hire my editor, who I love – Jessica Swift, and pay her myself and put the whole thing out on my own but then go ahead and do print again through Booktrope. I love that they’re open to that process. It’s very collaborative.

Tim Knox: That’s one thing I’m finding is that a lot of the publishers now are becoming more flexible because everybody is self-publishing and then you got the traditional publishers that are, dammit, this is how we’ve always done it. I think the authors are the ones that will eventually change the publisher’s form of doing things, don’t you?

Rachel Thompson: Oh, we already are, there’s no question. When “indie” or self-publishing first started maybe 10 years ago I mean, gosh, Mark Twain published his own books but we’re talking as a sort of movement or change in the industry.

A lot of people would just take a Word document, format it and call it a book. That really gave self-publishing a very bad name. I would never dream of doing that. I mean I wanted an editor to rip my work apart and make it as wonderful as it could possibly be before anybody ever saw it. I think any author needs to do that if they want to be taken seriously, submit for awards, potentially even query big publishing houses or get an agent.

I think that the amount of options that are available now are pretty amazing and that’s wonderful. It’s all focused around reading. How great is that?

Tim Knox: Yeah and the thing that I keep telling authors is that when it comes to either traditional publishing or self-publishing, it doesn’t have to be us or them. It’s not an adversarial relationship. There are so many different ways now that you can get the work out and there’s really never been a better time to be an author trying to bring your work to market.

Rachel Thompson: I think so. I think that the options that are out there, the technology that’s out there as well is pretty amazing. There are even crowdfunding sources strictly for books. Pubslush is one that… I personally haven’t used them to raise the money but they are specifically like a Kickstarter for books and it’s all about books which is wonderful. I mean a lot of people say, “Well I can’t afford to self-publish so I have to go traditional.” Well now you have another option. You can do the crowdfunding. I just think the options out there are pretty amazing.

Tim Knox: I agree. Rachel Thompson with BadRedhead Media, also the author of A Walk in the Snark, Mancode: Exposed and Broken Pieces and the new work is Broken Places. Is that right?

Rachel Thompson: Yes.

Tim Knox: Fantastic. Before we go I have to ask you the final question. To all the other authors out there, the ones that are listening to this, final advice on how to make it as an author.

Rachel Thompson: I think you have to manage your expectations. Like I said, don’t expect to pay your mortgage payment and go on vacation with your royalty checks, especially with your first book. Create a backlist. I didn’t really get to address that but you definitely want to get to at least five books that have been well received. So put your heart and soul into it and hire professionals. I can’t stress that enough. You can’t do it all on your own.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk about the backlist really quickly though because I think that is a great point. Give us your input on the backlist.

Rachel Thompson: Well it’s interesting. I was just in Winnipeg. They flew me up there for a conference and I was there with Julie Kagawa, who is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling YA author, traditionally signed with Harlequin Teen. She said it was really interesting. Once she got to her 5th book, and this seems to be across the board as a sort of weird kind of formula – two books, three books, great.

You’ll sell a little bit, a little bit more. When you get to five books, her book was optioned for a movie and it’s actually getting made. She writes about dragons. She does a lot of fantasy. She was saying that she just plugged away. It took her maybe 10 years of writing. I think a lot of people think they’re going to be successful overnight and of course there’s a great example of somebody who put in the work and then this book hit and, boom, it exploded. I just kind of hear that across the board.

Once you get to that 5th book. Even Hugh Howey has been writing for years and years before Wool hit. What a nice guy but even he says, you know, you have to put in the time. You have to put in the effort and you have to make sure that you have more than one book available. People tend to buy from the same author if they like their work.

Series of course are very big right now. I think that you have to sort of look at the market and learn it. If you don’t know it, hire somebody like myself or somebody else that you know or trust who has experience or who can help you learn what you need to know to then go do it on your own.

Tim Knox: Right when I talked to Hugh, he had a long range plan. He’s such a fascinating guy. His original plan was, okay, I’m going to write two books a year for 10 years. I figure within that time someone will pick up on one of my books and I’ll have 10 to 20 books in my backlist, and that’s basically what happened. When they found Wool they started going back and reading his backlist. Rachel Thompson, great advice as always. Where can we find more information about you?

Rachel Thompson: I spend most of my time, if I’m on social media, on Twitter. I’m @RachelintheOC, which is my Twitter account or for any kind of free advice with regard to marketing, social media or branding I have @BadRedheadMedia. That’s the handle. I’m also on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and I have websites of the same name – RachelintheOC.com and BadRedheadMedia.com.

Tim Knox: Very good and we will put links to everything on our site. Rachel, this has been a pleasure. Let’s do it again.

Rachel Thompson: Okay, thanks very much.


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One Thought on “Rachel Thompson: The Light & Dark Sides of the Award Winning Author

  1. I really learned a lot from your interview with Rachel Thompson. I so appreciate her honesty, and fully intend to take all her sound advice. I’ve made a list of things to do: writers to follow, sites to explore, strategies for finding readers/reviewers… I’ll tweet and facebook the link, and quote her succinct directive: “You have to find your audience, because it’s not going to find you.”

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