Today we're talking with Karen A. Wyle. Karen is an accomplished author who has published eleven novels and has now published her first children's picture book. Discover more as Karen shares her tips and insights.
How many books have you written and how many have you published?
This gets complicated because of the wide range of genres in which I've both written and published books.
I've written about a dozen picture book manuscripts over quite a few years. Of these, I've collaborated with an illustrator to publish one (You Can't Kiss A Bubble, illustrated by Siski Kalla), and am now working with a second illustrator on a second (When It's Winter, illustrated by Barbara Dessi).
I've written thirteen novels and published eleven of them -- not counting one that I published and then pulled as beneath my standards. The one missing from that count made it all the way through beta readers before I decided it had too many problems for me to push it across the proverbial finish line. Of the published novels, three are historical romance set in 1870s Nebraska, and the rest one or another type of speculative fiction.
I've written and published one nonfiction book, recently updated: a guide to American law and lawyers (I'm one of the latter), written for fellow authors, for law students, for newcomers to the USA, and for the general American public.
Where do you sell your books?
I sell all the books on Amazon and most of them via the Ingram Group (from which many retailers obtain books). I'm also doing some hand-selling of the picture book, and hope to arrange visits to schools, day cares, and summer camps.
What's your best sales channel, and why?
Until recently, I've gotten the most sales via Amazon. However, since the recent release of my picture book You Can't Kiss A Bubble and the partially retitled nonfiction Closest to the Fire: A Guide to American Law and Lawyers, I'm seeing more sales via the Ingram Group, including some that look quite like bookstore purchases in quantity. I'm also finding success with direct marketing the picture book to local folks. I'd sum that up by saying, "It depends on the book."
Marketing your books can be hard. What's one thing you've tried that's worked well and why?
Running Amazon ads for books in Kindle Unlimited may have worked well. It's hard to be sure which page reads results directly or indirectly from those ads.
What is something you’ve tried that didn’t work at all?
I did virtual book tours for several of my novels. They yielded some lovely comments about the books and/or the covers, but no sales that I could discern.
What would you say to someone thinking of writing their first book?
I'd say (at least): Mazel tov! (That's Hebrew for, approximately, "Congratulations and best of luck on your new venture/adventure!")
People will tell you that authors must "always" or may "never" do this or that. Take this advice with not a pinch, not a teaspoon, but a tablespoon of salt... Of course, I am now in the position of contradicting myself, as that constitutes advice of the "never" variety. So I'll qualify it by saying: I suggest that you consider what common sense or experience may underlie these exaggerated pronouncements, but find your own process, by trial and error, and don't be afraid or embarrassed to do what works for you.
If you're writing a novel, or another book of comparable length -- and particularly if you tend to have trouble finishing what you start, and/or find yourself bedeviled by internal critical voices -- I recommend trying National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo). NaNoWriMo is a worldwide activity every year in which writers attempt to produce a very rough draft of a novel, at least 50,000 words long, entirely within the month of November. (One may write notes (e.g. on characters, scenes, and plot), or even outline the book, beforehand.) On average, this means writing at least 1,667 words per day. At that pace, you're unlikely to have time to second-guess yourself. If you brick up your inner editor in a closet and recite the mantra, "Lousy first drafts . . . lousy first drafts," you may end up with what will eventually become your first book.
Feel free to email me if you need a pep talk!
How did you find your illustrator?
I joined Facebook groups for writers and illustrators of children's books. Other members of these groups sometimes posted either their own illustrations, or calls for illustrators resulting in a great many responses, often including Instagram links. I also looked at behance.net and at SCBWI's (that's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Illustrator Gallery. After a delightful interlude of looking at a great deal of art, and some indecision about which of my picture books to publish first, I paid a few illustrators to create a sample illustration for a line from the book. I then signed a contract with the illustrator who's style and approach I thought especially appropriate for that book -- and another contract with a second illustrator, for the book to come after.
Can you share a lovely moment you've had as an author?
There's nothing better than having a reader tell you that your book moved them, or helped them through a difficult time in their life.
When Wyle was pregnant with her first child, she sat musing on the front deck one day, looking at the oak trees, and came up with a short picture book manuscript she titled Mommy Calls Me Acorn. Over the next decade or so, she wrote other picture book manuscripts, but it has taken until 2021, after ten years of writing and publishing novels, for her to finally seek illustrators for some of them. You Can't Kiss A Bubble, illustrated by Siski Kalla, is the first picture book she has published.
You can buy You Can't Kiss A Bubble here
Where to Next?
We hope you enjoyed this insight into Karen A. Wyle's author journey. This is just one of our many author interviews and book reviews. We love to share tips from authors and free guides to help you along on your publishing journey. The best way to keep in touch with these is by signing up to our newsletter by filling in your details on the right hand side of the page. You can also see our range of children’s books in our shop. Plus of course, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.