Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vegies and Kids: Author Interview with D.S. Venetta

You’ve now done two books teaching middle-grade readers about growing vegetables. What made you choose this topic for your book?
A few years back I spear-headed a school garden for my children’s Montessori school. Working with kids K-8, I had so much fun watching them take charge, explore and question everything they did and that simply inspired to write about it. It’s a far different subject matter than my romance novels, but one I felt compelled to share. Maybe it will inspire other youngsters to garden.

Who helped you polish your story?
Actually, I had a few children editors join the process. In addition to my normal routine of editors and copy editors, I asked a few youngsters to read through my stories and weed out any “boring” spots. These books must be entertaining as well as educational. According to the reviews thus far, it worked!

Love your gardening puns! Are you active in any writing critique groups?
Lately, my involvement with writing groups has been online. Between writing romance, children’s books, marketing and sales, plus my number one job as Stay-At-Home Mom, I don’t have a lot of time to spare. But I do help other writers whenever possible. It’s crucial to staying connected in this industry.

Prior to writing this book, what was your publishing and writing background?
As I mentioned, I write romance, too. My debut novel, Jennifer’s Garden, is a romantic women’s fiction and won Best in Romance from the Indie Romance Discovery Awards. Ironically, it’s set in a garden. My romance readers know that I LOVE to garden. To prove it, my street team is known as the Bloomin’ Warriors! I write romantic cozy mystery fiction and general romantic mystery in addition to my romantic women's fiction. Quite the variety, but it works!

Did you try the traditional route of seeking a publisher and/or agent to market your book?
I did. I began marketing Jennifer’s Garden to agents and publishers as romance before I realized it was romantic women’s fiction. The responses were all the same: “Great writing, but where do I shelve it?” My response was: “Huh?” It’s not a typical romance, but it is a romance.  So after a couple of years seeking the traditional route, I realized—through the help of many like-minded authors—that what we were writing was romantic women’s fiction, not traditional romance. Where it didn’t exist as a genre before, it does now. Accepted and understood. It was my impatience with the “shelf” issue that propelled me toward indie publishing. I figured I’d let the readers decide. So far, so good!

I understand what you mean about women's fiction with romantic elements. I run into problems with editors on that as well. When did you decide to self-publish your own imprint?
I created BloominThyme Press back in 2011 as an umbrella for all of my writing endeavors. It actually stemmed from my garden blog, BloominThyme, where I make gardening easy and fun for moms and kids, including gardening tips, fresh recipes and kid crafts. No wonder that I now write children’s gardening fiction, right?  My tagline for romance is “A woman will bloom in her own sweet time” since romantic WF is all about a woman discovering her true identity. I also contribute gardening advice for various websites, publications and schools. It makes sense for me.

Tell me about the process. Did you have previous marketing or publishing experience?
No publishing experience, but I’m a sales gal at heart. Gift of gab, drive and determination, those things come easy to me making indie-publishing a good fit. My only issue is time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do, so I have to prioritize and remind myself that I’m building a pyramid not a slingshot. It’s a commitment. So long as I enjoy what I’m doing, I’m okay with the longer road to “household name” status. Build it and they will come, right? (He, he. Gotta dream big!)

How did you go about choosing your marketing plan?
I started by asking questions. Who are my likely buyers? Where do they buy books? How do they choose them? The list went on until finally I developed a fairly specific target market. For me, that includes green communities, organic lovers, educators, librarians, moms, etc. What do we all have in common? A love for gardening and getting our kids involved. I then created a marketing packet that includes educational resources for the funding and development of school gardens, fun activities for the kids, information about my books. Next, I get the book and packet into the hands of as many people as I can!

That's a lot of work. Were you overwhelmed by trying to learn everything about publishing
from print format to cover design and marketing?
Yes, in the beginning. And the deeper I delved, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. It was a daunting process, but I knew that if I persisted and didn’t give up, I’d win. I also understood the value of hiring professionals. While I can do a lot on my own, I can’t do everything—shouldn’t do everything. I continue to learn as much about the industry as I can, because my goal is always to expand my reach and put the best product forward as possible. It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m okay with mistakes along the way. It’s called life!

What are some of the promotions that you’ve done for the book that have been the most successful?
Put a cupcake in their hand and they will eat it. If they like it, they’ll buy another.
I put books into the hands of interested readers. Like most books, the best marketing is word of mouth. I’m convinced that if people read book #1 in my Wild Tales & Garden Thrills series for kids, they’ll buy book #2 and #3 and then they’ll tell all their friends!

What would you tell other authors to avoid?
Avoid thinking you’re a one-person show. You’re not, nor do you want to be. Network with other authors, help as many as you can and they’ll help you. Their success doesn’t negate your success. There is enough pie for everyone.
(Yes, as an indie or traditionally published author this is a prerequisite.)

What has frustrated you the most in putting this book together?
The artwork. I have a wonderful artist who creates beautiful images that bring my story to life, but I must first explain what I’d like those images to look like. That’s been hard. I had no idea how difficult it would be to convey what goes in my imagination to another individual. Apparently, not everyone’s mind works the same way mine does. Translated: I’ve edited images more times than I care to count—my artist, too. Poor guy probably thinks I’m nuts, but in the end, the result has been spot on.

What has pleasantly surprised you in the process?
How much satisfaction I derive from sharing my books and meeting people who share my passion for gardening. Especially when it comes to kids. It’s so gratifying to hear the reviews from youngsters reading my books. Really makes me smile.

What advice would you give someone who wants to publish their own book?
Go for it. Understand it’s not an easy process, but if you love what you’re doing, it’s totally worth it. Every day that I write and create, market and sell, I’m enjoying myself. Every day.

What is the best writing advice you’ve been given?
Get the words onto the paper. Write them, and the rest will come. So many people struggle with writing the first paragraphs or chapters, because they get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of words required to ultimately create a book. I say write. Outline. Get your thoughts on paper and then organize them. You can always edit. You will edit. Just let the words flow and don’t worry if you have to cut half of them out. It’s a process!

What message would you like parents and children to take away from this book and future books?
Gardening is fun! It’s easier than most people think, and once you catch the bug, you’ll be hooked. And it’s certainly a healthy addiction, one with a ripple effect. Gardening leads to healthier eating habits and healthier eating habits lead to a happier individual. And a happy individual will share the adventure of gardening with a friend!

What other books are in the process?
Book #3 in the series will address community and library gardens, while future books include square-foot gardening for apartment living, hydroponics, butterfly gardens and more.

Any other thoughts on writing you’d like to add?
Whether you write for a living or write for pleasure, it’s an outlet we all share in some form or another. And what a great way to connect and communicate. I love it!

That's it for today's interview. Hope you learned some tips and might even be encouraged to try some gardening for yourself. If you like to learn more about Dianne's books, here's links to get started.
Website: www.dsvenetta.com        Garden blog: www.bloominthyme.com