Sarah Ettritch

Sarah Ettritch writes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories that feature strong female characters. Her protagonists are usually lesbian. Sarah publishes her books through her publishing company, Norn Publishing. She belongs to several organizations related to writing and publishing, including Broad Universe and The Alliance of Independent Authors. 

Ms. Ettritch first came to my attention in the Virtual Living Room (VLR) during a weekend featuring Canadian authors. I wrote to her and offered her an interview, which she graciously accepted. I hope you will enjoy learning a bit more about one of our neighbors from north of the border.

AJ: You have written several books. What advice would you give to new authors?

SE: When it comes to writing, what works for one writer might not work for another. In addition to the obvious (“Read and write!”), my advice would be to do what works for you.

AJ: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

SE: Since I publish myself, my challenges were related to learning how to publish a book. I was just ahead of the self-publishing revolution, so there wasn’t as much information out there as there is now. Also, I’m Canadian, and most of the existing information applied to Americans. Fortunately there were a lot of generous people sharing their knowledge in self-publishing groups. I couldn’t have done it without them.

AJ: You say that most of the existing information applied to Americans. What is different about publishing as a Canadian? Is the process different?

SE: The steps are the same, but there are important differences when it comes to country-specific procedures such as obtaining ISBNs and CIP data, and filing for copyright. Also, Canadians don’t have access to all the popular self-publishing platforms, so we have to find other ways to get our books into some online bookstores.

AJ: How about Smashwords? Don’t you have access to that service? I understand that their premium service distributes to online stores and in a variety of formats.

SE: Aggregators like Smashwords are what I meant by “other ways.” For example, Canadians aren’t permitted to use Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform, so we have to go through a third party like Smashwords, which has disadvantages (loss of control, less money per sale because the aggregator takes a cut, metadata changes can take weeks/months). I used to use aggregators for places I can’t go direct, but I no longer do that. The drawbacks outweighed the benefits.

AJ: If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel(s) or getting it/them published that you would change?

SE: There are always things I’d change when it comes to the published work. I continue to improve as a writer, so when I read over past work (something I hate doing), there are always parts that make me cringe. But once a work is out there, it’s out there. Because of how easy it is to update eBooks and POD books, I know that some writers upload revisions, but I believe it’s important to see how a writer progresses and changes over time. Plus, I’d rather work on new stories.

AJ: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

SE: Editing. I enjoy the creative rush when I’m writing a first draft, but if there was an easy and fast way to download the story from my brain to a Word file, I’d take it.  

AJ: Life is funny…I hate editing. What do you enjoy about it?

SE: I enjoy reading what I’ve written (that changes later, when I’m reading the same thing for the tenth time), and it’s easier for me to edit my work than to write the first draft. Writers are often advised to let the crap flow for the first draft and do the real work during the editing phase, but that has never worked for me (see my answer to question one!). My first drafts definitely need to be cleaned up, but I wouldn’t be embarrassed if someone else were to read them. Most of my editing involves tightening up the writing. I take care of all the story problems while writing the initial draft.

AJ: As a reader, do you prefer a print book or an e-book?

SE: I definitely prefer print when it comes to fiction. For non-fiction, it depends. I prefer print when the book contains lots of figures and illustrations. Otherwise, I’ll often buy the eBook.

AJ: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

SE: Since my books are only available in online bookstores, I stick to promoting online. What works best for my genre is the same as what works best for any genre. The key is to define the target audience for the book.

AJ: How so? How do you locate the likely readers for your work? 

SE: Once you’ve identified the target audience(s) for your book, you find out where they hang out. For example, if one of your target audiences is epic fantasy readers, you’d look for promotional opportunities, forums, websites, etc., that target epic fantasy readers.

I know that many authors ask this question because they want to be given the silver bullet that will sell tons of books, but the reality is that each book is different. What works for one might not work for another. I’ve tried stuff that worked well for some authors, but didn’t work for me. The reverse has also been true. You have to try different things and see what works for your books. Also, if you write in multiple genres, like I do, the promotional plan for each book/series can be different.

AJ: Do you have a larger following on Amazon CA or the US Amazon? As a Canadian, is there an advantage to purchasing from one over the other?

SE: I sell more though Amazon US. For print books, it’s better to buy through (or Chapters/Indigo). The situation is different for Kindle books. Many Canadians have remained with for those because the selection is better, but that might have changed since the Kindle Store opened.

AJ: What are you working on now? Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

SE: I’m currently working on the third book in the Deiform Fellowship series. Since it won’t be out until late this year, I’m not ready to say anything more about the book right now.

AJ: Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or are they purely all imagination?

SE: Apart from giving some characters a shallow autobiographical detail or two (for example, a character might be into technology, like I am), I don’t base my books on anything to do with myself. Having said that, I’m sure my subconscious mind influences the types of stories I write. It fuels my imagination.

Thanks for interviewing me, AJ!

AJ: It was my pleasure.

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