The first time I met Caroline George, I knew she was destined for greatness. The more I get to know her and see all that she’s accomplishing at such a young age, the more excited I get to see what all she has in store for her future. Caroline is not only the author of three books (with more on the way) but she is a PR powerhorse. I’m excited to share her valuable advice geared specifically for authors.
When did you write your first book?
Tricky question to answer! Storytelling has been my passion since I was a white-haired toddler who struggled to grasp a pencil. I couldn’t read enough, write enough, or break through the back of my bedroom wardrobe, into Narnia. When I was in middle school, I began writing fanfiction novels. And when I was thirteen, I made it a goal to be published by age sixteen (I knew very little about the publishing industry and its timeline). I wrote my first original novel at age fourteen. I published my debut title at age fifteen, days before my sixteenth birthday.
What was your original vision for it?
At first, I wanted to pursue traditional publication, but after several agents told me I was too young to land an author career, I turned to self-publishing. eBooks were new to the publishing scene and offered me the chance to achieve my dream of publishing by age sixteen. I purchased eBooks for Dummies, then began learning how to transform my meager manuscript into a downloadable book. Granted, my initial methods were . . . primitive at best . . . but the process forced me to learn the publishing industry and advocate for my work. I faced criticism due to my age, gender, self-publishing choice, and amateur errors. However, the book released. People bought it. Readership grew, exceeding my expectations.
Six years later, I am the author of three books (with multiple soon-to-be-released titles), a literary agent, and college graduate. My jobs and internships (Harper Collins, BookGrabbr, Hillsong Church) came from my self-publishing background. Really, my entire career stemmed from that one choice to believe in God’s calling for my life. To Him be the glory.
When we take the bravest step, we choose the bravest path—we launch ourselves into the bravest life. And a brave life encourages others to live bravely, too.
How did your actual publication differ from what you expected?
I expected a “loud” release, meaning I thought my social media would explode with engagement, everyone would purchase my book and tell me how much they love it. Those things did happen but not at once.
The author pursuit seems a quiet vocation. Career-changing news often comes as emails. People read books in silence and may or may not leave reviews. No hoopla. No applauding audience. Just readers and books. Just a caffeinated writer slumped over a laptop.
In my career, God does the biggest things in the smallest ways to remind me He is greater, and I am less.
What were some of the techniques you used to promote your book?
- Goodreads giveaway
- Social media collaborations
- Blog tour
- Book tour with fellow YA author Tessa Emily Hall
- Speaking engagements
- Small business collaborations
What has been the most effective marketing technique you’ve done?
Marketing: Paid publicity. Public relations: Free publicity.
Since I function on a limited book budget, I prefer to focus on public relations tactics, rather than spend money on paid advertising. I found PR outreach endeavors cultivate an atmosphere of sincerity within social media and yield greater platform growth.
To answer your question, my most effective tactic . . . Instagram collaborations!
Instagram collaborations involve partnerships between two or more parties. For example, I like to partner with artists, small businesses, and bloggers who produce content—art, soaps, reviews, guest posts, etc.—based on my books. In return, I promote their work. The collaborations are mutually beneficial, boost awareness of our content, and form lasting connections. Social media revolves around relationships, so initiating those relationships leads to substantial platform growth.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of traditional vs. self-publishing?
Traditional publishing offers credibility, mass distribution and advances (if a larger publisher), and an in-house staff working to prepare the book for release. Some cons: Traditional publishers give smaller royalty percentages, take up to two years to release a book, and often require authors to have literary agents.
Self-publishing provides authors with total control over their books, short publishing timelines, and large royalty percentages. Cons: Self-publishing still possesses a negative stigma in the book world, requires the author to edit the book’s content and create a cover, and offers limited distribution.
Overall, both publishing methods contain advantages/disadvantages. Authors can find success with either model if they market their books.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you wrote your first book?
If I could go back in time and have a coffee date with my younger self, I’d begin the conversation with two statements: A small step is still a step. Value the growth, not just the result.
When I first began this endeavor, I believed the publishing industry would welcome me with open arms. I expected fame and fortune by my twenties, respect from family members, and . . . well, a lot of fantastical things. Six years later, I’m still pursuing an author career and knocking on some of the same “doors.”
What I wish I’d known at book #1 . . .
- The work pays off, often in unexpected ways.
- Platform is key.
- Not everyone will understand the vision, but their lack of insight doesn’t determine the vision’s worth.
- Invest in a professional editor!
- Don’t worship the calling, rather the One who gave the calling.
- Shame doesn’t come from failure. It comes from not trying.
- Passion is a gift from God. Never lose it.
How important are book signings?
Due to social media and changes within the publishing market, physical book signings aren’t as lucrative as they used to be. In fact, traditional publishers tend not to focus on book tours and book signings unless the author involved is famous enough to draw a crowd. Book signings may not yield tremendous financial gain, but they do possess two specific benefits: Facetime with potential readers and the opportunity for platform growth. Whenever I participate in a book signing, I promote the event heavily on my social media, ensure the venue does minor marketing, and ask attendees to take pictures and post on their socials during the signing. I always experience a boost in my social media engagement after such an event.
Overall, book signings are a public relations tactic, a way to capture attention and build an audience.
What do you think is the secret to your strong fan base?
First, thanks for this compliment! I spent years developing my platform (a lot of trial and error) and aim to improve it. By applying my PR background to social media, I managed to increase my online following from 500 people to over 14.5K in two years. My tips . . .
- Know your audience,
- Select a social media channel that best reaches them,
- And curate content that appeals to the audience’s wants/desires and garners engagement.
- To answer your question, I believe the strength of my platform comes from engagement. I chat with readers, potential readers, and do a lot of outreach. I also try to produce relatable content that connects with my brand. Granted, I aspire to grow my following, but I do respect the loyalty of my audience and love to welcome them into my life.
Any other advice you’d offer to beginning writers?
- Write the story you love. Publish the story readers will love. All a matter of perspective!
- When the time comes to pursue publication, research your options and educate yourself on the current publishing market. Develop professionalism so you will know how to engage with agents, editors, and other industry-focused individuals.
- Remember: Agents receive hundreds of emails per day, and your email isn’t their primary focus.
- Accept rejection with humility, not hostility. The publishing industry is subjective, so a NO from one person may mean a YES from another.
- Never burn bridges.
- Connect with other authors—they’ll advocate for you.
- Build your platform NOW. The publishing industry revolves around platform numbers. Unless you have a developed online presence, many publishers won’t consider your work.
- Submit to writing contests. Awards help to catch an agent’s/editor’s eye.
Caroline George commits her time and energy to telling stories in their many forms. A Belmont University graduate with a double-major in publishing and public relations, Caroline aims to pursue a career committed to helping authors, publishers and organizations project their stories to their publics. She spends her time blogging, writing for various magazines and authoring young adult fiction books (her current publications include The Prime Way Trilogy and The Vestige). She considers herself a not-so-southern Georgia peach, coffee-junkie and delights in being best known for writing the phrase, “Coffee first. Save the world later.”
Social Media/ Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Vestige-Caroline-George/dp/1773393383 https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B013F1KPQO?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true