(Image courtesy of Joanne Van Leerdam)
To give my readers and fellow writers an insight into the processes and successes of other like-minded creatives, I'll be featuring some hardworking authors in my journal each week.
Today's author is Joanne Van Leerdam, and she's independently published.
Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, blogger, writer, thinker, puzzler, teacher, traveller, photographer and generally nice person. Despite having lived all her life in Australia, she has, thus far, avoided being killed or consumed by any of the deadly wildlife, which is probably a good thing.
Other than Australia, Canada is her favourite place in the world.
In addition to writing powerful, thought-provoking poetry and short-but-incredibly meaningful stories, she keeps teens enthralled in her senior high school English, History and Drama/Peformance classes. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company and has directed high school musicals for ten years.
Her poetry is contemporary, sensual, moody and easy to read - and it will get you in the feelings. Her horror fiction is deliciously creepy and macabre, and should not be read in a graveyard unless you're incredibly brave.
Joanne has also written two "reimagined" fairy tales, published in a fabulous collection with stories by five other writers.
What made you want to become a writer, Joanne?
I have always written things – stories, poems, reflections. I recall wanting to write a book when I was younger, but that idea got put on the back burner at some point – I have no idea why. A few years ago, friends started encouraging me to seek publication for my poems, so that was what I pursued at that point.
What are your thoughts on the indie vs traditional publishing argument?
The publisher I had for my first book was not very good at all, so I withdrew it and republished a second edition as an Indie. Since then, I have not looked back.
I’m a firm believer in indie publishing. Why should someone else benefit from all my hard work?
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest work?
‘Curious Things’ is a collection of macabre and horror stories featuring Friday, a black cat who just happens to be present when strange events take place. Each story involves someone doing the wrong thing and encountering poetic justice laced with dark humour.
I’ve also just had two reimagined fairy tale novellas published in a fairy tale anthology collection with five other authors: J.B. Richards, Eva Pasco, Lyra Shanti, Aliya DalRae and R.M. Gauthier. Together, we’re known as the Indie Fabs. ‘Once Upon A Fabulous Time’ is unique among the fairy tale collections I’ve seen, so that’s very exciting. It’s also a new genre for me, so that’s been both challenging and highly rewarding.
Can you share your top 3 marketing tips with us?
Engage on social media – let potential readers see more than just your book cover.
Don’t make everything about buying your book. It may be what you hope for, but how attractive is it seeing “buy my book!” all day, every day?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use a combination of various social media platforms, blogs, and paid promotion to get your work out there.
Can you tell us about your typical writing day?
I work part time as a teacher, so my writing fits into my work day depending on my schedule. It generally happens in the evening on school days, and more regularly throughout the day when I’m at home.
Watch Joanne's first appearance (July 2017) on my podcast, The White Room!
Like this content? Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and hitting that thumbs up for more!
What is your definition of success? Would you say you are a successful author?
Success is a complex concept. One does not have to become a millionaire in order to be considered successful.
As a poet, I’m successful because people read and enjoy my work, and they let me know when something really touches them. It’s not realistic to think I’m going to strike it rich writing poems, but to know that my writing can change someone’s mind, heart or life – and has done so? That’s powerful stuff.
My horror stories and the fairy tales are a different entity. They’re getting out there and making steady sales, which is really encouraging.
Overall, I’m starting to see more a slow, steady build in sales, so I believe that is also an indicator of success.
Have you met any of your writing goals yet, Joanne?
When I started out, I was excited to have one book published. Now I have four poetry books, two horror titles, one general fiction and a couple of fairy tales. This gives me a huge sense of satisfaction, but I still have plans for two more horror story collections and another book of poems in 2018. There might be more fairy tales, too!
How do you deal with negative reviews and criticism?
I roll with the punches. Nobody is going to write something that absolutely everyone loves. I don’t always feel positive about every book I read, either. It’s not realistic to think every review will be four or five stars, nor should they be.
Do you have a favourite author for fiction and non-fiction? Why are they your favourite?
Apart from the Indie Fabs and their excellent books – and I’m not saying that out of bias, they’re genuinely brilliant writers – the author whose work I have absolutely loved lately is Eric Tanafon. His reinvention of Robin Hood is incredible, and his Father Winter tale is superb.
Where do you get your ideas? How do you find inspiration?
It all comes from things I experience and feel. My writing is not all autobiographical, although a fair proportion of my poetry is. The rest is based on my observations of life, people, pain, and challenge. Everything I write has a deeper meaning.
One of my favourite messages that I want my readers to understand is that you can resist anything that tries to destroy you, and you’ll discover you’re stronger than you realise.
Can you share any free resources or tools you have found helpful?
I have a number of free resources for indie authors on my website, including helpful articles about using social media, a list of supportive groups on Facebook, and a list of excellent podcasts about indie publishing. I share lots of useful and thought-provoking articles and blog posts that I find, along with lots of books, reviews and author appreciation in my twitter feed.
I am very committed to promoting lots of other authors’ work on my book blog and, from there, into my social media.
Do you outsource your work?
I do as much of it as I can, then consult and outsource the rest. I’ve designed my own book covers in consultation with designers and artists. I’m an English teacher, so careful proofing and editing before having someone else edit at my writing saves me a few dollars. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to just edit their own and publish without a second or even third pair of eyes going over it first.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plotter, although sometimes my characters develop a mind of their own and do things I was not expecting. I do like to have a sense of direction when I’m starting out on a story, but I always reserve the right to choose to take a scenic detour.
I start with a general outline, and develop that into more detailed chapter outlines. Then I start writing.
Why do you write, Joanne?
I write to appease the muse who puts words into my head and leaves them clanging around in there until I do something with them. I write to process and deal with my thoughts and emotions. I write because actually hurting and killing people is frowned upon by society. I write because I love writing. I write because the rush of creating something that someone else reads and loves is more powerful than any drug.
Watch the Indie Fabs' second appearance (Dec 2017) on my podcast, The White Room!
Like this content? Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and hitting that thumbs up for more!
What is your mission statement?
Joanne Van Leerdam is an award-winning poet and multi-genre author who is committed to writing meaningful and thought-provoking literature for the enjoyment of her audience. She is a thinker and puzzler, a reader and musician, a traveller, and a teacher who has never lost the joy of learning. Joanne draws inspiration from her own experiences and observations of the world around her, crafting those ideas into works which will encourage those who struggle to persevere and inspire others to see the world from a new perspective. She aims to continue to grow her readership into a fully global and inclusive audience.
What do you love the most about writing?
It’s so satisfying to craft a poem or write a story that is powerful and meaningful, and then to have readers tell me that it moved them, or that they enjoyed it.
What do you dislike about writing?
For me, the hardest thing is that my passion for writing is something that only other writers really understand. I honestly wish that some folks, including a number of my friends and family, would recognise it as more than just a hobby or a passing enthusiasm. You might as well tell certain people that you’ve cut your toenails as announce that you have a new book. Personally, that can be really tough.
Do you ever visit other authors' websites and if so, what do you look for?
Yes. I like to see what others are writing and I love looking at their covers and reading blurbs. Then I usually discover that I’ve clicked a button or two and bought another book. Or three.
In order of importance (most important first) when shopping online, what do you look at first? Examples: cover design, formatting, reviews, description, price, publisher, author name, page count, preview, formats available.
1. Cover – doesn’t everyone? That’s why we put so much effort into them.
3. Author name. For certain authors, though, that’s enough to sell me a book.
5. At this point, I might use the ‘look inside’ feature if it’s available for the paperback.
6. Page count.
7. Price. To be honest, if it’s something I really want to read, this doesn’t matter much.
I generally don’t look at who the publisher is, unless it’s to confirm why a price is ridiculously high.
Would you like to leave a comment or note of thanks for your readers:
I would like to say thank you to everyone who has read and responded to my work. It’s an enormous privilege to be allowed into your mind and your heart, and to leave an impression there.
Thank you so much to author Joanne Van Leerdam for sharing her insights on writing and publishing books. If you would like to support Joanne and her work, please consider purchasing a copy of the book, Nova, available on Amazon now. Check out the handy link below: