Interview: Heather Kildenbrand

There is a big, bright door for new writers to walk through to get in the hands of readers now.  However, the traditional publishers had editing, cover design and some marketing to back a new author.  Now a novelist has to wear many hats.  I’d like to have you talk a little about the other hats such as marketing, screening/ hiring editors, cover designers, and even blog tour companies.

Can you tell us how a new author can go about selecting these other professionals?  How to find them, evaluate them?  Just because they have a great website isn’t necessarily an indication of quality.  We have all seen someone that has a fantastic resume’ that their mom wrote and typed for them.  The same can be true of a website. I’ve also heard some horror stories about some freelance editors.

*shivers* Yep, I’ve worked with a few of those not so greats, myself. And because I’ve had to learn in a trial and error sort of way, I am HAPPY to share my wisdom in hopes it’ll help someone else avoid some of the bumpier decisions I’ve made. First, CHECK REFERENCES. When hiring out for any of the above mentioned, I always ask previous or current clients. (Previous are better. I want to know WHY you stopped working with them.) For editors and cover artists, check out their previous work. Sometimes a cover artist is good but it’s not the style that fits your book. And editors: ask WHAT KIND of edit you’re getting for the money. Content vs copyedit is very important. If I’m paying more than $500 for an edit, it better come with more than misplaced commas marked in red.

If you are not great at editing your own work, how do you figure out if an editor is good at what they do? How do you determine what editor personality works with your own temperament?

You really have to feel it out through conversations. I recommend (and usually a good editor will suggest this) that you offer to send sample pages up to the first chapter and have them mark it up so you can see what sort of feedback you’re getting. Editing and style-correcting is a fine line. They need to find the errors but also leave your work sounding like YOUR WORK.

Share a couple of marketing ideas that worked for you and one that didn’t…

Hmm What works is this: Reviews. That’s what sells books. Make friends with book bloggers and get reviews. Boom. And one thing that doesn’t work: pay-per-click ads. I tried some boosted posts and ads on Goodreads and it never yields a return. Readers don’t want to be advertised to. They want a friend or another reader to honestly endorse you. (See? Reviews.)

Share three or four blogs that you think are very helpful for a writer’s career…

JA Konrath—his transparency on BIG New York publishing vs. self-publishing is what led me to decide to self-publish in the first place. He’s got a little bit of a hard-ass approach but that’s what I like about him.

And the rest—book bloggers. Follow them, comment, and share their review links (not just your own) and have them in your corner. That way, they’re there for you when you need them. And they rock, so there’s that. A Book Vacation (review blog) is a great one. Also, Sated Faery. And Doctors Notes. And the one I’m appearing on right now!! =)

What is the biggest mistake you see new authors making today?

Being cheap about editing and covers. Trying to cut corners on either of those things only makes you look like an amateur who can’t be bothered. So, why should we be bothered to read you? Yeah, I said it.

And the words “I can’t afford it” mean nothing. This is your dream. You can’t afford not to. Find a way.

Actually, could traditional authors be missing out by relying on their publishers to handle something for them?

Meh. “Missing out” is a weird term. It’s all perspective and what sort of experience you’re after. Self-publishing pays higher per copy but you pay out on the front end for editing and covers. And marketing isn’t quite as easy. At least with a publisher you get a team behind you, advisors who, even if they won’t do it all for you, will coach you along. I think the SMART MOVE is to be a hybrid author. Self-published here, small press there, Big 5 over here… be everywhere.

For a bit of fun stuff… what is your favorite snack when you are writing?

I can’t eat and write. I’m so OCD that way I guess. I mean, my hands get messy and plus then if I’m eating, I’m not typing. And it’s hard enough for my fingers to keep up with my brain when they’re moving. If I stop typing, my brain stops and I’ve lost the inspiration. It’s a pain in the ass. That’s a long answer, though. Short answer: peanut M&M’s (but I try to do grapes more often since they’re not so messy or bad for me.)

What do you love most about being a writer?

FREEDOM to move! I write from anywhere! Which is nice since I live in Guam half the time and VA the other half and in between, I travel as much as possible. I’ll be in CA for a week end of Sept (3 days in San Fran and 3 days in LA) and I’ll be able to work from any of those places! Woohoo!

Thanks so much for your time.

Thanks so much for having me! I really enjoyed this! Especially the writerly advice. If you want more advice, encouragement, and details of my OutRageous Life of living in 2 places, you can visit and better yet, sign up for my newsletter The Phoenix Life and get me in your inbox. Thanks! xoxo

About the Author:

Heather Hildenbrand was born and raised in a small town in northern Virginia where she was homeschooled through high school. (She’s only slightly socially awkward as a result.) Since 2011, she’s published more than eight YA & NA novels including the bestselling Dirty Blood series. She splits her time between coastal Virginia and the island of Guam and loves having a mobile career and outrageous lifestyle of living in two places. Her most frequent hobbies are riding motorcycles and avoiding killer slugs.

Heather is also a publishing and success coach bent on equipping and educating artists who call themselves authors. She loves teaching fellow writers how to create the same freedom-based lifestyle she enjoys. For more information visit and find out how to create your own Outrageous Life.

She is represented by Rebecca Friedman. You can find out more about Heather and her books at

Or find her here:

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