I got to know Nina on Twitter, and when she asked if I would interview her for my blog, I was all in! I’m so excited to share this interview with you! I hope you find something valuable in the interview I did with Nina. Thanks for reading!
You’ve been writing and publishing for many years. Do you have any advice for an author just starting out?
When I was starting to publish, I used to submit poems and short stories, nonfiction pieces every Friday. That was the day of the week I stopped writing and did the “business” end of writing. So pick a day to submit and make sure you send your writing out somewhere. This also can be a query to an agent, editor, or small publisher.
How do you keep the energy and momentum going over such a long period of time?
Each writing project brings with it a different set of problems to solve and research to be done because I mostly write historical fiction. It’s these various unresolved complications that spark interest.
I must say, I read a great deal of fiction, and when I read a well-executed novel, this, too, will boost my momentum and energy. With each new novel I write, I try to obtain a higher level of commitment to the piece in hopes that it’ll be more unique and render a better one than my last. I’m not in competition with anyone but Nina Romano.
We always say writing and publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, but what does that mean to you?
It’s the long haul dedication to excel, and with everything I write, I find challenges which in the short term equal the sprint and might be accomplished rather quickly. However, it’s the persistence to meet each task with the accrued knowledge from past experiences which aid in finalizing a new more difficult piece of writing. I never make it easy on myself—what would be the purpose of that?
Your books have won various awards, and I think that’s something a lot of authors, indie and traditionally published, hope for. Congratulations! I think what every author would like to know, myself included, is does winning an award help with sales, or do you find it’s a personal achievement?
Thank you, Vania. I can’t really say that winning awards or making it to a finalist category in a contest helps with marketing books. I can attest to one thing—it’s a lovely satisfaction to know you have a winner or at least a mighty strong contender. It gives you confidence to continue to attempt achieving a degree of excellence.
You can’t win a race if you don’t participate—I think some authors are either afraid to put themselves out there for contests or perhaps it’s another issue—these contests are expensive, and that may be a super drawback to many fine authors. (My note: Poets and Writers has a great list of contests and you can look at it here.)
I’ll bet there are many people writing today who just want to write—uncaring of prizes, awards, commendations. But the world we live in doesn’t afford us the luxury to do just that. It’s a competitive world, so we must endeavor, struggle, and strive to do our best. A finalist or first place win in a particular category is merely someone’s pat on the back saying, you’ve succeeded. But it’s a lovely accomplishment and we must celebrate all the accolades we can garner. It especially helps to remember these on a dark day when you receive a negative review!
You are published by various publishing houses and presses. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into submitting and them ultimately publishing your books?
This is a loaded question—I could write an entire thesis on it. At one point I had an agent. To secure that agent I wrote eighty-four query letters. We went our separate ways, but I always knew I wanted a traditional publisher. For years, every Friday I would send out poems, short stories, nonfictions pieces, articles, blogs, parts of novels to literary journals, small magazines, and blog sites—in print and online. It’s relatively easy to publish individual poems and stories. When I had enough poems and a theme, I put them together and made collections—how? I began to write poems or revise them to fit the theme, which I then submitted to publishers. I did the same with stories. I submitted five poetry collections and one story collection to small, independent publishers, and they were accepted and published.
When it came to novels, I did things differently. Some of my novels grew out of short stories that I had published. I took back the novel, Lemon Blossoms, from the agent, and it became the second book of my Wayfarer Trilogy. I worked backwards and wrote the prequel to that novel: The Secret Language of Women. It took me nine years to get that manuscript into the shape I wanted. I then submitted the manuscript to three small, independent, traditional publishers. I received a letter after a week from Turner Publishing saying they wanted to publish the book. I then sent them Lemon Blossoms, which was accepted, and I was under contract with them to write the third book of the trilogy, In America, which was a great challenge because I had to do it in one year.
Can you give our readers any tips on successfully submitting a manuscript?
Make sure the manuscript is in the best possible shape it can be before submitting—that means completely edited and flawless with regards to research. I had many readers for all of my books—some critiqued for me and others only read. You can never have too many pairs of eyes on a manuscript before you decide to submit it. If a writer doesn’t have good readers, they should pay a professional editor.
Never assume or think that because an editor or a publisher asks for a partial or the entire novel that it will be accepted. It’s an exhilarating feeling, but by no means is it the gold ring on the carousel ride. At one time, I had eight agents reading one of my novels—not one took me as their client.
Don’t get discouraged. I could paper all the walls of an entire bathroom suite with rejections. A rejection is only one person’s subjective opinion. Read the rejection for any positive points to see if you can correct a flaw in the writing. Then, repackage the piece and submit it elsewhere.
I was told years ago that you have to have twelve to twenty submissions circulating in order to get picked up. Never waste time waiting for a single response from an agent or publisher. SEND! SUBMIT! REPACKAGE! MAIL OUT! And keep on doing it till someone sees the kernel of gold in your writing.
I am by nature a tenacious individual. I worked hard in school, but never quit and have four university degrees to prove it. I worked hard at writing and never quit, and that’s what every writer who wants to publish should do: work hard. Today, things are easy—you can self-publish. Amazon has a plethora of self-published books. Do they have merit? I can’t guarantee that. The old saying is: “Everyone has a story,” but that doesn’t mean everyone can write a story. My mentor John Dufresne used to say—if you can do or be anything else but to be a writer—do it. I took many writing workshops and seminars, attended numerous writing conferences, readings, author presentations and writing panel discussions. Writing is hard and not all succeed at it. But what is success, anyway?
Success for me is the thrill of someone reading one my novels. I’m doubly thrilled if it had for the reader an aspect of universality and hit a core with them and they wrote a positive review. My books haven’t made the BEST SELLERS list of the NY Times and they may never. Are the books of intrinsic value? Do they merit being translated into other languages—I believe so. Are they novels I’m proud to say that I’ve penned? You bet they are! And are they books that could be turned into a screenplay and be made into a movie? Yes, if someone with inclination and imagination decided to, that’s also a possibility. Writing abounds in a world of possibilities—it’s what you make of it. So my advice is this: persevere. Be persistent. Never give in or give up.
There is so much that goes into writing, publishing, and marketing. What do you find to be the most challenging?
Marketing. Without a doubt. You can spend a fortune on a publicist—which I did and it didn’t pay off! I lost the advance payment of two novels! I say: don’t bother. You can take out advertisements that are costly but won’t be worth it—in fact, you can lose your knickers and won’t even break even. You can spend hours on social media and it’ll amount to the same thing—zero sales. And what’s worse it’ll be time taken away from your writing, or finding other ways to sell books.
What works? Word of mouth! And for me, personal contact with people almost always pays off. I’ve taught seminars and workshops at writing conferences, attended book fairs, given readings, presentations, and appeared on panel discussions. For me to garner sales is when I have a connection with people. Put me in front of an audience, a classroom full of eager future writers, or a group of readers and something clicks—I’m a people person and I don’t have an introverted bone in my body.
You’re re-releasing The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. Can you tell us why you decided to make changes and if someone is thinking to re-release a book what they can expect and what to look out for?
I had originally wanted to publish this book with my new publisher Speaking Volumes, LLC.
Unfortunately, their acceptance came right after I’d already signed a contract with a small, independent publisher. The contract ran for three years and then I had the option of taking back the rights, which I did. I resubmitted the manuscript to SV. Why did I do it? The first publisher only wanted one book, whereas Speaking Volumes wanted a trilogy. In my mind, that’s a no brainer! Done deal!
But that’s my experience. Everyone else will have a different spin on why they would switch publishers, or re-write and release a book. I did a great many edits on this book, but it happens that sometimes when you fix something, another problem will arise. I hope the end product will be a finer one then was first published. I know one thing for absolute positive certain—the cover is a knockout and I’m hoping that readers will think the material contained therein is also!
I try to tailor my questions to the authors I’m interviewing, and I noticed you have given quite a few interviews! Can you give our readers any tips on approaching a blog or website and asking them to promote you and your novels?
I have been asked to write guest blogs and do many interviews, which are always fun and help give an author visibility. Some even help promote books, and although I’d like to say that sales improve, there are never any guarantees.
I’ve even approached people directly, like this interview with you, Vania. I asked you if you’d be interested in interviewing me. My advice is be polite and straightforward, and don’t take a “no” personally. If the answer is negative—just try someone else.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to the conversation before we wrap up?
I want to thank you, Vania, for these provocative questions and your valuable time. I very much enjoy talking about writing and books—so this was a great pleasure. My hope is that a writer who reads these questions and answers gains some personal insight they can put to good, practical use.
Thank you, Nina! That was amazing! I’m sure everyone who reads this will find something useful that they can use for their own writing and publishing careers. I love it when we can support and help each other!
Read on for Nina’s author bio and all her social media links:
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. A world traveler and lover of history, she lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has taught English and Literature as an Adjunct Professor at St. Thomas University, Miami, and has facilitated numerous Creative Writing and Poetry Workshops at Writing Conferences throughout the States.
Romano has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally with independent publishers. She co-authored a nonfiction book: Writing in a Changing World, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her Western Historical Romance, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is a semifinalist for the Laramie Book Awards.
Her novel, Dark Eyes, an historical thriller set in Soviet Russia, is forthcoming in 2022 from Speaking Volumes, LLC.
Amazon Author: https://amzn.to/2SUamoF
The following three books are in hard cover, softcover print, and Kindle:
Amazon: The Secret Language of Women https://amzn.to/2MQZpNC
Amazon: Lemon Blossoms https://amzn.to/2TWqzYt
Amazon: In America https://amzn.to/2Hl2VzT
The following book is available in softcover print and Kindle:
Amazon: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645405397
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-girl-who-loved-cayo-bradley-nina-romano/1130663914?ean=2940161021804