New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young talks to us about the life-changing success of her self-published novel On Dublin Street. Samantha examines the benefits of being a hybrid author, stepping out of her comfort zone with her forthcoming novel Outmatched and why relatable characters are the hallmark of all her novels. Plus an exclusive offer on Samantha’s audiobook, Into the Deep.
From Self-Publishing to Traditional Publishing: A Whirlwind Affair
Samantha Young was an early adopter of self-publishing in 2011. Interestingly, she was approached by a publisher 4 weeks into the publication of her self-published title On Dublin Street and she continues to be a hybrid author today. Samantha is working on her 38th novel, so the last 8 years have been incredibly busy for her. Prior to being picked up by a publisher, Samantha had released YA urban fantasy books. She moved into contemporary romance with On Dublin Street, and it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 16 consecutive days.
On Dublin Street was self-published through Amazon, and within 4 weeks it had sold over 200,000 copies. Samantha was then approached by many publishers, before she signed with Penguin Random House. They purchased world rights for the novel and Samantha is now published in 30 countries. Between self-publishing her novel to being picked up by a publisher, circumstances changed rapidly: the novel was published in late August 2012, a traditionally-published version of the ebook was released 5 weeks later, and the print version came out in January 2013.
Why Did You Choose to Self-Publish?
“Just because that’s who I was. You know, I was an indie author, that’s what I was used to. I didn’t expect it to have more success than my YA books … I’d always dreamed of being traditionally published before the huge self-publishing phenomenon, but I’d been rejected by agents and publishers, so the indie route was the way to go for me at that point.”
How Do The Experiences of Traditional and Self-Publishing Compare?
Parts of the process are similar. Samantha continues to self-publish while also working with traditional publishers. She gets help from the marketing team at Penguin Random House and they have inventive ideas, but she still feels like she has to drive her own success. Samantha was an indie author for so long before becoming a hybrid author, so she continues to do a lot of marketing herself, particularly through social media.
The biggest difference is that her traditionally published novels get into bookstores around the world. Samantha has also been able to travel to different countries to meet her readers through Penguin Random House. Last year, she visited her Polish readers at the Krakow Book Fair and traveled to Warsaw. She loved the warm and respectful manner of the people she met. Samantha has amazing support in Germany and Croatia as well. Most of her fans are based in the United States, but she also has readers in Israel and in parts of Europe.
The Writing Process
“I’m very much a plotter … I usually sit down and plot a basic summary then I work on my characters, because I don’t think a plot can advance without knowing what your characters’ actions and emotions are going to be, that determine how the plot advances.”
From there, Samantha does a full summary of the novel. This comes from the traditional process, since she is usually required to give a 3-page summary to her editor as a proposal for the next book. Samantha found this process so helpful that she continues to write summaries for her indie novels as well. She used to write full chapter summaries, but as she gained more experience, she was better able to understand how the plot would unfold.
Samantha generally releases one traditionally published novel per year and self-publishes on the side. She tries to release four titles per year, so she works out a separate schedule with her indie editor. She schedules dates around when her editor, copyeditor, formatter, are available to work with her, then does her own planning from there.
Co-Writing With Kristen Callihan
There is a part of Samantha that is a control freak, so she was initially terrified of the prospect. Many authors who decide to co-write pursue this with an author friend. Samantha took the plunge with Kristen Callihan, who she had not met before. They were fans of one another’s books and they had been “fangirling” online.
“I think we just knew from each other’s books that there was something similar in our creative process, and that was how we were able to pull off co-writing.”
Kristen Callihan wrote the male perspective in Outmatched while Samantha wrote the heroine’s point of view. They brainstormed together on both the characters, but ultimately, they each have a distinct voice in the book. Kristen and Samantha talked together on Skype, as they live in different countries. Outmatched will be released on November 19th and is available for preorder.
What Drew You to Writing Romance?
Samantha had previously self-published YA urban fantasy, since this is what she enjoys reading. One of her readers mentioned that she enjoyed the romantic sub-plots of Samantha’s novels and wondered if she had ever tried writing romance. Samantha was drawn to the romance genre by its character development. Before writing On Dublin Street, Samantha had read romance novels about men who wouldn’t commit or who had emotional trauma, and it was always the heroine who was chasing him.
On Dublin Street features the opposite dynamic: the heroine has emotional trauma and her love interest does all the emotional chasing. There are more books with strong female romance characters now, but at the time, Samantha felt that there weren’t any.
“As an author, I try to write the books that I want as a reader.”
How Do You Keep Your Plotlines Fresh and Interesting?
“It gets harder, the more books you write, to be as original as you can be. You can’t be really original in any genre. You just have to be entertaining and relatable. And that’s my thing. I try to make my characters as relatable as possible.”
Samantha doesn’t do big, dramatic plotlines in her contemporary romance. She tries to keep her stories down to earth, and this is what resonates with readers. Samantha knows people who have gone through trauma, and as an author, she can empathize and fill those feelings in to create a story. Samantha enjoys banter in romance novels, where dialogue conveys chemistry between characters. When writing dialogue, Samantha takes phrases that have been said to her in real life, or have been said to her friends, or that she overheard somewhere.
“If it’s real, it’s funny. That’s life.”
“I find myself sitting at the computer sometimes, being like, ‘I have nothing interesting to say at this point.’ I just have to walk away and come back. When I’m feeling a little bit, you know, friskier with my banter … I think that’s really important, to know when to walk away and when to come back. Because readers can tell when dialogue is lackluster.”
How Do You Market Your Titles?
Samantha does some of the marketing herself, which is a lot of work. She hired a publicist for her last few titles to help her on book tours and design creative visual content. Before she was traditionally published, Samantha had to teach herself marketing, including how to use Photoshop, find stock image sites, and make book trailers. She took courses on online advertisements. At the beginning of her self-publishing career, she was working 16 hours a day to establish her business and put out 8 titles in her first year. The indie publishing landscape is always changing, and more and more titles are released every year. The easier it gets to publish, the harder it is to stand out.
Which Authors Have Inspired You?
In contemporary romance, Samantha admires Kristen Callihan and Mia Sheridan. Penny Reid, L.H. Cosway, Claire Contreras, Jay Crownover. In paranormal romance, she loves Richelle Mead, Holly Black, Jennifer L Armentrout.
Into the Deep
Charley Redford was just an ordinary girl until Jake Caplin moved to her small town in Indiana and convinced her she was extraordinary. Almost from day one Jake pulled Charley into the deep and promised he was right there with her. But when a tragic incident darkened Jake’s life, he waded out into the shallows and left Charley behind. Almost four years later Charley thinks she’s moved on. That is until she takes a study year abroad in Edinburgh and bumps into none other than Jake Caplin at a party with his new girlfriend. As they grow closer, the spark between them flares and begins playing havoc with their lives and relationships. When jealousy and longing rear their destructive heads, Charley and Jake struggle to come to grips with what they mean to one another.
You can listen to an excerpt of Into the Deep at the end of Samantha’s podcast interview. Using the promo code KWLPODYOUNG at checkout, you can get the audiobook for $3.99. This is a limited time offer between October 23rd and November 23rd.
I’m a Scottish bookworm whose dream of writing full time came true. Thanks to readers my books have hit the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists and several of my books have been nominated for Goodreads Choice Awards. I write adult contemporary and paranormal romance, YA urban fantasy and YA contemporary fiction. To my awe and delight I’m currently published in 30 countries and a #1 international bestselling author.