#230 – Building Your Readership on YouTube with Teen Author Sophie Torro

Sophie Torro, a sixteen year old Canadian author, joins us on the podcast this week. Sophie has been writing stories her entire life and she talks to us about how this passion has evolved and led her to publishing seven books (and counting!) before finishing high school.

Sophie Torro, a sixteen year old Canadian author, joins us on the podcast this week. Sophie has been writing stories her entire life and she talks to us about how this passion has evolved and led her to publishing seven books (and counting!) before finishing high school. Sophie also talks to us about her writing process, how she balances school with her busy publishing schedule, and how she utilizes YouTube to build her readership organically. 

  • Sophie tells us about her writing journey, from creating stories with crayons as a kid to publishing her first book at fifteen years old
  • She talks to us about her decision to publish independently, what challenges she’s faced during the indie publishing process, and why she decided to publish wide
  • Sophie discusses the series she’s currently working on, what age group she currently writes for and why, and what her writing aspirations are for the future
  • She gives us some great writing advice for young writers just starting out and explains why anyone can and should achieve their dream of publishing their book
  • Sophie tells us about her YouTube channel and how she uses the platform to build and engage with her audience, share fan creations, and market her books
  • She talks to us about her writing process, including how she plots her series and novels, how she researches the mythology in her books, and she explains how she manages to balance her busy publishing schedule with completing her final year of high school

Win a Kobo Nia on Sophie’s Youtube Channel!

Useful Links
Sophie’s Website
Sophie’s Youtube Channel
Sophie’s Instagram
Ghost of Lanturna
Q&A Kids
Charlotte’s Web
The Curse of Oak Island
Treasure Quest: Snake Island

A photo of Sophie Torro holding two of the books from her SkyTalons series.

Sophie Torro is a Canadian teen author, who has published six fantasy adventure novels for the 8-12-year-old demographic, along with her first educational children’s book that she wrote and illustrated. Sophie has also written two travel articles for one of North America’s largest travel magazines.
When Sophie isn’t writing or doing homework, you’ll find her creating video content for her 16.3K YouTube subscribers that follow her from all around the world. Sophie currently lives in Canada, where she does in-person and online motivational speaking for youth, and is in her final year of high-school.

Episode Transcript

Transcription provided by SpeechPad

Joni: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Joni.

Stephanie: And I’m Stephanie. This week on the podcast, we’re talking to 16-year-old Sophie Torro, who’s a Canadian teen author. At the age of 11, Sophie started to write the “SkyTalons” series. Three novels have already been published and another three are in the works. They quickly gained international recognition and popularity with five-star ratings and reviews. And in the spring of 2020, Sophie wrote and illustrated the first book in her educational and children’s series. “Q&A Kids: What is Coronavirus?” was created to help younger kids understand the pandemic. And it’s currently part of the grade two curriculum in Honolulu. And Sophie aims to create exciting stories for the tween demographic, but she’s pleased to share that adult readers have also enjoyed her work. It was really inspiring talking to Sophie.

Joni: She was a really fun guest. Something that I find interesting was her talking about her YouTube channel and how she uses YouTube to engage her readers and, like, not directly to sell books, but to talk to her readers. And she talks about books that she’s writing and has basically developed an organic relationship with them. So, that was cool. And it was also interesting to talk to her and hear a little bit about how she balances writing with other teen commitments and school…

Stephanie: Like school.

Joni: …and all the other things that you’re doing. Yeah.

Stephanie: So, it was really great talking to Sophie. And as we mentioned, she has a YouTube channel and she’s going to be doing a giveaway of a Kobo eReader on her channel. So, stay tuned till the end of the episode because we will give you more information about her channel and where you can have the chance to win an eReader.

Thank you, Sophie, for joining us on the podcast today.

Sophie: Oh, I’m happy to be here.

Stephanie: And our first question to kick it off is, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sophie: Yeah, for sure. So, I’m in my final year of high school. And I’ve been doing online school for about three years now. And it’s a great opportunity because it gives me lots of flexibility and freedom to be able to write during the day or to do school at night or vice-versa. And I have a huge passion for writing. Ever since I was little, I’ve been writing books on paper and I’ve been doing crayon writing, and I was taping them together. So, I’ve always had a love of writing.

And when I was 11 years old, I started writing for the first time professionally. I started my first book “SkyTalons: Cornelius’ Curse.” And then now when I was 15 years old, I published the very first one. And then in the last year, I published seven books on Kobo. And I’m happy to say that one of them is in French. And I write for tweens, but I try to make them enjoyable for everyone. And I also do travel writing, too.

Joni: Wow. What have we been doing with our lives? This is very cool. So, you started writing when you were 11. And you first published when you were 15. Because you publish your books independently. Is that right?

Sophie: Well, actually didn’t know about the opportunities about indie writing at first. And I always thought it was only traditional publishing. But then I started doing a bit more research, and I discovered how easy it could be to be an indie author. And I especially like Kobo, how easy it is and how user friendly it is. And I had no idea how simple it could be to write a book, and it’s been a super fun experience.

Joni: That’s awesome. So, you looked into traditional publishing, but you ended up publishing independently. And how did you find out about indie publishing?

Sophie: Well, I actually just did a bit of research when I started to be serious about writing. And I just discovered how great it was and how friendly it was. And I just started to stick with indie publishing and self-publishing from there.

Joni: Awesome. Did you use any… I know there are things like Wattpad and other kind of social-media-based writing kind of platforms. Did you use anything like that when you were writing?

Sophie: I’ve heard about it, but I just jumped right into writing and I used Microsoft Word. And my parents got me a laptop. So, that was pretty special when I was 11. And I still have it to this day. It’s pretty good.

Stephanie: So, you mentioned that you write for tweens. So, for anyone listening that doesn’t know what that age group is, can you just clarify that for us? Does it vary per country or is it kind of tweens is a set period of age of time?

Sophie: I’m not really sure. I would consider about 8 to maybe 12 years old. But there are some people that I know who are, like, 14 and 15 that have enjoyed my books as well. But that’s actually pretty cool.

Joni: It looks like you have some adult readers as well. I saw in the reviews.

Sophie: Yeah, for sure. I was super excited when I heard about that. It was pretty interesting that they enjoyed reading my books. And I was happy that my goal of trying to make it enjoyable for everyone paid off.

Stephanie: So, why did you want to write for this specific age group? What kind of drew you to that area of stories?

Sophie: Well, I remember when I was in the tween age group, how I loved a bunch of different stories. And it inspired me actually to want to start doing my own because I thought, “Oh, this is pretty cool. Writing seems like a fun thing to do.” So, it kind of started off as a hobby. But then as I started writing my first book, it just kind of grew into more and more of a really big passion that I just loved so much.

Joni: So, a lot of indie authors are like you and very, very passionate about writing. And as you know from self-publishing, there is a lot of non-writing work involved. There’s marketing and cover design and editing and all of those. How did you handle all of those extra things that often a publishing house is doing?

Sophie: Well, I had a YouTube channel back in 2016. I’ve been creating content on it. So, it’s a great tool to showcase some fan creations. There are some really great artists that like to read my books, and I love showcasing their work. And it’s also great, too, to share my stories as well. And I also have an Instagram account where I love to interact with people, my readers. And it’s good not just to get praised as well because people are really nice on there, too. But I also like to get feedback on how I can improve my stories as well.

And I also have a blog, too. And I like to share writing tips on what’s worked for me and what hasn’t. I like to help other aspiring writers as well. And I also like to share news about my books as well. So, all those things combined, it really helps me to get the word out there.

Joni: Right. So, you really did do this all by yourself. And you built an organic audience. Right?

Sophie: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I do like to write. Some people seem to doubt if I actually do write the books on my own just because of my age. But I’m happy to say that I do write the books all on my own. But, of course, I get some help with editing as well and the cover art.

Joni: Yes, of course.

Stephanie: So, you mentioned that you like to share some writing tips. What have you found has been one of the great tips or advice you’ve been given?

Sophie: Well, it’s going to sound cliché, but I would say that the biggest thing that helped me with my writing is just never give up. And I know that sounds super cheesy, but it really does work because, like I said, I started writing my very first book when I was 11 years old. And then I never got around to publishing it until I was 15 years old. So, the first book took about four years in the making. And there were times that I was tempted just to give up because it’s just such a long process at first. Because I honestly…it’s a little embarrassing. But with the first book, I had no idea what I was doing, and I messed up so much. But I also learned a lot, too. So, although independent publishing can be difficult, it’s so worth it and it’s so rewarding, too.

Joni: What is your writing process like? And how do you balance writing also with being at school full-time?

Sophie: Yeah. Well, the online school that I do, it helps me have lots of flexibility as well. So, I can write at…during different times, and I can do school at different times as well. And that’s my writing process. I don’t really have a way to say I get inspiration. To be totally honest, it just totally randomly pops in my head, and even at night. So, I have a little journal by my bed stand, and I just write down ideas messily and then I just roll back into bed. And I look at it in the morning and it’s going to be like, “What is this?” But, yeah. So, it just totally randomly pops into my head. And then it’s like a puzzle with all the pieces scattered. And I have to put them together.

So, that’s how I do with a series. Because I always write series. So, I just think about the big picture first. And then once I gather all of my ideas in my head, I divide it up by, “Okay, this will be book one. And this is everything I want in book one. Book two, book three, etc.” And then once I break it down by book, I timeline each individual book on paper. And I know it’s a bit old school, but I like to do it by hand at first, and then I plan out the characters. Like, what do they look like and what are their personalities? And then after that, once I’m happy with all the timeline and the whole planning, I start to write chapters one by one. And I write about 2,000 words a day. And that makes up roughly about one chapter.

And what’s important to me is that I try to strive to write every single day because, for me, it’s like a muscle. And if I don’t use it often, then I start to lose it. So, it’s always important to me to write every single day.

Joni: Which do you find that was the most challenging about writing, and then maybe also publishing? Like, is there anything that surprised you that came up and you’re like, “I did not foresee this being a problem.”

Sophie: So, I would say the biggest thing is the formatting at first because when I started off, I was just, like, 11 and I really didn’t think about the big picture. I just thought, “Okay, let’s write a cool story, make a bestseller, New York Times Bestseller, like that’s ever going to happen. But I had no idea actually about the actual formatting and how to make sure, like, the tabs were lined up. And I didn’t even know about justifying it full. I had it justified left and everything. So, I had to just make sure… It was a long process, and it was kind of tedious. But once I got the hang of it, I learned how to format better and I’ve been a lot quicker with that process as well.

Stephanie: I work with EPUBs. So, I understand how it can be very challenging in, like, fixing stuff and, like, even conversion tools. So, I understand completely.

Sophie: Mm-hmm.

Joni: It’s really great being able to teach yourself.

Sophie: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah. And there’s also another time, too, with editing actually [inaudible 00:09:38] story.

Joni: Yeah. It’s a huge amount of work. Bringing a…well, not even just writing a book, but bringing it to publication. So, for you to have done that seven times…and you said you have a translation as well?

Sophie: Yeah. So, I hired someone in France for the “Q&A Kids” series. The coronavirus book, I thought it was really important to share because it’s for younger kids, right? So, I thought it was important to share it in all languages. And I’m working to get it in other languages as well. But I had a good opportunity to be able to translate it into French. So, I was happy to do that.

Joni: That’s great. Are you going to look into translation for your longer series as well?

Sophie: I’d like to, one day. But right now, there’s no current plans.

Stephanie: How do you find the translation process? What was it like working with a translator?

Sophie: It was interesting. With “Q&A Kids: What is the Coronavirus?” book, it was shorter. So, it was kind of a good test run just to see how things work out. Like, of course, I don’t speak French very well, but…I have very limited French. But we did a good job, I think. And I got someone who could speak French to check it over and it was fine. It was really interesting to try something new and different. And it was good to have experience with that.

Stephanie: Definitely. I was wondering. Publishing, it’s changing all the time right now and, like, particularly indie publishing. Like, anyone is able to publish a book that they like. Where do you see publishing in the next, like, 5 to 10 years?

Sophie: Well, with me, I see… Like, I think there’s so much opportunity with independent publishing especially on Kobo. So, that’s been excellent for me. And I think I’m happy to stick with independent publishing. I think it’s so great how you have creative control with the cover, with the story, with everything. It’s really awesome to just independently publish. There’s just so much freedom.

Joni: Can you tell us a little bit about your YouTube channel and how you built up an audience there? Were you talking about books and writing on that channel?

Sophie: Yeah. So, I actually was talking about other books at first, too, that really inspired me. And that’s how I grew a following as well. And as time went on and I started to write my own books, I now use it to exclusively just talk about my stories and how…and I love to share fan creations there as well. And it’s just a fun community.

Joni: You mentioned Instagram. Are those your two main platforms for engaging with your readers?

Sophie: Yeah. They are. So, with YouTube, it’s more videos about talking about my process or sometimes I like to do, like, a “Story Time with Sophie” for younger kids because they enjoy that, and do little audio book sessions sort of idea. And then with my Instagram, sometimes it’s more personal for me because sometimes I like to go out in nature and write ideas down and just showcase that. So, that’s cool. And then I also use it to show, like, “Hey, new book. Here’s the cover” sort of idea. And it’s just fun to interact with people in there.

Joni: That’s really cool.

Stephanie: Do you have any, like, aspirations for your writing career, where you want to see yourself in the next little while? Maybe since you mentioned you’re taking a leap year. Is that what it’s called? A break between going to university?

Joni: Gap year?

Stephanie: I’m sorry. Gap year.

Sophie: Yeah. So, I’m definitely going to continue writing. Like, it’s my love and it’s my passion, and it just makes me so happy. I love creating stories. So, that’s definitely what I’d like to keep doing. And with “SkyTalons” I’m planning to do another three more in that series. And then with my “Ghost of Lanturna” series, I’m planning on doing another two more. And then with “Q&A Kids,” I have so much ideas, but I haven’t had time to do those now lately. But I’d definitely love to make more in the future. And then I would also love to do graphic novels. I absolutely love graphic novels, and I always have. And I think that it would be super cool to make. And, yeah.

Stephanie: Do you have plans to write in other genres?

Sophie: I’d like to. I haven’t really dipped my toe into any other genres yet. I’ve always been reading sort of middle-grade fantasy because that’s just my age group. Right? But now I’ve been getting older, I’d love to read more adult fiction, too, and more of young adult as well. So, I think, as time goes on, I would love to try something new.

Stephanie: Definitely.

Joni: Do you have any advice for young writers who might be still at school but think that… Like, I don’t know. It’s quite a big jump to go into writing a whole book. Do you have any advice that you would give to other people who are maybe thinking about it?

Sophie: Yeah, definitely. I would say, don’t let your age get in the way because if I could do it, anyone can do it. Like, I’m nothing special. And with Kobo and other independent publishing platforms, it’s great that you have the freedom. And it’s just so simple to be able to use it. It’s so user friendly. So, if I can do it, anyone can do it. And I think just…and again, it sounds really cheesy, but never give up. It’s totally possible.

Stephanie: I don’t think that’s cheesy. I think, like, anyone needs to hear that at any point.

Joni: Mm-hmm.

Sophie: Totally.

Joni: One other thing that I always like to ask is, when you’re looking into indie publishing, there’s always the big question of, “Should I publish to all the different retailers, or should I be exclusive with one platform?” Is that something that you thought about when you were originally publishing, or did you always plan to sell everywhere you possibly could?

Sophie: Well, I think it’s always good to cast a wide net, but I found that just…it’s always good. Everything just works out pretty well as it has been.

Stephanie: Can you tell us a little bit more about your series and, like, the plot of the story? Because the “Ghost of Lanturna,” that just published in September, I believe. Correct?

Sophie: Yeah. And I just published the second book this week.

Stephanie: Oh. Awesome.

Sophie: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it’s been really exciting because I actually love griffins. And to me, this was just a fun idea that I had, and I just loved building it and developing it over time, and for me, in the kingdom of Lanturna. So, yeah. So, I just published the second book and that was really exciting because I have such a love for griffins because they’re super underrated for me. And I wanted to bring them to life. And it was just so interesting to me. I decided that they need a really cool place to live in.

So, I’ve always had an inspiration with ancient Greece and medieval society as well. And I think, with Greece, it’s cool how in their ancient times, they had theaters and they had art and sculptures. And then with the medieval stuff, I think it’s cool how they have castles and royalties. So, I thought, why not combine the two?

And in this land, they have mythical creatures, too, like basilisks, and dragons, and unicorns. I really wanted to create a fun fantasy adventure as well. And for the characters, I had lots of fun writing the characters because Draven, he’s an outcast thief who secretly has a heart of gold. And then he also teams up with a princess named Sora. And she’s more of tomboyish, and she doesn’t really like sitting into the box of royalty, and she really wants to prove herself that she’s not just some delicate princess. So, they team up. And I don’t want to spoil anything. But together, they go on a quest to get answers about why the perilous eternal day started. And I really wanted to mix it up, because I found in a lot of stories, they have eternal night. So, I wanted to put that on its head and try something totally new with this one. And, yeah. And the second book wraps up this story arc, but there’s more to come. And I’m so excited about that. I wish I could tell you guys about it, but I can’t. But it’s going to be so exciting.

Joni: Do you have to do a lot of research for your books? I also love Greek mythology, and I know you can fall down quite a hole when you go into researching different creatures and myths. Is that something that’s a big part of it?

Sophie: Totally.

Joni: Yeah. That must be fun, right?

Sophie: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I love researching about different mythical creatures that I can throw in or what’s, like, some lore behind them that I can include in the books. And it’s been such a fun experience.

Stephanie: Do you like using tropes and, like, flipping them completely from what the normal or, like, expected kind of storyline would be?

Sophie: Totally. I love trying new things, just doing a different experience, and just giving something that people have never seen before. One of my favorite things, I love to foreshadow and I love sprinkling little vague piece of information here and there. And I try to do it in a subtle way, so you can just totally glance over it. But if you reread the books, you’ll be like, “Oh my gosh. How did I miss this? This is huge.” And I kind of, like, pretty much spoil and just say, like, a total massive plot point. And it’s just so…like, you can skip over. So, if anyone rereads the books that I write, it’s totally rewarding.

Joni: That’s very cool. I love those kind of things.

Sophie: Thank you.

Stephanie: And your release was quite close together from book one to book two. Do you plan that out, like, on purpose? Like, you want the books to be released quickly?

Sophie: Yeah. I actually write one book at a time. But I find that, as I’m writing more, it’s becoming a faster process for me. So, it takes me about three months-ish to write a book. And I try to write [inaudible 00:17:58] earlier just so I can keep on going strong and just to keep pushing books.

Stephanie: I’m, like, extremely impressed. It’s very hard to be on a consistent schedule like that.

Joni: Do you take part in NaNoWriMo? Have you heard of it?

Sophie: I’ve heard of that, but I haven’t had a chance to explore it yet. But it seems totally cool and I’d love to look more into it.

Stephanie: I feel like you’d be…

Joni: It sounds like you’re already doing it. Yeah. The idea is that you write 50,000 words over the month of November. So, it works to about 1,600 a day. So, you’re doing that anyway. But it’s really for people…

Sophie: Oh, that’s cool.

Joni: Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s like a writing club that is global. And so, the idea is really to start a daily habit of writing, but you’re definitely way ahead of… So, Steph and I are trying to do it right now. And we understand how challenging it is. It’s a lot of writing.

Sophie: Yeah. It’s cool. Yeah, that sounds really interesting. I’m definitely going to check that out. Thank you.

Stephanie: Do you have any fantasy books that inspired you and that you love to, like, go back to and reread?

Sophie: Yeah. Well, I’ve always loved reading books by E. B. White, and one of those is “Charlotte’s Web.” That’s my all-time favorite. I think, in a way, that inspired me because it’s also about fiction about animals and non-human characters. And that’s really been cool for me, and I love reading those kind of stories. So, I think, in a way, those books really helped shape what I write today.

Stephanie: Definitely. Those are classics. And then our favorite question: what have you been loving lately? It could be a book, a movie, TV show, something that’s given you inspiration.

Sophie: Have you heard of the show “Oak Island”?

Stephanie: I have not.

Sophie: Okay. So, it’s called “The Curse of Oak Island.” It’s such a cool show, and it’s real life. It sounds like a fantasy, but basically, there’s this treasure and they try to find it. It’s on this island. Where is it? South of Halifax.

Stephanie: Oh.

Sophie: Yeah. And there’s things like real treasure there. And they’re just going to find it. They haven’t found much yet, but it’s super exciting and I’m just waiting for something new to happen. A new season just came out recently, and it’s super cool. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you should totally check it out. And I love watching real life, like, treasure hunting shows.

Stephanie: I have to say, treasure hunting is, like, something I haven’t even thought of to, like, watch TV of. But now that you mentioned it, I’m like, “Yes, this is exactly what I’d be into.”

Sophie: It’s so cool. It’s like a book but in real life, and it’s just so interesting. It’s like, “Are they going to find it? Aren’t they?” And it’s just so cool. And I just love watching that stuff.

Stephanie: Is the idea that they believe something is there or they’re just trying to explore based on, like, history?

Sophie: Well, there’s another show, too, that I watch and it’s called “Snake Island” and they actually did find stuff, and it’s so cool. It’s, like, ancient Aztec treasure. And they found it in Mexico. Yeah, it’s really cool. I recommend it. It’s so much fun.

Joni: And any book recommendations that you’ve read lately?

Sophie: I just started to read this new one by Mike Wilks and it’s called “Mirrorscape.” I just read the first couple of chapters and it’s super interesting so far. So, I would recommend that one, too.

Joni: Awesome. We love book recommendations. We will include a link to that.

Stephanie: Do you enjoy eBooks or do you like print books?

Sophie: Well, I like both. I’ve always sort of read paperback books, but I hadn’t really thought much about eBooks. But now that I’ve discovered them now that I’m a bit older, I absolutely love it. I’m going to ask for an eReader this Christmas and I just love reading eBooks.

Joni: I just like how quick it is. When I want a book, I got it right there.

Sophie: Yeah, it’s so convenient just to… And you don’t have to have, like, a big book shelf taking up space. And it’s just great to have it all at your fingertips.

Joni: Do you publish your books in print as well as in eBook?

Sophie: I do.

Joni: And how do you…do you do it via Ingram, or how do you do it?

Sophie: I’ve looked into Ingram, but I do a mix of Amazon and Kobo.

Joni: Awesome.

Stephanie: What can readers expect from you next?

Sophie: I’m working on more “SkyTalons” books and then I’m going to finish that series up and then “Ghost of Lanturna” as well. And then I have so many ideas. Like, I have so many and I’m so excited to get all of them written. So, I have plenty more to come.

Stephanie: You’re going to use that gap year very well, huh? Just guessing

Sophie: Yes, definitely. I try to make the most out of each and every day.

Stephanie: Excellent.

Joni: Yeah. We should definitely check back in with you in a year and see where you are. I have a you’ll have published a few more

Sophie: Oh, I would love that. Hope there’s a lot more to come.

Stephanie: Definitely. Thank you so much, Sophie, for joining us today.

Sophie: Yeah, thank you for having me. It was such an honor to be on, and I really love your guys’ work. So, it’s super exciting for me. So, thank you, guys, so much.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Joni: Thank you for your time. This was great.

Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in learning more about Sophie, you should check out her YouTube channel at Sophie Torro Unlimited. That’s Sophie Torro, T-O-R-R-O, Unlimited. And if you check out her latest video, she’ll have details of an eReader giveaway. We’ll also be sharing that link on the blog post and in the episode description. So, look out for it.

Stephanie: This episode was produced by Stephanie McGrath and Joni Di Placido. This episode was edited by Kelly Rowbotham. Music was provided by Tearjerker. Special thanks to Rachel Wharton for being our production assistant. And thank you, Sophie, for being a guest on our podcast.

If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

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