On Horse Racing, Taekwondo & Book Marketing that Works with Ann Hunter (Equestrian Author Spotlight Episode 5)
Episode 5: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! A weekly podcast featuring interviews with equine authors who love all things horses and writing about them. In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books then you are in the right place! In this week's episode, you'll meet North Oak Series Author Ann Hunter.
You'll learn ...
About Equine Author Ann Hunter
Multi-award winning author Ann Hunter is awesome. And hilarious. She is often told it must be a blast living in her brain. She argues that the voices in her head never shut up. The only way to get relief is to let them out on to the page. She likes cherry soda with chocolate ice cream, is a mom first and a writer second, is currently a few ranks away from her black belt in Olympic Style Taekwondo, and has a secret identity. She lives in a cozy Utah home with her two awesome kids and epic husband.
Watch Ann Hunter's Interview on YouTube
Or Listen to the Audio Episode
Ann Hunter Podcast Interview Excerpt
Carly: Tell us about your books. How many books have you written so far?
Ann: This is always a trick question. I’ve published over a dozen, but I’ve written SO many more. I’ve been writing novels since my early teens, and there’s no stop to them in the future. There is always a voice, a story, inside of me that will not be still.
Carly: How did you get into writing about the glamorous, fast paced world of horse racing in the young adult series North Oak?
Ann: I actually had a gentleman ask me this at Breyerfest last summer. I gave it a moment of thought and said, “Well, sir, twenty-four years ago, I was a bored twelve-year-old.”
North Oak recently celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday since its inception in 1994. I started writing the series right before I turned twelve as a way to entertain myself. I was an only child growing up, and I’d spend my summers with my grandparents in New Hampshire (my happy place). One day they just wanted some quiet time, so I got to writing.
It started out with just my tough runaway orphan who liked horses (what girl doesn’t?) and went from there. I already loved racing, so it eventually flowed into that as well.
Carly: What excites you about writing horse books?
Ann: I think I’m a lot like Alex, in that I just love racing. I love the concept of going fast, of your heart bursting, at the sting of wind in your face and tears in your eyes. I love the ideation of the farm life, and simple romances-- all starting with the horse.
Carly: Do you have any stories that people would find interesting or entertaining about your writing or your horse background?
Ann: I grew up barefoot and half naked with a herd of Arabian horses. My parents were just hobby breeders when I was little, but it’s where I learned all my horsemanship. I’d run around unmonitored (because you could do that in the 80s, RIGHT?) and get kicked, chased, bitten and whatnot like any other naughty foal. Don’t fault my parents. They had a lot on their plate-- THEY HAD ME.
Carly: Which do you prefer to self-publish or traditional publishing?
Ann: Indie publishing all the way. I love having control over every aspect of my work. And I especially enjoyed keeping my return on investment! It’s a personal side you don’t get with traditional publishing
Carly: Your North Oak Series book covers are beautiful! Tell us about the process of designing them, how you found your designer, and the inspiration behind them.
Ann: Growing up as a fan of the Thoroughbred Series by Joanna Campbell, I dreamed of having Paul Casale (their cover artist) do mine someday. So I had a solid idea of what I wanted my series to look like, because even as Thoroughbred ended, North Oak was emerging -- as its heir apparent. The only contemporary young adult horse racing series on the market (it just has a bit more bite to match today’s current events).
Unfortunately Mr. Casale passed away before North Oak’s arrival, so I took to deviantart.com to search for my future partner in crime. There are amazing artists on there, and eventually I found Nicole Bryant and we worked out an agreement. She’s been painting for me every since.
We start with a photo that inspires us, then my husband does a mockup of the cover. We send it to Nicole, and she repaints it digitally from scratch to my specifications. After that, it goes back to my husband for official typeset.
Carly: I noticed that you don’t have an author website. Would you share a little about why you chose not to have one? What other ways do you get the word out about your books?:
Ann: A baby took my URL! Seriously, it was a page dedicated to a newborn for like twenty years! So did a realty company for northoak.com. I tried to buy out both URLs with no luck. I have something truly spectacular planned for the North Oak series as a website (something akin to the real breeding farm websites you see these days like Claiborne, Three Chimneys, Coolmore, etc). And I’m blessed with a husband who is a software and web programmer. I just tend to swamp the poor man with everything else.
So for now, I direct everyone to the most accessible site for my books-- Amazon. However you can find them on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, and so on. Just search for Ann Hunter North Oak.
Carly: You are the master of email lists! Would you share a little about why you think an email list is an important tool for authors and how you went about building yours? What tool do you use for your email marketing?
Ann: At the very first writer conference I ever attended, they stressed the importance of mailing lists. The biggest thing is that Facebook, Twitter, etc, may one day go the way of Myspace (my WHAT?) and you’ll have to start over somewhere else. Email addresses tend to get held onto longer by an individual (I’ve had my private NorthOakJR email address since 1997, and still use it daily), so it’s easier to keep track of people through a mailing list.
I tried for years, unsuccessfully, to get one started. Finally I fell upon Instafreebie (now known as Prolific Works) and got about 4,000 subscribers in 3 months. I was hooked. Now I use Mailchimp, and move my top subscribers over to sendinblue to help keep my billing costs down.
Carly: You recently had a very successful BookBub campaign and hit the #1 spot on Amazon. Tells us a little about BookBub and your experience with the campaign. I’ve heard it is tough to get chosen for a BookBub. How did you make that happen?
Ann: I’d been trying for years to get a BB. I got turned down at least 10 times with JUST Born to Run. I didn’t think I’d ever get one, so I started focusing on getting reviews on BookBub and building my following there. I honestly think that was my biggest play that shoo’d me in.
I would counsel authors not to do ad stacking though. I threw away about $800 with no noticeable boost. I kept track of sales day by day the week of promotion, and they were not what I had hoped for. (And my expectations were only high for BB). The plus side though? Read through! I’ve had fantastic read through of the series since the promo in June.
Carly: What do you do to get book reviews?
Ann: Booksprout. I yell it from the rooftops. BOOK-FREAKING-SPROUT. You upload your book, get some followers, offer it to them, and if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain, Booksprout can ban them from future ARCs. It rocks. You have a high percentage of turnover that way. There’s also piracy protection through the site.
Carly: Speaking of book reviews, what are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Ann: There are only reviews. You have to think of your book as a product, no different than a can of Pepsi. Do you have control over everyone’s opinion of Pepsi? No. Is it your fault if someone doesn’t like Pepsi? NO! Roll with it, know that you’re still awesome and plenty of weirdos just like you love your freaking Pepsi. My favorite one star review I’ve ever gotten? “HELL NO!” (The Subtle Beauty-- Goodreads)
Not sure how to leave a book review? There's a helpful video! Carly shows you how to review a book on Amazon, even if you didn't buy it there.
Carly: What is the hardest part about being an author?:
Ann: Whut r werds? I struggle with bipolar depression and anxiety. So mainly staying on top of the actual writing is my biggest challenge. There are a lot of days I just sleep to cope. #thedarksideofwriting Also, and I think a lot of moms will say this too, but keeping up with my kids’ schedule, as well as a demanding training schedule at Taekwondo.
Carly: What is the best part about being an author?
Ann: Sharing the story. Plain and simple. If I can touch a life and help them to change or heal, then my work is complete.
Carly: What do you wish you had known when you started out?
Ann: If I could start over, I’d write all the books first, then release them faster (rapid release method). But by that point, the indie publishing industry may have changed so drastically that that particular method may no longer be effective.
Ann graciously discusses openly about how she manages her anxiety and depression during the interview. If you are struggling and need support please seek assistance. You are loved.
Depression Hotline Number You Can Call
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is the granddaddy of all crisis hotlines in the U.S. Your call gets routed to a regional or local crisis center, staffed with trained individuals who provide confidential emotional support to everyone who calls. The call and service is completely free. You don’t have to be feeling actively suicidal in order to use this service — it’s for anyone in emotional distress. You can also take advantage of their online chat service.
The Lifeline also offers hearing impaired services at: 1-800-799-4889.
Connect with Ann Hunter
Be sure to sign up for Ann's mailing list for exclusive content and news about upcoming books: http://AnnHunterMailingList
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What a spur jingling author interview!
A BIG thank you to Ann Hunter for participating in my Equestrian Author Spotlight series. I learn so much from other equine authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys are. I love that all the authors featured in this series are linked through our creativity, passion for writing, and love of horses. I think it is so important to support each other. I appreciate the support of a fellow author. Thanks for giving me the gift of your time, Ann! #authorsunite
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About Equine Author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equestrian author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
In her free time, Carly enjoys competitively showing her registered Paint Horse, works on her next novel, reads voraciously, spends time with her two adopted dogs, and loves exploring the great outdoors.
In the Reins, the first in Carly's series of novels inspired by the equestrian lifestyle, has been an Amazon best seller for more than 10 weeks, is an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner for Best Western Fiction and has earned two Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Romance and Adult Book featuring Animals categories. The In the Reins equestrian romance series is available now in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
The In the Reins Horse Book Series
Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!