She was just a kindergarten teacher barely making ends meet months ago and now she is an indie published New York Times bestselling author who recently turned down a 7-figure book publishing deal to continue on her path, definining her own destiny. I had the privilege of connecting with author Ruth Cardello about her astonishing success and asked her what her advice is for other moms and authors who have a dream of becoming an author but are experiencing nothing but rejection.
Jeff: You have been a major force in the indie publishing world with your Billionaire series. What are you working on next?
Ruth: My latest book is Bedding the Billionaire. It’s an over-the-top, escapism romantic read with high drama, fun dialogue, and just enough sex to satisfy. All of my books portray confident, sometimes arrogant, billionaires. Dominic Corisi (Maid for the Billionaire) is your classic, alpha male who sweeps Abby Dartley off her feet and takes her on a wild adventure in China. Stephan Andrade (For Love or Legacy) is a man who is on the brink of losing himself to the darkness of revenge until Nicole Corisi reclaims his heart. Jake Walton (Bedding the Billionaire) is Dominic’s conservative business partner – at least until he meets Abby’s younger sister and loses his heart as well as his tie.
Each book is a separate romance that is set in the same “world” but is told through the perspective of the main couple. Readers say that they love the characters, hate them, want to shake them and eventually laugh and cry along with them – all the while rooting for them to find a happy ending.
My next book, Saving the Sheikh (due out in November), explores cultural identity and reconciling one’s individual dreams with family responsibilities – along with the big-hair drama and steamy romance I love to write.
Jeff: How do you fit writing in with being a busy mom and wife?
Ruth: My writing schedule is a joy now that I’ve left my day job. I used to get up at 4 am everyday to write before my 2 year old woke up. I also wrote on the weekends and struggled to balance family time with writing time. God Bless my patient husband. I couldn’t have done it without him.
Thankfully, I left my job in April of this year. Now, I write from 8-3 each day. No matter where I am in the story, I close my laptop, go pick up my daughter from daycare, and am simply mom the rest of the day. I don’t write on the weekends anymore. I could write faster and potentially make more money if I used the weekends, but I’ve designated that time exclusively for family and I couldn’t be happier.
Jeff: Are you a major procrastinator like the rest of us?
Ruth: I’m the youngest of eleven children. We never had much, but my parents instilled a good work ethic in us. I worked my way through college and met most the of the goals I’ve chosen for myself since. Procrastination? If anything, I often have to remind myself to take a deep breath and enjoy living in the moment rather than trying to do everything in one day.
Jeff: What’s it like to suddenly have your life change and all your dreams come true as a writer?
Ruth: Two years ago, I was counting my blessings and lying awake all night wondering if I could afford them. In 2006, I married my husband, retired-Marine, Anthony Cardello. He came with two amazing children. Soon after getting married we tried to add another member to our family the natural way and couldn’t. We’d just about given up on adoption as a viable option when my youngest one became available at only two weeks old. I still get misty every time I think about how lucky we are.
Unfortunately, after almost 20 years of teaching, the school district I was working for went into severe financial distress. All of a sudden my income was dwindling. I had loved being a Kindergarten teacher, but paychecks were bouncing and my job was cut again and again.
I took a leap of faith and put my first book up for FREE. It had been turned down by a few category publishing houses, but the rejections had said that my writing was strong.
Sometimes the bumpiest roads lead you to the most incredible destinations. Almost immediately 200,000 people downloaded my first book and the reviews were positive. Since it was FREE, it wasn’t bringing in any money, but it did give us that first glimmer of hope that my writing might pull us out of a difficult situation.
I wrote For Love or Legacy while working full-time. My husband could not have been more supportive. He took over house chores, barn chores, diaper duty – all so book 2 could happen.
The income from book 2 allowed me to leave my day job. I had more time with my little one, more time to write and I didn’t think life could get better.
Then Bedding the Billionaire hit the NYTs bestsellers’ list!
Doors flew open when I hit that list. All sorts of offers came in from places I never dreamt would be interested in my writing. Even though one of the offers was seven figures, I haven’t accepted any of them yet. So far self-publishing is the route that makes the most sense for me to continue on.
These days my goals are pretty simple. I dream of a larger home where (Don’t tell my husband. ) we could have the room to add one more member to our family. I’d also really like to be able to pay for my children to the college of their choice.
If things continue as they have, I just might be able to do both!
Jeff: Self-publishing has improved the lives of so many women I know. How does being a bestselling Indie author feel?
Ruth: It feels a lot like – hope.
Jeff: How many books did you sell when you got the news that you hit the New York Times bestsellers list?
Ruth: In July of 2012 alone, I sold more than 60,000 copies of book 2 and book 3 combined.
Jeff: So for the authors out there that are trying everything but nothing’s working in terms of promoting their books, what are your tips, Ruth?
Ruth: I suppose you could say that I’ve designed a Kindergarten Teacher’s Approach to Marketing
KTAM 1: Play nice
I know that sounds simplistic, but if you’re out there giving other authors poor reviews – you’re not making any friends. In this business, good networking is priceless.
KTAM 2: Ask your friends what they want to do
When someone contacts me (via Facebook, Twitter, or email) I often follow their links back to their websites. I look at what projects they are working on. I write to them and ask them if there is some way that I could help them. I don’t ask them to help me, but they often come back and do. The best way to get someone to care about your book is to care about theirs.
KTAM 3: Try to make a new friend every day
I reach out to authors who are sitting next to me on the rankings at Amazon. I buy their books, read them, and if I like them I tell them that I enjoyed it. As I learn more about marketing and the business, I offer to share information with them. I can’t tell you how many wonderful people have come into my life because of this. Sure, I’ve gotten the cold response (or no response) from many along the way, but I don’t focus on what didn’t happen – I keep my focus on the positive responses and the possibilities and information they bring.
KTAM 4: Share
This is not a race. There is no single winner. You don’t have to hold your trade secrets to your chest and hope everyone else fails.
Look at the Indie world as a community and pay forward the kindness you receive as often as you can.
Share your reader base. I cross-promote with fellow authors all the time and I think it is one of the main reasons my books have done so well. My readers are grateful to discover new authors and my books find their way into the hands of someone else’s readers. It’s a win/win.
KTAM 5: Pay attention
I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to publish anymore, but there is an informed and an uninformed way. Watch the trends. Be aware of what bestselling authors are doing. Skim informative blogs on a regular basis. (Skim because you don’t want to lose writing time by getting sucked into reading all of the comments.)
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Study the contests that people are using. Watch their results. Ask questions. You’d be surprised what you can learn simply by putting the question out there.
KTAM 6: Try something new every day
I don’t have a lot of time to promote my books. I promote for about 30 minutes to an hour every day. Thirty minutes goes into answering emails, talking to my readers on FB and Twitter, and posting on places that may have mentioned me on the internet. In the remaining 30 minutes I try to do something new – from tame to outrageous – to promote my books. One day I wrote to Ellen. Another day I found websites to post my FREE book on. You can’t do everything, but if you do one new thing a day – by the end of the month you’ve done about 30 new things. It adds up quickly and the seeds you plant come back to you in wonderful and unexpected ways. A lot of those ideas don’t pan out, but that doesn’t matter. Move on. Keep brainstorming. Your tenacity with this will pay off.
KTAM 7: Don’t be greedy
Even the big authors know that sometimes you have to give something away if you want to find new readers. Maid for the Billionaire has been FREE for well over a year and almost two thousand people download it a day from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. Not everyone reads it. Not everyone loves it. However, enough people come back and buy the rest of my series that I’m sold on using this method to build up your reader base – especially if you’re like me and no one knows who you are.
KTAM 8: Work hard
Don’t forget that your best promotion is that next book that you’re writing. You worked hard to gain your reader base, to keep them you have to put out new works on a regular basis. Keep learning. Keep writing. Keep reaching.
As you can tell, I’m not a marketing person, but so far this system has served me well.
If you found any of the above helpful, Maid for the Billionaire (Book 1 of my series) is FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes…a simple mention would be hugely appreciated. Also, I have a FB page http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMoms where I’m encouraging other moms to come and support each other. Drop by if you’d like and swap publishing tips with us. You can also find me at www.ruthcardello.com or at Author Ruth Cardello on Facebook.