[Ep. 54 of The Writer’s Way Podcast]
This week on the Writer’s Way podcast, Laurie talks to author Laura McCaskill!
A writer who grew up watching her mom pursue her dream.
A writer who gave her mother the best present EVER.
Connect With Laura
Laurie: Hello writers. Welcome back to The Writers Way podcast. I’m your host Laurie Wright here with the wonderful Laura McCaskill. Thank you for joining me today, Laura.
Laura: Hi. Thank you.
Laurie: You’re welcome. I’m happy this worked out cause I think you have a story that’s very heartwarming and touching and that people will appreciate seeing or hearing. I guess so. So why don’t you start just who you are and what you do.
Laura: Okay. So my name is Laura Camby McCaskill, and I am an author of two books. The first one is entitled Her Keepers, and it is a paranormal thriller. And then the second one is entitled Fallow, which is a romance thriller.
So I got my start early in childhood. Um, my mother was a local children’s author and her name was Judy Canby and she loved children and she loved to write and she loved to read to us. And most of the things that she wrote about were true things. Um, she wrote about myself, my brother, and my sister and the things that we had gone through. Um. And unfortunately she was never able to get anything published. Um, I remember when
I was younger, she would get letters in the mail and she would be so excited because they were from publishers, but they ended up being rejection letters. And I remember the disappointment in her face and I didn’t understand it. Then, but I completely get it now. And, uh, so she, she continued writing and she continued her dream. And she continued to get those rejection letters. So, um, one year in 2008 for her birthday, my sister and my brother in law and my husband and myself got together and we purchased a self-publishing package for her. And the first book that she had ever written was entitled Mr. Bookstory. And so we had that published for her in secret. And, um, it was published a couple of months before her birthday, so we were all excited. So, um, it turned out to be an early birthday present for her, and I remember it very clearly.
Um, we took the letter that the publisher had given us and the publisher was very nice. They knew it was in secret, so they kept everything quiet and they sent a congratulations author,
a letter, and we hit that away and the first copy of her book. And so we let her open the letter first, and she was confused until she got about halfway through it.
And then she just kind of looked at us like, what’s going on? So, um, that’s when we gave her the book and she started to cry and I think she cried for about a week.
Laurie: Awe, that is so sweet.
Laura: So, um, we, we went from there and she had two book signings after that. And the first one was just packed, you know, we couldn’t fit any more people in, and the children’s area was packed.
And, um, she read her story for the first time, you know, her published work. And it was just a really great experience. And, um, unfortunately after that, she passed away in 2010. And, uh. But her story and everything that she did inspired me. I remember when I was little, um, I kept bugging her. I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored. Give me something to do. And she’s like, sit down and write.
And so I actually did that and I haven’t stopped since. So, um, I published Her Keepers in 2012 and Fallow in 2016 and, um. She had a lot of work left over, things that she didn’t get published. So I got three of her works together. Um, one was entitled Sunshine, another was Gail Can Cook, and the third one was Laura and The Doctor. And in 2017, I had all three of those published in a book called A Collection of Love. Um, just as, in memory of my mother, so.
Laurie: So do you go through the same publisher for your books?
Laura: Um, so the first publisher, um, I did not use but, the second one I did. Yeah.
Laurie: And are you writing full time?
Laura: No, it’s unfortunately right now it’s a hobby, but I have to change that.
Laurie: Do you write every day? Like are you a dedicated writer?
Laura: Um not every day, but I do sit down at least once a week and I do a blog and, um, I write a little bit on my stories and other things. So.
Laurie: Cool. What’s your blog called?
Laura: Um, so it’s called From My Pen and you can go, uh, it’s lauracambymccaskill.com And it’s got stuff about myself. And then I have a whole section, uh, for my mother and her works. And, um, all the things that I do with her books.
Laurie: Wow. I love that story. That’s so heartwarming. And, you know, obviously it’s sad that she’s not here to see the books and all that, but I love that you’ve carried on that writing tradition, and you’re keeping at it. You had some great advice for people about when they’re starting out build a platform first. So can you tell us why you say that?
Laura: Yes. So I published in 2012 and I just thought, okay, that’s, that’s it. We’re done. It’s gonna just fly off the shelf. No, it doesn’t work like that. So, um. I actually went to my first writer’s conference in 2017 and they had some great advice, and one of those was about your platform. Um, even if you don’t have the first word written, you need to have a following.
So my suggestion would be to go on Twitter or Facebook, um, Instagram, all of those, and start building your platform. Because even though you don’t have anything right now, it’s going to help you in the long run because once you do get that book published, you’re going to have thousands of people waiting for you on your social media that you can tell, Hey, I
have this book. And then that’s going to help you sell, as you know, I did not have that. So
Laurie: Yeah, social media can make a world of difference. I know that people are out there listening to you saying, yeah, but what do I post, Laura? If I don’t have a, If I don’t have anything written and I don’t have a book. What do I post? So do you have some suggestion?
Laura: So, one of the things that I’ve done. Um, I try to post about five times a week and that, that may be a little much for someone who’s starting off. So maybe once or twice a week, um, I don’t just write, but on Mondays I post from a blog that I really love about writing, so she’ll, she’ll share a blog for me, um, and I will share it for her. And so that’s kind of like Mondays. Mondays, um, share. And then on the, I do rescue work. So I will post about
rescue work one day. Um, I work a lot with rabbits. So I will go on to the House Rabbit Society on Tuesdays and just post a little bit of information about rabbits that someone might find interesting.
And it’s just something that you’re interested in. If you like gaming post about gaming, if you like cooking post about cooking as long as you have, if you’re there, you know, people will see you posting each week and they’ll come back to that.
Laurie: So consistency that comes up a lot. Being consistent and almost letting people get to know who you are, so your passions and hobbies and interests. Just be transparent about it and share and your people will find you.
Laura: Yes. Yes. You said that so much better than I did.
Laurie: Oh, no, you were great. How, um, like with your paranormal thriller, do they
appreciate the bunny stuff and all that like do you find the readers, uh, is there a lot of
engagement around that or do you have some separate?
Laura: So I have, um, about 2000 followers roughly on, um, you know, one site and I will post and sometimes I will get someone to interact, not always, um, but you know, they do like and share and, um, it’s, it’s a mix with me and people learn quickly.
Laura: You could get something about Her Keepers one, one minute and then, uh, you know, rescuing rabbits the next, or, uh, dogs or, you know, another blog that I’ve found that I just absolutely love, you know, so
Laurie: I think that’s cool though. I like that. That’s great tips. Thank you. If it’s not too personal. I’m curious if anybody out there in the audience, and I was thinking, Oh, well my mom or my grandma, you know, wrote something and I would love to publish it for them. Did you run into any red tape or any sort of, um, legal issues or like how did, how did you
navigate all that stuff when it wasn’t your work?
Laura: So, um, I made it clear to the publisher, you know. Whose work it was. And so I bought the package under my name, but all the rights and everything went to her. So royalties, rights, everything went under her name. It was just the package that was under mine. And then when she passed away, it all went back to me.
Laurie: Okay, so pretty straight forward because you went through that publisher.
Laura: But I would caution you, be very careful and selective of what publishers, self- publishers you use, because some will take you for everything you have and you won’t get anything.
Um, and you know, I’ve run into that a little bit. And I’m still fighting that. But you know, it is what it is.
Laurie: It’s true. I was just, um, I did an interview earlier today and she talked about, um, bad indie publishers. And so we, we talked about how, uh, you know, they do provide services. And so for some people, that’s absolutely the right choice, but just educate yourself and do as much research as possible. Maybe talk to other. Um, authors like you maybe who didn’t have a great experience with one if you could share that, then you could, you know, recommend a good one. So I, I think that there’s definitely a place because not everybody wants to do it all on their own.
Laura: Yeah. And so I went into it not knowing anything. I didn’t know what I needed or, and the publishers are like, Oh yeah, you can do this and that, but you have to be careful with their wording because, um, you need to have something called, um, it’s the book buy back policy. So, um, if you want your books to be sold in Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million or retail stores like that. You have to have that book return policy or they won’t touch it. Um, because what that says is you can buy this book, but if it doesn’t sell, you can get your money back. Um, and so my first mistake with self publishing was not getting that. I didn’t know that I needed it.
They told me, Oh, yes, you have the ability to do that. But that wasn’t included in that package that I purchased. So,
Laurie: Okay. A good lesson for ya. Yeah. Yeah. And do you sell a lot at the retail stores? Now, I’m assuming you’re with a different publisher and you have that policy in place.
Laura: So the first one, Mr. Bookstory never actually made it into the retail stores because of that. Um, it was just. So much extra money to get that policy. Um, I just, there, I couldn’t do it. You know, and um, the second one did make it in and it does okay. You know, it’s, it’s not a New York Times bestseller or anything, but I think she would be proud.
Laurie: Awe, I love that. Do you have any advice for anybody, who might be in a similar situation? You know, they have a loved one’s work and they want to put it out in the world. Do you have any sort of takeaways that they can take away from?
Laura: Um, just really research. Uh, which publisher you would like to use. Um, make sure you know what you’re getting. You know, um, they will make it sound great, but there are certain things that you need.
You need a library of Congress number to get into the libraries. You need the book return policy to get into the bookstores. Um, and then they’ll sell you stuff that you just don’t need, like marketing packages, and you know, each author is different. You may want that, and that may actually really help you. But for myself, with the social media platform, I already do it, so I don’t need to pay a bunch of money for them to try and do it for me.
Laurie: Yeah, when you already have, yeah, that makes sense, that makes sense. Well, thank you. It’s been so nice talking to you and I’m sure that your mom would be very proud and I just can’t even imagine how touched she was when you and your siblings did that for her.
That just, I don’t know. I just think that’s such an amazing gift, right? Like.
Laurie: So, our parents don’t need anything. That’s like a dream come true. You gave her a dream. So.
Laura: Yeah, that’s, I’m really glad we did that. So.
Laurie: Yeah. Well, thank you. Best of luck. Oh, sorry.
Laura: Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Laurie: Oh, you’re welcome. You’re welcome. Thank you. Bye, Laura.