Anisa Claire West writes a group of Cozy Culinary Mysteries that are cute, and well, yummy, in addition to some romantic genres. Similar to a series, she writes a set of books (23 books so far!) that are similar, but not necessarily a series. I personally love the idea – and many will probably have their own thoughts about it as writing series is thought to be a good way to get repeat purchasers. But her idea is similar, but also potentially allows for a wider selection of stories that might be beyond just one character. What are your thoughts?
She graciously answered some questions I had just for her about her writing methods and marketing, and she also shared her perspective for new writers.
Find her Bio, Books, and Amazon page at the end of the interview.
– – – Interview – – –
How did you get started?
I’ve loved to write since I was in first grade, and I’ve loved to read since preschool. My parents fostered an early love of literature by reading stacks of Little Golden Books with me before bedtime. I wrote my first two novels in 2007 after being laid off from an administrative job that I hated. Numerous agents and publishing houses flatly rejected my queries for these books. It wasn’t until 2012 that I discovered the forum for independent publishing. Browsing through a magazine rack at the grocery store, I came across a guidebook on self-publishing. Two weeks later, I published my first two books on Amazon.
What did you do before (or for your real job)?
I held many “real jobs” before delving into the world of fiction writing. My most recent “real job” was teaching writing and test prep to teenagers at a private school. I kept my day job for the first 2 years of my publishing venture as my profits progressed from a modest part-time income to a viable full-time income.
Favorite book – why?
My favorite book that I ever read is The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Ward Radcliffe. It’s a dark, Gothic, atmospheric adventure set in 18th century Europe that has the power to lift readers off the pages. My favorite book that I’ve written so far is Dark Chocolate Murder. Set on the French Riviera, the novel gained me a following and propelled me from the Land of Free Promotions to the Land of Real Sales.
WHO Is your audience?
My audience is primarily women, although I am lucky to get a male reader from time to time! Other than that, I couldn’t categorize my readers because they’re a diverse bunch who hail from all across the country as well as a few kind folks from England, Canada, and Australia.
How do/did you build an audience?
Building an audience is not easy as there are so many other authors who are formidable competitors. Creating a consistent presence by publishing frequently is the best way for a new writer to build an audience. Many would advise using social media and other forums, but I think it’s much simpler than that. Just write, publish, and repeat. Write, publish, and repeat.
If you have a process, maybe describe it (idea, characters, setting, outline, etc.)
Generally, I will sketch out a broad outline for my books with good, old-fashioned pencil and paper. I write down my thoughts for stories whenever and wherever they come to me. For example, I planned the story for Cookie Dough Crook while sitting on the runway after a rain-soaked flight and waiting hours for our plane to get a gate. The next day, I started writing it!
How do you come up with the titles? Is it first, before writing, or after? Is it based on a theme?
My titles are usually inspired by illustrations and photographs that will eventually become my book covers. For example, I came up with the title A Pastry Thief in Paris while browsing through images and finding one of a mischievous looking woman standing outside a tempting bakery.
Favorite time of day to write?
I try to discipline myself to start writing at 9am sharp. Treating it like a traditional job that begins bright and early helps to keep me on task. After 2 pm, my energy for writing starts to wane and I concentrate on other work like creating new book covers and communicating with lovely readers who have sent me emails.
Favorite writing snack?
No writing snacks for me. I’m completely in the zone when I write and don’t eat, answer calls, or reply to emails. However, a hot cup of caramel-laced coffee is essential for me to drink before I start the day’s writing.
Do it yourself or do you have a team, outsource, use a service(share)?
I am a one-woman publishing machine. All the creative control is mine, but all the work is mine too!
Platforms you publish on?
I publish exclusively on Amazon and am very happy with the platform they offer.
You write books that are similar, but not part of a series? Why?
I try to focus on culinary cozy mysteries as a way of branding. I also write this genre because it’s a lot of fun and I get to share recipes.
Why did you choose your book length?
I have full-length novels (250 pages+) and shorter novellas (100 pages or so). I choose the book length based on the story I’m telling. Some stories need more time and others are meant to be quick, zippy reads. Books that are character-driven tend to be longer, and books that are plot-driven tend to be shorter.
If you could ONLY do one thing for marketing your books, what would you do?
I’ve heard that BookBub produces amazing results (i.e., selling thousands of books in a 24-hour period). But it’s a very competitive marketing tool. I submitted an application for one of my books and was promptly rejected.
How do you handle negative reviews if any?
Honestly, negative reviews hurt, but they are a part of the process. I respect that some people will not enjoy my books, to say it nicely. Some people will just plain hate them! Tastes vary. I read negative reviews and take them into consideration when constructive criticism is offered. Then I move on and keep writing!
Do you follow your Amazon Best Sellers Rank?
I closely monitor my Amazon Best Sellers Rank and have noted that it fluctuates as much as the stock market does. Weekends tend to be stronger for sales, and the middle of the week is the slowest time. My focus remains on the overall number of books I sell each month.
Any thoughts that get you through?
Yes! Ask yourself: do I love to write? Is my mind overflowing with ideas that I MUST get down on paper? Do I want to wait years for a traditional publisher to take me under their wing? If the answers to those questions are Yes, Yes, and No…then go for it! This kind of positive, can-do attitude is what gets me through.
What is your favorite thing to do when NOT writing?
I practice yoga at least 3 or 4 times a week to keep me centered. I have also been known to indulge in chocolate sweets the way the characters in my culinary cozy mysteries do!
Thank you! Thank you, Anisa Claire West for sharing with me!
Anisa Claire West graduated with honors from Yale University and also holds a Master of Arts degree in Literature and Teaching. Learning about cultures is Anisa’s passion, and she has studied more than half a dozen languages including French, Arabic, and Italian. A certified yoga instructor, Anisa embraces mind-body fitness, animal advocacy, and a compassionate lifestyle.