Karna Small Bodman started out as a journalist and was on the air for several years in the San Francisco Bay area. She then went on to the White House – quite a leap – and for several more years served as the National Security Director for President Ronald Reagan. Today, she’s as busy as she ever was and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to help her promote her novels. The fourth, Castle Bravo, comes out today! Here’s what Karna has to talk with us about today:
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Karna: I’ve actually been writing my entire career – first I wrote news scripts when I was a TV Anchor in both SF and DC, then newspaper and magazine articles, then policy papers for President Reagan when I served in his White House for 6 years. But all those (obviously) were non-fiction and there was a “premium on brevity.” I always wanted to write a novel, so now I’ve been writing political thrillers for the last eight years.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Karna: I was thrilled to receive a contract for my first thriller, Checkmate from Macmillan/Forge….it was a BIG day in my life!
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Karna: In the beginning it was quite a challenge when my editor wanted various revisions (of course, Tolstoy rewrote Anna Karenina 17 times so I figured I would just have to master this). Later when I “got the message” about injecting tension into every chapter and ending each one with a “hook,” there were less and less requests for changes and hardly any edits in my third novel. As for the “writing life” – when I am in a “writing mode” (as opposed to “marketing mode” when a new book comes out), I have to admit that I write when the spirit moves me. I do not have a set schedule as some other writers do. But I was a bit surprised in the beginning to learn just how much marketing and publicity falls on the shoulders of the author, as opposed to the publisher, especially for new writers. The majority of it is truly up to us! Some writers have told me that they spend about 25% of their time writing and 75% of their time marketing. Now that I think about it, that’s about right.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Karna: Most writers are NOT wealthy! In fact, I read an article estimating that of the hundreds of thousands of authors, there are about 200 who actually make a good living with this craft. Most everyone else must have a day job. Readers probably don’t realize that an author typically makes 10% of the cover price of a book. So if a hardback version of my novel is priced at a typical $24.95 – I make about $2.50. And it’s a lot less for e-books and paperbacks, of course. Just driving to give a speech to a group where I would hope to sell a few books costs more in gasoline than I would ever make on book sales that day. But then – we write because we love the craft and there’s always hope for that breakthrough movie deal, great review or NYT bestseller list that would change everything.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Karna: The focus is STILL on trying to write the best book I possibly can. And then the focus is on marketing. With some 2 million books available on Amazon – plus the hundreds of thousands that have recently been added by authors who have simply self-published their efforts there – you can see that “getting noticed” and building a reader base is a gigantic challenge.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Karna: Before I began writing political thrillers, I did endeavor to write two other light-hearted romantic novels. But after having received many rejection letters from agents, those two manuscripts are “under the bed.” Then I got serious and wrote my first White House based thriller (since I used to work in The White House and had been encouraged to create a story with that backdrop). I attended several writers’ conferences and finally met an editor at one of them. I pitched the story, she liked it, and she offered a contract. So it only took a few months from completion of that manuscript to connecting with an editor.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Karna: I would have started writing thrillers much earlier.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Karna: Hitting “#1 in Thrillers” on Amazon!
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Karna: Receiving those first rejection letters from agents – when I was trying to sell those early endeavors, not my thrillers.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Karna: Being on Rush Limbaugh’s show – 4 times actually. The reach of that show is incredible. After my first interview where he kept me on the air for 20 minutes – through a commercial break – and he plugged my novel, Final Finesse and even put it on his website and in his newsletter with a link to “Buy Karna’s Book on Amazon” – I received hundreds and hundreds of emails from as far away as South Africa and Japan!
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Karna: I know of only one other female author who served as a Senior White House official who is writing novels today. Yet, hers are more “personality driven” while each of my novels features a different threat to our country’s national security and each also has a romantic twist.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Karna: You never fail until you quit. Go for it!
PJ: I love that! What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Karna: Probably radio interviews, reviews and speeches to groups and conventions (I’ve done close to 300 across the country), — along with personal contacts through emails and post cards (yes, labor intensive, but people appreciate a personal approach)
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Karna: Perhaps trying to line up reviews in major newspapers. They have cut way back on review space and book review sections, usually review more non-fiction than fiction and I’m sure those editors are inundated with Advance Review Copies (ARCs) from every publisher in the business. One reviewer for a major newspaper told me he received 200 ARCs a week!
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Karna:There are several who have been very helpful – but here are two special ones:
Sunshine Book Store in Marco Island, Florida
The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
What would you do if a shadowy group had the power to “fry” all of our electronics in a multi-state area? We’d have no electricity grid, no internet, cell phones, ATMs, refrigeration, transportation, aviation, sanitation…it would set us back to the year 1910. Could it happen here? Read Castle Bravo and find out.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
Karna: First, go to my website: www.karnabodman.com where there’s a link to buy all my books in print, as e-books and some are also available as audio books. And, of course, they will be available at book stores, on Amazon or other online stores, and hopefully in airports and other locations.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Karna: I received a very nice hand-written note from President George H. W. Bush about my first novel, Checkmate.
Wow. It’s always fun to learn how things work from an author’s unique perspective! Thanks for stopping in. Anyone have any comments or questions for Karna?