Q&A: Drafting bestselling YA with Judy Corry

Judy Corry is the Amazon bestselling author of young adult romances. She will chat about how winning the Kindle Scout program in 2017 launched her publishing career, how she drafts her 75K-word books, and how she podcasts with The Writing Gals.

Q. Thanks for chatting with me today, Judy! You might not remember this, but we were in the same contest eons ago.

A. Oh we were?

Q. It was the one that your book Protect My Heart was in. I am trying to remember the name of the program, which is now defunct.

A. Oh are you talking about Kindle Scout?

Q. Yes! That’s it. And your book was selected. I remember reading the sample to find out your secrets.

A. Haha! Yeah. It was a pretty exciting time. That ended up being my gateway into publishing.

Q. Could you elaborate on that?

A. I was pretty nervous to publish at that point, so winning that gave me the confidence to self-publish the rest of my books.

Q. How long had you been writing before then? Was that your first published book?

A. Yeah that was my first published book. They published Protect My Heart in October of 2017. And I started writing books in June of 2012. So I’d been writing for just over five years at that point.

Q. Wow, that’s awesome. Did you study or train to be a writer? How did you get into writing books?

A. So I actually didn’t realize I wanted to write books until I was 26 years old and a stay-at-home mother with 3 little kids at the time. I loved to read, and had been a voracious reader for several years before, but writing was a brand new venture.

So after listening to another author talk about her story of how she got into writing and publishing, and seeing that she also didn’t go to school to be a writer, I decided to jump right in.

I basically just tried to do what I saw in the books that I loved–took note of how they worded things and used dialog tags and all that stuff.

I had no idea that writing conferences or podcasts existed until I ran into an old friend who wrote and she told me about a  get together some other writers were having in town and so I went and learned about a couple of conferences to attend and podcasts to listen to.

I ended up immersing myself in everything after that and within the first year I had finished my first manuscript and started looking into publishing.

Of course, I didn’t publish right away. After a few rejection letters from agents, I decided to revise some more and get started on my second book. Along the way I joined a critique group which helped a ton and after a few more years I was finally ready to really pull the trigger and turn my passion into a business.

Q. That is an amazing journey. You mainly write clean young adult romances, correct? And some adult romances? Did I miss anything else?

A. Yeah that’s what I write. Somedays I think about getting a pen name to write in other genres of romance, but I’m not a fast enough writer to maintain two names at this point.

Q. Not that your speed is hurting you at all. On your page today you have two bestseller tags. How often do you publish and how long are your books?

A. I typically publish every 4 months or so. And the majority of my books are in the 75,000 word range. That’s my sweet spot. So I’m lucky to get 4 books out a year.

Q. What is your writing process per book? How long does it take you to draft? Do you outline?

A. So I’ve found that the first month is basically a time where I need a lot of input as I recover from writing and publishing the book I just finished. So I end up watching romantic movies/TV shows and listening to several romance audiobooks as I catch up on all the things I’ve neglected in my personal life. (I’m not very good at keeping up with everything all at once.)

Then I start outlining a bit more seriously. I will try to figure out my character personalities, what they want most, what their character arcs will look like and then write down all the scenes that I really want to write most. Those “candy bar” scenes are basically what I form my whole story around.

Then when I have those things figured out for the most part, I will make a “mini-draft” of my book where I go through what I want to write, chapter by chapter until I have what feels like a complete story. I will even sometimes get so caught up in the outlining that I’ll draft some lines of dialog to put in the actual first full draft later.

Once that is ready enough, I will force myself to get out of the “just taking it easy” mode and start writing chapter one.

That’s actually where I am right now, and it’s amazing how daunting it is to actually start a book. I keep thinking it will get easier, but it is still so hard for me every time.

Once I’m in the actual drafting it can take anywhere from six weeks to three months to get to the finished product.

Q. I can get behind that candy bar method! Kudos to you on your success over a relatively short amount of time being published. Am I remembering correctly that you have gone full-time publishing while your husband supports you in that role? Or is he working full-time too?

A. Yeah, we actually did do that for a full year. He was at a place in his career where we were trying to figure out what his next step should be but weren’t quite sure which direction he should take. So since my books were making enough to support our family, we decided to have him stay home so I could write even more.

It was really great for the most part, but after a year he had the itch to get back to work and I also was feeling more pressure than I wanted. I was still making enough money to support us, but I didn’t like having to force myself to write if I didn’t feel like it that day.

So last August he went back to work and we put my youngest daughter in childcare for a few hours so I can still work 5-6 hours a day without interruptions.

Q. Okay, I see the wisdom in that. As I mentioned before, you have two bestseller tags on your first author page on Amazon. One on a YA released in 2018, and the other on your Protect My Heart book from 2017. How do you market your backlist? What per cent of your book income goes toward paid advertising?

A. These days most of my marketing money goes toward AMS ads. I have a few set on the first book in my longest series. That has done okay, but my best ad is actually on book three in that series. That book just did amazing from the start and so since it sells really well on its own already, I decided to see what I could to bump it up even higher and see if I could get readers to go back to the beginning of the series and read it all the way through. That series is interconnected, so it has been working well. Lately I’ve been spending about 15% of my income on ads. I will also do free days every few months. But those haven’t been working as well as they used to.

Q. That is good to know…to advertise a book even if it is goes against the grain and is #3 in a series. Which book is that?

A. It’s my book It Was Always You. It has been my bestseller ever since it came out.

Q. Nice! If we have time, I would LOVE to go back to your writing process. But right now, I would like to touch a bit on podcasting. You are one of four sweet romance authors who run a popular Youtube channel called The Writing Gals. When did you start and what was your role in getting that going?

A. So I think we started in Spring of 2018. We had been in a critique group together for several months and just clicked right off the bat. We had similar goals and were all seeing a lot of success with our sales.

So when one of our members Victorine Lieske was asked to be on a YouTube Live stream with a few other authors, Anne-Marie Meyer and I both watched it to support her. While we were watching we were chatting back and forth and just got on the topic of how it would be cool to do something similar, but focusing a little more on sweet romance since there was nothing else out there at the time. We wanted to do for other authors what we wished we’d had when we were first getting started.

So a little while later, Anne-Marie got someone on Fiverr to draw avatars for us, Victorine used that to make a logo and then we got a YouTube channel, website and email and were ready to go.

We told some of our friends that we were going to go live and talk numbers, which is something authors and aspiring authors always want to know about. And then we recorded our first video.

We really had no idea just how fast it would take off or how big it would become. We seriously thought we’d only have like 20 people join our Facebook group. But now, two years later we have 12,000 members and over 60 videos, so it’s been a pretty crazy ride.

Q. I’d say so! Cool. Do you have any special equipment  that you use? Any special video platform?

A. We don’t have a ton of equipment besides usb microphones and earbuds. I have a blue yeti, which has been great. And as for streaming service, we’ve been using StreamYard for several months and it’s been working great so far.

Q. Great to know! So…speaking of numbers, what kind of income can sweet young adult romances bring in nowadays? Best month, year figures, that kind of thing.

A. So it definitely has its ups and downs. My best months were around $8,000 – $10,000 which was in Fall/Winter 2019. But the market changed a bit and so lately I’ve been making about $5,000 a month. I’m definitely crossing my fingers that YA makes a big comeback soon. 🙂

Q. I wonder what has happened with the market. Many authors say what used to work hasn’t as much. Any guesses?

A. I wish I knew. I sometimes wonder if it has just become too flooded and so there is less room for everyone to be at the top. But I’ve also seen, specifically in YA, that the books higher in the ranks are a lot darker and more edgy than I write. Lots of bully romances and etc.

But I think those are starting to fade out a bit so I’m hopeful that once I finished my sweet adult series that it will be ready for me to come back to YA and hit it out of the ballpark again.

Q. I have no doubt you will continue to do well. Numbers don’t lie and you obviously are hitting it off with a solid readership. You and The Writing Gals have a winning formula there. Looks so fun, and it helps our writing community too. What would you say are some challenges of doing a podcast and ways to tackle them?

A. I think a lot of it depends on if you are doing it by yourself or with others. They both come with their own set of challenges. For us, we’ve got a pretty good system that has been working. But getting that set up and finding a time that works for everyone is definitely one of the biggest things you need to be successful. Making sure you have similar goals is also necessary. You have to be willing to put in the time, so that one person isn’t doing all the work and carrying the group. Thankfully we’ve all been able to do those things so far, so it’s been great.

Since we’ve gotten those initial kinks figured out, the only challenge we really have now is deciding what topic to talk about and/or who to have join us. We’re pretty relaxed about everything so it’s not too bad at all.

The real challenge is making sure my kids are in bed so they don’t interrupt the recording haha.

Q. That is great. I think having real life intrude is actually kind of charming. You have a talent for corralling the interview too, so good job. I wish we had more time; I have enjoyed chatting you up. What is your advice to someone who wants to do well in the young adult sweet romance market?

A. I would say they need to really study the market. Read the books at the tops of the charts. And then also read the reviews to see what the readers have to say about those books, what they liked and what they didn’t like.

Study the covers and get a professional cover that could fit in with the bestsellers.

Make friends with the other authors in that genre. Newsletter swaps is one of my biggest marketing tool so I couldn’t have the success that I have without those other authors help.

And most importantly, just write a really amazing book that will help readers become addicted to your writing. 😉

Q. ❤ Thank you so much Judy! I really appreciate having you on. Enjoy the holiday with the kiddies! 🙂

A. Thank you! This was super fun!

Check out Judy Corry’s Amazon author page. Watch her on The Writing Gals.

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