Claire Contreras is a New York Times bestselling author. Her books range from romantic suspense to contemporary romance and are currently translated into seven different languages. She lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband, two boys, three bulldogs, and two stray cats. When she's not writing, she’s usually lost in a book.
Can you describe your start as an author? What was your first book, and how did you go about publishing it?
The first book that I published was There Is No Light in Darkness in 2013. I kind of stumbled upon self-publishing and threw it out there without expecting much. I was dead-set on trying to get it traditionally published, but because that process can be so long and grueling, I decided to go the self-publishing route first. I’m glad I did.
What are the advantages to indie publishing?
From my experience, the biggest perk about self-publishing is that I have 100 percent control of everything I do. That can be a gift and a curse. It’s very difficult to carry the burden of marketing, editing, promoting, etc., while maintaining a consistent writing schedule. It’s definitely not for the weak.
What advice would you give to a new author who is trying to figure out how to publish his or her book?
Just write. Write, rewrite, work on the book you want to share with the world, and do your research on how to get it out there because what works for one author may not work for another.
How different are the rules of the game today than from when you first started?
I started publishing in 2012, and a lot of things have changed since. Although we have a wider range of readers, we also have more hurdles to overcome. Every release brings on a new set of surprises that weren’t there a few months ago and definitely were not there four years ago.
What genre do your books fall under?
I write contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and erotic suspense. It’s very difficult for me to stay in one lane.
How do you market your books and your work? Is there anything else you do to distinguish yourself in the crowded marketplace?
I’ve been blessed with a reader base that grows a little more with each book I publish. I don’t think I'm doing anything special to market my books. I try to focus on writing the best storylines I can and go from there.
In a recent blog post, you mention how lucky you are to have gotten to where you are as a child of an immigrant and the granddaughter of an illiterate person. Are you able to elaborate on the significance of that for you?
When I look back on my life, it’s surreal to me that I've gotten this far. I was raised under a lot of different circumstances. My family went from being very poor to being very comfortable in a short period of time, but by the time we got there I’d already lived through so much and having so little that I’ve never taken anything for granted. I work hard for what I have, and I attribute all of it to my family and the struggles they overcame to get me where I am. When I think about it, I’m amazed at how my life has turned out. I know my grandmother would be proud to know that I’ve come this far.
Do you feel there’s still a stigma associated with self-publishing these days, or do you see that as largely having been erased?
I think the stigma is still there but disappearing a little more each day. I was one of the people who frowned upon self-publishing before, but I didn’t understand it until I did it. I understand why the stigma is there, but I believe there are a lot more incredible writers than bad ones in the self-publishing industry.
So why do you believe the stigma is there? And what doubts do readers and authors have about self-publishing?
I believe the stigma comes from some of the people in the traditional publishing world and traditional readers themselves. I understand it because it was something I once thought. I mean, why self-publish when you're supposed to go through the motions: land the agent, work on a million rewrites, and shop and sell the book. That’s the general notion of what's wrong with self-publishing. Thing is, self-published authors (and I’m not speaking for all of them because there are quite a few who do not do this) work on rewrites, get their books edited, proofread, etc. They don’t just write a book and put it out there. I can put two books in front of any reader, one traditionally published and one self-published, and I can guarantee that the reader can’t tell which is which.
What is your most profitable platform for selling books?
Amazon was my most profitable platform for years, but iBooks is really coming up lately, and I’m so happy that my readership is growing on there. My goal is to grow my readership on all platforms as best I can.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.