Authors at Google: Sara Ramsey, "Heiress Without a Cause"

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 26.03.2012

>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, I'm Clara Hughes-Johnson. I'm very excited to be here with many of you
in mine, old and dear friend and former Googler, Sara Wampler, but we will not be calling her
This is Sara Ramsey today for purposes in video posterity, we are being recorded. Just
want everyone to know. So, Sara, I think we all knew, know, grew up in Iowa and still
returns often to Iowa to play board games with her family.
'Cause that's what you do, I guess, besides the corn in Iowa. Is that fair?
>>Sara Ramsey: That's fair.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: All right. And went to Stanford and stayed out here and took a
temporary job with Google.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara. And then stayed with us for a long time. Tried to take a leave to work on her
writing. We just reeled her back in. She's now out. Award-winning author of--. Is romance
novel the category, or this like a sub-category?
>>Sara Ramsey: Romance novel is pretty appropriate.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: You think it's? OK.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. Historical romance.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Historical romance.
>>Sara Ramsey: It's still a romance.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Is Georgette Heyer part of the category, or is she not?
>>Sara Ramsey: She is the mother of the category. So, I'm impressed that you knew who she was.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I read a lot of her novels when I was back visiting my family
and it was boring.
>>Sara Ramsey: That's pretty much how I got into it.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: OK. So, this is exciting. So, are we--? I noticed that we don't have
any plans for you to read an excerpt.
>>Sara Ramsey: I think that's probably for the best.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: OK. OK.
>>Sara Ramsey: OK, there are 50 books over here.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: But we do have some copies for folks. I'm thrilled. So, your novel,
"Heiress Without A Cause--"
>>Sara Ramsey: Yes.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: has won a couple of pieces of acclaim. Can you describe the industry
in what those awards are for people who are maybe not aware?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, for those of you who aren't aware, the romance industry has
this, it's this entire sub-culture that, I think, none of us have ever laid eyes on until
I started going into it and realized just how many people there are and how many magazines
there are and the awards and everything like that. So, this novel, when it was still unpublished,
finaled for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award, which is given to the
best unpublished romances. And it gets about 12 hundred entries. They give it at this conference
that draws two thousand people. There's about ten thousand people in this organization.
So, that was exciting. And then, when it came out, it got four stars from Romantic Times,
which is the industry magazine. So, I have the magazine at home and it has the little
blurb in all the covers. And it's pretty scandalous. So, it was exciting.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: OK. So, you sent this entry in. It won out of 12 hundred entries,
which is amazing. Then, you self-published.
>>Sara Ramsey: Right.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, talk about that decision and how it works in industry.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, I had, I think it was a lot of you who knew me, knew I wrote
two books and was in that process when I finally left Google. The first book won that award
and the second book finaled for that award. And I got an agent and we were sort of moving
along that path of, "Oh, I'm going to get a traditional deal and this is going to be
great." But neither of those books ended up selling. And the market has been so tough
with, I wanna say economy.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Selling it to a publisher.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. Ever since the economy collapsed, all of big publishers are part
of these bigger media conglomerates. So, they're part of like, News Corp or Viacom or something
like that. And they just can't take the risk on a smaller author because they're looking
at their bottom line so stringently. So, my agent, with the first book we were like, "Oh,
just shove it under the bed. I'll write another one." 'Cause there weren't options at that
time. This was in 2008, 2009. But now, if Amazon and Barnes and Noble and I'll give
a shout out to eBooks, although it doesn't quite deserve the same level of claim, unfortunately.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: All five of them that sold.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yes.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: To people in this room.
>>Sara Ramsey: Probably.
All of those options have come up for authors and it's a really exciting time because two
years ago, I couldn't go down this road. But when I was looking at the numbers, I think,
Clara knows I like brightly colored spreadsheets that have a lot of numbers all over the place
and aren't necessarily organized according to business school plans, but they do work.
And they told me that it would be fairly straight-forward for me to sell enough copies to make as much
as I would've on an advance from a traditional publisher. In these days, a publisher may
give four thousand dollars for the first book.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Yeah. You don't get a lot for your first book, right?
>>Sara Ramsey: Right.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, you're feeling like you're on with the sales of this self-published,
you're on track?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah, once you all buy a copy today.
Yeah, it feels pretty good.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Yeah?
>>Sara Ramsey: I mean, I think that it was the right decision for me. And I think, too,
coming from someplace like Google, where we're so used to things moving fast. If I took six
months to get back to Clara on an email, which I never did, I hope--
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: No.
>>Sara Ramsey: No. I would've been fired, right? Whereas in publishing, it's traditional.
My agent sent the manuscript out to these publishers last April, and by October we still
hadn't heard back from three of them. And when she would call, she'd say, "Oh, we're
still considering it." But finally, I was like, "We're gonna pull this and I'm gonna
do it myself." Because the speed with which the industry's changing, I couldn't keep sitting
there for a year waiting for them to make a decision. So.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: All right. So, what everyone is dying to know is how does your
Google experience prepare you?
So, you talked about lunch, getting a speedy lunch. Anyone else, is anyone here in the
>>Sara Ramsey: I like how you snuck that in at the bottom of that question. I was prepared
to go career route. I'll answer the "is anyone here in the book?" first. No.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I mean, come on. The character--
>>Female #1: Alan Moss.
>>Sara Ramsey: Alan Moss is not in the book. I can guarantee that.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Loosely based on--.
>>Sara Ramsey: I will say, I'll have little interactions with people and I don't even
necessarily remember who the person was, but they'll end up in the book in a different
context. If I see someone walk funny or do something a little bizarre, all of those things
end up in the creative process, but it's not like you can pick out and say, "That character
is Alan Moss" for example.
He's not in the book, I promise. But, and there was one funny moment where I realized
that I put somebody's last name in as a placeholder for a servant and then forgot to take it out.
'Cause I will just try to think of a name and then, I forgot to take it out. So, if
that person reads this book--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Like, a last name is a unusual last name?
>>Sara Ramsey: It's actually not someone in this room. It was somebody from one of my
dorms at Stanford. So, that should encourage that corner of this room to read the book.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: He's a servant. All right. Interesting. So, back to the Google
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Novelist.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. I think that, as Clara said, I started here as a temp and I intended
to stay for about six months and was going to go off and get a PhD in English, which
I quickly realized was not gonna pay any bills at all. And I really liked Google. And I think
that the longer I stayed, there were always those days where I felt like I should be writing
a book or pursuing this passion. But I will say I don't think I could've been nearly as
successful self-publishing if I hadn't had the business and marketing experience that
I got here. Being able to do something like put together a spreadsheet and say, "This
is how much I would've made this way versus that way," or working for Clara with the communications
job. I wrote the back cover copy for my book, which was a very different skill than writing
a novel. Writing fiction is very different than saying, "These are the five words that
are gonna appeal to somebody and this is how I get my message across." So, I think from
that perspective, even though the job wasn't related to what I wanted to do with my writing,
all of those little career things have really helped. And I think it's easy to lose sight
of that when you're thinking, when you're sitting in a job thinking, "This isn't what
I wanna do." It's easy to forget that you're still learning things that could help you
later with that path.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: And then, I recall some conversations that it is very lonely
to be home without your Diet Coke soda machine.
>>Sara Ramsey: It's very, very difficult.
The Diet Coke, not the loneliness.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: How did you figure out, how did you end up sticking with it?
'Cause there were some moments where maybe--
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: you weren't too excited to stick with it.
>>Sara Ramsey: I'll be open. There was a moment last spring where I emailed Clara and I was
like, "Can I have my job back?"
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I wasn't gonna say it, but--.
>>Sara Ramsey: But it was set up for me to admit that.
Yeah. I would say that it was hard and I think the first six months is the hardest. And that's
why--. When I took my first leave of absence, it was six months and I came back because
it's not enough time to really break yourself out of all the habits that you have in a job
that I was really, not just comfortable in, but really happy with, right? Like, I didn't
leave Google because I was unhappy. And so, my first leave, I will admit going back to
Iowa was maybe not the wisest choice either because board games are great, but you can
only play so many of them before you start thinking "maybe I need something more." But
my, I think, taking more than six months to actually get on my feet and moving to the
city helped. So, I moved to San Francisco. I was living in this log cabin out in the
woods of Palo Alto, if you can believe they exist. I found the one log cabin in Palo Alto.
I think getting more active with my social life and accepting I have to get out of the
house and take more time.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Yep.
>>Sara Ramsey: I think you know this, too. Most of the people that I've worked with here
are so driven and goal-oriented that if you're doing your own thing, it's easy to just spend
all your time doing that, starting to feel guilty if I'm not making progress on this,
I'm a bad person and I'm wasting my time and the world's going to explode, which, as it
turns out, is not true. But that's still a work in progress for me to figure out how
do I have a balanced social life and still get things done and feel good about everything
that I'm doing.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, how does that work? Do you have certain hours that you're
>>Sara Ramsey: You probably know that I'm not the most organized.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I was like, how do you procrastinate when--?
>>Sara Ramsey: How do I procrastinate? I procrastinate pretty well. I would say if you wanna follow
me on Twitter, I tweet often about the Sarapocalypse, which involves a lot of glitter. And my brand
name is a little weird. I'm still figuring out my brand. I would say, I don't really
have set times. But I try to set number of words per week that I wanna hit, which I find
works better for me. I read all these things, like all these famous authors get up at five
and they write until eight and then they have coffee and then they read a book and then
they write from three to five. I could never, I couldn't get up at five for one thing. Getting
down here was hard enough.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: For a noon--?
>>Sara Ramsey: We had a time change yesterday. It's only eleven.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: This is really eleven, yes.
>>Sara Ramsey: And I had to blow dry my hair.
Yeah. I'm just not that kind of writer.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I can understand that this morning due to the time change.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I can relate to that. So, you mentioned you just finished your second,
so this is Book One of the "Muses of Mayfair."
>>Sara Ramsey: Yes.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: And you just finished Book Two draft.
>>Sara Ramsey: Last night.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Last night.
>>Sara Ramsey: The whole thing.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, how long did it take to write that? That's what we're trying
to get at here.
>>Sara Ramsey: I'm looking at my roommate, who has seen me not leave my room for days.
That's my roommate. The interesting thing was that the second book was actually the
first book that I wrote in 2009. And so, I wrote that book and it didn't sell and I put
it away. Gretchen read it. It didn't sell.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: And Alan Moss was in it, right?
>>Sara Ramsey: No.
Again, Alan Moss was not in any books.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Just because he didn't show up, we can do this.
>>Sara Ramsey: I'm saving it until I get really famous and then I'll write a book just about
him, but I wanna have the audience built-in so I can take advantage.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: That's fair. That's a good plan. So, you rewrote the book.
>>Sara Ramsey: I rewrote. So, what I initially did was--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: "Scotsmen Prefer Blondes," is the working title.
>>Sara Ramsey: "Scotsmen Prefer Blondes." Yes. It's not just the working title.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: It will be the title.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. I don't really [inaudible] title.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I guess if you self-publish, you can just make the.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: titles.
>>Sara Ramsey: Which is nice. Yeah. So, I rewrote the book. And it was a very painful
process because when I originally intended to self-publish, I said, "Oh, this is great.
I have two books that are done. I can get them out back-to-back." I started advertising
when they were coming out back-to-back. And then I read it and I was like, "Oh, crap."
Because my writing style has changed a lot. I've learned a lot as a writer. I've gotten
a lot, I think I've gotten better. We'll see. There were things that I legitimately saw
that I could've done better in the first book. And because I put it away and wrote the second
book to be the prequel, there were continuity issues.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Mmm.
>>Sara Ramsey: So, I initially though it'll take me three weeks to fix this. My roommate’s
still laughing because that was in October. And I think, looking through it, I probably
kept maybe five to eight percent of the first version.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Wow. Just--.
>>Sara Ramsey: I rewrote the entire thing. Don't do that.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Since October. So you basically--.
>>Sara Ramsey: If there are any writers in the room, just throw it away and do something
else 'cause it was really, really painful.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: But that's less than six months. I mean, that's, you rewrote basically
a whole book.
>>Sara Ramsey: It's true. But it was--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: On the bright side.
>>Sara Ramsey: It's hard to see the bright side 'cause I haven't slept, but no. It is
good. I think it was a good process to go through. I think I'm just worried that this
is my process because I go through these--. I've written two books, but word-wise, I've
really written four. And so, I need to figure out is this my process and I'm just the kind
of person who writes a book and then looks at it and rewrites it? Or, can I figure out
how to do it without that pain.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I think my battery--. Oh, no. I'm OK. If you look at, I don't know,
Jonathan Franzen or Jeffrey Eugenides, it takes them like, nine or ten years between
books. So, if you can write two books in a matter of months, that may be a fair process.
>>Sara Ramsey: I feel like this maybe needs to be a therapy session and you guys can just
like listen for a while we--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I'm just like, I don't think that's a bad thing.
>>Sara Ramsey: I haven't had a one-on-one with you in a long time.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, back to the--. So, let's talk about, well first of all, you
talked about your writing style has changed. Why? What happened? Was it getting away from
writing emails at Google?
>>Sara Ramsey: Clara's blog actually really helped me to find my writing style. No. Actually,
I think some of that's true. Like, I think, and I know I shouldn't just keep pointing
at people in the audience for the sake of YouTube, but Heather, who managed me several
years ago, would get all over me because my emails were like, this long. And they always
made sense and they were well-written, but they were novels. They weren't bullet point
things. And I think my writing style as I've seen it has changed from--. That first book
I wrote in fits and starts from 2005 to 2008. Now, I think my writing is a lot crisper and
the sentences tend to be shorter. I'm a little more focused on pacing than I was. Like, they're
not these long, flowery, I'm in love with the language. Now, it's more--hopefully--I'm
trying to get more of the character across and I'm not just using pretty words that are
big and formal.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Are these more character-driven or plot-driven when you think about--?
>>Sara Ramsey: I'd say they're more character-driven. And that was the big problem with the first
book was that I was so character-driven that the feedback from the publishers who didn't
decide to buy it was that there wasn't enough going on. Like, they were really fun characters
and they loved watching them banter with each other, 'cause I do like to banter, but nothing
really happened. Like, they got married. Great. And that happens in a romance, but there needs
to be a little more "if they don't have any conflict, why didn't they just get married
Day One?" And maybe banter at the wedding and the book's over.
So, I needed a little more plot.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, crisper writing, a little more plot, a little more action.
Let's talk about this particular genre. Is this, how did you decide this is it for you?
Or is this not?
>>Sara Ramsey: I kind of fell into it. I don't know if it's, and I think everyone who's worked
with me knows I tend to get bored with stuff at some point. So, I don't think that I'll
write romance for the rest of my life. I'll probably keep coming back to it, though. And
I think the nice thing about romance is that it's such a huge genre that I can choose to
do other things within it. I'm working on these historical romances, but I've got this
young adult project on the side that's not historical at all, that does have romantic
elements. And I think that it's a great place to work--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Are you gonna write that under the same name, or new name?
>>Sara Ramsey: I haven't decided yet. I mean, the sad thing is I've sort of been--. Sara
Ramsey sounds much more romantic, which is why I went with it. Sara Wampler, less romantic,
all the way at the end of the alphabet. Back when bookstores mattered, I was thinking I
didn't want to be the person on the last shelf. I wanted to be closer to like, Nora Roberts
or Julia Quinn, who are big romance authors. Now, it doesn't matter as much because people
aren't walking into book stores and finding those books. But we'll see. Yeah. So, I don't
know what name I'll write under. And I don't know that I'll write romance forever, but
I think it's a good--. It's a great place to build an audience. Romance readers read
a lot of books. So, the average romance reader probably reads, I don't know, four to ten
a month, which is huge.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: What's up with that?
>>Sara Ramsey: They like their romance. And they tend to, but they also tend to read outside
the genre, too. They don't necessarily just read romance. They'll also read mystery or
fantasy or sci-fi.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Do they write to you? Do you have fans? I mean, what's up? Are they--?
>>Sara Ramsey: I've gotten a couple of fan letters, which was really crazy. Yeah. It's
very odd. If you write dear Sara at SaraRamsey. com, I will respond to you. Yeah. It's odd.
And people, I see things starting to pop up on blogs where they read the book and they're
giving a review. Goodreads is a really popular reader site where people are starting to review
the book. So, it's been, it was pretty exciting the day that I finally got an email that wasn't
like my mom or somebody sitting in this room saying that they read the book and they really
liked it.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, what, do they give you any feedback? Or is it just--?
>>Sara Ramsey: I didn't--
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Good one. [laughs]
>>Sara Ramsey: The people who emailed so far, I know people who have gotten emails that
just rip them apart for being too steamy or too something or getting their facts wrong
or whatever. And there was one Barnes and Noble review. You're not supposed to read
the reviews as an author. You're supposed to pretend that you're impervious and that
none of it affects you, but I read every single one.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Yeah, right.
>>Sara Ramsey: And I have a Google alert set up.
And I don't wait for the Google alert. I search on Google every day and just look through
all the pages.
'Cause Google alert's like four to ten hours behind, probably, which is not fast enough.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, we know how you're spending your morning.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. Oh yes. The procrastination question. That's what I do. Yeah, but there
was a--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: You had one review that said--.
>>Sara Ramsey: There was one review on Barnes and Noble that they did not like that the
Duke was treated with disrespect.
Which I found really interesting.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Were they British? I mean, what's that about?
>>Sara Ramsey: I don't know. I don't think so. They said they'd read another book. They
really liked it. But they didn't like the Duke being disrespected. So, if any of you
care about Dukes, don't buy the book. I'm not your target author.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, what about this quote that's now made it into your bio? "True
story, I had to turn the little overhead air fan on while reading on the airplane. I was
so flushed from reading the love scenes."
[teasing jeers from the audience]
>>Sara Ramsey: That was another Barnes and Noble review. It was like, the first one I
got that wasn't somebody I knew. And I was like, "Oh, awkward." 'Cause my mom called
and was like, "Did you see the review on Barnes and Noble?" I was like, "Yes. I did. She did
get flushed from reading the love scenes. Had to turn on the little overhead fan." I
don't know. People, I can't control reviews.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Are they that steamy? I mean, I'm gonna take my copy. Gretchen's
like, "Yes."
>>Sara Ramsey: They're steamy, but I would say they don't dominate the book. Like, that's
how I would put it. There's, and this is what romance at it's--. I'm not gonna say I'm romance
at its best. But romance, when it's at its best, is, there is a full story arc that goes
through it and the characters are the focus. But there are a few scenes where the sex is
part of their relationship. And that, their character development and their emotional
arc shows through that, too. So, where someone like Georgette Heyer, first of all, they usually
didn't admit that they loved each other until like, the last two pages. And then when they
did, they might kiss once and then it's over. Which is good. And there's something to be
said for that. But I think romance, always modern romances, tend to show a couple's entire
relationship and doesn't just close the door when it's time for them to go off and make
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So,--.
>>Sara Ramsey: Or not make babies. Just, whatever.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, the genre is evolving from when I read a couple of books, clearly.
And what about this "Fifty Shades of Grey" thing going on? Can we talk about this?
>>Sara Ramsey: "Fifty Shades of Grey." So, how many of you have heard of "Fifty Shades
of Grey?"
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Yeah.
>>Sara Ramsey: Wow.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: You need to hang with some moms in the suburbs, which I do.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. It is a suburban mom phenomenon, from what I've heard. So "Fifty
Shades of Grey" is a trilogy that originally started as Twilight fanfiction. So, this woman
wrote this story of Bella and Edward--hate Bella. Don't tell anybody.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I think you just told some people.
>>Sara Ramsey: She's like--. I think I did. She's useless. Anyway. I'm not, so I may not
be the target audience.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: She seemed like a vehicle for other people.
>>Sara Ramsey: She was. She had no real desires of her own. Anyway, I'm not going off on that.
So, she wrote this fanfiction, but it had a BDSM element, which those of you who worked
in AdWords Approval Bin know what that is.
So, bondage, domination, sadism, masochism. Or, domination, submission. The D and S mean
two different things. So, they have this--. "Fifty Shades of Grey" has Bella, who is now
named something else, I don't know, obviously as a fairly like, vapid and useless girl,
but she ends up attracted to this guy who's an extreme sexual dominant rather than being
a vampire. So, they're not vampires anymore. He's now like dominant.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I don't get how it's "Twilight." First of all, I haven't even read
it, but as it was described to me by people who have, it didn't, the "Twilight" fanfiction
thing got lost in translation. It's just this particular author got inspired by that. This
is a British author. And then, wrote this book that's erotic suburban--.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, it's basically erotica. It's not really a romance.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Drama. I don't know.
>>Sara Ramsey: I think "Twilight" was really a romance. Like, "Twilight" was definitely
a young adult and it had romantic elements, but it's not like, if you're thinking "Twilight"
is a romance novel, then you should read a romance novel. Or read "Twilight." I wouldn't
recommend that.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: But what I was getting at is it seems like that is being treated
in a separate category. I don't know if it's because it's such a phenom, but it's also
being treated differently because it has so many more digital downloads than people buying
any physical copies, which would make sense if you understand the content of the book.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. It's gigantic.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, what does it make you--? I'm getting at this from a business
perspective. I think the thing is moving because of this particular book.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. Well, I think, and I think that's something that I was considering
when I was writing my books is that the online space especially, romance readers went online
really fast. Because if you're reading ten books a month, having a Kindle makes sense,
right? Like, they're cheaper. You don't have hundreds of them stacked in your house.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: You're not on the airplane with the--.
>>Sara Ramsey: You're not on the airplane with the cover. And so, erotica has actually
grown tremendously as a sub-genre of that because of the cover issue. If you can sit
there and read "Fifty Shades of Grey" at your coffee shop, and people think you're reading
like Dickens, great, right? You're in Menlo Park. You're sitting at Cafe Borrone. You're
secretly reading erotica, which is good.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Getting out the personal fan.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
I should get personalized misters that you can--. That would be a good giveaway. Yeah.
So, I think, but I think romance as a whole is moving steamier, too, because that's where
publishers see the market being. Publishers are making the most money off erotica. And
so, they keep, one of the rejections we got for the first book was it wasn't sexy enough.
Even though, this woman had to turn on her overhead fan to read a couple of the scenes,
That's the direction they're moving. But I think the good thing, too, about eBooks is
that there's a market for erotica, but a book that may have a little bit less of an erotic
focus can still find the audience. There's definitely people out there, myself included,
who are looking for more of the--
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Like story characters.
>>Sara Ramsey: not sweet historic, but more of a historical influence rather than just
sexy times.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Well, let's talk about the historical. How do you know what you're
talking about there in the "Muses of Mayfair?" Are you researching the period? Are you just
watching a lot of PBS?
>>Sara Ramsey: So, I read a ton of these. I read a ton of these before I got started.
So, I have read for, romance novels. My first one was when I was 12.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Wait. Just hold on a second. So, you're getting your historical
knowledge from other romance novels?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, that was the point I was going to get to was that there's now
this whole phenomenon called "Romancelandia," which, if you read any of these romance blogs,
which I'm sure none of you do, it's this problem where people have read so many of these--and
Georgette Heyer was the founder of this genre--they've read so much of her that--not Clara. Georgette
Heyer. They think that that's the fact. And so, you read these books where everyone goes
and they waltz all throughout the book. They do these waltzes. The waltz wasn't actually
in London until 1815. And even then, it was still really scandalous. And a lot of people
didn't dance it until the 1820's or 1830's. But if you don't put it in the book, you run
the risk of--. Basically you're damned if you do and damned if you don't because the
people who have read a lot of romance, but haven't studied the period, think that you
made a mistake if you do something that violates the "Romancelandia" rules. But then, if you
put them waltzing in like, 1805, you'll get emails from people who are like, "The waltz
wasn't in London and you treated it with disrespect."
So, I think that's a huge issue. It's figuring out--. And a lot of times, I just try to avoid
some of those issues. I just don't have them.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: But how do you know? You clearly researched outside of Romancelandia.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, I'm part of--.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, Romancelandia has its own version of our history is what
I'm taking.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: OK. So, you have done your own research.
>>Sara Ramsey: I have done my own research. There's an online special interest chapter
of Romance Writers of America, if any of you are interested, called "The Beau Monde," that
is just Regency historical writers. They are a wealth of information. You can send them
emails and say, "What kind of boots would this guy be wearing in April of this year?"
They know. I have costume books. I have a membership to Stanford Library, which is awesome
'cause they have basically every historical book you would ever need to research. When
I was writing this first book, where the heroine is an actress, I was researching what plays
were being put on that year, what theaters were popular, who the actresses were, that
kind of thing, which was really fun. And since I minored in History in college, it's a chance
for me to be a huge dork and read all these books and write it off on my taxes.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I see. I see the angle there.
>>Sara Ramsey: Don't tell the IRS either. This video may not need to go up.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, that's included in--. [whispers] Should not have said IRS.
So, that is included in your writing process.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Before or after you write something. Do you go back and add historical
details? Or, you research before?
>>Sara Ramsey: I'd say I do some of it before, figuring out, if there's a main plot point,
like could this woman do this at this time, I need to know before--as I've discovered--before
I have to rewrite the entire book. But little things like, what kind of coat would he wear
to this event or who a person might be at this party, I just make a note in my manuscript
and keep going. Because if I sat down and researched everything as it came up, I would
just go down rabbit holes and research for days. Wikipedia is probably, other than Twitter,
the place where I spend the most of my time procrastinating.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: All right. So, we're gonna go to some questions. So start thinking
of your questions. I'll anticipate one, which is maybe there's some aspiring novelists or
even non-fiction writers here in the room. What advice would you give to folks who are
wondering if they have dual or a second career as a writer coming from where they're sitting
>>Sara Ramsey: Make sure when you leave that you're ready to leave, so you don't come crawling
back for your job, which is awkward. And then you say, "Actually, I don't want it back."
Which is doubly awkward.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Well, luckily, "Are you sure you want it back?"
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. No. No, it was pretty obvious. Clara was very good. I think this
is a very safe place to explore your writing before you actually go off into the world
and try to write full-time. There's so much freedom to do your own thing. There's obviously
benefits, which are incredibly valuable--Diet Coke, all of that. But I think just, I don't
know. Taking that time to get through that first manuscript first, I think is really
valuable. I wrote that first manuscript and it won the award and that was great. But looking
at it now, I realize it really wasn't ready to be published. And in my head, because I
tend to do things fairly well and tend to succeed at things that I want to succeed at,
not to talk myself up too much, but I'm used to that level of success. It was really hard
when it didn't sell. And I think going through that process, it was good that I still had
this job to fall back on, 'cause if I hadn't--not just from a money standpoint, but if I had
been going through that process of trying to sell the first book, living alone in my
cabin without being able to come into work every day and think about something else for
a few hours, I probably would've just gone insane. Like, it would've been incredibly
difficult emotionally to, if that was my only thing. So, I think getting to the point where
you feel comfortable that you're truly on that path before leaving is really important.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Great. Any other, any questions? Hi, Kerrie.
>>Female #2: Hi, Sara. Congratulations. I wanted to ask about if you did any kind of
workshops or what kind of support network you had as you were getting towards your publishing?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, workshops, there are so many writing resources out there. Romance
is just a sub-piece of the broader shadow writing community that exists. I think the
Bay Area is fantastic for it. There are so many people here who want to write. And so,
the opportunities are pretty big. The first things I did were--. Stanford has great continuing
studies classes in writing. None of them were romance, but it was still really helpful to
talk to other writers. I took an historical fiction class, which was really great. I know
there are other colleges in the area that do that. I just was close to Stanford. And
then, any genre that you're writing, with the exception of literary fiction, 'cause
I think they don't like to band together 'cause they're too snobby--I didn't say that--mystery,
romance, sci-fi, all of those groups have their own professional organizations and joining
that was huge. So, I joined Romance Writers of America. They have a conference every year.
They put on events. I'm now part of a San Francisco chapter. I go to that once a month.
They bring in speakers.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Are the people kind of people you'd be friends with? I mean, just--.
>>Sara Ramsey: They are.
This is being taped, so they are actually.
[Clara laughs]
It is a really strange and different world that I was used to at Google. The first one
I went to was in 2008. And I think I was probably in the 99th percentile in terms of youth.
I'm still really young compared to a lot of romance novelists. I think a lot, especially
in romance, it tends to be more women who have raised their kids at least up to toddler
age and they're now starting to do something else. So, the average age is probably like
48 to 50. I can't tell. But yeah. I mean, with any group, a lot of writers are pretty
introverted, so some of the conversations can be awkward. But there are a lot of people
who are--. I think romance novelists get stereotyped as the woman who sits alone with her cat,
which is why I don't have a cat.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Good call.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. But if you go to these conferences, a lot of the people are actually
lawyers or doctors or came from someplace like Google. Basically any broad spectrum
of society you took, you can find a romance novelist in any one of those. Which is the
same readers. I know there are secret romance novel readers in this room who may not talk
about it, but they're out there. If you would connect and start reading more, that would
be wonderful.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, did you go to any writer space? I don't know. My brother
has like, he goes to this place in New York and they all sit there and write.
>>Sara Ramsey: No. I don't go to writer's space, but I found it's really helpful for
me if I'm in the last, if I have been next to last draft of the book to go away for a
few days and just read it and then figure out how to edit it. So, about a month ago,
I went to Santa Cruz for four days. I just got a rental on the beach and read the book
and made my notes and figured it out and had my little panic attack and then was good.
Which Santa Cruz isn't that far away. If someone wanted to have dinner with me, I could've
easily driven here, but it was just far enough to say, "No, I'm in my writing space. I need
these few days."
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Other questions? All right. Go ahead.
>>Female #3: Comment and a question. I'm currently tracking my Scottish history, so if you need
any stories I'm happy to provide. I don't know how scandalous they might be. So, back
to the self-publishing piece. I'm curious if, when I think about the music industry
and how hard that is for some people to break into it. And they've had phenomenons like
Justin Beiber making it through YouTube. Is there the equivalent for a writer? I know
you have a blog. I follow you on Twitter. How do you get no--. Yes. Fantastic. I always
know what you're up to. How does a writer get recognized in the--?
>>Sara Ramsey: It is really tough. And I think because there isn't that sort of instant gratification
of video on YouTube, although I'm thinking about ways to use YouTube. My roommate works
at YouTube, so I get talk in my ear about it.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Yeah. That'll be interesting.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. But I think there are reader communities out there. I mentioned
Goodreads. There's Shellfari, which is affiliated with Amazon. There's different places where
readers congregate. Goodreads, I have a love/hate relationship with because they, some of the
communities can be pretty caustic and tend to review--. Their reviews tend to skew more
negative than necessarily you would see on like, Barnes and Noble dot com. So, each place
has their own weird community and just getting used to that is important. But I think, I
don't know. The most helpful thing for me right now has been connecting with other authors
who are more established than me, who then do things like re-tweet my tweets, or, which
I know sounds ridiculous, but re-tweet my tweets or share my book on Facebook because
they already have more of an audience than I do. And so, building that network, I think,
through other authors. I don't know. Or maybe we just tell ourselves that 'cause everyone
I interact with on Twitter is either someone I know or another author. I don't know that
I have more than a dozen peer readers on Twitter. But it's our version.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: How many followers do you have?
>>Sara Ramsey: 750 ish.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: It's gotta be more than 12 readers.
>>Sara Ramsey: I don't know. And there's some spambots, too. But--.
I don't block them 'cause it's really gratifying to see the numbers like 750. But Twitter's
like our version of like, a water cooler. Like, if you sit in your house and you're
all alone, it's our version of being able to like, get up together and gossip. So, I
don't know, Amy. There's not a really great way to become a phenomenon. I don't know how
"Fifty Shades" took off. I'm baffled.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: We should find out. All right. We had another question? Still
>>Male #1: Yes.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Really. Is this about Twitter?
>>Male #1: Oh, I have a question. So, how important is that, so when you are writing
the characters that you told us about and everything, are they real or realistic, or
are they more like fiction that you made it up? How important it is to you that you match
real thought patterns like, across humanity?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. That's a good question. I think I will fully admit that I'm sure it's
hard for me to have a realistic guy's thought pattern. And I try. But I'm not a guy. I don't
think like a guy. I think I think more like a guy than I should sometimes. But with romance,
at least the kind that I write, it tends to alternate points of view between--. Probably
two-thirds of it is in the heroine’s point of view--her thought pattern, her perception
of what's going on. About a third of it's in the guy's point of view. I'll fully admit
I probably don't get the guy right all the time. I do try to, now it's gonna sound like
I'm stereotyping, but I tend to be a little more directive in the way he talks. Women
tend to speak more with a question at the end of the voice and making excuses for their
behavior, apologizing excessively. And guys don't do that as much. So, I've thought a
little about what I've seen in the work place, what I've learned from the trainings we've
gone through where we all do our different colors or our like, E-N-T-J or P or whatever
you are. And I think about that. I don't know if the exact speech pattern is right.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: Do you write a back story? Like, a human, like this is a real
person kind of story even though it's not all in the book? Do you have it in your head
or do you write it or--?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. I have stuff in my head that never makes it in the book. Like, things
that happened when they were kids. Or, what they wanted to do. Things that happened off-stage
that don't get referenced. But for me, it makes them feel a little more three-dimensional.
And those little details, like could pop up in future books, which is always fun. 'Cause
I do wanna have enough of a consistent pattern for a character that I don't write myself
into a corner and then discover that last book I said that he was an orphan and now
I really need him to have a mom. I need to have an idea of who he is. And then, if that
person is solid enough, I would never think, "He needs to have a mom," because within me,
he's never had one. I don't know if that makes sense. It's, I don't know.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: No, I get it. I get it. It's like the story board.
>>Female #4: Hi. I'm a long time writer and I've always had a full-time career, job outside
of that. And so, I'm curious, you talked about that you created a personal metric for yourself
around words and that you obviously were happy here. So, you felt like you needed to leave
Google to be in that space and writing. So, I'm just wondering if you could say a little
bit more about how it helped you, if it helped you significantly leaving your full-time career
to go to your other full-time career to write, in terms of, 'Cause I know you can't just
sit eight, nine, ten times a day and write. It doesn't, hours a day. It doesn't work like
that. So, I'm curious about how did it help you? Did it help you to really just be in
that space and be away in terms of your productivity and meeting your goals?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. It's an interesting question because a lot of the writers I've talked to,
when they leave their full-time jobs, they still write just as much as they did when
they had a full-time job, which is awkward because you're, "Oh, I'm still writing five
pages a day, but I don't get paid anymore." I wouldn't, I would say my productivity has
gone up some, but the time that I would've spent on my job, I now spend marketing or
networking or building my business plans--just working on soliciting cover art and things
like that. I wouldn't say my number of words per week or month has increased substantially,
but I also like to, I would never shut the door, I'm not asking for my job back, but
I would never shut the door on going back in a business capacity, especially with publishing
the way it is. At some point, if I get bored with writing, or I see an opportunity, I could
see myself either starting my own publishing, consulting or going to one of these big eBook
places, like Google if they actually sell a lot of eBooks. Yeah. So, I'm keeping those
doors open.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: So, talk about the cover art for a second. How did you get that?
Should we show the?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah, the cover art was really fun. So, no it's not me. My brother told me
that they put my family's very cute about this. When they got their first paperback
copy, they stopped the UPS man and made him wait for when they opened the box. And then
they gave him my bookmarks. So, that was nice. But yeah. They've apparently put these bookmarks
all over town and they're getting questions about whether it's me. So, that's awkward.
It's not me. But the cover art processes are now, because so many people are moving to
self-publish, people like cover artists from the old publishing houses or I hired a freelance
editor, who used to be an editor at Harlequin, they're moving to do more of their own freelance
stuff 'cause they can make more money and have more reasonable hours than they could
being a cog in the wheel at a publishing house. So.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: A photo?
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah, it's a photo. So, if you go to, this woman takes
all this stock photography. And so, she has the costumes. She does all the, stages these
things. You can get not just historical, but paranormal, contemporary, all of that. And
then, she designs the cover. So, I sent her, this is what my characters are like. I like
covers where you can't see the woman's head. I don't know why. But actually, I do know
why. I don't like seeing the person's face and having that visual when I want to imagine.
So, yeah. That was fun. Thank you for humoring me by raising your hand.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: I really am. Especially 'cause I got a free copy.
>>Sara Ramsey: Yeah. So, Clara gets a free copy. Everyone else, it's 11.99. Sorry. But
I take cash or credit card. And if are really excited about credit card, I have the little
square app, which I know is not a Google thing, but it's amazing. It plugs into the iPad so
you can just swipe it. It's pretty cool.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: [inaudible] Oh. I think this is still not on. But anyway. Any
final remarks or pieces of advice or plugs? Marketing. This is like one of those talk
>>Sara Ramsey: Follow your dreams.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: And available, you know?
>>Sara Ramsey: It's available. It's available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon. The next one,
which I just finished last night, as I said you're lucky I'm here, will be out March 29th,
which is the huge advantage of doing this myself, because if it were a traditional publisher,
I would mail it to them, they'd respond in three months and say, "Great. Change this
stuff." It would probably be a year to 18 months before it came out. So, next one's
out. "Scotsmen Prefer Blondes." Amy, I'll ask you later if that's true.
>>Clara Hughes-Johnson: All right. Well, thank you so much and congratulations.
>>Sara Ramsey: Thanks for coming, everyone.