Tribune-Courier News Editor
CALVERT CITY– A local author admits she’s surprised by the success of her first two attempts to write a novel. Marshall County Public Library librarian Tammy Blackwell said she didn’t foresee how her books– Destiny Binds and Time Mends– would take off, selling more than 15,000 combined copies in a relatively short time on the market.
Blackwell opted to go the route of self-publishing. Unlike authors going through traditional publishing houses, Blackwell manages her books from concept through writing and editing, all the way to promoting and keeping track of sales.
“I had originally looked at traditionally publishing,” Blackwell said. “I sent it out to some agents and got very strong, positive reactions to it.”
While the feedback was supportive, Blackwell said agents were discouraged about selling the book in a market with lots of competition in the genre. Taking things into consideration for her first attempt at writing a novel, Blackwell said she decided to self-publish, expecting results many self-publishing authors find– to sell around 20 copies.
Four years later, her expectations were outpaced by her sales. Blackwell has sold more than 10,000 copies of her first book, with the sequel on-pace to eclipse that number, despite only being released weeks ago. The author’s works are also ranked on two of Amazon’s best seller’s lists.
“Time Mends has only been out for four weeks now, but it’s already nearing 5,000,” Blackwell said. “There’s been a very strong response. Of course, 98 percent of these sales are e-books, which has completely revolutionized publishing. Self-publishing is completely a different thing than it was two or three years ago.”
The success of e-book readers has helped to introduce new readers to a variety of products and created a market for writers willing to put in the work of being a writer, editor, designer, publisher and market their wares. Blackwell said she looked to authors and agents she liked to strengthen her approach.
Part of that included finding a strong support network to critique her work.
“I have some beta readers,” Blackwell said. “I don’t pay anyone to edit my books. I’m fortunate I have very literate friends who aren’t going to sugarcoat things.”
But while she took insight from others, Blackwell was able to keep her work true to its audience.
“I’d written the book expressively for the teens that come in this library,” Blackwell said. “I didn’t think there was a book that adequately portrayed them in the Young Adult market. Most YA books are set in New York City or California. The ones that are set in small towns, it’s always that quaint town where everybody knows everybody. It’s not realistic.”
So to create that realism, Blackwell said she used her creative license to create Lake County. Geographically, the fictional place is located in western Kentucky. Lake County is home to the books’ protagonist Scout Donovan. From there, the books take a turn toward the supernatural, with Donovan’s extended family being Shifters, individuals who turn into wolves during the full moon.
“I work really hard on getting to know my characters before I write them,” Blackwell said. “I feel like I know Scout. There’s so many aspects– if you want a full bodied character– that some things can get overlooked. There’s always going to be pieces of yourself and people you know in every character.”
While the books are often put into the same genre as the Twilight series of books and films, Blackwell said she hopes readers will find Scout “a little more strong-willed and a lot more snarky.” She also notes while there is a romantic theme, the book is more of a coming-of-age piece.
Blackwell said she’s looking at finishing the third book in the trilogy this September. And while fans of Blackwell’s work may miss Scout Donovan and the Shifters, they may find familiar faces in future works.
And when not in Lake County, Blackwell continues to work on the books while also doing YA programming for the Marshall County Public Library. Blackwell credits her work with teens in the library for the strength to see the books through.
“If I had gotten up the nerve to write a book, it would have been YA,” Blackwell said. “But I don’t think I would have gotten up the nerve. Even when this got hard, I wanted this book for these kids. I love plotting, I love character development, I love revising. But the actual putting one word behind the other I find very very difficult. But the times I would have given up, I didn’t because I had a goal for these kids.”
Time Mends is available online at http://www.amazon.com/Time-Mends-Timber-Wolves-ebook/dp/B006S2LXZ0, or copies are available at all Marshall County Public Library branches.