When author Jen Craven made the decision to self-publish her latest contemporary novel, Best Years of Your Life, she knew she chose the right path. She said retaining control over her book’s content, title, cover design and release timing outweighed everything else. Craven, author of two historical fiction novels, All That Shines and Whispers and A Long Way From Blair Street, said traditional publishing is no longer the gold standard and more authors are turning to indie publishing as their first choice. Technology and a variety of social media platforms create opportunities to propel self-published authors onto success. Currently a full-time copywriter for a global company that provides trend-driven activity kits for kids, Craven has written for The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, Motherly and the Huffington Post. A former fashion merchandising instructor for 11 years at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania, she penned a piece for the Huffington Post that detailed her experience not purchasing anything new for a whole year. Today, you’ll find her in northwestern Pennsylvania where she writes, spends time with her family and delivers dynamic content on Instagram @jencravenauthor.
I chatted with Jen to ask eleven questions that will give you an inside look at the author behind the books. This is part one of a two-part interview.
1. How would you describe yourself in five words?
Homebody, driven, planner, realist, creative.
2. How would your family describe you in five words?
Fun-loving, organized, dedicated, intelligent, inspiring (these are according to my husband!).
3. How would you describe two of the main characters in your new book, Best Years of Your Life?
Christine: A middle-aged woman who’s searching for youth in all the wrong places.
Abbie: A college freshman figuring out identity and the importance of true friends.
4. What kind of trends are you seeing in the publishing industry today?
Publishing is constantly evolving. I think there’s been a huge surge in audio books, and e-books continue to grow as well. Traditional authors know the leadtimes for deals and publication keeps inching longer and longer. Consequently (or as a complete separate trend), indie publishing is on the rise, as authors have so many more tools at their disposal. I think we’ll continue to see more and more authors go indie, build their brands, find their audience, and make it big.
5. Why do you think more authors are deciding to self-publish today?
To tag team off the previous question, I feel that self-publishing is slowly losing the stigma it’s held for so long. It’s not just the “Plan B” option anymore—lots of authors go directly to self-publishing without ever querying agents. There’s pros and cons to both, but some of the perks of self-publishing are that authors can control the timing, content, and keep all the royalties.
6. What is your top advice for authors who are considering self-publishing?
Know what you can do yourself and what you need help with. You won’t be able to do it all—and fortunately there are so many experts out there you can hire for things like cover design, formatting, editing and so forth. You want to produce the most polished, professional product, so that requires spending money.
7. Have you made any mistakes along the way in your self-publishing journey that you have learned from?
There are always mistakes, but I view them as learning opportunities. Being an indie author—new in my career—I’m constantly watching, listening and trying to soak in all the tips and tricks from authors who’ve been successful. It’s no small task to publish a book, so I feel like I’ve taken a crash course, with highs and lows, things I’ll do again and things I won’t. Ultimately, you won’t know unless you try, and in the grand scheme of life, it’s not life and death. It’s a book (a precious, worked-so-hard-on-it book…but still).
8. What have been your biggest successes in your self-publishing journey that you can share?
Writing a book is a success in and of itself! After that, I’ve been proud how I’ve marketed it so far. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by getting myself and my book in front of people. Going to bookstores to pitch in person, sending press releases to the media, reaching out to authors I love and respect for blurbs… I consider those successes because I did them and had positive results.
9. What part of the self-publishing process do you enjoy the most?
I mean, I obviously love writing, and I’ve learned to love social media. It’s fun to talk about your book, make fun posts and memes to get people interested.
10. What part of the self-publishing process has been the biggest challenge?
Formatting the book for the various platforms/retailers. Paperback vs. e-book vs. hard cover—they all require different formatting, cover size, etc. I faced a major learning curve there, but dug my heels in and taught myself. It can be done! (But if you’re less stubborn than me, you’ll just hire someone to do this for you.)
11. Where did the idea for Best Years of Your Life come from?
I spent eleven years teaching higher education and I’ve always loved novels set on campuses or boarding schools. So, I suppose the idea stemmed from those two things. The story is fictional, but my experience working on a college campus undoubtedly influenced the book in terms of setting. As for the plot, I surely witnessed lots of questionable moments during my teaching career, but I took it one step further here to really push the scandalous buttons.
For more information about Jen's books, visit https://www.jencraven.com/
Connect with her on Instagram @jencravenauthor
On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JenniferCravenAuthor
Journey to Zentobia
When ten-year-old Maggie and her older brother Peter discover a portal inside a rainbow, they stumble through it and end up in another world. But Zentobia is not what it seems. A sinister plot is brewing, and the amateur detectives are the only ones who can stop it. With danger on their trail and mysteries emerging, can they keep Zentobia safe before time runs out?
Perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
All magic is banished in Zentobia, but when an evil leader wants to bring back dark magic, Maggie and Peter risk it all to stop him. They join forces with the villain’s sneaky daughter who possesses a powerful secret. When Maggie’s instincts prompt her to investigate a hidden underground tunnel, she discovers a mysterious book carving that holds the answer to the future of magic. Before long, the siblings unravel more clues about Zentobia, including why it’s connected to their hometown by a rainbow. Can they stop the biggest threat Zentobia has ever faced and make it back to Hailsville, or will dark magic destroy the world forever?
With exciting twists and turns around every corner of this children's book, the journey for Maggie and Peter is just beginning.
Return to Zentobia
The action-packed sequel available now on Amazon!
Ten-year-old Maggie Miller discovers the Book of Magic is the key to defeating a villain and embarks on a quest to stop a sinister plot in this sequel that’s perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
After foiling a villain’s attempt to bring back dark magic in the mysterious world of Zentobia, Maggie and Peter learn a new threat exists. When the villain’s daughter sends Maggie a plea for help to locate the Book of Magic and save her mom, the siblings travel through the rainbow portal to rescue their friends in this action-packed sequel to Journey to Zentobia.
Securing the Book of Magic is no easy task, even for a seasoned amateur detective like Maggie. The book contains a powerful spell that will prevent dark magic from destroying Zentobia and spreading to Maggie and Peter’s home, but it’s buried deep in a maze of enchanted tunnels.
During their quest, dangerous beasts hunt them, vines transform to monstrous creatures, and rising flood water blocks their path. A wrong turn dumps the group into a secret world that’s evaporating by the minute. Casting a spell with an ingredient that’s hidden in an enchanted boneyard offers their only hope to return to Zentobia.
And when the villain’s daughter discovers she is the heir to the Book of Magic, will she deliver the spell to defeat her father? Or will someone unleash a bigger scheme with Maggie and Peter’s hometown as the target?
The Jessa Becker Files on Kindle Vella
Read the first three episodes for free!
New episodes each week.
When mysterious hit-and-runs rattle neighboring towns, investigative reporter Jessa Becker fights for a front-page story. After the bodies vanish, Homicide Detective Chase Donovan recruits Jessa to help solve the case and restore his disastrous love life. But danger emerges when they infiltrate the secret auction of a devious scientist who claims to raise the dead. Worse yet, Jessa is exposed as a target. With the biggest story of her career on the line, will she land it, or die trying?
Journey to Zentobia Five Star Reviews!
"What an enchanting, magical adventure! I had so much fun!
I absolutely loved this. I loved the sibling relationship b/n Maggie & Peter, & it made me miss my own brother. Lol I also loved the idea of the portal being in the end of a rainbow! So creative. The world building was amazing, & I felt like I was flying around w/them in Zentobia in my own flying shoes! Very atmospheric! I LOVE Zentobia-the rainbow, the waterfalls, the shoes, the talking animals, & so much more all sound so amazing! The story flowed so nicely, & there was always something happening, & high stakes as well-which make for a fast-paced read. Themes of friendship, family, never giving up, & doing what’s right. Highly recommend! Such a fun, exciting read. That ending has me needing a book 2 now! Loved it & want more. Can’t wait to see what happens-I’m assuming there will be a book 2🤞🏻Absolutely beautiful cover by Kim Dingwall as well!💜"
- Reviewed by Belle's Middle Grade
"Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro is an exciting, colorful sci-fi fantasy adventure that children will fall in love with. This author sifts together all the elements kids love, and some adults will find this engaging and entertaining as well. The writing is full of energy and emotion, with unexpected plot points and encounters. The pacing is just right, and young readers will instantly be locked into the story, thanks to the author's imagination and good instincts for what kids look for in a sci-fi fantasy adventure. For a pulse-pounding read, young audiences will love Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro.
It is a must-read."
- Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers’ Favorite
"This is such a brilliant middle grade read! I dove straight into it, after reading the blurb and think it is a brilliant story for young readers. It has a great level of detail, with fun and exciting characters. The story flowed so well and stayed exciting and fun throughout. I read portions of it to my daughter, and she loved it, thinking it was loads of fun. It is definitely one that I want her to read, as her reading level rises. Overall a great read and definitely one I recommend!"
-Natural Bri's Reviews
"Aimed at middle readers, the book has plenty of action and a lively style. Young readers will find this a reader-friendly selection, with the occasional vocabulary-building challenge to keep them on their toes."
- The BookLIfe Prize
"I bought this for my 10 year old son as he loves fantasy and adventure stories and I thought he'd like to read this. This book has got him completely absorbed it's amazing. He's not a particularly quick reader, gets bored very easily and drops things very quickly but NOT with this book! It's been days now and he is completely absorbed it so great to see he is getting so much enjoyment out of it. I've got my daughter asking if she can read it next... absolutely!! All I can say to you is, do buy it they'll love!" - Amazon review
"If your child loves fantasy fiction this is a great book to choose. My 9 year old loves the colorful characters and storyline. She's a big fan of The Land of Stories series (Chris Colfer) so Journey to Zentobia was a great find to compliment her taste."
- Amazon review
"My daughter really enjoyed reading Journey to Zentobia so much, and she didn't want to stop reading it!!! It was such a fun, intriguing, and captivating story with so much excitement and adventure! While reading this magical fantasy book, you feel like you are joining the main characters as they embark on such an enthralling and enchanting journey! Author Stacy D'Alessandro incorporates so much creativity, vivid imagination, and thrilling adventure into this lively and animated story. It is a wonderful and fantastic book for both kids and adults, and we really hope that there will be a sequel in the future!"
- Amazon review
Journey to Zentobia Book Trailer
Return to Zentobia Book Trailer
Stacy is a freelance writer who specializes in writing feature and business stories, press releases, author bios, newsletter and web site copy. To chat about a project you need help with or ask about pricing information, contact her direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Routine trips to Disneyland with her daughter played a role in Stacy's passion for storytelling.
Her daughter inspired the idea for Journey to Zentobia on a road trip home from one of their visits to the happiest place on Earth. They would pass a piece of paper back and forth in the car and each write part of a story. Her daughter's idea for a brother and sister to transport back in time through a rainbow portal stuck with Stacy for almost two years before she sat in front of the computer and began to write Journey to Zentobia.
Though she changed her daughter's original idea of the main characters going back in time to ending up in another world, the credit still goes to her innovative, young mind.
When she wasn’t working on this children's book, she wrote freelance stories for
newspapers and magazines. Prior to that, she worked in the public relations
industry in Las Vegas for more than 25 years.
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