T.E. Ridener – the pen name for Tonya Elizabeth Ridener – burst on the writing scene in 2011 and has since been a prolific force in the urban fantasy genre of the indie publishing world. She’s written 13 books total, 11 of which are currently available on Amazon. Not only a budding author, it turns out that the 28-year-old Ridener is a budding film star – kind of. She appeared as an extra in the 2013 film 23 Blast, which was shot in her hometown. In addition to writing and kicking off her film career, Ridener is the co-founder and co-owner of an online Christmas charity called Random Acts of Christmas. It’s based on reddit.com and last year – the group’s third year in operation – RAoC gave more than $69,000 in presents to children who otherwise wouldn’t have had any. Although she lives with her large extended family, Ridener is not married – but she says that her books are her children. Currently she has another literary child on the way, due in February.
1. You’ve published 11 books since 2011 – and nothing before that. What changed in 2011 that prompted you to publish?
Well, I stumbled upon the Amazon KDP [Kindle Direct Publishing] program early one morning and I read up on it. I was immediately excited at the possibility of publishing my work online for others to read. Before finding KDP, I lacked self-confidence and I had a very big fear of rejection. I’ve never sent anything to anyone (though my sister-in-law says I should, every day), and KDP gave me the opportunity to try. I really liked that I could be in control of the process and it’s been a learning experience ever since. I’d like to think I’m quite professional with using Amazon KDP now. GoodReads, however, is an entirely different ballgame. Thank you, Lindsey from GoodReads, for always fixing my mistakes and putting up with my emails.
2. Given how prolific you are, I’m wondering how you can possibly have time for anything else. Do you write full-time?
Everyone describes me as prolific, and I’m honestly flattered. I have always been a quality over quantity type of person, but I have so many stories that demand to be written. I have now made it a personal goal to publish a new book at least once every 5 months or so. I am very lucky to be able to dedicate so much time to writing right now given my current living arrangements. My brother and sister-in-law support me 100% and I am grateful to them for giving me this opportunity. Yes, I’ve been writing full-time since mid-March of last year, and I think it’s working out very well.
3. Of which book out of your rich oeuvre are you most proud? Which was your favorite to write?
I think I am most proud of the Descendants Series. I feel like I’m betraying my vampires by saying that, but I honestly believe I’ve created something truly unique with my elementals. I have had several people tell me they’ve never read anything like them before, and that pleases me. As a writer, I always strive to do something different; something unique. However, my favorite book to write is the one I’m currently working on – The Truth about Kadenburg. I believe there’s a perfect balance of drama, humor, and romance. I think people are really going to enjoy it.
4. Personally I’m an urban fantasy fan – right now I’m in the middle of the second book of the Deborah Harkness series – so I’m curious who you see as your favorite authors and stylistic influences?
I am definitely a fan of fantasy, and paranormal, too. As a kid, my favorite authors were Lois Gladys Leppard (the Mandie series), Lois Walfrid Johnson (Adventures of the Northwoods), and RL Stein (Goosebumps). When I got a little older, I started to enjoy Anne Rice, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Dean Koontz, RL Stein (Fear Street), V.C. Andrews, and Jude Deveraux. I can’t be sure that any of them are actually stylistic influences on me. I write to the beat of my own drum. I did once do an online test and it said that I write like Douglas Adams. I don’t believe that for a second, haha.
5. Moving on to the more staid financial questions, was the approximate initial cost for self-publishing each of these – including whatever you may have spent on cover design, editing, and the like?
I do my own cover photos right now and my beta readers have been really great about helping me with the editing process. Honestly, right now, I can’t afford the prices for cover photos or an editor. They surely have every right to charge $200+ for their work. They are extremely talented and know what they’re doing, but I am a starving writer. The only things that have been costly for me are when I purchase paperback copies of my novels and the bookmarks that I give out as swag. I’d say I’ve spent around $300 on those two things alone, and I know I couldn’t afford much more on my own.
I do have a Go Fund Me page set up and I’ve had two donations so far (thank you for that!). I know it seems silly, but I keep telling everyone I’m waiting for the Robert De Niro to my Ethan Hawke to show up. I know there are a lot of people out there who look for good causes to give to, and if they can spare a dollar or two towards my creative dream, then I’d be forever grateful for their generosity.
6. Given that some of your books are offered in Kindle but not print editions, I’m guessing that it’s cheaper to offer them in Kindle editions. How much do you make on each print edition sale versus each Kindle edition sale?
Oh man, you know … I don’t do it for the money. I never have. People may call me crazy and that’s okay, but I write because I love it and because I want to give people an escape from reality. I realized a long time ago I may never be the next J.K. Rowlings or Stephen King, but I figure as long as I can do what I love doing most, I’ll be okay. It is much cheaper to offer Kindle editions. In fact, there’s practically no cost to publishing a book on Kindle if you do everything on your own.
On my print sales, I only make about $2 per book, and on each Kindle sale, I make $1.70 or lower. It really depends on what I’m charging for the book and what royalty option I’ve selected. To me, I don’t see the point in charging more than $0.99 for a story that’s less than 50,000 words. I know that may be my own opinion, and that’s okay.
I’m not cheap. Please don’t think that. I just know that in today’s economy, it’s incredibly hard for most people to afford $5+ for an ebook. I try to make my prices relatively reasonable and affordable. A few weeks ago, I actually gave away some freebies to a young woman because she was a stay-at-home mom and her husband was overseas fighting for our freedom. In a way, I feel that it was the best way I could say thank you to her for what she does, and for what her husband is doing. The point is, I always want my books to be available for decent prices.
Like I said, it’s not about making money for me. Yes, the money is nice, but I’m just doing what makes me happy. In turn, I hope it makes others happy, too.
7. In a related follow-up, how did you decide which books to offer in print editions?
I want them all to be offered in print eventually, but I haven’t really taken the time to convert my ebook covers into paperback covers just yet. That is the only thing hindering me at the moment, and I hope I can get those out soon.
8. Indie book marketing is a tricky thing – yet you managed to score a recent radio interview. How’d that interview go? And how did you happen to score it in the first place?
Oh my gosh, trust me – I was just as shocked as you are! I met C.L. Gammon [the radio show host] through author Jennifer Sage. I’m a huge fan of hers and she had an interview with him in November or so. I called in to Fangirl over her and I think I left a lasting impression, perhaps. C.L. befriended me on Facebook shortly after and maybe a week or so passed by…we were just talking in comments and he was like, “I’d like for you to be on my show,” and of course I wasn’t going to say no! I was honored to be a guest and I think the interview went pretty well aside from my nervous giggles every other sentence. I think it was very informative and it helped me grow as a writer. It definitely got me prepared for whatever the future holds.
9. Aside from the radio, what are your other marketing venues?
Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media website I can get my hands on. I also created some bookmarks that I randomly hand out/stuff into Christmas cards. It makes me feel pretty fancy to sign them, haha. I try to post frequently and I also make colorful, attention-grabbing ads. Photoshop is my best friend. I also feel the need to give a shout-out to my street team. They do an amazing job with promoting my books to their friends.
10. I just bought the Kindle version of Blood Betrayal: Lilith, and it seems well edited and well put-together – have you ever considered approaching traditional publishers or agents with your work?
Oh, thank you for getting a copy of Lilith! That was one of my favorite stories to write. To answer your question, I’m really shy about that sort of thing, and like other writers; I fear rejection. I quite like being an indie author because I set my deadlines; I am my own boss. I’m not really sure if I’d be happy with someone telling me what to do, or worse, trying to censor me.
11. What is the next work in the pipeline – and when will it come out?
The next work is The Truth about Kadenburg. It’s an urban fantasy with a bit of romance and a whole lot of awesome. It’s about bear-shifters that live in Tennessee and there’s a pack of werewolves trying to take over their territory. You get to meet a young woman named Presley and I feel that a lot of women will be able to relate to her. There’s actually an event that recently happened to her that’s based on something that happened to me. It’s very personal, but I feel it was the right addition to her storyline. I’m really excited to see how it ends. I’m aiming to have it out by mid-February, but don’t hold me to that!