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Success Spotlight with Jenn Sterling- Best Selling author writing under J. Sterling
J. Sterling was fired from her last job. She started writing almost immediately and is now a New York Times and USA Today best selling author. Her biggest series, The Perfect Game series has sold well over half a million copies world wide.
Make sure to check out her new book Dear Heart, I Hate You when it launches May 9th!
How do you define success?
First of all, I sort of break success into 2 subcategories: financial success and personal success. I define financial success as being able to make a comfortable living from my art. It’s not enough to just scrape by, although that’s amazing when you’re an artist, but I want more than that. And I define my personal success as being happy and absolutely loving what I do every single day.
Everyone has their own journey and story to tell. Can you talk about your journey up to this point?
Absolutely! It’s been unbelievable and hasn’t been easy. Nothing worth it, ever is though, right? I got fired from my job and literally went out and bought a laptop I couldn’t afford the next day. I started writing immediately and once the first draft was done, I researched how to get your book published. I learned quickly that I had 2 options- I could try to get an agent who would shop my book, or I could self-publish. At the time, self-publishing still had this negative stigma attached to it. It was basically said that only crappy writers and even worse books were self-published. So, not wanting to believe that what I wrote was crappy, I went the agent route and I queried (wrote emails summarizing your book and tried to get them interested in it). I got rejections every single day. Probably close to 100 in total. It was demoralizing, but I didn’t quit. I remember thinking that if I got one more rejection, that I would self-publish and consider myself a failure.
Honestly, that’s how the internet made you feel at the time… if your book wasn’t good enough for an agent to represent, then you sucked and you self-published like a loser. That final rejection came and I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to put the book out myself. It was A LOT of time consuming work. It wasn’t hard, it was just a lot for one person to do on her own.
And to be honest, it was the best decision I’d ever made. I eventually got over feeling like a failure and quickly learned that self-publishing was exactly what someone like me needed. I liked being in control over my story ideas and making all of the decisions (from the cover design, to my book price, release date, etc). I might have control issues. Lol
It took me three books and about a year and a half to hit it big. The Perfect Game blew up upon release and literally changed my life. Now all those agents who rejected me over a year ago were knocking on my door fighting to represent me. It’s funny how things work.
What inspired you to write your first book?
A dream I had probably 12 years prior. It had always stuck with me- the details of the dream, the guy in it *swoon*. I always knew that I wanted to write a story based around it, but I never felt like it was the right time. I was always “too busy”, or it was just something I’d “eventually” get around to. But I will tell you that when it started to pull at me, call to me and refuse to let me think about anything else, I knew I had to give in. And I’m so glad I did! : )
You are a New York Times and USA Today best selling author. Can you share a secret to how you were able to accomplish that as a self-published author?
There’s no secret. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of time. I fully believe in paying your dues. If you’re not serious about making writing a career, then it will never be one. I spent years trying to grow my audience, reach new readers, and write good books. When I first hit USA Today, I was completely surprised. The thing was, it had never been a goal of mine to hit that list. I just wanted to sell books, hit Amazon’s top 100 and make a living from my writing. The two went hand in hand, since hitting those lists was based off of sales numbers. I was really fortunate and lucky to start writing when I did, before the book market was convoluted and oversaturated the way it is now.
Your books are incredible! What motivated you to write them? More specifically, what motivated you to write in the romance genre?
First of all, thank you! And I tend to write what I know. I’m not good at just making things up. I pull from my life, my experiences, the things I’ve been through, and mostly the hurt associated with love and relationships. I’ll take a story of mine that didn’t have a happy ending and give us one. I think it makes a huge difference that I write from the heart. I believe that a reader can sense the emotion in the story and it makes the things I write about more relatable and to be honest, that’s what I strive for. I want readers to feel like the things I write about could happen to them. I want them to see themselves in the story somewhere along the way. We all have a common thread that binds us and that’s what I hope my stories show no matter who is reading it.
What has been your biggest failure and how have you learned from it?
Oh jeez, just one? HA. In this business, every single decision I make has the chance of either failing or working, so I consider almost everything I do an experiment (from when to release, to the price, etc). But I will say that releasing my first book without having a professional cover designed or having it professionally edited was a huge mistake. I got ripped apart. The reviews were so incredibly cruel that it’s a wonder how I didn’t pack my laptop up and never write again.
It took me a couple of days to let everything soak in. After I got past taking each negative review as a personal attack and looked at them objectively, I saw where some of them were truly helpful. They offered insight into how I could write better and be a better storyteller. I was so incredibly naïve when I published that first book. I learned that I couldn’t cut corners if I wanted to be successful. I’m thankful for that experience because it made me better, even if it was hard to take at first.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Someone sent me the quote “In order to be successful, you must be willing to be uncomfortable” after all of the hurt that stemmed from my first release. That quote spoke to my soul so much that I printed it out, taped it to my laptop and read it multiple times a day. Because that’s how I truly felt with the whole thing- uncomfortable. I needed those words. I’m not sure if the person who shared them with me knew how much they would help me, but I still think about that quote to this day.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to write a book?
Sit down and do it! : ) But do it for the right reasons. This industry is not a get rich quick scheme, no matter what you might think or read. This is a business and it’s not easy. But if you truly want to write, then you should. You should write your little heart out!
The Fundamental Round
Favorite food: Taco Bell. I know it’s not “real” food, but I don’t care. Try telling that to my mouth. lol
Favorite book: This one is always asked of me and I can never answer it. I know it should be the easiest question, but for me, it’s the hardest. I plead the 5th!
Favorite movie: Bull Durham, The Notebook (of course), Sliding Doors, Straight Outta Compton
Favorite athlete: RUSSELL MARTIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (or jack carter- my baseball playing book character haha!)
Favorite sports team: Dodgers baby!
Favorite song: Anything by Drake because I’m in love with him. It’s a problem. Unless you know him. Then you should introduce me to him because I wrote a whole book inspired by him and even though that’s not normal at all, I STILL WROTE A WHOLE BOOK INSPIRED BY HIM! Okay, I’m calm. Drake. <3 lol
Favorite quote: “You have to believe in yourself in an almost crazy way. You have to be bold enough to make something from nothing over and over again. And you have to be delusional enough to think that your ideas are valuable…”
Biggest role model: Life and her experiences.
You can connect with Jenn here: