Interview with
Molly Carroll

Website Link

Barlow: So, I actually was just now… I was looking at your books on your website, and I was looking at Trust Within. And I was reading about it, and it actually reminded me quite a bit of…  I think Scorsese was on, like, Jimmy Fallon or something, and he said that the truth won’t come to you in a yell.  It’ll come to you as a whisper. And it reminded me of that.  I was curious what inspired you to write your book.

Carroll: So, Trust Within has a really interesting story.  That book was not self-published.  That book was traditionally published, and it was published by Grand Harbor Press, Amazon, so I got published for my second publishing contact through Amazon. I was in New York meeting… I was meeting my editor, who edited my first book, and my first book, Cracking Open, Amazon had found me and said, “Would you write a book for us?”  So, at that point, I was, you know, I just published Cracking Open, and I wanted to give it as much as time as I could, you know, to give it what I could, so I told them “No.” But they said, “If you’re ever in New York, please come find us. And, uh, so we can talk. So, I went into the meeting with no expectations. And they asked me about some conferences that I speak at.  And so one of the conferences…

So, then, I was in the meeting, and they were asking me about one of the conferences I spoke at, where a woman gave us different topics, and one of those topics was trust.  And I spoke about intuition, and so in that moment they asked me if I would write a book for them on intuition, and I said, “Yes.” So, I’ve always loved intuition and followed my intuition for a lot of my path. So, for me, it was it was a book that I wanted to write, and I was excited to write.  But I also wanted to… I know, I love to read books where I’m learning not only about the author’s story, but about the people’s stories. So, then I created the concept of interviewing people all over about times when they followed their intuition and when they didn’t.  So, yeah.  So that’s kind of how Trust Within… the process got started for that book.

Barlow: Gotcha.

So, when you did, um, move on to writing Cracking Open, you decided to self-publish that one, instead.

Carroll: Well, I wrote Cracking Open, first.

Barlow: Oh, did you?

Carroll: Yeah, yeah.  I wrote Cracking Open.  It took me seven years.  It took me a lot of time because I did every single piece of Cracking Open.  I did the art.  I did all the font.  I did all the design.  I wrote all of it, obviously. And then, and so I was sitting there an answer.  And I starting writing query letters, and I started pitching publishers and talking to different agents, and I was sitting with a friend one day, and she said, “Why don’t you just put it out there and see what happens?  Why don’t you just self-publish it?” And, so, I had a friend at the time… and he was really big into iBooks and Apple, and he said, “Yes.  Why don’t you go with Blurb out of San Francisco?” So, I self-published Cracking Open, first, and ran with that and did the publishing for that and did the press for that.  I’ve done retreats on that.  And then, Amazon got ahold of that book and saw it and said, “Would you write a book for us?” And then I went to New York, and yeah.  I self-published my first book and traditionally published my second book.

Barlow: Okay.  Okay.  Interesting.

So, whenever you did self-publish Cracking open, had you… I mean it sounded like just sort of like, “Why don’t we try this?” but had you done any research on self-publishing before or go in depth with it, or did you just sort of say, “I’m just going to put it out there, and we’ll see what happens.”

Carroll: I mean, no.  I hadn’t done any research on self-publishing before.  I have some, really, a great cohort of writer friends – I live in Bend, Oregon, – and one of them is incredibly educated in the publishing world, so she had done a lot of research on it. But, no. I mean a lot of people go with CreateSpace on Amazon, and I actually went with more of an art publishing company out of San Francisco because I wanted my art to be really beautiful in the book. And so I had to just learn by trial and error. I mean, you have to design everything page by page when you self-publish. So, if you’re just writing a book, where you just have words, that’s easy. And then you just download the trial.  But I was creating a design book, so that took a lot of things.  So I just had to learn… I really had to learn trial by fire. And then, just, then you have to do… when you self-publish your own book, you have to do all your own marketing.  You do all your own book cover, you do all your press, you do all your own PR. But you also do a lot of that when you traditionally publish, too. So even, like, when I’d traditionally published my second book, I also… I mean, as an author, you have to… you just start to become this person.  You have to push a lot of your own work. It doesn’t just happen… So, in both ways, I had to learn a lot. But, yeah, I just had to learn by researching and talking to other authors and talking to friends of mine who are authors and just kind of going step by step.

Barlow: Interesting.  Did you… What specific advertising avenues did you use, and what worked and what didn’t?

Carroll: You know, this is not my gift.  I absolutely hate this part of being a writer. I hate the self-promotion. I don’t like the marketing and advertising piece of it.  Some authors are really, really good at it, and I think it makes a big difference. I am not that great at it, but I would say that if you’re okay with social media, and you love it, just social media is powerful.  Get your Instagram followers up.  Get your Facebook followers up. You could buy Facebook ads. You can contact other writers and have other writers write for you. You can write… contact traditional, you know, write magazines and podcasts and… so I did a lot of that. I did a lot of that, and that worked.  But, you know, I think the biggest thing that works is word of mouth.  I think, really, you know, people disliking the book and then writing about the book, or liking the book and passing on to the bookstore or their friends is pretty powerful. And then my biggest marketing tool.. is that I do these retreats. I take women all over the world, and we do the book, and we do yoga and meditation. And then from that they buy the book, and they tell the people about the book, and things like that. Yeah. Pretty powerful.

Barlow: So you have a bit of a platform.

Carroll: Mm hm.

Barlow: Were you doing retreats before you self-published?

Carroll: No

Barlow: Okay.

Carroll: Mm mm.  Mm mm.

Barlow: So those kind of went hand-in-hand.

Carroll: Right.  Yes.  Yeah.  I mean had started doing it, and then a woman read my book, and she owned a retreat center in Costa Rica, and she asked if I would come and do it in Costa Rica, and then I brought my friend on who was a yoga teacher, and it just kind of started going from there.

Barlow: That’s really cool. So someone was so moved by your book that she worked with you on that.

Carroll: Right.  Exactly.  That was helpful. Yes, she did. She said this would be a great book for you know for a center, and we’d love to have you come and, you know, do that. So, yeah, it was great.  It was.  It was.  That was a really great gift because I started there, and you know, then we just kept going to different places.

Barlow: Right.

Do you feel as though your experience was one of a kind, or do you think it’s something that’s capable of being accomplished by any writer who’s serious about self-publishing?

Carroll: Ummm… You know, I mean, yes.  I think it is attainable by anyone.  I mean, you have to really be, as I said, I don’t love, like, self-marketing. You have to be okay with putting yourself out there if you’re gonna self-publish. I feel like the only authors these days that can really kind of be hermits… are, like, the big authors, like Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton, or, you know, the really well known authors that are New York Times best sellers that are selling, you know, millions of copies.

But every other author, you know, which is, like, 95 percent of the authors… your success comes a lot from what energy and elbow grease you put into the process.  I have gone door to door on bookstores. I have begged people on podcasts. I have, you know, asked other authors to write about me.  I have all these different things that I don’t love it, but it does make a difference. And you approach, especially before your book is coming out, you know, within the first three months of your book, you know book clubs taking it on.  You know, all those sorts of things really help with the success of the book.

Barlow: That’s true yeah.

Having experienced both self-publishing and traditional, do you prefer one? Or do they both have positives and negatives or what?  What do you think?

Carroll: You know, that’s a really good question.  I get that question quite a bit.

You know, I think there are benefits to both.  So, I think that in self-publishing, obviously, finances – you get a lot more money when you sell the book because you can keep all the money. Where, in traditional publishing, you keep very little of the money.  You get very little percentage of the book sales. So, that’s tricky. But, with traditional publishing, you have the publishing house, you have an agent. They do a lot of the marketing.  They do a lot of… your book cover… They organize… they do a lot of the legal. You don’t have to deal with the legal.

But, you know, so it’s just, it just depends, you know, just kind of depends on, you know, what kind of personality you have and… and you know I think the thing about self-publishing in the past was, it was kind of known as not the best publishing because, you know, you want a traditional publisher that makes you more of an author.  But I think that shifting. I do.  I think there’s a lot of self-publishers – I mean, I’m sure you did some research on that – that, you know, when we are talking about, you know, that it’s the best way to go. You could be a really amazing author and still self-publish.

Barlow: Right.

Carroll: I mean, so I like both. I mean, I have pros and cons to both.  But, really, mostly pros, so it worked out really well. I mean, it was, to me it was a love.  I love that I self- published Cracking Open, and then I love it have the experience of traditional publishing to Trust Within. Yeah.

Barlow: Do you think, if you were to write another book, you would go the self-publishing route or the traditional route?

Carroll: Well, when you traditionally publish, generally your publishing house gets first right of refusal.  So, my next book, I have to give Amazon 60 days to write a refusal. And I think it depends on the book, but I think if I wrote, like, Trust Within, where I didn’t have art, and I did more of a journal, I think I would go with traditional publishing.  There’s a couple of publishing houses I love.  I love Sounds True.  I love Shambhala.  I write in that sort of spiritual wellness genre. So, I love the sort of publishing houses that publish the books in the genre that you want to write in. And, so, I would, if Amazon said “No,” I would definitely go to some other publishing houses first to see if I can get it traditionally published because it has a bigger platform.

Barlow: Right.

Carroll: And then I would self-publish.  But I would not be opposed to self-publishing again at all if it was, you know, it was important to do.  Yeah.

Barlow: I had no idea that – and maybe I should have – that the publisher you just published with gets a say on the next, your next, novel.

Carroll: Yes.  Generally, if they’re excited… I don’t know how other publishing houses work, and, usually, they give you a two book contract – I got a one book contract – with Amazon… and that is very little amount of time to grow your book, so I had to really work and be dedicated to that first book. And then you go into that editing phases.  You have about a year to edit, and then you have the, you know, the book cover and marketing and things like that.  But I think a lot of publishing houses do get first right of refusal for your next book…. Because if you do well, they want to keep you. And then I don’t think they could do that for the next one, though.

Barlow: Right.

Carroll: Yeah, I think I… I get to speak whether I want to I want to go there. But I’ve enjoyed. I really enjoyed being with Grand Harbor Press.  They’ve been wonderful to me.  So I’m totally grateful for that.

Barlow: Oh good.

Do you think that nonfiction is definitely your genre, or do you like the idea of publishing in… do you want to do a fiction, or do you want to maybe do creative nonfiction, or what do you prefer?

Carroll: I definitely prefer nonfiction…  I love writing. I love nonfiction. I love writing about the real things that, you know, are happening in my life and in other people’s lives as a therapist, and I love being a teacher. I love teaching people about different concepts and things like that. So, I really enjoy writing nonfiction. I don’t foresee myself switching to different areas at all. I really feel like that’s my home.

Barlow: Yeah yeah.  There is… in our program there are creative nonfiction people. I believe there’s also nonfiction. And then they recently created a new area for… oh what is it called? It’s… it’s basically writing on behalf of human rights. But I can’t remember what it’s called, specifically, and that’s brand new.  And then you have the other side, which is like poetry, fiction, popular fiction. I have a feeling that, like, my nonfiction people are going to be interested in what you have to say. I don’t know if I told about all of this… I’m trying to create a presentation, I have to create a presentation at the end of the semester, so I’m trying to interview a variety of self-publishers and sort of get my fellow peers interested in it. So, yeah. Anyway.

Carroll: Are you… What do you write?

Barlow: So I write, um, I’m in the popular fiction track, and I actually had self-published. It was not very well-written, a book, and got about sixty-five thousand downloads, which was…

Carroll: Oh, that’s great!

Barlow: Yeah. Which led to a book deal for me. And so I was super excited. And I was hoping to share the route that… the stuff that I took to accomplish that, but also the steps that other people have taken to accomplish what they’ve accomplished.

And, so, I’m in the popular fiction.  My book deal was for a horror trilogy, and I also am writing a fantasy novel.

Carroll: Oh great!  That’s amazing!  And you’re getting an MFA.

Barlow: Yes.

Carroll: Oh that’s amazing.

Barlow: The thing was…

Carroll: Good for you!

Barlow: Thank you!

I had gotten an agent before I ever entered the program, and I was like, if I if I want to write well, and I want to write more than one book, I really need help.

Carroll: Right.

Barlow: So I went into the program, and it was a good decision so…

Carroll: Right.  Oh, good for you.  So, you got your book deal, and you got your agent before you even entered your MFA.

Barlow: No.  Actually, the book deal was this year.  It was in April that I got it. So, I had the agent.  The submissions were out, and I was… I had always intended it to be a trilogy. And I was like I really need help pinning down a… like, not a formula, but, like, the steps… the beats of a novel… because I don’t really know what they are. And that, yes, the MFA was able to provide me that definitely, so…

Carroll: Oh that’s great.

Barlow: Yeah.  So, I’m very, very happy.

Carroll: Oh yeah.  Congratulations.  That’s great.

Barlow: So, one of my questions is, do you have any advice on self-publishing for other writers?

Carroll: Yes.  A couple things… One, I would do some research on self-publishing companies before going with CreateSpace. So, the biggest one that anyone goes through is CreateSpace on Amazon. And I think it’s good. I think it’s user friendly. I think it’s easy to access and all that. But I would recommend people look at Blurb and other self-publishing sites that, you know, depending on your book and what you want, that is the big first thing.

The second thing I would do is just connect with other self-published authors come and ask them what they did right, what they didn’t do right.  A lot of the work comes in before the book gets published.  So, you know, did they… what did they do that they loved?  What did they do that they didn’t love?  You know, what would they do differently? You know, all those sort of things.  And just recognize that it’s kind of a grassroots effort. You know?  That it’s gonna be something where you’re gonna kind of go door to door. You know, it’s going to have to be your voice.  It’s going to have to be your passion in the book. I mean, if the people have fun, they can hire a PR firm, which is not a bad idea, to get, like, two or three book events. That’s always helpful. So, you know, so if they have some extra funds, to hire… you know, that that they could do that.  They can hire that to help them out in the self-publishing world. So, and then, you know… it’s not looked down upon as much anymore or our culture. They shouldn’t be ashamed of it. They shouldn’t be embarrassed about it.  It makes me really proud that they actually wrote the book and they put themselves out there for it.  You know, I think that’s really important to remember, as well.

Barlow: Right.  Yes.

What is the biggest mistake you see other authors make?

Carroll: I would say the biggest mistake authors make is not writing about what’s really in their heart.

I think people, especially nonfiction, they write about things that they think they should write about. I just heard about this from another woman.  Her name is Jenna Zoe, and she was on the podcast, and she was talking about how she had to learn how to eat really well because she had awful acne when she was in high school, and so, of course, she became this vegan, and she got this platform about being this wellness person, and she wrote two vegan cookbooks. And she was like, I wish I never would have because I don’t want to write a vegan cookbook.  But, you know, people came to me, and I think authors get really excited about someone wanting them to write, and so they write about, you know, things they don’t always want to write about.  Or they, when they’re in the editing phase, people want to take out parts. You have to really go with your gut. Like, really say to yourself, like, “Okay, this needs to go, and I can’t be so attached to it.” Even if it’s, you know, like 20,000 words… and then, you have others who are like, “This character’s really important to me.  This scene is important to me.  This story is important.  My verbiage is important.”  That you have a voice in the process of editing, as well. So, those would be what I’m saying – like, write about what you want to write about, even if it’s really out there.  I mean, you’re a sci-fi writer, so look at The Sparrow.  You know, did you read The Sparrow?

Barlow: I have not. No.

Carroll: It’s a beautiful sci-fi book.  It’s amazing.  I mean, it’s out there, it’s way out there, about a concept that’s crazy, but it is such a beautiful book. You know, so, and then other people who write about mechanics, about their car, fixing their car.  That’s what they want to write about.  And then, staying true to your voice, really staying true to your voice.  And, you know, what your voice sounds like, what you want to say, and how you want to say it.

Barlow: I like that answer.

And what was your biggest mistake?

Carroll: I would say my biggest mistake is that, after I published Trust Within, I didn’t market it. I didn’t push myself. I was… I got caught… I got way too caught up on… You know… I didn’t like… I mean, I’m not even sure how you found me because I’m not very easy to find.

Barlow: Well you were listed in an article on successful self-publishers.

Carroll: Oh I was? Can you send me the article?

Barlow: Yeah!  I will track it down again and then I will e-mail it to you.

Carroll: Thank you.  I really… like I’m working with a woman right now.  She’s like… I’m doing a talk for 900 people in November in Austin, and so she’s kind of coaching me a little bit. She’s like speaking coaching.  She’s going to help me out with it, and she gets so mad at me because she’s like you have this huge platform, but nobody knows you have this platform.  *Laughs*

Barlow: Well, I do.  *Laughs*

Carroll: So I think my biggest mistake is not really stepping into it and, you know, getting all the negative voices out of your head that I’m bragging, I’m showing off, I’m posting too much.  You know, it’s like, “Who gives a shit?” in the beginning when you first publish that book. You have got to go full speed ahead and put yourself out there as much as you can, and I don’t think I did that. I think I got caught up in my own head of, “Oh my gosh.  People are sick of hearing about me. You know, I’ve done two book readings in this city, am I really going to do another one?”  You know, even when successful stuff was happening, it just wasn’t, it wasn’t, you know, going that way. So, I would do that differently. I will do that differently.  In my next book, I will not be shy.  I will not.

Barlow: It is… interesting that you were shy.  Like, I guess I would assume that, like, a fiction writer would be shyer about it because, like, what you’re talking about is more, like, a real world, like, this is real. But you were nevertheless still shy. Do you think it was like… what do they call that?  An imposter syndrome thing?

Carroll: I think it was a little bit of an imposter syndrome. It was. I mean, I actually think, personally, for myself, I think it was a little bit of… I grew up in the midwest.  I grew up in an Irish Catholic family.  It’s about humility.  It’s about you stay small, you stay quiet, you stay humble.  And me having to face that part of myself. So, when you write, you know, when I write about my own self… I don’t know if you read my blog. But, like, I write about personal stuff, and I write from a therapeutic perspective. You know, like, when you’re feeling this way, what do you do?  So, I obviously have to be transparent in order to actually connect with the reader more.  That feels different to me than, like, posting a picture on Facebook and saying, “Buy my book.”  “So-and-so just bought my book.” “I just got to work with, you know, this famous person.” Or “Amazon this.”  Or, you know?  I’m way easier to bring out how I struggle than how I succeed.  And I think in order to be a successful author you’ve got to be okay with your successes, as well.

So that is where I would say is my growing point, for sure.

Barlow: Is there anything that you wish everyone knew, in terms of entering the publishing arena?

Carroll: I would say… do not be afraid to put yourself out there.  If there is an agent or a publishing house that you love, you respect them, you love other authors… do not be afraid to reach out to them.  Do not be afraid to, you know, use your connections.  Like, who do you know?  Do you know anyone who knows someone there? I mean, that’s the biggest thing is, like, do you know anyone… oh my gosh, I love Little Brown, and I actually know someone who knows someone who published with Little Brown.  I’m going to reach out to them and see if they can make a connection.

I mean every author says this… you know J.K. Rowling sent out seventy-eight query letters. It’s true.  You get so much rejection as an author. You have to learn to not take it personally. It’s not for the faint of heart.  I would say that.  Being an author is not for the fair of heart.

There’s a lot of things that happen that are, like, you know, where people say, you know, “No” to me, or you get negative press, or, you know, especially with like my Ted talk.  I don’t know if you know I did a Ted talk.  I got a lot of negative. I did it on suicide.  So, I got a lot of really interesting comments about that.

So, you know, you just have to either not read them or not read the negative reviews, or just be able to read them and say, “Okay, that’s one person’s opinion. Oh, that’s interesting thought. That is something interesting I never thought about before.  Or I could have done this or that.  I never saw it that way before.”  You know, I would say things like that.

So, I would just say that it’s not for the fair of heart and not to take things personally. And, it’s, I mean, I always say to people that we don’t choose to be writers.  It’s a calling.  It’s an absolute calling.  You know?  It comes from the core of the heart, and that’s what the pulling force that keeps us going.  Cause there’s just no other way to stand it.

Barlow: That’s so true.  That’s great, great advice. I know I personally don’t read reviews of my work.

Carroll: Oh good for you.

Barlow: I remember talking to the entertainment manager who was helping me out, and he was like, it can turn into an obsession, and I was like, yes.  So, I just stopped.

Carroll: And also when they publish your book sales.  Like, every month you get your book sale review, and, you know, I try not to even read the book sales every month.  Like, how many copies of Trust Within sold in January?  How many in February?  And I’m just like, Aggghhh!  You know, X amount only sold, or… I try not to… or how many… you know my agent actually encourages me not to look because it’s just, it’s not good for you.

Barlow: Right.

Carroll: Lindsey, I’ve loved talking with you.  I don’t know if you have any more questions. But if you do, we can make another phone conversation. Be happy to talk to you more. Or you could send me through e-mail.

Barlow: Yeah, we actually, went to the very last one, which is, “Was there something I should have asked but didn’t?”  That was the only other one that I had. And, so, unless there was something that you just really had to tell me, we are good to go.

Carroll: Oh, no. I just think that everyone in your MFA program is very courageous.  And just, it really… I mean constantly remind them of the courage it takes.  Every day is a commendable act.