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Sarah Noffke, an Amazon Best Seller, writes YA and NA sci-fi fantasy, paranormal and urban fantasy. She is the author of the Lucidites, Reverians, Ren, Vagabond Circus and Olento Research series. Noffke holds a Masters of Management and teaches college business courses. Most of her students have no idea that she toils away her hours crafting fictional characters. Noffke's books are top rated and best-sellers on Kindle. Currently, she has published over 20 novels. Her books are available in paperback, audio and in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

 

What would you like our readers to know about yourself? This could be a previously prepared bio; however, something customized exclusively for TopShelf Magazine would be greatly appreciated.

 

My name is Sarah Noffke and I’m the author of five YA and NA series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal and dystopian. I was born and raised in Texas, but I currently live in Southern California. I’m kind of a nomad and move to wherever the wind blows me. That kind of living really helps me as a writer to become acquainted with many locations, which invariably become settings in my books. When I’m not writing then I’m teaching college business courses. It really makes no sense to most that I teach business since I’m a fantasy writer, but before I was a full-time author I was a business professional. Shh…don’t tell anyone. I have a masters in management and an unhealthy obsession with characters who have superpowers. Go figure. I currently have fifteen books publish. They are available in ebook, paperback and on audio. One series is available in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. 

 

What inspired you to become a writer and what finally pushed you to follow that dream?

 

I’ve been writing my entire life, so I think the urge was always in me. However, I used to have a real job. A professional one. One of those jobs where people go to meeting and do reports and things are very business-like. I loved it, but I totally felt like something was missing from my life. My brother died suddenly in his sleep one day and after that I remember thinking, “What if I die before really doing what I want with my life?” And after that I knew I needed to start checking some stuff off my list and one of them was to write a book, which turned into books and now is an obsession. 

 

What is the appeal for you in writing to a young adult audience versus an adult audience?

 

More potentials. Young adults aren’t settled yet. They don’t know who they are, what they want or who they are ending up with. They are in a mode of discovery and that makes their stories so much fun and rich. Their immaturity and naivety is also a huge component. Now, don’t get me wrong, writing for the adult audience is also amazing for different reasons. There are potentials there that can be even more fun. 

 

You write Sci-if Fantasy about a separate race of people called Dream Travelers. Describe to us what a Dream Traveler is and what their powers are.

 

Dream Travelers is a race of people who can travel to any place and time when sleeping. Think out-of-body experience. Through dreams they are able to take their consciousness anywhere, operating freely in the dreamscape. This power, since science believes dreams to have incredible benefits, lends them a psychic or super ability or two, like telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, heightened senses, psychometry, levitation, etc. 

 

If you personally could have a Dream Traveler power, which one would you choose to possess?

 

I’ve wondered this and it’s not an easy answer. Many times I find limitations in my character’s powers. Having telepathy isn’t always the picnic you think it will be because when you know what everyone thinks then you have no peace. However, I’m a doer, constantly on the move. For that reason, I’d love to be able to teleport. It would cut travel time down to zero and increase efficiency. And a lovely bonus: no more LA traffic jams! 

 

You've written 15 books, 4 complete series and just started your 5th series. Out of all of them, which series is your favorite and why?

 

What a great and incredibly hard to answer question. It’s like asking which of my children is my favorite. Good thing I only have the one human child! In all seriousness, I love all my series for individually unique reasons. However, the Reverians has to be my favorite because it takes some pretty huge risks. For starters, I make a lot of social and political commentary, which readers tell me really has them thinking throughout the series. The books explore ideas related to perceived freedom and ploys to create social order and how it can stifle individual citizen growth thereby creating a ripple effect. And lastly, the Reverians is a beautiful and unexpected love story, full of in-depth relationships and many surprises that I didn’t even see coming when writing. 

 

Your NA series REN seems to be the fan favorite amongst your readers. Why do you think that is given Ren's brash personality?

 

Readers tell me that Ren is who they wished they could be. He always says what he wants, never dressing things up to sound nice. Apparently, people are real jerks in their heads, but society tells them they have to filter responses and punctuate them with a smile. I don’t always agree with the thing Ren says or the names he calls people, but it has been refreshing to write freely, knowing there’s no boundary that Ren can cross that readers will object to. He’s a gambler, thief, adulterer, murderer and a brilliant mastermind that gets kudos for things that would put most of us in prison. 

 

Your newest books ALPHA WOLF and LONE WOLF crosses into the supernatural but with a totally different take on the werewolf lore. What inspired you to take a different approach to these wolflike men?

 

When I first started the series, I put a lot of research in trying to figure out the lunar aspect. After much effort, I realized there wasn’t one. Of course, it’s based on lore, so finding a scientific approach was going to be a challenge in the first place. However, my werewolves are genetic mutations and therefore I knew that the will-nilly idea that they changed on the full moon wasn’t going to work. Therefore, I created my own laws for them. Also, I really wanted my werewolves to be beautiful since usually they are seen as a hairy beast. Therefore, I decided to take a more classic approach to their features, not making them overly wolfish. 

 

Were you at all nervous about how the new books would be received?

 

Nervous isn’t the right word for it. Overly-worried-with-an-edge-of-panic is the right word(s). Paranormal isn’t my typical genre as a writer and more importantly, as a reader. I think any time we venture into something new, there’s going to be anxiety about how it’s received. However, so far the early reviews have been extremely positive. This is a huge relief which I will soon celebrate with a bottle of champagne and a fancy cheese tray. However, I think the nervousness was important because it kept me grounded and continuously pushing myself to create a werewolf series that delivered the action paranormal fans wanted, with a spin that is unique to my book world. 

 

When you wrote your first book AWOKEN was it immediately successful and did you think it would lead to another 14 books?

 

AWOKEN really did have a strong debut, which I wasn’t expecting. The book was instantly ranking high on Amazon, and received some really great support. Did I expect this? You know, from my place curled up in the back of the closet, I’m not sure what I expected. Releasing the first book has to be the hardest. But when the reviews started pouring in and my reader base grew, it really gave me a confidence I needed. However, I didn’t expect that I’d ever write more than one or two series. You see, my books tend to take possession of me and don’t let go until they’ve been written. The ideas just kept pouring in and for that I’m extremely grateful. I think that each series gets a little easier too, although each provides different challenges. I recently told a writer working on her first book that the first is the hardest. Once you finish that one, then you know it’s possible to complete the next and the next. 

 

Would you be willing to share how you’ve been able to become an Amazon Bestseller?

 

I wished there was an easy three-step checklist. There are definitely things that every author can do: write a great book, use a professional editor, have an incredible cover. However, I’ll admit that this is only the beginning and much of my success has relied on marketing and networking. I built a strong newsletter following a year ago and that’s been one of the most valuable tools for me. I send out regular correspondents and when I have a sale this list is the first to hear about it. For my money, this kind of marketing has been the most effective. I also regularly have free sales and use promotional services, but they are always changing with their effectiveness so it’s important to constantly be on the lookout for the ones that will work. Yes, I’d give my car away for a Book Bub, because that giant is still the best one in this industry. It’s a foolproof way to hit the bestseller list. However, until Book Bub caves due to my incessant nagging, then I’ll be relying on Amazon, Twitter and Facebook ads. These are really some of the best marketing tools and I’ve known many authors that have had outrageous success with the right ad. 

 

Please take us through your experience as a self-published author. Why did you ultimately choose that route?

 

Ultimately I chose to self-published because the industry has changed so radically. Years ago self-publishing had a stigma that has thankfully faded. Now, thanks to avenues like KDP, readers have been put in the position to decide what they want to read. I had a friend who loaned me Guy Kawasaki’s books Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur.  After I read that, I realized that not only could I publish my own book, but due to my overly controlling nature, I could do a great job with it. However, it’s not all peanut butter cookies and cold milk. As a self-published author, I work ALL the time. I wear so many hats that my hat closet should be larger than the Queens. There are days when I just want to write, but that’s not the reality I can choose. Marketing, formatting, administrative duties, accounting and business development all falls on my shoulders. However, I’ve had many different careers and without a doubt this is my favorite.

 

How important would you say marketing is for self-published authors? Do you have any tips for others who have gone this route and are struggling?

 

Marketing is everything for a self-published author. Carole P. Roman once told me, “You can write a great book, but if no one knows about it, then it will never matter.” She’s right, and the honest truth is that getting attention for books is truly difficult. I struggle all the time with marketing because the avenues are always changing. As soon as I find something that works, Amazon changes the algorithm or my email list is suddenly all on vacation. Open your emails, people! Sorry, I got distracted. 

Earlier in the interview, I mentioned some marketing approaches I use and I still stand by them. Honestly, here’s my best advice and what I try to remember every day: Keep your chin up and your mind open. It is an overwhelming business and honestly, I meet authors who want to throw in the towel because marketing is so daunting.  As soon as you learn something it will start changing. That’s the nature of this business. We have to be flexible in this business and willing to adapt. The synopsis I used for my book a year ago might need to be tweaked. My subscriber’s lists might need pruning. Or new distribution options might need to be considered. I heard someone recently refer to self-publishing as a turnkey business. There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Chin up, authors! 

 

What do you think are the biggest lessons you've learned along your career as a writer and what would you share with those contemplating this career?

 

That if you like sleep, keep the career search going. Okay, I’m kidding. I know many authors who sleep just fine. Honestly, I learned when you do what you truly love that it fuels you in ways you never dreamed about. I work a lot of twelve to sixteen hour days and weekends are just regular days for me. However, I never resent it, not like I might working for someone else. I used to think that I was a bad salesperson, but now I realize that I just wasn’t selling the right product. Mine. My advice for those contemplating this career is only do it if it’s your absolute passion. The hours are long and the benefits take a while to kick in. Dennis Palmubo, the author of Writing from the Inside Out, said, “Love the craft…and the peaks will come.”

 

You have a Facebook group called 'Awesome Reading Marathoners'. Tell us about it and how it all started.

 

I got the idea for this from an author friend, Casey Hays, who had done something similar. It’s essentially a virtual book club where we marathon an entire series over the course of several weeks. The unique aspect is that the author runs their marathon, offering daily discussions, games, and secret insights. There are also daily prizes and a grand prize giveaway at the end. The group continues to grow and it really offers a rewarding experience for authors and readers. I’m extremely connected to the readers in the group because over the course of several series, we’ve shared so much. 

 

How else do you interact with your readers and do you enjoy getting their feedback?

 

I love love, love feedback. Good or bad or neutral. It doesn’t matter. A few years ago I was a closet writer who was never going to get published or if I did then no one would read the books. Now I have readers! It still startles me when I think about someone reading my words. All over the world readers are nestled up experiencing a character that was only in my head at one point. I’m always available through email or on my author Facebook page. I also have a Goodreads fan group that a reader started. And when I have time, I try to interact through Twitter and Instagram. 

 

After you finish the fourth book in the OLENTO RESEARCH SERIES (releasing August 2017), do you have any plans for a new series?

 

Absolutely. I have two standalone books in the Dream Traveler world that I plan to write at the end of the year. They are mostly for the fans who have asked for these books, one being about an apocalypse that’s referenced in one of the series. The other book is the Dream Traveler Codex which serves as a manual, detailing the many laws and linages of this race. After that, in early 2018, I plan to write a series that retells the Salem Witch Trials, with a Dream Traveler spin. I’ve never done a historical fiction before and very much look forward to the challenge. 

Thank you so much for this opportunity! Thank you to TopShelf for supporting authors!