Cara Davis is author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and Wedding on a Budget, which has made the Amazon Bestseller list. She planned her wedding in under six months for $5,000. Her tips have been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, Colorado Brides, Chicago Bride Magazine, Destination I Do Magazine, St. Louis Bride & Groom Magazine, and many more.
MEET THE AUTHOR
HER AUTHOR TOOLS
Favorite computers, e-readers, devices, and gadgets:
MacBook Pro, iPhone
Favorite apps, software, and tools:
Trello for to-do lists, Freshbooks for accounting, Google Calendar for scheduling, Notes on my iPhone and TextEdit for rough drafts on the Mac
HOW SHE WRITES
Her writing space:
What is your writing space like? (i.e., a desk in an office, your kitchen table, a table at the local coffeehouse?)
I have two young children at home, so when I encounter rare chunks of time to work I escape to the local coffeeshop. Pictured here is Sip Cafe, which has a fun retro schoolhouse feel.
What part of being an author do you find most difficult?
My biggest challenge as an author is believing in my ideas enough to pursue them to completion.
What problem with writing was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
When I wrote my first book, Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot, my challenge was finding time (even then) because I was working full-time. I set a block of time on Saturdays that became the SACRED WRITING ZONE. I found the discipline of writing on a schedule created a free-flow of ideas. The research came easily and the writing poured out.
What are your writing habits?
I write in my mind first, chewing up ideas and phrases until they come out in bits and pieces in “Notes” application on my phone or in TextEdit on my computer. I write much like I edit, by creating pieces of a puzzle that I rearrange and rewrite until it comes together to form a clear picture.
I also read Seth Godin‘s blog every day.
Are you an “outline” writer or a “make it up as you go” writer?
I’m an editor by trade and experience, so outlining is second-nature. It feels like a waste of time to write without a road map.
What’s the best thing anyone said about one of your books?
The most touching comments come from those who appreciate that I point out the motive behind doing things cheaply–making moments, places or events more meaningful. Handmade and thoughtful touches aren’t expensive and can’t be bought.
What’s the worst thing anyone said about one of your books?
Someone left a review on Amazon for my first book, Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot, and said they threw it in the trash after reading it because it was all common sense. I thought, Gee, I hope it’s common sense! I felt there were much worse things that could be said about my ideas and writing, so if that was the worst of it, I did pretty well.
Is writing a career for you–or a means to an end?
I’m a full-time freelancer, but not a full-time writer. It’s part of what I do, but not the sum. I find writing much more labor intensive for the money it brings in, so I try to balance it with other editorial and design projects. But ultimately, all work is a means to an end.
What is your editing process like?
I struggle with editing because I am an editor. It’s difficult for me not to edit as I go. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to edit someone else’s words than my own, but if anything, it gives me more compassion for writers. We get attached to our words; it’s painful to let perfectly good ones go.
What is the best thing you’ve done to promote your work?
I did a series of blog posts for a couple of years that a company released to media outlets for free republication. This created links back to their website and mine and set me up as an “expert” in the field. Blogs, radio stations and TV shows are hungry for free content, so they’re more than willing to give my work exposure in exchange. These monthly blog posts landed me an interview with The New York Times and being quoted in USA Today. Those were particularly exciting, but the writing itself felt a little whorish. I suppose that’s the nature of the PR beast.
How involved are you in the design of your books?
My first book was with a publishing company I worked for at the time, and they hired an amazing designer who came up with the concept (Ben Pieratt went on to create SVPPLY.com, a social shopping site acquired by eBay). Since my other books were independently produced, I created the covers. For Wedding on a Budget I tried my hand at illustrating (pen and paper, then scanned). For Budget Wedding Boot Camp I worked with a freelancer for the logo which I used as the primary image on the cover. Let’s just say having a “cheap” brand works in the favor of an independent author.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Two pieces of advice I hold close to my chest are: Don’t write about your book while you’re writing it, and Pursue your passions. The latter piece of advice comes from friend and photographer Jeremy Cowart, for whom I worked on his first book, Hope in the Dark. It was a collection of words and images he shot in Africa while working on behalf of a nonprofit. The book was a personal project, and it ended up being what caught the eye of a Hollywood agent who opened the door for him to do celebrity commercial work. Personal projects may not pay the bills, but they could lead you down paths you never would have pursued otherwise.