Author Rose Senehi knows it’s all about marketing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rose Senehi is a machine when it comes to marketing her books.
She plans her own book tours, created her own publishing company, found a distributor, got into the ebook world and knows the impact of social media.
“I hate Facebook,” she said at a dinner before her talk at Catawba College’s first community forum of the season. She made a horrible face at the mention of the word. “But I gotta be out there. I have to be all over social media.”
Senehi’s energy and passion is evident in casual conversation as well as her presentations. Can’t is not a word she uses. She’s always moving on to the next thing.
She has written seven novels now, four of which are standalone books in the Blue Ridge series, featuring the Hickory Nut Gorge area around Chimney Rock, where she has lived for the last even years.
Her first career was in mall management, and she ended up in Myrtle Beach, where she branched into real estate. But she was always thinking about writing.
“I’d look up and say the next man who walks in this office will be a character in my book.” While he was talking real estate, she’d be scribbling notes about how he looked, sounded, what his character might be like.
She quickly found more characters in Chimney Rock, because she set out looking for them, and for stories.
“I had spent a day ripping out carpet and taking down curtains and I was filthy. I was wearing the kind of clothes you don’t toss in the washer at the end of the day, you throw them away.” She remembered something she needed, and had to drive into Hendersonville. On the way back, she realized she had no food. She saw a roadside stand in Bat Cave with fresh vegetables and stopped. She picked out corn, tomatoes, beans, then discovered she had only $3 in her wallet. “I told the woman to figure out what $3 would buy from what I had picked out and she put it all in the bag.” Senehi paused. “She gave me all that food because I looked like a person in need and she wanted to help.”
Then she found out about an Episcopal church that offered free meals for the community every Sunday. “They told me it was a tradition, it had been going on for generations.
“That’s when I began to understand this community. … I got the feeling we were all in it together.”
Senehi is from Michigan and graduated from Syracuse University. In her career opening malls, she worked all over the Northeast, until realizing it was 70 degrees in Myrtle Beach while it was 0 in New York.
When she lived in the Myrtle Beach area, her novel, “Pelican Watch,” was set there. When she settled in the tourist town of Chimney Rock, she decided to write about the mountains and the changing way of life.
“I wanted to learn the history of the place, but everyone I asked didn’t know the history,” so she dived into research that was so thorough, the University of North Carolina at Asheville and Chapel Hill have the survey maps she created from researching hundreds of deeds dating back to just after the Revolutionary War.
Not only did she look up all those deeds, she learned what the measurements in the deeds meant and figured out how to do a survey on a map that put the whole picture together.
If she doesn’t know something, she asks and researches until she finds an answer.
Senehi uses real people in her books. When her first book came out, she had a launch party with tags that said “I’m in the book” and when people came, the page number they were featured on was added to the tags. She expected 40 people; 125 showed up.
Write what you know and know about a lot of things. Her first book in the series, “In the Shadows of Chimney Rock,” was set at a summer camp. Western North Carolina has a lot of summer camps. Senehi interviewed a camp owner, and he and his family became characters in the book.
In one book, she featured people who rescue those in trouble in the Gorge. The men she talked to were Ron, Ron and Ronnie, so she tried to change one name, but Ronnie wouldn’t have it, so the fiction fits in the reality of Ron, Ron and Ronnie. She figures the more names she uses, the more books she sells.
Senehi gets up at 4 a.m. and writes without stopping until 8:30, then more as the day — meticulously planned — unfolds. “I never heard of writer’s block. You just get up and do it.”
She directs all the details of her book — the covers, the headshots, the new bio. She founded her own publishing company, K.I.M., she got John F. Blair publishers in Winston-Salem to distribute her books. “A book’s not worth much if you can’t get it out there,” she said.
Senehi does all her own marketing and promotion. She has a plan laid out for each book. For her newest, “Dancing on Rocks,” she set up a 44-store tour, in four states, in 90 days. She drives to each destination. She may not like Facebook, but her research assistant maintains one, with postings about Senehi’s tour and events. It also promotes fellow authors from the mountains, like Robert Morgan, who is one of her favorites. “It’s all about social media now. That’s what matters.” Social media and ebooks, she said. “I used to sell one ebook for every seven paperbacks, but it has completely reversed.” Many of her readers want a printed book, but different people are trying her books in e-editions.
She loves doing the tours, meeting readers, talking to fans and checking out bookstores. She loves to speak to book clubs and other groups — any gathering that might ask her.
While touring she’s working, at least in her head, on the next book, which will be all about apples, since Chimney Rock is so close to Hendersonville, one of the big apple growing areas in the state.
It’s going to be about all the apple variieties and a woman who wants to create THE North Carolina apple, like New York has the Empire. Senehi is still looking for the right name for her imaginary perfect apple.
In talking before the forum, she emphasized how much publishing has changed. “It’s all up to you, the author now,” she said. “I tell people not to bother with an agent and a big publisher. It’s just not going to happen. If you want to be out there, you have to make it happen. You have to use social media. You have to be aggressive in marketing. That’s what it’s all about. Writing is one thing, and you can be a good writer and no one will find your book unless you get it out there.”