We had the good fortune of connecting with Caitlin Rother and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caitlin, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Before becoming a New York Times bestselling author, I worked as an investigative newspaper reporter for nearly 20 years, most recently for The San Diego Union-Tribune. As the news industry shrunk, so did the space in the newspaper to write thorough and meaningful stories. I got tired of my editors always saying “shorter, shorter, shorter,” and having to persuade them that I needed more column inches. I would have left the news biz sooner, but I needed the health insurance and I was still paying off my mortgage. It also wasn’t easy to sell my first book, which took me 15 years of trying. Finally, in 2004, I got a contract to write POISONED LOVE, the story behind the Kristin Rossum case, which launched my successful career as a true crime author and is still my bestselling book to date. I took a risk by quitting a job with health benefits and a matching 401K, but I couldn’t wait any longer to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time author. That risk paid off, because today my mortgage is paid off and I have insurance through Obamacare, which has enabled me to stay safe during the pandemic by continuing to write books at home. I’m now the author or co-author of 14 books, the latest of which is DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD, about the Rebecca Zahau death case, which will be out April 27, 2021. I’m also under contract to write a sequel to my one and only novel, NAKED ADDICTION, also due to be published in 2021. Books alone don’t pay the bills, so I earn extra income by doing gigs as a TV crime commentator, and working as a writing-research-promotions coach and consultant.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Although my job as a full-time author and storyteller certainly requires creativity, I also must be enterprising to maintain a readership base and find new income streams to pay the bills. I do this by wearing a multitude of hats. Being an author is not just about sitting at a computer and writing. As a professional journalist and true crime author, I’ve had to learn a lot about the law and the justice system, and to serve as my own legal advisor on contracts, copyright and privacy law. I’ve had to overcome shyness and stage fright to become a TV crime commentator and public speaker, both of which are now a joy. I’ve also had to stay current on constantly evolving marketing and industry trends affecting the shrinking publishing industry. Drawing on past graphic design experience, I also take and edit my own photos, and I learned how to design my own website, which I spent several months overhauling. It is this wide body of knowledge and experience that I apply to my work as a coach and consultant. I help aspiring authors and private citizens to research and write their own personal stories, coach them on how to better promote their books, and I answer the ethical and legal questions that often arise along the way. To me, being a successful author is not just about how much money you make or how many books you’ve sold. It’s about earning the respect of other authors who have endorsed my books for their “meticulous research.” It’s about the loyalty and support of readers. I live for the days when they tell me I’m an inspiration, that I’m making a difference in their lives, and that they can’t wait for my next book. That is what I live for, not a new car or a new outfit. That is my brand and that is my idea of success.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to thank all of my writer colleagues, friends, family, and readers who have helped support me throughout my career as an author, because, despite what many people think, books don’t pay a whole lot. We authors depend on “a village” of folks to buy our books, to help promote each other online, and to also lend emotional support when needed, most often on Facebook, especially now while we are locked in at home by the pandemic. I especially want to thank my mother, who has helped me in many ways to continue this career.
Joel Ortiz on the professional headshot, Layla Fiske on the Rebecca Zahau TV shot