British author Amy Cross stays busy these days, churning out new books and constantly generating story ideas. In this interview she discusses her projects and explains her straightforward approach to marketing.
1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?
The Dark Season books are about a girl, Sophie, who meets a boy, Patrick. The boy turns out to be the last vampire on Earth, and he’s completely mute, and he’s the last vampire because he killed all the other vampires. So that’s the starting point. I’ve never been a big fan of vampire novels in general, but I wanted to see if I could come up with an interesting central relationship that I can explore over multiple volumes. I’d like to publish 22 volumes a year, as if it’s a network TV series. But I suspect exhaustion will limit it to 13 a year, as if it’s on cable.
Apart from Dark Season, I’m also working on other books. I self-published a collection of erotic short stories titled Love Stories?, and a comic family drama titled At War With the Hamptons. The latter was a chance to experiment, so I pulled together some stuff I’d written over the years and I beat it into a semi-coherent narrative about a family who, collectively, spend 50 years grieving over the death of one person. Some parts of it are quite experimental. I like playing with form and structure, but it’s still a comedy, honest!
2. How have your sales been?
The vampire books have been averaging 1 or 2 sales a day, and the book of erotic short stories has been doing slightly better. I expected to sell maybe one a week, so I’m ahead of where I thought I’d be. I don’t know how that compares to other beginners, but I’m happy for now. At War With the Hamptons has only been up for a short time and so far no one’s given it a shot, but I hope it’ll sell at least one copy in the next week.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the vampire books sell much better in the US compared to the UK, while the reverse is true for the erotic short stories. I don’t know what that says about us Brits.
3. Describe your experience with traditional publishers and how it compares to self-publishing.
I sent off a couple of things in big brown envelopes a few years ago, but in a very half-hearted way. I admire people who have the self-belief and tenacity to keep doing that, but I can’t afford the stamps.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
At the moment it’s a big unknown world for me. A few months ago, I had no idea about KDP or Smashwords or any of that stuff. I don’t have the money to get physical copies printed for speculative sales, but fortunately I’m enjoying the challenge of being in control of the marketing and publishing side of things. If you’re the kind of person who hates all of that stuff, I can understand how you would get frustrated. I learn something new every day, but I’m fortunate to have a regular job, so I’m not relying on self-publishing to pay the rent.
5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your e-book, and which ones have been most successful?
Apart from the blog and a Twitter account, I’ve done very little. I’m still picking my way through all the advice that’s out there. I happened to have a coupon for $50 of free advertising on Facebook, so I tried that. The ads ran for a week and I think I picked up all of 2 sales via that route. I won’t be doing it again. Having said that, someone with a better nose for advertising copy could probably make Facebook ads work for them.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Not really, apart from the Facebook ads. I set up a Facebook account but haven’t used it. I don’t really keep abreast of the latest developments in the tech world. My parents have Facebook profiles, and they think I should join. At the age of 27, I’m still learning to use Myspace.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I had no idea that there is such a strong indie writing community. There are reviewers, bloggers and readers who read loads and are happy to give advice, links and constructive criticism. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for the idea of self-publishing, even if no-one really knows where the industry is headed. I feel it’s an exciting time to be in the ebook business, even on the periphery.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, either online or in traditional media, what would it be?
I’m not sure that there’s anything I’d do differently right now. I think the key thing is time. You have to keep plugging away. So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for a while.
9. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
I don’t think I’m in a position yet to offer much advice. But I’d say, don’t place too much importance on one particular book. I think one of the key things with self-publishing is that you need more than one book to offer people. You finish a book, you publish it, and you start on another.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m finishing off the third Dark Season book, which is titled Army of Wolves, as well as a thriller titled The Dead and the Dying. Then I’ll probably have to take a week off, ’cause it’s Christmas soon and my family will be expecting presents and company. But I have plenty of ideas to keep me going well into 2012. Every day I take the dog for a long walk and when we get back, I have new writing plans.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Short and varied?
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
They can look at my blog.