Authors Jonathan Lister and Kevin Fuhrman are set to release a self-published urban fantasy, Welcome to Demos, in January. I recently corresponded with Jonathan to learn more about the book and how he and Kevin are building buzz around it.
1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
“Welcome to Demos” is in that urban fantasy vein. It’s a story about family interactions in a supernatural world where werewolves have lived openly with humans since before recorded history. Basically, we’re looking at the real-life implications of supernatural beings without the “coming out party.” Everybody’s here, everyone knows it, to the next scene we go.
This story came about from what we saw as a lack of strong male leads in the market. Our characters aren’t bemoaning their existences, they’re living them and struggling to achieve goals – with some police corruption, gun shot wounds, mysticism and coffee thrown in.
2. How have your sales been?
We recently announced our release date of January 1, 2012. Kevin’s joked that the interest we’ve generated so far is kind of shocking to him. In his words: “The Urban Fantasy genre is full of talented and prolific authors and the idea of something we’ve created standing out enough to get this kind of response is a shock to my normally pessimistic nature.”
3. Describe your experience with traditional publishers and how it compares to self-publishing.
From my perspective publishing with a traditional house and then going independent, it’s completely different – 100 percent control is scary, exciting, tiresome and really rewarding all at the same time. We shopped “Welcome to Demos” to agents at first and we’d get requests for pages only to be turned away without much feedback. If anything, this teaches us an agent isn’t a mandatory part of the process.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
Exploring the platforms and ways we can distribute material has been fun. Kevin counts every Twitter follower and Facebook comment as a success. I watch blog hits like an obsessive grandmother watching a pie bake.
5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your e-book, and which ones have been most successful?
Our reliance on social media has been by far the most effective way to get the word out about “Welcome to Demos City”. The modern Internet user is constantly connected to devices during the day. People have been trained to like and share things they see that appeal to them and it quickly takes on a life of its own. We use the term “exponential growth curve” a whole lot.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
We haven’t avoided some advertising avenues so much as we just haven’t explored them yet. At this point, we’re not using any paid advertising or book reviews from online bloggers or genre websites. That could happen down the road, but the ground swell from social media is so much more appealing right now.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
It’s easy. Once we eliminated finding an agent or a publisher as a mandatory part of the process, everything else opened up. We don’t have any “gatekeepers” guarding the door – turned out there was a service entrance. Works just fine.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, either online or in traditional media, what would it be?
I would’ve been less afraid to abuse people for help. Getting people to read your drafts, setting up profiles, bank accounts, finding artists do work for you – these are all things you can get done if you’ve got a few friends in the art community. As a graduate with a bachelor’s degree and an MFA I was able to reach out to those contacts and close some gaps quickly. If anything, I would’ve started the ball rolling sooner.
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?
Fear is normal and a part of the process. It’s never too early to start promoting your project, for us it’s been a very “grassroots” sort of process, and while it’s been amazing it’s also been full of doubt and worry and that’s okay. Once you start promoting the book you can’t stop, the attention span of people is very short and you will easily be forgotten if you’re not maintaining your presence in their minds. Stay on top of it – make yourself your job.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
At this point we’re about 5 weeks away from our release date so almost all of our effort is being put into promotion and the other details that relate to placing it up for sale on Amazon. We have a lot of ideas about what will happen with Leon Gray, his daughter Shauna, David Hastings and the other residents of Demos City that we will begin exploring as soon as we get the chance to catch our breath. There’s also the matter of a separate work. We began featuring a wonderfully promising character who will be bleeding in an alley until we can devote the proper time to finding out who he really is.
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?
Our “brand” of writing comes from two different places: one side of the seesaw focuses on character, the other side focuses on plot. When we bring both perspectives together they balance each other out. If the question leans more toward style, it’s a noir portrait of the supernatural life with stark streaks of color.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
Readers can drop by the Demos City blog at demoscity.wordpress.com. We’ll actually be posting history excerpts from the world every Friday. They’re 400-500 word snippets called “Pages from Shauna’s History Book” after one of the main characters in the novel. We envision Welcome to Demos as the beginning of a long-running series; there will always be little bits to check out when there’s not a new book to go buy.