Ted Gross is a short story writer who’s busy with a variety of writing projects. In this interview he offers a laundry lists of recommendations for indie writers to successfully get their books out there.
1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book. Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.
Ancient Tales, Modern Legends, a short story collection by Ted William Gross, presents the reader with engaging and thought-provoking stories spanning the ages. Covering subjects of love, loss, pain, desire, need, frustration and hope, these stories are meant to entertain as well leave an indelible impression upon the reader.
This is not a book to dismiss easily. Enjoy it, grow with it. You will, in turn, be haunted by it and the stories will remain with you long after you have closed the pages.
As almost all authors will tell you, their work in writing is a labor of love. “Ancient Tales, Modern Legends” is a collection of stories that were written over many years, sometimes in great pain, sometimes with great joy, and is certainly a labor of love for both the author and the reader. As colleagues read them, and some were published, I was prodded to publish the rest. It is my hope that they will make you, the reader, stop and think, perhaps just about the waywardness of life. They all are short stories in the pure art form of this genre.
2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?
I followed the industry for many years. I have watched the indie book explosion. I have also closely watched the trends. My feeling is that the days of traditional publishers where they were the “bully” on the block has come to an end. It is an age of “let the reader choose”. You can write just so many query letters, have just so many books accepted and then cancelled on you before you either give up or find another avenue. Indie book publishing offers another avenue. And it is becoming more and more legitimate in the eyes of readers. And certainly easier to actually go through the “publishing routine”.
In the end, simply a matter of practical thought and decision.
3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?
The surprising answer here is “yes”. I even have an agent (and my agent is not at all happy with this decision to publish “Ancient Tales, Modern Legends” as an indie book). A few short stories and two children’s books were published the traditional route. Most are still available. A couple of non-fiction pieces as well. The move to indie was simply a matter of expediency. I have watched carefully the publishing market, and have blogged about it over the years (Cobwebs of The Mind at teddygross.blogspot.com).
The market is exploding in indie publishing and the term no longer carries negative connotations that it once did. Thus, I decided that it would be better to try publishing my entire first collection of short stories as an indie book, rather than selling them one at a time. It remains to be seen if this was an experiment which works or an exercise in futility.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
I have had fun and it has been a great learning experience both from a marketing and technological point of view. Will it pay off in the end? The jury is out on that one. Will I continue with my other works? Yes, without hesitation.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
1. Having reviews or interviews such as this put up on blogs and web sites.
2. Deciding on your “niche market” then going to the traditional papers and magazines that may be willing to write about your book.
(I am a short story writer among other things. That does not mean I approach the New Yorker and the Paris Review first thing out. First build up your “name” then try that route if you can.) Don’t overestimate your value. On the other hand do not underestimate it.
3. Try to get people to leave reviews in Amazon and B&N (these are critical actually).
4. Tell your friends. They wont buy the book, but you will be using a very traditional social network to spread the word. One friend may say to another of his, “Hey you remember this guy, Ted Gross, who could not spell? Well do you believe he has a book published!” and then on and on it goes. People gossip and talk and you never know where it can lead.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Difficult question to answer. I have not avoided, but I have been very reticent at laying out money for a book publicist, though I think if you really want your book to sell and you want to brand your name as an author you will need one sooner or later. It depends how serious you are about writing, or how lucky you get with your books.
I will say this: do not overdo or put too much emphasis on the social networking aspect. It works, and it does not work. Concentrating on that will lead to the “never-ending story”.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
That book cover design and book design are critical and you must take time learning it if you are going to do it yourself. You also must plan on spending a week or two dealing with all the formats out there. This does not take into account your mastery of Word or InDesign or whatever you use to create your book which is also fairly important. Read the docs on these subjects. Even if you think you know it all…read the docs. Plan on making mistakes your first time out. You are human. It is fine.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I have gained a great deal of respect for book designers and book cover creators. That being said, you learn by trial and error. I would and will change the interior design of one of my books (but those changes probably would not even be noticed by the reader). I may, if it really works out, put the book cover design into the hands of a professional. That being said, I have had an incredible amount of email praise for my book cover design as it is simple yet does catch the eye. I go for the “less is better” here rather than the whole effort of putting too much into the cover where it becomes way too busy.
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 will offer some unsolicited advice here as I come from the world of technology, specifically virtual world technology which is an offshoot of social networking and viral marketing.
To all authors:
1. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and all the other social networking venues are great. But too much time spent in it not only is worthless but can backfire. Advertising your book too much gets you ignored and people fed up with your posting. Go easy. Be discriminating.
2. Do not obsess on numbers all day long. Your book may not sell for a few weeks or months until, if and when you can get it mentioned in the traditional press, which I admit is an uphill battle.
3. Do not rely only on the Kindle format, or even the e-book format. People still love reading from paper. (I know, a unique concept there!) You should never just rely on the e-book formats (Kindle, Nook, Pads etc.) Get your book into print via CreateSpace or PubIt.
4. Get reviews wherever you can get them. You never know when Google caches that review where it will show up. That can lead to sales.
5. Do not be too swift to throw out money. Research and research again until you are 1000% sure that the place you are paying money to for an interview is a place worth the money and will gain you sales or momentum in sales.
6. Avoid the charlatans like a plague.
7. Spend time in forums but do not overdo it.
8. Define your “niche” market, then go for the mags, blogs, web sites and reviewers in that market. Do not spread yourself all over to just anyone. You still need to do research.
9. Don’t overprice, and do not under price. $0.99 may make sense for a bit in an e-book, but the actual perception of “you get what you pay for” is very real. This is, I know, a heated debate in forums. It is up to you to decide.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
Second short story collection: temporary title is “Chimera of Existence”.
A third short story continuous collection which will contain 36 intertwined short stories (released probably in three or four volumes) – “The 36”.
The Chronicles of the Children of Heaven epic fantasy series of which the first book was released. Obviously I need to get the other books out ASAP.
Children’s book series: Grandfather Owl series – illustrated by my daughter
Historical fiction novel
And some other works actually which are not yet quite ready to discuss in their nature.
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?
Literary and historical fiction and fantasy.
(This is for all except my children’s book series (Grandfather Owl series) which will start coming out in April, which I am writing and my daughter is illustrating.)
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
My blog, which is fairly well-known: Cobwebs of the Mind.
And email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org.