Fantasy writer A.L. Collins has turned an endless imagination into a cottage industry of writing. His unique and creative approach to marketing – even involving scent candles to reference things created in his books – is presented here.
1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book. Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.
People say to learn from the past, but that’s not always an easy thing to do. Especially when your past has been literally erased from view. Rigil thought he was normal. He wanted to protect what little he had from the rest of the world. But things did not go as planned when a shadow organization of immense power stormed his hometown, burning it to the ground. Now he’s running for the capital city, praying he makes it in time to warn of the doom lurking overhead. As he travels with a gypsy, a shapeshifter and a witch, Rigil combats enemies and black magic wherever they may arise. However, the young man will soon learn that the road through the darkness is a harrowing experience when one tries to go it alone.
2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?
I’ve always loved storytelling. I adore making people feel things they haven’t felt before. I think that as I grew older I realized that my imagination was just overwhelming at times, so much so that I lay awake at night dreaming up wild adventures. A lack of excitement in my younger life coupled with my fascination with people, personalities and characters is what really made me realize that writing is really what I wanted to do.
3. You have not been traditionally published. Why?
For a few personal reasons I haven’t been traditionally published. Not every publisher can discover every breakthrough book. So many good ideas get lost in the shuffle. And this is also a career just as it is a passion. I had people to support, friends who counted on me. I decided to take my future into my own hands. I hoped that if I was any good at writing these stories, then the fact I didn’t get traditionally published wouldn’t matter. Maybe the stories would shine through on their own. I am still looking for options, but I’ll continue writing regardless of my publication status.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
It’s a lot of work. There aren’t people to help you market or tell you what you’ve done wrong. Everything relies on you and it’s a lot to handle, a lot of pressure. You learn that editing is important. You learn these things on your own. I think being independently published leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths. But in the end it’s the book that matters. If it’s good, it shouldn’t matter how you made it. Morally speaking, of course.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
To market, I just act social. I think I’m generally fun to be around. I like people to meet friends when they come to my signings, I like to meet and talk to people. I don’t want to do this alone; being surrounded by people who support you has saved me many a time. I also use posters, stickers, anything that will make people remember my book. The biggest thing I’ve done so far is try to bring the five senses to reading. I made customized scents and created candles out of them. They smell of things I created in my fantasy books, like elf trees or willow blossoms. Being different and creative can make your book stand out in ways you never would have imagined.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Nothing yet. I haven’t really seen anything that I would want to avoid or would discourage people to use. Then again I haven’t tried all types of marketing. You really can only do things that go with what you feel will bring the crowds. Try to leave your name in a positive light, you know?
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
The most important thing is editing. When you’ve edited and you think you’re done, trust me, you’re not. Edit, then edit, then edit again. I didn’t edit my first book enough. And if you’re independent, nobody is going to look your book over for you. So I learned quickly that you need to keep editing over and over and over again. The same with marketing. Nobody is going to do it for you. That leaves it up to you to get your name out and spread the word about your book as much as you can.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
There are a couple things I would do differently like pricing, editing and whatnot. I’m searching different avenues and finding new ways to make, market and sell my books. So I’m learning a lot. I’ve never done this before so the learning process is very fast. I’m already a much better author and businessman than I was even an hour ago.
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?
The biggest really? Be charming. Be fun. Have fun. Make friends. If you just flow with it, things will move at a more relaxed and natural pace. Most people think they make a book and then the money starts coming in. It’s only through hard work, a lot of it, and through the word of people that you’ll truly be recognized. Cross marketing and giving feedback to others will help draw attention back to you. Love what you do and the people who read your books, stay humble, market creatively and edit. That’s what has done it for me. You never know who you’re going to meet or what doors they can open for you.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my first triplet of releases. Scarlett’s is a motivational book about a girl named Jaime Williams who is just trying to make a home where she feels like she belongs. With help from her friend Ashton, her writing gets published, which sends her life on a crazy roller coaster ride with good times and heartwarming encounters.
The second in my triplet is Twined. It’s about a young woman who has shielded herself from her feelings after her mother murdered a woman on her eleventh birthday. When she meets Albert, a Twine who must blood bond with a human being in order to survive, everything changes and she’s thrown into a terrifying partnership with a stranger who knows more than he is letting on.
Finally there is Utopius. A dark, grisly medieval fantasy about a templar named Desmonde. Scouring the land of Theros with Tristian, a clever witch with incredible powers, he searches for the only thing that will save the world from the demonic beasts that are literally swallowing the world whole. I’m also currently working on a comic book and video game adaptation of one of my stories.
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?
Real feeling, real characters, real connection, stories brought to life with the five senses of reading.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
You can head over to my blog at themagicofbastion.blogspot.com to learn more. You can order the book through my parent company at thebastionbook.com. Also I’m on Facebook as AL Collins, Twitter as ALCollins2011, and you can find my books on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble in hardcover, softcover, Kindle, Nook and e-ook form. Also I’m on LinkedIn, Goodreads, Figment.com, Wattpad, Authors Den, writerscafe.org and Tumblr. Type in Bastion: Prequel to War and hopefully you can find me. I’m also a featured author in the Kensington Book Festival website and will be participating there on April 22nd.