Christos Jonathan Hayward has worked hard to hone his style over the years, producing numerous Orthodox Christian writings. Read about his shift from hardback books to e-books and which site he avoids in marketing his book.
1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book. Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.
My website at JonathansCorner.com since 2001 has housed twenty years of writing and creative work. The very best have been crystallized into The Best of Jonathan’s Corner: An Anthology of Orthodox Christian Theology, and some people are already calling it a classic. All my other books have gotten five stars with the Midwest Book Review; this one is set to have a review out in April. It’s a collection of the best religion, spirituality, and faith works that I have to offer, and it has also been called an excellent entrance point to my vast collection of works. (The total collection is a fair bit longer than the Bible–there’s a lot there.) And if you buy one e-book of mine, I don’t think anyone would object to your choosing this one.
That, and take a look at the foreword.
2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?
Well, two things.
First of all, impulses to creative writing. Second, these impulses came just when the web was appearing, and helped me begin to establish a presence, when by sheer random luck I got into the web before it was important. I don’t think I accomplished something so much as being in the right place at the right time.
3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
It’s been a nice “a la carte” way of publishing. Normally the author does most of the publishing with or without a publisher’s support; this was pointed out to me by a friend who’s an editor, a published author, and chose to go indie with her own Waltzing Australia.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
Having a review of your books is nice, and the Midwest Book Review is indie-friendly. I know how to make a web presence but I haven’t managed the same with books.
One move I am making is a move to e-books. I talked with a friend at a traditional publisher, who was working on e-books back when it was 1% of their revenue and people gently encouraged him to keep up his hobby. Now they’re more like 60% e-books, and I seem to have made many more sales with e-books than I managed with print books. Amazon’s KDP Select, with the 70% royalty option, looks like the best option I’ve seen yet. If you publish with just one online channel, you should seriously consider Amazon’s Kindle offerings.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Publish with expensive Lulu.com and post and tweet their sales coupons. They have deals with, say, $100 off 100 books, and to my knowledge none of my readers purchases a hundred Lulu books at a shot. Even their more modest 25% off one purchase or whatever doesn’t have juice; the price point is still high compared with e-books.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I came out with hardcover books at a time when people were tightening their belts. It’s nice to have your own hardcover books, but I’m looking at ways to select a lower price point. And, while there will definitely be a place for traditional books, e-books are the wave of the future. (To say something obvious that the reader probably had a better clue about before I did.)
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I’d have gone straight to e-book publications, and publish smaller collections of my works at a lower price point. (Which I still intend to do.)
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?
Don’t focus on marketing. Focus on writing well and saying things that are worth saying. My web presence has been driven not so much by marketing-style positioning as by writing things people will want to link to.
Having a blog or website can work well, and if you’re indie your rights are not all confiscated by a publisher, so you can post books or e-books derived from your blog or website.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m taking a breather, and I’m starting a job, so I want to go full throttle on that. When that’s well underway, I’d like to make smaller collections available at a smaller price.
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?
Thought-provoking Orthodox Christian mystical theology.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?