Michael Davidson has not only become a successful indie author, but has used his experience to create his own publishing company. Learn more about his imprint and his success in using book reviews to publicize his writing.
1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book. Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.
The last time I pitched my book I hit the batter. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. Austin Nights is the unadorned love story of two people who move to Central Texas from Miami Beach, one lost, the other lost but with direction. And there’s a cat.
2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?
Other indie writers. Seeing them do it. Realizing it was possible.
3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?
Some short stories of mine have been traditionally published, both in this country and in Canada. I went through the usual process of submitting material, getting an excited response from the editor, making changes, and getting remunerated with either contributor’s copies and/or a check. No matter how meager the check was, it, like the contributor’s copies, rocked. This was all the motivation I needed to keep trying.
After I wrote my first novel I sent out query letters to agents and got a couple manuscript requests. I remember Barbara J. Zitwer’s response. She represented (and still represents) the author of Matchstick Men, and she said if I worked on the pacing of my novel she’d like to read it again, but, as it stood, it didn’t work for her. Not fast enough.
Rather than work on the pacing, I tucked it away in a box and started writing other stories. It’s still in a box, high in my closet, and I never communicated with Barbara J. Zitwer again. Maybe, once I get done with this interview, I should send her a query letter concerning my latest novel?
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
Love it. Like anything else, you learn as you go along, and it feels great when you start seeing your work find traction in the Amazon rankings. Like there’s hope.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
At the end of 2008 I co-founded a collaborative blog called TheOpenEnd. Even though none of this was intentional – in 2008 I didn’t know I was going to self-publish a novel two years later – this URL has been an effective marketing tool for a number of reasons. It has helped refine my writing, grow a readership, and has functioned as an official online home for Austin Nights. Moreover, it has given me something precious to offer all the great writers out there, namely, a content-rich platform for reviewing their books. This has made it possible to network with other writers/publishers in a pleasant way.
Apart from TOE, book trailers on YouTube and Vimeo have been surprisingly useful. Of course it doesn’t hurt that my girlfriend has a vision for video editing.
Then there’s the usual stuff, like getting book reviews. I’ve been lucky in this department, having gotten reviewed on paper, on high-traffic local sites like the Austinist, and a thought-provoking review by the writer/publisher J. A. Tyler on Red Fez. I’ve also been fortunate with interviews (like this one). The indie writer, Noah Cicero, interviewed me on a niche site that continues to get me new readers. I was also interviewed on FM radio here in Austin. It was an anxiety-provoking interview, but it helped get the word out on the airwaves. Austin Nights is also for sale in a local independent bookstore that specializes in small press publications. It’s called Domy Books. All of this has increased its reach. But there’s still so much more I can do.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Good question. Although I still use Facebook Ads, I’ve decreased my bids for placement. After several months of getting charged here and there, I just didn’t see any difference in sales, at least not enough to justify budgeting the money. Also, I would never sell out and pay for book reviews, or anything along those lines.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
The importance of using your promotion days on Kindle Select. The first time I made Austin Nights free I was hoping for a hundred new readers. But after 48 hours I had 1400 new readers. And since then the book is moving on its own. Those free days are an easy way to expedite finding your niche.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
Tiny TOE Press is my imprint. My girlfriend and I put this outfit together a year ago. Bootstrap operation. We sell handpressed versions of our titles as well as Kindle versions. While the handpressed versions have an authentic feel to them that’s impossible to replicate using offset printers, and is really the heart of our press, it can be an arduous process handpressing books every week, especially with a full-time job. I’d like to make classy POD versions through CreateSpace. If I could do one thing differently, I’d learn InDesign to do this. This seems like something I can do. Not sure if I will, though.
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?
Get feedback on your front and back cover design from as many people as possible. Make sure you don’t get too wacky with your typography. Keep it clear and neat. Also, sow plenty of seeds around the internet. Things grow out there.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
Tiny TOE Press is going to have a summer release from an up-and-coming Colombian author. We’re excited about this next project because it’ll mark the first time we publish a translated work.
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?
The tagline for Tiny TOE Press is: books handpressed with love.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
Thanks for your time, Kris!