Michael Nye believes that self-publishing maximizes an author’s creative control. Learn which marketing methods he avoids and the (many) words of wisdom he has for new authors just starting out.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book, The Ballad of Masie & Linda. What is it about and what motivated you to write it?
After writing my fourth book, Nearwater, I began to wonder how two of the minor characters in it (Masie and Linda) would develop after escaping the abuse each had received for the first sixteen years of their lives. Because I needed to find out, I had to write the adventure. Masie and Linda are, and always will be, a little haunted by their similar pasts, but they feel free to talk about what happened because each knows that the other will understand, having had similar or the same experiences themselves.
Of all of them, this has been the most difficult to get down on paper as it deals with quite dark subject matter in a way that, I hope, is neither depressing, nor so up-beat as to be unreal. More than anything, the story explores the theme (present in all my books) of the nature of enduring friendship.
2. How have your sales been?
Best way to describe sales is slowish but steady. I get royalty payments from Amazon every now and then, which makes me happy that someone is reading my work.
3. You’ve chosen indie publishing as opposed to traditional publishing. Can you elaborate more on your choice?
I studied Fine Art at Sunderland Polytechnic in the late seventies/early eighties and the books have an echo of this training. I see them as entities in themselves and need to keep as much as I can under my own control. I doubt I would react too well at having a company involved in advising me on content or cover of my work. Some of my tutors at Sunderland Polytechnic would, no doubt, testify to that one!
4. What would you say are the pros and cons to indie publishing?
Pros: You are the master of your own destiny. You alone are responsible for the content of your work. You control your own marketing. You can choose how it is presented to the world.
Cons: All of the above. If you mess up then it’s egg on your own face!
5. You’ve done all of your own work, including cover design, to promote your books. Why did you choose this route?
I believe that all creativity is basically the same. The notion of conceptual art to me is that you use whatever means you can to express the creative idea you have. The Mayfly family of books needed to be written, so I wrote. I wouldn’t lay any claims to their being any form of high art, but the principle applies to all people who choose to do something creative. Basically I want to present what I do as honestly as I can. I do not want anything I do to be turned into something that it is not and never was intended to be.
6. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
Given that the books have a watery backdrop, and I have had a lifelong interest in the inland waterways, I focus on events near, or having to do with, inland waterways. Canal fairs and such find a lot of like-minded people who have read and enjoyed my tales.
7. Talk a little more about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
For the most part, I keep people aware of what I am doing via social media. I try and keep the website up to date as well. Not absolutely sure whether this is marketing. I’d hate to tell someone to buy my work. It’s there that’s all, and is up to people to decide if it’s interesting or not.
8. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I very rarely offer my books to shops on a sale or return basis now. It is very time-consuming and you have to invest in stock that you very likely won’t get much of a return on (if any).
9. What are the most important things you’ve learned about both publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
The most useful thing that I have learned is that there is no real mystique or barriers to getting your work out there. The most important thing is that you have to be brutally honest with yourself to make sure your work is the absolute best you can do. If you can (after writing, rewriting, editing, etc.) still want to turn the page when you read one of your own books, then you may be on to something.
10. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
To win the lottery, buy my own publishing house and use it to push my work! Given that I don’t do the lottery though, this is rather unlikely to happen.
11. New authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books, whether they go the indie or traditional publishing route. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
The most important thing is to put self-doubt in your pocket. Concentrate on writing, and finish what you do write. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t, because you can. Do the best you can and then work out your preferred way to market. My preference is indie (self-publish to Kindle and print on demand via Lulu and Amazon), but there is no right or wrong way. The only thing to avoid like the plague is scammers who say they will publish your book and turn it into a bestseller for a four figure sum (Someone offered to publish my original book “Mayfly” for £7000. I turned them down!). It’s okay to spend a little cash on formatting and such so that the text looks right but keep it to that. Keep people informed via social media, your website, etc. and they will seek your work out when it is published. Never be pushy, and never be put off by a bad review. But write! Without that you have nothing to publish.
12. What other projects are you currently working on?
I have written the last book in the Mayfly family three times now. That is three separate books, each of which was supposed to be the last one! Next year’s book has a new character, first appearing in The Ballad of Masie and Linda, at the center because she deserves her story to be told (despite her being wholly fictitious). I am currently writing a second book about a character that (at this point in the current series) has to wait a while to be born.
13. 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 closest I have to a brand image is my referral to my books as “The Mayfly Family” because they are all interrelated and have a similar look to the cover artwork.
14. How can readers learn more about your books?
I have a website that includes links to my sales (via Amazon), social media and other information.