Raymond Bolton has been both self-published and traditionally published, and prefers the latter. Find out why, along with the role that word count and a solid manuscript play in publishing.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
My latest novel, Triad, an epic fantasy, is the final book in a trilogy. It was released by WordFire Press on December 3, 2018. By fantasy, I’m not talking about magic or sorcery. All of the books I write have to do with the paranormal and, in this series, my protagonists are anything but superheroes. Instead, they are ordinary people caught up in adverse circumstances with one unique talent available with which to thwart a nefarious warlord and his armies. In Thought Gazer, the protagonist is a telepath. Foretellers involves a prescient mother and daughter. They come together in the third in the series with a young man who is telekinetic. It has always struck me as odd that the physically handicapped rarely appear in books of this nature, since they are ubiquitous in ours, so I made Triad’s protagonist paraplegic.
2. How have your sales been?
Since I am now traditionally published, I’m not privy to all of the details. All I can tell you is that my royalty checks keep getting larger and my books are, without exception, rated at 4.5 stars or better all across the internet. An interesting side note: WordFire Press informed me that last year 75% of the sales of my debut novel, Awakening, came from China. I find that oddly amusing since, aside from its Spanish translation, it’s only available in English.
3. You’ve had experience with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which do you prefer and why?
I have to go with traditional publishing. Although self-publishing helped me establish a readership, having been acquired by WordFire, publisher of the Dune and Star Wars series, has given me credibility.
4. What are some of the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing?
Self-publishing is a great way to get one’s work in front of readers and gives the author full control of the book’s cover and content, but it makes it difficult to set one’s work apart from the literally millions of other self-pubbed books that come out each year. Once again, the greatest plus of traditional publishing is the credibility it gives. The biggest minus is the lack of control. However, a publisher with integrity and concern for its authors, such as WordFire Press, makes that negative element almost irrelevant.
5. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
I belong to several author groups on the internet and found the mutual support I received, especially early on, indispensable when it came to obtaining beta readers and critiques.
6. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
I’ve tried almost every technique available on the internet, ranging from blog tours to flat out paying various websites to promote my books. I have to tell you I’ve rarely received a measurable return on my investment. More recently, I conduct regular author interviews on my website and advertise them through tweets on Twitter, as well as on various Facebook pages. The resulting visits have increased both my books’ visibility, since they’re prominently listed on the sidebar, and also increased the size of my mailing list. My interview series came about because, very early in the game, I was told that the best publicity anyone can receive comes from giving back to one’s community. The series has eventually resulted in my receiving book endorsements from, among others, Nebula and multiple Hugo award-winning author, Mike Resnick, and USA Today best-selling author, Jean Rabe.
7. Talk about your own involvement with the writing community and how you’ve contributed to it.
Some of my earliest involvement originated through my membership in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Through them, I met published author, Kate Austin. She, in turn, introduced me to a number of successful authors and together almost a dozen of us created the very successful, though unfortunately now-defunct group blog, Black Ink White Paper. It allowed us to reach out to the community of readers and share our ideas with them without actively promoting our books. That effort helped each of us grow our readership and move forward in our careers. Back in the early 2000s, I also served as Treasurer for PEN New Mexico. That organization put me in touch with a number of noted authors like Anne Hillerman. This kind of professional association impacts a writer’s craft throughout the years, sometimes subtly, with regard to one’s professionalism.
I would like to note that this February, I will be attending the Superstars Writing Seminar in Colorado Springs. The seminar’s writing professionals, like Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, Eric Flint and Donald Maass, will be teaching all levels of authors, from rank beginners, to ones who have received a measure of success, such as myself, how to market their work. There are still openings for attendees, so I invite anyone who might be interested to email me through my website.
8. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I didn’t know how much work goes into producing a solid book, specifically the rewrites and edits. I wasn’t aware that certain genres require specific word counts. If a manuscript has a smaller or greater word count than what is traditionally accepted, it’s not apt to find an agent or publisher. I certainly didn’t know how to attract readers online when I decided to self-publish and I’m still not sure that nowadays there’s even a formula for doing so.
9. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
Back in the early 2000s, I would have ignored the warnings from the traditional publishing industry against self-publishing. All of my author friends who did so rapidly attracted a large reader base because there were far fewer self-published titles online.
10. 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?
If you don’t have an excellent book, none of the marketing resources available will help you sell it. So before you consider marketing it, make sure it’s a solid product. Therefore, first and foremost, do everything you can to insure your book is the best it can be. Use beta readers to evaluate your story and don’t be afraid to accept their criticism because it probably reflects the criticism you’ll receive from readers after you’ve released your work to the world. Next, use qualified editors, even if it means spending money to hire them. Qualified people don’t give their work away. Once you’ve done everything you can in that regard, join author groups online and find out what’s working best for them at the moment. The publishing world is constantly changing. What worked in 2000 or 2005 or 2010 probably won’t work today. The strategies that work today probably won’t be effective a few years from now.
11. What other projects are you currently working on?
I’ve just completed a dark, young adult/new adult, paranormal urban fantasy set largely around Portland State University. I’m preparing to shop it to agents. It’s currently 74,000 words long so, while its word count is perfect for the YA market, it may not be quite lengthy enough for the new adult one. Consequently, I’m working on increasing the word count of the version I will shop to new adult agents, while hoping it won’t affect the story’s pace. I’m almost 17,000 words into another book—once again a paranormal urban fantasy—but whose target audience will be older readers.
12. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
My business cards read, “Crafting worlds from words,” but your question has already made me think about how I can improve my marketing strategy. For the moment, I’d probably go with something like, “Fantasy for readers who have grown tired of the usual,” but I’ll probably have to refine it before I decide to use it.
13. How can readers learn more about your books?
A few of the places online are:
My page on the WordFire Press website.
My Amazon author page
My Goodreads page
On my own website, click the “Books” link near the top of the page and follow the pop-up link for each title that reads “Excerpt.”