Cassondra Windwalker is experienced with both traditional and self-publishing. Find out which one she prefers and why you should be careful with book contests.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
Bury The Lead is a dark psychological thriller exploring the nature of truth and the power of love. It’s the story of a small-town newspaper editor who frames himself for the murder of his missing girlfriend. I was inspired to write it by the precarious position of the press in modern society.
2. How have your sales been?
The book just came out in September, so of course reporting isn’t back yet. But it’s been placed in local and national chains and is available in e-book and paperback across all online retailers.
3. You’ve had experience with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which one do you prefer, and why?
I prefer traditional because the amazing support of a strong publishing company allows me more time to focus on what I love – writing – rather than spending all my time editing and formatting and designing and marketing and promoting.
4. What are some of the pros and cons of both self-publishing and traditional publishing?
The cons of self-publishing, aside from the aforementioned massive amounts of time spent in the trenches, include difficulty in placing the book in brick-and-mortar stores and in getting reviews from respected, established reviewers. It’s far easier to publish a book than it is to get a book into the hands of readers. The cons of traditional publishing are that timelines are not your own, and the house’s interest in your book will expire when its sales lag.
The pros of self-publishing are that the book will receive however much marketing and promotion attention and funds as you are willing and able to throw at it. The pros of traditional publishing are having a professional team in place to edit, format, design, illustrate, market, and promote your work alongside you, as well as greater ease in reaching a wider reader base.
5. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
I’ve had an author page on Facebook for years, and I do have an Instagram account, but my most effective social media experience has been Twitter. There is a fabulous community of writers there, in all stages of their careers, self-published, indie-published, and front-list published, sharing pieces of their work and tales of their journey. I’ve connected with many readers there and hope to continue forging bonds with many more.
6. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
Readers know what they like – they just don’t always know what’s out there. Sharing my voice across social media platforms lets readers know if my stories and my characters intrigue them. And book signings are wonderful – a chance to meet with people in person and talk books. Even if my book isn’t in their preferred genre, I can almost certainly recommend someone’s book that is!
7. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I don’t participate in the popularity-driven book contests that are out there. Bury The Lead is under consideration for some juried awards, but the contests run by writers hounding all their friends and families to vote on their behalf don’t interest me. I find them spurious and unethical.
8. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out? How do you define starting out?
That’s a tricky question. I started writing a very young age, and I’ve been publishing short works in literary journals for decades. By the time I signed a book contract, I’d also worked as a manager with Barnes & Noble for five years and of course researched the industry, so I was fairly well-prepared. Sadly, I don’t have the overnight sensation story to share! But the biggest surprise was the passion that editors and publishers would have for my work. I expected it to be more transactional, impersonal. But these are people who love books too, and they get excited about stories they believe in.
9. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I’d have hit the NYT best-seller list and stayed there for a year or two.
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?
Probably the same advice everyone has that no one wants to hear: shrug off that introvert overcoat and build a network. The days of best-selling novelists living undisturbed in secret caverns are sadly over. James Patterson is doing his own commercials, Stephen King is all over Twitter, and Neil Gaiman is teaching a master class. The nightmare is real.
11. What other projects are you currently working on?
I just submitted the final draft of Preacher Sam, the first in a series that releases this fall. I also completed a novella for an anthology that will be released this year just before Halloween. I am about to start the next draft of a novel of magical realism, and I’m in the research phase of a collaborative work of literary fiction. And poetry is the spine of all my work.
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?
Love and death are all I know.
13. How can readers learn more about your books?
Readers can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon. If you don’t find my books at your local bookstore, just ask!