Martin Svolgart has had experience with traditional and self-publishing, and does a good job of comparing them. Learn the pros and cons of each, and why viewing yourself as a brand is so important.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
A Game Called Payback is my debut under this name – a psychological crime thriller with bullying as its main theme. Normally, I write under pseudonyms. But the topic here was gathered mostly from my past, and I learned so much from it that I thought it deserved my own name. Mainly because I dedicated the book to my high school bully.
It’s far from an autobiography. In the end, only one sentence ever said to me made it into the book, and the rest is crafted to be entertaining and exaggerated to bring home the moral of the story.
2. How have your sales been?
Really awful. But that’s the fate of most first books, and it’s even a standalone, so it’s going to be uphill. So I don’t take it that hard.
3. You’ve used both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which do you prefer, and what are the pros and cons of each?
With self-publishing, I enjoy having full creative freedom because I have a professional team behind me: editor, proofreader, and cover artists. Marketing, however, is the one aspect that is difficult for a debut since building a brand, a network, and a platform takes a very long time. But most of that is needed by traditionally published authors, too; they just have help on exposure from the trad publisher’s platform.
I also write under HP Caledon (sci fi/space opera), and that series is traditionally published. I chose that route back then because I’m not a native English speaker, and I didn’t have the team I do now (we met at the publishing house and instantly connected). I needed to learn about the English market, so I went with traditional publishing to learn from the pros and to have a professional team help my story get out right.
Traditional publishing can feel slow! And your hands are kinda tied regarding many of the marketing tools that work really well for indies. For instance, there’s a limited number of books you can use for promotional purposes when it’s not for reviews. Indies have full right, so they can build a platform easier through giveaways, etc. Also, Kindle Unlimited for a new name is a Godsend because people dare to take chances with them. Traditional publishing doesn’t allow that in a market now mainly geared toward finding readers via indie author channels.
4. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
My approach is honest, kind, and humble. Aggressive marketing and a paint job may sell more on a short term, but I believe honesty and kindness will build a stronger foundation for what I hope is a long and steadily building career.
As writers, we can learn so much from interaction with our readers. Not just about our craft and the market we wish to entertain, but also as human beings, inspiring us to write stories and characters who are diverse, real, and have depth.
5. Talk a little about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
My indie books sell the best because I’ve been able to join in on promotional happenings like group takeovers and offering my books to blogs to give to their followers.
I’m currently trying new avenues, and one is an aggressive and very focused approach. Paying a professional marketing company to do marketing! And that can be scary. It’s a lot of money buying someone’s expertise, but I dream big, so I have to bet big on my dream to get there.
6. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Posting in Facebook promo groups is like punching a pillow. Unless it’s a niche or genre focused group, then they work mostly like promo dump sites for authors, and readers don’t go there. If they do, they find themselves overwhelmed by a mess of thrillers, romance, how to tie your own wedding bouquet, children’s books, cookbooks, and sci fi, all jumbled together. I haven’t found much luck locating my target audience that way. I’m trying to build my newsletter instead, hoping to create fun and engaging content and not just another avenue to promo dump on potential readers.
7. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I am no longer just Martin Theodor Svolgart, now I’m a small business called Martin Svolgart – author; or HP Caledon – author. That way of thinking was new to me. I’m a representative of a brand, and everything I put out there or write, even on my social media outlets, is what my potential customers (readers) will base their expectations upon. From that, I’ve learned that it’s better to stave off a publication until I saved up money to do it right (with a professional team), and I always conduct myself as professionally as possible.
8. New authors face the challenge of getting their books into the hands of readers. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
Write another book. Even better, write a series! Keep putting stuff out there at the level of professionalism you want to be known for and keep having fun with it. Then sprinkle heavily with patience. Oh, and don’t see your fellow indie authors as competitors. We stand stronger together by co-marketing authors in our own genre. Readers read more than even the most prolific of us can put out, and readers will dump rude authors on the never-buy-again list if they find them arrogant. So, that gets back to my brand being built on being humble, honest, and kind.
9. What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a serial. I’ve never tried that before, and I’m truly enjoying it. The first is done, and the second is in WIP state. Tattered Wings & Brass Knuckles is an action adventure serial about a man’s second chance to be a decent human being after his world collapses under the conditions he has to work with.
10. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
One sentence? That logline keeps escaping me. The world isn’t black and white, neither is good and evil when filtered through human experiences. The human eye can detect 256 shades of gray, and I explore humanity and the balances found within all shades of existence.
I guess: An author who offers up a unique and unfiltered look into all shades of human experience.
11. How can readers learn more about your books?