Evan Witmer

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Evan Witmer uses online sales and in-person events to reach his audience. He discusses that and how members of the writing community can help one another.

1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?

Originally I was trying to traditionally publish another book called Long Stories. It’s a new version of the Grim Reaper who’s created by God to hunt down all the immortals on Earth. But, having never published before, it was a hard sell to publishers.

Simultaneously, I was writing short stories and publishing them for free on my blog, oddfiction.com. At some point, I thought it might be a good way to show my sell-ability as an author through example and I decided I would self-publish the ten stories I had online in a short story collection. This became Pages from the Pizza Crows. The framing device was recycled from an old concept I wrote, but never released, originally intended to frame a collection of children’s poems. The overarching story is that a crow keeps stealing my breakfast in the morning through an open window. I decide to befriend the creature and discover that by feeding him slices of pizza, he will reward me with short stories one page at a time.

2. How have your sales been?

Pages from the Pizza Crows has sold forty books. That includes both online sales and sales I’ve made at various indie bookstores, coffee houses, and book signing events. It’s a small start, but I’m optimistic that as I continue with live performances and start raking in reviews, I’ll see a massive increase soon.

3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.

Well, the ultimate positive is that you can publish anything you want, which is great if you want to be experimental or prove a point to the industry on what sells. Short story collections are often on the list of hard noes for publishers alongside erotica and rhyming poetry. I wanted to prove that this notion is incorrect and that anthology is more popular than ever.

The negatives are obvious though. I have to do all the marketing by myself, which lucky for me is pretty fun actually. But considering I have a life outside of writing, it would be nice to have somebody else take over.

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1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

I think the best way to tell you about my story is to tell you how I came up with this idea.  Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  So I began to outline and I created a character that must go through hell to accomplish his goals.  So I started thinking, what if a cunning, bold, twenty-one year old sorcerer witnesses his mother’s death to save his skin?  It would make him very angry because he was too weak to save her and it would also make him vindictive because now he wants to get his brother for what he has done to her.  But, since his mother is gone now, he also has the burden to save the world because he must collect the ancient stones of immortality before his brother can.

So the sorcerer begins his adventure to pursue each stone and make a few friends along the way, but trouble arises when they arrive at Westco village.  The captain of Westco, having arsenals of deadly arrows and an army of guards, tries to stop them at any cost.  Then there are other beings like the ferocious vangal birds that try to eat them; the tyranny preventers, Ober and Nob, which will do whatever they can to stop them; and the cold-hearted aurettas whose powers seem unstoppable – will the sorcerer and his friends ever collect the stones?  This is exactly what happens in my book, Cold Spirits: Greed Vs. Passion.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I became an indie writer because I wanted to experience how it would be to publish my own book.

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1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book.  Pitch me one of your books in five to ten sentences.

I have a quick-read fantasy novella, Sea-Change, that’s available as an e-book or paperback.  It is the story of a young bride-to-be, betrayed by her fiancé, who escapes her captors and makes use of ancestral lore to change her dismal fate and seek revenge.  By invoking the ancient powers, she becomes, in fact, the son her father never had.  But she has only two weeks, until the time of the new moon, to get back to her home country and confront her betrayer before the spell ends and she becomes a woman again.

2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?

My initial motivation was to publish a small collection of poetry, which is a hard sell by the traditional routes.  I wanted it available to present as a surprise Valentine’s Day present to my wife.  This first book was only available in PDF format, but I learned enough from the process to encourage me to self-publish again in 2011.  This past year (2011) I expanded that first book of poetry and published it as a second edition.  Further, I had a novella-length story that proved to be too long for most magazines and too short for traditional book publishers, and so self-publication seemed to be the answer.  To date this has been, I think, a good choice.

3. Have you been traditionally published?

No, I haven’t, at least not yet, been traditionally published; not with book publishers at any rate.  I do have a magazine credit as one of 14 authors who collaborated on a story-in-the-round that appeared in the Jan-Feb-March 2010 issue of Golden Visions Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

The best part is that you know where you are in the process at all times.  I’ve also had to learn a lot about such things as: book and cover design; e-book requirements and distribution strategies.  And then there’s the marketing.  Overall I like the control one has over the final product.

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