Alex Bunardzic

Independent author Alex Bunardzic recently published a book but has already developed a network and learned a lot about indie writing.  Learn more about his work and his experience in this interview.

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

My book is about certain difficult points in Buddhism.  There appears to be a fairly large body of confusion about what is Buddhism, what is the fundamental Buddhist teaching and practice, and how can Buddhism fit into our daily lives.  Upon closer inspection of the contemporary Buddhist literature available on the market today, it turns out that many of the books dealing with the topic are actually not discussing Buddhism at all.  They’re mostly Brahmanism, Taoism, or other Absolutist religions disguised as Buddhism.

My book discusses these issues and proposes to remedy this confusion.  Hence the focus on the ‘difficult’ points.  It is an attempt to clarify what Buddhism is and what Buddhism isn’t.  In addition to that, my book also contains a straightforward set of instructions on how to follow the authentic Buddhist teaching and practice, without falling into the trap of Absolutist, Transcendentalist, or any other non-Buddhist practices.  So my fundamental motivation for writing this book is to clarify the fog of confusion that is surrounding the Buddhist teaching and practice.

2. How have your sales been?

Well, I published the book only five days ago, so it may be early to tell.  One indicator may be that it has been spending most of the past five days at the top position of Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list in the book category (alternating between number 1 and number 2 position).  Time will tell, though…

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Annmarie McQueen

Annmarie McQueen has been self-publishing for about 5 months now.  A young author, she has already had significant success with her sales, so I wanted to find out more about her book and how she has gone about marketing and networking.

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

Cold Water is a YA contemporary romance about a 16-year-old girl who runs away from home, only to faint and wake up in the house of a boy called Ash.  She ends up staying with Ash and his mother for the summer, to escape her oppressive older sisters, and slowly ends up falling in love with him.  However, it’s not all just puppy love; there are definitely some darker elements to the book, and the ending may not be quite what you’d expect.  As strange as this sounds, I was inspired to write this book by a Pokemon fanfiction I read once when I was young.  At the time I thought it’d be a good way to channel my teenage angst into something creative, so a few years later I started work on this book.  Just to clarify, I’m nearly 18 right now and finished writing/polishing this book last year.

2. How have your sales been?

Incredible.  Well, to me they are.  I was honestly expecting to only sell 2 or 3 copies a week, but I’ve been selling on average 500 a month!

3. Have you sought an agent or any work with traditional publishers?

Yes, I tried querying agents for about a year in vain.  I got a few full requests, but nothing more.  Now that I think about, I should have gone back and edited more before querying.

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James Bruen

Indie author James Bruen has written in both the mystery and humor genres.  He recently shared his thoughts on marketing and discussed his books.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

I began writing as a link to reality – a means to maintain sanity in the midst of the insanity that often infects society.  The Academic Exercise is four cozy short mystery stories, one of which won the 1991 Stiller Writing Competition Award.  While my older son recuperated from a broken leg, he challenged me to write a mystery story.  The result is the first of these collected stories, in which a priest is confronted by a tale of a murder that occurs during a class at Catholic University of America’s law school.  I then found other mysteries for that priest, Fr. Paul Petersen, to solve from the rectory at St. Patrick’s in downtown Washington, DC, leading to this collection.  Even today, Fr. Petersen still solves mysteries occasionally in the pages of the American Chesterton Society’s Gilbert Magazine.

Impossible Possibilities is five brief interlocking stories of people who accomplish the proverbially impossible, originally published serially in Gilbert Magazine.  The characters and stories deserved renewed life, so I combined these flash fiction stories into the e-book.  Each story stands alone; together they also constitute a single narrative.  Humor and paradox, yet serious.  I am a great fan of G. K. Chesterton, whose Tales of the Long Bow inspired Impossible Possibilities.  The structure of Chesterton’s book and of this collection defies genre.

2. How have your sales been?

Better than poor but less than spectacular.  The Academic Exercise spent a while in Amazon’s Top 100 mystery anthologies.

3. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your e-book, and which ones have been most successful?

Marketing seems to be the daunting challenge for self-published e-books.  Because each of the stories in my books was published previously in a magazine, I have had most success from e-mails, Facebook, and blogs informing groups already familiar with my writing.

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Todd Shryock

Indie author Todd Shryock has been writing and editing for over 20 years.  He recently told me a little about his book and experience as an author.

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

The Fly Guild is about perseverance.  The general idea is looking at what happens to good people when they are continually put in bad situations.  The main character, Quinton, is an orphan in a fantasy city where there is no social safety net.  He ends up in a brutal gang where part of his daily routine is stealing and doing the gang’s bidding.  His reward is usually nothing more than he gets to live another day.  He’s a good kid at heart, but is in a very difficult situation.  I thought it would be an interesting story to follow him as he tries to do the right thing, often with unintended bad consequences.  In the end, he spends his time trying to escape the madness of the city and the brutality of the gang.

I’ve had the idea of a story based on this theme for some time, but with the rise of e-publishing, I thought the time was right to jump in and get it done.

2. How have your sales been?

The book launched in August of this year, and sales have been steadily building.  I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon, but being an independent author is challenging.  It takes a very long time to build a reputation and a following.  I’m happy with the current pace.

3. You have not chosen to go with traditional publishers.  Why?

I tried to go that route many years ago.  I got some “close” or “almost” comments, but nothing beyond that.  To find a publisher, you really need an agent, and getting an agent is just as difficult as finding a publisher.  I also found that the whole system seemed to be a closed loop of people-who-knew-people and I didn’t know anyone in that loop.

As I watched e-publishing rise, I liked the idea of going it alone and not wasting a bunch of time trying to convince someone that my book was viable.  I wouldn’t have the support of a publisher, but I wouldn’t have anyone telling me to rewrite the story with a different plot either.  I published my collection of short stories, Tales of the Sword, as a trial run in e-publishing.  Once I saw how easy it was, I set out to work on The Fly Guild as a full-length novel.

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Catherine LaPointe

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

This book started out as just a series of paintings while I was still in school.  I have always been interested in urban legends, and their homegrown nature, for as long as I can remember.  Coming from an art background, my natural thought was to make an art project out of it.  The more I explored familiar tales, and researched previously-unknown-to-me tales, the more interested I grew in the history behind each one.  I was no longer content to just visually depict my interpretation of these stories, I wanted to share all the spooky details.  That is when I got the idea to write about each tale that I was illustrating, and compile them all into a book.

2. How have your sales been?

I just finished my final revisions, and started offering my book for sale, a few weeks ago.  Needless to say, my close friends and family have started ordering my book, but I have not yet had the opportunity to do any marketing.  I plan to promote and offer my book for sale in some local markets first and build from there.

3. Describe your experience with traditional publishers and how it compares to self-publishing.

I have only contacted traditional publishers for the purpose of illustration and design so far.  What I have noticed is that small publishers are much more friendly to emerging talent.  The publishers I have worked with have all been very accommodating thus far.  I do enjoy the freedom of self-publishing, but sometimes it’s nice to have a partner to spur you on, especially if you are a procrastinator, as I’m sure we all are sometimes.

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

I have certainly enjoyed the freedom of self-publishing, mostly from a creative standpoint.  I can do exactly the project I want, in the way that I want, without having to compromise.  The finished book is much closer to my heart, because it’s a completely personal achievement, than it would be if many others had a hand in the pot.

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John Tyson-Capper

John Tyson-Capper recently published his first book and so is relatively new to self-publishing.  Read more about his book and his experiences.

1. Tell me briefly about your book.

My book Hodburn Wood is set in Northeast England in1798.  It’s an historical mystery focusing on half brothers, one rich, one poor.  The wealthy character, Hillary, was inspired by Beau Brummel.  He is incredibly beautiful, vain and something of a rake.  The story picks him up on his return to England after a four-year exile in Europe and the the Near East.  His promiscuity is a kind of compulsion that, whilst leaving him unsatisfied, drives him on in an endless circle.   He cares little for anything that doesn’t immediately concern him, and though he is aware of his vacuity, he turns it into a self-pitying badge of honour, as if it is a burden to bear.  In contrast, his half brother, Martin, of whose existence he knows nothing until Martin confronts him, is poor, brought up in a brothel and then later by gypsies.  He has a truly terrible burden to bear, with which he confronts Hillary and which in turn drives the plot pitching the two characters against one another.

2. How have your sales been?

Although I have uploaded the book to Kindle, I am in the early stages of marketing.  I want to elicit reviews, interviews and the like whilst I am waiting for the paperback to become available in the UK (probably after Christmas).  Once the paperback is out, I will launch the novel in Newcastle.  Having said that, I have gained a few sales from the states and the UK.

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

Self-publishing is time-consuming, and there is a lot to learn, particularly regarding marketing and distribution.  I went with Creativespace, their books are great quality products, but from a UK writer’s perspective they only offer distribution to Amazon.co.uk through what they call an expanded distribution channel which just about wipes out any profit.  That’s why I went with Kindle ebooks as well, though online marketing is a whole new ball game to me.  To get around the problems with Amazon.co.uk, I will sell books directly through Amazon’s ‘Market Place’.

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Cynthia Echterling

Cynthia Echterling is a science fiction writer with a variety of works, including one in progress.  As someone who has both worked with a print-on-demand publisher and self-published, she has a unique take on writing and publishing.  Take a look at this recent interview where she discusses her books, self-publishing, marketing, and more.  Her Web site is http://www.welikehumans.com.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

This may seem odd, but I actually dream up my books. Help Wanted, Human was a dream about a guy working in a spaceport, teaching aliens how to use the restroom facilities. Scavengers was a dream about a primitive looking person picking through ruins and picking thing up out of the rubble. Torq was a tricky little guy in a very rough bar trying to keep people from discovering he was an alien. When I wake up from something like that, I start asking who is this and what is their situation? If it generates a good character and a plot, it gets to be a book.

The Help Wanted, Human series is about a typical blue collar, truck stop cashier who gets a job as an interpreter trainee at the first alien embassy in the US, where hilarity ensues. They are autobiographies published under the name Stephen Wytrysowski, Alien Interpreter. Scavengers is a post-apocalyptic novel about an anthropologist forced to live with the scavengers who inhabit the ruins of the Southern US. Not for the squeamish. Torqed: The Quest for Earth is a hilarious young adult/adult science fiction, fairy tale, dark fantasy mash up about a half-human orphan whose parents’ last request was that he go to Earth, but all he knows about it is what he learned from the fairy tales his father told him.

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Cyndia Rios-Myers

Cyndia Rios-Myers has five published titles and runs a blog for indie authors at http://cindyrios.blogspot.com/.  A prolific writer, she recently discussed her books and her approach to self-publishing.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what inspired you to write them?

The first one was The Song of the Sleeping Grass (Women’s Fiction).  I was inspired to write that one when my husband deployed for Iraq.  I’d recalled some of the military wives that I had met during my time as a sailor in the Navy and while a Navy wife after that.  Some of their marriages didn’t survive what their husbands had seen in the war and I felt bad for them – bad for the husbands who came home different and bad for the wives who did everything right but still could not save their marriages. This one is available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

My second book was Joppa Park (Women’s Fiction).  I wanted to write a short, but exciting story about a park ranger trying hard to secure a position at a prestigious national park who falls painfullly in love with an unattainable guy.  Besides being in the Women’s Fiction genre, it is also a mystery/suspense novel as well.  Available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

My third book, Rescued by the Wolf – Book 1 of the Wolves (Horror, Women’s Fiction) is my foray into the world of werewolves.  I have always been a werewolf movie freak – long before Twilight and True Blood.  But I wanted to write a story about werewolves who are adults – scary, damaged adults.  It is teenager-angst free, I promise. Available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

My fourth book, Gifted by the Wolf – Book 2 of the Wolves (Horror, Women’s Fiction) is obviously book two of the series.  It continues right where book one leaves off.  It is nowhere near as gory as book one and the storyline is a bit more gentler.  But what I aimed to do here was plant the seeds of what will happen in the rest of the series.  Available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

My fifth book, The End of Thunder and Lightning: Alanna’s Fall (Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Women’s Fiction) was inspired by a dream I had one night.  Alanna is a magic user from the clan of thunder and lightning who was born under a death sentence that will be meted out by none other than her father a villanous man.   She will die at his hands, but what is unknown is how she will spend the time before she falls and what sort of legacy (and seeds) she will leave behind.  Available for free on my blog!

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Michael Meyer

Michael Meyer has published three novels – two humorous and one international thriller – for the Amazon Kindle.  His Amazon page can be found here.

1. Tell me about your books.

Covert Dreams is set in Munich and Saudi Arabia.  A series of frightening dreams is somehow linked to murder.  The Famous Union is a rollicking romp through the halls of academia, where what is what is not.  The Survival of Marvin Baines is a whimsical look at one man’s coping with midlife.

2. How have your sales been?

I hope they will grow.  I depend completely upon word-of-mouth.  Once people know about the existence of my books, I think sales will get much better.  I have complete faith in my writing, but it takes time.

3. Have you tried to publish your books through traditional publishing houses?  If so, describe your experience.

No, I have not.

4. How would you describe your experience with self-publishing in general and Amazon Kindle in particular?

I love it!  I am in complete control of my own writing.  My wife bought me a Kindle, and it was love at first sight.  Amazon has been a terrific partner for me.  Their support staff is awesome.  They seem to always be there for me when I need help.

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Brent Mann

Brent Mann is the author of three published books:  “99 Red Balloons… and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders” (2003), “Blinded by the Lyrics” (2005) and “Lessen the Loneliness” (2011).  He recently agreed to an interview about his books and experience with self-publishing.

1. Tell me briefly about each of the books you’ve published.

“99 Red Balloons” and “Blinded by the Lyrics” were put out through a Manhattan publishing house called Kensington under their Citadel Press imprint.  “Lessen the Loneliness,” my first e-book, was self-published.  I worked with a literary agent to sell “99” and “Blinded” to Kensington, while no agent was involved with my e-book.

As the title indicates, “99 Red Balloons… and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders” is all about pop music one-hit wonders.  Marc Cohn (“Walking in Memphis”), Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come on Eileen”) and Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (“Stay”) are among the dozens of one-hit acts featured.  When this book was released in 2003, VH-1 was, purely by coincidence, airing a highly-watched series hosted by William Shatner that was a countdown of one-hit wonders.  That really helped the sales of my book.

And this is quite interesting: I received a number of e-mails from people who told me they were at their local bookstore, saw “99 Red Balloons” on display and bought a copy because they remembered hearing about it on those William Shatner one-hit wonder programs.  Only thing is, my book was never mentioned on VH-1.  Shows you the immense power of national television to create a buzz about a subject in general (like one-hit wonders) and put it out there in the pop culture atmosphere.  And the funny thing is, I was living in New York City at the time.  I had a meeting with marketing folks at VH-1’s offices in Midtown Manhattan about tying in “99 Red Balloons” with their one-hit wonder series as kind of a companion book, but nothing ever came of the meeting.

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