Kim Wolterman

Kim Wolterman is a non-fiction author and focuses much of her work on writing about historical research.  In this interview she talks about her books, what you should do before you finish your book, and what led her ultimately to starting her own publishing company.

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

Like a lot of people, writing a book was on my list of things to do.  But I always thought that my first one would be a book for children on the topic of composting.  My husband and I owned a large commercial composting facility, and I frequently went into classrooms to talk about the composting process.  There are no up-to-date books for children on this topic.  But sometimes our books speak to us and demand to be written.  That is what happened with my first book, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed(room)?  Researching a St. Louis County, Missouri Home.  While researching the history of our home in order to obtain a century home plaque I became very frustrated with the fact that the records in St. Louis County are scattered here, there, and everywhere.  I kept wishing for a guide to help me understand where all the documents are located, and where else to look, when I hit a brick wall.  Since there was none available I decided to write a book to help other researchers in this area.

When I approached traditional publishing companies with my book proposal, I was told that my audience was too narrow.  Even the local publishing company in my community wanted my book to be broader.  But I knew that if I made the book generic for all house researchers, then people in St. Louis County would still struggle to find the resources here.  So I wrote it my way and made the decision to start my own publishing company in order to get the book published.

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Shel Horowitz

Shel Horowitz has worn many hats – consultant, copywriter, author, speaker.  In this wide-ranging interview he touches on numerous topics including marketing, the art of self-publishing, networking – and, of course, his books.

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

I’m fortunate that I have a gift for explaining complex concepts in clear, simple language – and that I love doing this.  I’ve been writing professionally since the 1970s, and writing books is an outgrowth of the many articles I’ve written.  When I have something to share that would be way too big for an article, a book makes sense.  I’ve done it eight times so far.

The ones still in print:

Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson (the Guerrilla Marketing man): a guide to marketing in the green marketplace, including many advanced yet easy/inexpensive techniques for marketing in general.

Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, a whole book on marketing books.

Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World, one of the best Marketing 101 primers out there.

The first two offer large bonus packages, by the way – things other people have offered so as to reach my audience. The Guerrilla book has $2000 worth.  It’s a good strategy.

2. How have your sales been?

Sales are modest, but the important thing is that the right people buy.  People buy my books and then hire me as a marketing consultant and copywriter, as a publishing consultant or as a speaker.

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Sandy Hill

Sandy Hill is the author of Tangled Threads.  In this interview she discusses her book along with her marketing efforts to book clubs and success with word-of-mouth marketing.

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

Tangled Threads is a historical novel set in an 1890s North Carolina cotton mill village and briefly in a nursing home in Virginia in 1957.  It tells the story of two lifelong enemies whose lives intertwine through the years until one woman calls the other back to the village to share a secret.  It’s about forgiveness and how we want to end our lives.

2. How have your sales been?

Considering I so far have no website or blog and don’t tweet but am relying mainly on word of mouth, I’m satisfied.  Slow but steady.

3. You’ve successfully sold books by reaching out to book clubs.  How does one go about doing this?

First, I included book club discussion in the back and mentioned that it was good for book clubs in my Amazon tags and on my business cards.  Then I asked women I know in book clubs if their club might like me to speak.  Club members could read the first chapter online at Amazon for free and see my style, which reassured them about the quality of a self-published work.  Slowly, word is spreading as club members mail a copy of the novel to friends in other states.

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Wendy Cartmell

Wendy Cartmell is a British crime novelist who recently published her first book, Steps to Heaven, on Amazon (also available on Amazon UK).  She’s had a fair amount of experience sending out query letters to agents.  In this interview she discusses that along with her book and other marketing efforts.

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

Steps to Heaven is the first book in the Sgt Major Crane series.  Crane is a Special Investigations Branch Detective in the British Army, based at Aldershot Garrison.  He is disturbed by the horrific case of a soldier called Solomon who, after recently returning from Afghanistan, murdered his wife and 6 year old son and then committed suicide.  It seems Solomon was attending a local church which encourages people to join by offering salvation to its members.  But as Crane investigates and the body count rises, events take a darker turn and he wonders what the church is offering – salvation, or slaughter?

My inspiration for the Sgt Major Crane novels has been my love of crime writing (which I read voraciously) and my husband’s 22 years of service in the British Army.

2. How have your sales been?

I have sold around 50 copies so far over three platforms.  I have nothing to judge this against though so I don’t know if this is good or bad for the first month of publication.

3. You’ve sent query letters to literary agents.  Describe that process – how do you find them and what do you say to them?

I sent query letters out to a host of agents about Steps to Heaven.  I found them through Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  The query letter gave a blurb about the book, similar to that found on a book jacket, and the remainder of the letter gave brief details about me and my background, linked to the book.   The majority ignored me but I had two agents request the full manuscript: Peter Buckman at the Ampersand Literary Agency and Becky Bagnall at Lindsay Literary Agency.  Both were interested in the central character Sgt Major Crane, the setting of the British Army and the plot.  But both seemed to have trouble with the voice and also selling the book into the crowded field of crime.

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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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