Returns author Shannon Shaw talks about his interest in writing and his plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
I had a passion for writing while I was in high school, but never truly embraced writing. I was spending too much of my time worrying about what other people thought about a jock who loved to write and not enough time just being what I dreamed of becoming. Pushing that bias aside took a long time.
I think you eventually have to give in to the words and I didn’t for the longest time. My family is a family of story tellers and I can remember being envious of my uncles as they sat around telling jokes and remembrances. I always wanted to replicate that experience that feeling of telling and enjoying a good story but my focus was on the written word. It wasn’t until last year that I felt the time was right again after 18 years of not writing.
Tell me a little about your book.
My current book is called Returns. It is a thriller set in the fictional town of Everett Valley, Georgia. The tale revolves around Samuel Carsten. He is a young part time journalist and professor. He is called to the reading of his estranged grandfather’s will to find things are not what they seem. Soon, he is burdened with the knowledge of the horrors of his family. Samuel can choose to bury the unspeakable acts and become extremely wealthy or have the secret exposed and destroy his life.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
The list would contain what I consider rock stars of the indie publishing world. There are so many writers that have been inspiring not for the bodies of work they have produced but their personal stories of rejection and success. It was those stories I poured through time and time again while contemplating my own path. If it had not been for them then I might not have had the courage to pursue my dream.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I have tried it all, but have found the best way for me is to write from an outline. An outline creates a great guide to keep me from going in all different directions and thus not get anything finished. I will sometimes let myself ramble within an idea as long as it moves the story forward though not often. Other times I will find a character trying to speak to me and will let that character push to have a voice in the direction of the story.
I do favor the outline process above all because I know where the story is, should be and will finish. Outlining as I call it is not a traditional outline, but I scribble of notes in some semblance of order which allows me to write faster and more efficiently.
Typically, I try to average a thousand words a day at the very least and feel awful if I cannot reach my goal. Bare minimum, I allow myself to fail no less at five hundred, but those better be damn good words.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
I did not try for a conventional publisher because of the horror stories initially; the ones where the author queried two thousand publishers and agents only to be rejected.
Luckily, I have a relative who endured the process and told me those same stories firsthand about his rejections and the success he had self-publishing. After studying his model and investigating tons of articles and blogs, I decided it was time to self-publish bypassing the traditional route. Best decision I ever made.
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
I do not have a minimum with my first title. I am just grateful for the opportunity to sell books and have made adjustments in my life in order to continue to produce quality titles.
Success really is a personal issue. I read blogs and talk to other writers who constantly want to talk about numbers. Numbers can be a trap. I have not been published that long and at first the numbers were consuming, but now I find myself worrying more about how many books I can produce this year and how I can develop the stories lines for the titles running around in my head. I measure success then with each publication and not based around sales though sales are always nice.
How have you marketed your book(s)? Have you used social media (Twitter, Facebook etc)? Have you paid for any advertising (Facebook Ads, Google Ads etc)? And how did it go?
I have to market my book? I joke because I find that the marketing really eats into my writing time, but it is a necessary part of the process. In my opinion, I think sometimes when you are a new writer you possibly spend too much of your time with your first book trying to get that particular book to sell. I have found that the best way long term is to produce more books as long as you are making an effort to get your total collection of books noticed.
I am a member of all the major social networks including twitter. Social media is huge and I know that many writers are branching into Pinterest. I will in time explore that as an avenue for world building myself.
Trying to be active in writers and readers groups can be pivotal. I try to be as engaging as possible on Goodreads and Shelfari. Also, I maintain a blog where I feature other writers and unique aspects of my stories.
One option that I have not explored is the use of paid advertising. I have done extensive research and I am tempted with the launch of my next series to invest in ad space, though I have not committed myself fully to the idea yet.
Have you signed up for KDP Select? If you have, how has it gone for you? Do you think free promotions are helping with your paid sales? If you haven’t signed up, why not? Are you worried about the exclusivity clause?
I have been a member of KDP Select since my publication date. The program has been a mixed blessing since my book is getting out to the masses, yet sales have been up and down. I do see a significant uptick in sales in the days following before the book tapers off into a natural state of being; an average sales number if you will.
The exclusivity clause has not bothered me. I think Amazon does a great service to writers and I am proud of my affiliation. I am still considering whether to renew or not since I would like to have my book before readers who use different product lines to continue to spread my brand.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
Amazon does a great job and has a large percentage of the market, but chief competitors, Barnes and Noble and Apple, are already making dents in the market. I think this breeds a great environment for both the reader and the writer to benefit.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
I am writing the first book in my Created series. The series follows the main character as he deals with a government cover up while struggling to learn how to become a vampire. As his past and future collide, he must make hard decisions about which world he wants to belong.
The underlying story seems simple, but there are several twists that are very original including zombie nurses, nanotechnology and patchwork monsters to name a few.
This first book has been a pleasure to write. Every day I find new ways to explain and expand the world. My biggest obstacle is trying to contain the directions that all of my characters want to drive the story. The development of the characters and building the world has been an amazing experience. I have written parts of the first three books. I hope to have the first book available April 2012.
There should also be the second in my All the Dead Bodies series coming out later in the year. Be looking for that title early Fall 2012.