Christopher Profeta talks about his book Life in Pieces, his approach to 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’ve been writing all of my adult life. When I finished my current novel, Life in Pieces, I said to my wife, “This is pretty much everything I’ve wanted to say about anything for the last fifteen years.”
Tell me a little about your book.
Life in Pieces tells the story of an unemployed stay-at-home-dad who wakes up one morning and reads the paper only to find out he is running for congress. The unlikely candidate’s thoughts serve as a pointed satire of politics and the economy, as well as a moving love story about the strength and importance of family.
In the second “piece” of the story, Michael Langley, a college freshman, struggles to find his place in a new setting that doesn’t make much sense to him. When he finally meets a group of friends that make him feel at home, he realizes that if he is to build a life with what might be the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to give up everything he thought he ever wanted.
And somewhere, a crazy old man couldn’t care less about either of these stories. This last “piece” follows two old lovers who have figured out a way to ignore the struggles of the world around them and be comforted only by their love as they reach the end of their earthly lives together, and resolve the conflicts of their past.
In Life in Pieces, all these stories come gracefully together to show that we are never too old to come of age.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
As a reader, I’ve always been a huge fan of stories that aren’t told in chronological order, or any kind of logical order really. Books where there are two or three, or more even, threads, and it isn’t until the end that the reader really gets any sense of how they all fit together. Any of the Jonathan Safran Foer or Nicole Krauss books are exactly what I’m talking about here, especially Nicole Krauss’s “Great House.”
That kind of disjointed storytelling is very intriguing to me, and that’s why Life in Pieces is told the way it is, in flashbacks and narrators that sometimes seem to overlap and sometimes seem to not be connected in any way at all. In the end though, the reader can see how it all adds up to one unified story, and to me that makes the climax even more emotional.
I also like writers who are able to comment on their times. Recently, to help promote Life in Pieces, I sponsored a short story contest for stories dealing with some of the issues addressed in the book. Since one of the characters is dealing with being unemployed and trying to support a family, I called for stories dealing with issues of unemployment and economic hardship. The winners are posted on my website, christopherprofeta.webs.com, but as I was reading these stories, I was reminded of the role writers can play in a world dealing with some of the issues that we are today. Authors may not be able to solve the economic problems we’re facing, but I think they play a big role in understanding them. Think about a lot of the writing out of the depression era, “Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind first, but there are hundreds of examples. I’m not comparing myself to John Steinbeck, I’m just saying that we sometimes overlook the importance of writers in making sense out of the nonsensical things that happen in the world every day.
My hope is that after people read Life in Pieces, they feel like they’re in a little better position to deal with the craziness of their lives.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I write however much I can however often I can. Like my main character in Life in Pieces, I am a stay at home dad. I teach writing classes on nights and weekends at a community college, but I consider my main job being a parent. Like the character in the book, it has been a struggle for me to find time to write while working at home and taking care of two kids, but I think that I’ve come to some of the same realizations that he does in the book. If my life wasn’t as stressful as it sometimes feels, I don’t think I’d like it as much as I do. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I go through a lot of the frustration and anger that this character does, I actually think it was a bit of a release for me to write him. But, overall, with this book, I’ve found a way to take that frustration and turn it into something positive.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
Yes, but not very hard. I am proud to be an independent writer. As part of the release of Life in Pieces, I hosted a radio show about the pros and cons of self publishing vs. traditional publishing. You can listen to it here. To me, there’s something exciting about doing this outside of traditional means. There’s a stigma about it, but that seems silly to me. When there was an explosion of independent movies in the 1990’s I didn’t hear people saying the people who made them weren’t real filmmakers, or that they were only doing it themselves because they weren’t good enough to do it with the backing of a major studio. Yet you hear this about indie authors all the time. It seems like a double standard to me, and I think it comes from the fact that a vocal minority of people, most of whom work or study in university English departments, think that books need to be stuffy and traditional, and there’s no room to do anything differently. I disagree, not only on the content and writing style side of things, but also on the business side.
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?
It would be great to sell millions of books this year. The money would be nice, and it would be nice to know that so many people read and were possibly moved by Life in Pieces. But, this being my first novel, and publishing outside of traditional means, I’m a little more realistic about things. To be honest, I’m really just looking to share this book with as many people as I can. When I feel like I’ve reached that mark, I’ll probably start working on a new book.
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 a website, a Facebook page (Christopher Profeta Fan Page), and a twitter account (ProfetaChrisJ). I’ve had lots of positive reviews of Life in Pieces, and I’ve done quite a few interviews. The most success I’ve had so far, though this book hasn’t been out long, was my online release party. I did the radio show, the short story contest, a live facebook chat, and ran several promotions for the book. In terms of books sold, that was my most successful marketing campaign.
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?
Most of my books have been sold through Amazon, but I have not signed up for KDP select, mostly because of the exclusivity clause. To be honest, I haven’t really looked into it that much because things are going pretty good right now. I do, however, totally agree that free promotions are the way to go. That’s one of the things that’s so nice about independent publishing. There is a whole new world of opportunity that opens up when you don’t succumb to the idea that because you’re a published writer free media is beneath you. No one else thinks that way, leave it to writers to be short sighted. We really have to try to shake this idea in the literary world that independent and untraditional is bad. They did it in the movie industry, they did it in the music industry, and finally, with the rise of e-readers and Amazon, it’s starting to happen in the publishing industry.
Away from Amazon, have you had much luck with other outlets? Do you use Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc?
Lulu is the website I used to release Life in Pieces, and I have nothing but good things to say about it. The book is up on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel as well.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
Not really. Maybe I’m naive, but I think that Amazon is kind of set up to avoid that. What I mean by that is that e-readers are doing a lot to democratize the publishing industry. It’s given a means for anyone who can write a good book but can’t trick an agent or a traditional publishing company into reading it a chance to have their voice heard. So, a writer can save their book in a .mobi or an ePub file and share it with or sell it to whomever he or she wants. To me that’s a good thing. I understand why publishers don’t like that, I understand why authors who are paid by those publishers don’t like it, but for the rest of us, I don’t see it as anything but positive.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
Life in Pieces just came out in February, so all of my energy right now is going towards promoting it. I’ll be on a blog tour from now through the end of the summer and I think I’ll do a few book signings. I’ve done them in the past and they are always fun. For me, it’s all Life in Pieces all year.