Scott Colby, author of of urban fantasy novel Shotgun, talks about 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?
Writing’s been my favorite hobby for as long as I can remember. It started sometime in elementary school; I was one of the smart kids who always finished his work quickly, so I needed something to keep myself entertained. I couldn’t draw worth a lick, so writing was that outlet.
Now that I’m older, I’ve got a different appreciation for it. There’s something to be said for having a project that’s yours and yours alone and isn’t subject to the whims of managers and vice presidents. It’s nice to be able to just do something exactly the way you want to do it.
Tell me a little about Shotgun.
“Shotgun” tells the story of Roger Brooks, a mild-mannered family man thrust into a hidden world of magic and intrigue hidden in the shadows of our own. This is the first book I’ve self-published via Amazon’s KDP service. It’s an urban fantasy novel with a strong comedic side. I’ve written four or five versions of it since I first came up with the concept ten years ago after watching “Men in Black” and thinking “Hey, someone should do that with fantasy creatures!” I like to think it’s improved a lot since the original idea.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Looking back through my various drafts, whatever I was reading at the time had a big impact on “Shotgun.” Frank Herbert added a layer of complexity and economics, and Dr. Yueh directly inspired my traitor character. Chuck Palahniuk gave it a bit of an absurdist bent. Nowadays I’m trying to be more like Iain M. Banks–kind of a good mix of Herbert and Palahniuk, if you ask me.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I don’t bother with word counts. I just try to write something everyday, whether it’s my next book or a blog entry for one of my other projects. Sometimes it’s just a few paragraphs; sometimes it’s a few pages.
When I’m working on something with multiple narrators, like “Shotgun,” I tend to write all of the chapters for a single narrator then move on to another. I find it helps me differentiate their voices a bit.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
I did not. Everything I read and heard about breaking into traditional publishing sounded pretty miserable. Besides, all of the bookstores in my area are closing, and everybody I see on the subway has a Kindle. Skipping the middleman seemed like the way to go.
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’d like to be able to publish one new book every year. My next one is about half done, so it should be available this summer. It’s tough when you have to spend 40 hours a week in an office.
For me, any sales I get are just gravy. Writing is fun. If I can make some cash of it, that’s a bonus.
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’ve got a Facebook page and I’m trying to be more active with Twitter. Hash tags are key; I find I usually get a couple of sales if I tweet about my “Shotgun” using #kindle or #ebook. I’ve been interviewed on a few sites and I’ve got a few more on my list to contact, and I’ve been doing a ton of work for a friend’s video game site (www.dpaddbags.com) to try to drum up mindshare.
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 just did a free promotion two weeks ago. 691 copies of “Shotgun” were downloaded for free. Sales have been better since, but I’m not sure if they’re because of my Select promotion or because I’m doing more with Twitter. I really wish Amazon provided better analytics to tell authors where their sales are coming from.
I figure offering free promotions is a good thing. At this point it’s all about trying to build an audience. I plan to do them as often as I can.
Away from Amazon, have you had much luck with other outlets? Do you use Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc?
I haven’t used any of the other services. Amazon has so much of the market that it’s not worth it.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
Not really. Amazon’s the top dog right now, but I think they’re lacking in a lot of areas. Their site is a mess, their author tools are both way too simple and completely nonintuitive, and they offer authors nothing in terms of analytics. Eventually someone else will come along with a better platform and take a bite out of their marketshare.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
I’m working on a prequel to “Shotgun” that I’m very happy with. It won’t be immediately obvious to the reader how it ties into “Shotgun,” but I think it will work very well as a window into another part of my world.