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?
Well, I write for a variety of reasons. Partly, I write because reading was one of my first obsessions (followed by video games, and then women) growing up. I write because a part of me wants to express my appreciation to the authors who inspired me by spending a chunk of their life constructing, describing, and bringing to life universes and realities that existed entirely within their grey matter. Another part of me enjoys the challenge and process of putting together stories and characters. Mainly, I write because it gives me an expressive outlet that feels relatively easy and natural.
Technically, I’ve been writing for a very long time (I distinctly remember trying to copy pages of an old video game walkthrough on the family computer for both keyboarding practice and because I wanted so badly to write. Unfortunately, I got frustrated at the inability of my clumsy fingers to keep up with my thoughts and went back to cartoons for awhile. Later on, I remember writing a short fiction piece in a Word document that was heavily influenced by the old video game Doom. It was terrible. It was really, really terrible (note the previous use of the word piece) and promptly deleted the file after recognizing this harsh reality a few pages in. I did, and still, pray that nobody in my family somehow managed to recover the file. I’ve only recently made the transition to more professional writing and self-publishing in the last year.
Tell me a little about your books.
Well, I’m proud to say that I finally have a few titles out and that the quality of my writing is gradually improving. My first book, r/Erotica, was a tribute to an online community I frequent called Reddit. If you’ve never heard of it, and you value your free time, I recommend above all else that you run in the other direction. The endless novelty of that site will consume your soul. Just kidding (but not really). Anyways, I completed two chapters of this particularly story while working through my fourth semester of college and after seeing the number of views and ratings the work received on Literotica, I thought “you know what? I could probably publish this”. Once my exams were over, I spent a gruelling couple of weeks finishing off the story and preparing it for publication. To date, it’s been my longest work. If you frequent reddit, my hope is that you would enjoy the story and the number of running gags I worked into the story. If you don’t visit reddit, it’s probably best to just skip the story entirely and check out my other work instead.
After r/Erotica came Hellion: Awakening. This is the first part in a longer paranormal romance I’m currently working on. I’ve always been a big fan of the fantasy genre, and this was my first foray into the arena (with a splash of erotic horror).
More recently, I’ve been focusing almost exclusively on erotica shorts. After conducting an experiment with the KDP exclusive promotional days, I compared the numbers and discovered that my short stories sold nearly as much as my significantly longer book. Makes sense, in retrospect. Since then, I’ve been focusing more on balancing the sexy times with the story instead of developing overly elaborate plots for simple sexy times, and building my literary footprint.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Oh god yes. The primary reason I write is because of the authors over the years that have inspired me. Jim Butcher is a recent arrival, but I’m comfortable putting his work near the top. Codex Alera is (in my opinion) a masterpiece (I was a fan of Wheel of Time until Robert Jordan slowed the incredible pace he began with in the first few initial books to a crawl) for fantasy fans and remains one of my favourite series of all time largely because he had an ending in mind from the beginning of the series and stuck to the game plan. Nothing is more frustrating or aggravating to me than seeing a beautiful, original vision be compromised by the author’s desire to milk the franchise for every possible dime. On that note, however, I must say that I am getting a little concerned about his Dresden Files series because it’s starting to feel that way a little. I might just be mad however that I finish his books in a single day and then have to wait a year for the next one. The objectivity of my opinion cannot be trusted.
There are more though, so many more. Stephen King is an amazing author I really enjoy. I’m not claiming that he is the most technically gifted author out there, but his books are extremely entertaining page turners. Christopher Pike was one of my favourite authors as a teenager – Season of Passage and Sati remain two of my favourite books of all time. I think he’s trying to come back though, which really depresses me. Bill Watterson (author of Calvin and Hobbes) is my personal hero, and his comics remains one of my favourites of all time. Armor by John Steakley was an amazing book. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was another that really inspired me, though I have to admit my enthusiasm for the book has greatly cooled due to both the unnecessary extension of the series and his personal stance on homosexual marriages. Animorphs, Goosebumps, Game of Thrones – there’s really too many to name. Some I’ve even forgotten, though I still remember their works.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
Still figuring this one out. Sometimes there are days when the writing comes fairly easily. Other days it’s definitely a struggle just to get a few paltry sentences onto the paper. Mainly, I’ve been trying to learn to recognize these moods and roll with them accordingly. If I truly, genuinely am not feeling the spark of inspiration, I either focus on other aspects of my work (constantly looking for stock images is an ongoing process) or I play a game or read a book I’ve been meaning to catch up on. A part of my feels like I should be a little more mercenary with my approach to writing, but I’ve felt the touch of burnout previously and now try to avoid it at all costs. Primarily though, my writing process simply requires a ton of revisions that take time and energy.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
To be honest, I didn’t even bother. I’m a bit uhh… I’m trying for a softer word than crazy – but it’s a fitting word – about people trying to alter or change my work to better fit their own personal vision. I’m not absolutely closed to the idea of going through a conventional publisher, but I’m very, very skeptical of those trying to profit from original creators without contributing something pretty significant to the entire process. Creative control (for me) is absolutely important, and my opinion is that the fewer people standing between me and my audience, the better.
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’m still pretty new to the writing scene, but I did establish a few quantifiable goals when I began. By the end of the year, I hope to have published 100,000 words. Next year I hope to double that number. I don’t really have any set financial objectives, however. The money will arrive when it arrives. My idea of success would be self-sufficiency from writing alone (about $1,500 a month) but I think that’s the dream of every author. My goal this year is to sell approximately 2,000 books, but I really have no idea if that’s preposterous or not.
I already consider myself a successful writer in the non-financial sense, though. I only publish work I’m reasonably satisfied with (never fully, completely, 100% satisfied however) and despite my complete and utter personal failings as a marketer, editor, sometime illustrator, formatter, and publisher, sometimes people still buy my work. Every time I publish a story, and every time I make a sale, I enjoy the sweet brush of success.
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?
Sort of. I’m leaning primarily on Twitter right now simply to advertise when I publish new material and what days it’s available for free. I’m sort of new to the entire process so I’m still trying to figure out what my marketing path should be. Mostly I’m just focusing on publishing frequently and (initially) going exclusive with KDP Select for three months. Afterwards, I publish to the other e-book markets. Eventually, I’d like to connect with other authors and ask them if they have any advice on what worked for them.
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’ve been signing up for KDP Select since the beginning. The results have been decent (from a noobie’s perspective – a professional relying heavily on the finances would probably be tearing their hair out in frustration) in that I’ve had approximately 1,800 free downloads to date which have driven sales. The free promotional days are basically the only days I receive any significant bump in sales, so I’ve been attempting to release new stories frequently enough to have Fridays (which have been for me, to date, the best selling days) booked forever more with promotional content.
I think I’ll have a clearer and more thorough understanding of the results by the end of the year, however. My opinion is that the KDP Select program is more useful for authors who already have a number of books to offer their audiences. The KDP Select promotion acts more or less as a gateway to the rest of the works of the writer.
Away from Amazon, have you had much luck with other outlets? Do you use Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc?
Meh, not really much luck so far with the other websites. The sales elsewhere have paled significantly compared to Amazon. I use Smashwords, but I have yet to sign up for Barnes & Noble and… AllRomance? I think that was recommended to me as another viable self-publishing platform. I focus on Amazon first and all other markets secondarily.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
Not at all. It’s been my experience that fundamentally positive businesses tend to grow and improve over time while inherently negative companies crumble and fall. If Amazon does somehow manage to secure a monopoly in the ebook market, it will happen because they have absolutely nailed the market and discovered a way to make both writers and readers happy. If they upset either of these two groups, other businesses will rise up to capitalize on their mistakes.
Really, I think the best course of action for any ebook business is to simply make the publishing and buying experience as easy as possible, and then get out of the way. Let the readers decide what they want.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
I have a few works baking in the oven right now. I’m writing a grisly vampire story which I’m aiming to submit to the charitable In Vein anthology which will be raising money for Doctors Without Borders. Other than that, I’m working on an erotica short revolving around a bored, horny housewife, as well as publishing a bundle of shorts later this week.