MWG: Welcome, Geoffrey! Thank you for taking time to talk to us today. From the brief time that we've "talked", I've discovered you know a lot about e-publishing. Please tell us your background in e-publishing--as in you have done it yourself, a publisher did it for you, and/or you helped others do it.
Geoffrey: My background is actually from print publishing, magazines to be specific. I was editor-in-chief of Home Entertainment magazine for many years and held various other editor positions at other magazines before and since. When I finished Undersea, I considered shopping it around to traditional publishing houses; but in the end, I figured I could do more with it myself going the e-pub route.
MWG: Can't wait to hear more, then! In your experience, how is marketing an e-pub book different than a print book?
Geoffrey: The traditional publishing industry is hurting, and they’re not likely to take many chances on new authors. Certain genres have a better chance of getting picked up than others. But the fact is you could have an amazing novel; but without a following, most agents won’t even look at you. By doing it yourself, you can create a following, get some sales, and with a future novel, have a better chance of getting it picked up by a publishing house. There are a few cases where a successful e-pub gets picked up by a traditional publishing house. In the mean time, you can make a little money, get invaluable feedback from strangers, and hone your craft.
MWG: That makes sense! What are some cons?
Geoffrey: Editing and formatting are almost as important as the writing itself. No matter how cool your plot and amazing your characters, if there’s a typo on the first page, no one is going to buy your book. Formatting for the different e-readers is tricky and takes a lot of time; but again, if you don’t make the effort, someone will judge your book by how bad the free sample looks on their Kindle, and not buy it. Both of these things take time and or money, but are vital.
MWG: Yes, I've seen a lot of complaints on Amazon or other online sites about books being hard to read due to formatting and not content. But it doesn't make me want to buy it then, that's for sure! What are two tips you can give to authors who are considering self-publishing e-books?
Geoffrey: Start on action. Even if you have a bunch of good reviews, most people are going to download the free sample of your book before they buy it. If your novel is slow to build, people might get bored and assume the rest of the novel is like that. All writers need an editor. Get someone you trust, and who reads a lot, to read your book. You need someone that isn’t afraid to tell you if something doesn’t work or if the whole thing doesn’t work. Most writers write for themselves; but if you want to publish it, you’re writing for your audience. You need to find out what works for them and what doesn’t. This isn’t to say you should write for the lowest common denominator — well, you can if you want — but it does mean that if you can’t get someone who should like your book to like your book, you might have a problem.
MWG: Great advice! Do you think certain books do better than others as e-books? Are there any books that you would say you should absolutely NOT consider for e-publishing?
Geoffrey: Poetry and books with images or photos really don’t work with the current e-readers. The formatting just can’t handle it. Other than that, write in whatever genre you like; just know that as far as popularity is concerned, some always do better than others. Obviously a sci-fi/action-adventure like Undersea isn’t going to be interesting to as wide an audience as a murder/mystery novel might be. This is true in e-publishing just as much as it is in traditional publishing.
MWG: Thanks for the heads-up about poetry and photo-heavy books. If people attend your session and/or master's class during the conference, what are a few things you'll be covering?
Geoffrey: The session is for someone who’s considering going the e-pub route. I’ll be talking about e-publishing on the whole, different ways to go about it, things I learned, things that worked/didn’t work, and so on. The master's class is for someone who is finished, or nearly finished, with a novel or short story and has decided they want to e-publish. There will be three main parts. The first is on the pre-publishing side, where I’ll go in-depth with specific tricks for editing, working with an editor, formatting both e-pub and print-on-demand, plus what to do about a cover and working with a cover artist. Then we’ll talk about the actual publishing, about the pros and cons of different outlets, and of course, pricing. Lastly, we’ll discuss different ways to market and publicize your book. At the end, presuming I haven’t babbled on for the whole time, I’ll answer specific questions.
MWG: Geoffrey, that sounds like a wonderful resource for anyone considering self-publishing! Thanks, Geoffrey, for sharing your knowledge with us today!
Geoffrey: Thank you! I’m looking forward to the conference.
Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, author of FINDING MY PLACE: ONE GIRL'S STRENGTH AT VICKSBURG. To learn more, visit Margo's blog.