Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Interview with Dave Conifer

You can become a fan of Dave and his books at his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Conifer/100000645612597

Welcome Dave!  

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.

Writing the first one was magical.  I’d always enjoyed writing but hadn’t gotten serious about it yet.  It was only after I was a few pages in that the characters and the settings came alive in my mind.  It took about a year to finish it.  Sometimes I’d find myself looking forward to something, dreading something, worrying about something, and then snap out of it when I realized that what I was thinking about wasn’t real – it was from the book.

I always hoped every book would be like that, but in the four I’ve completed since then my mind has decided to become more businesslike.  I still love to write but unfortunately it seems as though I’m over the magic.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?

I queried tons of agents for all five of my books.  I keep statistics but I’m too embarrassed to admit how many queries went out for each.  I queried every agent that had a pulse, and by accident, a few who didn’t! I overdid it to the point where my name was probably entered in a lot of spam filters as a result.

The process was quite discouraging, as most writers would agree.  I can handle being told by someone who has read my work that it’s not good enough.  In 99% of the cases, though, I was pretty sure that the agent considered my letter for about thirty seconds and if they responded at all, it was just a boilerplate sentence or two.  I understand why agents do what they do but it just didn’t sit right.  I’m still not sure if my stuff is any good but I know that readers like it a lot more than agents did.

The genre and genders of my stories don’t help.  A few agents broke down and admitted that they don’t do stories written by or about guys unless it’s fantasy or thrillers.  Bad news for a guy with three YAs under his belt.  Thus we have the self-fulfilling prophesy that “YA aged boys don’t read.”  I read a lot of books when I was YA age but in today’s world would I be happy with fifty different flavors of teen girl vampire angst?  Yeah, I was a bitter male-oriented and unpublished author but I laugh about it now.

They were more receptive when I wrote Man of Steel (thriller) and Snodgrass Vacation (adult humor) but by then I was losing my taste for the process.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?

I realized that nobody was going to even look at my work and give me a shot.  I also thought long and hard and learned that I really didn’t care about big sales, making lots of money or being a full-time writer.  For me it would be enough to know that there are a few people out there reading what I wrote, some of whom might enjoy it.  That’s the way it’s played out and I’m quite happy with it. 

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?

No.  I’m pretty much done with that business model, if you can call it that.  As I said, I’m happy doing it this way so long as I can find a few readers here and there.  I’d rather have a few hundred people reading my books than pine away playing the agent query lottery for a bunch more years.  If an agent or publisher contacted me I’d listen but they’re not the big deal to me that they once were and I might not be interested.  I won’t know that for sure, of course, until or unless it happens.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?

At first I tried to do my own covers.  Until then I would have told you that I’d be good at that.  It turned out that I wasn’t.  My covers included pictures and symbols that meant a lot to me but nothing to a casual viewer.  I’m the only writer who would put a picture of a building on a book about a high school wrestler, for instance.

One day on Kindleboards I lamented about my covers, and at the same time complimented J.L. Penn on her cover for Reunion.  We got to talking and she ended up redoing all of my covers.  I’m now really proud of how my books look.  They also have a consistent look rather than a hodgepodge of junk. 

If you used a graphic designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?

J.L. was in charge but she passed me lots of ideas as she worked, and together we narrowed down what we were looking for.  When I didn’t like something she changed it but knowing her track record with her own books I usually deferred to her.  I’m glad I did, too.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?

It was a thrill.  It still is.  Whenever I see that somebody is buying and reading what I wrote I feel the same thrill that I did the first time.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?

I promote my wrestling books on wrestling forums as best I can while being careful not to spam.  Kindleboards, Mobile Reads and Nookboards have been productive grounds too.

In the last few weeks, after reading the Jon F. Merz book on Facebook promotion, I set up a fan page.  I didn’t know what would happen and I don’t understand the spirit of Facebook but I know it’s a way to get my face and books in front of readers – even when I don’t know it’s happening (which is awesome – much less work once the page is set up.)  I wasn’t sure what to expect but after two weeks my numbers are definitely going up and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?

All my stories are available on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  I’ve recently made a deal with EZReader.com to place my books on that platform in ebook format only.

What’s next for you?

Since discovering Kindleboards last October I learned so much, and I’ve been busy with that.  I learned to be a thousand percent sure that my books are properly edited – 110 percent is not enough.  That kept me busy for a while.  I also learned how to release paperback versions via CreateSpace for very little cost, which I’ve also been busy with.  Most of all, I learned about promotion, and have sold a lot more books since then.

What I’m leading up to is that with all these things on my plate I stopped writing for about half a year.  That’s a long time.  For the past month I’ve been reminding myself that I need to get back to it.  I pulled an idea out of the trunk and have gotten back to writing.  It feels good.  It’s a lot different than anything I’ve ever written.  That’s no surprise – my books are pretty diverse already.  I’d say the new one is Nicholas Sparks-ish, but it will turn John Grisham-ish at some point.  The important thing is that I’m back at it and it feels great.