Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interview with David Derrico

Available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Right-Ascension-ebook/dp/B001V9K6ZS

Next up I'd like to welcome David Derrico.  David has 3 books available for sale.

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I’d have to say the journey started in college, where I majored in philosophy and wrote my thesis on ethical theory. I got hooked into philosophy after taking a course on contemporary moral issues—I really enjoyed discussing and debating right and wrong, moral theories, and “gray area” ethical situations.

Once I graduated, my prior love for writing (I had previously written short stories, articles for the school newspaper, etc.), my ethics background, and the hundreds of science fiction novels I had read all came together to motivate me to try writing something … epic. One day I had a burst of inspiration for the start of a great story, one that would combine action & adventure with exploration of deeper ethical issues. Before I knew it, a few pages grew into a few chapters, along with character sketches and an outline. From there, I could hardly wait to get my ideas down on paper, and I worked on Right Ascension with pretty much every free second I had.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
I finished Right Ascension ten years ago, and at the time, e-books were just a tiny speck of what they would eventually become. The independent author movement was yet to gain traction. So, I bought a copy of Writer’s Market and spent hundreds of dollars sending off query letters, sample chapters, and self-addressed stamped envelopes to a couple of hundred publishers and agents. Some even sent back polite form rejection letters. Some ignored me, some wrote “No thanks” in the margin of my own query letter and sent that back, and not one made any indication they read even the first word of what I had sent. Finally, one agent asked for a few more chapters, then the first 100 pages, then the whole manuscript, and then even offered to represent me! I went out and celebrated with my friends, drinking more than was strictly good for me, and then the next morning I actually did some research on this agent. In my hungover state, I learned that the agent had a terrible reputation in the industry, and didn’t have any successful clients to speak of. That was not a happy morning.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
I eventually was contacted by a small e-book publisher who had the poor fortune to get into the e-book game 8–10 years too early. But I sold a few books there, was paid real royalties (with no money flowing from me to the publisher), and even won their first “E-Book of the Year” award. They expanded into POD and my book was on Amazon and in the Baker & Taylor databases. It was fun, and quite a thrill selling my work to strangers.

Sadly, they went out of business, and my novels languished for several years. More recently, I quit my all-consuming job as an attorney and devoted myself to re-working my novels, creating new covers, editing, adding a couple of new scenes, etc. I felt they were very strong, if only I could get them in front of readers. When I learned of self-publishing through Amazon, it was a no-brainer for me: I had two very polished books that I knew people would enjoy, so why not put them out there? I worked on the Amazon formatting and full-wrap cover design (for the POD version), put them up on Amazon, and was thrilled to see a trickle of sales, then sales doubled, then tripled, then tripled again, and I fully embraced self-publishing.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
I’d always listen to any business proposal regarding publishing my books. But right now, I’m earning enough through self-publishing that I would be very hesitant to give up my e-book rights for the tiny advances I understand are customary for many first-time publishing deals. I’m pretty much over the “prestige” of being signed by a large publishing house, so I’d listen to what they could offer in terms of editing, marketing, distribution, and an advance. I’m very wary of tying up e-book rights (that have all indications of earning me a decent supplemental income for many years) indefinitely with large publishers who, for the most part, seem determined to crush e-books to retain their print dominance. On the other hand, I’d love to work with a large publisher on print rights, since that is their strength and where their marketing and distribution prowess comes into play. However, my understanding is that publishers normally want all rights or they aren’t interested.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I did my own cover art. Well, to be more specific, I can’t even draw stick figures. So I used billion-dollar images (literally) from the Hubble Space Telescope as the backgrounds, and then used Photoshop to adjust colors and levels, add in the text and text effects, lighting, shadows, embossing, etc., etc. It was a ton of work, but I’m very happy with how the covers came out.

The cover for my latest novel, The Twiller, was a special challenge since I wanted to add a little something extra: a colorful, cartoonish representation of the title character, known as the Twiller. While I could never draw it freehand, through lots of study and trial and error I managed to create some vector graphics using shapes and gradients that I was very pleased with.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
Getting those first few sales to random strangers was a total thrill. You start imagining people in different states and various countries finding your book and reading and enjoying it. You start to feel like a “real author,” whatever that means exactly.

Sales so far have exceeded my expectations for indie publishing. I had sold a few hundred back with my old publisher, and was expecting similar numbers. Sales through Amazon started slowly, but steadily built to the point that all three of my novels reached the Top 1,000 in the overall Kindle store. I also just learned that my novels have been selling hundreds of copies over on B&N as well, so that was definitely a pleasant surprise.

I’m now at a point where I’m very thankful that my sales are many, many times what people say to expect for indie published books (and better than some estimates for traditionally-published books!), but they’re not yet enough for me to make a full-time living through my writing, which is my ultimate goal.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I have my own website, www.davidderrico.com, which I recently re-did to make it much more interactive, dynamic, and also to include my “Always Write” Blog on e-books, publishing, and technology. I’ve spent a huge amount of time on my website, and even though I’ve never been a whiz at generating traffic, I get a steady trickle and have started getting followers and comments on my blog, which is always fun.

I also spend a fair amount of time reading (and sometimes posting) on various writing and e-book-related forums. I definitely spend more time reading than posting on forums, since I try to interact with the community and keep the self-promotion to a minimum. I do maintain a Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/NovelAuthor), where I have giveaways, run contests, host discussion questions, and keep in touch with fans.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
My books are for sale in e-book form at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords, the Apple iBook Store, and my own website.

Paperbacks are available through Amazon, B&N, CreateSpace, and my own website as well.

What’s next for you?
I just finished my third novel, The Twiller, last month. It was a great experience—the writing process was familiar yet fresh since this book was a light-hearted, satirical comedy (instead of a serious space opera with ethical undertones). And even the less enjoyable aspects of creating a self-published novel (cover design, e-book formatting, marketing) were much easier and took less time the third time around.

For the moment, I’m working on promoting that novel, and then I’ll be at a bit of a crossroads. As I said, my sales are very encouraging, yet they’re not enough to support me and my family full-time. So I’ll either need to find a way to expand sales to a level where I can make a living, or go back to my legal career and hopefully have time to continue writing on the side.

Right Ascension

Declination (the sequel to Right Ascension)

The Twiller

Thanks for stopping by David.  I wish you the best of luck in your writing career!