Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview with J.R. Tomlin

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
Wings of Evil is a fantasy set in a post-medieval world. The main character is a young woman named Liada. The Priests have always warned that the First Ones are dangerous and to be feared. She has never questioned their teachings even though she longs for adventure. But when Liada finds Tali, she realizes something important, something terrible--the Priests have been lying. The little elemental creature is alone, injured, helpless... and she is a First One.

Liada's life depends on keeping her new friend secret. But the Priests soon are hunting them, and they are on the run from the Priests' winged Quag--hunters and killers of First Ones. As they flee into an adjacent empire, she meets a mystery man who becomes her only ally. But are his goals really the same as hers? Can she trust this man who fights by her side, or could he be even more dangerous than her enemies? All of their lives hang in the balance.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes. Both my co-author and I have had novels published with small publishers and for about the past year an agent pitched one of my novels--without selling it, I should mention.  I can't tell you what a relief it is to realize one can have people read your work without going through years of that. More people? Fewer? I'm not sure, but I write to be read. For me, writing is a matter of storytelling. To tell a story, someone has to listen to it.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I have never found a local group that worked for me since the ones I've checked out focused on short stories. I've never been a short story writer although I have written and sold a few. It's just not my focus. I am a novelist. So the groups I've been in were online. I was active in the Online Writers Workshop and am still active in Critique Circle.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
The changes in publishing are, in my view, tectonic in nature. The whole landscape of publishing is changing before our eyes. I was skeptical when it all started. I thought at the least that the changes would take decades. When I realized I was wrong and that the changes are now, it was so exciting, I had to be a part of it. At the same time I was reading advice from writers like Kris Rusch that this was the way forward. So I jumped on the bandwagon.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
No. Both my co-author and I have an education in editing and I have a beta reader who is versed in editing. I think over-editing is something that writers are prone to. If you read the comments in his series on the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing by Dean Wesley Smith, he discusses this tendency. Yes, you have to get the errors out as much as humanly possible. But the last thing I want to do is lose the voice in my work.

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
That I don't know a THING about graphics! This is where having a publisher does come in handy, although a couple of my covers from publishers were pretty bad, now that I think about it.

But there are things self-publishing that you have to think and worry about that you don't when a publisher handles it. Formatting. Covers. Blurbs. Running them by people who are experienced helps.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Yes, it seems to me it's a good idea to take advantage of all possible venues. Besides, although I don't want to sound negative, there have been times when Amazon did things I thought were wrong, so I don't want to be solely dependent on them.

It is available on Nook and Smashwords.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I blog quite actively. I am somewhat active on facebook and on a number of forums such as Kindleboards and Nookboards. I try to make it more just talking to people than blatant marketing.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Yes. It is so hard, but Kris Rusch points out that the real means of marketing your books is putting out another one. And then another. So I'm trying to concentrate on that and put the marketing in the cracks. It's hard though. I find it easy to become addicted to time on forums.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
I'm so new at it, I'm not sure I'm a good person to give a lot of advice. I strongly suggest reading all of Joe Konraths blogs. And Kristine Kathryn Rusch's. And Dean Wesley Smith's. By that time, you have so much advice from professionals that you should know what to do. The Kindleboards are extremely helpful. Don't turn down advice.

Sure there are things like make sure your manuscript isn't full of errors, but the real need is to have a great story. I can't tell someone how to do that.

What’s next for you?
I'm actively working to get out several new novels within the next couple of months. My co-author and I are working on three fantasies. I am also going to put out my first historical novel that takes place in the Scotland of William Wallace --although it is about a very different Scottish hero, Andrew de Moray.

So that's keeping me pretty busy.