Thursday, March 3, 2011

Interview with M.T. McGuire

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
As a daydreamer, I doubt I give real life the attention it deserves. One day I decided that if my mind spent so much of the time wandering, it might be fun to write about where it went. I was probably about five and I’ve been trying to write a novel ever since. There were a couple of blips when I was doing stand-up and having a career. Otherwise it’s been pretty constant, I’m usually writing something.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
I had a half-hearted go but no, not really. I would greatly value the feedback and advice I could have from an agent but as a UK fantasy writer, it might take some time to find one. I’m shockingly time poor, so it would take me even longer than normal people. I can see extended years of ‘no’ to get to the ‘yes’ and I lack the stamina to endure them cheerfully.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
Well, first up, I liked the book. It’s my fourth book but the first one I didn’t wish someone else had written. It has taken me ten years of hard work to write a half-decent novel and after all that effort it seems a bit pointless to leave it sitting on ice for another ten years while I find somebody who’ll publish it.

Second, from what I’ve read, the stats go something like this; 90% of the marketing budget at big houses is spent on the big name authors. The rest have to do about as much selling as indie authors do. The only difference I can see is that with a big name publisher I’d get to keep less of the money.

Third, I’m not the next JK but my book’s as good as many I’ve seen published so I’d like to see if it can float.

Fourth, as a stay-at-home parent, I have miniscule amounts of spare time and energy. For me, writing to agents and being told to get stuffed – no matter how kindly and tactfully it is done – is not a constructive or positive way to use that time. On the other hand, publishing the book, bringing it to life, is. As the indie singer Bright Eyes puts it “I’d rather be working for a pay check than wait in to win the lottery.”

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information? How involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
The cover was designed by a guy called Bradley Wind. He was – still is, as far as I know – on Authonomy. At the time he did mine he was producing them as a free service to other Authonomites without a cover. I’ll certainly be paying him for the next two. It’s absolute marmite, nobody is indifferent they all love it or hate it. I suspect that means it’s good. I just hope he’s prepared – and has the time – to do the others.

I was quite involved. He explained that to work as a small thumbnail it must be a simple design, perhaps featuring one thing. I picked three important items out of the story and I’ll use one for each book, that way the series will be branded.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
The thing that had me flying wasn’t the first sale, it was the first time a couple of people started discussing the book with me. I sat there, listening to two other human beings talking about this world that is as real to me as bacon and eggs but which until this year no-one else has known about. And they liked it! It was a massive buzz and a bit of a liberation.

As for how sales are going, well, exactly the opposite to the way I expected. I e-mailed a link to my friends and family when Few Are Chosen came out and many bought a copy of the paperback version. As a result, the first month’s book sales have been much better than I expected. On the other hand, the e-book, which is miles cheaper, hasn’t sold nearly as well. Isn’t that bizarre? It’s getting good reviews and I’m told by other authors that e-book sales are a bit of a slow burn. There’s time.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
Hmm... OK, one word but it’s a big thing. Patience...

Everything will take twice as long as you think. Nothing will pan out the way you expect. Everything that can possibly go wrong will. Don’t leave anything to chance. Hire a professional copy editor and proof-reader. Get grammar Nazi’s to check it and check it yourself until you cannot find a single error. When it goes to press, the first person who reads it will see a typo but if you know you’ve done all you can to eradicate them, you won’t feel quite as gutted.

Wait until you’ve written a good book. It’s easy to get swept away on a tide of enthusiasm or impatience. I wanted every book I wrote to be THE ONE. You may well feel that same fervent wish as I did. Don’t let it blind you. Trust me, I’ve written four duffers and I actually persuaded some agents to read the first one. When you’ve written a decent book you will believe in it. You will not care if people don’t like it because you will know in your heart of hearts that it’s good. These are the confidence levels you are looking for. If you aren’t feeling them, write another book and repeat, ad nauseam, until you do.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
There’s my website at which contains my blog, information about my writing, downloads, illustrations of the characters, a place to buy signed copies of the paperback.
In a small way, I’m on Bookbuzzr
Illustrations of some of the car chases in Few Are Chosen are available as postcards from Zazzle,*
On Twitter, I’m @mtmcguireauthor.
I’m on Facebook, too, you can find the Hamgee University Press page here

I do a few Fora; I’m on Mobileread, the Amazon forums and also put in an occasional appearance at Kindleboards and Authonomy forums.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
My website, obviously but also all the Smashwords outlets; Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple and Diesel.

The paperback version is on Amazon (UK and US), Waterstone’s online, WH Smith online and The Book Depository. Just put ‘K’Barth’ in the search and you’ll find it.

What’s next for you?
Hopefully, The Wrong Stuff (K’Barthan trilogy 2). At the moment Real Life is interfering disastrously with my writing and I’d lay bets there are glaciers progressing faster than this book. Even so, I believe things in the real world will start to calm down over the next few months and the greater part of my brain will skip merrily back to K’Barth and finish off

In the meantime, I’m working on a free short which will outline some of the events in my main character’s back story. I’m hoping that maybe some readers who enjoy that may go on to buy the book. Like a try before you buy, only better.

Well, I think that’s about it. A big thank you to Debra for interviewing me and thank you, everyone, for reading.