Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview with Paul Byers

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
First of all, I want to say thank you for having me on your great site. I always appreciate the chance to talk about my books and the writing process.
In a nutshell, here’s the short version of the book;

A brutal storm damages a man-made iceberg destined to bring safe drinking water to New York harbor and the Chief Engineer, Gabriel Pike has serious doubts about the true intentions of the project.  A grisly double homicide puts the inspection on hold as he’s accused of being the murderer in a lover’s triangle. 

But Pike soon discovers that there is far more at stake than just his own life. He uncovers a plot that will level a city, change the face of America, and whose shockwaves will be felt around the world.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes and no. I did submit Arctic Fire to my publisher who did my first book, Catalyst, but they rejected it, and rightly so. I rushed to send it in and truthfully, it just wasn’t ready. In fact, it wasn’t really ready to go for another year. By the time it was done, I had decided to publish it myself and didn’t resubmit it. This is one of those “life lessons” for all writers. Take your time to create a good product.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
Again, another yes and no answer. With answers like these, you’d think I was running for office! I have a few trusted friends who helped me with the book and when I say trusted, I mean that they will tell me the truth about my writing, good, bad or ugly. I learned early on that as a writer you have to have somewhat of a thick skin.

I also need to find a group for that very same reason, to help me to continue to hone my craft. Wise is the man who has many counselors. But for me, it’s not just getting the help I need; it’s being able to help others, to encourage them in their writing. In doing signings, I always run into people who tell me that they’ve always wanted to write something so I always try and encourage that; whether it’s the great American Novel, poetry or just Dear Diary. If I can do it, so can they!

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
Amazon is the biggest thing going on in the publishing/reading world and to be successful, you have to be there. There are of course other venues you have to be on as well, but from both print and e-versions, that’s the place to be.

Traditional publishing is changing. You no longer have to be picked up by “the big Boys” in order to get your book out there. Indie presses have helped fill the gap and have given many writers a chance, (including myself) who might not have had one. I think that doing it yourself is the next step. There is certainly more risk financially, but certainly more reward as well.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
You’ll love this answer, yes and no. I am a terrible self-editor. I know what the words should be but it’s a long way from my brain to my fingers and what starts at point A doesn’t always make it to point B the way it should.

I was blessed to have a retired college professor take an interest in my project and a talented friend who helped me review the book, both grammatically and story wise. However, with all the checking and rechecking I did, I have discovered a few typos, I guessed it passed between too many hands and I missed some corrections. At some point I will submit it for professional editing. I am very, very grateful to the folks who helped me and without their help Arctic Fire would be a total shambles, but the ultimate responsibility is mine to put out the best product I can.

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
Wow, how much time do we have here? When my first book, Catalyst, was published by Breakneck, later Variance, I didn’t have a clue as to what went on. I sent them the manuscript, went through some changes with the editor and bam! I had a book. Now I know how clueless in Seattle I was.

Now that I did it myself, I had to deal with the interior design, layout, formatting (both print and e-version) The different formats for some of the different e-sites, finding a POD company that had the best service (and price) for my book, cover art, etc…

I’ll admit, it was a bit overwhelming at first, but not insurmountable. It’s like the old saying, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I think of myself as the perfect example to others wanting to start out in the business, if I can do it, so can you! When I started this journey I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I started I also didn’t know how to build a website, that was for geeks; who by the way, ten years ago we used to make fun, now we want them to be our best friends! I have built three websites, I’ve guest lectured at high schools, done book signing, and done interviews and more.

So you can say I’ve learned a thing or two along the way, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Right now, along with Amazon, it is available through Barnes and Noble, (Nook) Smashwords and more locations as more distribution channels get set up.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
With Arctic Fire, I’m going to go with the steady approach as opposed to the big debut party and then things die. I will be working website for interviews and for book reviews and as a guest bloggers. I need to be more involved in forums and local writers groups, not only to promote my book but to learn and to pass on to others what I have learned.

I also have to learn to use Facebook more and better. You can only send out so many announcements about your “wonderful new book” before it gets old and people start turning you off. With any social media, and that’s just what it is, social, you have to make friends, make yourself available to people or else you are just some guy who is a friend of a friend of a friend who is trying to sell his book.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
YES! As a typical writer I would say that the majority of us would rather write and create than market. But having said that, you can have a dozen great books but if nobody knows that they are out there, what’s the point?

With the marketing strategy I have adopted, (we’ll see if it works) I plan to do marketing in the morning and writing in the evening. The middle of the day is taken up with the nuisance of my paying job (at least for now!) I’m hoping this will satisfy both the want-to’s and have-to’s of the business.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Take your time and don’t rush into anything. There are a lot of choices out there depending on how much work you want to do (or can do) and what formats you want to use, print, ebooks or both. I know this is pretty much the standard answer but it is still true. Once I get the marketing machine for Arctic Fire rolling I am going to put a list together of sites and links (the real answer a lot were hoping for) that I have gathered and people who can and have helped. I will post the information on my site when it’s ready. Any specific questions I would be more than happy to answer if I can, just contact me through my website.

However, if you are like me, sometimes you just want a ballpark figure as to what it will cost to self-publish. There are a lot of variables but a safe range that I have found is between $500 to $1500, depending, on you doing a lot of the work. If you have more money than time, there are what I call “turn-key” programs that for $5000 or more, again depending, they do everything for you.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on another action/thriller set in the South Pacific where an oil exploration vessel comes across an island where the natives have never seen people from the outside before; but things are not as they may seem to be on this tropical paradise. I plan on having it out by Christmas; it would make a great gift! (hint hint)

I have a series of short stories I wrote that I will be putting into an anthology and I’m also laying the ground work for a sequel to Artic Fire that I hope to start after the first of the year. If it weren’t for minor details like food and rent and having to have a “real” job I could get a lot more done!