Monday, September 26, 2011

Interview with Cynthia Echterling

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
Scavengers is a post-apocalyptic novel set in Georgia where evacuees have returned to North America after it was devastated, to rebuild. Dr Thomas Martin is an anthropologist who studies the savages who survived, and who is forced to live among them after being accused of treason by the military. His coworkers try to find out what happened to him and get caught up in the government's plot.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes, and was told that, although well written, it didn't fit anyone's list. I tend to cross genre borders.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I've belonged to several groups and have taken classes. Some groups have been helpful, others not so. What I find most helpful is getting people's gut reactions. What did they like, what didn't seem clear enough, how they respond to different characters. Do they laugh at my jokes? But with groups, you need to be careful that they don't try to change your vision or style to fit theirs, or insist their is only one way to did it right. Also, groups can help one another with group marketing, learning to read aloud, doing public readings. If you're phobia is public speaking, this may be helpful. I fortunately don't have that problem, but I know great authors who are terrified of reading.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
I've been published by traditional publishers in the past, but I've gotten very frustrated with the submission process -- sending to one publisher at a time, waiting sometimes for years before they reject the manuscript. I'm still interested in submitting to traditional publishers, but if they don't buy right away, that doesn't mean there are no readers who would enjoy the work. Also, with the e-book revolution, print publishers seem to be taking on fewer new authors. It may be that in the future, they will be more interested in signing contracts with indie authors who have proven they can sell.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
That didn't fit in my budget, but that's another area where writers groups come in handy.

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
When it comes to e-books especially, there isn't much that a small publisher can do that you can't do yourself. I am also an artist, so I was also able to do my own cover. If you're not, try to get the best, most compelling cover you can -- not just plain with words on it. If you want to get something more original than the template, clip art ones, you might try finding an artist on Covers can sell books. You still have to market, whether you're traditional or indie, and you have to schedule your own events. You do have more control over how your book will look. I also like being able to view my own sales data too. that way I can tell what marketing efforts are working,

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
I'm on Smashwords and the third party vendors they distribute to as well.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I use the social media sites, other peoples' blogs, reviews.  I've also made contacts with reporters for the electronic versions of local newspapers. I have had some success with forums where I am already a member anyway. You need to be careful with social media. Go in being actually social and interested in making friends -- not just, hi, buy my great book! as some people do. People hate that. Also find people or groups with common interests, not just other writers. (A bunch of writers selling books to each other doesn't make a lot of money.) On Twitter, for example, since my main character in Scavengers is an anthropologist, I follow people who are interested in anthropology and the apocalypse.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Very. And it's even harder when you have two books, out, one coming out, one finished and one on the way. So I'm marketing to readers, querying, editing and writing. All those things take different skills. Makes my brain hurt. I try to do a little of everything every day if possible.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Don't think you're book is the greatest thing ever written and don't expect that just because you put it out there, people are going to find it and buy it in droves. There is a lot of competition and it takes a lot of work to get the word out. It may be slow at first, but if you keep at it, you can build a following. Then, as you write more books, that following will be ready to buy your new work. And! I've never done it, but I've seen people go up in flames because of it. No matter what readers or reviewers say about you or your work, don't argue, piss people off or burn bridges. Just smile, thank them for their feedback and keep on writing.

What’s next for you?
I have a book coming out in April. Help Wanted, Human: Paid Holidays. It's the second in the Help Wanted, Human series under my other identity, Stephen Wytrysowski, from Whiskey Creek Press. I have a third for that series I need to do the final editing on. I'm just about finished with a young adult/adult humorous sf/dark fantasy/fairy tale mash-up called Torqed that I'll be sending out to publishers. I'm working with writers groups I belong to, setting up group readings. I'm also working on an animated web series and I have more ideas for more books. Like I said, my brain hurts.