Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Interview with Michelle Snyder

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first or latest book.
I have loved art and images since I could see. Drawing was something I could not help but do passionately since I was two years old. For decades I taught drawing and design. But in 2000 I was diagnosed with a progressive condition that made me rethink my life, and my future with teaching art. The year Dan Brown published The DaVinci Code, I became quite entranced with what Robert Langdon did; I had no idea someone could be a symbologist. That was fascinating; I pursued a postgraduate degree in decoding symbols at the University of Wales. During my research I published a column about symbols in a newspaper. They became part of my first print book, Symbology: Decoding Classic Images.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
My mother was an editor. When I was younger she sent me to Little Brown and MacMillan in Boston with edited manuscripts. She had also written one, and spent years sending it out and being rejected. She was never able to publish. In 2005 I began working with a colleague’s material, preparing it for publication. I searched for traditional publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I didn’t find any – you had to be published already to submit something to be published.... Catch 22? I researched agents, and with the ridiculous money they got paid, low royalties, the loss of rights to, or control of the material, we were discouraged. And even if you made it through all that, there was no guarantee they would market your book. Then I stumbled upon BookSurge (now CreateSpace). We published his, then our own material.

What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?
My biggest learning experience has been how to market my books. I bought books on how to market books. It was, perhaps, a paradigm changing realization that just because you write and publish a good book, does not mean sales; with the ease of publication, the opposite is true. Desktop publishing has made it possible for almost anyone to enter into the Mass Media market place. You can write and upload a book, and get it listed with online distributors without much difficulty, sometimes for free. The market is flooded with “anyone can publish a book” quality books. I think the best, most promising, and most exciting aspect to self publishing is eBook technology. As a consumer, buying eBooks means my already huge research library can grow without taking up more space. And the books are cheaper. Great opportunities lie in this new aspect of Indie publishing.

Did you design your cover art? 
My husband Jay and I are partners in graphic design, multi-media production, and publishing. We do the covers together. He is does the layout using my artwork.

What kinds of social media [twitter, FaceBook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner publicity for your book(s)?
My first attempts to market included finding reviewers. CreateSpace has a community forum where there is a good list of them. It was there I found Debra Martin. I contacted her, and she invited me to publish a column on her blog. I was very excited. Then I bought books on marketing. I highly recommend eBook: How to Make, Market, and Sell eBooks, All for Free, by Jason Matthews. His advice is comprehensive, with how-to included. We have a website,, where we post information about the books, and links to where they are sold. Finding a local publication that would feature an excerpt was recommended: I landed another newspaper column in the local paper, which also publishes online. This gives me publicity twice monthly in print, and archives the articles online; I tag the end of each article with my books and website.

I use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for professional networking. We also put up a blog: Once Upon a Time, the world of symbols. A great way to get some name recognition is to comment on other people’s blogs that are relevant to your genre or material. You find them by setting up Google alerts to be sent to your email, using search words. For me they were symbolism, mythology, and fairy tales. I have driven a lot of traffic to my blog doing this; people tend to click on your info when you comment. The greatest lesson to be learned is you can only sell what the audience wants. In the long run – Audience is King. Ask yourself, who are you writing for?

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, and a local bookstore. The two eBooks are available in multiple formats through Smashwords, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and Kindle at Amazon.

What is the best advice you can offer new authors?
Have long-term vision. I read a newspaper article that said a major difference between print and eBook marketing is that in print-sales, your book, if it makes it to the shelf, is there for maybe six months then removed to make room for new books, whereas eBooks get put up and stay up. This gives you more time to make them known and gather some momentum in sales. And if your first book is not a smash hit, try again. My husband reminds me that if you don’t have a product to sell, you won’t make any money. If you have one, at least you have a chance. If you have more than one, your chances get better. Like the menu at MacDonald’s - need to diversify? Make a new sandwich.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Honestly? Yes, even though my kids are grown. What I want to be doing is not always what needs to be done. Marketing and writing are both full time activities. Can I put off having a life until my books sell? Do I believe they will? Do people even like my stuff? How much can I put off, and for how long? These are tough questions to have nagging at you. The drive to create opportunities for publicity is sometimes all consuming. But without a book, there is nothing to market, and my first love is symbology. That is my passion, so I write when I am inspired. Then I invest a lot of time here, communicating with the online world. Just keeping up with the list of Google alerts takes a lot of time.

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest books?
Our newest eBook, World of Symbols, is about symbology, and includes the meaning, origins, and historic context of symbols like dragons, unicorns, and the Green Man. The eBooklet, World of Symbols: Secrets of the Mermaids, is a short introduction to symbology, focused on mermaids, and the symbols associated with them. Some of this information is a result of my postgrad research, and is published for the first time in my books. Jay and I are now co-authoring a new series The Sally Knight Mysteries, a collection of short stories, the first of which is “The Lost Unicorn.” Summer 2012 is our target date. 

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