Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interview with Ras Ashcroft

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
‘Supervillain: The Concise Guide’ is a humorous, novella-sized parody book that does exactly what it says on the packaging! It’s a mock guide on how to conquer the planet by any means necessary. People can read it when they feel the urge to start plotting their way to the top.

“Are you tired of living a humdrum life? Is there little to look forward to except a dead-end job and more news headlines that remind you of your insignificance in the world? Do you think the future of humanity depends on your potent leadership skills? Well forget about the nonsense of running for political office and become a supervillain instead.

Fancy degrees and qualifications are not required. With this concise guide, you will learn all the basic tricks of the trade. Ease into your first seedy business, create a large organization with interests in finance, media and politics, and build a powerful military force. Eventually you will launch your crusade to rule the entire planet.

Take your shot at world domination – and hit the bull’s-eye.”

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
No I didn’t. With the advances in independent publishing, I had always intended to do it through this route. I love writing and I enjoy having people read my work. Indie publishing gives me a quick and direct route to getting my book on the market and available for the general public to read.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I do not belong to any particular critique group, but I personally do know other authors and voracious readers. When we find the time, we critique each other’s work and over the years, all of our talents have improved as a result.

I think it’s hard to get completely honest reviews from close friends and family, so help in that area from other sources is always appreciated.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?

Amazon has a good system in place. A simple, free submission process on a respected website and decent royalties have inspired a new generation of writers to actually  attempt to get their work out there, where previously they might have let their manuscripts collect digital dust. There used to be a completely unnecessary aura of shame associated with self-publishing that is thankfully beginning to lift. 

It’s true that there is no guarantee of success, but that comes with the territory for any writing project, even ones through traditional publishing routes. I’ve noticed that writers seem to be having a lot more fun with the independent process! This independence also inspires the entrepreneurial side of many writers, and makes them connect directly with their readers.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Yes I did. Luckily, I was able to employ the free services of a professional editor through contacts with friends. I do owe him a beer or ten! On top of that, he is also welcome to use the facilities of the business I run as a day job for free.

What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?
I have learnt that while success is never easy or guaranteed, the entire process can be incredibly fun. The freedom to write and share your work with the world is wonderful.

Should readers seriously consider acting on the advice in your book?
That is really up to the reader, but I have heard nothing but bad things about CIA/MI6 black site interrogation facilities.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I started my marketing efforts by putting up a Twitter and Facebook page and connecting with other authors. A fun Pinterest page where I put up humorous pictures and connect with other image boards is up as well. I’ve also started a blog where I write satirical business/organization ideas, in the hope that it attracts a few readers. ‘Gulag Publishers Inc’, where my fake company claims to offer a quick and free professional publishing/mass-marketing service in return for…a rather sinister catch…has been particularly popular among authors!

My book has been submitted to certain book bloggers and reviewers, and I hope that they like it enough to promote it on their own websites.

I have also become active on various writing forums such as the Kindleboards and the niche forums of other websites. As for paid advertising, I’m using a Google Adwords voucher, but I’m undecided on what to do with the account once it runs out.

I enjoy writing for the blog, marketing and connecting with other people, so it’s been a great way to spend an hour or two every day.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Seeing as I’m only into the second week of marketing after releasing the book, I haven’t begun writing my next book yet. But between the day job, marketing this book and writing, I imagine it could be quite tricky! It certainly won’t put me off though.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Don’t come into self-publishing after looking at the success of Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath and John Locke, thinking that you are guaranteed to emulate their success. Do it because you have a passion for writing and want to get your work out there for people to read.

What’s next for you?
I’ll keep up the marketing effort for a while longer, and then start concentrating on my next book. I want it to be novel-sized and tie in to my first book, with the ultimate aim of building a mini-universe of books that are related together under my name. I’m having a lot of fun doing it, so I see no reason to stop!

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