Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interview with Cora Buhlert

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
My latest book is called "He has come back to me…" and is a bumper edition of two interlinked science fiction short stories which were previously published separately in magazines. "He has come back to me…" explores the difficult relationship between two sisters who saw an UFO land near their childhood home when they were children. The second story in the collection, Contact Renewed, picks up some thirty years later, when the younger of the two sisters is working at a SETI type "search for alien life" project and struggles with trying to remember whether her childhood close encounter was real or not.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
I sold several short stories, non-fiction articles and poems to traditional magazines. A bit later I finished my first novel. I didn't particularly like the idea of getting an agent and giving them 15 percent of all my writing income, so I decided not to get an agent unless I found that I absolutely needed one. Hence I decided to submit my novel to those publishers that accepted unagented submissions first. In the end, the novel was submitted to exactly one publisher who rejected it. Then my MA thesis took over my brain and I stopped sending out queries.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I don't belong to a critique group in the traditional sense. Partly this is for purely logistical reasons. I live in Germany and write in English, so potential critique partners and groups are few and far between.

However, I was lucky to attend one of the very few universities in Germany that offered creative writing classes in English. I attended every English language creative writing class I could. Those classes were very helpful, probably because we had an excellent teacher. The other writers in the class were very different from me. They wrote mostly minimalist literary flash fiction and poetry, whereas I wrote longer genre fiction. Nonetheless, these creative writing classes grew into an English language writing group over time. We even have our own magazine. Several members eventually found publishing success, mostly in traditional small press publishing, though one is a bestselling non fiction author here in Germany.

I have less contact with the old group now that most of us have left university. But I still see them from time to time. And when I need a beta reader or a second opinion, I know a bunch of people I can ask.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
I saw that more and more authors I respect started self-publishing. Besides, I read the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith and what they said about self-publishing made sense.

I had several out of print backlist short stories and novelettes not to mention works that never sold, all of which were gathering the proverbial dust on my hard drive. So I decided to take some of those backlist stories and give self-publishing a try. I found that I enjoyed the process and the freedom self-publishing gave me, so I put up more backlist stories and novelettes as well as stories that never sold and brand new work.

So far I have 14 e-books in a variety of genres available, mostly standalone short stories and novelettes but also a flash fiction collection and a bumper edition of two interconnected short stories.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Most of my e-books so far are republished backlist short stories and novelettes. And since those stories were originally published in various small press magazines, they already went through the editing process. As for new stories that have never been published before, I use beta readers, but I so far haven't hired a professional editor. Though I will probably hire one when I finally publish my first completed novel later this year.

What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?
First of all, I've learned that self-publishing is a lot of fun. It's also easier than I thought, though of course there is a learning curve at first regarding cover design, formatting, uploading, the requirements of the different sites, etc… But once you get the hang of it, it's really easy. Besides, self-publishing has taught me a lot of new skills. Thanks to self-publishing, I've become a better copyeditor. My HTML skills have become considerably less rusty. And since I design my own covers, I've also gotten much better at Photoshop. For the cover of "He has come back to me…" I designed a UFO from scratch in Photoshop and inserted it into a photo. I couldn't have done that six months ago.

But the best thing of all is the freedom self-publishing gives me. Before I started self-publishing, I would evaluate every single story idea according to whether there was a market for it and whether I could sell it. If the answer was "No", the story remained unwritten, unless the urge to write it was so overwhelming that the idea just wouldn't let go. But now that I'm self-publishing any story idea or length (try selling a novella in the traditional publishing world) is viable, because I can make my own niche.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
You can also find my books at OmniLit/AllRomance ebooks, DriveThruFiction and XinXii with more sites coming soon.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I have a personal website and blog, which I update almost daily, as well as a publisher blog, which I update about once a week. On my personal blog I talk about whatever moves me, not just writing, while the publisher blog focuses on writing and publishing.

I also participate in some forums where both writers and readers congregate, comment on other people's blogs and occasionally do a guest blog or an interview like this one.

I even have two book trailers which I made with xtranormal, a cool website which lets you make short movies with CGI characters that speak whatever dialogue you write for them. I don't know if those trailers sell books, but they were a lot of fun to make.
I don't do Facebook, because I have issues with their privacy policy. Besides, I'm a teacher in real life and having a Facebook account would put me in an awkward position, if one of my students tried to friend me. I don't do Twitter either, because I don't like it.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Not really. Most of the "marketing things" I do, whether it's blogging, commenting on other people's blogs, participating on forums, are things I was doing before I started self-publishing and which I would do anyway, because I enjoy them.
In my opinion it's very important to set aside time for writing. Because if you don't set aside time for writing, you don't have anything to promote. I do subscribe to the belief that the best marketing is writing and publishing the next book, so it is absolutely crucial to make time for writing.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Take the time to read the relevant blogs and evaluate all information. Take everything you find with a grain of salt, because what worked for Joe Konrath, John Locke or Dean Wesley Smith may not necessarily work for you. There's a bit of a learning curve, but don't be intimidated by this, because it's not nearly as hard as it looks and it gets easier with every book. Try to make your e-books as good as you possibly can, but don't worry if everything isn't perfect right out of the gate, cause e-books have the huge advantage that you can always fix typos and formatting issues, change the cover and the blurb, etc… Don't rush anything, cause e-books are potentially forever and the e-book you're publishing now will still be earning you money five or ten or twenty years from now.
And most importantly of all, don't forget to have fun!

What’s next for you?
Well, there's Wed on the Scaffold, a brand new historical novelette set in 16th century Germany, because historical fiction still seems to sell best for me. There'll also be more backlist reprints in the future, including a collection of short crime fiction and one of short stories set on airplanes. There'll be more adventures of the Silencer, a masked avenger in the tradition of the pulp magazine heroes of the 1930s. And I'll finally get around to publishing Colfrith, a Steampunk regency romance and my first completed novel, that never sold way back when.

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