Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
CAPTAIN SHELBY delves into the history behind the old fisherman from the Amazon bestselling first novel in the Captain Shelby Series Trilogy, PELICAN BAY. Readers were fascinated with this larger-than-life character, and that is how the novel spawned a series. In CAPTAIN SHELBY, we go far back in history to the point where Irish settlers, fleeing the tyranny of King Henry VIII, first come in contact with the mysterious fisherman.
Do you have a favorite character?
My favorite character is, first and foremost, Captain Shelby. I began a short story almost four years ago entitled Right Crooked about a submerged graveyard and an eccentric, cursed beach town. Captain Shelby was not a planned character; he just leapt out of the pages. When an exciting character asks for room to grow, I’ve learned to just obey. I guess I did the right thing, since Captain Shelby basically started my writing career.
Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Interesting question! Actually, I’m one of those hybrid authors of the 21st century, with self-pub novels and traditionally published novels. My publisher, Imajin Books, is a very unique traditional small house with indie marketing skills. I got lucky finding them. Imajin Books published PELICAN BAY, which became an instant #1 Amazon bestseller in literary fiction/sea adventures. They are also publishing CAPTAIN SHELBY. Before publishing with Imajin Books, I did go through hundreds of agent submissions and rejections; it’s sort of author baptism, I guess.
How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
It took about a year to get a contract for my first novel, PELICAN BAY. I turned down the first contract because it was unacceptable—awful percentages and very little promise of marketing on the side of the publisher. This is very common for traditional smaller houses. I took my time—did a lot of research—then came across Imajin Books. If you’re going to slowly climb the latter rather than waiting years for a Big Six contract, you better choose your smaller house wisely. Fortunately, I did!
What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
I think the decision to publish traditionally or to self-publish centers on timing, novel-type, and the type of contract you get or think you can get. For example, I’m self-publishing a Christmas Novella this fall because I want to be sure it comes out at the right time. Also, it’s a novella, which may be very hard to place with publishers, especially bigger ones. That being said, I might get a bestseller and than I could negotiate print rights for the novella with a good traditional publisher—even movie rights. Finally, I can’t charge a lot for a novella, so unless I’m going to sell thousands upon thousands of books, self-publishing is more financially sane. But a writer needs to be sure he or she has enough of a readership/social media base to self-publish. If I didn’t have other books, and a great publisher, I couldn’t expect to self-publish a novella and sell a decent number of copies. In short, more books means more dollars, especially if you have folks reading other book of yours.
If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
My cover designer is Ryan Doan, one of the best in the business—a digital Van Gogh. He always asks me my vision of the cover, then goes about his beautiful art work. He then allows me to make changes if needed. However, his work is so amazing, my adjustments are usually very few. He seems to be able to pull the vision right out of my head somehow.
Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I always have the main premise and all the themes and possible plots in my head, but I never write them down; I feel that doing so commits me to too much. For a novel to flow naturally, it must be written naturally. In other words, if the author doesn’t really know what’s precisely coming next, neither will the reader. And that’s good.
Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
To not do so is tantamount to vocational suicide. I have no less than two editors and two proofreaders look at every novel I produce. The author can never see his work objectively. Also, there are always words to be removed in the mission of shrinking reality to fit the manuscript. Otherwise, the reader is overwhelmed with it all. Writers write, and editors edit. Neither can exist without the other … if quality art is the goal.
What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
You must have a readership to publish. And most importantly, self-publishing a work without adequate marketing is like giving a speech to a stadium of people without a microphone. Sometimes even the first row can’t hear you.
Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
I believe that a good mix is 40% writing, 30% reading, and 30% marketing. In the beginning you have to sometimes be willing to spend more time marketing because you are building an author platform and a readership. But in the end, it is so worth it, especially if you’re a career author who has dedicated the remainder of his or her life to creating novels.
Jesse Giles Christiansen is an American author who writes compelling literary fiction that weaves the real with the surreal. He attended Florida State University where he received his B.A. in English literature, and holds an M.A. in philosophy from Georgia State University. He is the author of Pelican Bay (book one in the Captain Shelby Series), an Amazon #1 list bestseller, outselling Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. One of Christiansen's literary goals is to write at least fifty novels, and he always reminds himself of something that Ray Bradbury once said: "You fail only if you stop writing."
His latest book is the literary fiction/magical realism novel, Captain Shelby.
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