BookieJar interviewed award-winning novelist Susan Wingate on May 2nd, 2011. Wingate, author of the popular Bobby's Diner Series gave an insight of her career path, her advice to young writers. Rob Fuller, BookieJar's PR and Marketing executive and Susan also shared their point of views about the ePublising industry.
A summary of the interview questions and answers is posted below.
1. What made you get started as a writer?
I think back on this question a lot and I have to say my greatest influence and reason for wanting to write was my father. He was a writer. He wrote funny sexually-charged safari tales in the form of a journal. So, daily he'd write another day of the ongoing story. In fact, I think my dad might've fit well in the BookieJar community because he wrote serially.
2. Tell us about your books. Which book was your first one? How many have you written so far?
My first book was entitled "Of the Law". The tale is about police chief Harvey Flemings and his very last murder investigation. It's just recently been picked up as "A Falling of Law". I think that title gives a better idea of Harvey's dilemma.
I've written eight books since, dozens of short stories, hundreds of poems, a few one-act plays and one lonely un-produced screenplay.
3. Your books Bobby's Diner and Camouflage received international and national awards. Does winning awards make them to be your favorites?
Well, winning awards is such an honor that it's hard not to feel fondly about those award-winning stories. However, my favorite stories are the ones that I'm working on now or those I will be working on. I'm always thinking up new stories and I'm always in love with the ones I'm working on presently.
But, yes, those award-winning novels certainly have a special place in my heart.
4. What are the major challenges you have faced in your writing career?
Wow. What a great question. I think balancing my work with my private life. I'm not talking about celebrity at all when I say this. What I mean is creating some sense of balance where I'm not constantly working, thinking or discussing work. Like right now, I've been up since 6:30 this morning and it's 6:30 p.m. I tend not to stop. Working at home can have that effect on a person. If my work was outside the house, I wouldn't be working right now. So, that sense of balance flies out the window when I work at home. But, and here's the inherent problem, I LOVE my work so I could just go on and on and on...
5. What's your point of view about ePublishing and self-publishing?
About ePublishing, well, no matter how much people wish it would go away, I happen to think it's here to stay. It's the way we will be doing business from now on and much the way trains and automobiles effected the world, now we can transport goods via airwaves! Isn't that amazing. If we wish to buy an eBook, we just get online with our reader and order it, then we can read it--within a matter of seconds. Of course, it's forced some businesses out of business and some industries are scrambling to adapt and not to lose money but with any break in technology or industry, we see similar effects. It's the brave new world one very similar to the one that Aldous Huxley wrote about.
About self-publishing, well, authors have been self-publishing for over two hundred years so it's nothing new. What IS new is the stigma of self-publishing, indie publishers and vanity presses. That stigma has faded incredibly so. The quality and content of many self-published books is incredibly high. Another new occurrence involving self-publishing is that we're seeing many new markets opening up for these books. Authors are starting to pull in some great money, they're winning awards and getting fabulous reviews. Before, most venues--bookstores, libraries and other retailers would flat refuse self-published work. Competitions disallowed self-published books and reviewers wouldn't even bother to read them let alone offer a review. That's all changed within the last five to ten years. Again, a brave new world.
What is great about both ePublishing and self-publishing is that authors are seeing a reversion of control. We're getting control of our work back. Where, in the past, publishers had control, well, now we're seeing the struggle leveling out. We're also seeing print, eBook and subsidiary royalties rise. Authors lost control sometime ago. It happened in sometime between the 1960s and the 1980s. Many things effected this tilt in control toward the publishers. But, the fact remains that now we're seeing a more level playing field in today's market.
6. Ongoing book publishing model allows serializing a book and engaging readers. Are you doing it or are you interested in trying it?
I think it's great that BookieJar is doing this. You know, I believe that some great authors such as Benjamin Franklin and Charles Dickens both did the same but through print newspapers. So, the concept is an old, tried and true one. It's a model that I admire and would very much like to do and will, as soon as publishers can guarantee zero copyright pirating. So, until I find a publisher that can guarantee this, I'll probably wait to do so. But, I think it's great. It's just with the internet, anyone can copy and paste my work in some of these venues. So, at this point, I'm a bit hesitant.
7. How do you promote your books? Based on your experience, what promotion methods are most effective?
Again, in this new eWorld, most of my marketing has been done online, on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and a few others. But, usually, once a year when another book is released, I'll hire an online book publicist. Sometimes I'll take out an print ad but fewer dollars have been spent for those in the past few years. We don't need to spend money anymore. But, my presence is wide. I also have a live talk radio show called DIALOGUE: BETWEEN THE LINES. It's another way to build my platform, to set myself apart from the millions of other great authors out there. I'm very active in my marketing & publicity campaigns. You have to be in this day and age.
8. Do you like to communicate with your readers directly? What channels do you use?
I do. I love it, actually. I notice some authors who block their Facebook walls or the ability for people to contact them via a message on Facebook and I just shake my head. Now, I get it. I do. I mean, I'm sure James Patterson HAS to. Just so he can work. With the millions and millions of readers he has, he just couldn't answer all of the comments. But, I notice authors who are mid-listers like me who won't talk to their readers. It seems off somehow to me. Plus, I love to hear what people think about a story I've written. Did they like it? If so, why? If not, why? I think understanding what our readers want (our consumers!), then we're really not being very business-smart. But, also, I just love to talk to people so it seems natural to me.
9. What advice would you like to give to new writers?
Try to write no fewer than 3 hours a day. Stay focused on your writing when you're writing. Stay focused on your marketing when you're marketing. Stay focused on submissions when you're in the submission mode. And, keep your head down and try to stay positive. Remember, the rejection rate from agents is about 98%. It's a little less if you go directly to publishers but it's still high. If you understand that and keep educating yourself in craft, yes, but also in the publishing business, you'll be able to understand things that the author who isn't watching the business will not get.
Build your online platform: your website, blog, and social sites. Go to writing conferences. Not only will you learn a ton but you'll also make some wonderful contacts. And, if you ever have a question, email me. I'm always open to helping emergent writers. I teach tons of workshops and offer my email address openly. It's email@example.com. I'm always available and only hope people will take me up on chatting. I've been in the business for nearly 20 years now and I've gleaned a bunch of information.
And, get onto BookieJar! It's another fabulous way to get your work out to the public. I can only thank them for contacting me before their launch. And, thank you, Rob for this wonderful interview.
In the ePublishing arena, readers can no longer pick a book from the retailer's shelf, flip through it, maybe sit down at the end of the aisle and read a chapter or two, and generally get a "feel" for the book before deciding to buy. Recently, I've been struck how much blogging is going on about the effectiveness of cover design, reviews, blurbs, and book synopsis' in eBook sales. There's no doubt that better cover design helps a bit. Reviews are clearly important and will be a topic of future blog entry here. However, there's evidence that blurbs or book synopsis' are not very effective for eBooks, particularly as the amount of electronically published material grows and the descriptions struggle to differentiate. The Ongoing Book publishing model may be of significant help here.
What is the Ongoing Book model?
Ongoing Books are eBooks released in pieces, often chapter by chapter. The model allows readers to 'taste' a work before committing to buy the whole book, which is particularly attractive to readers when considering works of lesser-known writers.
What the writer gets out of it is even more interesting. Since a reader buys the book in several transactions, greater engagement and reader loyalty starts to develop. For manuscripts in-progress, the writer gains faster time to market and, where appropriate, useful feedback early.
A writer's promotional efforts are also aided with this model. Each new chapter becomes a release event and promotional opportunity. For example, with BookieJar, each time you add a new chapter, your book will be labeled "New Chapter Available" and your BookieJar followers will be notified. BookieJar also cross posts new releases on social media such as Twitter and Facebook and in its newsletters. Thus, releasing a book in an ongoing manner can create a lot more promotional buzz.
The model also offers huge flexibility for pricing. Each chapter or component is priced separately. Studies show readers need to read at least 4 chapters before they become attached to a story, so some writers choose to make the early sections of their books available at no cost to make is easier for readers to try, and then charging for later sections once the reader is hooked.
Cover design and book synopsis are still important in the Ongoing publishing model, but are less critical as success factors than they are in the "all or nothing" model.
BookieJar has explicit support for the ongoing book model so it's easy to try it out. See the Ongoing Book section in BookieJar's Submission Guidelines for instructions on how to publish ongoing content to BookieJar.
For many who haven't pondered this question seriously, ePublishing is simply books available in digital format, akin to the audio music shift from vinyl records to CDs. Others may look at the disruptive impact on the industry - what does this mean for the book retailers, publishers, distributors, writers, readers, etc.
In my view however, the real significance lays in where ePublishing is heading in terms of the interaction between writers and readers (storytellers and audience).
With the printing press, we gained the ability to rapidly and consistently reach a larger audience but the price paid was losing direct interaction between storyteller and audience. We can still see this polarity today in the theatre. I regularly attend live theatre and enjoy a certain degree of connection and intimacy with the performers that one can't experience with movies. The problem is that live theatre can't scale. On the other side, we have the movie industry with scale and no meaningful engagement.
For many years now, the Internet has been a vehicle for people to express themselves and publish their content to the world by just putting it out on the Internet. This started to loosen the total control held by traditional publishers on what material was made available to a wide audience. eBook formats grease those activities further by establishing some semblance of standards for electronic content distribution. Recent emergence of eReaders make this material even more convenient to consume, increasing the ubiquity of electronic content.
For me, the interesting future lays in increasing the richness of the reading experience. eBook formats and website "repositories" alone increase reach and variety of content but do little to enrich the reading experience. I think the richness of the reading experience will truly be enhanced when we can start, in a modern way, to restore the communication and interaction between content producers and content consumers.
Can we create the essence of pre-printing press days when stories were told directly by storytellers to live audiences, yet still allow a global reach and 1-to1 or 1-to-many interaction? I'm convinced we're starting to do that today by leveraging ePublishing technology with social networks, providing the beginnings of an unheard of ability to scale while offering the possibility to restore writer-reader interaction.
Somewhere in the future, I expect printed books will be viewed as a semi-successful step in the evolution of storytelling and communication. This is an exciting time because we are on the cusp of something quite significant.
What are your thoughts?
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Publisher (Entry Way Publishing).