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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Down and Dirty: The Ultimate Round Table Joust: 1


                                                            Dedicated to: Pam Stack

Four knights. One theme, of interest to writers and readers alike: the pros and cons of ebook and traditional publishing. The four knights, in alphabetical order:

Claude Bouchard
CB officially leaped into the writing world in 2009 and his Vigilante Series now boasts a dozen installments with more to come. In addition, he has penned Nasty in Nice, as part of the JET Kindle World, and ASYLUM, a standalone novel .

Leverett Butts
The author of Emily's Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories, and of Guns of the Waste Land, a series of novellas retelling the King Arthur legends as an American Western.  He lives in Temple, Georgia, with his wife and son.

Bill Kirton
Ex actor, director, voice-over artist, playwright, teacher, university lecturer. Now wood carver and writer of crime, historical, romance, satire, humour, non-fiction books for students. Also a gardener and lover of sport, sailing, good food and better wines.

David North-Martino
The author of Wolves of Vengeance and an ardent martial artist. His short stories have appeared in numerous fiction venues including: Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers, Wicked Tales: TJOTNEHW Vol.2 and Dark Recesses Press. 


                                                                        *****

1) Let's begin at the beginning: When did you first know you really were a writer, regardless of whether you'd published?

BOUCHARD
A bit of history to start. I wrote Vigilante in 1995, simply because I had a story I needed to get out of my head. Two sequels followed in 1996-97 and, although I did a bit of agent querying, it was more for fun than anything else. When I pulled out my dormant manuscripts in 2009, revised and published them and began writing the fourth installment of my series, I knew I was a writer.

BUTTS
I knew I wanted to be a writer as soon as I could read. I would read a book that I loved and then be depressed that there wasn’t more, so I started writing my own sequels, the the kids call fanfiction today. It was never very good, but it was what started me on my path to writing my own stories.

KIRTON
I’ve written since I was very young. But, in my twenties, I’d been sending radio plays to the BBC for a year or so; none had been accepted but they’d made nice remarks about them. Then a BBC producer mentioned to the late Tony Church, actor and director of the then new Northcott Theatre that I wrote drama. Tony invited me to look around the building and, whenever we met one of his crew, he said, ‘This is Bill Kirton. He’s a writer’. In my mind that validated it. I was a writer because someone else said I was.

NORTH-MARTINO
Back in 8th grade I wrote a short story and read it to my class. Everyone, including the teacher, really liked it. After that, I was referred to as “the writer.” Before that I had wanted to be a comic book illustrator, and was always envious of the student in my school who was thought of as “the artist.”''


2) Traditionally published authors, as well as many readers, regard ebook writers as failures. Yet it's said that over 95% of traditionally published books are commercial failures. What are your thoughts on writing success and failure? Would you be happier if you'd sold 80,000 ebooks, Amazon bestsellers, or if you'd published a wonderfully reviewed hardcover book that sold 100 copies?

BOUCHARD
To clarify your wording, I’ll assume ‘ebook writers’ actually means self-published writers. What also needs to be determined is the unit used to measure a writer’s success or failure. Any writer who manages to hold the interest of an audience with his or her work is successful. If the number of trad deals or units sold or dollars earned are deemed to be the measuring stick by some, good for them. I’ve been paying my bills so, good for me.

BUTTS
If you measure the success or failure of writing based only on sales, you are dooming your self to be sorely disappointed. The fact is most writers do not get traditionally published, and most of those who do don’t get published by the major houses. If your book is self-published or published by a smaller, independent press, you simply will not make the number of sales that others by larger houses achieve.

It’s nice if you can be a best-seller, but I think a more effective measure of a work’s success is the feedback you get from other readers either in person or in the form of reviews. This feedback can tell you where you need to improve your writing and what is working well. Sales really only affect your pocketbook; they don’t tell you why your writing is selling well or poorly.

KIRTON
You’ve got two different sorts of ‘failure’ there. The first is a value judgement, equates to ‘loser’, and therefore has limited validity. The second is more legitimate since it’s based on the facts of balance sheets. Okay, the quality filters on ebooks are non-existent, but equally, there are many beautiful books which traditional publishers have missed. It would be nice if quality automatically brought tangible profits but |I’m a realist.

NORTH-MARTINO
The ability to complete a novel, to finish what you start, to me, is a success unto itself. Traditionally published authors, who are fortunate enough to be working writers, are heavily invested in legacy publishing. Some of them hold their noses at indie writers, but writers who do work-for-hire get the same treatment, and literary writers and academia look down at genre and popular fiction writers. The readers are the only ones who count.


3) 'Ten years to mastery', they say, in any craft or profession. After that, many writers spend years hunting for agent, shopping for a sale, then waiting for publication. Is the immediacy of ebook publishing a major draw for you?

BOUCHARD
Once again, I assume ‘ebook publishing’ means self-publishing. The immediacy is certainly an advantage in that, once I have a work which is ready for the public, it is made available (in both digital and print formats) without delay. I much prefer having a book out there and selling than sitting and waiting for eventual publishing, maybe…

BUTTS
It is. This past summer my two volumes of Guns of the Waste Land were picked up by Venture Press, a British publishing house that only does ebooks, to be published in a single, electronic volume. I was surprised how quickly their turnaround was when they were able to get the book on the shelves in weeks instead of months. Self-publishing paper backs also has a quick turnaround, though, which can be a draw when trying to decide if to seek an agent and traditionally publish or not. For myself, I self-published my first book, a collection of short stories titled Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories, and the first volume of Guns of the Waste Land, in order to test the waters and prove that the books could sell. I believe this helped Venture decide to take me on.

KIRTON
Yes. I’ve been published traditionally by publishers in the UK and USA but the process takes so long that I’m glad I can now get my books to readers in weeks rather than months or years. The drawback, of course, is that I have to be skilled in promotion and marketing, and I’m not. I haven’t yet tried any of these companies that claim to specialise in promoting authors, but that may be my next step.

NORTH-MARTINO
It’s been ten years since I made my first short story sale. I’m sure I haven’t mastered the craft yet, but I hope that I’m at least on the cusp of writing at a professional level. I’ve been able to sell short fiction consistently to the small press, and have had interest from professional magazines. I do think the immediacy of ebook publishing, of publishing what I want, and when, was a major draw for me when I put out my first short novel.

4) Let's be contrary. The grating debate goes on and on: print publishing OR ebooking? But what if we replaced that one word OR with AND? We may never convert rabid anti-ebook readers. How do you feel, though about offering print versions of your work to offer readers more options--and to better your chances of getting reviews?

BOUCHARD
All my books are available in both print AND ebook with the exception of box sets and one title in Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World. Though ebooks make up the bulk of my sales, making the books available in print via POD is certainly worth the minimal effort in order to satisfy those who insist on a paper copy.

BUTTS
I like offering both. As a reader, I will always prefer the feel and smell of a hardcopy book in my hands, but I also find the convenience of carrying multiple books on a single device to be very useful, especially when I am reading multiple texts simultaneously. While we are on the subject of altering versions, I am even considering using CreateSpace to do audio versions of my books. This will make it convenient for those with long commutes, or who do a lot of running, or whatever, to listen to a book. I feel like the more formats a book can be put in, the better.

KIRTON
I’ll take your word for it that producing a print book increases the chances of getting reviewed. I still do enjoy (maybe even prefer) the whole familiar tactile experience of turning pages, feeling the weight of the object, the number of pages growing in one hand and decreasing in the other as you read, but I also appreciate the convenience of carrying a whole library in a small tablet. Both forms have their fans (as do audio versions), so yes, let’s keep books coming, however they’re delivered.

NORTH-MARTINO
I think having print versions of our work is essential. It certainly allows us more options when it comes to reviews. Most reviewers, whether on Goodreads or elsewhere, want something besides an ebook for their troubles, and it gives them more incentive to write a review. There are also opportunities to do signings with print books. I belong to a local writers association that hits every major convention. Having a print version of my novel would allow me the opportunity to get out and sell at those venues. Local libraries and independent books stores might also be willing to carry books from local indie writers.

5) Is reader resistance any less toward indie-published print books than toward ebooks? If not, how do you overcome resistance?        

BOUCHARD                                    
In the vast majority of cases,  print versus digital format has no bearing on reader resistance toward indie authors. Most print versions of indie works are available online only, not in brick and mortar stores across the planet. That said, readers are generally not faced with shelves filled with indie and trad print works and therefore resistance toward indie works in that context simply doesn’t exist.

BUTTS
I think the resistance comes from the “indie-published” descriptor than from any format. I feel that the best way to overcome that resistance is good word-of-mouth. Now if we could just figure out the magic formula for getting readers to review our books on Amazon once they’ve read them…

KIRTON
Is it really strong enough to be called ‘resistance’? Readers like books. If paper versions were banned, they’d still read them on their tablets, and vice versa. I see one difference, though. If a book turns out to be crap, you’re less likely to throw your tablet against the wall, whereas paperbacks…

NORTH-MARTINO
Readers typically can’t differentiate between traditionally and indie published books, as long as said books look professional and include both ebook and print formats. Ebook only screams indie, and I do feel that many readers believe that indie books aren't up to professional standards.

The best ways to overcome reader resistance is to have a print book as well as an ebook, to create your own imprint, to purchase professional looking covers, to have your books professionally edited, to write lots of books, to have lots of reviews, and to competitively price your books with those of traditionally published authors. Simple, right? Haha!



                                                                    *****





Take seven, as in seven days, to stretch and think about Part 1. We'll be back next weekend with the provocative conclusion. Among other things, you'll learn if Claude Bouchard wears boxers or briefs. And you'll hear high praise for Russell Blake. Arrive early for guaranteed seating.

                                             *****

To learn more about these four authors and their books, just click on the following links: 

Claude Bouchard
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Claude-Bouchard/e/B002BLL3RK
Website: http://www.claudebouchardbooks.com         
Vigilante Series Box set - Books 1 to 6http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EPE926Y

Leverett Butts
Grand Central Review: http://www.grandcentralreview.com/
Author Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/LeverettButts/?fref=ts
My Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/leverettbutts


Bill Kirton 
Amazon Author Page
US: https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY
Website/blog: www.billkirton.com
Best intro to his work:  https://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Jack-Carston-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B008X8ZM8G

David North-Martino
Amazon Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1Ir7PWP
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dnorthmartino

2 comments:

  1. Fun post. If you want to hear Russell Blake in person, check out my December 23rd show with Santa Ho Ho Blake.

    Cheers!
    Pam Stack
    Authors on the Air

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the airtime, Reb. There's certainly plenty here to keep the discussions going.

    ReplyDelete

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