Author: Nathaniel Dean James
Book: Origin – Season One
A brief bio: I’m a Swede, born in England and raised in the United States. In many ways I was a Caucasian gypsy for the first twenty-five years of my life, settling in Sweden, Denmark, Florida, California (Hollywood, Palmdale and San Francisco), Curacao, Mexico, Hungary, and finally the United Kingdom, where I reside today. I was a soldier for ten years in British Army, first in the Parachute Regiment, and later in the Royal Military Police. I think the only thing that really strings all these things together is that I never stopped reading. Now a family man, I live with my wife and our five year old twins in West Sussex where I drive semis by day and write fiction by night.
Book purchase link: http://getbook.at/OSO
1. Why did you decide to go indie and self-publish? What was the process like for you?
When it finally came to the crunch, I was in two minds about the path to take. I have a friend who is a published author with Orion and very conservative in his views. He spent most of the eighties collecting rejection letters from publishers and had all but given up when he was “discovered” by an agent. I guess you can understand why he’s reluctant to applaud the seachange in recent years. He doesn’t even own a Kindle, although all his books are obviously available on Amazon for download.
Anyway, I had spent a couple of weeks making a list of literary agents in London and reworking my pitch when I read an article about Louis L’Amour and the 200 hundred rejections he received before Bantam signed him and on went on to sell 330 million copies of his books. I hunted around and found a few other horror stories, Agatha Christie’s 5 years in limbo, Zane Grey, C.S. Lewis, Dan Brown, Irving Stone, the list is endless. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was never going to be easy. But what really caught me out wasn’t so much the vagaries of the industry, but the time involved. I just didn’t think I could go on writing for five or ten years without an audience. That story might kill a few minutes at a cocktail party, but it would be good for little else, and I don’t really drink.
As for the process, I think I’m only just nearing the end of the beginning of the learning curve. I’ve read hundreds of essays, articles, how-to guides and blog posts about life on planet Indie. In the end I’ve gone with the things that uniformly resonate throughout. Considering I started late in the day, I’m finally starting to see some momentum.
2. How do you market/promote/advertise? What’s been successful and what hasn’t?
A pretty standard start really. I began with the holy triumvirate of social media: Facebook, Twitter and a blog. These things work, but as you know, they take time and you can’t go in kicking and screaming about your book because that just pisses people off. My blog is a general interest platform covering everything from politics to cinema. I do book reviews, although I’ve more or less given up on taking submissions. I spent a lot of hard-earned money on editing my work to a professional standard. When I see an error in the first paragraph that no studious reader, let alone editor, could miss, I take it personally, and 95% of the submissions I receive fall into this category.
At the moment I’m in the review-collection business and that will only end when I have at least 25 or 30 of them up on Amazon. There are a lot of mixed messages out there about the importance of reviews, but I tend to side with the assumption that they matter to readers. In this regard – and I have you to thank for the pointer – Goodreads is proving to be the most effective agent. I recently gave away ten print copies of my book there and had 160 people enter the giveaway. I’ve since contacted the 150 that didn’t win and offered each a free eBook copy, and over half have taken me up. The first review I got was from the follow up. The important difference here is that all but one of the people who entered was also a Goodreads Author. I’m not saying I have anything against giving away a book to a fellow author, of course, but these are what I call organic readers. Indie authors have to stick together, but when it comes to cross promotion, it’s a closed loop. I’d have to review 30 books to get thirty reviews on a one-for-one basis and that’s just not realistic.
3. What advice would you give to an author who’s trying to decide between traditional publishing and independent?
Well, people are different of course, so I guess it would depend on the person asking. But my default answer would be that unless you had an in, the odds of finding an agent prepared to take you on are beyond slim. It’s not just chance, nepotism also plays a major role in the publishing industry. Look over the lists of any major agent today and you’ll see a lot of former publishing executives, TV and radio people, and others from the fringes of the entertainment scene. Feel free to assume that none of them submitted a manuscript or wrote a covering letter. And let’s not forget that while finding an agent may be your best (only) bet for a deal with a major publisher, it’s by no means a sure one. All it takes to knock your book off the pile is one retiring footballer or ambitious nephew. I don’t mean to sound bitter, it’s a private business and they can do whatever they want. But that’s the point, isn’t it? They can do what they want because like it or nor, they’re not a public service.
So unless you have written something that is going to break the literary mold, or inspire the next roller-coaster at Islands of Adventure, the law of probability dictates that you stand a better chance of going it alone. Until you do, you’re at the back of the line. Even successful Indie authors who have already put in the hours and achieved good sales are more likely to end up on the industry radar than an unknown in their slush pile.
4. When/how did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t quite recall when I made the conscious decision, but I do remember where the spark came from. I had just finished reading my first Stephen King novel, It, and I remember looking around me in a daze wondering what had just happened. I didn’t really read the book so much as disappear into it. And when I came back out on the other side I finally understood why some people didn’t bother buying a TV. The idea of being able to grab someone like that with words stuck with me. And while it was years before I finally wrote a book that I thought had a fighting chance of achieving something even remotely similar, I did begin writing shortly afterwards. I wrote short stories, started half a dozen novels that died in the making for one reason or another, but I kept at it.
5. Most indie authors have day jobs. How has your current or previous employment informed your writing?
I guess travelling broadens your horizons, and I certainly saw a lot during my time in the army that helped to develop some of my deeper convictions about life and people in general. But for the most part I think I have reading to thank for whatever passes for talent in my own case. Imagination is inherent in all human beings, but like a muscle it must be exercised to be of much use. I believe reading achieves this like nothing else.
6. Do you have any favorite authors and do they influence your writing?
My favorite author is Stephen King, and by a country mile. I’m no fan of horror, read no other authors associated with the genre, and probably never will. King is one of those authors who bears this label more like a cross than a distinction, and only because we live in a world where categorization and comparison are endemic. King doesn’t write about gore and death, he writes about people and there aren’t many who do it as well.
Do I try to emulate him in my writing? Yes, I do, and proudly. That’s not to say I succeed.
7. Anything else readers should know about you?
I still don’t know what half the genres in fiction even mean, and have never written a word with a view to staying inside any lines. Some call my book Sci-Fi, others say it’s a thriller. There’s a coming of age story in there somewhere, a first kiss, a marriage on the rocks, an unlikely friendship, people dealing with the uncertainty of unprecedented events, a look at evil, questions about the meaning of life, and a bunch of other stuff. To me it’s just the story as I experienced it. If you asked me what my target demographic is, I’d have to go with literate humans above the age of consent.
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