Interview #2Published on: Nov 4, 2014Brain to Books: We have recently had the opportunity of speaking to Austin Dewart, the indie author of One Last Cast. Thank you so much for speaking with Brain to Books. To begin, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? How, at such a young age, did you came to write professionally, but also, what routes of publishing did you explore and why?
Austin Dewart: Currently, I’m a sophomore in college. In high school I was valedictorian of my graduating class and graduated my junior year taking courses at my local junior college. I also ran cross country this year, which was interesting, and love both basketball and football.
I’ve been vested in literature since I started reading in middle school. Rick Riordan was a major motivator in developing my love for stories. From there it was only natural I began writing and climbed the ladder to publishing. Its one thing to get short stories published in a couple of magazines and E-Zenes, as you just need to have some skill and a little luck, and another to move onto to being a novelist. Being a teenager though, its even harder, if not impossible to be published by a regular publishing house for the fact as an author, you are their investment, and such, they need someone reliable to invest in. Its hard to find authors that good at such a young age, or be willing to take the risk of vesting in a teenager in the first place and hoping they’ll follow through with the responsibly required to be an author, which as I have found out, has served to be a challenge for me as an author. So I decided to forgo that route with my first few books I wrote, and anyway, being an indie author has a better, more diverse prowess to me. Everything falls on you as a writer and I like that, being the one in control from start to finish while bringing my works to life. The challenge is all my own and its a great motivator.
As of now I’ve written 1.2 million words and ten novels. I have a website, a great Twitter following, and quite a few friends on both sides of the writing industry, from indie to traditional, and have learned a lot from them. Being just eighteen though, it still surprises me how far I’ve when I think of where I began. Nothing has been given to me. It’s all been earned, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. At the end of the day, it’s all in the name of writing. For you to have passion in your work, you have to possess a love for it, and that’s exactly what I have, a love for words.
B2B: Many of our readers are just now exploring the options to self-publish and what it entails. Others have barely begun the road, uncertain exactly how long things will take and, also, what steps they will find along the way. Could you give us a breakdown from the moment you decide to self-publish to the moment you see your book released to the public? What kind of decisions did you have to make?
AD: So here’s the thing about self-publishing. Just because you’re doing it yourself rather than through a publishing house doesn’t mean its any easier. Instead of just editing your manuscript with the direction of an editor and most likely the professional dissent of an agent to guide you through the waters of publishing, you’re completely on your own, which entails not only editing and preparing your manuscript for publication, but making a cover, promoting your book, and marketing.
My first piece of advice would be to remain patient. Just because you’ve finished a first draft doesn’t mean you’re ready to publish. That’s only the first step, and rushing out to publish your manuscript will only hurt you. The first hurtle you need to overcome is simply editing, which is usually done through two or three times before you feel confident enough to gain beta readers for feedback on your manuscript. (don’t ask family and friends). I recommend you find readers and other writers, maybe swap stories with them in trade for their services. This is where your connections will come in place, those other writers and authors you know whom have come before you on the path of publishing. My network is large and I use it to its full potential. After beta reading, comes more edits and for me, even more readers. Then comes copy editing and proofreading for errors. I have friends in my writing class who are professors at my local junior college. By connection, they’re the ones happy to do editing in exchange for beta reading of their own works.
Anyway, then there is the other side, marketing. You need a publisher such as Createspace or Lightning Source. These are POD or print on demand publishers that will print your book when its ordered online, or list it as an eBook on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In my experience, Createspace is the easiest for paperback and eBook, as they are owned by Amazon. However, they don’t supply hardcover like Lightning Source. But in my experience Lightning Source is much more of a hassle and a requires a more tech-savvy approach when it comes to submitting your manuscript and book cover in PDF forms. There’s also quite a few different
Anyway, you will also need a book cover and to have your manuscript interior formatted to the specifics of the publisher you choose as listed on their site. You can do these by yourself, or hire someone. There are many sites that can help you for relatively cheap prices, or maybe you happen to know someone who can do it for you by connection. From start to finish though, this is really only part of the battle, preparing your book for publishing. Then comes marketing, which can be harder.
My first recommendation would be to get a website. Have interactive tools that connect you to your populace of readers and use it as your foundation to build hype for your book. Next is social media. In this modern age, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have never been more useful for marketing then they are now. So make a Twitter account before you publish your book and work on building a base of followers to announce the release of your book when its ready. Then, when you finally launch your book, find people with blogs as well, and get them to review your books. Also, go out into the community, go to book stores and tell them about your book. Many are open to helping out local authors. Shop your book at book fairs too, even tell your friends so they can tell their friends of friends.
Basically, self-publishing is a two prong plan between writing and marketing your book. If you choose to take this route, know that you’ll be stepping into the role of agent and editor on top of being an author. It will take work. A lot of it. And it may seem overwhelming at times. Use your connections though. Ask for help when you need it. Most importantly, don’t rush the process. Take all the time you need. Don’t publish until you feel like you’re honestly ready to take that first step.
B2B: You said, “formatted to the specifics of the publisher.” Could you elaborate on that? What specifications should self-publishers be prepared for?
AD: Firstly, the interior of your book has to fit certain formats for publishing. For example, Lightning Source requires your files in PDF with certain size measurements for the size you want your book to be, like 8.5 x 5.5 or 9 x 6, and the same is said for the cover, which generally is recommended to be a minimum of 300 DPI, and is the same quality Createspace recommends for their covers as well. Both of these can be confusing to a new author. Createspace is much simpler in design and offers templates you can copy and paste your manuscript into and preview online. They also have a design tool that you can make a cover in with a few different templates to work from. However, most authors tend to add formatting designs to their interior templates, like those big blocky letters you will see at the start word in the first sentence of a new chapter or a certain font throughout the manuscript.
Some do this themselves or they hire or find someone to do it for them. I have a friend who does my interior formatting and another who helps tweak my manuscript and cover to the specifications of Createpsace and Lightning Source, both of which size requirements are listed on their site in case you’re wondering. There are also a few other things, such as Createspace gives you an ISBN, which is like your books identity for book stores and publisher to find it by, and requests you add it into your manuscript when you upload said manuscript to their site for publication. Lightning Source also requires a ISBN that you have to buy if you wish to publish your works publically through their distribution channels. I believe its the Nation Public Library of Congress. Otherwise, they assign you one for personal-use printing.
Both sites listed above also have channels they publish through, such onto Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can make your book available for bookstores to order. And anyway, when you upload your file and manuscript, they go through a file review and any errors will be caught and asked that you fix them before they will start distribution of your book.
B2B: On your website, I saw that you have four books due to release in 2015. How did you decide in which order to release which books?
AD: The order had to do with the time they were finished and on which I decided were most ready to be published and which needed more work. They’re all in different stages with two near completion and the other two still being edited.
B2B: Tell me about marketing and promotion. How does a self-published author start marketing their book? What things work? What things don’t? How does a self-published author with a small fan base develop that into fans and followers outside of their immediate family?
AD: As far as what won’t work, there’s really only one thing, and that’s expecting your book to sell itself. You’re the marketer and author in indie publishing, so it’s up to you to put in the effort. Otherwise, your book won’t be selling any copies anytime soon.
There are a few different avenues that split into both online and physical avenues that one should develop when marketing and promoting their book. That, quite simply, is in person, going to local bookstores, using your connections of fellow writers, and even going to book fairs. The second and even more important is online. Most indie books in particular, if not all, are sold online via eBook. So that is where most of your sales and focus should be.
Having an online presence is key, by joining and being active on writing forums, and using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to connect with other authors and potential readers. But most importantly, you need a website, which in these days is very easy and inexpensive to setup. From there you keep readers updated on your books and their sale dates.
If you publish through KDP on Amazon you can have a five day stint where your book is offered free every three months to help get your book out there via downloads and reviews. Another tool is bloggers. Get them to read your books and then blog their reviews to their audience of readers.
Ultimately, it takes time to build an audience of readers, but if you know what you’re doing, it can be beneficial to your book and sales. And if your book itself is good, then the sales should come naturally as long as you’re willing to work at it.
B2B: How did you handle the editing aspect of the book prior to publishing? Without the benefits of an edit department, how do you determine, for yourself, when your editing is complete and the book is ready for publishing?
AD: Editing is the process that I quantify as a skill, one that you particularly learn more in doing so than in writing itself. Long before you use beta readers or have an editor for content, grammar, and so on, you yourself are the primary and most important editor of your work. All that I’ve learned of editing has come from editing previous manuscripts. The more you do it, the better of an editor you become.
The point where I know my manuscript is ready for beta readers is when I can no longer find errors or potholes. Then after beta readers, more rounds of edits, a friend or two going over the manuscript for errors, and then I go through it again for grammar, flow, ext after having set it aside for a month or two. The point is that you’ll know when your manuscript is ready. For me that’s no longer being able to find any errors and possessing that general sense I’ve homed from so much experience beforehand, that it becomes apparent when its time to move onto the next step in publishing my book.
B2B: After experiencing self-publishing, do you think you’ll ever consider switching over to the traditional route?
AD: Writing has been a journey leading up to now that started with simply wanting to write short stories. The transition has been unexpected, from moving on to novels, publishing them, and now having my own website in relation to writing and being interviewed. There’s only so many first steps you take in any field, and the same is true for me. There’s really only one last horizon to be submitted from the author’s perspective, and that is the traditional route of a publisher house.
I’ve written ten novels now and well over 1.2 million words, but never have submitted one of those manuscripts to a publishing house for publication. Its not that I don’t believe my prose aren’t good enough. Its simply I don’t feel like its my time to join that circus so to speak. Acquiring an agent and a publisher for your book are hard. Very hard. I read somewhere only the top 2% of authors get traditionally published. Me being as young as I am makes it even harder. So for now, no. I’m loving the indie publishing experience, from writing, to design, to marketing. Maybe one day in a few years I will make that change, but for now, I’m staying with the half of the industry I began in, and that’s as an indie author.
B2B: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. It has been very informative.
For more information on Austin Dewart, visit his website at http://www.austindewart.com/
As soon as his books are made available to order, we will provided you with the link here. And you can also follow him on Twitter at @AustinDewart
The views and opinions expressed herein are solely the views and expressions of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Brain to Books. Brain to Books makes no claim as to the truth or accuracy of any claims expressed herein.