November 2015.

Hi Eric! As you may have noticed from my website, I like to interview writers. From what you’ve told me, you like to write sci-fi fantasy stories, but also write some business and finance works as well. I’m happy to chat with as fellow writer like yourself, but I’m not going to ask you about your writings today.  Instead, I’d like to pick your brain regarding your passion for helping writers figure out the business side of being an author.

Before jumping into the main questions, can you tell us a bit about your experiences that lead you to want to help writers?

I have always had a passion for writing and storytelling but like many prospective authors I felt that writing for a living was just a pipedream and I went to school for business instead. My love of books and the overwhelming fines I had racked up at the local library led me to become a manager of a bookstore. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to speak directly with many authors and gain priceless insight into their mind. My experiences have led me to speak with authors just starting out, as well as, others like Larry Correia who have achieved the hallowed, NYT bestseller status.Eric Headshot

As I stepped into this larger store 6 months ago the requests to do author signings and questions about how to publish a book has grown exponentially. From my countless conversations with new authors it was apparent that many authors lack the experience, resources, and knowledge to get their books to their readers hands. I realized that it was selfish for me to hoard the knowledge I had gained through my unique ability to directly interact with successful writers.

I decided to put more of my effort into understanding and overcoming the struggles of new authors. It then became my crusade to help my fellow writers understand the business of books so that they can see the fruits of their labor.

I can name off a long list of struggles, writers go through when trying to publish and market their books. What do you see as being a major reason why a lot of authors fail to get the exposure they are seeking for their books?

This is a bit of loaded question so I will give you a short and long answer for it.

Short: Supply and demand…

Long: Writers often are creative people who would prefer to not have to get their hands dirty with the business side of things. This is why the industry model has been one driven by writers, agents, publishing houses, and bookstores all playing the same role for decades. Writers need agents, who need publishers, who need bookstores, and bookstores need writers, who need… I think you get where I’m going with this.

This model has recently, if you can call almost a decade recent, been altered drastically with the advent of the e-reader. Due to the lowered cost of print self-publishing partnered the ease of e-book publication the market was taken over by people who may never have written a book in the old system. With the a few hundred thousand new titles flooding the market agents have a test market to cherry pick budding authors from. They choose the authors who have the quickest and most likely chance of selling X number of books. By removing the middleman from the equation many authors are left with a voice but no microphone.

The author is forced to pick up the slack and market themselves. The fact that many authors have worked their entire lives on the right side of their brain they lack the experience and business acumen to become the marketer they need to be in order to get their message out there. The writer in today’s over saturated market has to build their own platform so they can stand out to readers, agents, and publishers.

Can you suggest a few things, which you think, a successful store book signing has?

The first thing I would suggest is that the author have a built in audience. Without a built in fan base it is likely that anyone who is shopping the store will not think you are very interesting if nobody has shown up to see you. People think they are missing something if there is a crowd.

Another thing you should have is an engaging topic you plan on discussing. It is great to start by reading a passage from your book but the people who’ve traveled to see you want more. They want to know what the passage meant to you. Let them in on your secret thoughts that led you to write the book. Sharing this content will help the person have a deeper connection to you and your book. These people will sell your book for you.

The last and most important thing you should have is candy. People love chocolate and it may just sweeten the deal and encourage them to purchase your book.

If people would like to find out a bit more about you and your works where can they find you?

Twitter: Twitter.com/EricAyles

Facebook: Facebook.com/WhatAylesYou

LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com/in/WhatAylesYou

Website: WhatAylesYou.com

In your experience as an Assistant Store Manager for a large US bookstore, what advice do you give authors wanting their book on the shelves? Is it the same advice for both indie and traditionally published authors?

Indie:

The primary piece of advice I can give you is to make sure your book is returnable. The management and staff at a bookstore love literature and also love helping new authors get their book to people. With that said they are also running a business that they need to ensure is profitable. If the book is non-returnable then it is not likely the bookstore will be able to carry the book. Some independent bookstores may allow you to do a consignment where you sign an agreement that you will purchase back the books at retail cost.

To my knowledge Lightning Source is the only Print On Demand (POD) publisher who allows you to set up your book as returnable. Keep in mind that this option costs more for the author and there is no guarantee that you will recoup the cost if it doesn’t sell. The author typically has to pay the shipping or destruction cost.

Traditional:

More often authors who have gone the traditional method for publication typically have returnable books so my primary advice is different…

Get your book on Edelweiss.

This website allows publishers to put the book up for bookseller, reviewers, and other industry professionals to download for free. There are over 74,000 people in the bookselling industry who have accounts on this site. These are the people who can and will be the champion of your book. If they like your book they will order it into their store and handsell it to your readers. Partnering this with a well defined social media strategy and you have a great chance of success.

Can you give us an anecdotal story about an author who’s come in to your store? Maybe they were a great example of what to do right – or wrong.

Hmm…That’s a hard one too.

I would prefer not to conjure up the thoughts of failed book signings and although Ronda Rousey and Greg Gutfeld come to mind, I think a more pertinent example would be Andrew Welsh-Do you reviewHuggins. He is a local author of the book Slow Burn and has done a few signings at my prior store. With a Twitter following of only 3,000 he can always pack the store with people. He is brilliant at marketing himself and relating to his followers. When you talk to him you can tell he genuinely appreciates his fans and enjoys connecting with them. This is why I have witnessed him have a successful signing on a Tuesday and do equally well at the Ohiana writer’s festival on Saturday even though it is just a few miles away.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to connect!

My best wishes for all your endeavors Eric! Katherine

Inspiration from Mediocrity

I came across this blog on www.firetok.com, written by Gordon A.Wilson. Gordon and I have had many chats about writing, life, and what inspires, but I feel this blog hit the nail on the head when it comes to talking about inner motivation. Some of us who strive to write a best seller will never reach that goal because perhaps (amongst other reasons) we choose to be okay with mediocrity. Gordon has found the inspiration in this. Read on, and be inspired.

I started this blog writing about things which inspired me. The inspiration has come in so many different ways. Seeing someone trying to get somewhere is always inspiring. When I see an honest effort to get something done it just makes me feel good. When I can see this effort being made it inspires me to want to put anything I can into supporting their effort.

I work with a lot of different students, and I see every level of dedication and commitment. I have a student who I never need to prepare for because she never practices. She can make excuses for anything and everything and believe me she does. I could teach her the same stuff every lesson and I swear sometimes I do because she puts no effort into growing.

At the other end of the spectrum is a student who devours everything she comes near. She worked on learning the chords to a song so she could play and sing it. I wasn’t sure what to expect. She returned a couple days later able to play and sing the song almost all the way through. Let me explain, to the non instrument players- playing and singing anything at the same time is not the same as playing or singing. It typically is something most people really have to work at to synchronize and get right. She pulled this off in couple days. She admitted that when she got home she was so excited she played it over and over until she got it right. Talk about self motivation.

So what does this have to do with anything? I was considering asking the same question. In the course of my exhaustive research for something I was working on yesterday  I came upon a video entitled something like, why you suck at guitar. The gist of the video was what kind of guitar player do you want to be? He drew up this great analogy about being alright with and accepting mediocrity. He explained more about the amount of effort and preparation it would take to get there which is not much. He also went on to explain how much effort and essentially practice it would take to become a really good guitar player. It is an entirely different level of commitment and a completely different mindset as well. Have I answered the question what does this have to do with anything yet? No. Not really but it’s getting closer.


What does the whole mindset aspect have to do with anything? Enough that it deserves a volume on its own. A champion in any field cannot have the mindset of a failure. A champion cannot even have an average mindset. Most of the champions I admire are humble so we are not talking about braggadocio.  I am talking about confidence and vision.There are a few things I would like to be much better at. One of them ironically is playing guitar and singing. But I really desire to become a better writer. In  a sea overflowing with writers, what could possibly separate my writing from anyone else’s? I don’t know that it could. But I can tell you for certain bad writing is not the path. Writing worse or accepting mediocrity is not on the path. Becoming a less interesting storyteller certainly won’t separate me from averageness. (I realize it may not be a real word but it so fits in with the point I am making.) Mediocrity. Being OK with mediocrity. Think about that one for a minute. This is where the whole playing guitar blends in with being a writer and as far as I am concerned being a person.

I can choose to not practice. I can choose to not learn. I can choose to be petty and small. I can choose to hold onto a self destructive grudge. I can choose to substitute judgement for understanding. I could fill my days with excuses for not accomplishing any given thing. When I get done I could ask someone to tell me what it looks like from where they stand. My guess is it would look just like it did before I made all my excuses. Why wouldn’t it? Nothing changed.  I didn’t really look at the things that make my writing less than interesting. I didn’t really practice that part I am having a hard time with. I made excuses and got nothing done.


The bottom line is this. The phrase “being alright with mediocrity” is offensive. It makes me cringe. I know the sea of writers is overflowing, as is the sea of entrepreneurs, singers, songwriters and about any other group I could list. Do I think the ones who have risen to the top of their field were the ones who were alright with their own mediocrity? Absolutely not.

What is inspiring about any of this? Everything. Look I know I will never be John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway nor will I wait for an invitation to go on tour with the Stones. But I can make choices to take steps each day to separate myself from mediocrity. I can learn from these greats and the not so greats. I can practice at being a more patient person. I can make efforts to spend more time listening and less time talking or assuming. I can make decisions to improve that which is improvable. Working to move away from mediocrity is inspiring.

Great Things

Hello all,

The last blog I wrote was about the bits of me that made it in to my first novel, Harmless. Sticking with that theme, I’d like to share with a short piece that inspired my main character, but didn’t make it in to the book. For those of you curious as to what my novel might be like, this short story is a good example of my style of writing. It’s also one of my favorite bits I’ve written. I hope you like it.

Cheers,

Katherine

 

Great Things

 

Sometimes, you just have to hold your breath and jump right in. That’s what I’ve done. Part of me feels like I haven’t come up for air yet … and then there’s another part. There’s definitely another part now.

The screech of metal rubbing on metal. My bed creaks and grinds as I flop all my weight onto the mattress, held up by the old cast iron frame. The smell of rosemary and lavender float up from my pillows and blankets. I breathe it in deep. My grandma washes everything in lavender scented soap and the rosemary … I bring a pillow to my face, covering it. The rosemary is everywhere in my grandma’s house, growing unruly, in clay pots strategically soaking up the sun from every south facing window. The scents bring me back. Back here. To my home. To my bedroom. To my bed. To a safe place.

I let the pillow fall off to the side as I glance around my room. It looks the same as it always has. My worn wooden desk and soft pink computer chair sit beside my bed. My laptop open on top of it, it never closes. The potted gerbera daisy my mom gave me sits by the edge in its terra cotta pot sprouting seven blooms. My four-drawer dresser sits underneath the window dressed in yellowing lacy curtains. And one cardboard box sits crammed into the corner of my bedroom, hiding from the world, refusing to be unpacked. Yep, my bedroom looks exactly the same as when I left it, and at the same time a whole world different.

I slow my breathing in an attempt to filter the rush of senses. My senses are exploding. I can smell the stale air between the cogitated folds of the cardboard box. I can hear the tiny legs of an aphid crawl on the leaf of the plant beside me. I can pick out the tiny flaws in the lacy pattern of my bedroom curtains from ten feet away.

I’d like to say the room is spinning but it’s not. Maybe I’d like it to be or I wish it was, because then maybe I could still convince myself this is all just a dream. But it’s not. Everything’s crystal clear. My mind, my body … clear. Perhaps even perfect.

I grab the edges of the quilts on my bed and wrap them around me tight, covering every inch of me from head to toe. It’s a small comfort, more like a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. I’ve been trying so hard to look the other way, live here in the spaces between reality and … this. But it’s undeniable. I’ve made my choice. I chose to become this … this thing. How long have I spend fighting against this devil I know, only to discover the world is not as black and white as it seems. And good cannot exist without – evil. I know now, with absolute clarity, that God and the Devil are as real as you and me. Can’t say I’ve formally met either but I’m beginning to think the Devil might beg to differ.

A single tear rolls down my cheek. I can smell its salty brine as it hits my pillow, mingling with the rosemary and lavender.

This isn’t the way things were supposed to end! My voice is screaming in my head. So loud, I can’t stand another minute inside this quilted cocoon. I burst from my tight wrap kicking the covers off me in a heated tantrum. This isn’t how things end!

A house fly scratches at some dirt crowded in the corner of my bedroom window. I close my eyes and try to silence the world.

You know … I had this feeling once, that I was destined for great things. But that pinnacle – that tuning point, where I’m faced with my choices, I realized – great things can be mixed with equal parts of terrible. And no matter what I choose, it won’t change what terrible things I’ve already done – or what I will become … a true monster.

It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Catherine Armstrong, author of the Historical Fiction novel The Edge of Nowhere.

So tell us Catherine, is this a first novel for you or have you written others?

The Edge of Nowhere is not only my first, but my first strong attempt at fiction. Though I’ve written for years, I wasn’t sure I had the imagination to write fiction. And then this story got stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. Since then, I’ve written a YA novel and have started three other novels that are in various stages of completion.

C.H.ArmstrongI’ve always found Historical fiction fascinating. My favourite title in this genre is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Did you find that writing a fiction book that stayed true to historical events difficult? How did you do most of your research?

LOVE that book! In the United States, it’s sold under the title of Someone Knows My Name! But to answer your question, staying true to the historical events depicted in The Edge of Nowhere was fairly easy for me for two reasons: First, because the Dust Bowl lasted a full ten years, so there was a fluidity of timeline to work with. Second, because I grew up on the stories of hardships from this era. While it’s a work of fiction, The Edge of Nowhere was actually inspired by my own family’s struggles during this time, so I grew up hearing about the poverty and sacrifices. As a result many of the events depicted actually happened either to someone in my own family, or to another. I think the fun thing for readers will be trying to discover which elements of the story are fact-based, and which are a product of my imagination. And, frankly, some of the answers may surprise them.

Your book cover is very nice. Can you tell us a bit about who designed it and why you chose those images?

Thank you – I admit that I’m really happy with it! The cover was designed by Steven Novak, of Novak Illustration, and was a combined effort of the design artist, my publisher and myself. The inspiration, though, definitely came from the artist. The two things I love best about it are the background and the woman. If you’ll notice, behind the woman on the front cover is a background image that depicts the devastation of the era. Everything you see is a landscape covered several feet deep in dust and dirt, which is very true to the history of the era. The dust storms would sweep in and cover everything in dirt, much like a Minnesota snowstorm buries the landscape in snow. It was very similar, and that’s really what the main character does – constantly. As soon as Victoria overcomes one battle, she has to gear up for another. I love that we were able to find an image of a woman whose entire demeanor says, “Give me a second to regroup, then come at me! I dare you!” Incidentally, the main character was loosely based on my own grandmother, and I guarantee that’s exactly what she would’ve said: “Come at me – I dare you!” She was a strong woman who backed down for nobody.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: www.charmstrongbooks.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/catherinehedrickarmstrong
Twitter: @C_H_Armstrong
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charmstrongbooks

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ch_armstrong/

Amazon Author Page: Coming soon
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+CHArmstrongbooks/posts

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14251172.C_H_Armstrong

Did you always dream of becoming a writer? How you pursued other careers in the past?

Yes. I’ve always written because it’s always been the one thing I felt accomplished at doing. With that said, though, I always thought my first book would be a work of non-fiction because, until recently, it was what I mostly wrote.

I have a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and have almost always pursued jobs related to writing. I’ve been fortunate to stay home to raise my children these last 19 years, but I’ve used that time writing for non-profits and charities, and most recently for a local magazine.

Give us a quick synopsis on your upcoming novel The Edge of Nowhere.

The Edge of Nowhere is based during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and tells the story of a young woman’s struggle – first as an orphan and then after the death of her husband. The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression have just begun to gear up when Victoria’s husband dies, leaving her with a farm that cannot produce, a mortgage she cannot pay, and nine children she cannot feed. To provide for her family, she does (arguably) reprehensible acts in order to secure the basic necessities for her family. It really begs the question, “Is there anything at all a parent won’t do to provide for her children?”

While it’s not a “romance,” it’s definitely a love story. It’s the story of Victoria’s love for her deceased husband and their children and, in return, their children’s love for each other.

As a writer myself, I think about this all the time. If your book ever became a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

I think Deborah Ann Woll would be perfect for the role of Victoria. She not only looks the part (height and stature), but I think she has the acting chops to go from a somewhat naïve young woman to a kick-butt, get-out-of-my way, leading character.

I haven’t given a lot of thought to who would be good as the peripheral characters.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far in publishing a book?

I’m surprised at how incredibly fun it is! My publisher, Penner Publishing, has made nearly every step of the process fun. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but the pure fun is not something I expected. That, and the friendships – I’ve made some incredible friends along the way with other authors going through this same process alongside me.

Is The Edge of Nowhere written as a series? Can you tell us what your working on next?

No – it’s completely stand-alone. With that said, I enjoyed writing about the era and may return someday to tell the stories of some of Victoria’s children. Currently, though, I’m in the process of searching for an agent for a Young Adult novel I recently wrote about a homeless family. It’s a piece I’m really proud of and I hope to find a home for it soon. Beyond that, I have a couple of other manuscripts in the works, but none are really far enough to give much information on them.

One last question . . . Tell us a bit about the person you feel supported you most in your writing career.

I wish I could name only one person. At the top of my list is my husband and children, who have been so incredibly patient while I ignored literally everything around me to get this book in the hands of readers. Beyond that, I’ve had no end of support from my extended family and my “Facebook Family,” as well as many residents in the town of El Reno, Oklahoma (where this novel is set) who have been with me and encouraged me every single step of the way throughout this process.

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The Bits of Me

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, and I think it’s time I did. I’ve been hiding in my office, trying to crank out the last of the edits, needed on my manuscript and I can finally say … it’s done. Three and a half years, and the book I’ve worked so hard on is polished to a point I can see my face in it. There’s still lots of stuff for me to do while I wait to hear back from agents, like – watch way to much Supernatural on Netflix, and start writing book two of course.

So, I wanted to write this blog, before I get too far in to writing book two, too share with all of you the ‘bits of me’ that made it in to my first manuscript. A friend of mine said to me. “Katherine, you’re telling all your secrets!” But I don’t think so. Someday, if my book ever goes big, this blog will be a nerd nugget for super fans! I writing this cuz I’m a nerd too and appreciate stuff like this. So here goes …Rosemary

  1. Rosemary: That’s right, the herb used to season poultry! I have huge pots of unruly rosemary plants growing in the south facing windows of my house, and so does the character, Grams, in my book. The sent of rosemary can be used to enhance memory. I used rosemary symbolically in the book. Gram’s granddaughter, Rachel, is always trying to forget what happened in the past, the sent of rosemary brings clearer memories, that were once foggy.
  1. Leather Jackets: I have what I consider to be, a very cool leather jacket. And, when I’m feeling particularly ‘bad ass’ I like to wear it. In my story, my main character, Rachel, also has a leather jacket. Her late brother, a rebel without a cause, gave it to her. My jacket was bought at the mall, but the same as my character’s jacket, it gives her a sense of becoming someone different.Katherine (8)
  1. Turning emotions into analogies about the weather: Long ago, a friend once told me. “Don’t let other peoples weather, effect your weather.” Which basically means, if others are in a bad mood, don’t let it become your mood too. I liked this, ‘emotional weather analogy’ so much, that I created a whole character around it called, Dr. Doppler, aka The Weather Lady. The Weather Lady is a psychologist, who analyzes her patient’s emotions, interpreting them into weather report like analogies. The weather reports give my main character a whole new way to express how she feeling, without actually coming out and saying it.
  1. Conversations over hot beverages: Do you every notice that a lot of important conversations happen over hot beverages? Or is that just me? Just Teaabout everyone in my story think this, except for my main character.
  1. Crow funerals: Did you know there was such a thing? Google it, I dare you. Once, several years ago I witnessed a crow funeral. By chance, looking out the window of my house, I saw a dead crow a little ways off away. Up in the trees, around the dead crow, were perched four or five crows. After a few more minutes, I noticed a few more had arrived. After about twenty minutes, there must have been around eighty crows! Apparently, crows will gather to ‘pay respects’ to their fallen brothers. Crow funerals are a real thing, and are very creepy. I found a way to put a crow funeral in the book … its awesome.Crow
  1. Inner voice vs. outer voice: Anyone who’s had a conversation with me in person, probably realizes that I have an inner commentary that’s always going, and so does my main character. There’s a commentary in my main characters head of what she would have, could have, should have said … but never does. A trait we both share.

I hope you enjoyed these tidbits! Someday I hope you look back on this blog (after reading the book) and say “Hmm – so that’s how she thought all that up – weird.”  :)

 

Good reading and good writing to you all!

Katherine