Author Interview Feature on Smashwords

Smashwords has introduced a new feature for authors: you can add an interview to your profile.

“Smashwords Interviews guides authors to create, edit and publish their own Q&A interview.  Authors simply answer a series of questions, or create their own questions, and then click publish. Your interview will be published on the Smashwords site, and is cross linked and discoverable from your author profile page, each of your book pages, and the Smashwords home page.  At the end of each interview is a clickable listing of the author’s books.  The interview includes social sharing features so your fans can help spread your interview on their favorite social media channels.”

You can read the full blog post here; and the screenshot below shows where to find the link.

Smashwords Interview Link

Click the link next to the red arrow

Happy interviewing!

Author Interview on The Cover Contessa

There’s an interview with me on The Cover Contessa‘s blog and Goodreads today – you can read the interview on either site, or below in this post.

Image: Cover ContessaAnd my SWITCHING giveaway is still running (till Nov 16), so head on over to my Facebook page if you’d like to enter! All you have to do is leave a comment on the Giveaway post letting me know where you’d most like to time travel to!

Thanks to Brooke for interviewing me.

Interview with Jody Kihara

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
As soon as I could read! I loved books so much that right away I was like, I want to do this! I didn’t start getting really about my writing until about 8 years ago, though. In that time I’ve written about nine and a half books, six of which I’ve published.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies a lot; it’s a function of how much available writing time I have. When I was ‘between jobs’ for a few months and could write full time, I finished one novel in five weeks! But if I have to fit it into weekends, then that time stretches out… and out! And that’s just the WRITING… I’m pretty quick with first drafts, but the editing process takes MUCH longer.

What do you think makes a great story?
Character. You need a great plot too, but to me, plot is really a function of the character’s choices. What makes even a very plot-driven book stand out for me is a fantastic main character.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
You mean the writing work schedule, or my other work schedule? LOL. I don’t have the luxury of writing full time, as I work a full-time day job… so it’s a challenge trying to fit the writing in, not to mention the editing, publishing, and promoting! I try to keep my weekends clear so that I can write solidly for two days… but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. I write best when I can build up momentum, rather than working in fits and starts, so a full day to write is a wonderful thing!

How do you balance family and writing?
For me, the balance is WORK and writing… see above! My dream is for one (or more!) of my books to really take off so that they start paying the bills and I can write full time.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
In my hallway between the bathroom and my living room. I think it’s a horcrux spot or something. No seriously… I’ve been hit with two brainwaves when I was standing right there, so I’m thinking of charging admission for other people to go stand in that spot. LOL!

Magical brainwave spots aside, I bring a lot of my own experiences into my books. No, I’ve never been haunted by a witch, crossed Arabia with a camel caravan, or time travelled… but for the more ‘real’ elements in my books, like fights with siblings, hiding a secret from people you know, wanting to leave home and spread your wings… those all come from my life. For example, in my latest novel, SWITCHING, Terry has to stay in homeless shelters… I volunteered at one once, and that was such an eye-opener, that had to make it into one of my books! So all kinds of things will filter into the story from my experiences.

And then for historical fiction… research, research, research! The internet is a writer’s best friend.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
When I was in school, they “taught” us writing to some degree, but often the teachers didn’t know all that much about writing… and they never even mentioned editing! So learning to edit was the big wake-up call… it was surprising to learn how much time that takes!

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I’ve written about nine and a half books, plus some little start/stop pieces that may or may not grow into books. My favorite… hmm, that’s a tricky question. It’s usually whichever one is the latest (in this case, Switching) but The Frankincense Trail will always be up there too, because I put so much into that book. I even made a video trailer for it!

Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Sometimes minor characters are, but my main characters tend to arrive in my brain fully-formed. Because I’m so into characters, they really stay with me for a long time. I’ll find myself in a store looking at a piece of clothing and thinking, “Oh, Terry would totally wear that!” …and then wondering if I’m going crazy or if other authors do that, too!

Do you have a favourite place you love to write?
Any place quiet, with endless caffeinated beverages! Home is best for that. I’m not a coffee-shop writer because the noise would drive me nuts; I need to fully concentrate.

How hard is it to get published?
Traditional publishing = very hard. I tried for a long time to get an agent or publisher, and had several ‘bites’ but no deal. Eventually I stopped trying because traditional publishing was going through a lot of upheaval, so it was getting even harder… and I’d never liked the way the business model worked, anyway. It seemed like the authors were treated like they were the BOTTOM of the food chain instead of the top, which is totally bass-ackwards. I had several author friends who’d been treated pretty badly by agents, publishers, etc. So I decided to embrace indie publishing… and I LOVE it!

What do your family and friends think about your books?
My writer friends are incredibly supportive. I know so many indie authors, and we all help each other out, even if it’s just moral support, and it’s WONDERFUL to be part of such a supportive community.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Anything that involves moving! Because both my jobs keep me chained to a computer, I love anything that involves fresh air, exercise, looking at something that isn’t a monitor…I live in a very beautiful city (Vancouver) where there are beaches and trails through the woods, so walking is always great. And I love dancing, too!

Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring writers better themselves and their craft? If so, what are they?
Ahh, thank you for asking this:
1. BRUSH UP ON YOUR GRAMMAR. I do editing for other writers, and you would not believe the grammatical mistakes I see! Take a grammar course or get a good grammar reference book (and actually read it) – or both!
2. Start getting your work critiqued, and critique other people’s work; you’ll learn about your own writing from both. There’s a fantastic website www.critiquecircle.com where you can post your work and receive critiques. That was where I cut my editing teeth; I spent a few years on that site and it really paid off!
3. As other authors in this interview series have mentioned, don’t be in a hurry to publish. People say it takes YEARS to perfect your craft; I’d say it takes years just to IMPROVE it! Perfection would be a lifetime goal. Learn to revise, edit, rewrite… most people are in such a hurry to publish that they’re putting out writing that has NOT been worked on enough. It takes a lot of time, a lot of patience.
4. There are LOTS of great books on writing and editing, so avail yourself of those! Go to your local library, and if they don’t have the ones you want, see if they can order them in (inter-library loans are a fabulous thing). The one I recommend starting with is Beginnings, Middles, and Endings. But there are hundreds of good ones; read at least ten of them!

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A writer!

What are your favourite books and which authors inspire you?
My current fave author is Alan Bradley (the Flavia DeLuce series) – his writing is so exceptionally good! From his wonderfully believable characters right down to his sentence construction and word choice. I simply sigh with happiness when I read his books.In the YA realm, I love Suzanne Collins, Shannon Hale, Eva Ibbotson, Helen Dunmore… so many!

For an aspiring writer what do you feel are certain do’s and don’ts for getting their material published?
Make sure your material is as good as it possibly can be before you send it out for any kind of submission (agent, publisher, or self-publishing).
1. After you write your first draft, revise it.
2. Then let it languish on your hard drive for THREE months – no peeking!
3. Pull it out, re-read, and revise it again.
4. Then send it out to critiquers. Writer friends are good for this, but anonymous critiquing can be great too, as your critiquers are less afraid of offending you (as I mentioned, I love Critique Circle for this).
5. Once you’ve got all your critiques back, read them over and have a think. Don’t do anything yet, and don’t react to anything that was uncomfortable to hear… just think, mull, ponder.
6. Then weigh up which of the ideas you like and which you don’t… and now it’s time for your third (yes, third!) set of revisions. Some authors even repeat the critique process a couple times.
7. Once the book finally feels finished, get someone else to proofread it. This is a really important step, because it’s impossible to proofread your own work; at this point, you know the story so well, you won’t spot the small mistakes. And you don’t want all that previous work to be marred by a bunch of typos!

What are you working on now?
SWITCHING is being released this month, so I’ll be doing a bunch of promotional work. That will probably keep me busy right up to the end of this year… so it’ll probably be 2013 (eek!) before I can tackle one anything new.

Thanks for interviewing me!

You’re welcome and thank you, Jody, for coming by! It’s been fun having you here! Good luck in the future with your publications. We look forward to hearing all about them!

Authors can now publish directly to Kobo!

Fantastic news for authors… you can now publish your e-books directly to Kobo! I’m not sure how I missed this little gem, but Kobo is now stepping into the same arena as Amazon with its Kobo Writing Life program by allowing authors to upload and manage their ebooks directly. Before, you had to go through a distributor such as Smashwords or Book Baby.

Kobo Writing LifeSo what does this translate to? Higher royalties, for one; you’re cutting out the middleman. Secondly, you have much more control over your e-book’s formatting. Those who have been frustrated by the lack of control over the Smashwords formatting will like that they can make their own epub file and upload this directly.

Is there a down-side? Well, if you don’t know how to make an .epub file, then you might find this new route a bit tricky, and prefer to go through a distributor. Although Amazon recently upgraded their ebook upload system so that you can upload a Word document and have it converted automatically, Kobo has yet to add this feature. Which means that you have to create an HTML file from your document, then convert the HTML file to .epub using a program such as Calibre. Again, this is great if you want lot of control over your formatting, but may be too much for the non-technically-inclined. (If you have no HTML knowledge, I’d advise against).

The upload process seems very easy, and it’s open to international authors (unlike Barnes and Noble Pub-It, which STILL only allows American residents to publish their ebooks directly). I wish Barnes and Noble would wake up to the fact that e-publishing is an international arena…! So kudos to Kobo for doing this.

There’s also a “signing bonus” right now, although I’m not clear yet on how this is different from the usual royalty system… once I find the time to read the fine print, I’ll report back!

Kobo writing life

CreateSpace now distributes to Amazon Europe!

Exciting news for CreateSpace authors/publishers: CreateSpace is now distributing its print books to all of Amazon’s European sites! Previously, CreateSpace books were only available on Amazon.com, which meant book buyers in other countries had to pay massive shipping fees. Now, they will be able to buy them in their own currency and only pay their domestic shipping fees. This is fantastic news for authors as their print books are now more affordable in other countries… which of course translates to more sales!

CreateSpace LogoYou can read the announcement from CreateSpace below. If you have books already published with CreateSpace, make sure you go into the Distribution Channel selector for each book and opt in for Amazon Europe. (You have to do this yourself; your books are not automatically opted in.)

CreateSpace has done so much for authors, and continues to do so – a huge round of applause for them!

Make Your Print Book Available in Europe

Now with CreateSpace, you can distribute your print book directly through Amazon’s European websites, including Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, and Amazon.it. Plus, CreateSpace offers flexible royalty payment options. You can easily select direct deposit in the U.S. or Europe and get paid in U.S. dollars, British pounds, or Euro – your choice. Join CreateSpace and learn how to distribute your print book in Europe for free.

CreateSpace Europe

Back to the Books – A Truly Indie Bookstore!

Back to the Books may be a first of its kind… a bookstore that only stocks books by self-published authors and independent publishers! I’m excited to have three of my titles stocked there, and so I asked the owner, Jon Renaud, to share some more information about his exciting new venture. BTTB (Back to the Books) is located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and stocks books by authors from around the world.

Photo: Back to the Books storefront

Tell us a little about Back to the Books… does it only stock indie books, or traditionally published as well?

Hi Jody, thanks for taking the time to speak to me about Back to the Books. I believe we are the very first bookstore to stock only independent titles. Now, please don’t misunderstand: these are not all self-published titles, but also small press titles where the author still owns all the rights to their book.

Where did you get the idea for an indie bookstore? Are you an author yourself?

The idea came to me a few years ago shortly after my own book was published. I wrote and published Dereliction of Duty (www.jonrenaud.com) to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. During the process, I discovered how difficult it was to get indie books into bookstores. I also met a lot of other indie authors who had some incredible books but were faced with the same problem. I always felt that if bookstore would give them a chance, and if the prices were competitive, they would sell. So the idea was there for some time, and then one day I was talking to friend who owned two storefronts in Manitou Springs, and he offered me one. Idea met opportunity… and I jumped on it!

Photo: Back to the Books

What made you think an indie bookstore would be a viable/profitable business venture?

I always knew it could be a viable business plan if I could just find the right location, and Manitou Springs is perfect. No one will go out of their way to drive to an indie bookstore, but Manitou Springs is 95% foot traffic. And when people walk in and see all of the great books, most stop, look around… and buy books!
As for profitable, I never thought, or said, it would be a profitable business venture. My goal is to get the store to a point where it is self-sustaining and new titles are rotating in and out, to give indie authors the exposure they need. If the first month is any indication, that goal will be met, and maybe there could be some profits left over.

Manitou SpringsTell us a little about Manitou Springs, and why you thought it would be a good home for BTTB.

Manitou Springs is an amazing little town that draws millions of visitors every year. It has a culture that embraces everything independent and dislikes corporate: all of the stores in town are trendy art galleries, cafés, and the like. It is the perfect location to attempt something like this!

How long did it take you to set up the whole venture, including your online store?

The plan has come together very quickly, but I could not even begin to count the hours I have put into this project. The storefront became available on February 10, 2012 and I have been running since that day. In about one month, I was able to get the physical store loaded with books and ready for the grand opening, the website and online store up and running, and arrange and pull off a spectacular grand opening. So it has been a crazy few months, but everything has come together perfectly. I finally got the employees trained, which means things should be slowing down for me a little. To celebrate, I am heading to Las Vegas next week!!!

Photo: Back to the BooksFor a long time, authors have struggled against the stigma of self-publishing… In your experience, what does the general public think of self-published books?

There is no doubt there is a stigma out there for some. The biggest problem is quality and price. People believe that self-published books are too expensive, and poorly edited. I am working hard to help change that stigma. Although it is impossible to read every book I get in, I will read a few chapters of every book to make sure the formatting is professional and there are not a lot of typos. Unfortunately, I have had to decline a few titles because I feared they would perpetuate the stereotype and not help our cause. But overall, the customers I have met do not care how the book was published, as long as it is a good book.

Are you still accepting new authors? How many titles do you plan to stock at any one time?

I will continue to accept new author as long as my doors are open. That is part of the business plan: to continue to roll the inventory. Although Mantiou Springs is a big tourist town, I have also been very warmly received by the locals, who have purchased many books already, and expressed their happiness at having a bookstore in town. They will continue to come back as long as I keep new titles coming in for them.

What genres of books are selling best?

So far, children’s books, Young Adult and Self-Help/Improvement books have been the best sellers. And surprisingly, poetry books have also been very popular! I expected the children’s books to be hot sellers as we just finished the Spring Break season and lots of kids and parents were in town during the week. I also publish a weekly bestseller list at www.backtothebooks.net, so authors can see what is selling and share their strong sales with friends and family. I expect the fiction titles to start to pick up as the tourists begin to arrive, and are looking for good books to read while sitting out by the pools.

How important is a good cover?

Photo: Back to the BooksThere is nothing more important than a great cover — except maybe great content — but if you don’t have a great cover… no one will ever see your content! The unique thing about Back to the Books is that it is designed so every book faces out towards the customers. No books are hidden on back shelves or have the spines facing the customers. It is fascinating to me to watch what books draw the most attention simply because of the covers.

If you could give three pieces of advice to indie authors trying to sell their books, what would they be?

The first piece of advice is what I stated above: design a great cover. Don’t do it yourself or have your friend who is really good with PowerPoint do it for you. Find a great cover designer and spend the money to have a fabulous cover.
Second, price your book competitively. Customers do not want to pay $25 for a 300 page paperback novel. You will never be able to get your price point where it needs to be if you use most of the online publishing services, because that is how they make their money — by charging high prices for the print books. Work with someone that knows the industry and can help you navigate the process. I provide free advice to authors every day.
And finally, just keep producing the great books that I have seen coming through my store. Be persistent in your marketing, and people will buy your work… and then some day come back to buy the sequel!

Thanks, Jody, for the opportunity to share this new venture with all of your readers. If I could add one last piece of advice, it would be that if you want people to take a chance on you as an indie author, then you have to do the same. Commit to only buying indie books and then recommend them to all of your friends and family. We only succeed if we are willing to do what we want customers to do!

Thank you, Jon, for a fascinating interview and for doing so much for the indie publishing cause! In fact, on behalf of all indie authors, THANK YOU for really pushing the envelope of indie publishing and sales. Best of luck in the new venture… I think I might plan a trip to Manitou Springs myself, to check out this wonderful store!

Authors who are interested in having their books stocked at BTTB can contact Jon via the Back to the Books website. You can also shop the online store!

Back to the Books Online Store

My books on display:
Photos; Jody's Books