Interview and an Excerpt is a feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Jonathan Gould.
1.) How long have you been an indie author?
I’m not sure at what point I became an indie author. I’ve been writing for over 15 years now. I started off writing comedy sketches for university revues and independent radio – I guess I was trying to emulate one of my heroes, Douglas Adams. I began working on novels about a year later – my first couple are at the bottom of the drawer and I suspect they’ll stay there. I actually have 2 children’s books published in Australia by real publishers – I was hoping that would be my entry into the wonderful world of publishing but it wasn’t to be. I began to seriously think about going alone (indie?) a couple of years ago, culminating in my first self-published ebook early last year.
2.) How many books have you self published?
At this stage, a grand total of three:
- Doodling – the story of a man who fell off the world (because it’s moving too fast). It’s a humorous fantasy – Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll
- Flidderbugs – this one’s a bit of an odd mixture – one part political satire, one part fable, and one part funny little story about a strange bunch of insects.
- Magnus Opum – my newest release. An epic fantasy with a twist. Tolkien meets Dr Seuss
3.) Are you a panther or a plotter?
Normally I’m a total plotter. I’m pretty anal about getting everything mapped out, writing lists and chapter outlines and character descriptions, etc… However, every so often, I’ll go the other way and begin writing with no end in mind and no idea where it would take me. My first book, Doodlingwas written in this way, hence the title – I referred to the process as “literary doodling”. It was a lot of fun and actually rejuvenated my interest in writing at the time. I’m currently writing a sequel to Doodling for which I’m following a similar approach.
4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.
I’m not sure you could even call it a process. I work full time and have a family so it’s really about stealing whatever time I have – evenings, weekends. To be honest, I tend to go through peaks and troughs. I’ll get really motivated and do a heap of writing for several months. Then I can get into a trough that can sometimes go for over a year. I’ve just reached the high point of one of my peaks, so will definitely have to focus on keeping up there.
5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?
Again I get to mention my hero, Douglas Adams. He said that writers should not be in business of reinforcing stereotypes – it’s in a book called Last Chance to See– he met some German backpackers and was really distressed at the fact that they so conformed to the stereotype of German backpackers. So he decided they weren’t German, they were Latvian, and described them as such for the rest of the book. A wonderful read so please check it out.
6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?
Don’t do it??? Seriously (and funny you should ask because I have been talking to a teenager with writerly ambitions), I would advise them to be realistic and aware of how difficult it is to break through. I would suggest that they really focus on getting their writing to the best standard that it can be – do courses, road test and get feedback. Try to make sure that what they have to say is something interesting and new. And to make a start on building up social networks before they publish – wish I’d had someone to tell me that.
7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?
Hah – that’s pretty funny. I recently got paid for the first time for my self-published books. I’m not going to say how much it was because I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Mind you, my day job also involves writing, so I could say that I earn a living through writing. But it’s not exactly the sort of writing I really want to do.
8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?
Mainly just time, and a bit of space in my brain to work through my ideas.
9.) What tools or software do you use to write?
Nothing too fancy – just good old MS Word. And html when it comes to producing my ebooks (with a bit of help from Mobipocket and Calibre).
10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?
Gee, I’m really the wrong person to ask about that. When I think about my promoting efforts, the words I that come to mind are “scattergun”, “erratic”, and “totally uninformed”.
After a year of this, I really don’t have much of a clue. I guess the main challenge I face is because my books don’t easily fit into genres, it’s really hard to know where and how to best place them. What I find is when people discover them (mainly when I’ve plonked them in their faces) they say things like “This isn’t what I’d normally choose to read but I really enjoyed it.”
So to summarize, I’ve basically tried it all – giveaways, guest posts, interviews (obviously), twittering, my own blog, a blog tour, Goodreads, large organized events, cross-promoting with others. The main thing I haven’t tried so far is KDP select – I have very mixed feelings about it, but figure at this stage I might as well give it a go.
What is effective? The best thing for me was pure luck – getting a free feature on Pixel of Ink. I guess that’s the thing – you need to get out onto the sites people use to find new books, and the good ones cost a pretty penny. I’m considering my budget to decide what I think is worthwhile.
11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?
Again hard to answer because of the irregularity of my writing process. When motivated, I can get a novel length work drafted in 6 months –but I’ve also been stuck on things for years.
12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?
I use a bunch of different readers to road test, trying to look at people who might represent different types of audiences. I also have a couple of editors I’ve met through various jobs who are happy to charge mates rates (or sometimes just a box of chocolates) which is really helpful – a good editor is an absolute essential. The main financial expense has been the cover designer who was also someone I found through work. But he’s definitely been worth it – the covers he does are fantastic.
13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your books?
As mentioned above, I’ve invented a new genre to describe my writing – Dag-Lit. Dag is Australian slang for a person who doesn’t quite fit in, but usually in a fun way – someone unselfconsciously uncool. That’s kind of how I see my stories – they’re hard to pin down into a single genre. They’re kind of funny and kind of strange and a bit different. Maybe “comic fantasy” if we’re getting reductionist. Or sometimes I just describe them as modern fairy tales for the young-at-heart. The first time you see them, you may think they look like children’s books, but once you start reading, you’ll hopefully find that there’s something there for all ages.
14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?
At the moment, the main WIP is the sequel to Doodling– the tentative title Scribbling. I’ve only just completed a first draft so it still needs a lot of work. I’m hoping to have ready for release by the end of the year.
There’s also a longer novel I’ve been working at for a few years now – a young adult fantasy/comedy/adventure set in a universe where the laws of physics bear more resemblance to the laws of human behavior, i.e. completely unpredictable and immeasurable in every way.
Beyond that – I’m never short of ideas.
To connect with Jonathan, you can find him here:
Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.
Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.
Magnus Opum is a story about a little person in a very big world – an epic fantasy with a twist – Tolkien meets Dr Seuss.
Available exclusively from Amazon.