1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I began writing poetry as a teenager, then short stories, and when sent overseas by the military, I kept a six-volume journal of my life in Okinawa Japan. Not entirely serious about writing, I did, however, realize early in life that words had power. At the age of 23 I read Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and was much impressed by his use of description and figurative language. Later influenced by writers like Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, the French playwright, Jean Giraudoux, and the American poet Howard Nemerov, I saw one inherent skill, and that was their ability to control language.
If there was one person who motivated me to write, it was an English professor whose love of literature was inspirational. Most of my early writing was academic, which I did not enjoy. Fiction writing offered more opportunity to be creative. Serious focus on novel writing began twenty years ago. For me, writing offered escape to imaginary places. When I saw my first published novel, Spider Lines I wanted to be a more serious full-time writer.
2. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?
Intermittently since high school when I began writing poetry. To date, I’ve written six complete novels, two of them published, one pending publication. Before the novels, I published numerous academic articles on Okinawan and Japanese culture, one book on adult education programs implemented by Military Government in Okinawa, and had several poems published in various journals. My first published book was a collection of poems and two one-act plays, titled Pier Boy.
3. What made you want to self-publish?
Although my earlier work was traditionally published, I like the complete control I retain when self-publishing. In the last 25 years, the publishing business has changed significantly. The stigma which comes with self-publishing is not as prevalent as it has been for decades. There are good small presses publishing quality work at the author’s expense.
Since technology has changed, writers have available all the services of traditional publishing houses. Instructive writing seminars, editing services, marketing packages, and social and traditional media are available to writers. It’s certainly advantageous for a writer to have computer access and expertise.
Self-publishing allows the writer complete control of the writing content, editing, marketing, and distribution. The big five traditional publishing houses are inundated with literary agency submissions. Unless the writer has established a successful writing career, waiting time from acceptance to publication, especially for new authors, can take two years and longer with traditional publishers. Editors at these houses will edit down an author’s work, and much too often young women with degrees in English become the gatekeepers of the publishing world.
I like the autonomy of self-publishing and the challenge that comes with marketing my novels. Too often an author is confronted by political, religious, and gender biases and objective editing. Those are some fundamental reasons I refuse to waste time with literary agencies and traditional publishing houses.
Self-publishing offers freedom. With sustained vision and a quality product, dedicated and determined self-published authors can find bookstore shelf space on the same shelf as authors published by any traditional publishing house. And the traditional publishing houses are aware of this! Remember, writing is a competitive business. Just because a writer has secured a literary agent who has placed that writer’s book with a traditional publisher, does not mean big money and instant fame. According to some published statistics, about half of the books published in the United States during recent years were self-published.
4. Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend GKP?
My recommendation to new authors, even to those who are sure they’ve written the next best seller, is to first consider self-publishing. Shop around. See what’s available and do the necessary vetting. Don’t be in a hurry. Finding the right publisher takes time. The self-publishing industry has some bad players. The hustle for your money is intimidating, and new authors can immediately be taken in by paper promises and exorbitant fees. For my money, Gatekeeper Press offers quality services at reasonable prices. The capable and conscientious staff at GKP will work with an author through every step of the publishing process.
5. What do you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your books?
It’s essential that an author has a website. A website can be professionally done, or a writer with strong computer skills can create a functional website. My website [email protected] provides information on my novels and offers for sale each novel, signed copies, as well as eBooks and audio books. In addition, it gives dates of upcoming book signings, posts reviews, and gives FLB members the opportunity to communicate directly with the author, and various other membership benefits. In the works is an author newsletter and the launch of Fox Lane Press.
Book signings, especially at Barnes & Noble and other brick and mortar bookstores is essential. I try to do several signings during the first six months after a new novel is released. Also, local news media are usually accommodating. I’ve done radio station interviews and out of state print media have run press releases and one Illinois newspaper published a lengthy interview when my first novel was published. If asked, local print media will often do book reviews and will show up at book signings to take pictures of the author.
Your book can be pitched to amateur writing groups, local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, and ads can be purchased in the trade magazines. Enter your work in the many contests that are out there. I do launch parties at my home, and wine and cheese buffets at local establishments. Word of mouth, informative flyers, author newsletters, lectures, distribution of synopses or one sheets to bookstores and various media, can be used to effectively market a book.
Discounted prices and giveaways are also effective. Weeks before a new book is released, I tell close friends, family, and people I’ve known from years ago. The famous Strand Bookstore, in New York City, does special promotions for Indie authors. Also, GKP makes published books available to several media sites.
6. What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?
Too often beginning writers think that because they’ve written a book, that it must be good. Forget that! Believe in what you write, but don’t overhype it. If you want good criticism, go to people who know grammar, and to those who can speak competently about characterization, theme, plot, and genre, those who will offer constructive criticism. Attend writing seminars. Network. Avoid the use of clichés. Don’t confuse sensitivity with sentimentality. Don’t be discouraged by negative criticism or rejection notices.
Beware of online solicitations which charge high fees for proofreading. There are legitimate editors online; but do the vetting before paying. Don’t be in a rush to publish. Remember, if you self-publish and do not pay for editing, you’re the one responsible for the finished product. No reader wants to commit, no matter how strong the narrative, to reading a book that has been inadequately proofed. Before publishing, read, reread, read again, and again, and again, and when you think you’ve found all the mistakes, read the manuscript a couple more times.
There are times when I think done is better than perfect. Sustained reads are good. As tedious as they are, word-by-word reads are advisable. Read what’s written, not what you think is written.
Know your audience. Read other books like your book. Keep reading. Keep writing. Seek a voice and tone that work for you. Decide if you want to write in first or third person. Personally, I don’t think second person works well. Good characters have their own voices. Let your characters tell the story.
Look for fresh, imaginative ways to write what’s been written a hundred times before you write it again. Draw from your own experiences. Write about what you know, what you’re comfortable with, and then take chances on pushing your writing into other areas and genres. If you write about unfamiliar topics, do the research––beyond Wikipedia. Understand that men often have difficulty writing from a woman’s perspective. Listen to real people talk in various situations.
Even though writing can be an enjoyable and therapeutic experience, it is also demanding and requires consistent attention to detail and endless hours of rewriting. Afterall, most writers will say what they like best about writing is being done. If you invest in self-publishing, be sure you investigate the publisher first. Budget finances and try to recoup your investment through book sales.
7. What social media platforms are you on?
I don’t use Twitter or Instagram. I occasionally use Facebook and am considering YouTube. Social media can really be advantageous for writers. I’m just not comfortable with social media. Instead, I rely on my website.
8. What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started out?
Effective proofreading requires endurance. Perfection too often eclipses the writing process and inhibits creativity. Make the writing as strong as possible, let it stand on its own, and move on to a new book. Fame and money are not as important as a well-crafted book. Traditional publishing houses dominate the publishing world; but judicious self-publishing has become a viable alternative for writers that don’t want to waste time trying to secure the big book deal. Be realistic.
9. What do you feel is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2020 (and beyond)?
For self-published authors, the most significant challenge is selling books––marketing. A good website will certainly help. Again, writing is competitive. There are several good unknown self-published writers. Conversely, there are known writers who have been traditionally published whose retail sales are weak.
Also challenging is getting self-published books in bookstores. The stigma of self-published works is certainly not as pronounced as it has been, but it’s out there. I completed the required paperwork to get my first novel into military bookstores (AAFES) and was told: “We don’t handle self-published authors.” The irony here is that in fact AAFES does handle self-published books. They’re constantly on military bookstore shelves.
10. Have you won any awards or contests that you would like to mention?
Only once have I entered my writing in a contest. In 2018, I entered Spider Lines in the Mills City Press Author Awards contest, and that book received second place in the paranormal romance category.