Please click here for the first part of Aviva's interview about her Beatles novel With Strings Attached. If you'd like to purchase her book, you can order it here.
Q: What were your reasons for choosing self-publishing WSA, and with Lulu in particular?
A: The main reasons I self-published Strings were that:
1. I wanted complete control over the manuscript. Having been on the receiving end of some bad editorial judgment with my first book, I decided, “Never again.”
2. I didn't think a mainstream publisher would be interested in it. It's got a very niche-y audience, and most publishers aren't looking for such things.
3. Because of my book publishing background, I was better equipped to turn in a clean, properly formatted, well edited manuscript than 99.9% of self-publishers.
I chose Lulu because I'd sort of published a book (it was work by other people that I had edited) with them a couple of years before (long story, not a terribly pleasant one) and been pleased with the results. I knew they didn't cost anything, and that was probably the biggest draw. Also, I didn't have to stock up on copies, since Lulu is print-on-demand.
BTW, I also have a PDF version of the book available for much less money. I published that through scribd.com. I've only sold a few copies that way; most everyone I've talked to prefers to have an actual copy to read.
Q: Have your experiences with Lulu been positive or negative overall?
A: My experiences have been decidedly mixed for the following reasons:
1. Free! The only money I've had to put out to them was buying actual copies of the book.
2. The books look very professional. I really appreciate that. I've seen too many self-published books that look amateurish.
3. Print-on-demand means that I don't have to have a large supply of hard copies lying around, though I do have a few.
1. I was unable to qualify for an ISBN. Because Strings is very large and thick, the only really affordable option was to use their cheaper (but perfectly adequate) publisher-grade paper. However, doing so meant that they would NOT include a free ISBN with my book, or make it available to Amazon. And without an ISBN, it's very hard to get into bookstores, libraries, and so forth.
I spent a great deal of time trying to reformat the book so that it would qualify for the ISBN, but then it cost TWICE what the non-ISBN version cost. The non-ISBN version has a base cost of about $13, and with my royalty of $2.50, the book costs $15.50 plus $7 shipping. The ISBN version would cost $26.50 plus $7 shipping. I can't imagine anyone paying $33.50 for a paperback book, so I didn't even try to do the ISBN version.
I can get a single ISBN for the book on my own, but Lulu will still not make it available to online vendors other than themselves. I am quite annoyed by this problem.
2. Spotty author services. I haven't yet tried to contact anyone, but other people have complained bitterly that they open trouble tickets and have to wait weeks for help.
3. Their formatting instructions are not terribly clear. I can see how they would confuse people with little document design experience. Nor are they always easy to find on the site.
Because of the ISBN problem, I don't know if I would use them for another large, thick book. They're fine for books that aren't long.
As for scribd.com, they seem good, but Lulu has been my focus, so I can't really comment on scribd.
Q: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
A: Yes, I'm working on the sequel to Strings. I have almost seven chapters now. As I said above, I wish I could get myself to work on my non-Beatles projects, of which I have a number, but I'm not interested right now. I have a play, a couple of musicals, and a series of short stories that I hope to work on someday.
Q: What advice do you have for other writers?
A: Probably nothing you haven't already heard, but here it is: Read a lot, and widely, across genres. Read nonfiction. Try to identify what you like about particular authors and their styles and ideas. Write different kinds of things, fiction and nonfiction. If you're going to create characters, you first need to understand yourself and why you feel the way you do in different situations. Read some psychology books or take classes if you can. Once you know what drives yourself, you can start to understand what drives other people. Join writing groups for a venue for your writing, and be prepared to accept that people will criticize your work.
If you can find a non-writer who is well read and a good critic, cultivate that person's opinion. The reason I suggest this is that I find I have a tendency to mentally compete with other writers, but not with non-writers. My mentor when I was writing Strings as a thesis was a literature professor who specialized in utopias and dystopias. She wrote scholarly papers but not fiction. I never felt for a moment that she was a rival, which was a big relief after years of competitive writing classes.
A good trick to help yourself when you're rewriting is to read your material out loud. It's amazing what you can catch that way.
Another useful technique is to rewrite the story as a script, which can help you winnow out excess description and tighten up dialogue.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience?
A: Don't give up! You never know when your circumstances change. If I could resurrect my novel after seven years when I thought it was dead in the water, who knows what might happen to you?
Thank you for stopping by, Aviva!
And thank you for having me!