It may be the beginning of the work week, but it's the final leg of the Blog Ring of Power's interview with Robert MacNeil. Please visit Dean, Terri, Theresa, and Emily in that order for the first four parts of the interview. Let's finish up with some words of wisdom.
1. Tell us about your route to success – how/when did you decide to self-publish? How did you handle the editing, proofreading, cover design, etc.
I think the biggest question facing authors today is, "Do I self-publish?" When I wrote Iona Portal, I assumed the best way to publish fiction was to seek an agent and a publisher. I even queried one agent. But in the process I began to research the publishing industry.
I found that the publishing industry today is sort of like the “horse and carriage” industry at the turn of the 20th century. It's an industry with a long and glorious history, but it has passed a tipping point and will never be the same again. And for the author, that's good news.
The traditional publishing industry has never been kind to authors. An aspiring author can often spend a year or more just finding an agent. I’ve talked to some who have spent several years, sending query after query, and still no agent. Rejection slips pile up. Some agents don’t even send rejection slips any more. If they’re not interested, you never hear back from them. You wait… and wait… and wait…
Assuming you finally get an agent, your agent then tries to sell your book to a publisher. Then come edits and re-edits, and sometimes major re-writes. The typical timeframe from a query to publication can be 2 ½ to 3 years. But even then, success is not likely. The failure rate for first-time authors is about 90%.
Why would any author choose to go that route? Because, until recently, it was the only game in town.
But in the last 5 years a major earthquake has struck the publishing world. We've seen the rise of Amazon.com, print on demand, and most of all, the e-book revolution. The whole paradigm has changed.
The key to success used to be getting your book prominently displayed in brick-and-mortar bookstores, and to do that, you needed a publisher. That’s not even an issue anymore. We’ve entered an era when the vast majority of books sold are sold online. That means you don't have to go through an agent and publisher to get your book to the people. Any author can now have his book for sale at the biggest "bookstore" in the world. It will be there for as long as he wants, available to anyone who wants to buy it.
So the traditional route of getting an agent and a dead-tree publishing company is no longer the default option. In fact, unless you are a celebrity, or you’re already a bestselling author, that route is probably not your best option.
So I decided to self-publish. It wasn't easy, but I did my homework. The crucial thing is figuring out what you can do yourself and what you have to pay to get done.
I don't think any author should try to edit or proofread his own work. You're too close to it, and won't spot your mistakes. I usually have my books proofread by three or four people. They're all experienced proofreaders, but they all tend to find a different set of mistakes.
The cover is another biggie. Unless you have a lot of experience in graphics, you should NOT try to do your own cover.
I am fully convinced Iona Portal could have done very well going the traditional route, but in the end, I'm very comfortable with my decision to self-publish. Iona Portal has been out on Amazon Kindle for 8 months now. For five of those months it's been in the "top-ten" of Amazon's best-rated science fiction books. It's not a best seller yet, but it's moving closer.
If I had gone the traditional publishing route, chances are very good I'd still be querying agents, and probably be a year or more away from publication.
2. What tools are must-haves for writers?
The crucial tools for a writer today are laptop with a long battery life and a fast internet connection. I'd find it very hard to write a book without thesaurus.com and Google search.
3. Do you have any advice for other writers?
In the future I'd avoid trying to publish in all the markets. I spent a lot of time publishing on Smashwords because of all the distribution channels, but found I couldn't really promote adequately on that many channels. I've heard that a lot of people do very well on Smashwords, but I've been very disappointed in my sales there.
My primary focus right now is Kindle. Amazon has been amazing to work with, and are quick to respond to questions.
I've also loved publishing in paperback through Amazon's Createspace. I've heard some writers debate whether it's worthwhile doing a paperback version in today's market, but Createspace makes producing a paperback easy, and I've found that they do sell well.
Lots of people tell me they still like the feel of a real book in their hands. And as much as I love my Kindle, if I'm going to the beach, I feel a lot more comfortable leaving a paperback book on my towel when I go in for a swim.
4. What do you feel is the key to your success?
My philosophy for success in writing is that you have to start by writing a good book, then you have to work really, really, REALLY hard to market it. If you have a good book, market it well, and give it time, it will find an audience.
5. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
My primary goal is to entertain. If you're looking for great literature you probably want to read a different book. I want Iona Portal to grab your attention in the first chapter, keep you on the edge of your seat, and leave you a little breathless at the end.
But I also want my readers to know that some of the events in Iona Portal are based on true encounters, just shifted into a science fiction universe. As Araton tells Erin Vanderberg, "You’ve seen a tiny sliver of what is true, but there’s a much larger reality beyond what you’ve known.” That's true for all of us. One of my favorite Steven King quotes is a line from The Gunslinger, "Go then, there are other worlds than these." There really are other worlds out there.
6. What are your current / future project(s)?
My goal is to finish Iona Stronghold (book two of the Synaxis Chronicles) by the end of this year. My working title for the third book in the trilogy is Iona Rising.
Robert David MacNeil is an author, wine-lover, and investigator of things supernatural. Over the last twenty years he's traveled to 32 nations researching, writing, and teaching on angels, demons, and supernatural encounters. His travels have taken him from the steppes of Mongolia to the jungles of Thailand, and from the Eskimo villages of Northwest Alaska to le fin del mundo, the "end of the world," at the tip of South America.
Long a fan of science fiction and suspense thrillers, Robert also has a love for history–especially ancient Greece, Rome and medieval Europe. He's particularly fascinated with Patrick, Columba, and the ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland. The Celtic monks had a special relationship with the angels. They also loved beer and invented whiskey. The Irish really did save civilization!
Robert and his wife, Linda, live near Dallas, Texas. He has authored five non-fiction books under a different pen-name. Iona Portal is his first novel.
Please let us know where your readers can stalk you:
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Robert-David-MacNeil/e/B0067NDEMA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)?
Iona Portal is available in paperback and Kindle e-book at Amazon.com. Amazon Prime members can read Iona Portal free on their Kindle
Find the Kindle version here: http://www.amazon.com/Iona-Portal-Synaxis-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B005IA87WA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313854512&sr=8-1
Find the Paperback version here: http://www.amazon.com/Iona-Portal-Book-Synaxis-Chronicles/dp/1467992542/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1313854512&sr=8-1