In the latest installment of my occasional series, Bill Conrad, author of Interviewing Immortality, answers five questions plus a bonus question I pose to interesting authors. Bill talks about the young adult book that inspired him, how his father shaped his early experiences about publishing, and his realistic, even pessimistic view of the future of independent publishing. (Note: Bill’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect mine.)
Do you remember the first character you created?
Around age 13, I read the young adult book Safari Adventure by Willard Price. This fantastic story inspired me to create my own character, who went on exotic adventures. While I never wrote up these stories, I spent many hours daydreaming.
A healthy bout of unemployment provided the time and inspiration necessary to launch my writing adventure. In my second book, Pushed to the Edge of Survival, due out in three months, the main two main characters share many similarities to my first creation. They seek adventure and overcome adversity with intelligence. Spoiler alert: Their daughter will be Earth’s ambassador.
Since then, I came up with the other characters and plots. I can trace each one of them back to that original character. Of course, I dared not write these fictional stories because writing a book is immensely difficult and time-consuming. I had planned to start writing after retirement.
How did you feel when you saw your work in print for the first time?
My father is an established ceramics textbook author. Consequently, ceramics books were part of my life from before I was born. He published the stone-cold hard way. He wrote books on an IBM Selectric II typewriter, sent to a printer (with white-out corrections) and sold mail order (by him) one at a time. Of course, there were improvements over the years, including an upgrade to a green-screen Wang computer with a Diablo 630 Daisy Wheel impact printer. Later, he installed the DOS emulator board for his Wang and used the program Officewriter with an IBM LaserJet II.
Every time my father got a new book in the mail, his experience mirrored my own. I was first excited to see my creation and then worried there were mistakes. I kept my writing efforts secret from my friends because I was not sure I would ever publish. When I showed them the book, it floored them.
Now, it is incredible to do an internet search and see my book listed everywhere. You can even buy it on eBay and Walmart. How crazy is that?
How has climate change figured into your writing? If not so far, do you have plans to do so?
I am a humble new author and try not to rock the boat. For example, in my third book Cable Ties (a classic spy novel) my characters include the president and other high-ranking government officials. I take great care not to associate these characters with a political party or actual political event. I do this because offending my readers has upside. To me, this is part of the challenge of being a modern author.
For this reason, I do not tackle climate change or other controversial issues in my blogs or books. However, my characters and I always respect nature and the environment. On a personal level, I do not appreciate discovering the terrible abominations we inflict upon our beautiful world.
What unique promotional activities are you trying?
At the beginning of the writing process, every author needs to make a choice. Write for fun or potential profit. I decided to write for profit but quickly learned how difficult my path would be. I have since lowered the bar, and my goal is to break even with my editing expenses.
To be profitable, an author must understand that writing a book is 99 percent marketing and 1 percent other. To paraphrase Dread Pirate Roberts in the fantastic movie The Princess Bride: Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Hundreds of new books come out every month, and talented authors have been writing books since the invention of writing. For example, Plato wrote The Republic in 375 BC. Every month, that non-copyrighted book outsells me by thousands.
My promotion plan is straightforward. I have a website dedicated to my book and a book Facebook page. I blog every week on Goodreads and Facebook. Also, I beg for book reviews. When I get enough reviews (perhaps 50) I will pay Amazon to boost my book ranking. My future plan is to pay YouTube influencers to promote my work. I have not figured out the logistics of this activity.
One might say, “There are hundreds of sites that will promote your work. They have thousands of Twitter followers, and for $99, they will blast your book everywhere!” My response is, “A fool and their money are soon parted.” Spamming random people about my book will help nobody. Advertising must be tightly focused if there is to be the slightest hope of being useful. Do I know what I am talking about? Check out this excellent marketing patent that took up two years of my life.
What is your next project? Timeline?
My next book, Pushed to the Edge of Survival, will be copyedited soon and then formatted for publishing. I expect it will be out in three to four months. My third book, Cable Ties, is in the same boat, and it will take four to six months. A sequel to my first book, Finding Immortality, is almost ready for a professional edit. Publishing is probably a year away. A sequel to my second book, Pushed to the Edge of Success, is almost ready for my beta reader (my mother). A sequel to my third book, Cable Pairs, is in the outline stage.
I encountered substantial editing problems with my second book. The first editor made light edits without comment. The second editor hated my book and edited it with a chip on their shoulder. It took a while to recover and accept a few suggestions. This adventure soaked up two years.
Bonus question: If you were king, what would you change about the publishing world?
The publishing world has undergone many changes since the 90s. Traditional publishing is dead. eBooks rule and bookstores close every day. To make matters worse, kids are not reading books like they did when I was growing up. Now it is all YouTube videos. I do not think book authors have a bright future.
This new reality makes it difficult and easy for new authors. For example, print on demand means that new authors do not need to stock inventory. Yet, anybody can publish anything into the sea of new books.
If I were to change the publishing world, I would ask Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, Google Books, and Apple Books to promote new authors. People looking for something to read should see established authors next to the new authors in their search results. I would also prevent established publishing houses from re-releasing classic books as if they were new.