Posted in Interviews / Success Stories | Posted on 25-04-2012|
As you guys know, I’m an independent author, and I tend to post interviews and guest posts by other indie authors, but there are reasons why self-publishing isn’t for everybody, and there are options out there that needn’t involve spending years hunting for an agent. Science-fiction author Liana Brooks is here today to talk about why she chose to publish with Breathless Press instead of going out on her own.
Interview with Liana Brooks
Welcome, Liana! Do you want to tell us a little about Even Villains Fall in Love?
Doctor Charm, the wickedly sexy super villain, retired in shame seven years ago after his last fight with the superhero Zephyr Girl. The fact that the charming Evan Smith – father of four and husband of the too-beautiful-to-be-real Tabitha – bears a resemblance to the defeated Doctor is pure coincidence. And, please, ignore the minions.
Everything is perfect in the Smith household until Tabitha announces her return to work as a superhero. Evan was hoping to keep her distracted until after he rigged the 2012 presidential election, but – genius that he is – Evan has a backup plan. In his basement lab Evan has a machine whose sole purpose is keeping Tabitha hungry for him.
But children and labs don’t mix. The machine is broken, and Tabitha storms out, claiming she no longer knows him. World domination takes a back seat to meeting his daughters’ demands to get Mommy back right now. This time his genius isn’t going to be enough – he’s going to need both his evil alter-ego and the blooming super abilities of his children to save his wife. But even his most charming self might not be enough to save their marriage.
With self-publishing being all the rage right now, what made you decide to look for a publisher?
That’s a very loaded question, especially since I’m visiting your blog and you’ve done so well with self-publishing. This is just my view, and might not be applicable to everyone…
To be a successful self-published author I believe you need three things: seed money, time, and the ability to write and edit quickly.
I’ll be honest, the up-front costs of self-publishing scare me. After talking with several friends who self-published and hearing how much they made on returns (or didn’t in several cases) I was leery of spending the kind of money you need to invest in a good editor and great cover art. There’s always a chance your self-published work will flourish and you could make money hand over fist because of the royalties, but there’s also an excellent chance of crashing and burning.
Big 6 publishing has the danger that you might not earn out. But small press? There isn’t an upfront cost, nor is there a payment of any kind of front. The royalties are lower for the price point than if I self-published with Amazon (40% vs 75% I believe), but I’m not spending anything out of pocket.
Is that horribly selfish and calculating of me? Possibly. But there’s more to life than writing, and I need to be a responsible parent too. I can’t throw my family’s money into a risky investment.
That doesn’t mean self-publishing is off the table. I think chasing down e-zines for pittance pay on a short story is rather ridiculous, and editing for a short story doesn’t carry the same costs that editing for a novel would (most editors I’m familiar with charge by word count). And I may choose to self-publish a novella or novel later on. The publishing industry is in a state of flux, and the only way to be successful is to be flexible.
Were you fairly limited since your story is a novella instead of a novel?
I’m answering this as a separate question because I’ve been asked this more than once. Not-So-Secret-Seceret: E-publishers love novellas! The whole idea of word counts by genre are expectations built by the limitations of print. E-books don’t have the limiting factors of paper and ink costs, so word count is just another way of measuring length for the reader.
I’ve often wondered what a small press can bring to the table (that I, as an indie, can’t do myself). Can you talk a little about your experience with Breathless Press and what they’re doing to help with promotion?
The three major differences that I noticed were the content edits, the fact there was no up-front cost for publishing, and the built in fan base that comes with the publisher. Many e-publishers have readers who check the publisher’s website regularly for new releases. These people may never have heard of me, but they’ll stop by the publisher’s site and pick up a book out of curiosity.
Part of my contract with Breathless Press includes a list of promotional work they’ll do, including sending out review copies. They also provide a list of recommended advertising groups and a list of things the other BP authors have done. It’s all something a self-published author could do, or that any author could research, but for someone new to the field I think the support is invaluable.
Did the press offer a developmental editor for you to work with? If so, how was that experience?
Breathless Press did provide me with an editor. During three rounds of major edits we addressed style and formatting issues, and two rounds of content edits before a final pass was done by the proof-reader.
I loved what the content editor brought to the table. All my beta-readers are people who know me, they’re honest, but they also know how I think. There were things the content editor caught that my beta-readers didn’t because the editor was able to read without any bias.
How much input did you have on things such as cover art and pricing?
I had no input on pricing. The press has a standard price for short stories, novellas, and novels. It’s my understanding that most presses work this way.
For the cover art, I was able to work directly with the artist. I filled out the standard form, sent her pictures of that I thought matched my characters, and emailed her several times to fine tune the cover art. It worked exactly like it would if you hired the cover artist privately. In fact, the cover artist for EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE also did the cover art for the short story I self-published, SEVENTY.
The downside to all of this is that the likelihood of having exclusive art for your book is limited. I’ve seen variations of “my cover” on several other e-books. Mine’s the best, of course, but popular stock images are reused across the spectrum.
We all know how long the Big 6 publishers can take to get a story out. How was BP in that regard?
Big 6 publishers are known for getting books out slowly, although I think that’s changing. I’ve seen several author with Big 6 contracts publish multiple books in a year. Kevin Hearne, who write the Iron Druid Chronicles published by Del Rey, has had four novels printed in the past year. The self-publishing movement has changed the timeline.
For me, I signed the contract with Breathless Press the last week of December and EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE was published the first week in April. We probably could have done a tighter turnaround time, but I took part of February off for maternity leave. Over all, I think three months from contract to debut isn’t bad.
Would you like to tell us about your next project? Is there a sequel to EVFiL planned?
I have a couple of projects in the works. Breathless Press has expressed interest in acquiring more books in the EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE universe. I didn’t originally write it as part of a series, but working through a plot hole during the editing process I started EVERY HERO NEEDS A VILLAIN, which is the courtship of Zephyr Girl and Doctor Charm from her point of view. From there it didn’t take much for me to begin writing the stories for each of their children. Right now, the Heroes and Villains series has seven books written or planned.
I also have a novel in progress, JANE DOE, which is a near-future sci-fi novel dealing with clones and time travel. I’m hoping to query that and try to take it to a Big 6 publisher. It won’t be the end of the world if I can’t find an agent for JANE DOE, and I’d be willing to self-publish it or take it to a small press, but I’d like the Big 6 experience too. That way I can have a full set of publishing venues.
Liana Brooks was born in San Diego, California. Years later she was disappointed to learn that The Shire was not some place she could move to, nor was Rider of Rohan an acceptable career choice. Studying marine biology so she could play with sharks seemed to be the only alternative. After college Liana settled down to work as a full-time author and mother because logical career progression is something that happens to other people. When she grows up, Liana wants to be an Evil Overlord and take over the world.
In the meantime, she writes sci-fi and SFR in between trips to the beach. She can be found wearing colorful socks on the Emerald Coast, or online at www.lianabrooks.com.
You can grab a copy of Even Villains Fall in Love at Amazon.