Marketing with Mandy Spotlight on Self-Publishing: T. M. Hunter
Q: Please take a minute to tell us a little about yourself.
A: Not much to say. I’ve had short stories and novels published for the past four years (give or take), and started into self-publishing for just over the past year or so. I mainly stick to space opera, featuring my space pirate Aston West and the various characters of his universe. Even my latest sci-fi thriller The Cure blends into his universe later in life (shhhh, don’t tell!). I have had some success with small press titles, including my first two Aston West novels Heroes Die Young and Friends in Deed. My short stories have been published all over the web, including over at Ray Gun Revival, Residential Aliens, Golden Visions Magazine and Lorelei Signal. And as mentioned, over this past year-plus, I’ve been self-publishing various titles, including my novella Seeker, The Cure, and the first in a series of three-story bundles (Aston West Triple-Shots) featuring my new story “Dead Man’s Forge” and others.
Q: What prompted you to self-publish your book(s)?
A: Like many, I’ve followed several blogs where the idea of self-publishing books has been bantered about as a viable option for all authors. I’d had a poor experience with one publisher around a decade ago, which soured me on all publishers (and writing) for some time. I finally came around, got back into writing Aston’s tales, and ended up with small press Champagne Books publishing two of my Aston West novels, and another (ResAliens Press) who contacted me about putting together a short story collection (Dead or Alive). Self-publishing started becoming something of a “cool” thing to do around that time, and I started pondering the idea. I’d actually been sitting on an Aston West novella called Seeker, not knowing where to send it after an anthology call (which had been the catalyst for me writing the story) fell apart. I decided to dip my toes in the pool and self-published Seeker over on Smashwords and Amazon. I’d originally thought about submitting my next novel (The Cure) to agents, but after noticing that sales for Seeker were running about the same as with my small press titles, went ahead and self-published it as well. I’d been bitten by the bug now, and decided to conduct an experiment, bundling up three short stories (referred to as Aston West Triple-Shots) every quarter or so. All in all, I’d say I’m hooked.
Q: How has the experience been to date?
A: So far, I haven’t seen the stellar success some folks online have apparently had (no $100,000 months for me). I do have to say that sales have still been about on par with the sales from my small press titles. I’ve found quite a number of benefits through this brief stint in self-publishing. I earn more by doing it alone. I can get (almost) immediate indication of sales, and can match it up to promotional efforts I do. I get full control over things like editing, cover art, and pricing (if I want to drop the price of my titles to 99 cents, like I have, I can do it at will). It’s been a great experience, even if I’m not close to making enough to give up the day job. And of course, I have two more Aston novels in the pipeline, and unless circumstances somehow change, I’m more than likely going to bring out the next one on my own as well.
Q: What do you know now that you wished you knew when you started?
A: I’d highly recommend getting an e-reader, and also finding honest friends who own a variety of e-readers (and let you buy them free copies to test out). Trying out the files from Amazon, B&N.com and Smashwords has been an eye-opening experience on what the end-user is getting. Sometimes you end up scratching your head over how the converters ended up doing what they did.
Q: What tips/tricks do you use for marketing or promoting your own titles?
A: I use most of the standard fare, promoting through my social networks (Twitter and Facebook, mostly) various online forums, and my website and blog. But as far as “tricks” I think the biggest promotional effort out there has to be pricing. All of my self-published titles are currently at 99 cents. My small press titles are around $2.99-$4.99, depending on title and location. “Bestseller” titles are running with inflated prices, to the point of being absolutely insane. I recently checked out the first in Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, and was astonished that the e-book (for Nook) was $9.99 while the paperback version was also $9.99 (this book has been out for well over a decade, and possibly around fifteen years now). Marketing is all about taking advantage of, and sharing your benefits. If the idea that you can buy all of my self-published novels for a third of what a “bestseller” costs doesn’t get people excited, then…
Q: What is one thing you’d want to tell a newer author, just coming into the game?
A: (Assuming they want to start self-publishing) I’d recommend doing an honest evaluation of your own writing skills, including spelling, grammar, character development and plotting. This doesn’t mean asking your friends and family what they think, but hinges on whether your writing is getting accepted in the marketplace on its own merits. I’ve been getting short stories published online for years, as well as the small press titles I mentioned, all before I ventured into self-publishing. All of that was an indicator that my writing had what it takes.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
A: The Cure is my latest novel. In a nutshell, scientist Mila Groso has lost her husband and daughter, and in her unbearable grief, she’s decided to bring them back, so researches a cure for death. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one who wants to get her hands on such a miracle drug. Religious agents threaten her, trying to stop her work from negating their belief in an afterlife. The government sends a mercenary in, trying to acquire the technology for their own nefarious purposes. Fighting to stay alive, Mila discovers her cure may end up being a greater curse than she ever imagined.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your current WIP’s (works in progress)?
A: Well, other than trying to figure out the next three stories to go into another installment of the Aston West Triple-Shots, I’m also working on the third and fourth novels in the Aston West universe. Death Brings the Victory is currently in final (hopefully) edits, and features Aston returning to a war zone to escape his past, only to discover how far bloodlust will take him and those he loves.
Resurrection is still in first draft form, but the plot is set and it’s going to be a great one as well. Aston is presented with a unique opportunity to reverse the past mistakes he’s made, but to do so means going against everything that’s good and decent in his life.