Friday, December 23, 2011

Interview with R. S. Guthrie on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays! During this weekly event, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing community. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is R. S. Guthrie, a writer exploring different publication types and an activist promoting the use of writing to make a difference.

Your embrace of the philosophies of both self-publishing and traditional publishing struck a chord with me. Many people are vehemently for one side or the other. Can you explain why you think some books should be self-published, and others traditionally published?

This is a great question! I think traditional publishing still carries with it a (somewhat deserved) badge of prestige, whereas self-publishing carries with it a bit of a stigma. Whether we all want to admit it or not, the sea of self-published books is wide, deep, and in spots, a bit smelly. It is like everything else in life: nothing comes without cost. The problems with going the traditional route, other than potential rejection after potential rejection, I see as primarily twofold:
  1. The time to publication. In this market, unless you are well-known, you might as well be an indie. The uphill marketing battle is nearly the same (and requires nearly as much work on your part). That said, getting more books out there is pretty important. If you have to wait a year and a half for your book to be released, you could be falling behind.
  2. You likely lose some, if not all, rights to your work. This means your publisher can demand changes, controls price and distribution, and takes a cut. You can't just sign up for a promotion or drop the price of your book for Christmas. Not unless you obtain the permission of your publisher.
If your work is good enough for the traditional route, it may be worth it to go through the time and heartache to have it published by a known publishing house. I certainly wouldn't go through all that for a no-name publisher. Both options mean a ton of marketing work for the unestablished author. I think more and more the self-publishing route is becoming the better option, but showcasing your needle in a nearly indefinite stack of needles is a huge challenge.

On your blog, you talk about the difficulty of finding good books based purely on ratings. What do you think is a better way for readers to discover good, new authors?

I think ratings are the real issue. If the accompanying review is well-written, it can still have a great value (and help decipher the rating). But in the end? You need to download a sample. I rarely find a Kindle book (or other digital format) that doesn't offer up the first chapter or so as a free sample read. I would be unlikely to buy any indie book (or other author whose work is unknown to me) through review reading only. I think a sampling of the writer's work is essential (which is why indie authors need to offer up their writing--blogs, short stories, excerpts---whenever they can).

Everyone loves the idea of a good contest. You’re giving away a Kindle Fire to promote the sale of Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel and the upcoming L O S T. Any tips or tricks you’ve learned about the process?

Hmm. Another great question. As with the writing, it's all about getting the word out. I mean who wouldn't pay 99 cents for an ebook if it gets them a chance at a brand new Kindle Fire, right? I think that's essentially true---just as it's true that a well-written, well-plotted, great read ought to earn its author a living. But unless you can figure out how to reach the masses, you aren't much better than a wonderful treat buried in the middle of a dark forest. The challenge is (and will always be) reaching your audience. Self-published, traditional---doesn't matter. Your product, message, or contest needs to reach the people who might be interested. And that takes two common elements in my experience: hard work, and TIME.

Another technique you’ve used for gaining publicity is submitting a chapter from an unpublished novel to an online publication. What are the pros and cons of this method?

I think this is a great option. It somewhat crosses the barrier between self-published and published for hire. (Also it can earn you a little money on the side.). The challenge is again reaching your audience. The chapter I submitted for publication is from my epic western novel. The online magazine is New West, and focuses on western authors and western themes. The hope is to reach the types of readers who would be interested in your full work. I think the downside is, again, you are submitting and waiting for acceptance. And rejection. The editor of New West had seen my book, and I knew he liked it a lot. But traditional submission normally means some number of rejections. This is neither good nor bad---just part of the industry---but it can be time consuming.

You donate proceeds from your book to a very special, personal cause. I think it adds another dimension to you as a writer. What made you decide to do this?

Our son was born on Christmas Day, 2007. He was healthy, happy, and perfect. Then two months later he died of SIDS. Nothing can prepare you for that. Had it not been for Colorado SIDS (now Angel Eyes), I don't know what we would have done. Their mission is to help families who are in the midst of unfathomable loss. We started fundraising for them. When my book came out, I wanted to do something more personal...more tangible. Some friends have a wonderful little boy who has autism and Down Syndrome. The school he now attends in Denver is a remarkable place and has helped him immensely. It costs a lot, though. I thought it would be really cool to donate a portion of the proceeds toward his tuition. I just want to make a difference.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor, publisher, etc. who's doing great things right now, and why?

Author Elise Stokes and her husband David are working diligently to put the finishing touches on their brainchild: Artesian Books. Artesian will be inviting strong, established indie authors to join up and become part of a site, storefront, and community dedicated to showcasing independent authors and publishers. Their concept is not only innovative and brilliant but is exactly what talented indie authors need right now: a storefront that works for THEM and allows cross-promotion between authors. Artesian is scheduled to go live after the New Year. The dedication of these two individuals to the independent author is truly inspiring.

Any other projects you'd like to mention?

My other site is called Read a Book, Make a Difference (RABMAD). Earlier I talked about the concept of giving back from the proceeds of my book. I decided to expand on that concept, inviting other authors to do the same thing. The RABMAD site simply promotes authors who are giving back to their cause(s) of choice. We currently have over 40 authors participating. Click the link above to check it out and to sign up if you're interested.

To learn more about R. S. Guthrie, check him out on Twitter, or take a look at his personal website and blog, Rob on Writing.
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