Hello [Joan Meijer (pron. Meyer) and welcome to Authopublisher.com. It’s nice to have you with us. You are a self published author, tell us what your book is called and what is it about?
My book is called “Relentless: The Search For Typhoid Mary” – it’s a novel based on one of the greatest medical mysteries of all time – the case that proved that typhoid was spread by humans. The case ended one of the great epidemic diseases and demonstrated the importance of microbiology. It’s also a story about human dignity, persecution, the battle between the government and citizen rights. The issues are as alive and relevant today as they were in 1906.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process? What methods do you use to write and how did you make it through the grueling process of writing your book?
Most of my novels start as movie scripts because I like the discipline of the movie structure. Once I have the basic action, characters and turning points in place, then I can expand the movie into a novel. I’ve tried to approach books as novels first and found that writing that way is too difficult to discipline. I hadn’t thought I would put “Relentless: The Search For Typhoid Mary” into novel form because I didn’t want to spend a year in a library but, with the advent of the Internet, I found all that research at my finger tips. I actually don’t find writing grueling – I find copy editing grueling – but writing is fascinating because you never know what the characters are going to say or do once you breathe life into them.
Explain to us the process you took to get your book published, from formatting your manuscript to preparing it for print all the way to getting an ISBN and the book cover design.
I was not thrilled with getting the paperback of both “Provenance” and “Tranquillity Initiative” published. It wasn’t quite as annoying as going with the big publishers – which I have done with my non-fiction writing – but it was enough to take this book digital only. I may eventually go with Amazon’s Create Space but I’m not certain that will be necessary.
Generally – and I say generally because Amazon has a new program out that I’m going to try with my soon to be released “The President Has AIDS” – I go first to Smashwords. Smashwords is very picky about the formatting of the book and if you can get your manuscript through their system it’s clean and uploadable to half a dozen different formats. They sell ISBN numbers on Smashwords because Sony and Apple won’t carry books without them. Once Smashwords has approved my formatting then I upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon and Pubit for Barnes and Noble. It’s really easy to do, just follow their directions step by step.
The most important thing about the digital uploads are the keywords. Without good keyword choices you don’t sell books. I play with key words and pricing constantly. Books by unknown authors should be priced first at $.99. Don’t take them higher than $2.99. The closer you get to $5.00 the fewer the books you sell as an unknown – or relatively unknown. Price points are REALLY important.
Cover art and titles are also important. I’ve used professionals. Generally they’re expensive and they don’t do any better than the covers I make myself. I do my own covers using gimp2. I download a picture from one of the stock photo sites into my computer. I spend HOURS searching for pictures. I upload my picture into Gimp2. I write over it. I save it as a .jpeg. and that’s generally all I need to do. Sometimes I need to frame black lettering with white – then I send it to my webmaster and she tweaks it for me.
Did you use the services of a book coach or a self publishing company to help you though the process or did you do it yourself? Tell us about your experiences.
It has been a shrinking process for me. I started as a co-author with Suzy Prudden. We were published by Doubleday, Hay House and Harper San Francisco. I was writing my own novels and I would send them to our agents but they didn’t want them. I had decided I would just write them for my own pleasure and then there was the tremendous paradigm shift to self-publishing and digital. I discovered I didn’t need an agent or a publisher. I literally had a computer full of books and stories and I never looked back.
I went with a print on demand company with “Tranquillity Initiative” – I won’t do that again. Paying them to print your book is just the beginning of the sale for them. They nickel-dime you to death. It was one of the more unpleasant experiences I have been through and I definitely would never do that again.
What would you do differently with the publishing of your next book?
Well first I’m going only digital unless I have to do otherwise. That’s more than 50% of the market and the unpleasantness of dealing even with POD publishers isn’t worth the annoyance.
I think the next big thing for me is to write a series – I haven’t done that yet. I’m working on one that I’m scheduled to start in May or June. I’m told that stand alones do not sell as well as series and I see that in my own reading choices.
How did you market your book? Can you share some of your creative/non-conventional ways/secrets on how you sold your book?
I went all the traditional routes of marketing with “Tranquillity Initiative” – I did interviews, I purchased access to reviewers – I blog on blog sites constantly, I even set up book signings – which I loathe. I really don’t think any of them were effective in selling “Tranquillity Initiative.” The best thing was I made personal friends with some of the reviewers. I didn’t do any of that for “Relentless” and it sells better.
I get sterling reviews and five star recommendations for my books so I know they’re good so I’m really focused on the other things that affects sales?
In “Relentless,” I I selected an historical character that people were interested in and I used good key words to drive traffic to the book. I think after that it’s the luck of the draw. You can do everything right and never be “discovered.”
The big thing – the truly best thing every writer should know is – write for yourself. Let the writing process be its own reward. If you truly love what you’re doing sales becomes an added plus. If you’re writing for money – stick to non-fiction with well defined niche markets to which you have proven access. Or write pornography. Sex sells.
Share with us the different platforms you use to sell your book (bookstores, signing, affiliate programs, website etc.).
I have a website – which is relatively useless. I am constantly commenting on blogs which I think is useful – I am going strictly on line now. I don’t waste time with book signings which involve hours and sell few books. Since I constantly sell on line, what I publish is the numbers game. I write 6-10 hours a day. I write non-fiction on assignment as well as my own fiction. I write short stories as well as novels and I publish on the digital sites constantly. Since I started putting up short stores I’m making more money across the board than I was before.
Do you use social media in book promotion, and if so, which platforms work best for you?
Can you share some tricks you got making it work for you?
I use social media but since I don’t particularly like it I don’t think I use it effectively. Like everything else it takes time and I would rather be writing books and short stories than fiddling with the social media. If other people respond to my posts about my books they way I respond to other writer’s posts about their books it’s a pretty useless exercise. A lesson I learned early is I cannot write what I don’t enjoy reading – example I don’t writer for general magazines. Trade journals are another story.
I constantly ping.fm to a dozen sites – since I blog every day…. but I don’t converse.
Care to share some numbers? How many books have you sold to date?
I’ve sold a few hundred “Relentless” with absolutely no marketing at all. I sold fewer “Tranquillity Initiative” killing myself to market. My non-fiction, which as gone up to 75,000 sells better than my fiction. Pornographic short stories, which I sell under a different name, sell the best.
It’s important to keep your markets separate – I write woman’s fiction under one name, Medical and political thrillers under Joan Meijer, erotic short stories under another name. I will probably write my young adult series under yet another name. I saw Ken Follett almost kill his following publishing books market under his name that didn’t fit his. You have to please your market or you lose it.
How was your book initially received? Has it been reviewed? What was your response to the reviews?
I got dozens of great reviews for “Tranquillity Initiative” and they didn’t impact on sales at all. I decided not to bother with reviews for “Relentless: The Search For typhoid Mary” and discovered that it was the key words and the subject matter that sold the book. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when the reviews came in. They were wonderful and gratifying and exciting.
How do you handle negative feedback from critics?
I haven’t had negative feedback from critics for my novels. I did learn to pay attention to negative feedback back in my big publisher and agent days… Anyone, particularly a professional, who is willing to take their time to give you feedback – even if it hurts – is worth their weight in gold as far as I’m concerned.
Where are some of the places where you sell your book besides through book distributors, your website, book stores etc.
Right now I only sell on the big digital sites. I’m looking for more e-pub sites – but in reality Smashwords takes care of most of that. Amazon’s new marketing program – where you give them a 90 day exclusive and they recommend your book – is the next thing I’m going to try. I am very impressed with Amazon. It’s obvious that the company stays up nights thinking of ways to promote its writers as well as to fill buyers’ needs.
Do have any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
I am two weeks away from uploading “The President Has AIDS” – a political thriller – to Kindle. In February I need to write a non-fiction – and in March I have another non-fiction I’ve been hired to write.
At the same time I’m going to be structuring in movie format for “The Bridge” a story about what happens when you privatize infrastructure – which was my National Novel Writing Month project. I plan to release that in May-June.
Then I’ve already started sketching my first Young Adult Series. – this series is my next big learning curve. I have another dozen projects in my computer just waiting for the time to finish them.
Thank you for joing us on Authpublisher Joan, Hope to hear from you again soon!