Tuesday, November 1, 2016

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Sam Reed, author of 'Fair to Hope'

Sam Reed is a born and bred southern girl who grew up reading Toni Morrison, Archie Comics, Christopher Pike, Octavia Butler, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. When she’s not thinking of what to write, she is napping or eating, going to church, wishing she could sing, trying to perfect her Grandma’s biscuit recipe, watching A Different World reruns, sitting in the sun—or reading a book.


About the Book:

Velma had lived two lives: her first as a former foster kid, and her second as an unlikely recruit into a secret order that satisfied her need for retribution. Her fifteen-year-old self had given up on hope, but after three years with the Taram, she’d found her life’s purpose.

That is, until she is surprisingly named Kachina, the fabled chosen empowered to fight the last battle for the fate of the world. Having to kill someone she loves was never part of the bargain, even if it means saving everyone else from damnation.

Building a normal life free from the pull of the Taram—seems like the only answer to her prayers. Except her best friend, the other Kachina, is coming. The legend is clear that one of them must die.

Velma will have to weigh the cost of her life against a world that’s constantly betrayed her and quite literally decide if she’ll be damned in dying, taking the whole world with her.

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Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?

I knew I wanted to create a sort of ‘supernatural system’ that hadn’t been done before. I was fortunate in that it didn’t require me to research anything for accuracy, but I did read a lot of YA to get an idea for what had already been done, in order to help give me an idea of what I could do differently; so if I said that it had never been done before, I could be comfortably certain that was true.

Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?

I definitely pursued publishers; I did that for about 3 years, and even workshopped the book during a writer’s conference in New York. It was during that conference that I was told in order for the book to be marketable I needed to ride the popular YA wave and add in vampires or werewolves, or zombies. There were a lot of recommendations to add in zombies, since after the vampire craze, zombies were anticipated to be the next big thing. Self-publishing became more and more attractive as a realized I wanted to tell my story my way, which was especially important for this book, as the format of the story itself also isn’t traditional. But I couldn’t shake needing to tell this story in this way, and self-publishing, though scary, was the perfect way for me to do that. 

If self-published, did you hire someone to format the ebook version for you or did you do it yourself?  Can you tell us what that was like?

I am completely comfortable admitting that I have absolutely no idea how to format books, it would have been a travesty if I tried to tackle this project myself. Especially since, even though I was self-published, I knew one of my major goals was to see my book on an actual bookstore shelf, and to do that, both the ebook, and paperback, would need to be formatted in order to stand up to the big boys. Plus, in general, I was so new to the whole self-publishing process I was desperate for someone to hold my hand. So, I self-published through Mill City Press, they offer their services a la carte so I was able to select the ones that I needed and then have a professional help me through the process. It was such a relief for me! When the time came for formatting, I was sent electronic proofs (for the ebook) and a physical proof (for the paperback to approve), and I was able to weigh in on font size and style, page number placement, author name and book title placement, all while knowing that the final product would be formatted perfectly. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

If self-published, how did you determine the price?

Again, I had help via Mill City Press with this process. They provided me with the average price for books in my genre, as well as some trial numbers on how certain price points would affect my profit per book. Honestly, in the end, the price for my paperback book barely allows me to break even, and there are a lot of folks who would probably say that it wasn’t worth the financial investment, and if you look at it as just numbers, that’s probably true. But for me, I’d been pocketing this idea of one day holding my book in my hands and feeling the pages, or signing one for somebody who was excited for me to do so – being able to actually have that happen, to walk into my local Barnes and Noble and see signed copies of my book on the shelf next to all these YA authors I admire, was well worth the cost.

Did you purposefully choose a distinct month to release your book?  Why?

I didn’t, though in hindsight I think I should have done a better job of researching this and been deliberate in picking a date to maximize the book’s launch success. For example, my book was officially released on the same day as Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song, and as a first time, self-pub’d author, I can promise you, mine was not the book blowing up the internet on that day, lol. And that’s understandable, Victoria Schwab is amazing and I loved her book, but in hindsight ,I would have chosen a different release date for my own to give my ‘little engine that could’ book a fighting launch day chance.

How did you choose your cover?

Aw, man, working with my designer to create the cover was the best part. I was fortunate because my designer (Emily with Mill City Press) was over the top amazing! I’ve always had a huge obsession with typography covers, it probably leads back to my love of words in general, but I’m always drawn to beautiful covers that are super font heavy. I also have a similar fascination with black/dark blue books. I just think they look strong and timeless. So when I spoke with Emily, I let her know that I wanted to incorporate the colors blue and amber, because they’re important colors in the book, and that I wanted the title to be clear and readable as well as compelling – which is somewhat esoteric direction but I threw it at her anyway. I also mentioned that I wanted it to be somewhat unisex, I wanted it to be the kind of cover that a boy (or even a not super girly girl, which would have been me growing up) wouldn’t feel funny carrying around or pulling out of a book bag. The first mock up was pretty much on point from jump, we made a few font changes, and added in the extra step of coloring in one of the letters in each of the words to further emphasize the blue and amber, and then it was done. I still love it every time I look at it, so I guess that’s a good sign.

Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?

I completely wrote first and then revised. I have so much respect for folks who can revise as they go. That seems like such a special skill, but there’s no way I could do that. For me, getting the first draft done means I need to be able to just spit stuff out, without being worried if it’s good or bad, just get words out on the page. Which means I very rarely if ever, write linearly, I write the pieces as they come to me, then piece them together in a way that I feel fits the story and the way I wan to tell it (which can happen more than once as the revisions continue), then I revise/clean up/edit, to get to a version I feel I can safely use for beta reading and then querying.

Did you come up with special swag for your book and how are you using it to help get the word out about your book? 

I did! I really wanted to be able to highlight the diversity in this book, which can be really hard to get across in a blurb, or a book cover when you’ve decided the cover will just be text. So I searched through Etsy.com to find a digital artist (who was also awesome, I was beyond blessed with all the designers I was able to work with for this book) to create portrait renderings for each of the book characters. I then used those images on my social media sites, as well as on bookmarks, smaller business cards, and some keychains. The images were a huge hit, and have also been extremely useful in drawing attention to my signing table during book events. It was such an amazing process to watch these characters who’d lived in my head for the longest time, finally come to life, to literally meet them face to face. It was exciting! And, as it came towards the end of the self-publishing process, which at times made it easy to lose sight of the whole thing being a fulfillment of a dream – due to the business aspect of self-publishing taking over – it was such a welcome distraction to be re-introduced to my book in this way. It made the whole process invigorating all over again.

What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?

I think in many respects it’s necessary, as it relates to getting reviews to help boost your books visibility. I’ve given away a fair number of review copies, but it’s been more than worth it. Of course, I’d like to make money from my book. I worked hard on it for many years, and while it was a labor of love, it was still a labor, lol, so compensation is always appreciated. But at the same time, at least for me, I’m (almost) equally motivated by the idea that people are reading my words under any circumstances, love it or hate it, (thought the bad reviews still kinda feel like a knife to the heart, lol, I’m working on it). I do think there’s a thin line between folks who are requesting books because they’re genuinely interested in reading it, and posting a review in a timely fashion, and those who are just looking for free books for the hell of it. It can be almost impossible to tell the difference, but I do think there has to be a certain amount of integrity on both sides; I shouldn’t ask you to review my book, (as that’s time and effort on your part), without being willing to provide a review copy, and you shouldn’t ask for a review copy unless you’re serious about leaving a review.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do before their book is released?

1.      1.         Get reviews, I wish I’d spent more time doing this and understanding how this can drive your books visibility. As soon as you have an electronic ARC copy, start advertising it to get it out there, and create a Goodreads page for it so reviews can be posted right away. I’d then also host a Goodreads give away during that ARC review time to again, increase visibility and get folks talking.
2.      2.         Start a mailing list. You can Google mailing lists and find tons of great info on how to do this. You don’t even necessarily have to be sending out a newsletter prior to your book release, but have a form set up through Mailchimp or Google forms or something similar, and include a small note at the end of your ebook that says something like; “If you enjoyed reading this, tap this link to be added to my (no spam ever!) newsletter for fun reader news and updates on my upcoming books.”  That way, you’ll be having people join your list who already enjoy your writing, and will be much more likely to support any of your future efforts.
3.      3.         Grow a thick skin. I’m still learning this, but as a writer you get so excited that your book is done, that you actually did it, you wrote a book! And that excitement is worthwhile, you should celebrate that achievement. But once it’s out there, that excitement is for you and you alone (and your family and friends) other people aren’t starting from a place of excitement, they’re viewing your work from a place of judgement. They’re judging if it’s good or bad, if it’s worth reading or finishing or recommending. That first bad review will make that abundantly clear, and if you haven’t really prepared yourself, it can be hard to handle. But the other thing, on top of that, is to get involved in some sort of writing community online, in person, whatever…because those are the folks who will really feel your pain, and that support ends up meaning the world.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do after their book is released?

1.      1.         Keep working. It’s easy to feel like achieving a big launch is the end game, but in reality sustained longevity is the end game. I’m much more interested in steady growth then one huge day that trails off to nothing. So keep working, keep engaging, keep getting your book out there, approach your libraries and local schools, indie bookstores are a phenomenal resource, they’re usually super eager to help out local artists, still solicit reviews, and always remember that what you signed up for may be a dream and a passion, but it’s also a job, best one ever if you ask me, but a job all the same.
2.      2.         Be kind, stop second guessing yourself. You’re always going to think that you could have written a better book. There will be times when you’ll doubt yourself, when you’ll be asked to do a reading and hate every excerpt because on this day, all you can see are the mistakes or plot holes, or things you should have done differently. When that happens, be consciously gracious to yourself. You wrote a book, you took a story from your head and placed it down on paper, and you should always be proud of that.
3.      3.         Write a better book. Take every doubt you have about what you did, and funnel it into your next work, use everything that’s happened since your release, learn from it, and write your next book. And it will be better, because one way or another, you’ll be better for having gone through this whole crazy process.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?
I created a launch team for the book. As an unknown author, I did that by reaching out personally to book bloggers I liked and asking if they’d be a part of the launch team; members received an advanced copy of the book, I also sent them a launch team exclusive downloadable art print with a quote from the book. I did a Goodreads giveaway, heavy Instagram engagement just to up the book’s visibility i.e., I used the Later app to schedule Instagram posts during the month of the launch. I also set up a FB author page.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?

Thank you for trusting me to tell you a story in a way that feels authentic to me. It feels like an immense honor anytime someone reads my words, and I hope that at least parts of Fair to Hope will resonate with you even after you turn the last page. I will forever be grateful to you, so if we ever met in person and I wrap you up in a hug, don’t be alarmed – you’ve been warned.  J

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