Sunday, April 24, 2016

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with David S. Atkinson, author of 'Not Quite So Stories'

David S. Atkinson is the author of "Not Quite so Stories" ("Literary Wanderlust" 2016), "The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes" (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and "Bones Buried in the Dirt" (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in "Bartleby Snopes," "Grey Sparrow Journal," "Atticus Review," and others. His writing website is and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.

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About the Book:

The center of Not Quite So Stories is the idea that life is inherently absurd and all people can do is figure out how they will live in the face of that fact. The traditional explanation for the function of myth (including such works as the relatively modern Rudyard Kiping's Just So Stories) is as an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. However, that's hollow. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life simply is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, and the best we can do is to just proceed on with our lives. The stories in this collection proceed from this conception, each focusing on a character encountering an absurdity and focusing on how they manage to live with it.

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

I don't usually set out with a specific research project when I write. Most often, my "research" involves things I learn or pick up while out in the world. That somehow spawns a story idea. Sometimes I look up specific things, but most of my ideas seem to be reflective of things I encounter in my life as opposed to the other way around, like a particularly disturbing dream I could never forget that many years later grew into my story "Happy Trails." I don't think I'm organized enough for formal research like a normal person.

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

I pursued publishers. I think either way has a lot to recommend it. I see both books backed up a publisher and self-published that were great. Personally, I'm never going to be sure something is ready for public consumption until a true independent judge like a publisher believes in it enough to commit to it. Frankly, I need the help. Any help I can get. Also, self-publishing is a hard road. All that goes into putting a book together and promoting it is all on your head. I count myself lucky if I can get my books written. Granted, writers have to be much more on top of promotion than they used to, but I've always still gotten good help from my publishers. I know I couldn't have done what I have without them and I'm lucky that I've gotten to work with them.

If published by a publisher, what was your deciding factor in going with them?

I got to see how Literary Wanderlust worked with an author I'm a big fan of. I could see that they really believed in their books and did the kind of work that evidenced that sincere belief. I definitely wanted that on my side, you can't beat having someone like that in your corner when publishing a book. I also knew that they believed in projects they loved over rigid categories, that it would at least be worth it to try to make them fall in love with it. Luckily, they loved it enough when they saw it that they jumped at it, even though short story collections hadn't been something they considered before. I feel proud to say its part of their main line now.

If published by a publisher, are you happy with the price they chose?

I'm not a huge one for worrying about price. I've always been more concerned about whether people are reading what I write. Still, too high a price could drive off readers, and too low a price could make people think the book isn't worth anything. I think they hit a good price for the book that is neither too high nor so frighteningly low as to seem cut rate. Still, it's just another detail that I've felt comfortable leaving to their expertise and pleased with how they ended up handling it.

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

Literary Wanderlust and I settled on March 1st. There wasn't a lot of significance for that date specifically, but it was when we were certain we could be ready. There's a lot that goes into getting a book ready for release and promotion has to begin a long time before that. March 1 was when we were sure we would be ready to go.

How did you choose your cover?

My cover was designed by a cover artist named Ruth M'Gonigle. My publisher asked what kind of cover ideas I had and I described a few. I was only brainstorming at that point, the main important theme being that I wanted it to instantly convey that sense of realistic stories that each had something 'a little off.' My publisher went to Ruth with that and Ruth came up with the cover. My publisher and I immediately went for it. It completely 'got' what I had wanted in such a minimalistically elegant way, that black and white title text on a teal-is background with the "SO" cut in half, the top part sliding away from the bottom. It was perfect and I didn't want any changes. It visually conveys the essence of "The Des Moines Kabuki Dinner Theatre" as well as it does "Last Known Sighting of the HMS Thousand Thread Count Sheets," as well as all the other stories in the book.

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

I worked on the stories in this collection for a number of years. For example, I wrote the original draft for "Context Driven" back in 2006 after an incident where I accidentally tried to unlock and get in a car that looked like mine. Most of them I'd draft whole and then work with until I had them right, but working on stories over that many years yields a lot of different approaches. I'd come back and rework some over and over as I was writing and working on others. Some I rewrote entirely. I think short story collections are perhaps more likely to have that kind of approach than a novel.

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 haven't done a lot of special swag for my books, mainly because I haven't thought of a really targeted swag plan. I think you've got to have a really targeted idea of what kind of swag you are going to do and how it is going to help market a specific book. There is so much clutter out there and our culture has so much waste we have to try to dispose of, we have to be careful as possible to not generate more than we need to. I've met a lot of authors who have come up with some really great plans that have worked, and I've wanted to make sure I have something lined up like that before doing it. I don't want to kill trees to print something off only to find it in the trash or junking up a drawer. I just think that's the responsible thing to do. I did get picked to have a sticker of me designed by LitPills (check out their other ones, some pretty cool stuff), but that wasn't for a specific book. I do plan to have some of those to give away at author events.

Did you consider making or hiring someone to make a book trailer for your book?  If so, what’s the link?

I did! I hired a woman named Jordan Mapes whom I'd met through my MFA program. She puts together book trailers for hire and has done some really cool ones. I had to pick her for mine after seeing the book trailer she put together for The Meaning of Names by Karen Shoemaker.

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

I'm a huge believer in this, at least partly for all the books I've gotten through giveaways over the years. People are interested in giveaways about a book enough to check them out even if they might not have read a non-giveaway post about the same book. While they're there, they generally check out enough to see if it's something they want to read. If they don't win, there's still a significant chance they might decide they were intrigued enough to read it anyway and then get it themselves. It gets a larger conversation about a book going, gets more people involved and talking. That's invaluable, certainly at least worth the price of a book or two. I always do giveaways of one kind or another. I love the ones on Goodreads in particular since so many people see them.

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

I think the three most important things to do are make absolutely sure the book is ready, come up with an organized plan of who you want to hear about the book and how they are going to hear about it, and then execute on that plan. It's no good if the book isn't ready because you were concentrating entirely on promotion, but you also can't just expect a perfect book to instantly sell. People have to know. There's a lot to do and you want to make sure you know what you're going to do and get going on that thoroughly at least a couple months before the book is available. People need to already want to see the book when it becomes available.

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

I think you need to check out how the prerelease promotion has been going, reevaluate and modify your plan from before based on what has occurred since, and continue to execute that plan to keep talk going. Plans need to change based on circumstances and you have to be aware of that. Some things might not be working and those need to be scrapped, particularly in favor of something not already going that might work better. Talk needs to be going before, during, and after release, and it needs to be responsive to what's going on out there.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?
I did pretty much anything I could think of. There are so many books out there, I felt I needed to explore every avenue I could to make sure word actually got heard. I definitely mentioned the book in any of the writing communities and groups I'm involved in (via Facebook, Twitter, and so on). Not only are those kinds of communities and groups supportive, they tend to want to know what people are going to be doing so they can decide if they want to check out something that is upcoming. I put out news on my writing website, informed journals in which I'd been published (most like hearing good news like that and many will help promote in various ways, such as The Writing Disorder who originally published my story "Turndown Service"), created a Facebook page, discussed various aspects of the book's progress on my blog, queried various journals and other venues about interviews and book reviews, booked a virtual book tour, commissioned a book trailer, got involved in local readings and other events, engaged a local publicist to get me involved in local writing events outside what I already knew about, and all that. There are so many things an author can do, and most of them area actually a lot of fun.

Do you have a long term plan with your book?

My basic plan involves activities around about two years between pre-promotion, release promotion, follow up promotion, award submissions, and all that. At some point, I'll need to start focusing more on my next book. However, there are less intensive activities I have planned extending beyond that. Monitoring, looking for chances to make sure the book stays talked about, all that. I don't think promotion ever really ends, but you have to make sure you keep it to a manageable schedule.

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

I just hope they enjoy reading. There are so many things as an author you want people to get out of your book, but none of that will fly if people don't enjoy reading. I want them to enjoy and I thank anyone who makes time in their busy lives to have a look. Be like the people still delighted to find the world magic in "Cents of Wonder Rhymes With Orange." Regardless of anything else, I'm always grateful for that.

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