Within the Indie Author Hub, you can learn about other authors, their thoughts and opinions, what makes them tick and how their writing process works for them.
This week I interviewed Matthew Wayne Selznick. Have a look at his profile and books here.
What inspired you to become an author? There’s no one thing that inspired me to become an author. I’ve been a creative person interested in storytelling my entire life. Some stories are best told through prose… for some, music is the appropriate medium. For others, it’s film, or sequential art (comicbooks). Most of my creative output has been through writing or music.
Do you write full time? If you’re asking I dedicate thirty five to forty hours a week to writing, no. However, A significant amount of my income flows from my creative endeavors, including writing, so it’s accurate to say that it’s one of my jobs. My company, MWS Media, helps independent creators, small businesses, non-profits, and the entertainment industry bring creative endeavors to fruition, to market, and to an audience. One of those independent creators happens to be… me!
How do you structure your day? I use a time and task management application called ToDoist (https://todoist.com) to prioritize my projects and keep track of deadlines. This helps me ensure that my personal projects get some of my time every day. As for when writing or writing-related tasks happen each day, that depends on what’s on the list and what the priorities are for that day.
Do you have daily word targets? I don’t believe in word targets as a measure of writing productivity. Writing involves much, much more than adding words to a manuscript. Since I’m a strong believer in outlining and a well-defined story structure, much of my writing actually happens before I type the first word of the manuscript. So daily word count doesn’t mean much. Rather than worry about word count, when I’m in the first draft I try to complete a scene per writing session. A writing session might be an hour or it might be two, so long as at least one scene is finished. And there might be more than one session per day.
Before writing, do you plan your books to the last detail? No. I am an outliner. Storytelling in the Western tradition follows definable patterns (call them formulas if you like), and having a strong understanding of those roadmaps helps with planning, too. I use Scrivener (http://bit.ly/getscrivener) to map out the beats in a work, beginning with the tent-pole scenes and filling in the rest as needed — the number of scenes depends on the projected length of the work (about sixty five for a novel, for example). Once the outline is done, I know how many scenes are in the work as well as exactly what needs to happen, and why, in each of those scenes. But exactly *how* those targets are hit doesn’t happen until I start my first draft.
How do you get over the fear of a blank page? What’s that? Let me turn that around and offer why I don’t think anyone needs to suffer from writer’s block. It brings us back to what I’ve already touched on — that if you have a strong understanding of how capital-“S” Story works and the essential elements required, you won’t have a problem putting words on the page. Learn how stories work. Read critically. Watch television (especially hour long dramas and episodic dramas all the way across their season(or series)-long arcs) and films critically. Watch a month of soap operas — no kidding. If you want to be a successful writer, it’s not enough to write. You have to become a master of your toolkit. Just like a master mechanic begins their apprenticeship taking engines apart, you have to dissect stories. Once you understand how they work, it becomes much easier to take the ideas in your head and transform and enhance them (because an idea is not a story) into viable stories.
How do you target your audience effectively? First things first: I don’t think of them as an audience. I wrote about this: http://www.mattselznick.com/2013/03/07/stop-trying-to-build-an-audience/ You can also check out my social media policy (http://www.mattselznick.com/about-matthew-wayne-selznick/social-media-policy-matthew-wayne-selznick/), and, by way of what not to do, here’s a rant about some fairly common social media strategies all too often employed by indie authors: http://www.mattselznick.com/2011/11/30/social-networking-youre-doing-it-wrong-part-the-nth/
How much time do you spend promoting yourself in social media? I promote when there’s something to promote. I have a mailing list that I use when there’s something of value to communicate to that segment of the community; I have a Facebook page that’s specifically for people who want to be promoted to regarding my creative endeavors, and maybe 10% of my tweets are self-promotional. On LinkedIn, which is a bit of a different game because it’s specifically a professional networking site, I self promote when I have something of value to present to my professional contacts — not the same audience as the community into my creative endeavors, for the most part.
What’s been your most effective way of promoting yourself? When I released my first book in 2005, I also released in as a free podcast. At the time, that was the single most effective thing I did to build my community and raise awareness of my personal brand. I’m not sure it would be as effective today, as that particular space is much more crowded now. These days, my most effective promotional avenue is my mailing list.
How were you published? I have been traditionally published, but currently MWS Media publishes all of my work, save one anthology I contributed to and a Cordwainer Smith audiobook I narrated. You can find everything at http://www.mwsmedia.com, where you can purchase directly from me or through the usual online marketplaces. I don’t use Smashwords, as I prefer to create my own e-books and deal directly with Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and the like.
How do you keep yourself motivated? I have more ideas than time. I decide what to create next by evaluating the time, effort, and potential income of the ideas at hand, and prioritize accordingly. My motivation is to get to Done, and ship, because there are ideas in the queue and bills to be paid.
Do you think that Indie Authors are still looked down on by their traditionally published counterparts? I think a lot of indie authors like to think so. It seems to fuel some indie authors’ sense of righteous indignation… or maybe it helps obscure their insecurity; I’m not sure. But no, I think most traditionally published authors don’t care one way or another what indie authors are doing. Ditto editors and publishers.
Is it necessary for authors to have agents these days? As always, it depends on the author’s goals. Try getting your book optioned without an agent. Try selling foreign language rights without an agent. It can be done, but an agent can make it much easier. Plus, that’s their job — to sell your work in as many ways as possible. Why not have an agent? By the way, I don’t, but I wouldn’t mind having an agent under the right circumstances.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Study stories, produce, ship, and be human.
Thank you for being part of this interview.