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 Jim Cliff. Have a look at his profile and books here.
What inspired you to become an author? I’ve always been passionate about stories. I was an early and voracious reader, and I started writing and creating little stapled-together ‘books’ when I was very young. My daughter, who’s just turned 5, is much the same. Along with ‘stuntman’ and ‘helicopter pilot’, ‘author’ was right there on my list of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I read a lot of crime fiction, but my biggest influence was Robert B Parker, author of the Spenser novels. If I couldn’t be an author I’d like to be a film maker. I’ve worked in and around the film, television and video industry most of my career, made a short film and written a feature, and if I could actually make a living as a director, that’s what I would be doing.
Do you write full time? No. I make videos for businesses – mostly for the web, but sometimes for DVDs or internal communications.
How do you fit writing into your routine? It’s hard. With two young children and running my own business there isn’t a lot of spare time. I do a fair amount of driving to film at clients’ businesses, so sometimes I’ll clip a microphone to my lapel and dictate while I’m driving – then transcribe the notes later on. Actually setting aside time to write is currently very hard to do.
Where do you write? I have an office where I’ll sit and type at the computer, but often elements of what I’m writing will come to me when I’m doing something else, so I find myself scribbling notes on bits of paper wherever I happen to be.
Do you have daily word targets? No. When I’m writing non-fiction I have a date that I hope to have the whole thing finished by, which is sometimes a moveable feast, but for fiction I write when and how much I can fit in at any given time.
Before writing, do you plan your books to the last detail? Not at all. I have an end in mind (although I don’t necessarily stick to it) and some sense of how I’ll get there, but mostly I let the story unfold and try to solve the mystery as I go. My characters start with fairly broad brushstrokes, but I try to give them each a personality and a motivation, even if it’s only for the scene they’re in. Then I kind of listen to them speaking to me.
How do you get over the fear of a blank page? I’m happy to say I never really have that fear. I’ve got far more stories in my head than I have time to write down, so it’s more about figuring out which of them takes precedence.
How do you target your audience effectively? Excellent question. I’ve got the same issue as other indie authors, in that all the places we go to promote our books are mostly filled with other indie authors and actual readers are a bit thin on the ground! I don’t see this as a big problem, as authors tend to also be big readers in my experience and many have active blogs or social media accounts where some of their followers might even be readers! As for reaching the readers directly, that’s why I use the KDP promotions – getting higher up in the Amazon rankings helps make sure that Amazon are promoting me to people who are looking for new books to read.
How much time do you spend promoting yourself in social media? During a free promotion, it’s a few hours work each week, but outside of that I just tend to tweet when I get a new five star review or get featured on a blog.
What’s been your most effective way of promoting yourself? The KDP Select programme has massively increased my sales and exposure. In one month I went from six sales to over five hundred sales and borrows, solely due to a three day free promo where I gave away almost 20000 books.
What made you decide to publish independently? I spent some time sending my book to agents and met with one who got me to make a few changes and held on to it for six months or so before basically ignoring me. I didn’t really want to start doing all that again, and when I discovered the KDP option I thought I’d give it a go. I’m so pleased I did.
What do you think the future of traditional publishing will be? I think it depends on how determined they are to stick to tradition. If they are willing to change with the times and take a more active role in promoting their authors then I absolutely think there’s a place for them. There will always be authors who don’t want to do all the peripheral aspects of publishing such as proofing, editing, cover design and especially promotion so if someone can offer them all that in exchange for a small commission, there’s a market for that.
Is it necessary for authors to have agents these days? I’m sure there are instances where it would be useful to have an agent. When Hollywood knocks on my door to adapt The Shoulders of Giants I won’t really know how to start negotiating the rights, for example. I don’t think it’s necessary in most cases though.
How do you deal with rejection or a less favourable review? I’m a fairly positive person, so I am able to focus on the nice things people say and not dwell on the negatives. Where a review points out some problems with plotting or realism I’m grateful, as it means I might not make that mistake again. What annoys me is when people give bad ratings for things unrelated to the book. I had a three star review from someone who hadn’t read the book but wanted to stop getting reminders from Amazon to review it. Sure, people who read the review realise that person was mistaken, but it affects the overall ‘score’, which is what most people see.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Don’t aspire, write!
Thank you for being part of this interview.