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 Peggy Kopman-Owens. Have a look at her profile and books here.
What inspired you to become an author? My mother wrote music and lyrics, but also, short stories. She revealed, when we were old enough to understand, what had seemed “magical” to the ears and eyes of her children was actually the marriage of passion and patience, something which all musicians, artists, actors and writers understand. In addition to being musicians, my parents were both avid readers, consuming two or three books a week. There have been musicians in our family for five generations, writers for three, book lovers… well, forever.
Do you write full time? Capturing an idea when it is still “fresh” is crucial. Finding a secluded or quiet spot to write is not. In fact, some of my best writing has occurred in what you might call “heavy-traffic zones” such as airports, buses… while sitting on the Métro. Notes on café serviettes, matchbook covers, railroad schedules, often suffice until ideas find their way out of my pockets and onto a page. When I do reach a computer, I can write 30-35 new pages a day, edit another 30. So, you see. I do not make this passion a “labor” of love, and this seems to be the key. Instead, I have learned to love the process, embracing every chance to discover something new on a blank page.
How do you target your audience effectively? My books are promoted as “Paris-based” mysteries, primarily, because anyone who loves Paris will know that Paris is a myriad of authentic mysteries. Every street inspires intrigue; and every café, a romance. Throw in a spy or two (especially, one who likes to read) and well, could a writer find a better venue for a story? Action/Adventure buyers have produced my best sales figures to date, which comes as a bit of a surprise. Psychological Thriller might be a more appropriate moniker, although I prefer Mystery because my stories intentionally lack the gratuitous violence one might associate with other genres. But, however my readers choose to describe my books, the good news is that they have solved the mystery of where to buy them!
What ways do you promote yourself online? As you know, most authors are quite shy, so therefore, self-promotion is difficult. I am, by nature, a private person. However, having said that, an offer to discuss the creative process with someone engaged in similar pursuits can be intellectually irresistible. On those occasions, I can become quite social. One of the most comfortable ways for an author to promote his/her work is to accept generous offers to interview with another author. This dresses the task of self-promotion in far more acceptable fashion, disguising it as simple conversation between friends. Thank you for this invitation to participate, in what one might call an online masquerade party, and for allowing this guest to remain, comfortably, behind her mask. Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and BookRabbit offer wonderful places for readers and authors to meet online. Readers work tirelessly to promote authors they like on these websites, making recommendations and posting reviews. Authors can interact with their readers, post comments, enter discussions with other authors, and learn first-hand how their work is being interpreted by the public. My publisher releases information via Twitter and in addition, there is a fan page on Facebook for my readers to visit for updates on new releases.
How much time do you spend promoting yourself in social media? Social media is not a priority because at this stage of my life, I am keenly focused on writing, and travel. My personal story is punctuated with a great deal of packing and unpacking because travel will always be a passion. Fortunately, I can write anywhere (with or without the internet). Notebooks and pencils may be embarrassingly low-tech, but they take up very little space in a suitcase. They also do not beep, buzz, vibrate, or alert one to anything, which might distract from finishing a good storyline.
What’s been your most effective way of promoting yourself? The most effective promotion has been simply word of mouth. There is no marketing tool, which can replace the authenticity of, or out-perform the enthusiasm of an avid reader. When the first people to take an interest in a new author’s work are family and close friends, it is especially gratifying. When I learned that my books had became the topic of morning coffee among strangers, it proved to be – not only the most effective form of marketing – but also, the most genuine form of flattery.
What offline promotion do you take part in? Very little, but I do answer letters from book club members, who want further clarification about a character or a particular storyline. If several readers write to pose the same question, I post an answer on my blog. Criticism, good or bad, if you consider it objectively, is quite a generous gift; one for which readers seldom receive a proper “Thank you.” Readers, courageous enough to offer honest opinions, can only improve an author’s work. I set aside time every week to answer mail in what I hope is an equally thoughtful manner. It takes time out of a reader’s busy life to send a thoughtful commentary. Writers, artists, musicians, actors, all have a responsibility to acknowledge fans. Our work is nothing without an audience. For those of you kind enough to read this, “Thank you.”
What do you think the future of traditional publishing will be? Traditional print publishers, as well as traditional literary agencies, appear to be scrambling to retool their companies and re-educate their principals on the benefits of digital publishing. Ebooks are the future, whether or not the publishing industry chooses to accept the truth or to resist it. Resistance seems futile because electronic devices are not going away. If anything, they are only becoming better. On airplanes, eReading devices are now as commonplace as paperbacks once were. Bound copies of books will always hold a place in our hearts and on our coffee tables. They will hold artistic value long after they lose their commercial value. Libraries, universities, and private collectors will continue to hoard them. So, I don’t expect digital publications to replace print entirely. It will be up to the next generation to decide which is more important, a device or a paperback on their nightstands. Personally, I still enjoy the feel of a print book in my hands. I stuff at least two in my luggage when I travel, and always leave one behind, next to my bed. One interesting clue about the future did surface recently. One of my readers wrote to say he reads my books on his smart phone on his lunch breaks, saying that it fits much easier than a paperback into his shirt pocket. So, there you have it. Avid readers will always find a way to satisfy their curiosity, and in a user-friendly way. That’s good news for authors everywhere, regardless of how we choose to publish our words.
Is it necessary for authors to have agents these days? This is a personal decision. However, for me, it was crucial. The variation in format submissions and the technological challenges of self-publishing were daunting; the royalty agreements for self-publishing – confusing; efforts to connect with traditional print publishers and literary agents – utterly exhausting. All of this took time away from what I wanted to do, which was to complete seven books in two years. Fortunately, through a British guild, I found Sandy Fisher, a London-based literary agent, who was willing to take that leap of faith, which all new authors need. She must be the best negotiator in the business because she secured a contract with a British publisher, who agreed to produce and release all seven books from my first mystery series within the first twelve months of the contract. To make good fortune even better – Aventura eBooks believes in paying their authors, not the other way around. Pardon the pun, but what a positively novel idea! Sandy Fisher continues to be nothing less than stellar in her advice, her commitment to helping new authors, and her follow-through. Her word is as good as gold. She has demonstrated incredible energy every step of the way. The fact, that my first mystery series is now available to the public, is a testament to her hard work, as well as her keen insight into the 21st Century world of digital publishing. Sandy Fisher understood my goals and knew how to accomplish them. I believe that these past three years (spent putting pen to paper and watching manuscripts become ebooks) were not wasted because I had an agent, who always represented my best interests. Sandy championed my cause in all battles, shielding me from inevitable pitfalls. Her talent and my confidence in her ability were both crucial to the success that, together, we have enjoyed this past year.
So, the short answer? Yes. If a writer can secure a good literary agent – Do it! If you can get Sandy Fisher to represent you, even better!
How do you deal with rejection or a less favourable review? After a few years of rejection, I finally learned to separate myself from my work. First, intellectually, and then, emotionally, I learned that a critic can detest a creation without ever passing judgment on its creator. Also – no one’s work is perfect. Everything humans create is subject to human errors – my work, especially, included. So, there will always be criticism. Like a storm cloud, it will go away. Among my friends are actors, who find rejection most difficult. They consider themselves – in essence – to be their own creation, or perhaps, re-creation. When an audience boos, they are wounded deeply. They are denied the luxury of editing or revising, in that exceptional manner that a writer with an eraser, or an artist with a brush, can quickly amend his performance. There is intrinsic value in every artistic expression, and I have great faith that artists, who stay true to their vision will eventually find an accepting and forgiving audience. As my mother would say, all it takes is “passion and patience.” Certainly, her words have guided my journey. But, then, I count myself among the luckiest people on the face of the Earth. Even on a cloudy day, I can still see my reflection in the eyes of people who love me.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Fear and courage cannot coexist. Embrace one
Thank you for being part of this interview.