EDDIE & SUNNY launch interview with author Stacey Cochran

In November I interviewed author Stacey Cochran about his book, EDDIE & SUNNY, while it took part in the Kindle Scout program. Back then, I asked all of you nice people to nominate it so it could get published by Amazon and, guess what? It got picked! YES! Now, months later, the book’s digital version has been published through Kindle Press and a paperback version is available thanks to Down & Out Books.

EddieSunnyCover.jpg.w560h730So I sat again with Stacey to have a chat about nomination/publishing/what’s next. Check it out:

Q1: Okay Stacey, first of all, thank you for being here and for choosing my page as one of your stops after your book’s launch. Last time we chatted you were campaigning for EDDIE & SUNNY to be picked on Kindle Scout. Can you give us a refresher on what is Kindle Scout?

So, Kindle Scout is a new program by Amazon to discover unpublished novelists. It is essentially replacing the Amazon ABNA Award. In a lot of ways, it’s probably better for most writers than the ABNA contest because Kindle Scout is acquiring a lot more books. The old contest selected just like 3-4 per year. Scout has already acquired close to 30 books in its first few months.

That’s a huge difference right there.

And so far, the first ten titles have launched and we’re all doing pretty well in the first week or so. It’s been a fun ride.

Can you tell us about what happened behind closed doors after your book was selected for publishing?

One of the most surprising things that has been a benefit of getting published via Kindle Scout is that I’ve connected with all the other Kindle Scout selected authors, and we’ve formed a pretty cohesive group on Facebook. There seems to be an interest building in various media places from FB to Twitter to Amazon discussion boards to our books linking on one another’s Amazon book pages that involves a bunch of us, and all the titles are solid, so there’s this strength in numbers thing going on that I couldn’t have imagined before getting into the program.

Q2: I’m really curious about the process that took place right after the campaign was over. We all got notifications about your book having been selected and were super excited. How was it on your end? What took place between being selected and getting the book published, Stacey?

Well, once you’re selected you get 30 days to sign the contracts. During that 30-day period I hired Stacia Rogan to do a copyedit of the manuscript because at the time, the word was that KS was not going to do a copyedit. So that was the first thing. My agent managed to sell the print rights for Eddie & Sunny to Eric Campbell who owns Down and Out Books. That was the second big thing. And then I learned that Kindle Scout was going to do a copyedit, and so much of February, my manuscript went through another professional copyedit process. I also had to prepare a few things for press materials for Kindle Press. I re-designed my cover with a blurb. I secured the rights to the photo in the cover from Javier de la Torre Photography. There was a lot happening between December and now, and the Kindle Press team has been absolutely amazing to work with. They’re great.

I feel tired just by reading this! And that takes me to the third question I want to ask you (that deviates a bit from the book and into the writing).

There have been some sleepless nights, believe you me.

Q3: One thing lots of people don’t realize is the amount of work that has to be done behind the scenes before a book is published. I know you’re a runner and, lately, I’ve picked up running to complement my CrossFit workouts. The blood, the sweat, the occasional tears are all there. Would you say writing and endurance sports have things in common?

Yes, both require a certain degree of self motivation and a lot of internal discipline. They’re also very lonely pursuits, running and writing, and I suspect it suits a particular temperament. I know when I’m out on a 14-mile run, I keep repeating to myself “I’ll just not quit. I may die. But I’m not going to quit.” And that mentality is very much my mantra with my writing as well. Good question.

Love this answer!!

Maybe, too, they’re both in a best-case scenario healthy pursuits. Writing is all about becoming a more compassionate, understanding, complete human being. It’s all about mental health, right? Running, for me, is certainly a physically healthy pursuit. It helps me process my anxieties and worries. I always feel clear headed and free of worry after a run… even if my legs feel like rubber.

My feelings exactly. Running and lifting heavy weights feels like a cleansing at times. Getting rid of negative and stressful thoughts and coming out renewed.

Q4: Writing, like running or any other sport, is also about learning. I bet you’ve learned lots of things after all this. Can you share some of that knowledge with us? What did you learn from writing this particular book? What did you learn from the publishing industry through your Kindle Scout experience?

There are so many things I’m not even sure where to begin.

With the novel, I did do a good bit of research with the homeless. I talked with them in multiple contexts, and one of the key things I came away with from all of those conversations is that every homeless person has a story to tell. So often, people cross to the other side of the street or hurry to their 40-grand SUV in the parking lot when they see a homeless person approaching. I would challenge people to (at least one time in your life) stop and actually talk to one of them. Ask them if they are in fact homeless and living on the street. Ask them how they came to be homeless. Ask them if they have a plan for getting out of the street and into a home. Ask them if they have a dream for where they’ll be in a few years or later in life.

What you’ll find is if you approach them with compassion and understanding and just *listen* to them, they all have a story to tell. And often, their self-esteem just needs a bump from someone acknowledging their situation. Sometimes that’s all you need to do. It’s the little things.

Everyone needs to be acknowledged as a human being. We tend to dehumanize homeless people and that’s super sad.

I also learned that in America at least an extraordinarily high number of families are homeless or live in poverty. I think there’s this perception around the world that Americans are all rich and fat and thoughtless. But in the county where I live, the capital of North Carolina, something like 46% of children in public schools are on free or reduced lunch, which means they have completed paperwork and been vetted to get that food because their family income falls below a poverty threshold. 46% and this is in an urban area. It’s far worse in rural communities. America has become a nation absolutely saddled with poverty, and we have this really screwed up criminal justice system that tends to reward police arresting high numbers of people for petty offenses, which then gets them into jails and prisons and pretty much ruins any chance of meaningful employment for life.

I think the depth of America’s problems with poverty was one of the things that I learned about while researching and writing this novel over 2-3 years. Americans like to pretend they’re rich and live big and drive fancy cars, but for a lot of people, it’s an illusion and they’re living on the brink of financial disaster, bankruptcy, and home foreclosures. I think we’re force fed this rich lifestyle via television and movies, and people’s expectations for how to live are seriously out of whack. And I mean *a lot* of people. Tens of millions of Americans live way beyond their means. And the banks feed it.

Okay, down off my soapbox.

It’s eye opening research you’ve done! What about the publishing industry? Anything new you’ve learned?

It’s a tough business. How’s that? I’m kidding.

Well, obviously the ebook landscape has changed dramatically in the past three years. There was a time in 2009-2010 maybe even into 2011 a bit, where it was relatively easy to get noticed self-publishing an ebook. My novels Claws, The Colorado Sequence, and The Loneliest all cracked the Top 200 overall on Kindle. Those days are over. There has been such a flood of self-published novels into the market (literally millions) and traditional publishing has regained its footing in this market, that’s it’s practically impossible to self-publish as successfully as you could 4-6 years ago.

That’s why innovative programs like #KindleScout are so important to recognize early and take advantage of. If I’ve learned one thing in my career this past decade or so, it’s that the authors who recognize emerging media, emerging technologies, and act on those things… they’re the ones who tend to do well. Maybe not get rich, but certainly get recognized and sell a few thousand copies of your book. And occasionally, a rare talent or two who capitalizes on these kinds of emerging technologies really do knock it out of the park and make a lot of money.

But most people don’t like to be the first to try out a system. They’re either not aware of the new system or they’re afraid it’ll fail, or something. And so they wait and see how others do it. But the problem is if you wait and see how others do it, you’re going to be in that 2nd or 3rd wave and you’re going to get lost in the sea of others who wait and see how it shakes out before trying it. Be bold. Be brave. Give it a shot. And embrace new technologies. There are far worse philosophies with which to approach a writing career.

That’s awesome advise right there!

Now, of course, if you have just wicked talent and a relentless work ethic and luck on your side, you can knock it out of the park in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wave. People do that all the time. I just tend to try things out first. It hasn’t always paid off, and I’m sure some people chuckle silently at their home computers and say “What an idiot.” People do that, sure. But it seems like practically every new technology I’ve tried since starting in the early 2000s was initially stigmatized ruthlessly, and then over time eventually accepted as viable, and then it becomes “old” technology. I’ve seen that happen a few times.

As with anything new, there’s always skepticism. It’s those who don’t let it stop them that often succeed.

Q5: I have to start wrapping this up but want to know: What are your plans for the future regarding EDDIE & SUNNY? Also, are you working on anything new right now?

Well, Eddie & Sunny has just launched. I imagine this will be the book that I’m pushing for the next year or two. I would absolutely *love* to sell the film rights for it. I think the novel’s 3-act structure, love story, regionalism, and sociological underpinnings would make for terrific source material for an indie film. So I need to push that front somehow, maybe through my agent, maybe by hitting some film festivals. I need to continue to get favorable 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If I can get up to 30 of those, it would be a good start. So far, we have 10, and they’re all pretty solid. Of course, I’m chairing Bouchercon this October and that has become literally a full-time job, working 40+ hours per week.

And there is a new novel in the works.

Anything you can tell us about that new novel?

It’s spec fiction. Here’s the premise: A man wakes up floating in the middle of the ocean in an airline emergency life vest. He has no memory of who he is, how he came to be floating in the ocean, or where he is. As the novel unfolds, he finds his way to an island where the inhabitants have all arrived the same way as him. And none of them know who they are or why they are there. And they all come to discover various panopticon-esque cameras watching them on the island.

Sounds interesting, and creepy! Will you be self-publishing it or selling it to publishing houses?

Too far away to tell. My writing pace is so slow right now, it’ll probably be 2017 at least before the first draft of this one is complete.

You take all the time you need! We’ll be here waiting while enjoying E&S! Thank you so much for being here today!

Thank you for chatting with me, Astrid!

Be sure to get your copy of EDDIE & SUNNY today!

The Tale of the Missing Tail

Wow. This week’s been a roller-coaster of emotions! If you follow me on Twitter or if we’re friends on Facebook than you know my cat Jin-Jing was missing for five straight days. I posted about it on social media and was ready to start hanging fliers all over my neighborhood when, come Monday morning, I heard her meowing for me to let her in through the back door. Exactly like she’s used to do every morning (she was rescued from the streets and even when she’s spayed, she’s remained an outdoor cat).

She was home, safe but not entirely sound. She was walking funny and when I got a look of her tail, that was when I had to take my hands to my head. She’d lost all hair and skin and muscle right around the middle or her tail, with a bit of bone exposed. We’ve come to the conclusion that whatever happened to her happened the same day she disappeared since the lower half of her tail already reeked.

We had to run to the vet so he could tell us what we already knew: there was no way he could save her tail.

It was heartbreaking but we knew she was in good hands. Hours later, we went to pick our redesigned JJ.

JJ back from the vet

Of course, like any vet procedure, this came at a price. One we couldn’t afford just now. So I decided to set up a gofundme page and that’s when both Hubby and I were floored. The response from family and friends was overwhelming. So many sent JJ good wishes we can say the good vibes have helped her recover from her surgery pretty fast. We have to thank each and every one who helped us spread the news while she was missing, cover the cost of her surgery, and have been keeping JJ in their thoughts. We’ll be forever in debt with you. <3

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And yes. She’s grounded. For life.

On Book Reviews

I’ve been writing this blog post for days and thinking about writing it for even longer because I know how touchy this subject is. Still, I’d like to address it, to write about it through the eyes of a not-so-seasoned author that is still developing some thicker skin.

Googling the term “what is a book review” brings this up:

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_review)

Book reviews have become the modern day/virtual version of word-of-mouth. Readers can post them to retail sites, blogs, and places dedicated to them like Goodreads and Librarything. For a writer in this digital era reviews are crucial, since a huge percentage of readers will base their decision to buy your book or not on them.

Thing is, book reviews aren’t always a writer’s friend. As an author, you need to have in mind the fact that not everyone will like your book, that some people will hate it while others will be telling their friends about how much they loved everything about it and how much they need to read it, NAO. However, our books are like our children. We love them to death and are ready to fight anyone that dares tell us they’re not as pretty as our eyes see them.

“They are all my children. Maybe some are cross-eyed, but I love them all.”

~ Carlos Fuentes on his books

You still haven’t explained the pic of the running girl above.

Last time I blogged I talked about how I was going back to my running days. It’s still going strong and I’m super happy about it and how it has also sparked my CrossFit workouts. My core’s still shaking from working on them overhead squats! But when it comes to running I’ve noticed how much outside things influence me, more so than when I’m lifting heavy weights.

Back when I still had a smartphone (my Note 2 died on me a week ago and I still haven’t been able to replace it) one of the first things I used to do when I woke up was check KDP and my latest release’s Amazon and Goodreads pages. Bad, I know. Whatever feeling I got from that, either good or bad, permeated towards my morning run. Especially when it came to bad reviews, which in turn made me run like a madwoman, almost punishing myself for whatever it was I had done.

I have a really nice network of friends and supporters and I can summarize all the advice I’ve either received from them or read about the whole authors and reviews dilemma with:

“Don’t read them.” “Don’t take them personally.” “It’s just some asshole who hates everything and doesn’t deserve your attention… or your tears.”

The problem is that when you self-publish you can’t have the luxury of not reading your book’s reviews. The problem is that when you self-publish you also become your publicist, marketer, agent, all of the above, and you can’t ignore the fact that people are writing things about the product (your work) you’re selling. You have to be on top of all that stuff so you can design marketing strategies or even writing strategies for future works. You have to read the reviews so you know what’s happening with your book after releasing it into that big, dark, and scary wilderness called The Internet.

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. ;)

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. ;)

Weeks ago my book The Last Superhero got an awful review on Goodreads. It was a 3 star one which isn’t that bad, but the language the reviewer used was rather inappropriate. As I read it I thought “well, okay, he pretty much hated the book. Whatever.” I can live with people hating my books, hating on my characters, hating the plot, the settings, the covers, whatever they want to hate.

What I can’t live with is someone calling me “a lazy cunt.” The Last Superhero’s first chapters are filled with curse words so reviews with strong language don’t bother me. And, as I said before, I can totally get it if you hate my characters or story, but personal insults? That’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed by any reviewer, ever. We self-pubbed authors work really hard. Our families think we’ll never do anything worthwhile (unless we hit a bestseller list, if we ever do), we battle with characters that populate our minds and are fighting for our attention All. The. Fucking. Time. And then there’s the whole business side of things with the edits and the formatting and designing and marketing and STRESS.

Of course, not everything’s bad. I’ve gotten some glowing reviews for The Last Superhero that have helped me cope with the whole I-wanna-die ones (like this one from Reading… Dreaming or this one from Indieberlin). And, yes, I know this is part of the process of developing that armor all artists need once they decide to come out into the world, yet, as an author, I beg to all the reviewers out there to treat us authors as they’d like to be treated: with the respect we all deserve. Is that too hard a thing to ask for?

In the meantime, I’ll be out there running while muttering under my breath about those reviews. Oh, and writing, because no amount of bad reviews can ever stop that.

I know the Paper Rats agree with me on that. ;)

Hello 2015… Or is it too late for that?

13 days into the year.

2 consecutive days that I’ve hauled my ass out of bed early in the morning to go to the track. I really really need to go back to my exercise routines after the whole chikungunya and all-you-can-eat Christmas affair. I’m not starting a diet, I know myself too well for that, I’m just going to start watching what I eat and exercise regularly doing both running and Crossfit. Like last time, because I was seeing results and I was so happy with myself before the chikungunya got me good and left me unable to lift a weight without having to endure horrible pains during the night. Last night I had no pain at all, I’m hoping tonight’s the same.

I don’t make resolutions, that’s setting myself for failure. I only try to keep up what I’ve been doing, stay with what worked last year and add to that, nothing more. That’s why I ended 2014/started 2015 with some book promos. The first one was a Kindle Countdown Deal for The Last Superhero that was a mild success. The book went down to 99 cents on Dec 28, got 12 downloads, then up to $1.99, 5 downloads. It’s a new book, had only a couple of reviews, and it’s in a genre I’m not known for so I’m not banging my head against the wall for those numbers. The best promo sites used were bknights and Just Kindle Books although I wouldn’t recommend bknights for paid books, it’s not their forte, fact that I knew about thanks to Kindle Boards members that had used the service before but I still wanted to try it.

Now is the part where I give you some proof, right?

I decided to start the year with a promo for The Caregiver (Book 1) so I booked promos for it with bknights (Jan 5), Genre Pulse (Jan 6), and The Kindle Book Review (Jan 7-8). The results were great and, once again, bknights took the trophy.

TC promo resultsJan 5: 441 downloads, Jan 6: 275, Jan 7: 73, Jan 8: 171.

Oh, and I was a tad clever before the promo and added a link to the second and the third book right after THE END on books 1 and 2 respectively, which is probably why I’ve gotten downloads for Torn (Book 2). *pats own shoulder* Also, Amazon.co.uk finally caught up with Amazon.com and now the book is free over there too. Woot!

Something else I’m doing in 2015 is starting a mailing list. This is huge because I’ve always been against it although I’m subscribed to hundreds of them. Whatever. I haz succumbed to the pressure. Feel free to join, I promise not to spam you.

I’m getting beta reader feedback on Turmoil (Episode 1 of The Caregiver Prequel) and will be working on that. Of course, feel free to pre-order it if you want, or don’t, if you don’t want.

That’s pretty much it. I promise to blog more frequently and less incoherently during this year.

Onwards.

Bye bye 2014!

This year has been something all right. Since last Christmas’ terrible outturn, I had promised myself I’d turn things around and I think I managed to do so.

Publishing The Beast was a labor of love after what happened but we made it. My lovely editor (Stacia Rogan) was there for me every step of the way and has been my go-to person whenever it feels like life’s eating me raw.

Then came The Last Superhero and that was an even bigger accomplishment in the personal department since it was a story I’d written years ago and only now did I gather the courage to rewrite and publish it. It was also a challenge for Stacia, so it’s kept us both on our toes through the whole editing and pre-ordering and promoting and running around in circles process. [Signed copies still available over at my website]

It was a fun ride, this year. One in which I learned enough to believe I’ve got a clear idea on what 2015 should bring. And that’s more books, of course.

Right now I’m bouncing off some ideas for The Caregiver that involve a series of prequels. When I wrote the first book it was meant to be a standalone short story. You all know that didn’t happen. Three books later, we’re close to finishing the series and there’s been a real interest in knowing more about Scarlett’s past. Where she comes from, her family, her previous relationships. Adrian. Xavi. Jin-Jing. Bobby. Vinny. Romulus. Ferdinand. Young. So many characters are begging for me to give them more page time that I’ll be publishing the prequel one episode at a time. They’ll all be novel length and only 99¢.

Prequels 1and2

Early cover concepts

Why in episodes? Nothing to do with the recent KU debates and stuff and all to do with how emotionally charged the story is. I feel like if I, the writer, need to walk away and breathe after 20-something chapters, I’m not putting my readers through 60 grueling ones. Also, lots of characters! I’m already experimenting with pre-ordering Turmoil (Episode 1 of The Caregiver prequel) since the book is written and ready for edits.

So keep your eyes peeled for more books. Let’s kick 2015 in the ass!

Second Day of The Last Superhero Kindle Countdown Deal!

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‘Tis the second day of The Last Superhero’s Kindle Countdown Deal!

Dec 28 – get it for only 99¢

Dec 29 – get it for $1.99

Dec 30 – back to regular price, $2.99

Head over to Amazon.com and download it now!

The Last Superhero Kindle Countdown Deal!

brothermybrotherquoteBIG

Just a friendly reminder:

The Last Superhero’s Kindle Countdown deals on Amazon.com start today!

Dec 28 – get it for only 99¢

Dec 29 – get it for $1.99

Dec 30 – back to regular price, $2.99

Check out yesterday’s post about it!