Interview with fantasy author, Adam Copeland
I had the pleasure of interviewing my client-now-author, Adam Copeland, last week. As self-publishing transforms from a frontier village of the publishing industry into a thriving city for indie authors, writers are faced with the full burden of publicity, marketing, and business strategy.
How well can the creative person wear so many hats, and how can we learn the skills that writers have traditionally left to their publishers?
- Tell us about your fantasy novel, ECHOES OF AVALON.
The backbone of the story was inspired by, and revolves around, the imagery common to popular fairy tales: A knight in shining armor charging up a mountain of glass to rescue a princess locked away in an ivory tower. But the book delves deeper with an adult perspective into a story that leads up to that iconic imagery. It also goes about it in such a way that the reader could be reading something that might have actually taken place in history.
Indeed, the story starts out in Medieval Europe as the main character, Irish knight Sir Patrick Gawain, is returning from the First Crusade in the Holy Lands. Due to the horrors he’s witnessed during that conflict he has lost his faith in all things. A stranger offers him a new beginning as a knight protector on the fabled Isle of Avalon, and from that point forward the story slips into the realm of fantasy as Patrick battles his personal demons, ghosts, goblins and talking wolves to protect the young students of a secret academy. It is a classic story of a flawed and broken man re-finding his faith in time to defeat the bad guy, rescue the princess, and save the day.
- You have been actively promoting your book for a few months now. What have you done, and what would you add, subtract, or amend to the conventional wisdom on book promotion?
I’ve almost done everything to promote my book. I say “almost,” because it seems like every time I turn around there is something else I could be doing. I have a website that features the book but where I also blog about it and writing in general, I’ve joined Twitter and follow book-industry individuals and organizations, I’ve entered my book in contests, I plan on participating in conventions aimed at my genre, I’ve coerced readers to leave reviews on my Amazon page, I’ve digitized my book for sale on the Kindle store, iPad’s iBook store, and other digital media sites, I’ve joined Goodreads.com and Published.com and several other websites to get my name and book more SEO (search engine optimized), I’ve made up bookmarks, business cards, postcards, and even t-Shirts, I’ve e-mailed friends, announced the publication on my Facebook and Myspace pages, my email signature is a thumbnail image of my book cover linked to my website, and I surreptitiously mention my book while participating in other people’s blogs and discussion threads.
If I have any advice to give concerning promotions, it would be this: Stick to your strengths or at the very least maximize what seems to be working for you. I’ve come to find that, currently, most of my sales are a result of people with whom I’ve come in direct contact. Either at book signings, book readings, cocktail parties, church, work, or when I approach independent bookstore owners for sales I seem to be successful. Everybody has their area that they are most successful. I do, however, have high hopes for book reviewers. I recently paid a fair amount of money to have my name put on a list that goes out to the various media outlets whose A&E staff look for copies of books for review. All I need is just one favorable review from a reviewer who has a big audience.
- Any particularly surprising or proud moments in your efforts so far?
All the “Firsts” were special: The first time I held a hard copy of my book. Seeing my book for the first time listed on Amazon. My first sale. My first book signing. All gave me a warm fuzzy. One particular special moment is when I got approval to hold a book signing at a local famous establishment. Because the main character of my novel is Irish, I thought it would be cool to hold a signing at an Irish Pub. So on a lark I asked Kell’s Irish Pub if they would be interested. I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance of them agreeing, but they did. As far as I know, I’m their first and only book signing.
- People say that a writer needs two brains: one to write, and one to run a business. Does that make you an unstoppable, duo-cephalic, writing-and-selling beast–or just schizophrenic?
It certainly helps if you’re crazy. It helps even more if you’re crazy like a marketing fox. As the publishing process shifts more and more towards self publishers, publish-on-demand providers, and e-book authors, those individuals who have more of a knack for promotion will be ahead of the game. The eclectic artist who can spin a great tale but won’t blog or won’t get out and shake hands and pass out business cards won’t fair so well.
- The aforementioned conventional wisdom on book publishing emphasizes social networking, blog tours, and other online efforts. How do you keep Internet fatigue at bay; or do you?
I can’t say I’ve suffered “fatigue” yet, but I certainly have suffered from “anxiety.” Finding the time and energy to do all those things I aught to be doing on the web makes me anxious. I’m a perfectionist and am impatient. I want to do everything and I want to do it NOW. So when it doesn’t happen when and how I want I get squirrelly. Also, I’m not a web designer by any stretch of the imagination and right now I can think of a dozen changes I’d like to make to my website. I can do it, but finding the time and getting over my web-design-ophobia gets me agitated. As far as staying on top of things, it helps having a smart phone to which all my messages from my email accounts and social networking sites are routed.
- Indie publishing is exciting to many because it allows writers to have a dialogue with their readers. Does this relationship exist for you? Is it necessary for writers to connect in person with their readers?
I see the potential to have that sort of relationship with readers. Six months ago had you told me that friends of friends would be contacting me and wanting to discuss my my book I wouldn’t have believed it. So, it’s entirely possible that six months from now that complete strangers will be having long discussion threads with me on my blog site as well as sparking off debates with other strangers about the themes and characters in my book. I do think it’s important to stay engaged with your audience. If they’re buying, reading and are publicly interested in your work (and therefore performing the best kind of promotion: word of mouth testimonials) then you owe it to them to give them the attention they deserve.
- Are you still seeking an agent and traditional publisher for the book, or has self-publishing been a satisfactory process?
I’m not actively looking, but I’d be happy to have a traditional publisher. If I were lucky enough to stumble upon a contract there would be obvious benefits, but I’d also be giving up some of the freedom I’ve come to enjoy.
- What are you working on next?
I’ve been working on adding meaningful content to my blog, like tips on writing and the self-publishing process. I’m hoping that stuff will be interesting in and of itself to draw people to my site. I’m hoping to finish a short story before the end of the year.I’ve got a problem in my writing: I write too big (very detailed, very visual, very long). I want to write a short story that says a lot, but whose prose is very sparse and straight to the point like something Cormac McCarthy would write. After that, maybe at the beginning of the year I’ll start writing a sequel to Echoes of Avalon. When I published, I didn’t have a sequel in mind, but lots of people have have been bugging me for one and it got me thinking. I now have a great follow up in mind.