This week we have an interview with one of our new favorite authors, Darryl Sloan. We've just reviewed his HOT new book CHION *Read Review* and now we've been given the opportunity to pick his brain a bit on your behalf as fans and fellow authors. On to the interview...
1.) Mr. Sloan, what in the world inspired such a unique story like CHION?
It started off with the desire to write something about strange, sinister weather. I've always liked John Carpenter's movie "The Fog"and Stephen King's novella "The Mist." I wanted to create something that would evoke a similar suffocating atmosphere, but I was determined to be original. And so, I asked myself some weather-related "what if" questions and came up with the concept of adhesive snow. I'm pleased that no one has done anything like this before, because it's very hard to be original these days.
2.) Have you attempted to submit the book to large trade publishers or Agents? If so, what kind of responses did you receive?
Four to five years ago, after I wrote my first novel, "Ulterior," I did just that. I found out that not only is it hard to get published, but it's hard to even get the attention of an agent. The response I most hated was "Sorry, but we've got a full client list." After a few attempts at landing an agent, I weighed up what I thought were the pros and cons of going the traditional route versus self-publishing. The decision came down to me being unwilling to strive for years for a miniscule chance of publication. Kudos to anyone who lands a traditional publishing contract; it's still the Holy Grail, which I hope to obtain one day. Rightly or wrongly, I was more focused on the short-term goal of getting books into reader's hands. I have no regrets, because I sold over 1,000 copies of "Ulterior" - the entireprint-run. And so, I had no hesitation in jumping into self-publishing once more with "Chion."
3.) How much of the work to the cover, interior and so forth did you do yourself and what parts, if any did you have done by professionals?
I did everything, except for the cover illustration. I would have done the illustration, too, if not for a surprise submission by a friend, which turned out to be better than my effort. In self-publishing, you can save money by taking everything on yourself. Unfortunately, that often means some aspects of your paperback will be sub-standard. You've heard the proverb "Jack of all trades, master of none." It's just fortunate that I've got a background in art and desktop publishing. The bottom line is, every aspect of your final product must be totally indistinguishable from the professional books lining the bookshelves, or you just won't sell books.
4.) How many copies of the book have you sold so far and what kind of response have you received from fans...any favorite fan story?
About 130 sales since the books release in mid-January (three months ago). The book sells steadily on eBay and via my website. And there are still a few avenues I have yet to tap into, such as libraries and the press. For the most part, I've had glowing feedback from fans and reviewers. It's a great feeling, not because I'm looking for some kind of fame, but because it validates the work that I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours bringing to life. Not to mention, it really helps my confidence as a writer. I'm glad I released "Chion" in winter, because some fans commented on how odd they felt walking in the snow after reading it. One fan felt that the idea behind "Chion" held more potential than I tapped into, and he has expressed the desire to write his own fiction around the premise. I'm looking forward to that.
5.) Mr. Sloan, you are one of the few self published authors I know of who is utilizing the medium of podcasting as a form of marketing for their print book. What sort of response have you seen by using this as a form of marketing?
It's difficult to gauge, because when someone buys a book from me online, they rarely mention what factors went into their decision. My guess is that featuring an excerpt from a novel is the best tool an author has at his disposal. It's the online equivalent of what we do in bookstores when an attractive cover catches our eye and we open the book up for a peek inside. A standard text-based excerpt is helpful, but I like to go one step further and allow the potential reader to relax and listen to my voice for half an hour. The popularity of MP3 players these days means that audio excerpts are something that shouldn't be ignored. I know some authors these days are choosing to podcast entire novels. To me, that's a mistake. The only people who will come back later to buy the same novel are the hardcore fans and the book collectors. I personally have no interest in owning a book after I've read it, unless it became one of my absolute favorites. However, no one can argue with the current success of podcast author Scott Sigler, who recently reached #7 on Amazon. All of Scott's energies for the past few years seem to have been directed exclusively at creating a massive fanbase by giving everything away free. It's good to see he's finally translating that into money. My marketing stategy is different: I do everything I can to offer a low retail price, in order to get the attention of the bargain hunters. So, I make money while building a fanbase. For that reason, I doubt I'll be podcasting whole novels. Kudos to Mr. Sigler, though. It's whatever you can make work foryourself.
6.) Do you see podcasting as must have for self published authors or a fad that will soon pass away?
The term "podcasting" is a bit of a misnomer, I think. At least, in my mind, it conjures up the idea of an ongoing "show." I would also suspect it can be a bit off-putting to a section of the public. Somebody sees the word "podcast" on a website and they say, "Oh, there's another of those podcast things, whatever they are." And they surf elsewhere, not realising that podcasts can be as simple as clicking the hyperlink and listening. I know the word "podcast" is slapped up all over my own website, but that's something I'm rethinking. Podcasting, in the sense of online media files, certainly is a must have for self-published authors. It's your shot at getting the attention of the casual web surfer as he passes by. Of course, it all hinges on you having a well written book with a great hook at the beginning.
7.) I've noticed your website has some video content as well...do you personally make these movies and do you have any plans for a video related to CHION for promotional purposes?
I've been a keen filmmaker for the past fifteen years, and I run Midnight Pictures with my friend Andrew Harrison. We've produced several horror and science fiction films. I considered filming a small promotional video for "Chion," but never quite got around to it. Perhaps I should, because there's several factors in my favour. I working in a school and run a filmmaking club with the pupils; "Chion" is set in a school. So, there's a perfect opportunity to act out a scene from the book. I wonder, though, whether a trailer would become more of a distraction from where you really want to lure the potential reader - to the words of the book itself.
8.) Have you produced any book trailers and what role do you feel they can play in book marketing for self published novelists or small presses?
I created a book trailer for my first novel, "Ulterior." I'm not sure it was all that useful, because when I stopped promoting the novel online, sales had a tendency to dry up, which tells me that casual web surfers who happened upon my site didn't encounter a good enough hook for them to purchase the novel. For myself, as a reader who sometimes reads self-published works, one of the first questions I ask when I'm thinking of buying a novel is"Does this guy actually know how to write?" There are no shortage of badly written books in print these days. Watching a book trailer might hook me on the story, but it won't tell me anything about the author's writing ability. An MP3 file will do both.
9.) What is your "day job?"
I work as an ICT technician in Clounagh Junior High School, the same school in which the early part of "Chion" takes place. Writers, take note of a good marketing angle: capture a local audience by writing about a local setting. Fifty percent of the people in my hometown went through that school, and I'm betting some of them will be interested in a high octane nostalgia trip.
10.) What can we expect form Darryl Sloan in the future...any new novels coming out?
Can't a guy get any rest? ;-)
Not a great author...none of us wants them to rest!
Well, the first thing that's happening(and it's happening very soon), is a reprint of my first novel"Ulterior." For the first time, I'm opting for a professionally designed cover, and I can't wait to see what IrishEyesCreations.com comes up with. After that, I've got several partially developed writing projects to choose from. I'm not sure which one I'll go for, but the strongest project in my mind at the moment is a zombie novel called "Shadow of the Dead." I can almost hear the zombie-like groans of protest. Does the world really need another zombie story? Well, noone's done it quite like this before. If you thought adhesive snow was a funky and original idea, have a little faith in me.