The author of seven novels, Scott Nicholson used traditional methods in finding publishers for his first few books. That is, he racked up rejection after rejection from both agents and publishers until one agreed to accept his latest manuscript. Recently, however, he decided to try e-publishing. He released a novelette, Burial To Follow, in late December to test the waters, and followed up with an ebook version of his first published novel, The Red Church. Pleased with the results and the positive feedback from new readers, he released his latest ebook, The Skull Ring, earlier this month. The Skull Ring (read my review here) was originally slated to be released by a publishing company, New Moon Press, that folded the beginning of this year. In an email interview, I asked Nicholson to give his thoughts on publishing in the digital age:
When you decided to self-publish, how did you determine which websites should sell your ebooks?
I didn’t know much about e-books until the end of last year. I’d had some on Fictionwise in the early part of the decade but didn’t think much about them or get many sales. I had been doing the agent hunt and it had been too long since I’d had any sort of market presence and I wanted to stay connected with readers and stay inspired. Amazon is the simplest and best place to publish ebooks because millions of people shop there. I eventually added my books at Smashwords and a couple of smaller sites, and I’m staying on top of any new markets that might emerge because of the iPad and other e-book readers. Amazon is still the champ by a knockout.
Has it been more difficult to promote your self-published works vs. your traditional print books?
It’s simpler. I never had any promotional budget, but I did a lot of store signings, spending my own money and time to drive all across the region. Of course, I also used the Internet for my paper books, but it still was a case of hoping people would remember you as they walked through the bookstore. With e-books, the reader can make the decision instantly, and e-books are cheap enough that they qualify as an “impulse buy.” Since by its very nature it’s on the Internet, you are already connected to your potential audience. And the feedback can be instant as well. It feels like a more intimate and immediate way to connect with the reader, because I fully believe the writer only presents half the book and the reader completes the other half.
What advice do you have for writers who are looking into self-publishing?
Make sure you have tried every avenue in New York, tried every good agent and publisher, though of course fewer are open to new writers. Don’t do it for instant gratification or the “easy way,” because you should challenge yourself to improve and compete with the best, while staying true to your vision. I had over 400 rejections before I sold my first novel The Red Church, which is now getting a second life as an ebook and doing well. I’m a much better writer because of it, and I work hard to give the reader a book that has a lot of heart and craft and time in it. I want the reader to trust and rely on me, too.
Do you write full-time, or in addition to another job?
I am a reporter, so I do write all the time, just not always fiction. I’ve been very lucky and get to meet a lot of cool people and get in weird situations. So it helps my novels and stories. Julia Stone in The Skull Ring is a reporter, and there are cops and lawyers, people I’ve worked with. I was also a carpenter and maintenance man for apartments, so that goes into the character of Walter.
Do you have a regular writing schedule?
I try to write every morning and get two pages done. If I don’t, then I work on it at night. Sometimes I can get six or eight pages done in a day, but I also have revision, promotion, and other aspects of a writing career to address. If I need a break, I go out to my garden or pick up a guitar. I love all of it and I’m the luckiest guy on the planet.
Scott Nicholson is the author of seven novels, including The Skull Ring and The Red Church. He’s also written more than 60 short stories, most of which are collected in Flowers, Ashes, and The First. He’s written six screenplays and several comic book series, including Dirt and Grave Conditions. Nicholson is also a freelance editor and operates the interactive writing manual Write Good or Die.