Hi everyone, This is a re-blog of an interview Author and Blogger William Cook did with me last week. Here’s is a link to the original post. Mark Edward Hall Interview. You should go over to William’s site and look around. He has some great information there.
NOW, ON TO THE INTERVIEW:
Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #1 – Mark Edward Hall
Hi everyone – hope you are all well and enjoying life as much as possible. For those of you readers who sometimes wonder what all the hullabaloo is about self-publishing vs traditional publishing, this is the first in a series of exclusive interviews with best-selling self-published authors. The interviews will pretty much reveal all you need to know (plus more!) about why some authors choose to publish their work independently (as opposed to traditionally). For authors (and prospective authors) thinking of self-publishing, or wondering similar questions, I hope that this series of interviews will offer you some valuable tips and advice from these best-selling self-published authors, that you can use to navigate and hone your own adventures in today’s exciting digital publishing world. Without further ado, let’s kick it all off with this fantastic interview with best-selling author Mark Edward Hall.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your writing and for the way you brand yourself as an author?
As a writer my inspiration comes from the world around me. I’m a news junkie and I like to use current events as inspiration. I’ve also done a lot of reading in my life and use historical events in the mix. My unique author branding comes from a mix of genres. For the most part my novels are hard to categorize. They’re a mix of crime, scifi, horror, fantasy and apocalyptic. Some say this is the kiss of death but it’s been very successful for me. There’s always a little romance (and sex) in there as well, because to me it can’t be real without the tensions of love, the single most important driving force in human history. You have to remember that love and sex were here long before money and greed. I do write some straight horror, and I love it, but the supernatural thriller is where I’m most at home.
Did you try to get publishing contracts for your books early on with traditional book publishers? If so, did you have any success there or if not what was it that made you decide to self-publish the majority of your work?
My first novel, The Lost Village, was completed in the late nineties. At the time the Scott Meredith agency in New York had something called the Discovery Program. You send them four hundred bucks and they promised to put your book at the top of the slush pile and get back to you within a few months. They were a major agency with a great reputation, so I said, why the hell not and sent it along. They were true to their word. Within sixty days I heard from a kind editor who told me the book was amazing, that I had a promising future as a writer, but The Lost Village was too long and therefore unpublishable. He said there wasn’t a publisher on the planet who would publish a 258,000 word novel from an unknown. He said if I was King or Patterson, no problem. But I wasn’t King or Patterson. Please send something else along that’s at a more appropriate length, say 90 to 110 thousand words. This was in 2002 and I said screw it and published it myself. Back then, there weren’t any kindles or nooks so I went with one of those vanity presses. The book came out quite well. It was in hardcover and paperback and I was happy with it. I joined the New England Horror writers, did some group signings and actually sold quite a lot of books. To the chagrin of some of the other members who were all traditionally published authors.
I was the only outlier. I did a tremendous amount of self- promo and soon I was receiving fan mail, some from as far away as Australia and the UK. By 2004 I had written two more books, The Haunting of Sam Cabot and The Holocaust Opera, both horror stories. I self-published them both. In 2009 I got an email from a new small press publisher called Damnation Books who wanted to publish my work. They subsequently republished all three of my novels. I signed away my rights for five years. I wish I never had. The royalty rate was a little higher than most traditional publishers but still terrible. That was about the time kindle exploded on the scene. Damnation did very little for me other than put my books out there and let them go stagnant. I was sorry I’d given my rights away.
In the meantime, I wrote three more novels and several novellas. These I self-published. No way was I ever going to let another publisher have my books. Apocalypse Island came out in 2012 and has done amazingly well. Soul Thief, its sequel, came out the following year and is doing very well also. I’m publishing the third in the series (Song of Ariel) as a serial novel simply because my readers are demanding more now.
I know this is a long answer to your short question. The simple answer is, this is my publishing history. I never sent out queries to hundreds of publishers like so many other writers did. I’m independent and love going it alone. Damnation Books was my one fall down and I’ll never let that happen again. By the way, I received the rights back to The Haunting of Sam Cabot last September, and have sold more copies in five months than I did in five years with a publisher. I get the other two books back this year. That’s it, unless I am offered millions of dollars from a major publisher, I will never ever consider signing with one again. And I will never sign away my digital rights for any price. This is the future and any author who doesn’t retain his or her digital rights is a fool.
Once you have decided that self-publishing might be your route, what financial and artistic considerations should you keep in mind before you begin?
Keep in mind that it’s all on you. You hire an editor. You hire a book cover artist. You either learn how to do the formatting and uploading yourself or you hire someone to do it. If you’re willing to do the work the rewards can be tremendous, if you’re not willing to do the work, keep sending those queries out and hope someday some publisher will shine his light down on you. You’ll earn 17.5% of the retail price of the book. If you publish yourself you’ll earn 70%. To me it’s no contest. You can hire a lot of editor and cover artist for the difference.
What do you see as your most innovative promotional strategy?
Freedom. Freedom to play with the price point, freedom to change the cover art if the old one isn’t working, freedom to change the product description. Freedom to promote at will and reap all the benefits. There are many.
What kind of marketing did you do to establish your author brand and what do you think is the most successful type of marketing for self-published authors?
It’s different for everybody. A mailing list is essential. You can set one up at Mailchimp. It’s easy. Put the link in the beginning and at the end of each book. If they like your work they’ll sign up. When you put something new out send them a notification. These are almost guaranteed sales. Play with price points. Use paid ads. Book Bub is a good one if you can get accepted. Trust me, it’s well worth the cost. Social networks don’t really work well for me. I rarely advertise my books on social. Getting around and being friendly without always trying to sell your work will get you more brownie points than hawking your wares like an insurance salesman. Try promoting your friend’s books, it’ll come back to you in spades. By the way, when you’re on social networks, don’t be a jerk and don’t get political. You want people of all political bents to buy your books.
Is there any one thing that you have determined has helped you sell more books – i.e. could you outline your path to establishing your brand and your most successful sales method/s as?
I’ve given away more than a million books. That’s my secret. And in doing so I’ve sold tens of thousands. ‘Oh, but Mark, if you give them away you’re losing valuable sales.’ I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this, and it’s simply not true. Those are people who would never have bought your book to begin with. They never would have heard of you. What you’ve done is put your books in the hands of readers who might never heard of you, and if they like your book, will tell a friend or family member and they’ll buy your book. I know, it’s happened to me hundreds of times. Exposure is the name of the game, and you will get no exposure if you wait around for them to find your book on Amazon and then agonize over whether they should buy it or not. The first time I did a bookbub promo I gave away more than fifty thousand books. Getting to #1 Free on Amazon sets off all sorts of algorithms and gives you tons of exposure. Immediately following the promo, I sold six thousand books. The book was Apocalypse Island and at 3.99 a book, I make 2.70 each. You do the math. BookBub will only consider a book once every six months so the more books you have out the better chance you have of doing this on a regular basis.
How important are ‘series’ books to your success as a self-published author?
Extremely important. Essential. My Blue Light Series has made me an Amazon bestseller. I’m on the third book now with a fourth scheduled. After this series I have another one planned. Readers love series.
Do you design your own covers? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader and how big a part do you think it has played in your success to date?
I’ve designed about half my covers. I think covers are very important. If a cover works I leave it alone, if it doesn’t I play around with it until it starts to work. Like I said before, it’s one of the great things about being independent.
In your opinion, is traditional publishing on the way out? Do you think that traditional publishing can continue to keep up with the rise of self-publishing?
I don’t think traditional publishing will ever go away. There are those who will hold out for a traditional deal forever, even if it means starving to death. Good luck to them. I think traditional publishers need to retool. Strangely enough, I don’t think they foresaw the rise of ebooks, and if they did, they ignored it, hoping it would go away. They need to start treating their authors better. I’m not talking about celebrity authors who have the power to negotiate huge book deals, I’m talking about the midlist authors who barely make a living. These are the majority and they’re getting screwed. There’s an exodus going on right now and if publishers aren’t careful the only authors they’ll have are the top one hundred you see at the airport book store.
Do you feel there’s a good sense of community within the self-publishing industry?
I don’t know if I can adequately answer that question. Like I said, I don’t do much with social, I don’t do Kindle boards. I find it too hard to navigate and there are too many jerks over there. They can have it. I’m on goodreads although I don’t do much with it. I find that goodreads reviewers are much more brutal than Amazon reviewers. I read a lot of complaints from authors about it.
What would you say is the single biggest advantage of deciding to self-publish?
Are there things you feel as though you missed out on by not going down the traditional publishing route (working alongside an editor, for example)?
Not at all.
Would you recommend other aspiring self-publishing authors pay for particular services? Editing or cover design, for example?
Absolutely. You want to be a writer? Take charge of your own career. The days of nurturing are over.
Are you in regular contact with other self-published authors and how important was any input you may have received early on in your career? Do you have a mentor in terms of your self-publishing success – someone who may have inspired you to ‘give it a go’?
I gave it a go, all on my own, as I stated earlier in this interview, but yes there are several people who have inspired me and helped me along the way: Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey and David Gaughran. If you’re a self -published writer and you don’t know who these people are, you’d better look them up. There’s a wealth of information on their blogs.
Where to from here? Are you currently represented by an agent and are you working with any publishers on future projects?
I don’t have an agent and I’m not working with any publishers at the moment. That could change. I would like to enter the foreign language market and you really do need an agent to handle the details. I’m working on it.
Can you offer any advice to fellow writers if you could go back in time and “do it all over?” What’s your top tip for other indie authors?
If I could go back in time I don’t think I’d change a thing. Everyone has his or her own individual journey, and no two are alike. Mine has been bumpy but rewarding. My top tip for other indie authors is to hang in there. Don’t get discouraged. If you really want to be a writer, sit your ass in the seat and write the best book you can.
Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on self-publishing. Where is the best place for readers to find your books?
You’re very welcome, Will. I’ve enjoyed it. The best place to find my books is my Amazon author page here.
Mark Edward Hall Bio
Mark Edward Hall writes fast-paced thrillers with strong, relatable characters. His books have gained a steady following with readers who enjoy his blend of scifi, paranormal, occult, and suspense. His first book, “The Lost Village,” became popular enough for Mark to focus entirely on writing. Since that book, Mark’s popularity has grown, with “Apocalypse Island”, the first book in the “Blue Light Series” becoming his most-read book to date and an Amazon Bestseller. “Soul Thief”, the second book in the “Blue Light Series” is quickly gaining ground. Mark takes on big subjects with his books, dealing with government conspiracies, matters of faith and the heart. With his most recent book, “The Haunting of Sam Cabot” Mark presents a story that focuses on a small family, a haunted house and the father’s slow decent into madness. Mark draws compelling characters whom readers are sad to leave behind when the book is finished.
Visit his blog at: http://www.markedwardhall.blogspot.com where you can sign up for e-mail updates and be the first to hear about new releases.
Connect with Mark on Facebook. He loves to chat with readers.
Follow him on Twitter.
What others are saying about Mark’s books:
“Apocalypse Island is a major achievement.” ~Kiana Davenport, internationally bestselling author of SHARK DIALOGUES, and THE SPY LOVER
“…an ambitious thriller…” ~New York Times Bestselling Author, Allan Leverone
“…eerily seductive …” ~Midwest Book review