Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Zoe Winters Interview
5/11/2010 8:08:30 AM
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An in-depth interview with indie author Zoe Winters!
LTS: For those who love Paranormal Romance, I’d like to introduce you to Twitter pal and author, Zoe Winters. I first became acquainted with Zoe’s name last year when fellow author, Lori A. May interviewed us separately. Since that time, I’ve followed Zoe on Twitter and would visit her website whenever I managed to find a few minutes here or there. Not only is this lady a talented writer, she is proud to call herself an indie author.
In fact, Zoe made a very profound statement that is posted on her website and it made me say: “Wow! I’ve never seen a writer say this before. She is soooo cool!” (More on this later).
I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers. Where do you call home and when you’re not writing, what do you do?
ZW: Hey Lorna, thanks for having me! I'm in the south, but I'm not big on revealing exact location. There are a bunch of freaking crazy people on the Internet. And sadly so much of my time is spent writing and dealing with stuff surrounding writing it's hard to say what else I do. I read, walk (and read on my Kindle while walking cause I'm all magical like that), and lay in the sun. I know... really glamorous and exciting.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
ZW: I'm not sure where it came from or what set it in my head that I should make stuff up and write it down. I think I was around 11. That's when I started keeping a journal, and it seems that both fiction-writing and journaling cropped up at the same time. Becoming a published author “used to be” a dream. Now my dream is different. I want to succeed wildly as an indie. I don't care how much time it takes. I just want to do it. Being published by someone outside myself is no longer a dream of mine. I'm too excited by the possibility and creative freedom inherent in the path I've chosen.
LTS: I understand your debut novel; ‘Blood Lust, Book One of the Preternaturals Series’ is compromised of three novellas. What was the inspiration behind these three stories and can you tell the readers what ‘preternatural’ means?
ZW: I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer and fell in love. Then I started reading fanfic because I was addicted to the concept of Buffy and Spike. When I got tired of that I started looking for stuff that was “kind of the same, but different” and stumbled upon paranormal romance (which was my introduction to the romance genre.) I'd spent several years trying to find the right genre to write in and discovered I loved paranormal romance. I'd written a novel, ‘Save My Soul’ (second book in the Preternaturals series) and found a contest Samhain was holding for inclusion in a novella anthology, so I tried my hand at novellas by writing ‘Kept’. But I didn't make the deadline. Then I wrote ‘Claimed’ and ‘Mated’ and decided to put them together in one book release (I'd decided to go indie by this point). While writing ‘Mated’ it occurred to me that it and ‘Save My Soul’ were all part of the same world, and so I found a way to link them together.
Preternatural means “outside of nature, supernatural.” It's the overall banner word to describe all the various supernatural beings involved in this verse.
LTS: Your writing style has been described as quirky and dark. Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the reader when they crack open ‘Blood Lust’?
ZW: I have a real thing for alphas with a reputation for being bad boys who end up being very kind. Well, at least toward the heroine. There are a few that are villains in other circumstances, lol. (Anthony and Cain I'm looking at YOU!) My heroines tend to be sassy and smart-mouthed, but they usually have some level of vulnerability. I don't like stupid heroines. You can be smart and be afraid. You can be brave and be smart. Knowing the danger you're in and choosing to go after it anyway for some other reason is okay. Being a total moron isn't.
LTS: As far as publishing goes, I understand you deliberately chose to become an indie author and decided to publish this novel yourself. Aside from having total creative control, what are the other benefits of publishing this route?
ZW: I think as an indie you're able to focus solely on the conversation between you and your reader. In traditional publishing if your books aren't selling well by a few weeks after release, returns start coming back and if it's bad enough it can harm your chances of a future contract. You just don't have that crap as an indie. Building an audience takes as long as it takes, and as an indie I can take full advantage of that freedom.
I also make profit, not royalties. And I make a bigger profit per book. I also have the freedom to choose my own pricing structure, formats, where books will be available etc. I don't have to negotiate anything with anybody. I'm the boss. And I really don't like working for other people in any capacity, so that suits me fine.
It seemed to me, given the realities of publishing that you want a platform. To have a platform I had to have something out there. Originally the intent was to build an audience to help me for when I got a trad contract. But the more I learned about the publishing industry and got into indie authorship the more unattractive trad publishing looked to me.
LTS: Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Anais Nin and Margaret Atwood are just a few of the famous authors who started off self-publishing their works. Who would you recommend this method of publishing to? Is it for everyone?
ZW: I don't think self-publishing is for everybody. You have to have enough understanding of the industry, marketing, design, etc... you have to wear a lot of hats. You have to be able to stand back from your work and know when it needs more work. If you can look at your work and think it's perfect... ever... you're more likely to let work out into the world too soon.
I still look at Kept, and Claimed, and Mated and think: “God, I wish I could write this better.”
Even when you aren't inside the trad publishing grid you have to get some outside feedback. You need to also be very entrepreneurially minded and a self-starter. Some people cannot work without someone else's deadline hovering over them. You just don't have that as an indie.
Most importantly it has to be something you are in love with. The process. You have to be doing it because it's worth doing. If you don't, you'll be miserable as an indie. I think part of the misconception about self-publishing being a last resort is because it IS a last resort for a lot of people. Many people can't imagine being happy doing it all themselves, so they assume that's true for everybody else. But people happy in cubicles normally can't understand the joy of the small business owner either.
LTS: I’ve met some very talented authors with excellent stories, but agents and/or publishers felt their works were not commercial enough, catered to a niche market or, as great as their stories were, their pitch fell short because they were more effective writers than they are talkers and were just not good at selling themselves.
Some of these authors have taken the self-publishing route, going on to find a loyal and growing audience. Others struggle to find literary representation or a traditional publishing house, only to face constant rejection for the above-mentioned reasons and may never have their works published as they refuse to consider self-publishing.
In my experience, I’ve found readers don’t seem to care if the books are published by a mainstream publishing house or if they’re self-published, as long as they are immersed in a great read. It is other writers, those seeking traditional publishers, who seem to want to attack the credibility of authors who dare take the self-publishing route. Why do you think this is so?
ZW: To comment on one thing you said here, I really think most self-publishing authors need to be good at selling themselves. It's a two-pronged equation: Good book. Good marketing. Failing in either area can sink you. Though it is true that on the Internet some books grow mainly by word of mouth. People stumble upon them and they are so great they talk about them and etc. But if you can't market your work, your work better be utterly brilliant. And few of us can say that about our work. Certainly not me.
As to your question, I think writers get worked up about self-publishing because it's a threat. Writers are pretty much trained to WANT a traditional publisher. It validates them and proves they are a “real writer.” Being a writer isn't like being a plumber. It's a part of your essence. It isn't just what you do. It's who you are.
It's completely normal for human beings to need others to validate who they are. And so NY publishing and the holy grail of the NYT bestseller list becomes this dream for them. If self-publishing were to gain true respect then their suffering toward their dream is worth less and their subsequent success is worth less. The validation is devalued. This goes to the basic Abraham Maslov Hierarchy of Needs. It's elemental.
Indie authors or those who wish to become indies shouldn't wait for human nature to change and everybody to jump on board and accept what they're doing. They should embrace their own defiance, leave obedience at the door, and embark on this journey.
Before I decided to go indie I HATED writing. The whole thing filled me with dread because I had to think about “will this sell?” and “what will I do if it doesn't?” “What will I do if it does?” That's not how I want to live.
LTS: One of the most refreshing statements I’ve ever seen on a writer’s blog, I’ve found on your website. You state, in no uncertain terms: “I am not seeking agent representation or a traditional publisher at this time.” This earned you the title of one of the coolest authors I know! I’m curious though, if a hotshot New York literary agent or a major publishing house came a-courting, would you still say ‘no’ just to continue maintaining 100% creative control and not having to abide by traditional constraints.
ZW: The only way I would accept a NY publishing contract is if the offer would make me rich and a household name and make me practically guaranteed to land and stay at the top of the NY Times list. Otherwise they are irrelevant to me and can offer me nothing I can't over time gain through my own work and the support of my readers.
I don't “expect” this to happen. It's not like I'm sitting around waiting for a call. And if it did happen, I think it would be several years in the future and it would be something I would have had to earn. If I have the ability to be truly “big” then I will be. If I don't, then I'll be happy doing what I'm doing.
I've already had an agent contact me through my web form asking if I'd like a call to talk about representation. She wasn't a “big name agent” but she was an agent working to build her list from a major agency. I told her it was very important to me to be an indie and in the future I might look into selling subsidiary rights but would be uninterested in selling primary rights unless I maintained a level of control that would be unlikely at this time. She never replied to me. I likely became water cooler gossip but I could care less. She contacted me, not the other way around.
LTS: You’re very grounded and realistic in your approach. I like that! Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation and why self-publishing might be a great alternative for some?
ZW: While I don't feel like I should encourage people to self-pub since I don't know who it's right for, I don't feel like I can feel good about encouraging any unsigned author to seek trad publication at this time either. The publishing world is changing rapidly. Publishers are mismanaging e-rights. The odds just are not good. Getting a contract isn't the challenge. Keeping one is. Your odds go up considerably if you have a platform. How are you going to have a platform if you don't have anything out there to start building a following?
The danger of self-publishing hurting your future prospects has been HIGHLY exaggerated. The truth is that if you fail self-publishing it was either a bad book or bad marketing. Figure out the problem and solve it. If you can't market you won't survive in trad publishing. If you can't write, you won't get a contract to begin with.
If you have “it” you will have it no matter how you choose to publish. There is nothing magic that a publisher can confer to you outside of wider distribution. Though it's questionable if even that is true since your book won't be on the shelves indefinitely unless you make it big. As an indie your book is out there until YOU say it's time to stop.
Worst case scenario? Come up with a new writing name and start over. But being paralyzed by fear and inactivity will never get you anywhere. Fortune favors the brave.
LTS: And I favor stretching this interview out because you are sharing some very important points and information that our readers will find invaluable! Join us next week for part two of this interview when Zoe discusses the importance of a professional looking book covers, how to increase book sales and so much more! In the meantime, you can visit Zoe’s website at:
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