I have a wonderful guest with me today. Mike Faricy, author of Bombshell, is going to tell you what it's like to self-publish and give you a few tips to help you if you decide to self-publish your book. Mike is the award winning author of mystery suspense thrillers woven together with a rich strain of humor and even some romance. He and his wife live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and Dublin, Ireland.
His entertaining tales are populated with the sort of quirky, oddball characters we'd all like to know more about, but wisely prefer to keep at a distance. They serve not so much as examples as they do warnings to the rest of us. None of his characters will be saving the world from terrorism, international banking conspiracies or coups to topple the government. Rather, they're individuals inhabiting a world just below the surface of polite society. The difficulties they find themselves in are usually due to their own bad decisions, but then, bad decisions make for interesting tales.
All of his books are stand alone, read them in any order you wish. Russian Roulette introduces the bizarrely devilish Devlin Haskell as a PI with a foot on both sides of the law. Dev's adventures continue in Mr. Softee and the soon to be released Bite Me. Mike is currently working on his latest top secret project. He graduated High School from St. Thomas Academy and earned a BA in history from St. Norbert College.
Thank you for this interview, Mike. You self-published your latest book, Bombshell. Would you please tell us why you chose the self-publishing route?
With Bombshell the self-publishing route was really the only logical route I could take. It was my tenth book, and the fourth in my Dev Haskell Private Investigator series, all my previous work is self-published. Even the traditionally published people I know are gradually going the self-publishing route, it’s just a better option unless you’re a headline name like John Sandford, Vince Flynn, or Elmore Leonard and even then you have to wonder if self-publishing wouldn’t work better for them. Instead of a seven to fifteen percent royalty I’m earning seventy percent which is payable monthly versus quarterly or every six months. The system is relatively transparent. I maintain all the rights to my work. I have complete control over input, cover and marketing. Let me know when we get to the bad part.
Take us through the process. You had an idea for your book, you wrote it, then you decided to find a publisher. What were your experiences with that? Or did you decide to self-publish without looking any further?
I have to go back a bit, as I mentioned Bombshell is my tenth book. I had written five or six books and dutifully collected rejection slips on each and every one. I’ve just described four or five years of my life writing in the dark, before sunrise or after sunset. When you submit a book you don’t send out your manuscript, you don’t even send two or three chapters of the manuscript. What you send is a query letter, one page consisting of three paragraphs. The first two paragraphs in the query letter describe your soon to be award winning best seller, the final paragraph is a sentence or two describing your wonderful self.
I sent these letters out on every book I’d written along with a self addressed stamped envelope. I’m talking fifty to sixty query letters per book. Then I waited by the door and collected my rejection letters. I led the league in rejection letters. Letter is a generous term, most rejections consist of one sentence printed on a 4 x 5 card; ‘This does not fit our needs at this time.’ Occasionally it’s prefaced with ‘Thank you for your submission.’ That’s okay, I get it. I just wanted a fair shot and I kept trying year after year. Then one day I had one of my query letters returned. I’d mailed it to one of the big six publishers in New York. The envelope was stamped on the front in purple ink “Return to Sender”. On the back of my unopened envelope was a hand written line; “This does not fit our needs at this time.”
They never even opened my envelope. A dim light suddenly went on in my thick skull; Mike Faricy from St. Paul, Minnesota doesn’t have a snowball’s chance with these folks. The difference is today there’s another gate onto the publishing playground, its called self-publishing.
What different online stores carry your book?
Currently just Amazon. That’s because I’m enrolled in their KDP select program where they offer your book for free if the reader pays an annual fee. In order to qualify for KDP select your book can only be available on Amazon. I was on Sony, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and some others but with the exception of Smashwords the other sites were at best difficult if not impossible to work with, the remuneration was not timely and at the end of the day I wasn’t selling that much with them. The decision was sort of a no brainer for me.
Do you think that having your book self-published makes any difference to the media? Are they open to interviewing self-published authors or reviewing their books?
Being self published as recently as twenty-four months ago may have been an additional hurdle, but that already has or is quickly disappearing. If any reviewer mentions self-published as a problem they are completely out of touch with the broader publishing industry and the sea change that the industry is going through. They’re automatically eliminating over fifty percent of the new books out there. You’d have to conclude they aren’t doing their job or at the very least haven’t updated in quite awhile. Are there reviewers like that, yes, but I don’t run into too many of them anymore.
Authors who go the traditional route have an edge over self-published authors in regards to distribution to bookstores. How did you handle that as a self-published author?
It’s been an up hill battle. Sometimes book store people can be a little strange. I’ve found some of them really love books, but they’re not too sure about people. I deal on a local, independent book store level. Three years ago if they talked to me they’d smile and say; “No thanks.” Actually, sometimes they wouldn’t smile. That’s changing and I’m making some headway, slow and steady wins the race. I think it would help if someone like Tom Hanks tweeted that he loved my book but I lost his number so I guess I’ll just have to keep moving in the direction I have been. My sales are roughly about a hundred to one in favor of e-books over print on paper so that goes a long way toward soothing any potential pain. This is from a guy who loves bookstores and can spend hours going through shelves, but someone can purchase my book online for half the cost of a printed copy, from the comfort of home, while the kids are doing homework or at eleven at night in bed. You don’t have to leave the house, it’s in your hands in about ninety seconds, it is just too easy. I’ve noticed a sort of generation divide, the “I have to have the feel of a real book” crowd, are usually over fifty, have time to go to a bookstore if it’s located near them and almost always change their mind after they use an e-reader for the first time.
On the other hand, self-published authors have the edge over traditional books in the regards that the author has all the control. I’d like to begin with your cover. Did you make it or did you have someone else design it? If you had someone else, can you tell us who it is?
Yes, the cover experience was great. I did absolutely nothing and I intend to take all the credit. Bombshell is a crime fiction tale that takes place in the world of roller derby. I contacted a photographer friend of mine who lives in Miami, Wendy Doscher-Smith. I explained a little about the story to her and she ran with it. It turns out she had a friend who skated with the Vice City Rollers, Miami’s roller derby team. Derby girls all have these great names and that’s Pinky Gomez, real name Marcy Mock, on the cover sipping a Cosmopolitan which just happens to figure in the story. I’ve gotten lots of compliments and someone from New Zealand wanted to send a marriage proposal to Pinky which I didn’t pass along, but it’s been really well received. A good friend works the layout, as I mentioned Bombshell is the fourth in my Dev Haskell series so the layout is actually quite similar; my name across the top, the image and title and then across the bottom ‘A Dev Haskell Novel’. I think in regard to the cover, especially with online sales where the cover image is just an inch or two, less is more.
Did you get someone to format it for you or did you do that?
I format the internal pages of all my books, which is a continual learning process. The great thing about self-publishing is I can make a change essentially over night. Whether it’s to fix a typo (God forbid) or add the first three chapters of my next work at the end. I can make a correction and I’m good to go. I don’t have to print 500 or 1500 copies. In regards to the cover, for both electronic and ink on paper my friend has the programs and the know how to assemble and finesse them. With images, copy tints, shadows or reverses there’s a lot more fooling around and you need the programs to efficiently handle and construct large files.
What was the hardest challenge for you to self-publish your book?
At the time of my first book the hardest thing was that fear of hearing; “Oh, you self-publish?” In other words not good enough for traditional publishers. Actually that just is not the case and I quickly got over that. Like I said before I didn’t have a snowball’s chance with traditional publishers. Don’t get me wrong, if they called today I’d love to talk with them. But I’ve come out of two different industries in my life that were essentially eliminated by technological change. I’m seeing traditional publishing repeating the same sort of behavior, circling the wagons, now they’re digging a moat around them meanwhile the world has changed and moved on. I spoke with a traditional publisher a while ago. He told me if they accepted my manuscript today it would be twelve to eighteen months before my book would be available. What? Really? That just doesn’t work in today’s online world. Will traditional publishers survive? Yes, at least the ones who adapt.
What steps are you taking to promote it?
Promotion, at least to me, is a long range process. I’m building a fan base, slow but sure. I have a lot of people who review my work, I’m constantly writing, working on the next project. I don’t stand still, I try to keep adding and theoretically improving. I do not tweet incessantly, I don’t promote to the point of becoming spam. It’s a fine line on the social media scene where one can quickly become an unwelcome pain in the neck. I mention Bombshell is the fourth in my Dev Haskell series, the books can be read in any order. I mention a review or interview that has been posted and I provide a link, but only once. The other thing is I really pay attention to reader comments and input and I try to contact personally whenever possible anyone who has taken the time to comment.
What has been the best marketing tool or method you have used that has resulted in the most sales?
I have developed a list of reviewers over the last couple of years. I should be clear, as much as I love a favorable review that’s not what the list is about. These are individuals who review books and give an honest review. Equally important is that these are individuals who can read and review the book within six to eight weeks. One of the mistakes I made and I think a lot of authors do as well, is I would send someone a copy and think okay, put the coffee on, read until about 4:00 AM and there should be a review out there by the end of the week. It doesn’t work that way. People have lives, things to do, other books to read ahead of mine, did I mention a job or kids? Anyway you get the idea. The reviews coupled with a block of time that allows them to happen have been my most effective tool.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other self-published authors?
Yes, keep at it. Of course I think one of the best things you could do would be to purchase all my titles then tell two to three hundred of your closest friends how really great my books are. Honestly, I think as self published authors at least initially you want to get that book out there, then wait for the wave of sales, reviews, blogs and congratulations to wash over you. That’s not the way things happen at least in my experience. It is long, hard, continual work building a fan base one reader at a time. By the way, it’s pretty much the same thing for traditionally published authors. Unless you’re a big name you are going to be contacting, groveling and traveling on your own dime. You’re going to try some things that don’t work or don’t work as well as you hoped. You’re going to get articles forwarded from well meaning friends that tell you you’re writing in the wrong genre and if only you did vegetarian Vampires or Zombies who time travel you could write your own ticket. Keep at it, work to improve your craft, get the best product out there that you can. Then start on the next project and when you’re not writing, read. Oh yeah, and have a patient significant other.
Thank you for this interview, Mike. We wish you much success!
Thank you for having me. Please invite me back, I’ve really enjoyed this. Don’t forget to check out Bombshell, all the best…