The first time we saw the Amazon blurb for Nyx I was immediately intrigued.
“Nyx, a sarcastic, mouthy fairy, is hurled into Hell, but instead of damned souls and devils, she finds only a group of confused, young human witches.”
Talk about a strong opener. Blending fantasy, witchcraft, and teenage hormones is a wild ride, and one we knew we wanted to hear more from the author about. He was kind enough to talk about his experiences writing this quirky novel, and his experiences on the self-publishing grind.
He has been a pin monkey, nude model, logic tutor, pizza maker, graphic designer, and web developer.
Growing up in the sparse beauty of the Mojave desert, his first school was actually called Tumbleweed Elementary. Since then, he has lived in San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Hollywood, before settling down in the lush beauty of Oregon with his wife and son. Being from the desert, the rain doesn’t bother him. In fact, he thinks it’s still kind of exotic, as are all the green things growing right out of the ground.
What is your favorite book?
I could make a list of perhaps my favorite 200 books, and they’re favorites for all sorts of different reasons. Great stories, fascinating characters, exotic settings, guilty pleasures, and difficult but fulfilling works. One of the most inspirational books I’ve read is Imaginary Cities by Italo Calvino. It blew my mind when I first read it. It’s a conversation between Marco Polo and Kubla Khan where Marco describes wildly fantastic and impossible cities to the fabulously wealthy ruler. I’ve always put it on a pedestal as an example of a writer with a great imagination.
Do you have a day job? What is it?
I’m a web developer, and have been for almost 20 years.
When you began the process of writing your book, had you ever heard of self-publishing?
I became interested in self-publishing when I couldn’t get an agent to give me anything more detailed than a form rejection letter. While I was writing, I knew self-publishing was an option, but I tried to focus on the story instead of worrying about publishing.
What are the benefits of self-publishing?
The main benefit is that the book actually got published, with a cover I love, and I didn’t have to wait for someone else’s approval to get that done.
I wouldn’t say that self-publishing gives you a more flexible schedule, since it requires a lot more time than traditional publishing, since you have to lay out the book, get the cover right, and create a properly formatted e-book. That part of the process took me months, and that doesn’t include any of the marketing you have to do yourself, too. Marketing is hard, too. It’s hard to find access to an audience and get people interested in reading Nyx.
What is the greatest struggle you find as a self-published author?
The writing itself takes the most time, of course, but it’s also the most fun. For me, marketing is the hardest part. The goal of my marketing is to figure out who would be interested in Nyx and then letting them know it exists. I’ve used Facebook, Amazon KDP promotions, Reddit, and giving a copy to anyone in my life who seemed interested. Sales are slow, but at least I’m still selling a book every so often, and people keep putting it on their to-read shelf on goodreads, so I’m optimistic.
Did you work with a paid editor?
My editor is my wife, so while I didn’t pay her, other people (like Disney) have. The best way to handle criticism is to just take your ego out of it. It isn’t fun, but it’s absolutely vital. When it comes to listenting to an editor, pride is poison.
What about the book cover?
I tried to design it myself, but it just ended up looking cheap and clearly self-published. I ended up hiring a small design company to do the cover. It was spendy, but I’m thrilled with the result, and I expect I’ll use them again.
Did you purchase your own ISBN, or work with a company to purchase rights and an ISBN?
I bought a pack of 10 ISBNs in an abundance of caution of wanting to own my own work, but I’m not sure that was really necessary.
Do you have more e-Book or hard copy sales?
Definitely more e-book sales, maybe four to five times as much.
How do you market and brand your stories?
I only have one book out there, Nyx. I’m an unknown author hawking a self-published fantasy novel, so people are understandably leery of picking it up. Self-published novels have a terrible reputation, and that’s not totally undeserved. Since my major obstacles were obscurity and reluctance (due to being self-published), I decided to give away as many copies of my books as I could, in order to build as much word-of-mouth as possible. I might have lost about 50 or so sales with that tactic, but my goal isn’t to sell 50 books, it’s to sell 50,000. Many of my Facebook friends got a free copy, as did all of my real-world friends who wanted one. One of my friend’s teenage daughter liked Nyx so much she’s dressing up as the character for Halloween, which I’m pretty honored by. To overcome the reluctance to pick up the book, I got the best cover I possibly could, since when I’m looking for new books to read, I absolutely judge books by their cover.
I’ve also contacted about 125 book bloggers and sent a nice email, asking if they’d like to review it. Only about ten said they’d review it, and maybe four have actually reviewed the book. I haven’t noticed any bump in sales from those reviews, so I’m not yet convinced that book review blogs are worth the effort.
Did you publish through Amazon?
I did publish through Amazon, since that’s the largest marketplace for books. I used Createspace (which Amazon owns) to make Nyx a print-on-demand book, and they make the process pretty easy.
How did you decide to price your book?
I priced the paperback so that I’d make about a dollar for every sale, and that came to $12.99. I set the e-book at $2.99, which seemed like a good deal for a 480-page book.
What kind of support would be most helpful to self-published authors?
Marketing support would be the greatest help. Help getting reviewed would also be nice. Unfortunately, marketing for fiction is a lot harder than for non-fiction. With non-fiction, you can have a blog that regularly expounds on the subject matter, extends the message that’s in the book, hold workshops and such. With fiction, who cares about a blog? I’ve never looked at an author’s blog – I don’t care. I just want to read their books. The most consistent advice I’ve heard about marketing self-published fiction is, “Write another book.” I’m working on the sequel to Nyx, so I’ll let you know how that works out.
Check out Nyx on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Nyx-D-M-Livingston-ebook/dp/B00C81V1LG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=
And look at his author’s page here: http://dmlivingston.com