Please give a cold dead body welcome to our first gentleman on the blog this year… Yancy Caruthers!
What were you like at school? Were you good at English?
I was a classic nerd, awkward with girls and not taken seriously by the popular crowd. High school was hell, which was probably one of the reasons I joined the Army when I turned 17. I had no idea that twenty years later I would be an author. The only class in high school that I ever had a ‘C’ in happened to be English.
Which writers inspire you?
The ones no one has ever heard of. There are people out there who write fantastic books but fail to rise above the slush. These are authors who don’t write ten books a year of complete drivel because they think it’s the flavour of the week, but those who pour their souls onto the paper to try harder and harder to write something truly great.
So, what have you written?
Northwest of Eden is a true account of my personal experiences working in an Army emergency room during the Iraq War. I was sure that it would be my only book, but I’ve since began a six-part book called Medic! about an Army medic from each of the living wars. These are also true stories, obtained from veterans I’ve met along the way. Two parts are out, two in editing, and two in draft.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
The main character of Northwest of Eden is me. I went into the experience confident, almost arrogant. I was good at my job and secure in my ability to lead. Over that year, I realized the toll that it all was taking on all of us, and I was not as immune as I thought. It took writing a book to realize that.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
The other characters and I have discussed this at length. They insist that I could only be played by Steve Buscemi. My officer in charge, Maria, insists on Katherine Zeta-Jones.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I started writing the book as I was still experiencing it. I took notes during that year and even wrote a few chapters in draft. I toyed with it for another five years – every time I tried to finish it, I had horrible dreams and more than a few daytime preoccupations. The horrors of some of those experiences were haunting me. I finally realized I had to finish it if I ever wanted peace. I can’t
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
When I find myself stumped, I’ll print out the last few pages of draft and start taking notes on it with an old-fashioned red ball point pen. I think it’s probably a different part of my brain waking up.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough books. I read every Hardy Boys ever written inside of three weeks, and I finished hundreds of books a year. I’ve read less than a dozen ebooks in my life. It’s just not a format that works for me. There is something about feeling, even smelling the staleness of the pages, that takes me back to that escape from my youth.
You asked several questions about my editorial process, so I’ll try to answer them collectively.
When I finish a draft, I’m done with it for a while. I send it to my best friend, who is also a writer. He doesn’t look for misplaced commas – he’s telling me which parts make sense and which don’t – it’s pure content editing. Once I reconcile all of his changes, then it will go through my author group. There are four ladies, all romance writers, who go through it line by line looking for better word choices, open quotes, missing commas, etc. Once they are through, then I send it to the last line editor, who happens to be OCD with an IQ of 150+. Even after that gauntlet, my mother will still find a typo or two.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I started out with queries to agents and I think I wrote about a dozen, but I heard nothing back. While I was waiting, I was reading more and more about independent publishing, and decided to go that route. Anyone who thinks that was the easy route needs a CaT scan! Suddenly I was plunged into marketing and promotion, aspects of the business that I never thought I’d learn. Writing Northwest of Eden was the easy part.
How do you market your books?
I do all the standard online stuff, but honestly it doesn’t work for me because it’s so lazy and impersonal. About half my sales are online but I enjoy handing someone a physical copy. If I can connect with people, then they want to read my work, and I’ve found that it’s much easier in person to do that. I love talking with people, whether it’s one or a hundred. When I do events, I never fail to meet people who open more doors for me.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I would, if I ever met one that wasn’t trying to blow smoke up my… They all promise ‘exposure’ but that isn’t worth as much as they are asking for it. Spotting a fraud is as easy as listening to the silence when I want to talk about ROI and conversion rates.
What do you do to get book reviews? How successful has it been so far?
I asked! Every time I got feedback from someone, I asked them if they would leave one. I also approached several of Amazon’s top reviewers and managed to score two with that coveted ‘Top 500’ tag!
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I got my first legitimate critical one a few days ago, and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The reader just didn’t like what I wrote. I’m okay with that, because there are plenty of others out there who did.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
It’s good for building hype around a release date, but beyond keeping family and friends up to date on the status of the next book, social media as a means of advertising has been ineffective. It’s a means of engagement with readers, but buying an ad is a waste of money.
Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
I’ve done several newspaper and radio interviews to coincide with signing events. It can be fun to share the passion I feel about my writing with others and that comes through in the press.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
I started an Amazon Pay-per-click campaign a few months ago, and saw an immediate positive return of about $1.50 for every dollar I was spending. I think authors have to be careful how much they bid per click, but if I could figure out how to turn a dollar into $1.50 a million times, I would.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
It is absolutely essential to give away a percentage of every box of books you order. Give them to members of the press, librarians, reviewers, and other influential people. In other words, people who can help you drive sales. Your family and friends? You’ll want to set a policy early on, but most of them should be buying, not expecting a copy at your expense.
Did you format your own book?
Yes, and I absolutely do not recommend it! It was the second most painful learning experience in my life (the first was learning Spanish at age 40). I will do it myself in the future, but only because I did it once. It would have been $99 well spent.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Two things – first, your mother will always love it. Get an editor, not just your eighth grade English teacher, but one that can help with content. Preferably someone who hates you. Secondly, the Internet will NOT make you a best-seller by magic. If you are an introvert who hates talking to other people, then either bite your lip and develop some social skills or chase a different dream. It’s harsh, but true.
Thanks so much Yancy for joining us on the blog this week! Please be sure to follow Yancy and check out his books!
Facebook: Northwest of Eden
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Yancy-Caruthers/e/B00KDE445A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1