I recently met James Scott Bell at a writer's conference and share this interview with him about his indy book Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books.
LORILYN ROBERTS: You made the statement in your book Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books, “And, you are going to face those who want to criticize you as having ‘taken the easy route’ without submitting your work to traditional publishers and agents for their concurrence that you have what it takes.”
I have found that many who are traditionally published are very judgmental and condemning of those who POD or self-publish, even to the point of not reviewing books by indy authors, not recognizing them as “real” authors, casting dispersions on their books sight unseen, and not promoting their books on blogs and websites.
My philosophy has always been, “Does God really care how books are published?” We have a world full of souls that are literally going to hell if they don’t hear the truth of God’s Word. We have the opportunity to publish and spread a Christian worldview in a way never seen in history. God’s prophets wrote the Bible by hand on parchment and clay tablets and walls and papyrus. My question to you is, how can we change the consciousness of publishing, particularly in the Christian community, and embrace the idea of “one in the spirit” when it comes to marketing and publishing books?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: I think it’s going to change on its own. The die is cast. We are in a new era and books will come in different forms, from the traditional side and the self-publishing side. Eventually, there will be no room for judging, except on the merits of a work. Which is how it should be.
LORILYN ROBERTS: You made the statement in your book Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books, “And you are free to write about any subject that interests you, that you think you can sell.” In the John 3:16 Marketing Network, we have lay authors writing on Biblical topics that are selling very well in ebooks. I used to think I would love to tackle some deeper subjects in the Bible, but I am not a pastor nor do I have a seminary degree or a scholarly platform. But it seems that ebooks allow anyone to write on anything that interests them and make money? Why do you think that is?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: Well, to “make money” requires providing a product that has value. This is the way markets work. With self-publishing, that can be put to the test. For writers, it means putting out the best quality book possible (Law #2 in my book). And then repeating that, over and over.
A writer certainly ought to write what interests him, that’s where the passion is. But you should also expand your interests! Writing can be just as much about growth as it is making lettuce.
LORILYN ROBERTS: I have found in the John 3:16 Marketing Network that the single most challenging issue for writers is technology – how to set up and manage Twitter and Facebook, how to create a landing page for book launches, how to resize jpegs and format files into ebooks, just to name a few. Writers quickly get discouraged, daunted by the amount of time it takes to learn it all, not counting the actual process once you master the basics. Do you have any practical ideas on how to tackle the seemingly endless changing landscape of I.T. and balancing that with the creative side of writing?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: The nice thing is that these functions can be farmed out at a reasonable price. Simply pay for those things you are not comfortable doing. Especially when it comes to editing, cover design and formatting. You can find an almost unlimited number of freelancers in each area. Get recommendations, check portfolios and client comments. Do a little homework.
LORILYN ROBERTS: A follow up question to the previous one is this: I find it difficult to switch back and forth from marketing to writing. Once I am in one mode, I tend to get stuck there emotionally and mentally. Do you have anything you do to help you switch gears and maintain that sense of balance on a daily basis?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: I put both my marketing and my writing on “automatic.” For my writing, I have a quota of words to complete each week. I break that down into days, and then I schedule my time. As for marketing, I make plans and then work the plan. This, again, can be scheduled.
Dedicate part of your week to studying marketing. Even if it’s just one hour. Read books and blogs and take notes. Eventually, you can put together a plan. I go into more detail about strategy in my book.
LORILYN ROBERTS: You write both fiction and nonfiction. Do you have any thoughts on which sells better—if you are capable and enjoy writing both, which would you recommend a new author write to “break into the e-market”?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: There is no rule here. Fiction and non-fiction can both sell, if done with excellence. Regarding non-fiction, I always start by recommending William Zinsser’s classic, On Writing Well. Study the heck out of that book before you write anything.
For fiction, I spend a lot of time teaching writers, including 2 day seminars. I have two more scheduled for this year.
LORILYN ROBERTS: I took a peek at your ebook on Amazon, The Year of Eating Dangerously (Mallory Caine, Zombie at law) that you publish under the name K. Bennett. I couldn’t find a link to your name James Scott Bell anywhere. Why did you use a pen name for this series? It seems contradictory to use a pen name when you are trying to build a reputation and following as a writer. Would you recommend less well-known authors use a pen name for divergent content?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: My agent and I decided to use a pen name simply to distinguish the content. In the books themselves the author bio states that K. Bennett is a pseudonym for James Scott Bell. This was for traditional, print-world purposes. I’m not sure a pen name is necessary in the digital world. You don’t have to worry about bookstore buyers and self space. But I like having the K. Bennett brand for paranormal. I will probably do other stories in that genre, and use this name for them.
LORILYN ROBERTS: Under the heading “What About Paid Positioning,” I appreciate your comment: “Don’t go into debt.” One of the reasons I started the John 3:16 Marketing Network was I believed with the combined knowledge of many authors, we would be better informed and protected from expensive marketing techniques that produce few sales. Do you have any thoughts on how much an author should set aside to promote a newly published book?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: Just use discretionary funds and be wise about it. In that section of my book I talk about what seems to work best, and most of the time it’s not something that you pay for. That’s the good news. The challenge is to write great books and gain attention. It can be done, but it takes time.
LORILYN ROBERTS: To be quite honest, you are on the cutting edge of thought in your book Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books. Given what you have written, what would you tell a new writer to do—go the traditional route or indy and why?
JAMES SCOTT BELL: It’s no longer either/or. I was just at ThrillerFest in New York, where I had the honor of being the first writer to have a self-published story up for the ITW award. There will be more of this.
And while I was there I met an author who has just signed a multiple book contract with a traditional house, after having his self-published novel come to the attention of an editor there.
The world is now the writer’s oyster. Follow the 5 Laws. The last one being to repeat the strategy I lay out, over and over, for the rest of your life. Why not? We’re writers. It’s what we’ll do until we drop.