Name: Russell James
Book Title: Q Island
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, LTD.
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Russell: My wife talked me into starting to write. When we were on long car drives, I would tell her stories I outlined in my head. One day, she told me I should write them down and get them published. I told her no one would ever want to read anything I wrote. We see how that turned out.
Q Island is post-apocalyptic and I was inspired when I saw what happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Society imploded in hours. I wondered what would happen if that occurred on a larger scale, and with an event that would keep the isolation permanent. I picked my old stomping ground, Long Island, NY, and off I went.
Is this your first book?
Russell: No, this is my sixth novel. I also have a two novellas published, three short story collections and I am in several other short story collections.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Russell: I had two short stories accepted for publication in small venues. I’d had several novel manuscripts turned down by multiple agents and publishers. I was taking what I discovered was a much needed writing class, and the teacher mentioned that the legendary Don D’Auria was starting up a horror line at Samhain and had an open call. So I went back and applied my new-found skills to fixing my latest, a manuscript called Dark Inspiration. It hadn’t seen the light of day yet, so I figured why not get rejected by someone famous first. I sent it to Samhain and nearly had a heart attack when it was accepted.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Russell: Since I’ve also self-published in tandem with the novels and novella done traditionally, I’ve seen both sides of the business.
Traditional publishing is slow. Even though my imprint is quicker than most, the contract to release time is still a year. But as mentioned before, the publisher does do all the work for you except the writing. You invest no money in traditional publishing. Traditional publishing can also get your book almost everywhere. Note that unless you are with a Big Six publisher (or however many there are today) you won’t be seeing your book in Walmart, Barnes and Noble or an airport bookshop. Those spots are for Mr. King, Mr. Patterson, and Mr. Sparks.
Self-publishing is more work, because you will do everything. Or, if you are sharp, you will pay some expert to do the things you are not expert at, like cover art and editing. That means you will invest money. Distribution is more time consuming, and getting paper books into a brick and mortar store is a virtual impossibility. But all the royalties are yours. And you can publish exactly what you want to.
In both instances, getting people to know who you are, and that you have written a book, is an uphill battle. A publisher helps, but even the big ones leave a lot of the marketing up to you. And I’ve yet to read about anyone finding the golden key that unlocks that door.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Russell: For first timers, I’d go the traditional route with short stories and longer works through respected publishers. It is important to get good enough to get past that gatekeeper. It is too easy to self-publish something awful, and then is out there forever. There are good self-published works out there, but there are far more poor ones. Often, what the author thinks is gold is really still straw.
I had a manuscript for a novel I thought was great. Everyone I sent it to passed on it. Four years later I re-read the synopsis and thought, “Yeah, that was good!” So I took it out, thought I’d polish it for a month and sent it out. I re-read the manuscript and it was awful. I cut 20,000 useless words out of it and completely re-wrote one of the heroes. So those gatekeepers I cursed years earlier really did me a favor. The rewritten novel was published to great acclaim as Dreamwalker.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Russell: Write every day. Fiction, not blog posts, Facebook rants or anything else. Those don’t count. Then read every day. Not just inside your genre, but outside as well. You will absorb style tips through osmosis.
Most important, be prepared to get better. And the only way to do that is by people telling you what’s not working. Those people are doing you an invaluable service. Thank them and give them a hug. Then fix what you screwed up and try again.