We’re committed to bringing you insight from knowledgeable and experts in the industry. Continuing our interview series we’re delighted to post this interview with Tahlia Newland from Awesome Indies. They are focused around quality books by independent authors. Their aim, akin to ours, is to “promote professional standard indie published books.”
Q1: Welcome, Tahlia. For the benefit of the members of iWriteReadRate.com can you tell us a little more about what you do, your site/blog, and your expertise?
A1: On my author site I post fantasy reviews and posts on reading and writing. I also run the Awesome Indies site which lists Indie books that reach a set of standards for quality as evaluated by industry professionals. On my Happy Honkers site I share happiness hints, and I sell masks on my mask site.
I’ve published 4 books via Catapult Press, my Indie publishing company. Three of them are short stories and one is a collection of short stories. I have a young adult magical realism novella with a bullying theme which came out in mid June on ebook and mid July in paperback. My agent is waiting for publishers to get back to her about my young adult fantasy novel.
Q2: From your experience, what advice would you give an aspiring writer about how they should go about preparing their work and indie publishing an ebook?
A2: Don’t rush into it. Just because you’ve written a book, doesn’t mean that you should publish it. It’s vital that you get feedback from other writers. Ask them if they honestly think your book is good enough to publish. Also make sure that you have it edited before you publish, and not just proofreading or copy editing, it should be fully edited.
Do lots of research, so you know what you’re getting into. It’s not just a matter of writing a book and sticking up on Smashwords, real Indie publishing is running a business and that’s not for everyone.
Q3: In your opinion, what challenges do indie writers face?
A3: The main challenges for me are working on a shoe string budget and marketing effectively. There’s also a lot to learn. It can get quite overwhelming sometimes.
Q4: What are your thoughts around the perception that indie ebooks are lower quality than traditionally publishing books, and what is your message for readers about this?
A4: There is a foundation for this perception, but things have changed dramatically in the last couple of years. This article on the 7 kinds of Indie books is a good one to update readers. There’s a new breed of author going Indie these days and the main players in the movement are getting the message out that Indie authors need to make sure their product is professional for the sake of all Indie authors. There’s a lot of support to help authors to do that too.
An increasingly large number of Indie books are as good as any published by mainstream publishers and readers shouldn’t make assumptions about all Indie books based on the worst one they might have read. If they reject them all, they’re missing out on what Indies have to offer that mainstream publishing can’t.
If you want anything different or more creative than the usual fare, or are interested in new movements in writing, you’ll only find it in Indie books. You’ll also find books that are more topical because they don’t have to wait a 2 or 3 years for publication, and of course they’re cheaper than mainstream books.
A lot of books that are going Indie would have been snapped up by the mainstream publishers just a few years ago, but they’re publishing fewer books now, so it’s harder to get a publishing deal even with an agent and a top quality book. These are the kind of books that are available through Indie publishers.
To avoid poor quality books make sure that you choose your books from sites like the Awesome Indies where the books listed have been verified as professional products by industry professionals. There’s also a page of links to other sites that will help guide you to the best Indie books.
Q5: What are your thoughts around the new community for writers’ unpublished work being launched by iWriteReadRate.com?
A5: I think it’s a good idea so long as the participants give genuine critical feedback. There’s a danger in such groups that writers can end up being too concerned about upsetting someone to say what needs to be said. It’s good to be encouraging, but not at the expense of what is most helpful which is critical feedback, otherwise authors can think their work is ready to publish when actually it isn’t.
I also advise that only completed works are assessed, because if you submit something chapter by chapter readers don’t get the big picture and the big picture must be corrected before the details. Clear guidelines for the critiquing is also important, so everyone knows what they’re looking for.
Q6: What top writing tips can you give the indie writers on iWriteReadRate.com?
A6: Take the attitude that criticism will help you make your work better. Welcome it and don’t be defensive about your work. The more critical your critique partners are, the more they’re helping you.
Also buy a copy of ‘Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King’ and read it thoroughly and apply it.
Q7: If you could change anything about the traditional way that writers get their work published through Agents/Editors/Publishers – what would you change and why?
A7: The speed of it. It’s 3 yrs since I finished the manuscript for my YA novel. It took a year to find an agent and she’s still trying to find a publisher after 2 years. Some of them take 6 months to look at a submission even when an agent submits it.
Q8: In your opinion, can aspiring writers and authors afford not to engage with readers in this age of Social Media? What are your top tips for these interactions?
A8: If Indie authors want to sell books, they need a social media presence, otherwise no one knows you exist. My top tip is not to spread yourself too thin, choose a few things that you enjoy doing and focus on building relationships not selling your books. The books will sell because you’ve built relationships. Go where people are talking about things that interest you but not just with other writers, you need to hang out where you’ll find your readers.
Q9: Any final thoughts for the members of iWriteReadRate.com?
A9: No, I think I’ve said enough already.
Thank you for your time, Tahlia.
Thanks for having me. Good luck with your venture.
Tahlia writes magical realism and urban fantasy for young adults & adults. She likes stories that are inspiring & empowering and that question the nature of reality, mind and perception. She is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher, an occasional mask-maker and has studied philosophy & meditation for many years. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bone-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds.
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Read the rest of our interview series here.