Up Close And Personal With Susan Violante.
Hi Ivin, thank you for having me.
You are a self published author, tell us what your book is called and what is it about?
My latest book is Innocent War (revised edition) : Behind an Immigrant’s Past Book One. It is a fictionalized true account of my father’s childhood during WWII inLibya and later on inSicily. In short it presents WWII through the eyes of an Italian 10 year old boy. The story shows a boy’s adventure through the war’s hardships, dangers and tragedies combined with his own humor, innocence and awakening as he grows up.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process? What methods do you use to write and how did you make it through the grueling process of writing your book?
My experience was more challenging because English is my third language. I am original Italian and grew up in South America, but decided to write my book in English because theUSis my home.
1) I started by transcribing my father tapes. He recorded 5 tapes (in an Italian/Spanish mix). After listening and transcribing the tapes, I signed up on English for publication classes and came up with 100 pages draft.
2) After that I joined a critique group and started developing each Chapter. It is during this phase that I realized I had a book series instead of just one book. So I chose an ending point for each book of the series and concentrated on writing book one.
3) I also did a lot of research about the time and place through war books, internet, history books and interviews to people who lived through WWII inItaly(including my parents). I also had many stories I got from my Grandmother in my memory which helped me a lot.
4) Once my first manuscript was finished, I joined another critique group and started re-writing each chapter according to the feedback I got. This is when the story came alive.
5) During this whole process (which took years), I also started creating a writer’s profile by writing and publishing articles, kids stories, newsletters, and even few illustrations. I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to practice on querying my smaller work to learn about the whole process. It paid off as I was also building a resume as some of my work was published.
6) In the end I decided to self-publish when my father went in for brain surgery (he recovered beautifully by the way, this shows his survivor spirit). I decided I did not want to invest in another number of years of queries as my father would probably not be around to see it published.
Explain to us the process you took to get your book published, from formatting your manuscript to preparing it for print all the way to getting an ISBN and the book cover design.
That is a great question, because most of us no nothing about the publishing process, until we finished our manuscript. It is wiser to learn about it as you write as there are many things you can do at the writing stage that will help in the marketing and the building of your platform.
I went through a Print on Demand Company. Through them the process was as follows:
1) I purchased the package that chose for my book and sent back signed contract.
2) I uploaded the manuscript. Because I purchased a package which included editing, my manuscript was uploaded for editing.
3) I received the manuscript back with the revisions in about 2-3 weeks.
4) I review the edits, accepted it and sent approval to publisher.
5) Meanwhile, I sent a preliminary design to the publisher for the front and back cover. Their designer worked on it sent the proof to me for approval. I sent approval after reviewing.
6) I decided to register copyrights and register on the library of Congress, so these took 2 weeks.
7) I got the galleys after 3 – 4 weeks from approval. It is then that they gave me my assigned ISBN number.
8) While all of this is going on, the marketing campaign with the publisher and my own publicist was being rolled.
9) Once I approved the galleys, the book published. However, it took 2-3 weeks for it to show on online stores. I ordered
Did you use the services of a book coach or a self publishing company to help you though the process or did you do it yourself? Tell us about your experiences.
Unfortunately, I did not have a book coach the first time around in 2009. To be honest, not doing so was my worst mistake. I decided to come up with the revised edition because there were many things that due to my poor knowledge about the Publishing Industry went wrong. This time around I was coached from the beginning, as I revised the book, chose the cover, worked on my platform, designed the marketing campaign…etc. Unless you are knowledgeable enough about the whole Industry, everyone thinking to publish, should get a book coach to do it right.
What would you do differently with the publishing of your next book?
For my second book I made inventory of all the lessons learned and planned ahead. The plan I came up with looks like this:
1) Determine who my target market is. In other words, who am I writing this book to?
2) Build my platform for the Target Market, while I’m writing the book. Through blogging about the subject, speaking about the subject, publishing articles about the subject, creating workshops…etc.
3) Budget for a professional editor, book designer, and advertising/publicity.
4) Send out manuscript to be reviewed before publishing to get endorsements on the back cover.
5) Have a feasibility study about different publishing options before choosing one.
6) Enjoy the ride!
How did you market your book? Can you share some of your creative/non-conventional ways/secrets on how you sold your book?
The first time around I concentrated on Bookstores and libraries, and found them very limiting. You are trying to sell something very specific on a generalized setting. This time around I decided to narrow it down.
1) Since my main target market is the Italian – Americans, I am putting together a tour around the Italian culture: Italian Embassy Offices, Italian Clubs, Italian-American Market, Italian restaurants for book signings or reading…etc. And it is already working!
2) Another target is historical museums, veterans’ organizations, history classrooms for speaking events.
3) Become a “target celebrity” by creating a radio show that would interest your target market. Example: a host of an Italian American radio show
In short you will sell more books if you place your product where your target market hangs out…
Share with us the different platforms you use to sell your book (bookstores, signing, affiliate programs, website etc.).
I use bookstore signings, website, merchandizing, speaking events, radio show hosting, I also give interviews and publish articles. My favorite is Open Mikes. You can go anywhere and read an excerpt of your book, leaving bookmarks or covers around.
Catalogs like firstchapterplus.com work great because it targets libraries and bookstores. Your own blog is also a great way to bring people to look at your book.
This time around I also submitted an ad on reviewers websites and an Italian magazine.
Do you use social media in book promotion, and if so, which platforms work best for you? Can you share some tricks you got making it work for you?
I think Social media is a must but you have to be consistent. Besides my different blogs, I do only Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has generated more traffic to my website than Facebook. But Facebook has been great for events promotions.
Care to share some numbers? How many books have you sold to date?
I can’t say yet with my new book, as it just got published and don’t have any numbers yet. But with the first edition, although I did very little promotion (as I didn’t have a platform) and actually pulled the book out of print, as I canceled the contract with the publisher…it had sold about 500 books by the time I pulled it out.
I am estimating a total different experience with the revised edition, as this time I have an established platform as an editorial assistant of a book review service and catalog, plus my own radio show and blog; and have a marketing campaign in place.
How was your book initially received? Has it been reviewed? What was your response to the reviews?
Wonderfully! I got great reviews all along. This time around are even better! With the first edition, there was only one reviewer that pointed out some errors on the book and gave me 3 stars on Amazon. The revised edition has gotten 4-5 stars.
The best review was from Primo Magazine which I would love to read to you if I may: “Violante has written a novel that is both epic in scale and yet intimate and even quaint thanks to her choice to write in her father’s child voice….Innocent War is a resonating novel that transports readers to a place and time uniquely tied to Italy. It is a great book for all Italian Americans to read as it stands as a tribute, not just to Violante’s father, but to all children of war.”
How do you handle negative feedback from critics?
Another great question, because we never think it will happen to our book, and yet it does!
I’ve been lucky because so far there has been no negative feedback on my revised edition. However, on the first edition I had one somewhat negative review because of some grammar errors missed by the editing team. I did respond with a big thank you for her review and explained to her that English is my third language and unfortunately the quality of the editing did not meet my expectations. But that the story was in process to be re-published as a revised edition to correct its editing flaws. The book reviewer responded to my comment by saying that it was great I was correcting it because the story deserved it.
By doing this through the commenting space below the review, I made possible for the readers to see that there would be a revised edition, made clear my challenges as a non-American Native, and got the reviewer to say that the story was so good it deserved a revised edition…all of this right below the negative review. To make things better, I kept my door open with the reviewer for future books.
Where are some of the places where you sell your book besides through book distributors, your website, book stores etc?
Innocent War (revised edition): Behind and Immigrant’s Past, is currently available through
ISBN # 978-1432770471:
Also, through my speaking events, workshops, and any other online store or orders desk.
InAustin,TX: Book Woman, Brave New Bookstore, Book People, Barnes and Noble, might have them in stock, I know that they have still some of the first edition!
Do have any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
Oh, I have many things on the works…
I am currently working on my second book titled “Emerging from Rubble’ Behind An Immigrant’s Past II,” which is in re-writes.
I also have an Internet radio show through Blogtalk Radio: I Have Something To Say – Live where I bring experts, authors, and regular people to share their little piece of wisdom.
Coming soon I will also host another Internet show called Italian Austenite, we are currently working on the programing of it and more information will be announced through my website” www.susanviolante.com.
Innocent War came out this year with its own line of T-shirts and other great gifts. Check them out at www.susanviolante.com/
Also, I just came out with my workshop series. For more information check out my Newsroom page on my website.
Finally, am starting my blog in Spanish! It is called Mi Rincon Latino. The Link is also posted on www.susanviolante.com.
Thank you for being on Authopublisher, Susan, and I hope to hear from you again!
Visit my website at susanviolante.com (www.susanviolante.com) and check out all of the Navigation links. There is a lot of helpful content for everyone! As well as a store with books, workshops and great gifts!
It was a pleasure visiting with you, thank you so much for having me!
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You gotta hustle if you’re to make your dream happen!