Up Close And Personal With Pamela Beason
Hello Pamela, and welcome to Authopublisher.com. It’s nice to have you with us. You are a self published author, tell us what your book is called and what is it about?
I am actually a hybrid author. By hybrid, I don’t mean that I’m half Martian or have three eyes, but that I have a traditional contract for a mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin) and I have three self-published fiction books—two romantic suspense novels, Shaken and Call of the Jaguar, and a mystery/suspense called The Only Witness.
Shaken includes an earthquake, vandalism, and arson in addition to a lot of family issues; it’s about the owner of a plant nursery business being framed for insurance fraud by an unseen enemy. Call of the Jaguar is a fast-paced novella about a woman who ditches her cheating husband and goes in search of her former lover, an archaeologist working in Guatemala. My mystery The Only Witness is currently getting the most attention. It’s about a frustrated detective investigating a baby’s disappearance in a gossipy small town. An anonymous tip finally leads him to a witness: a gorilla who communicates in sign language.
I am a licensed private investigator as well as an author, so I use a lot of my investigation experience in my books. For example, I know it’s easy to accuse someone of a crime and it’s hard to defend yourself—that’s what inspired me to write Shaken. After working on cases where very young children testified, I got to thinking about the criteria for a credible witness and wondered if a signing ape would be believed. So I wrote The Only Witness.
I’m also a lover of wilderness and animals both wild and tame, so there are usually some of those elements in the mix, too, especially in my Berkley mystery series. I’m currently completing a mystery set in the Galapagos Islands, which I was inspired to write when I picked up a newspaper while on vacation there. The headline read (in Spanish): “Fishermen’s Union Threatens to Blow Up Tourist Boat.”
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?
Grueling is a good word for it. The hardest part is convincing family and friends that I am actually working and need to be left alone. When I start a book, I always know my theme, the beginning, the ending, and the high points of the plot, but I never know how I’m going to get from point A to point B. Solutions come to me as I write.
I used to design multimedia products and I’ve studied screenwriting, so I’ve learned to think in modules and scenes. When I get stuck in one place while writing, I just work on another scene that I know I want in the book, and this often reminds me of other connecting scenes and setups that I need, and somehow it all comes together in the end. Often, I don’t go back and rewrite scenes that I know have errors. Instead, I just make notes on how I’m going to rewrite and then forge ahead as if I have already rewritten earlier chapters. After I have completed the first draft, I outline the book, which often shows me more flaws in my plot or timeline, and I try to fix them all in the next pass.
I rely on critique partners to keep me in line, too. Mysteries are a difficult juggling act. The author needs to keep the clues and timeline straight while making a number of endings seem possible, so although it’s embarrassing, it’s a great help to have a critique buddy say “How the heck could the heroine view that incident on top of the mountain when ten minutes ago she was three miles away down in the canyon?” or “Whatever happened to that mysterious note he found in chapter two?”
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’s a long process for each book! First, a manuscript needs to be free of typos and grammatical errors. I have always had some good critique partners, so I get a lot of help from them with proofreading and making the text as good as it can be. And I often work as an editor, so I generally put the manuscript away for a couple of weeks (long enough that I’ve forgotten what is on each page), then print it out and read through it on paper, and find and correct a lot of errors that way. For formatting, I go to all the ebook sites—like the Kindle Direct Publishing site and Smashwords.com and Pubit.com and read their formatting guidelines. I also check out the online forums on the various self-publishing sites to see what sorts of questions and answers and complaints are being posted there and make sure I have all the issues covered as I format my ebooks.
For a printed book, I use Lightning Source and CreateSpace. I read their guidelines, choose the most common size for my genre and page count, and then begin to lay out the book. I’m pretty much a Microsoft Word expert, so I can do this myself. I make sure to look at the entire book two pages at a time (like you see a open printed book) to find any weirdnesses like a word left alone on one page, and I adjust as needed by adding kerning or manual line breaks or page breaks and such.
For ISBNs, I registered my publisher name (WildWing Press) a long time ago and bought a block of ten ISBNS from Bowker under that name. I use a different ISBN for the print version and the ebook version, although Amazon and others sometimes assign their own number, too.
For the book covers, I look through all the stock photo sites (my favorites are Dreamstime.com, iFoto.com and Shutterstock.com) for reasonably priced photos that I could use for a cover (often it takes three or more for one cover), and I license those, and then I try to choose a color used in those photos for the text and background. I have taken a PhotoShop course, so I use that program to do a basic layout. But I don’t have the time to learn to be an expert, and I don’t want to keep thousands of fonts on my computer, so at that point I ship my cover idea off to a “real” graphic artist and pay for that person to perfect my idea for the ebook cover and the print cover (using the cover templates from Lightning Source and CreateSpace). I write the text for the back of the print cover, and the artist lays it out and often comes up with an additional graphic element to throw in there to make it more interesting.
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.
I’m leaps and bounds ahead of most authors, because I have worked as an editor, so I knew a fair amount of the process when I started to self-publish. But I definitely rely on people who study the business and have written books about how to do it. Personally, in the beginning I relied heavily on Aaron Shepard’s advice (see http://www.newselfpublishing.com/blog/ if you’re interested), but there are now many others writing the same sorts of “how-to” books as he did, and they may be just as good. I often help other writers publish their books now.
What would you do differently with the publishing of your next book?
Time it to blend perfectly with popular culture and events for maximum success! And if anyone out there knows how to do that, PLEASE contact me immediately!
How did you market your book? Can you share some of your creative/non-conventional ways/secrets on how you sold your book?
I’m trying (desperately) to come up with a clever response. But sadly, I’ve got nothing.
I tweet, I Goodread, I attempt to Facebook, I try to be nice to everyone I meet, I always have little author postcards with me at all times that show my book covers, a descriptive sentence about each, and my website address.
I have contemplated committing a splashy crime like shooting a right wing talk show host to grab headlines, but so far I’m not quite that desperate. Sales are slowly but steadily building as my name gets around.
Share with us the different platforms you use to sell your book (bookstores, signing, affiliate programs, website etc.).
My local indie bookstore, Village Books, sells my book, but most bookstores won’t touch a self-published book. So my self-published books sell mainly from Amazon and other online sites, and I always sell a few at various talks I do around town.
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?
Of course I use social media! Like I said earlier, I’m a private investigator in my day job, so I’m usually hiding in the bushes or behind a computer instead of out in front of a crowd. I like Twitter; it’s especially good for finding interesting blogs and commenting on them and then retweeting those links, which makes most everyone happy. And Twitter is nice for posting links to excerpts (#SampleSunday) or announcing a sale or a giveaway day. I’ve also used Goodreads Giveaways to get some of my print books out there. I think one of the best strategies is to find good blogs that already have a lot of readers and ask if that blogger would like to interview you or one of your characters, or would welcome a guest blog. Speaking of which, I blog on my website, too. My books are mostly about animals, the outdoors, and adventures, so I post tales of my kayaking, hiking, and scuba adventures and then I use Twitter to announce each new post.
Care to share some numbers? How many books have you sold to date?
Hmmm. What a potentially embarrassing question! I’ve only been at this for about five months now, I have multiple books, and sales are steadily increasing, but I haven’t broken into the bestseller ranks anywhere yet. Maybe next month!
How was your book initially received? Has it been reviewed? What was your response to the reviews?
It’s very hard these days to get established reviewers to do reviews of self-published books or even traditionally published books from new authors. I do have quite a few reviews from book bloggers as well as readers on my Amazon book pages, and 99.9% are overwhelmingly positive. I’ve also had a few reviews in newspapers around the country.
How do you handle negative feedback from critics?
So far the only negative feedback I’ve received is that the ending of THE ONLY WITNESS was “too happy.” I’ll take that! There’s enough depression in the world; I never want to add to that.
Where are some of the places where you sell your book besides through book distributors, your website, book stores etc.
Mainly online bookstores – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords. And out of the trunk of my car!
Do have any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
There’s been some interest in making THE ONLY WITNESS into a movie. I hope that happens. And a lot of people want me to write a sequel or two, so I may do that. And of course, my Summer Westin series with Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin will go on, so I have lots of ideas for that. And a couple of YA plots…I ALWAYS have more book ideas than time to write them!
Thank you for being on Authopublisher, Pamela, and I hope to hear from you again!
My website: www.pamelabeason.com
Self-published (indie) fiction books:
Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin) Mystery Series:
BEAR BAIT (coming October 2012)
UNDERCURRENTS (coming 2013)