Interview with Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

1Joan Stewart headshot 180 by 180Today I am pleased to welcome Joan Stewart, well known as The Publicity Hound, to the blog. Joan is a publicity, marketing and PR expert. She helps get products, services and books in front of as many people as possible. Many of the resources Joan offers are free and easy to implement, such as the hints and tips she suggests in her twice weekly e-mail newsletter.  I recommend you subscribe here. Thank you for taking part Joan, let’s begin the interview:

I see on your blog that you were a newspaper editor before a Publicity Hound. What was it that caused the job change?

By the mid-80s, it was apparent that the newspaper industry was marching toward the graveyard. I also disliked working in an industry in which customer service was always at the bottom of the priority list. I loved writing and editing the news. But eventually, by the 90s, that turned into a job in which I did little more than cut budgets and lay off reporters, and hear people who didn’t get their paper gripe that there was no one in the Circulation Department to take complaints on Sunday morning, when we sold the greatest number of papers.

 

Since starting your business have you always been known as The Publicity Hound and how did you decide on that name?

One of the first books I read when I started my own business was Marcia Yudkin’s book “6 Steps to Free Publicity.” One of her chapter titles is “The Publicity Hound.” I can remember thinking, “Clever.”

About a year later, when I decided to publish a print newsletter, I needed a name. “The Publicity Hound” popped into my mind one afternoon while I was walking. The print newsletter eventually bled red ink. It morphed into an ezine, and that morphed into twice-a-week snack-size email tips. People kept commenting about the name “The Publicity Hound” and how it was such a memorable name and a great brand. Media Relations Consulting Inc. (big yawn) became “dba The Publicity Hound.” I got a trademark for “The Publicity Hound” and now use it exclusively.

 

As an editor and publicist you write a great deal. Have you ever considered writing any fiction?

Never! I wouldn’t know where to begin. Besides, I know how much work book marketing is, particularly for fiction. I decided long ago to forego the print book and concentrate instead on much more profitable info-products.

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Author Interview with Graham Downs.

GrahamDowns

 

Today I’d like to welcome author Graham Downs to the blog. Graham has written 5 books in a range of genres including mystery and paranormal flash fiction. Thank you Graham for taking part, lets begin:

 

1. What was the first piece of fiction you wrote and what was it about?

When I was still at school, I “read” (played) a lot of Gamebooks. My favourite by far was the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever.

At the age of about eleven or twelve, I wrote one of my own, on my father’s computer, in an old version of WordPerfect. This would’ve been around 1991 or 1992.

I can’t remember very much about it, and it’s unfortunately been lost now – no Dropbox back then. What I do know is that you, as the protagonist, played the role of a contemporary secret agent. I distinctly remember one scene where you had to follow a trail of “stompies” (cigarette butts in South African slang) to track someone down.

I’m sure it was very bad, and it’s therefore probably a good thing that it’s been lost to the sands of time!

2. You say in your blog that you published your first book, Petition to Magic, at the age of 32. What led you to write and publish it at that stage of your life?

1Petition to magic I’ve always been interested in storytelling, from those humble beginnings in Primary School, right through High School and beyond. After Gamebooks, I graduated to tabletop roleplaying. My first foray was a game called AmeriCHAOS 1994, and later I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and eventually GURPS. I’ve experimented with many other systems since then as well – far too many to count.

I used to lament the fact that I always ended up being the Game Master in our sessions, but in truth I wouldn’t have had it any other way because it gave me the chance to do what I loved best, which was to tell my stories.

Despite all this, I never ever considered actually pitching a story to an agent and trying to get it published. It just seemed like far too much effort, for very little gain.

In 2012, I happened to meet a man on Twitter, by the name of Ryan Peter. He was (and is still) a Christian, like me, and we hit it off. I discovered that he was in the process of self-publishing his book, When Twins War. Once he was finished, I went out and bought an e-book copy, and really enjoyed it.

The rest, as they say, is history. I mean, what a pleasure! Here was this technology that allowed anyone to tell any story they liked, put it out into the world in a matter of hours, and get instant feedback. No hoops to jump through, and no-one to tell you whether your story is or isn’t good enough to reach readers.

As an added bonus, I realised that the process was a little bit technical (he self-published first on Smashwords, which admittedly isn’t the simplest platform to use). Me being a computer programmer by trade, it seemed the perfect combination of my two great loves.

I was hooked, and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon.

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Ebook Prices. What would you pay?

Today I thought I’d talk about the cost of ebooks. There have been other discussions on blogs and social media about this topic due to the agreement made between Amazon and 4 of the top 5 publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan). The result of this agreement is that the publishers can set their own prices and keep them set, with no changes ever made by Amazon. The publishers receive financial incentives to keep the prices down, yet many of their books cost much more than those published by smaller publishers and indie authors.

The graphs below show the difference in the cost of ebooks published by different types of publisher. As you can see, the books published by the biggest publishers are the most expensive, in some cases more than double than that of an indie published book. They have also been increasing month on month from the time shown between Feb 2014 and May 2015.

Book prices on Amazon

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Author Interview with Karen Long

 

Karen Long

 

Today I’d like welcome crime fiction author, Karen Long, to the blog. Karen is the author of the Eleanor Raven series. The Safe Word and The Vault are both available on Amazon. When she’s not writing, Karen is kept busy caring for birds including crows, ravens and rooks.

 

 

 

What was the first thing you wrote that made you think ‘I could be good at this’?
My first novel was titled, ‘Zinnia Buckle and the Queen’s Conjuror’. It is set in 1888 and is a YA novel about a girl who discovers she has the ability to slip through time and across death’s threshold.  When manipulated by her employer’s spiritual guide to enter Limbo she accidentally releases an ancient creature that spreads pestilence and death in Victorian England. The book sits on my shelf gathering dust, as it has done for the past ten years. I’m not sure that it’s any good, as I’ve never had it read by anyone but myself but it did prove to me that I could structure and execute a story. If I hadn’t written ‘Zinnia’ I couldn’t have written the Eleanor Raven books.

Karen Long Book 1What do you wish you had been told about writing/publishing before you started?That the buck stops with you! Don’t expect anyone else to pick up typos or bad grammar. I was slack on ‘The Safe Word’ but learned to be much tighter on ‘The Vault’. Also, don’t assume anyone is going to be promoting your work. Get on Twitter and Facebook, do the talks, buy and distribute the flyers and the advertising space. It’s your job. I really did think naively that a mysterious ‘someone’ would do it all.

Who or what has been the biggest inspiration to your writing?
Mainly the enormous discrepancy between my earnings and my husband’s. That sounds flippant but writing gives me substance as an individual. In terms of inspiration on the writing front I find newspaper articles the biggest supplier of ideas and ‘what ifs?’. Continue reading

Interview with mystery author Mike Billington

Mike Billington

 

Today I’d like to welcome mystery and historical fiction author Mike Billington to the blog. Mike is a Vietnam veteran and was a journalist for 50 years before writing fiction. He has 7 books published and is working on 2 more. Thank you Mike for taking part in this interview.

 

 

If you had to pick one, which event that you’ve reported on has been the most influential on your fiction?
That’s a hard question to answer because over the course of nearly 50 years as a reporter I covered a wide variety of stories and many of them had a real impact on me and my writing. I covered the Love Canal environmental disaster, for example, and learned a lot about how ordinary people can rise to great heights when their families are threatened. I spent time living undercover with white-power extremists and learned a lot about how irrational fear can drive people to commit outrageous acts. I think, however, that if I had to choose one event I’d say it was a series of stories that two other reporters and I did on police abuse of the Florida contraband forfeiture law. We started on the project one Sunday night when a guy walked into the newsroom and told us that the police had stolen his boat.

The contraband forfeiture law allows police to confiscate money, property, airplanes, boats, cars and personal possessions from people who are not charged with a crime. To get their stuff back they are forced to sue the police and to win their lawsuits they must prove they are innocent of wrongdoing. That’s a complete perversion of the American concept of justice; it’s also both expensive and time consuming. Over the course of our investigation we learned that cops were taking boats, for example, and using them to go fishing, hold parties, etc. They were taking classic cars and driving them for personal use and they confiscated billions of dollars which they used to buy new equipment and, in one case, to install lights at a church playground. The law was supposed to stop drug lords from using their wealth to hire slick lawyers to beat criminal charges but it was never really used to do that. What is was used for primarily was to, in essence, steal from the public with complete impunity. Of the hundreds of cases we reviewed, not a single “drug lord” had his house or other property confiscated. That project taught me a lot about how both the police bureaucracy and the political system really work and how innocent people can be severely impacted by bad laws. It also taught me how readily societies willingly surrender their rights in exchange for what they consider “security.” That series has had a big influence on the topics I pursue in my novels and how I write them. Continue reading