Monday, May 28, 2012

Help From My Friends - Ashley L Knight

And so begins the new sub-blog I told you about last week. Today's guest blogger is Ashley L Knight, Author of the FINS series, With FINS and FATHOM out now, and FOREVER soon (as you will see below), if you aren't reading her tales you should be. She has already seen a lot of the industry in her short career, so I hope this first week sheds light upon the industry from an author's perspective who is living it in-the-now. 

If you have questions for Ashley, please post them. Likewise, if her insights helped you, do give a thanks. 

Thanks to Ashley - enjoy.

What is/was the most important step in getting yourself established in the industry?
It is SO exciting to have your first book published! I cried when I opened the box containing FINS. When you're brand new to this industry, you tend to do everything you're told by everyone because having your book sitting in your hands is so near and dear to your heart. But, be careful. Like modeling, there are many charlatan's out there! The most important step is to choose carefully. You don't have to sign with the first publisher that comes along. If you have a great piece of work, you will have more than your first option, don't fear that another won't.  

I think libraries all hold a near-and-dear place in our hearts, what is your take on the situation of libraries and how can we help stop the downward spiral?
I love the library as do my daughters. It's such a thrill to be surrounded by so many works. I think it important to instill a love of books in your children as books hold the key to success - be it financially, spiritually, etc. As we move to a paperless society, paper back books, I fear, will one day be obsolete. One day we'll all freak out like that drifter in the movie "Waterworld" when we see paper. I think the best thing to do is to encourage libraries to become the center of the community. Events, readings, etc should happen there and while I see libraries trying to do this, they don't seem to have people who properly promote them. Can you imagine if each library had the kind of promotion Yahoo or Google has? It would be unreal.  

If there is only one book people can read of yours, what should it be?
At this time, I only have FINS and FATHOM published. FOREVER is in the process of being published. FINS will be on audio books soon, which is exciting! One day I hope to have a bigger list, but for now, I'd ask people to read FINS. It is not just a Young Adult novel - I've had 60 year old's contact me and say it reminded them of past loves and was a very enjoyable read because of it. The theme of undying love appeals to all generations.

What is the biggest pitfall in the publishing industry that people should stay away from?
Vanity Publishers! If you sign with one of those, you might as well publish on your own as you will be doing everything at your cost with little to no payoff.  

With more authors relying strictly on e-book sales for their success, what is the one thing that is being overlooked in the e-book industry that people should be focusing on?
Just because your book is not in your hand, does not mean you can stop promoting yourself. It's hard work being an author. You don't just relax and watch the money drift in once the book is published - there's so much more that needs to be done and I think people have no idea how much time and effort is needed to help the book succeed. And again, as with most things in life, it's not what you know, but who you know. Contacts are everything. I think its easier with an e-book to sit back and sort of cross your arms and think "well, that's done, let's get to the next one!". Not so! People tend to give an e-book author who hides away and writes, less kudo's than the one who is out there, meeting the fans and promoting, etc...   

Kindle Select - good or bad?I have a Nook.......

With the declining sales of print books, what do you feel needs to be done to resurrect this portion of the industry? At this point, can it come back?
I think we've been working our way to Star Trek since the tv show first aired. There's something so magical about touching a screen and having the world at your fingertips. It's a wonderful learning tool and I love the fact that I don't have to drive anywhere to get a book or search for days. But one of my favorite things to do is sit down with a thick book and a cup of tea and get lost in it. It's "old school" and something that I cherish. Honestly, I think the only people who will keep this alive are those who wish to carry on the "tradition". Really, it's going to be a tradition one day. 

When editing, how do you separate yourself from the book to make it better when your editor gives you constructive criticism you  may not agree with?
I usually put the book aside for a few weeks in order to distance myself. Then, I read it as if it is a piece of work from a student I used to mentor. I see constructive criticism as constructive and not detrimental. That being said, there's one beautiful thing about advice: you can take it or leave it. I listen intently to everyone's advice and choose from them. The only time I get upset is when someone reads the second or third book and picks the book apart, telling me that "this couldn't possibly happen", etc when all their questions would have been answered if they had taken the time to read the first book. That's just pure idiocy on their part.  

What has been the best way to promote your work (knowing that success is different for each individual)?
I enjoy interacting with people, so I have found that the one-on-one connection is very helpful. I adore book signings and events, meeting fans and answering questions, etc. Word of mouth is a huge key to success - as I believe it is with anything that is done, be it movies, events, etc... But also, I have a mermaid tail being made and plan to incorporate that into promoting The FINS Trilogy, so a little showmanship helps as well! 

With so many self-publishing options out there now, apart from making more money (as stated time and time again by Joe Konrath) what is the biggest pro and biggest con of going about it yourself?
I have fallen into the trap of signing with a Vanity Publisher. I did so much of the work and paid all this money, only to have them dictate to me what I could and couldn't have for my book. Imagine paying a cover artist to design your cover only to have the publisher send it back seven or eight times to re-do. And you're footing the bill every time!!!  Like Vizzini in "The Princess Bride", inconceivable! 

Knowing what I know now, I'd say the biggest pro about publishing yourself is you have control over everything. The con is people don't seem to take self-published authors as seriously as those who have a name behind them. The saying could literally be: anyone can publish themselves. Go to your nearest printer and do it. It takes a "real writer" to have backing. At this time, I don't know how you would define a "real writer" but most seem to think it is someone who writes so well, that a publisher things it will make money and agrees to sign them. I have friends who have found success in self-publishing and have gone on to new publishers. It really comes down to your gumption. Will you fight for your right? 

What would you suggest bookstores do to stay with the changing industry? Would your answer be different for chains vs. local?
Embrace the change or you'll be swept under. It's so sad. I find it soul cleansing to walk into a little bookstore and browse. I would hope that it would always be available for everyone to go and unwind. I support local bookstores because that "magic" is integral to my life. 

What sets you apart in a sea of competition?
I AM a mermaid, and so The FINS Trilogy is not exactly a work of fiction. :-) Fans always tell me they feel as if they're reading a diary when they read FINS and in a way, they are. Also, people of all ages have enjoyed the books, not just YA. 

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
"Just do your best!" My father didn't care if I got a C on my homework when I was younger - he was more concerned that I worked to my best ability and if a C was my best, he was proud. It pushed me to prove that my best is exceptional. I think kids need to hear that instead of "You have to get straight A's or else." Controlling young adults is not the key to having them grow into a successful, happy adult. Success is living your life happy. For some people, that means making tons of money, for others, saving lives, and still for some, raising a family. If you are living your life doing what makes you happy and you're a positive addition to society, then you are a successful person. Hands down. 

What is your most humbling moment in the industry?
To be recognized and offered advice by authors who are the leading writers of their time. I cannot stress how honored I am to have been given such a gift! Sharing wisdom and advice is something many people refuse to do, but if you don't teach the younger generation, or help others, your wisdom dies with you. Then what is left? Make your mark, leave your legacy by passing your knowledge on. It's so important! Thank you to the authors who interact daily with me - you know who you are. You humble me.

What aspirations do you have left that you've not yet met?
So many! If you don't have any aspirations, you've given up on living. Aspirations don't have to be grandiose; it could be to have a positive day, to be able to walk, to not snap at the man who cuts you off in traffic! Personally, I want to write until I don't enjoy it anymore. I want to scuba dive in the Maldives, take my husband to England, raise my children knowing they are loved and can always come home, live as long as I can, be the perfect mermaid I can be. I also want to make sure I live up to the words of one of my heroes, Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see in this world."

What is the best way to handle a negative review?
Realize you can't please everyone. Read one bad review and then read ten good and move on. 

Do you ever thank a positive reviewer? How do you go about it to not seem like you paid them for the good review?
Yes, I will once in a while. I will answer in the link or contact them directly. My first good review came from a young man on Goodreads and he is now one of my beta readers! I've also done the unthinkable which was to contact a bad reviewer - I wanted to know more about her insightful comments and now, we are fantastic friends! We talk on Facebook daily and on the phone often. I love her because she isn't afraid to tell me her opinion - I don't want to hear only positive comments - I can't grow as a writer that way. I need the good, the bad and the ugly! 
As far as paying, I don't stoop. You're entitled to your opinion and I would never pay anyone for a false review. I have no control over what other think and I can't worry about whether they believe I cheat. I don't cheat and I don't lie, and I certainly don't need to pay anyone to enjoy my books.  

What fact is stranger than fiction in the publishing world?
The fact that sadly, not every publisher is professional. Being yelled at and talked down to is not something you should put up with and I find it so strange that many people with "power" are not able to control themselves. 
On a lighter note, the most surprising experience I've had thus far is a phone call from a complete stranger wanting to chat while I was busy shopping for groceries. The lesson learned? If you put your phone number on your business cards, your fans WILL call you and will expect an hour long conversation. :-)  I love talking with my fans and encourage emails and chat groups, etc. I was happy to oblige, but let's just say, lesson learned.  

Thank you for this wonderful interview! It's been the most in-depth interview I've ever had and I quite enjoyed it!
Best Wishes to you and yours, 
Ashley L. Knight

Two events of significance occurred during of the birth of Ashley L. Knight in 1977. One was the VC10 jet flight time record from London to Bahrain was smashed by her father in his determination to be by her side and the appearance of brilliant meteor showers over the desert island that was witnessed by her godmother. Raised in Bahrain, the legendary kingdom of Dilmun, Ashley grew up on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, white haired and blue-eyed, swimming in the warm tidal shallows with her mother at seven days old as all baby mermaids are raised. 

Moving away from the gathering war storms of the Middle East conflict, her family settled in mountainous Idaho, USA, to the seasonal rhythms of ranch life. Ashley's love of horses and riding skills found her representing major rodeos as an elegant Rodeo Queen and striking spokesperson. 

By 15 years Ashley was already enrolled in university in Idaho where she majored in English/ Writing Emphasis, with a minor in Biology. Her English language skills resulted in a coaching job from her professor for new writers at university. College summers were spent with her younger sister at the ranch riding by the Little Salmon River or at Disney World as an intern in their summer program. Talented in poetry and lyric writing, Ashley began to compose and perform her own songs at an early age, taking formal voice training at college and competing in singing talent shows. 

A chance meeting in downtown Boise brought love's destiny to her life. Greg and Ashley were married in McCall by the glacial blue waters of the lake. Inseparable, they now have two small children of their own. 

Ashley continued her love of water with the release of her first published novel, FINS in 2010 and her second novel, FATHOM in June of 2011. At this time, FINS is undergoing audio production. The third and final book in The FINS Trilogy, FOREVER, is undergoing publishing. Currently, she is editing her fourth book, FALWYN, another YA fantasy fiction novel while she continues work on an adult thriller, THE MACHINIST.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Community That Helps Each Other

For any of you who have been following along since the 'big bang' of FTA, you know that it was created to help authors with robust design techniques and non-gouging prices. Well, it's time to take it to the next level.

With the assistance of some friends - authors and industry professionals - we will be bringing you blog posts that discuss success, pitfalls, inspiration, and jargon with goals that include:

- Having a place where authors can come to learn about new or veteran authors and their climb to success
- Having a place where authors can learn about the industry as it sits today, pros and cons, both from authors and other industry professionals

and finally,

- Having a place where authors can get tips/tricks and other info apart from what FTA can offer them, both from authors and other industry professionals

We have a great variety of authors who have signed up already including veteran New York Times bestsellers, fresh-on-the-scene authors, and people in between, people in  audiobook creation, and in marketing/creative aspects. I'm also hopeful to land some guest bloggers from bookstores, review sites, and other transmedia venues.

I truly hope that you get a lot out of these blog posts. I've received a ton of great feedback from the participants so far with some really great answers to the questions. If you would like to see someone as a guest on the blog, please be sure to state their name in the comments below and where I can find them (website) - while I can't guarantee they will say yes the worst they can say is no. Go big! It will give me yet another goal to attain.

Before we say goodbyes, I would just like to wish everyone a very safe holiday this weekend, that being Memorial Day for you non-Americans. I hope you all take a moment to think about all of our brothers and sisters who have sacrificed their lives for ours from day-one of the inception of the USA. We will never approve of war, but we should always appreciate our heroes.

Thanks everyone. See you next week with our first post.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

I Need Your Help - Please and Thank You

Hey peeps,

There are lots of great things going on as of tonight, but a few of them I really could use your help. Please check out the goodness and any assistance you can give would be most appreciated!

1. Blood Harbor - A good friend of mine, Rick Chesler, has started his own Kickstarter campaign and needs your pledges. Why do I need your help on this? Well, if he meets his goal, I get to make his cover! That's right - first was WIRED KINGDOM, then kiDNApped, and now the potential at BLOOD HARBOR. Whether you pledge, spread the word, or both, I'll send you a virtual high-five!

2. The Novel Blog - Dan Boucher, Chief Reviewer and head-dude at The Novel Blog, gave me a HUGE gift and interviewed me for the month of May on his amazing book blog that houses interviews by some of the biggest names in the industry (so don't just stop with me). In the hopes to get my name out there more, please check out my interview and spread it everywhere you can. If you head over and read it, please make a u-turn when finished because I would love to hear what you thought of it.

Those are my two big things. Your help is immense and I thank you for it! More updates coming soon. Have a great week.