A special Thursday post from Kingdom Pen?
That’s right—we’ve lined up this awesome interview with an author today who has a lot of valuable advice to share on how to be productive as a writer and what publishing with a small press is like.
The author’s name is John Horn, and he’s also sponsoring a giveaway for his book Brothers in Arms at the end of the interview!
Let’s jump right into what advice he has to share with other writers.
The Writing Life
KP: What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?
John: Simply carving out the time to consistently write. I have a full-time job and keep pretty busy with side projects, so having the discipline to sit down and write is the biggest challenge.
KP: What do you wish you had known as a beginning writer?
John: I thought about the answer to this question for a while. There’s so much that you learn as you write books, and ten years from now I will have learned loads of things I wish I had known now. As I think back to the early stories I never completed, the biggest thing I was missing was outlining—thinking through the rough narrative of my story and basically determining where it was going before jumping into the draft.
So, my advice to my younger self would be: outline. It doesn’t have to be crazy long or in-depth (although that works wonderfully for some people), but at least have your story’s construction in mind.
KP: What is one of the craziest things you’ve done in the name of writing and your fondest memory related to writing?
John: I remember receiving galley copies of my first two books from my publisher on a Friday evening and having to turn in any edits I wanted by Monday morning. On top of that, I generally don’t write on Sundays, so I ended up with a full book left for Monday morning. I started work at midnight and kept at it until I had to leave for my day job. I finished it, but that was a long day.
I remember biking down a road near my home and thinking about one of the final scenes in my first book. In it, a character gets shot in his left shoulder and he has to reach over to his left side with his right arm. I had the brilliant idea of reenacting this while biking, so I took my left hand off the left handle, removed my right hand from the right handle, reached over to my left side, and promptly tipped over and slid on the asphalt in the middle of the road. Thankfully, no cars were coming. “Fond” may not be the best way to describe the memory, but it does allow me to truly say that I have put blood, sweat, and tears into my books.
KP: What resources are essential to you when you sit down to write?
John: Just my laptop and Spotify.
KP: How do you find time to write? What is your schedule like?
John: I’ve had a day job for most of my life as a writer, so my schedule involves carving time around that. I do my best work in the morning and I’ve trained myself to get up early, so right now I usually write for a couple hours before starting my day job.
KP: How do you avoid the temptations of the internet while writing?
John: Not always successfully.
I find that the earlier in the day it is, the easier it is for me to avoid distractions, so writing in the morning helps me stay focused. Also, having limited time to write helps, because if I waste this time, I won’t accomplish what I need, and I’m pretty competitive with myself about getting things done.
KP: How do you deal with writer’s block, and what measures can authors take to avoid a confrontation with the beast to begin with?
John: There are definitely days when it’s easier to write than other days, but I can’t remember a time when I could not come up with anything to write.
When I’m struggling to come up with words, I will often take a step back and reevaluate the scene I’m writing or the direction in which I’m taking my book. If I’m not interested enough to write it, then it probably won’t be interesting to read. In this scenario I often find that I’m writing fluff that doesn’t move the story forward.
KP: What do you wish you had done earlier to be more proficient in your writing?
John: Read more books about writing. I have learned so much from other authors about the art and craft of writing—the earlier you can start that study, the better. My favorite is Writing Fiction for Dummies. Don’t let the name fool you. I recommend it for every beginning writer.
Publication through a Small Press
KP: What was it like having your books published by a small press?
John: It was a pretty good experience overall. My books were in print from a small publisher/distributor for several years. The company went out of business, so my books have been out of print for the last several years, and they’re just about to be re-released by another small publisher/distributor.
General downsides to small presses:
- Less-than-stellar cover art (I was blessed because my publisher invested the resources to create some great cover art)
- Lack of professional editing services
- Less distribution capacity
KP: What counsel would you give to writers hoping to publish their books with a small press?
John: Writing is a journey. You probably won’t become famous with your first book, or even your first five. You have to put in the hard work to build an audience, prove that your books are worthwhile, and grow your library of titles.
If you’re working with a small press, accept that it won’t be the same experience as a larger publisher, but embrace it, build a fantastic relationship with them, and do everything you can to get your books in front of readers.
KP: What does marketing look like with a small press?
John: Every press will take a slightly different approach, but most small presses have fairly limited marketing. In my experience, my books were marketed via print catalogs, email blasts, and taken to conferences and conventions. They were also distributed through Amazon and distributors that sell to gift shops and libraries, and I ran my own Goodreads giveaways.
KP: What are the advantages of a small press versus self-publishing?
John: I have not self-published, so I don’t have direct experience in that world, but I see pros and cons to both approaches.
- You keep a higher percentage of the money
- You have more control over the process
Small Press Pros:
- Access to more customers and distributors
- Relationships with printers
- Technical know-how for book formatting, cover design, etc.
At this point in my life, my goal is exposure, not money. I want to get my books into the hands of as many people in my target audience as possible. I’ll make less money per copy sold with a publisher than if I were self-publishing, but I’m confident I can sell many more copies by working with a publisher and spend less of my time on promotion/logistics.
Ready for the Giveaway?
John Horn is sponsoring a giveaway for a paperback copy of Brothers in Arms. To be entered in the giveaway, click the widget below and login with either Facebook or email to see all the possible ways to enter. The more options you choose, the more entries you get, and the greater your chances of winning!
This giveaway will run from October 5th-11th, so enter while you can!