Author interview–Mary Anna Evans

I’m new to self-publishing and to the Self-Publishing Review, so it seems appropriate to begin with a hello in the form of a self-interview and a visual aid in the form of my author photo.  It’s nice to meet you all and to see all the useful information available here.
Mary Anna Evans author photo

1. How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published

Oh, my yes, I tried.  For seventeen years.  And I did eventually exceed, possibly because fate rewards folks who are stubborn to a degree that is possibly unhealthy.  🙂  I have six traditionally published books in print, and I’m contracted to deliver two more books this year–the seventh in my awardwinning mystery series about archaeologist Faye Longchamp, as well as a nonfiction book for the educational market entitled Mathematical Literacy in the Middle and Secondary Grades. (I’ll get to the reason for that rather esoteric book below, but I’m trying to get to the point of this question, which is why I self-published.)

On that seventeen-year road to publication, I wrote a thriller called Wounded Earth.  It was good enough to get me a hotshot Manhattan agent, Anne Hawkins.  It was good enough to get nibbles at several major houses.  It was good enough to get nibbles from Hollywood.  Unfortunately, it never sold, but I still believed in the book.  Agents, however, are all about the next project, so Anne said, “If you got this close, you should write another book.”  (Easy for her to say…)  So I wrote a mystery, Artifacts, and it sold to Poisoned Pen Press.  Now I have six mysteries in print and ebook form.

Unfortunately, my wonderful publisher does not do thrillers, and agents are all about the next project.  There was nobody but me to make sure that Wounded Earth

ever got into the hands of readers, and I really believed in this book.  The characters are important to me, and I felt that they deserved a chance at an audience.   I self-published it as an ebook, and it will be available as a print book next month.

Since the rights to several of my  traditionally published short stories have reverted to me, I also e-published them individually and as a mini-anthology, Offerings.  I love the short story as an art form, but stories tend to have a limited audience and a short life.  Again, this was a way to give some of my favorite characters a chance to walk around in the world a little more.

2. What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?

I used Smashwords to convert the books into digital form, then distributed through them and through Kindle.  The experience was practically painless.  I’m in the midst of using CreateSpace to do the print book.  So far, so good.

3. What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten
reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?

Because I’ve developed media contacts through marketing my other books, I’ve been able to promote my self-published titles through those avenues.  Radio and print interviews are easier to get than TV, but I’ve done them all.  I blog and send out an e-newsletter.  I do some Facebook promotion.  I still haven’t figured out which of these efforts actually drive sales, so that’s one reason I’m here–to learn from others about how to best invest my marketing time, because it takes away from that all-important writing time.

4. What drove you to write this particular book?

My degrees are in physics and engineering.  (This is why I’m writing that math literacy book I mentioned above.  My educational publisher was rather intrigued by the combination of an engineering license, math teaching experience, and multiple published books.)  At the time I wrote Wounded Earth , I was working as an environmental consultant and I was growing uncomfortably aware of the ways we humans might accidentally make the planet an uncomfortable place to live…or an impossible place to live.  I imagined what kind of person might want to do that on purpose, and my brilliant but disturbed Vietnam vet named Babykiller sprang to life.  Then I imagined a worthy adversary for him, and Larabeth McLeod–an equally brilliant Vietnam vet with a successful environmental business and a dark secret–joined him in my mind.  When I put the two of them together, sparks flew.

5. Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar
to you?

Wounded Earth is an environmental thriller, and yes.  I love an exciting book, so the genre is familiar.  As a former environmental consultant, I find that the subgenre is quite familiar, too.

6. Who are your greatest writing influences?

I’m influenced by whoever the genius was who gave this writing advice:  “Apply butt to chair.”  LOL.  I love to read, and I’ve admired books by William Faulkner, Harper Lee, James Lee Burke, Robert Heinlein, P.D. James, Laura Ingalls Wilder, oh…I could go on, but basically I enjoy anyone who can tell a compelling story while using the English language beautifully.

7. What’s your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?

I’ve always written during the hours my youngest was napping or in school.  When she was tiny, that was just a couple of hours a day.  Now, it’s 8 am to 3 pm.  I can do writing business or promotion when she’s at home, but I really require a quiet house to do creative work.  As for focus–well, my deadline or my electric bill are both excellent sources of focus.

8. Would you self-publish again?

Yes.  I think the accessibility of inexpensively publishing ebooks and print books is changing the industry in a way that none of us can predict.  I think it would be as unwise for me to ignore the self-publishing world as it would be for me to turn my back on my traditional contracts right now.  It seems like now is the time to work hard to be noticed in all aspects of the industry, while we all wait to see what’s going to happen next.

9. Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?

Make sure it’s the best possible work you can do.  Then get some unbiased readers to vet it for you.  Then take it to a professional editor.  Nobody is the best judge of his or her own work.

Then get a professional cover image and a professional author photo.  You’re not investing in a storefront or inventory or manufacturing equipment or raw materials, so spend some money investing in yourself.  You’re worth it.