Blog Archive

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Interview with Amy Neftzger, Short Story Writer for Children and Adults

When I was doing research on your writing I did my typical "Google" and found you have an immediate 10 links starting with a Wikipedia listing. What do you do to get such a strong search engine response?
First of all, the publishing company has a part time Marketing Director and that helps out a lot. She has set up press releases and events. Secondly, we've hired a free lance Technical Consultant who has been wonderful in updating the website and doing other things such as "search engine optimization" (SEO) and getting me on Twitter. I actually resisted starting a Twitter account but she convinced me to try it. I now have nearly 6,000 followers. I couldn't have predicted that.

I strongly recommend that authors not attempt to build an internet presence by themselves for a couple of reasons. First of all, the qualities that make you good at your craft are the very ones that make it difficult for you to sell yourself. Having someone else work on this with you helps to give everything a professional look and sound. One of the things I've done is to reserve some of the money from my books to put towards paying these people. I look upon it as an investment.

You apparently love animals as you've now written 3 books about them. Are you a pet owner that adores your pets and fawns over them or is it just another way to tell a story?
I do love animals and animals are often drawn to me. I wrote the children's book with a dog as a main character because children also tend to love animals. The other two books (Bedtime Stories for Dogs and Bedtime Stories for Cats) were an idea I had to help raise money for no-kill animal shelters. Parts of the proceeds are being donated to these shelters.

Let's go back to the first book, Conversations with the Moon. How did that collaboration get started? Why was it translated into Korean? What did you learn from writing that book to help you in your next endeavors?
I had already written two novels that had been repeatedly rejected and decided to try short stories, but I wanted the stories to be connected in some way and not just a random collection. I came up with the idea of the moon as an observer of life on earth and that's how I connected the stories. I really don't have an answer as to why it was translated into Korean other than an agent read it and sold it to a Korean publisher. I don't know how the agent got the book.

Your next book, All the dog Ever Wanted, you collaborated with your husband who is a musician. What made you decide to include music with the book? Any surprises or frustrations come about in adding the CD to the book in price or delivery?
My husband and I were talking about how to get more people interested in jazz. One of our theories is that a lot of people don't like the harmonies because they aren't introduced to them at an early age. Jazz harmonies have a very different sound compared to pop music.

I wrote the story and then the illustrations. The music was done last. The first thing we learned about adding a CD to a book is that it complicates the production and distribution. In addition, it raises the cost of producing the book. The profit margin is very low on a CD/book combination. We're not likely to do that again because it was exponentially more difficult.

Are you a musician?
As for music, I studied classical piano for about 10 years and then studied flute as well as the viola. I started the drums about 2 years ago and I'm currently the drummer for Lucky Munk (see link below). I write the lyrics for all the original tunes.

You also illustrated this book which was not computer generated. Which do you prefer - doing the illustrations or the text? Which is more frustrating?
As for the illustrations, I paint as a hobby so those weren't difficult for me. In fact, the whole book only took me about a month to write and illustrate. Given the choice, I would prefer to write text because words are my natural form of expression. Painting is my hobby and I find it relaxing.

The most frustrating part of books for me is not the creation - that's the most rewarding process. The most frustrating part is the marketing and PR. If I could afford to pay someone full time I would hire someone to do all of that part. And maybe one day my wish will be granted.

Let's move forward to your other animal stories with your current releases of bedtime stories for pets. You've written one for dogs and one for cats. How did these books come about? Did you ever consider doing illustrations for these books?
I love reading fables and mythology and got the concept for the books by thinking about how different cultures have their own versions of mythology and stories. So then I thought about animals having a mythology of their own, such as a belief on how the world was formed. Then I realized that dogs and cats would probably have their own biases (such as cats blaming dogs for evil entering the world and dogs blaming cats for the same thing but in a different way).

Yes, I did consider doing illustrations for these books but could not fit it into my schedule. Perhaps if we do a second edition at some point in the future I can add some...

You've had books done in hardback, paperback and now as e-books. Why the change to e-books? The Kindle books are priced at 99 cents which is an amazing price. How does that make you feel as an author selling at such a discounted price? Do you plan to go back to paperbacks or hardcover books?
I added eBooks because some people now prefer them over paper books. The Kindle books are priced at 99 cents at my request - these are fairly short works and I wanted them to be affordable even for people who are hurting in this economy. I want my work to be accessible.

I also know that the majority of my books being sold are print versions. While everyone is talking about this huge increase in eBook sales, I have yet to see a large demand for my books in this format. It may still be coming, though. I will probably always offer both as long as there is demand.

What is your best selling book to date?
The book of mine that has outsold all the others by a wide margin is Conversations with the Moon. It's been used in high school and college literature classes, so that probably helped with sales. I've gotten more fan mail from this book, also. The people who love it seem to really have a strong attachment to it for some reason.

What do you wish you had known earlier in writing and publishing that you know now?
I had some great success with Conversations with the Moon and I should have put out another book for the same audience within 18 months. My advice: don't wait too long between books because when people discover your writing they want more right away. It helps to build an audience if you can keep them engaged. That also means that you probably shouldn't jump into different genres. Stick to one and do it well.

What's some of the best advice you've heard about writing that you would like to pass on to others?
This answer will probably sound cliche, but the best advice I have has already been said. However, I really believe it's true.

First of all, read - especially the classics. Secondly, rewrite, revise and edit. If there is a passage to which you are particularly attached, that's usually a good sign that it needs to be deleted. Finally, writing a story (whether short story or novel) is a lot like raising children: you provide direction and guidance, but you really don't have complete control at any time. The story has a life of it's own. When you force it to go somewhere it shouldn't, you usually end up killing it.

That’s all for today’s interview. If you would like to learn more about Amy’s writing or music here are some ways to do that…

For Amy’s band click here
Amy’s Blog:
For Amy’s author page on Amazon click here
For Amy’s Goodreads Author Profile click here

Here's a link to her technology consultant's (Lisa Johnson) website if anyone would like to contact her:

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