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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tips for Generating Book Sales : Author Interview with Seth Kaufman

Your bio states you’ve been a reporter and an editorial director for different online services. How did you get involved in this type of online writing?
I was in the right place at the right time: New York, 1994 - - the web was just starting to explode.  I had been a news and gossip reporter for the New York Post, I was (relatively) young, and “new media” was still really new. I got in and gradually morphed into the eCommerce side of things.  But I still love my morning newspapers.  And I think they will be around for a while longer.

News writing is so much different than writing a novel. What made you decide to take a walk on the novel side? 
I think a large percentage of journalists are wannabe “novelists” who have bills to pay.  I always wanted to be a fiction writer, as opposed to a journalist. I actually published fiction in a national magazine (Sassy) before becoming a full-time reporter, but somehow that didn’t lead to untold riches.

You’ve written a novel, called The King of Pain and say it is a novel of with stories. How did you come up with that concept?
This is book about a successful TV producer waking up trapped in his own house under his home entertainment system, with 48 hours until his maid is due back at work.  There’s one book within reach – A History of Prisons, which was given to him by an old crush --so he reads it to pass the time. I thought it would be fun to have a book-within-a-book. And it fun to read a book about a guy reading a book: he’s doing the same thing you are: wondering about the author, thinking critically, wondering where the ideas for the stories came from. So that was part of the idea.

The other part was that my grandfather was a political prisoner in Poland between the world wars. He spent 8 years in jail, and he told me a number of very moving stories, two of which made it into this book. And so the idea of an imprisoned man reading about other prisoners also seems interesting. And a launching point for some dark comedy.

How long did it take you to write the book? How many rewrites did you do on it? I had the initial idea, or image for the book, years ago: A man trapped under his enormous home entertainment system reading a book called A History of Prisons. But I wasn’t sure who he was or how he got there.  When it all came together in my head, it took about year to write the first draft. I did about 2 more drafts after that.

Since you’ve been an editor, how hard was it to self-edit? 
I’m the worst copy editor. So I paid a professional copy editor to go over it. (And typos still got in.)

Have other books been started and stopped along the way? 
I wrote a novel when I as 27 but never really did anything with it. I also have two screenplays waiting to be transformed into novels.

Your second book, If You Give an Architect a Contract, is a picture book. How did this book come about?
I live in Brooklyn, N.Y. which is something of a boom town. People are always moving into houses and renovating. And they are always trading horror stories. Yours truly, included. So one day, when our renovation was over and I continued to hear more and more stories, I thought it would be funny to write a book about the process of buying a house, and then losing control over the process.

How did you find an illustrator?
I found the illustrator, Laura Lee Pedersen in a great neighborhood bar call the Way Station, which has live music and a Dr. Who "Tardis" for a bathroom. Laura Lee had just quit her job and told me she wanted to be a cartoonist. I pitched her the book, and she said yes. She did a great job. The pictures are funnier than the words in many cases.

Did you try the normal route and try to find a traditional publisher to handle your book? When did you decide to self-publish? 
I did for both of them. I have an agent. We got tons of “love this book,” can’t get it through. Then after one editor confessed that he submitted the book and had it been rejected by the sales team, we decided to self publish.

How do you write -- outline first or individual character development before doing the full plot?
I write in a notebook on the subway going to and from work. That gives me about an hour of straight writing  Then I type it up as soon as I can, which is sort of like a re-write. I plan nothing beyond the broad strokes and then I try to work in a straight line, but if I hit a wall, I just move on.

What type of publicity has worked best for you in generating sales?
I spent money on web display ads. They did nothing.

The things that worked were: getting some positive write-ups in the media. This helps make your book appear “legitimate” (which it is!).  We sent the book to any or all little blogs we could that reviewed self-published fiction. We even sent the book to the S&M review because the book is about torture. They loved it! So find the right niches for your books.

Getting the book in Barnes and Noble Nook First program, which they do for novels they like. They promoted it for a month and that was great.

Writing pitches to journalists. I had been reading the NY Times TV critic and thought he might like my book. So I emailed him and, lo and behold, he did like my book and he wrote a great article about it. And I sold a bunch of copies.

I did the same thing with my Architect book: pitched the editor of the NY Times Home section. She also wrote a nice little piece.

Send emails to everyone you’ve ever met.

What do you wish you had known sooner about writing/publishing?
For visual books, don’t spend much time or money on eBooks. The market isn’t there yet.  For novels, be more selective about sending out physical copies. Self-published books do not get very much respect or ink even if you publish physical copies.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
My dad, who was a long-time journalist, told me to write it like you talk it. That has been helpful. The other advice I have is just do it. And then do it again. And, then, finally, always say thank you to those who support you.

Thank you very much, Chris. You have a very interesting and noble blog.  I appreciate it very much.

Thanks, Seth for your insight! If you would like to know more about his novel,The King of Pain click here 
Or if the book,  If Your Give an Architect a Contract, is more to your liking, here's the link

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