Friday, 12 December 2014

Author Interview: Tom Early

Tom Early, author of Aspect of Winter. Self-published using Amazon’s Kindle Direct publishing service.

Here's a brand new fantasy novel for young adults with a gay protagonist - a genre which is increasingly more popular!

It’s hard enough just being gay in high school even as a senior, but Feayr (Fay) must also deal with hiding the magic of winter that he possesses. His best friend Sam (Samantha) is his only confidant, and every day that he has to pretend to be normal pushes him closer to the edge.

When Janus University, a college for teenagers with magical capabilities, discovers the pair and sends a student to test them, Fay and Sam, along with their classmate Tyler, have to quickly adapt to a far more dangerous world than they're used to. The three friends have to survive misguided summoning attempts, ancient holidays better left forgotten, and even a first date, all while preparing for the Trials, the University’s deadly acceptance process. As they do their best to come out ahead, the trio experiences firsthand just how wonderful and terrible a world with magic can be.


How long did it take you to write Aspect of Winter?

It took me about a month and a half to write the first, core draft of Aspect. I It wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t the sort of thing you’d show to anyone. It took me another five months of editing almost six hours every day to get it to a publishable level. So about six months in total, though decidedly not an easy six months. I lost a lot of sleep, to say the least.

Where did you get the inspiration from?

In part, simply because I wanted to write that kind of story. There aren’t enough YA fantasy stories out there that feature queer protagonists. And that’s depressing, because there are thousands of queer teens looking for books like that to read and giving up disappointed. I was one of them, and I want to help change that.

What is your favourite book/ author?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. He’s an amazingly talented writer and world-builder. The world of Kvothe felt real as I followed his every step.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

It wasn’t so much a realization as it was a process of self-discovery. I found that I liked to write, and over time I found that I specifically like to write fiction as much as I enjoyed reading it. It took a while for me to put two and two together and figure out that being an author was the path for me.

What did you do to prepare your novel for publication?

I sent it through editing, endlessly! I didn’t have the money for a copyeditor, so I went for the next best thing: mass editing by over fifty different individuals on Figment, each pouring their opinions over all of the chapters. I also asked a close friend of mine for help with the cover, and spent a long time consulting A.P.E. by Guy Kawasaki, a reference guide for self-publishers.

What was the hardest part?

Believing a section of the book was about as good as it was going to get, only to get it torn apart by a new reviewer. It happened often, but the end result was a book that was much better off for it.

Did anything surprise you?

I didn’t know just how many people have stories they want published someday! There are a lot of us.

Are you glad you went through with it?

I definitely am. Aspect of Winter is my first novel, and I’m proud of it. It won’t ever sell as well as a book published through the normal method, but I’m not sure I want that for it. I just wanted to share a story, and as it turns out, people like it.

What would you do differently next time?

If I had the desire, I would put my novel through the traditional querying process, and hope that an agent or publisher decides to give it a chance. But I’m not sure all stories are suited for that.

Eventually, I will put something I write through the traditional querying process. If I rewrote Aspect, came back to it after getting more experience, I'd consider seriously querying for it as well. I actually did query a few times, but it didn't take long for me to realize that wasn't what I wanted for it. I'm happy with self-publishing for Aspect, but I would be open to traditional publishing for later works.

Why didn’t you want to use the traditional publishing method?

I like Aspect of Winter. I think it's good, possibly better than some properly published books out there (I've read some truly awful ones, so that's not saying much).

That said, it's also my first novel. I'm proud of it, but it isn't my best work. If everything goes right, it will be the worst thing I've ever written. I intend to make a debut in the traditional world someday, but I want to do that with something that isn't my first attempt. But that's only half of the reason. The other half is that Aspect of Winter is mine. Publishing usually means that at least in a few areas the author has to bow to the will of the editor for what will sell. I'm not sure Aspect is the sort of book that has the potential to sell to the mass-market. I think it's good, yes, but not necessarily mainstream.

Would you consider pitching your work to an independent publishers?

Possibly. But beyond saving up for a copyeditor, I'm pretty much done with it. Selling Aspect of Winter hasn't been my main goal either. I haven't advertised for it. It's just... somehow generated its own small audience. I suppose if I wanted to bring it to a higher level after copyediting it, I'd consider that. If they're vanity publishers, however, I doubt it. I'm not a big fan of any publishing group that requires the author to pay them.

What is the biggest attraction of self-publishing to you?

Writing something that's my own. That people are buying Aspect of Winter is a really nice surprise for me every morning. I wrote it mainly because I wanted to see if I could write, could revise, could be an author. It didn't really occur to me that I could sell at any level as well! As it turns out, I can. And that's a really nice thing to know.

What is your best piece of advice?

Don’t give up. Keep writing while you’re crafting the story, and make sure you have a thick skin once it comes time for editing and reviewing. Be prepared to have your story torn apart and slowly put back together again multiple times, and be prepared to be so very proud of the final result. It’s worth it.

Who would you recommend it to, and who would you deter from self-publishing?

If you understand that self-publishing isn’t a path made for those who want to do less work, then give it a shot. But if you think that you can pass over editing, passing over that compiling of feedback and endlessly reworking, and just because you’re not getting published the traditional way, then stay away from self-publishing. The point is to put out a book that’s just as good as one that’s been normally published, not to be lazy.

Why did you choose Kindle Direct Publishing? How would you rate it?

So as for why I went with Kindle Direct Publishing, it was because it was free and easy to make use of. Converting the file to a .mobi was straightforward, and I was actually able to use the technology (which is something of a feat for me). About 24 hours after I uploaded the files, Aspect was up on the Kindle store, and soon after that people started buying. I didn't have to advertise for my book either; Amazon's nifty little "other people who bought this book also bought this book" seems to generate an audience for me without any effort on my part.

The downside to using KDP is that you have little control over the pricing of your book as far as royalties go. If you price your book below $2.99 (or the equivalent in other currencies), you only get a 30% royalty. If you price it above $2.99, you get a 70% royalty but run the risk of the price scaring readers away, especially since you're a self-published author with no reputation to speak of.

I am also enrolled in KDP Select, which has its ups and downs as well. The downside is clear: if you enroll, the only ebook version of your book that can be sold is Amazon's. You can't have it listed up for sale on any other websites, which cuts down on sales some. In return, however, your book is listed in Amazon's Select bookshelf for promotional use, lending purchase, and other gimmicks for you to make use of. I'm able to create sales and free book promotions for five days out of each quarter for Aspect, and these events definitely bring people in. So it's a matter of choice, really. Spread your book far and wide and create promotions and the like for yourself, or give it to Amazon and have the tools to do so handed to you.


Author Profile

Tom Early can be followed on Goodreads and ASPECT OF WINTER can be purchased from Amazon. Also, check out his blog: