Red heard the kettle and grabbed it and a tray of orange-cranberry scones. She knew from the gaggle of boys in the M3 Coffee Shoppe Ben Woodard was about. She wanted to nail him down about the jump from shorts to novels, the rigors of publishing and marketing via Twitter.
M3: There are some new M3 Readers since the last time you were here, Ben. Give the crowd the press release version of who you are.
BW: A spellbinding storyteller of high adventure, Ben has walked the Great Wall of China, hiked in Tibet, and climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest. His Shakertown stories sprang from family tales about growing up in the small town. Tales of lost gold and river caves, and sorrow.
M3: Your adventures appeal to a broad audience, and this book was a different kind of adventure for you. What was different about the process this time?
BW: A ton more work. My previous books were short stories with the longest being around 7,500 words. This is a full, but short, novel of 35,000 words. Five times as much work, and this time I hired a cover designer, an editor, and a proofreader. Plus, I had beta readers and other volunteers critiquing the manuscript. My wife and I have printed it and read it at least five times. Wow, I got a real appreciation for the work that publishing houses do for their authors.
M3: You know it tickles me to no end to hear people say they “print it”. Beta readers are imperative. They are getting a workout with all the YA novels hitting the presses this holiday. What makes A Stairway to Danger different?
BW: I’d like to think it is quite a bit different from the usual YA. It’s aimed at boys although it has a strong girl character, and the interactions between the two boy cousins is something I’m excited about. I’ve gotten good feedback from readers that say it’s an honest representation of teen boys. Also, the story is set in the twenties and is realistic and historical fiction. Not many of those out there in the YA world. I’m anxious to see what the market thinks.
M3: You are reaching a market far less tapped with the combination of YA and historical fiction. How much has the market pressure increased in boy fiction?
BW: Some, but not nearly enough. I wish there were gobs of books for boys out there. We have a few big names like Kinney, Riordan and Patterson, but I believe we need more mid-list boy books. I understand why we don’t have them since the demand is small and editors aren’t eager to snap them up. I hope a lot more writers, both men and women, will write more boy friendly books. And these books can be about girls, they just need to be written from the prospective of a boy. Maybe more indie writers will give it a try.
M3: I am beginning to see a few, but I agree editors are bats for not picking them up. You have been busy putting plenty out there this year. Are you planning on taking a break now?
BW: I will. I plan to take a couple of weeks off from writing and editing. But I feel like I have to keep up the marketing and social networking. When you are a one person operation, you must keep your name out there and no one else can do it. With a new book in the wild, I have to keep promoting. However, my wife has threatened me with bodily harm if I work around Christmas when we’ll have all six grandkids visiting. I expect to comply.
M3: My guess is keeping her happy should be beneficial regardless of the holidays. (Grins) What is the next thing you have in the WIP folder?
BW: The next book in the series. It’s tentatively titled “Steps Into Darkness”. The rough draft is done, but the editing is the hardest for me. My plan is to have the edits done by the end of March and have two or three months to plan the release. I didn’t do that with A Stairway To Danger, and I suspect that will hurt my launch sales. I also hope to squeeze in a short story during that time. Either one from the eagle story or one about the Shakertown boys.
M3: Series have pitfalls and advantages. What made this one easier to write, and do you have any advice to give authors who plan to write in series?
BW: The next book is much easier. Mostly because you now know your characters. For me, they have become close friends. I don’t always know what they are going to do, but as long as they don’t get too much out of character, I let them go. I’ve tried to write back story for all the characters, even the minor ones, so I sorta understand them. The writers out there will identify with this, but any non-writers reading this will think I live in a dream world. They’re right.
M3: Back story, especially unreleased back story, makes your characters deeper and helps you keep track of details later. Let’s talk pre-release. You sent me a press release for A Stairway to Danger. What other avenues did you use with your press release?
BW: I haven’t done anything with my press release. While my background is marketing, I never worked with press releases. I know they are important, but I’m not sure how to start. Maybe your readers can give me some advice.
M3: You need to be reading the spotlights about Christine Nolfi and Dr. Theodore Homa. Both of them have had good advice about press releases. Another pre-release strategy getting a lot of press these days is the pre-release review. What is your opinion of pre-release reviews?
BW: It’s a great idea, and I wish I’d done it. Having ten to twenty reviews at launch day has to help get your book more sales. Amazon’s bots apparently like seeing more reviews and, of course, readers feel more comfortable buying a book with reviews. However, it’s important that the reviews not be only glowing praise from family and friends. Reviews from well known blogs and highly ranked Amazon reviewers can really make a difference. This takes time and is another reason to plan your marketing well in advance.
M3: That is true. Independent reviews are an absolute necessity. You ran The Boy Who Flew With Eagles through KDP Select. What was your experience?
BW: I used KDP Select with The Boy Who Flew With Eagles starting in February of this year. I had over 7,000 downloads and a decent number of sales. Since then, each free period has gotten progressively worse. The last one in August, I barely sold twenty copies. I’ve heard several reasons for the decrease, and apparently most Select users are seeing it, and the most logical reason seems to be that there are now tens of thousands of free books. The competition is fierce. Is it still worthwhile? Maybe. I’ll probably try it with A Stairway to Danger next year. If nothing else, it does get the author some visibility.
M3: Since you are travelling a similar path, will there be any changes to your marketing strategy for this book?
BW: Sure, this is a different book then The Boy Who Flew With Eagles. Not only longer, but for older kids and with a bit of language and some violence. The first is a gentle book, this one is more gritty with teenage angst and anger. So it has to be treated different. I’ll be approaching the YA blogs and looking for boy specific websites. And, since I hope this one will have a greater market appeal, I’ll do a lot more social networking promotion.
M3: Which social media outlet do you use most, and how do you capitalize on it?
BW: Twitter. I think that for writers picking one media and concentrating on it is the way to go. I studied them all and decided on Twitter. It seemed to offer the opportunity to interact with writers who had huge followings. And that’s what has happened. Several writers mentored me and gave me pointers on how to build a following. These are folks I’ve never met except through Twitter. Amazingly, they were willing to help me get started, and I’ve tried to pass it on. Because of the support I get, I have almost 6,000 followers, and my tweets often get over 200,000 impressions.
M3: You sound like me and Facebook. Wrap it up for us, Ben. In fifteen words or less, why should the M3 Readers by A Stairway to Danger?
BW: A dead deputy, a ramshackle barge, and a savage man mean excitement for boys.
M3: Have a restful holiday with your family, and we will see you in the spring.
Dearest M3 Readers,
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