Today’s featured debut author is D.M. Anderson whose YA/Sci-Fi novel, Killer Cows, is published by Echelon Press.
Name: D.M. Anderson
Name of book: Killer Cows
Book genre: Young adult sci-fi
Date Published: ebook: 3/10; paperback: 6/10
Publisher: Quake/Echelon Press
What is your day job? By day, I’m a middle school Language Arts Teacher, which I’ve been doing for 15 years. By night, I drive around in a van with my dog solving mysteries.
What is your book about? Killer Cows is about a 14-year-old misfit kid who, through some unusual circumstances, ends up in possession of a flying saucer built by aliens. Later, he’s forced to use this ship to try and save Earth from invasion of some nasty space cows from another world. The book is also about this kid’s efforts to fit-in at his new school and how he learns to think beyond the image he thinks he must portray to others. It’s a pretty funny story, inspired by my love of books by guys like Jerry Spinelli and cheesy sci-fi B movies.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Before I finished my first novel, I would have said completing the thing. I’ve started more novels then I’d care to count, but never followed through. But now that I’ve got one under my belt, I’d have to say revising is the most challenging. It’s one thing to finally reach your goal of completing a book, but going back and reworking it, eliminating unnecessary passages, rewording others so they flow better, is long and laborious, especially once a publisher’s editor gets involved. Rereading your work over and over with a critical eye is not a lot of fun. I must have revised Killer Cows eight times before it was finally done, and even after it was published, I found parts I wished I’d have done differently.
What motivates you to write? First, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s like reading a story or watching a movie, except that I get to decide what happens next. And since becoming a middle teacher, I get a lot of inspiration from my students. I base a lot of my characters on students I’ve known in class.
Did you experience writer’s block? Of course. I think almost everyone does, especially on novel-length stories. Writer’s block is what used to keep me from finishing all the other novels I started. What I do now is not let writer’s block keep me from writing anything at all. I sometimes take a break from one project and work on another one for awhile, maybe a short story or my blog or another novel. For me anyway, the key is to always be writing, because it takes a lot of discipline, especially on those days I don’t feel like doing it. If I only waited until inspiration hit me, I’d never get anything done.
How long did it take you to write this book? The initial draft took about nine months, writing a couple of hours each day. I probably could have done it quicker, but I do have a day job and a family who likes me around, not on the computer all night. Afterwards, I spent maybe another three months, by myself and with an editor, making edits and revisions. So about a year.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That getting a book published is easy. It’s hard bloody work, maybe harder than the writing itself. I’ve been surprised at the number of people who think it’s always the authors themselves who publish their own books. Yeah, some go that route, but most authors spend months and years mailing queries and manuscripts to countless agents and publishers, and there are thousands of other writers simultaneously trying to do the same exact thing. Even so, I’ve met quite a few would-be authors who assume because they wrote a book that it’s automatically going to be published by the first editor they submitted it to, and they’re going to be rich.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? For me, the first draft. I didn’t outline it completely before starting, just the first three or four chapters, some major plot points, the main characters and the setting. What made it enjoyable was even I wasn’t sure how everything was going to turn out at the end. Even as a writer, it’s kind of fun not being sure what’s going to happen in the next chapter until you get there.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I think the big challenge for new authors is to make their potential audience aware their book even exists. The book publisher helps, of course, but new writers are primarily the ones responsible for promoting themselves. I do a lot of promotion online, through Twitter, Facebook, my blog, etc. I send copies of the novel to anyone willing to review it on their websites. I also try to arrange book-signings at local bookstores, which isn’t easy. I’ve queried local libraries and independent bookstores, asking them if they stock the book on their shelves. It’s a lot of time-consuming work, and often very boring and frustrating, especially when you do not receive any response. Querying bookstores is almost like the submission process all over again. As for advice, I would definitely tell writers not to underestimate the power of Twitter. Tweeting seems like such an insignificant activity, but I’ve reached more book reviewers and potential readers than any other online medium so far. Focus on the independent bookstores, and definitely try to contact schools and public libraries. Make fliers, bookmarks, anything with your book’s title on it, and place them everywhere you can. Finally, try to seek advice from other authors and see what they’ve done to promote their books.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Yeah, I would agree with that. Preparation is huge, especially during the submission process. It took a lot of research to decide which publishers or agents I should submit to. Not all places are looking for the same types of books. Even after publication, finding opportunities to promote the book is vital for any kind of success, something I’m still learning right now.