I recently had the opportunity to get to know a really cool self-published author, Tom Raimbault. His recent novel, The Tree Goddess, is a macabre tale set in the fictional town of Mapleview. Tom has graciously agreed to spend some time on my blog today.
JLR: With advancements in technology, self-publishing novels has gotten a million times easier and more affordable. What made you decide to self-publish, and how has that process been working for you?
TR: Initially, The Tree Goddess was my first writing project that I had considered publishing (before taking time off from the project to develop my style in my first actual published book, Freaked out Horror). Note: Freaked out Horror has been temporarily unpublished for additional material to be added, and will be re-released in the spring of 2011. I did some research during this time and learned that before even writing a novel, one must first create a pitch letter to an agent and hope that he or she is interested in your proposed work. If an agent is interested, the author next creates an outline of the work so the agent can suggest or improve things. Only after these things are done, should an author begin the writing project.
What fun is that? I had this great story that was already in the works and I just knew there would be people who would enjoy it. We live in the 21st century, and there are many options available for self-publishing, giving total freedom for authors to write whatever they wish.
Instead, I developed my macabre style of writing in Freaked out Horror, self published it on Amazon and the various ebook sources and then perfected The Tree Goddess to do the same. Had I not gone this route, neither book would have been published. Although entertaining and enjoyed by people who have read both books, the material of both is “way out there” and includes some morbid undertones with dark humor. An agent or publishing company would never see this as marketable.
I am very glad I went the self-publishing route.
JLR: How have you been able to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) in your marketing plan? Do you have any advice for new authors looking to promote themselves on these sites?
TR: From what I’ve read, social networking is about to play, and already does play, a key role in marketing for the publishing industry. But I wasn’t so ready to understand and accept this early in the process. Having spent some time in residential real estate sales, I felt that I fully understood marketing and believed that exposure and price were the best ingredients to selling material. After some months, however, I noticed how successful authors were utilizing these social media tools. I’m not sure, exactly, how it works; but I do see my blog traffic increasing along with a slight increase in book sales. But I still have some ways to go before being considered successful.
JLR: So much of book promotion today is done through blog tours. Tell us about your blog touring experience.
TR: By blog tour, I assume you to mean featuring other authors on my own blog and vice versa. This is a highly successful strategy that any author should use. Again, I didn’t understand this early in the process; but I eventually featured other authors’ stories on my blog. Recently, I have found myself appearing on a few other blogs—mostly people who review books. This has gotten me plenty of exposure, and I’m thankful! In return, I mention people who review my works in the daily introductions of short stories. Over the weekend, I added pages to my blog, one which features blogs from other writers and critics. You’ll see I have a small list: Misty Baker (KindleObsessed), Haley Sale (My Love of Reading); even you, Jesi Lea Ryan.
I also have a few writers and poets such as Kipp Poe Speicher (Closing my Eyes Helps me to See Clearly) He makes some incredible short stories. Be sure to check him out and the rest of them.
But I need more! I’m sure more will be added throughout this year as I encounter more people and am touched by their writings.
Aside from that, I began the practice of featuring short stories from other authors. I’ve had Kipp Poe Speicher, Ian Woodhead; Monday I will feature your short story, Delia Boobelia. The whole purpose of my blog and site is to give short stories to readers; many of which originate from me, but includes other writers’ works.
It’s all about networking! I’m learning.
JLR: Whether self-published or not, the vast majority of promotion and marketing falls on the author. What things are you doing to promote your work?
TR: Outside of learning how to use social sites as tools and do blog tours, I still believe that maximum exposure of writings is a key ingredient. Smashwords has made possible for my works to appear in many online catalogs.
Another important item for any self-published author; there needs to be plenty of free stories (possibly a novella or novel) for people to download. I am sure to use my own blog as a publishing source for my many short stories. Some of the really good ones end up on the online catalogs such as Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, etc.
JLR: There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process. What type of writing routine do you have? Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer? Any tips you want to share?
TR: For me, a writing will always begin with a ridiculous scene played out in my imagination along with crazy laughter. From there, a story is built around this scene. I ask myself, “How did this happen? What events led up to this moment of madness, and what was the outcome?” I guess, in a way, I map out a story or novel with this technique.
From there, I open up the notepad on my laptop and just start writing. After I complete a chapter, I copy and paste it over to word where it is heavily revised and improved. Once the entire novel is complete, I read it over a few times, making adjustments until the story has some sense of “equilibrium”.
For my upcoming novel, Amber, I might let the story age for some months after its completion before returning to it and adding more—perhaps another layer to the story to add further dimension.
JLR: Personal blogs and websites almost seem like a requirement for authors these days; yet, they are time consuming to keep updated and don’t bring in any direct revenue. How important do you feel a personal blog or website is, and how much time do you spend on these projects? What are the benefits that you have seen?
TR: A blog and website is a very, important tool for an author. Recently, I read that many authors neglect to see the potential of their blog as a publishing tool. For some reason, authors use it as only a way to advertise their works. Stories, essays, poetry: even if they are only initial drafts, these could be published daily to a blog and can build up a fan base that might eventually purchase an author’s novels or stories. I’ve actually tracked the activity on my blog and drew correlations to stories that were purchased at the online catalogs.
Time consuming? Yes, they are! But just like everything else, a blog and site must be maintained by an author!
JLR: Setting goes a long way toward establishing the feel of the book. What made you to decide to set your story in Mapleview?
TR: The Tree Goddess began in my mind with the main character, Mary, in a horrific scene. While developing the story, I imagined her living in an elegant, historic house. But for some reason, the house was embedded in a deeply forested area. Where I live, a 20 minute drive can bring me to heavily-wooded forest preserves. I’ve spent much time out in these woods and have driven the roads that cut and wind through the arborous world.
In my imagination, I’ve placed an entire town along this area called Mapleview. I’m not sure how I thought of the name, it just sounded charming to me.
JLR: World-building requires the author to do a lot of planning and inventing. Can you tell us a little about your world and your process for creating it?
TR: This is cool! One time, I actually created a map of the fictional town of Mapleview. Check it out: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B-8YHolwI4IhNTIzNmNmZDQtMTM4MS00N2VkLWI5M2ItMWNlNjMzNTQ0NGNj&hl=en
I briefly describe the town of Mapleview in a blog posting that included this map. http://talkaboutafterhours.blogspot.com/2010/07/minor-setback-for-tree-goddess.html
Ignore the discussion about the minor setback to The Tree Goddess. All issues have been resolved. The remainder of the blog posting discusses the various mysteries and horrors to expect while reading the novel.
JLR: Have you ever been worried that you might be going too far in your sex-scenes and might alienate readers? Does anticipating reader reaction ever cause you to censor yourself?
TR: The Mapleview novels (The Tree Goddess, upcoming Amber and beyond) do not contain graphic sex scenes. Of course sex is normal part of love and human nature. These things do happen, but they are described from a distance, maybe implied to leave the scene open to reader imagination. The Mapleview novels are macabre; and I wish not to shock the reader with scenes of graphic sex, gore or violence. It’s pure, classic macabre that I wish to embrace.
I do write erotica short stories. If a reader cares not to be exposed to sex, then don’t read erotica.
JLR: I’ve always felt that to be a good writer you must first be a good reader. What types of books do you read and how have they influenced your writing?
TR: Currently, I have a large book by Edgar Allan Poe sitting on my side table in the family room. I like to read his material over a couple glasses of wine at night. I also enjoy the works of Lovecraft.
JLR: Do you feel it’s necessary to read a lot in order to be a good writer? Why?
TR: Reading certainly is important if one wishes to write. If a writer never reads, how does he or she know how to effectively present a story? But I’ve always believed not to read too much! When writing, one must be careful not to be influenced by another author’s material.
JLR: They say good reading habits are developed at an early age. Have you always been a reader? Can you pin-point a particular book or author who solidified your love of reading?
TR: Truthfully, I didn’t read much when I was younger. I know that sounds horrible and might lead one to wonder how well of a writer I can be today. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, loves reading, even demanded a Kindle for Christmas. Yes, Santa brought one for her and she enjoys it.
My older daughter takes more after me. She reads… when she has to. Interesting thing: her teacher let us know how much she enjoys our daughter’s writings, mentioning that my older daughter can create elaborate scenes and interesting plots.
JLR: In the past year or two, e-publishing has soared in popularity. What made you decide to publish in e-book format? Do you worry that you won’t achieve as much success as you might in traditional print?
TR: Originally, I published to Amazon with the purpose of selling paperbacks. Ebooks were a second thought. The very fact that e-publishing has soared in the past couple years was the reason why I published to Kindle and Smashwords. Interesting thing: I have only sold one paperback! Everything else has been sold as an ebook.
JLR: There has been a lot of talk this year about traditional print books giving way to e-books. For example, publishing powerhouse, Dorchester, announced a few months ago that they were getting out of the mass market paperback market altogether in favor of e-publishing. What affect for you think this will have on authors and readers going forward?
TR: Considering that such a small portion of the world’s population is technology literate (people living in urban areas), I think it’s a big mistake to abandon publishing paperbacks all together. I’ve been to places in America where people have no idea what a USB drive is, or what to do when seated before a computer. These are normal, functioning, educated adults in society who simply have a life different from those who use e-readers.
Aside from that, since my first published book in autumn of 2009, I have only seen 2 people out in public reading from an e-reader. On vacations, in waiting rooms, at work, on trains and anywhere else one might expect to see someone read, I have seen people read paperbacks.
Does this hold true for 10 to 20 years into the future? That remains to be seen.
JLR: How long have you been writing, and when did you decide that you wanted to write for publication?
TR: As written in my author biography, “Tom began to produce weird writings back in 2000 while working the graveyard shift. The nightly edits were emailed to a small collection of coworkers who looked forward to something unusual to keep them awake or humored.
This practice was ended when he was moved to a different shift. Sadly, his enjoyment of writing was forgotten for several years, until the autumn of 2007, when old friends received a “blast from the past” email with the recognizable words, “Hello All”. The strange writings and short stories had resumed and a personal website was soon to follow.
In autumn of 2009, Tom published his first book, Freaked out Horror (a collection of short stories). The work has been temporarily unpublished and will be re-released in 2011 with many additions, revisions and improvements.”
JLR: Tell us a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up? What was your family like? Has your childhood influenced your writing?
TR: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. My family was just like any other, and I’m sure some things experienced as a child has ended up in my writings in one way or another.
JLR: What other works have you published?
TR: Here is my catalog of books written: http://talkaboutafterhours.blogspot.com/p/books.html The upcoming novel, Amber, will soon be added to this list.
Here is my short story catalog of premium material that can be downloaded at the online catalogs: http://talkaboutafterhours.blogspot.com/p/short-stories.html
And be sure to visit my blog! I’ve written many short stories that remain on my blog, never to be published to a catalog: http://talkaboutafterhours.blogspot.com/
JLR: If you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
TR: I would tell myself to read more, discover horror and begin writing.
JLR: Many writers draw inspiration from music. Do you listen to music when you write? What music inspired The Tree Goddess?
TR: This is an interesting question. Yes, I like to listen to the music of Steve Roach while writing. If I could, I would make A Darker Light the theme song to The Tree Goddess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YY_0FsVVcU
JLR: What are three things that your fans would be surprised to find out about you?
TR: I prefer not to watch modern-day horror movies. I don’t drink coffee. In recent years, I have dramatically cut back on my consumption of sugar.
JLR: What are you writing now since The Tree Goddess has been released?
TR: Currently I am writing Amber. I would like to think of it as a sequel to The Tree Goddess, and many of the original characters from The Tree Goddess will appear in Amber. But I don’t believe it can truly qualify as a sequel as it doesn’t attempt to resolve any open issues from the original novel. If anything, it can be considered further stories of Mapleview.
Something else I’ve learned while writing Amber: The Tree Goddess is a novel of mystery and macabre. However, Amber is turning out to be somewhat of a romance novel… A novel of twisted romances along with a bizarre crime of passion.
JLR: Aside from The Tree Goddess, what other titles do you have available and where can readers go to find them?
TR: I’ve mentioned my catalogs in some questions above. But I would like to remind readers that Freaked out Horror: http://tomraimbaultbooks.blogspot.com/2010/09/freaked-out-horror-re-release.html. Will be re-released some time before Easter of this year.