Self Published interview with James Viser

Tell us a little bit about you, the person behind the books:

In my day job, I am a consultant to the oil and gas industry, focused on financial analysis and planning, valuation, mergers and acquisitions, investor relations and financial marketing. I do a lot of writing on behalf of my clients, but other than the occasional letter to the editor, never for myself. After spending years thinking about writing a novel, I finally did it about two years ago.

In my day job, I get to hear what business leaders and investors are thinking and saying. And, the oil and gas business is a global one, so I have to be up to speed on geopolitics, globalization and world events.

I write under a thinly disguised pen name, because I have a good job and consult with CEOs and CFOs in the energy business and some of them might not like what I have to say, even if it is in a fictional genre. My employer has been good to me and I really don’t want to jeopardize his business. Maybe when I can make a living as a full-time author I’ll come clean, but until then the pen name works well.

Please give me a description of your book(s): 

LIE MERCHANTS is an action-thriller with a unique, spiritual twist. In LIE MERCHANTS, the protagonist Tom Worth is chief of the fast-growing Colorado region of American Home, the nation’s largest fictional real estate brokerage. Tom’s played by the rules and won big time. He’s got the American Dream – big house, luxury cars and the picture perfect family. But it is all an illusion about to be shattered. A string of mortgage broker deaths leads FBI agent Susan Black to Tom, as she uncovers a massive fraud at the heart of the Wall Street credit crisis engineered to finance the boldest terrorist strike on American soil since September 11.

The plot was based on observations, research and conversations with insiders in the banking industry, private investigators (former FBI), the patriot movement, Wall Street money managers and others. LIE MERCHANTS gave me a way to tie together their different perspectives on the credit crisis, terrorist funding, Islamic extremism and the polarized political culture we live in today.  I saw a connection between these events and wanted to tell the story from a human perspective. Tom Worth was the perfect character in the right place to tie it all together.

I love works of Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Dan Brown and Tom Clancy, but I didn’t want my novel to be just like theirs. Those guys do a great job in the genre, and I wanted to do something different. I won’t give away too much, but the paranormal twists and themes make LIE MERCHANTS not what you would typically expect from an action-thriller involving drug lords, Islamic jihadists, talk radio personalities and undercover federal agents.

Why did you decide to self publish?  Or, why didn’t you go into traditional publishing?

At first, I really didn’t want to self-publish. Most of the blogs I read from traditionally published authors strongly discouraged first-time authors from going out on their own, and for good reasons. So, I followed their advice. After finishing my manuscript, I bravely went out soliciting agents for about a year. Even though I was asked for first pages, first ten chapters, etc, I chalked-up over one hundred rejections.

Now, I know that’s not very many rejections to some people, but it was enough to tell me that going the traditional route was going to take many years for me to get my novel to the bookshelves of the world. I wasn’t going to give up, but that was too long for me. After having several people read novel Lie Merchants pre-published, I made a lot of changes. I know that it isn’t as good as let’s say, a Dan Brown thriller, it isn’t complete crap either :). At that point, self-publishing was beginning to look like a more attractive option.

While I was going through the experience of approaching agents, a funny thing happened. The Kindle e-reader exploded in popularity and changed the game almost overnight for indie authors. Reinforcing the trend towards ebooks was the unfortunate demise of Borders, which means there are a lot fewer bookshelves in the world. Once I started reading about the experiences of authors like Joe Konrath in self-publishing, I knew I had to publish Lie Merchants as an ebook.

I am an entrepreneur by nature. I have been the CFO of an Internet start-up. I opened and closed my own business, too. I’ve risked a lot in my career, and learned from every failure to become better at what I do over time. So, self-publishing seemed like a natural fit. Yeah, it is a big investment of time and some money, but I am used to risking capital and energy for a payoff. Since releasing LIE MERCHANTS in November 2010, sales have continued to climb month by month. So far, the experience has been very positive and I do not regret it. I’ve met a lot of great people through the process and the indie publishing community is very supportive of each other.

How did you self publish? 

I did most of it myself. For proofreading and editing, I used friends who had an editing background. In terms of cover art, I came up with a few concepts and then hired a friend who is a graphic designer to make it more professional.

For formatting, I relied on the Smashwords style guide and followed Joe Konrath’s guidelines. Formatting for online wasn’t hard, but it was far more difficult than I thought it would be. Next ebook, I am going to hire someone to do it for me.

To convert the manuscript into the EPUB and Kindle formats, I used free software from Calibre and Mobipocket eBook Creator, respectively.

Also, self-published authors should really own their own ISBN. I know it’s a cost, but it really makes it easy to upload your works anywhere without issues. I got my ISBN from Bowker at www.myidentifiers.com.

Once I had my manuscript in the right format and my ISBN number, I uploaded it to Amazon.com’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble (Pubit!) and Smashwords.

And, I see cover art as an ever-evolving thing. I envision LIE MERCHANTS as the first book in a trilogy. I am working on the sequel, currently named MADE IN CHINA, and at that point I think I’ll have to reevaluate the cover art to make sure the covers look part of a cohesive whole.

What are some good things about self publishing?

The best thing about self publishing for me is control. I have a message to get out and I am more interested in connecting with like-minded people, rather than scoring a big advance in the short-term. I would be lying my ass off if I told you that I wouldn’t love a Big Six publisher to give me six-figure advance, but given the state of the industry and the nature of my work, I really don’t see that as a realistic outcome. Since the purpose of my writing is to get a message out by telling the story of Tom Worth, I felt that self publishing was the best avenue for getting out that message out without it being compromised. That might mean a more limited target audience, but I got a day job!

Here are some reasons why self-publishing was right for me:

  • I have a message to get out.
  • I want control over my message and brand.
  • I don’t mind the extra work to market and self-promotion, because that is fun to me.
  • I chose ebooks because they are easy and inexpensive to get to market, and apparently are becoming the preferred choice for many readers.
  • I don’t feel the emotional need to be validated by the NY literary community and the big publishing houses, but I do respect what they do. I get a thrill every time I check my sales reports on Amazon.com and B&N.

What are some bad things about it?

The lack of support and difficulty finding resources for proofreading, editing and cover art.

Fortunately, Joe Konrath has a ton of great advice and resources available on his Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and John Locke published an extremely valuable ebook on marketing for self published authors.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for those thinking about going into self publishing?

Two things come to mind immediately. First, make sure your spouse or significant other knows that writing is something you must do before you do it! I work a lot as a consultant to the oil and gas industry, but writing a novel took away even more precious time from our family. But, I couldn’t help myself, the book had to get out of me. My wife was good about bringing me back into balance, but I know it was tough for her.

Second, make certain you are self publishing for the right reasons. For me, it was the best way to go and it fit my personality. Other writers might find the constant self promotion, marketing and focus on the numbers spectacularly frustrating!

Yeah, self publishing is a big investment of time and some money, but I am used to risking capital and energy for a payoff. Let’s put it this way, if I hadn’t have self published LIE MERCHANTS I would still be on the outside looking in at all the other self published authors wondering why I didn’t do the same thing. Now, I’ve got skin in the game, motivation to keep writing and an outlet for developing a long-term fan base.

Link Time!

Lie Merchants:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004C44GMS

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/JamesViser

Blog:  www.jviser.blogspot.com

Book Website:  http://www.liemerchants.com

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