Dean Fetzer: Author of The Jaared Sen Quartet

Hi Dean Feltzer!  Thanks for taking the time to swing by and talk to us.  Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you, the person behind the books:

Hmm… where to start. I’m originally from a small town in eastern Colorado (the flat bit) but I’ve lived in London for the best part of 20 years now. I studied Architecture at the University of Colorado in the ‘80s but spent a lot of time in the Art department, the Music building and basically doing technical support for theatre and opera productions. When I graduated, I got to accompany a theatre company to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the “Fringe Festival” [ link to  http://www.edfringe.com/ ] as their lighting designer and tech. As I was done with Uni, I stayed in Edinburgh for the best part of the next year. I ended up in Washington, D.C. with my former theatre companions who’d set up a company called Consenting Adults there. So I did the usual theatre thing, and worked during the day and did theatre at night. To cut this long story short, we went back to the Edinburgh Festival and I met a girl, moved to London, got married and went to work for British Telecommunications as a graphic designer. Met a good friend at BT and we set up fancyapint.com, a pub review website. We’ve been doing that for over a decade now and it’s allowed us to do our own things – like writing!

 

Let’s hear about your books!

I’ve written two near-future thrillers so far (and am currently working on the third) following a blind detective called Jaared Sen. Death in Amber, centres around the hunt for the Amber Room, stolen by the Nazis during WWII; Death After Midnight turns into a treasure hunt in southern France. They’re both part of The Jaared Sen Quartet, which, as you might guess is going to be four books. The third one, Book of the Dead should be out later this year.

 

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

Well, to be honest, I’ve done the traditional publishing route with two books tied to the fancyapint.com website – Fancyapint? in London. While the experience is familiar from my print design days, it was a bit of an eye-opener in terms of what a traditional publisher does or doesn’t do. From our point of view (which has been borne out by a lot of reading I’ve done since then), they printed both books and then went off and did something else. We’ve done most of the promotion for the book in terms of using the website and our position as London’s best pub review site and we did manage to sell out the first edition (I’ve no idea about the second, just now).

What I realized was: we have to do the promo work anyway. And when it came to my own work, I’ve had rejections – every author collects them, I think. Then Lulu came along. It quickly became clear that I could do it myself and get the book out there. So I did.

 

Was self publishing a better fit for you? 

The process is a very difficult one the first time – and takes some experimentation. I also can’t recommend that everyone lays out their own book. I have a background in print design and spent a lot of time looking at books to see what made the designs work. I borrowed from a few of my favourites in terms of style and presentation and I think they’ve both worked pretty well. It’s a painstaking process when the book can easily run to three or four hundred pages. The most crucial part for me as a writer is ensuring I’ve got enough word count in each chapter (I tend to write some short chapters to keep the pace up) so that I don’t end up with one page chapters!

I now have an editor who goes through it to point out issues/plot problems, confusing parts as well as correcting my commas and grammar. The best piece of advice I had was to get an editor — it’s impossible for me to edit my own work as I always miss something. And I’d say it’s the single most important thing for any indie publisher; it’s reason indie publishers get bashed all the time as being ‘crap’ (and one of my pet hates, too when I buy an unedited book or ebook – I stop reading them if it gets too painful). Piece of advice for aspiring self-publishers: GET AN EDITOR!

And while I designed my first cover, I paid someone to do it last time. It was partly a matter of logistics and I think I’m too close to the material to be objective about it. Getting the outside perspective is always a good thing. Second bit of advice: USE A DESIGNER FOR YOUR BOOK – AND DON’T DESIGN THE COVER YOURSELF OR USE GENERIC ARTWORK.

As I said, I went to Lulu.com shortly after it expanded into the UK — love them or hate them, they do provide some great tools for getting a book into print. Their marketing packages are excellent for getting books into other places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I also use Smashwords to publish most of the ebook versions. Again, they’ve got some pretty good tools for getting a book out there and were one of the early channels into the iBookstore with Apple. Okay, I design the Kindle version separately as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I want people to have a great experience with my books. If I don’t they’re not likely to buy or read my next book.

 

What are some good things about self publishing?

I have complete control over my work and any deadlines or targets are my own. I also get all the income from the work.

And I think the flexibility is also a big seller. I’ve come across a couple of authors with traditional book publishers and they’ve got more than one, i.e. one in the U.S., one in the UK and probably one elsewhere. This is becoming an inconvenience in the digital age: a friend advertised that the Kindle version of his book was now available for 99¢. Great! I thought, until I got to Amazon UK and it was still £4.08. And guess what? His UK publisher wasn’t involved in the promotional offer. I doubt I was the only one that was disappointed.

Whereas, if I want to offer a discount or promo price, I change it and it’s the same all over the world. Traditional publishing is going to have to catch on to this issue or it risks alienating the audience for new books.

What are some bad things about it?

I have complete control over my work and any deadlines or targets are my own. I also get all the income from the work.

Yes, I’m repeating myself! The hardest part of self publishing is making it happen. Thankfully, years of working from my home have made me fairly self-sufficient in terms of getting things done. Another good piece of advice I had recently was to plan the activity around the book – what needs to happen by when to get the thing edited, designed and published.

I think I’ve found what works for me last year, aiming to  have my edited version to the editor by the end of September, then getting the cover designed in October with the target of having the finished paper version done by the beginning of November, just in time for Christmas!

The other downside is I’m responsible for my own publicity, whether it’s blogging, tweeting or just updating the website – and this seems to be taking a larger chunk of my writing time than it used to. Obviously I need to adjust my priorities and do more in the evenings. I suppose that makes sense, too, as a lot of my audience is at least five hours behind me in the U.S.!

 

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

  • · Plan, plan, plan and set reasonable (for you) targets.
  • · Get your work edited – you CAN’T do it yourself.
  • · PAY someone to do the layout and design work, it’s not as easy as it looks.
  • · Spend time building a support community. This can be readers, other writers, fans or just people who are supportive of what you do.
  • · You’ll need to build critical mass and don’t expect to be Amanda Hocking or John Locke without putting the time and the work in (this ain’t X-factor or American Idol).

 

If you would like to Check out Deans books.  Please follow the link!

 

http://www.deanfetzer.com/where-to-get-deans-books/

 

If you want to know more about Dean, he’s all over the web!

Website/blog: http://www.deanfetzer.com

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

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dean-Fetzer/115015275177271

Publishing support: http://www.gunboss.com/gunboss-epublication-services/

 

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