(These chats used to be archived. Mary Vensel White asked such good questions, I couldn't just let it get lost in the void!)
MVW: You’re what we call these days a “hybrid author,” meaning, you’ve published books in a variety of ways. Your first novel, Monsoon Season, was published by Canvas then you self-published A Long Thaw. Your third, Finding Charlie was published by Amazon as a Kindle Scout winner and with B&W, you decided to self-publish again.
KO: actually, A Long Thaw was initially published by canvas. it was part of my original 3 book deal. when i got out of my contract with them, i rereleased it on my own. but since it had already been through the traditional editing process, all i had to do was get a new cover and put it on amazon. it helped me get a sense of what self-publishing is about, but I feel like Blood & Water is my first real experience launching a book on my own.
MVW: Do you think the publishing landscape has changed in recent years to allow authors more diversity and autonomy in the ways they put forward their work?
KO: i do. i still worry that the ease of self-publishing has flooded the market with unpolished work, making it harder for some writers to get noticed and make a living. but it has also made the process democratic, allowing consumers to decide what they're going to read instead of being told by publishing houses that might not be willing to take a chance on something not easily categorized. now writers are free to find their audience regardless of whether a publisher thinks they can.
MVW: What was your experience like with the traditional publisher, Canvas, with your first novel? What were some benefits of being supported by an established publishing house? Were there any downsides?
KO: i was unhappy with my first publisher. i had very little control over the cover or how my work was promoted. there were long stretches of time when no one returned my emails and i assumed the book had tanked and the others might never be published- only to find out 6 months later, via an accounting letter, that Monsoon Season had sold 10000 copies. i was new to the publishing world and a lot of people thought i was crazy for getting out of that contract, but the lack of personal connection to people i’d trusted with my ‘babies’ felt wrong.
i think the benefits can be more power behind you in sales, though it isn’t guaranteed and i didn’t get that with the 2nd book. the other benefit is some degree of respect. in a sea of self-published books, it can give you some credibility that you made it past the gate keepers.
MVW: How does an author take advantage of Amazon’s Kindle Scout program and what does publication with them look like? Do they assist with marketing and sales? Did you have any control over the final product?
KO: i think Kindle Scout is the best of both worlds. i got to design the cover and write the book my way; they provide editing, an advance and marketing. they even got me a Bookbub ad this summer. 2 years after publication, they’re still promoting the book and it’s done really well.
MVW: You’ve returned to self-publishing twice. What do you enjoy about the process? What advice would you give to authors considering publishing their own work?
KO: i’ve found i like the marketing part better than i thought i would. it didn’t come naturally, but i’ve been figuring it out over the past 5-6 years. publishing is always changing and there’s new stuff to learn. i like the challenge but it’s time consuming. if you’re serious about doing the work to find your audience, it’s like taking on a 2nd job on top of writing.
MVW: What are you working on now and when can we look forward to reading it? Will you continue writing books with these characters?
KO: i often go through a phase when i’ve just finished a book that i think i might never write again, but i just started working on something last week. i think it’s too new to articulate what it might be. if any of my characters decide they have more to say, i’ll be writing it down. the thing i’ve learned is that no story’s ever really over.
Please check out the first post in this series, on writing.