Ep 032: “Self-Publishing When Times Are Tough”

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Welcome to the 32nd episode of The Author Hangout, a “Hangout on Air” designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“I’m sitting down writing something every day. That’s really the key, you just have to write some every day. It might be 100 words or 200 words but you just have to write something. It might be crap, but you’ve got to write something.”– Will Swardstrom

Self-Publishing When Times Are Tough

In this episode, we interviewed author Will Swardstrom who really shared a lot about what is going on in his life, as well as the type of real-life struggles you may be facing or you may soon face. He gives some great tips and inspiration on how to push through those, as well as some great marketing strategies.

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He’s a High School History teacher and a part time indie author who began his self-publishing journey in early 2013. In addition to popular short stories such as Perfect Game and Ant Apocalypse, he has a number of highly rated novels to his credit including those in the Dead Sleep Series and The Veil Series. A middle child in a family of budding writers, he has also published several stories with his siblings including Baking with Swords and Hot Box Runner. Please join me in welcoming science fiction and thriller author Will Swardstrom.

How did you become an author and publish your first book?

“Like so many people, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, always wanted to be an author. I had a goal in my mind, for a long time it was, by the age of 25 I wanted to be an author…then by the age of 30, age 32…it kept getting bumped back and back. When I first came out of college, one of my first jobs was, I was working as a sports editor at a small town newspaper. I was like, “Great, I’m writing all the time. I can just do this as well.” I tried a couple of times. I had false starts because I was already basically writing thousands of words a day for somebody else and so by the time I was done, I was done. I couldn’t put my mind into it. But I switched careers. Started teaching. A couple of years there I got to the point where I was comfortable enough with that job that I could spend some time in the evenings putting down some of these ideas I had. It was also the combination of that and seeing Hugh Howey as the self-published guru at this point. Seeing what he had done. I kind of looked at him and after analyzing him I realized, he’s a lot like me. He’s about my age, a little older than I am. He was pulled out of obscurity. I was, “Hey, I could do that too.” Finally I got started writing and I got to the point where I just had to finish that novel.”

What is your most recent book or project?

Will talks a bit about how and why he took a break from writing… it is a very cool story, so be sure to listen to the interview.

He then shares his most recent project:

“My most recent short story, something I’m probably the proudest of so far is a little story called Uncle Allen and it’s in the future chronicles and anthology entitled The Alien Chronicles. It’s about 10,000 words, 9,000-10,000 words long. And as the name implies, it’s part of the Alien Chronicles it has an Alien Chronicles twist to it. It’s about a girl, a young woman, she goes back to her grandmother’s house for a week or two to try to help her grandma get sorted out in her attic and what not. Her uncle is the only other one that cares for her senile grandmother. And, while she’s there she uncovers some perhaps deep dark family secret and obviously, as I’ve said, it involves aliens to a certain degree. So, there’s a little bit of spoiler there but I think there’s still some spoilers to be had at the end of that story.”

Can you tell us about a time when you really struggled as an author?

Will was raw and honest about what he is currently struggling with:

“Since like June has really been a struggle. We had a lot of family situations. I’ve actually have the first third of my next novel written but I haven’t touched it since July. And it’s not because the book is terrible. I pretty much know where I wanted to go with it but being able to devote enough concentration, enough time to get the words down that I want to get down, I have not had in the last 6 months or so… There’s just so many personal issues that, you know, I needed to get worked out in my life before I can feel comfortable enough to sit back down at the computer and do that. But it was kind of like a slow process but I’m really now getting back into it. I’m sitting down writing something every day. That’s really the key, you just have to write some every day. It might be 100 words or 200 words but you just have to write something. It might be crap, but you’ve got to write something.”

He also shared this very key point all authors need to hear:

“I’ve seen a lot of authors just, “Okay, I’m walking away”. They built the expectations up so much that they can’t cope with not having instant success. They can’t fathom not being the next J.K. Rowling or something like that. And I’m content. I know this is a long game.”

What one marketing tactic is really working well for you?

This is something that many authors need to be doing… like he says, it won’t have instant success, but it sows seeds that will help you in the long run:

“I’m a real guy. I’m terrible at marketing. What I have found that works, again this is not something that’s going to drive instantaneous success because being who you are, it takes a long time for people to kind of realize that is just simply being their friend. Or simply being authentic. I’m still a reader. I write but I still like to read books as well. For example, this last week was the launch party for the Apocalypse Weird Series that was co-headlined by Nick Cole, Michael Bunker and a couple of other Indy authors. I had school… I had snow days all last week from school, so I had tons of time, so I read all those books. And, what did I do? I went up to Amazon and I wrote reviews of all those books. I shared my reviews of all of them and I did interviews with a number of the authors on my blog, and…it’s not about me, it’s about them. So I’m giving them a small platform, not much. I’m not a huge platform but I’m giving them a little bit of platform. And then, later, after I write some story that I feel really good about, if I go to them and say, “Hey, could you help me out?” I know they’re going to help me out because I’m being authentic, I’m being a friend. I’m not just “a Facebook friend” I’m somebody who, I’m interested in them. I’m interested in their writing and they can tell that.”

We need more of that in this industry. It is not a competition. If more authors worked together, they would all be able to rise together. This has been a recurring theme in recent episodes, so it is definitely something you should take notice of.

If you started over today, what 3 things would you tell yourself to help you sell more books?

He starts off with a great suggestion:

“First, I would write a couple of books before I even published one. When I first published my first one… as soon as I published the Perfect Game, as soon as I finished it, I published it. As soon as I finished my novel, I published it. As soon as I finished my wolf and fiction story, The Veil, I published it. There wasn’t any waiting period. There wasn’t any marketing or promotion or anything like that. So, if I had to do it over again, I’d get a couple under my belt and then I would see if I could get any beta readers or if I could get any people that were interested in reading it.”

His second point is building those same types of relationships he discussed above, before he published:

“Back then I didn’t have the author community like you talked about. The author community, I have so many friends that would volunteer to read my stories now, but back then, I didn’t. So I’d try to work on fostering some of those relationships as well so I could get those people to read my story and get some early reviews, some early shares once those books were published.”

His third tip is a great one, that mentions a specific marketing tool, so be sure to listen to the interview for that great tip!

The write-ups here are just a brief part of some of the answers in the interviews. You definitely want to listen to all of our episodes so you don’t miss any great tips.

How can people connect with you?

I have a Twitter. As a teacher I don’t have a chance to access it much but I do tweet occasionally. I think my Twitter handle is https://twitter.com/wswardstrom that is W-S-W-A-R-D-S-T-R-O-M. You can also find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wswardstrom . I really stopped using my author page because Facebook, they’re trying to charge for uses on the author page and really nobody has seen it. So my personal page is pretty much open so I don’t have problem with people finding me there as well. But my blog right now is probably the best page to find me and that is: https://willswardstrom.wordpress.com/ and I try to keep it fairly updated and regulated and what not.

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