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I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Meet D. Robert Pease, Author of Noah Zarc

E-books and self-publishing are upending the publishing world. Don't take my word for it - Friday's WSJ article sums it up nicely. With Kindles sales increasing four-fold on Black Friday this year, I've seen estimates of the 8 million Kindles currently in use jumping to 25 million after Christmas (Amazon doesn't release its numbers). With $79 Kindles and $99 Nooks, it's not hard to imagine a lot of these showing up under the Christmas tree in a couple weeks.

What will the impact of all these e-readers be? I expect more e-books of every kind to be sold, but in particular, I'm predicting (Danger, Will Robinson!) that there will be a shift in the demographic of e-book owners with the more affordable price. In particular, I expect more young people to receive these readers as a gift from grandparents who would rather buy a reading device than another gaming device.

What will this mean for middle grade authors, like my guest Dale Pease? I hope that it means many happy sales, and I think that it will ... eventually. Whether this Christmas or the next (3 years at the outside - yikes! more predictions!), the middle grade e-book market will eventually take off, and self-publishing middle grade authors like Anita Laydon Miller, Simon Haynes, PHC Marchesi, and D. Robert Pease will be ready with multiple books out to capture some marketshare.

(Note to JK Rowling: We love you. Please get Pottermore out soon.)

Dale is blog-touring his middle grade science fiction novel Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, and I'm happy to be the stop today. You can see all the information about Dale's book and tour at the bottom, but first Dale kindly answered my questions about writing and publishing a middle grade novel during today's self-publishing revolution.


Noah Zarc: Mammoth TroubleMe: What inspired you to write Noah Zarc?

Dale: The original idea came from a discussion I had with a friend of mine. The name Noah Zarc was thrown out (I suspect it was from him). We talked about making a game, or an animated series on it. But none of those things went anywhere. A few years later I got to thinking it'd be a cool idea for a book. There was just something about this idea of a futuristic take on the old Noah's Ark story that wouldn't let go of me. The more I got into it, the more I fell in love with the idea of taking old Biblical stories and casting them in a new light. I have another one in the works based on the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. But, and I hope I make this clear, I didn't want to write "Religious" stories. I don't know why, but most of the time they come off as preachy, and who likes to be preached at? I just think these are such great stories of the roles people play in the bigger picture of history that they can lead to fantastic new adventures too.

Me: I love this fresh take on biblical stories! Right now, twisted fairy tales are hot, and I think the mood is right for re-examining powerful stories from the past. I love that you've made this your focus with your writing! Before you started writing, you spent many years as a designer, doing art for a living. Can you tell us a little about your background? How do you feel your art/design background influences your writing?

Dale: I'm a visual person. I learn visually. I sense the world around me most keenly through sight. So that is exactly how I approach writing. I "see" the characters, and the world in my head. Sometimes I'll sketch out things. Sometimes I'll scour stock photo sites for just the write image of my characters. All to help me see better. But there's also another aspect of my background that comes into play. I am a graphic or "commercial" designer. I don't have a passion for fine art like other artists do. Don't get me wrong, I love to go to museums and drink in the beauty, but my favorite artists are those who tell stories with their art; Norman Rockwell for example. And, this is a big one, I believe in making a living at my art. GASP! This was a huge debate at the art school I attended. The conflict between art for art's sake, and art to make a living. How this translates into my writing is simple. I write stories that kids and adults have fun reading. I don't claim to be a literary master, creating "art". I think there is a place for beautiful prose and writing that is just exquisite, but you probably won't find that in my books. I just love a good, fast-paced story.

Me: I really enjoy the intersection of art and writing, and I love your take on pictures being story! As I mentioned in the preamble above, e-readers are definitely on the rise, but the middle grade e-book market hasn’t quite arrived yet. Do you think that will change this Christmas, with cheaper Kindles and the impending arrival of Pottermore (JK Rowling’s e-experiment)? Did that have an influence on your decision to self-publish Noah Zarc?

Dale: This is an area I am still learning about. It is quite a wakeup call to see authors all around me selling books in far greater quantities, simply because they write for an older audience. It is not that I'm jealous (ok, maybe a little) it is that I'm realizing the market may not be there yet for middle grade authors. I have found that when I really connect with my audience, they are much more likely to buy a paperback version than an eBook version. Do I think this will change? Absolutely. As parents pass eBook readers down to their kids, and as prices on eReaders continue to plummet I'm convinced the middle grade market will grow. I've heard a few people in the industry saying that the MG market is the next wave to hit. So I am pretty optimistic at this point.

Me: I'm hopeful for you! And I do think it's an advantage to be early in the game, although it may not seem that way now. Many of the current very-successful authors in self-pub are the ones who had multiple books out when the wave of e-readers started to hit. So tell us about the sequel to Noah Zarc. What are your plans for future books?

Dale: I am about 90% through the first draft of Noah Zarc: Cataclysm. It is a book that maybe gets a little darker than Mammoth Trouble, but readers will still have fun following the exploits of our hero. Noah goes on a quest through time to discover what caused the Great Cataclysm that wiped out every living thing on Earth, and wonders if there's anything he can do to stop it from happening in the first place. Along the way he begins to think his worst fear might come true as he starts to discover maybe by going back in time he actually caused the Cataclysm himself.

There is a third novel in the series planned. But I can't say much more than that now. And as mentioned above, I am working on another story, tentatively titled Joey Cola and the Stoat of Many Colors, about a second-to-youngest son of a huge family with twelve brothers in New York City who discovers a hidden "dream-world" where an ancient order of warriors has been fighting a reincarnated Pharaoh for over 3,000 years. I am super excited about this one and can't wait to get it out to readers.

Me: Ok, can I just say how much I love that time-travel twist for Cataclysm? And I'm beyond excited about Joey Cola. I can see that being HUGE as a YA story, and a re-imagined biblical story at that! #coolness Now that you've got some self-pub experience under your belt, what advice do you have for writers considering self-publishing?

Dale: Be realistic. They say it is a one in a million shot to make a living at publishing a book traditionally, and about the same if you self-publish. The only difference being you have more control over your success or failure if you do it yourself. But with great power comes great responsibility! You must approach it like a business. Your product has to be the best it can possibly be. Get lots of beta readers. Hire an editor (this is non-negotiable) and not just a proof editor. You need to hire someone who can help you shape the overall story into the best story possible. Someone who will look at overall plot. Characterization issues. World building, etc... You want someone who says, why is this chapter here? I think it should be cut. Or you really need to add much more detail about this character's motivation. I went through almost six months of this kind of work with an editor. It was well worth it. Also another non-negotiable, unless you are a professional designer, is to hire a cover artist. This is the second most important thing (after writing and editing a great book). Don't skimp. Finally, be prepared to spend a ton of time marketing. I never dreamed I would spend as much time as I have. It has basically become another full-time job for me. Hopefully it will lessen over time, but I've been at this for four months now, and it is still taking up a sizable chunk of my day.

Would I do it again! Absolutely. Just meeting all the great people and hearing some awesome stories, has been worth it. I'm not quitting my day job anytime soon, but I still think there is a possibility I will some day. So keep dreaming. And keep writing.

Thank you so much, Dale, for sharing your insights with us! (Full disclosure: Dale is my cover designer and he rocks it! Definitely seek out a professional like Dale for your cover work!) You can see my review of Dale's book or check out all the details below:
Noah Zarc: Mammoth TroubleOVERVIEW
Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth's animals from extinction.

Life couldn't be better.

But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth... for the second time.

Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com (available in paperback or as an eBook) or the online retailer of your choice (more links below).

CASH PRIZES
Guess what? You could win a $50 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle.

GIVEAWAY
Win 1 of 5 copies of the paperback version of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by entering the giveaway on GoodReads.

D. Robert PeaseTHE AUTHOR
D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn't been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer's Sirens. It's not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters.

Discover ways to connect with the author by visiting his site at www.drobertpease.com

BOOK TRAILER



THANK YOU! for visiting. And don't forget to comment below for that chance to win the $50 Amazon gift card. And of course head on over to your favorite online book store and buy a copy of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, for you or for the kids in your life.

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21 comments:

  1. How exciting to think that the ebook revolution can make such an impact, making it possible for younger readers to read/write more. That is fantastic!!

    This book sounds amazing! I love the premise. As one who's read the bible cover to cover and who attended Catholic school, I love Noah already! Guess I'll be putting this one on my TBR list.

    PSST...Susan, I've highlighted Rick D., today. He's been great! Thanks for introducing us.

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  2. Yes, I do think middle grade will hit eventually. Though everything seems to happen faster digitally than we expect! I think it's terrific. And I love bible stories set in the future!

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  3. Thanks, Susan. You always give me pick-me-up when I need it. Your interview questions were great, but more than that your "predictions" of the future of eBook sales for younger audiences really gets me excited. I love the idea of grandparents buying their grandkids eReaders instead of video games.

    Susan, Rick is a great guy, eh? I just popped over and read your interview with Jason (I love character interviews.) Very cool!

    Laura, I'm glad to hear you agree with Susan. And faster than we expect is a great thought too!

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  4. Ooh, I came because the pun name title caught my eye. I'd have commented even without the gift card prize because these books sound awesome. Orson Scott Card did an adult SF series based on the Book of Mormon that few people recognized as being scriptural based. It was an exodus back to the homeworld. I'm even more excited to see a middle grade author making this self-publishing jump. Although I still don't want to go to all the extra work involved, at least I have hope that the genre will blossom for indies. I'd be happy to feature Robert on my blog too.

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  5. Our son got a kindle for his birthday, it was all he wanted and he is only 9. Now our daughter is jealous and can't wait to get one too, she's only 7. I think that she may be in line for XMAS.

    Just to let you know, we will be checking out your book for the kids.

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  6. Sher, Thanks so much for your comments. I assume you are talking about the "Homecoming" series by Orson Scott Card. I never thought of that as being an Exodus type story, but now that you mention it... I'd love to have you join the Blog Tour if you are so inclined. You can sign up here: http://www.drobertpease.com/site.cfm/Books/Blog-Hop/Register-or-Blog-Tour.cfm

    M.A. you sound like my kind of parent! I'd love to hear what your kids think of Noah Zarc. Let me know after they've had a chance to read it.

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  7. This was a great interview, I read and enjoyed Noah Zarc, so it's cool to hear more about the story's origins.

    The premise for Cataclysm sounds like a good thriller, I'll definitely check it out.

    I was at a school reading to 4th graders last week and I asked how many have e-readers like a Kindle or Nook. About 5-6 kids raised their hands, and 4-5 more hands came up when I said iPad.

    The tides, they are a-changing...

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  8. You're right about ebooks, Susan. My 14yo has been begging for an ereader--ANY ereader for Christmas. He vows that it would be okay if that was the ONLY thing he got this year. My 9yo and 7yo LOVE to read books on my Kindle.

    This one's already on my wish list, and I've already entered at Goodreads!! :-)

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  9. It's interesting how e-readers are truly playing the catalyst for so much change. Lower pricing helps.

    In the end, it's these great stories that make the difference.

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  10. I think ereaders are going to do wonders for reluctant readers. For the current kids, everything is better if it is technological. I love that writers can adapt to that as well.

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  11. Rick, I was on a bus with my son's class last year (12-13 year-olds) and just looked around. Within my immediate vicinity I saw 3 Kindles. That was a huge wake up for me. I had no idea kids had them yet.

    Shannon. I hope you win! And when you do, let me know what you think.

    Angela, that's key right there. "great stories." We can't lose sight of the fact that any new technology is useless unless authors take the time to keep writing great stories. There are no shortcuts.

    Tasha, I love the idea that eReaders might help reluctant readers. I love to see kids that aren't big on reading find a book they love. Anything that works!

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  12. Sounds like a cool book! Noah's Ark was my favourite bible story, and it's be interesting to see it in a new light!

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  13. I think everyone was nervous about the future of records when tapes came out...when cd's came out...when mp3's came out...And they all turned out good. Hopefully the same thing will happen with books. :)

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  14. Thanks J.C. I'd love to hear how you like it.

    Sharon, I'm not nervous at all about eBooks. Just the opposite, I'm waiting for them to catch fire in the juvenile fiction world. I welcome our eReader overlords!

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  15. Love that it's based on a bible story in the future, but not meant to be religious or preachy!! Also, the e-readers? I was at a boutique and a vendor I know sells these awesome book thongs (fancy bookmarks). She told me the sales have been way down because of ereaders and I actually got sad. :( It just made me look at it differently I suppose.

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  16. Hey, good luck with the series, it sounds cool! I am an author artist who went to art school, where a concentration on commercially-viable art was seen as crass, so I know exactly what you're speaking of! I thought it was hooey back then, and I'm finally putting my illustration into my own work.

    *Susan, today I linked to your holiday gift post, BTW.

    Okay, now, I'm going to amazon to order D's ebook!

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  17. Thanks Lisa. I agree with you that there are some aspects of the eBook revolution that are kind of sad. I have always had this dream of a big, beautiful library. But now that I'm buying 90% of my books in eBook form, I see that is probably never going to happen. But there are definitely positives too. I am reading a whole lot more books than I used to. It is just so darn easy to click "Buy" on the Kindle and have the book 60 seconds later.

    Thanks Catherine. It is amazing how many people there are that think if you are making money at it, it isn't a worthwhile endeavor. There are so many fine artists I went to school with that are waiting tables, or working at retail stores, who not only don't make a living doing what they loved, but maybe can't afford to even do it for fun. Sure there needs to be a balance, as with everything in life, but it doesn't need to be an either or kind of thing.

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  18. I am bringing a Kindle into my classroom in January...as much as a paper version book is to me, I know that the tech aspect is a huge motivator! What ever it takes to get them to read :D ...and yes, NAOHZARK is already on the Kindle!

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  19. I love the twist you're adding to the old biblical stories, and I hope the MG eBooks take off this Christmas. Best of luck to you with all your books, Robert!

    Nice interview, Sue. We're all crossing our fingers that your predictions come true!

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  20. I really enjoyed this interview. I will be posting my review Monday. Great post!

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  21. Talking about ' 'visual person', this book would do great as a graphic novel!

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers