Indie Author Interview – K.J. McPike

indieauthorinterview

Today I’ll be interviewing K.J. McPike, author of the award-winning YA paranormal/urban fantasy novel, XODUS, and its upcoming flipside, Nemesis!

Why have you decided to self-publish?

The short answer is that I’m a control freak when it comes to my books.

I originally decided to self-publish because I knew the story in my head had to go a certain way, and I didn’t like the idea of anyone changing it for marketability. Thankfully, I met the founder of a small indie publishing company in Seattle, and he believed in the story as much as I did, so we joined forces to make it happen.

Would you pursue traditional publication?

Now that I have gone the indie route, I do see the potential stress-relief and financial perks that being backed by a traditional publishing house could offer. That said, it would take a lot to convince me to go with a traditional publisher simply because I am so nitpicky (control freak, remember?) about everything from word choice to cover art to typesetting that I’m not sure I could let someone take over those things. I would have to be involved in those decisions, or at least be given the final say in approving them. So I guess the question really is: would a traditional publisher put up with me?

Do you have an editor?  Did you edit your own manuscript?  Do you have advice for other authors editing it themselves or hiring someone else?

I found an amazing editor on a website called Bibliocrunch, and I love her to pieces. I do edit my own manuscripts as much as I can before I send them to her, but the truth is, when you go over something so many times, I don’t think it’s possible to catch everything. You’re just so familiar with what it’s supposed to say that your brain fills in the blanks. No matter how many times I go over my books, my editor still catches things I missed. It’s always good to have a fresh pair of eyes go over things.
My advice for other authors doing it themselves is to hire an editor. When you do, have that person send you a sample edit so you can get an idea of his/her style. Not every editor is for every writer. If hiring someone is absolutely not an option, at least let a lot of other people read over it. Just don’t try to do it all yourself.

Where have you decided to publish your books?  (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc.)

I have tried both ebook approaches (KDP Select and “going wide” to Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, etc.) and I have found that KDP Select is better for me, at least right now. There’s something to be said for reaching the Kindle Unlimited subscribers. The print version and audiobook are produced by CreateSpace and Audible respectively, so they have always been through Amazon.

Did you format your own book?  Did you run into any trouble formatting it?  Do you have any advice to fellow authors about formatting their books?

My publisher taught me how to format in InDesign, and then let me loose to indulge in my control freak ways and format it myself. Thankfully, learning from someone who has already been through the process many times helped me to avoid a lot of stumbling along the way, so I didn’t have any major trouble with formatting it.

My advice to fellow authors formatting their own books is to remember that it is an art. I know it’s tempting to cram as many words onto each page as possible for the sake of cheaper print costs, but it’s not worth it. You want the experience of reading your book to be as enjoyable as possible, so make sure the formatting is appealing to the eye and not overwhelming.

Who created your cover art?  If you did it yourself, could you explain how you did it?  If someone else did it, how did you hear about their services?  What was it like working with them?

My cover art was created by an artist I connected with through a website called 99designs. I can’t recommend that site enough. There are two options: you can either hire someone directly or run a contest. I recommend the latter—at least the first time around— because designers are sure to send over their best work in hopes of winning the prize money. Plus, I like seeing how differently people interpret the brief. Lots of times, the concepts that are submitted are even better than what I could have imagined myself. I’ve had great experiences every time I have used 99designs, and just to make it even better, they give you your money back if you don’t like any of the designs!

Could you give the names of your editor and cover artist, and where we might find more of their work?

My editor is named Lindsay Tweedle. I highly recommend her! Her website is www.brightlightsediting.com. My cover artist is the amazing Andrei Bat, and you can see a bunch of stuff he’s designed at 99designs.com/profiles/bandrei. (I’m not sure if you have to be logged into 99designs to see it…if so, let me know, and I’ll send you some covers that are live on Amazon.)

What have you found most helpful in marketing your book?  What have you found least helpful?  Is there anything you want to warn authors to stay far, far away from?

So far, the most helpful things in marketing have been the email blasts that go out to subscribers for book deals. Robin Reads and Ereader News Today had the best results for my books. One day, I hope to be featured on the almighty BookBub, as we all know that does wonders for sales. I would also recommend reaching out to book bloggers, as they can have followings that will give books a try just because they recommend it.

Thankfully, I haven’t had any horrible experiences that would make me want to tell other authors to stay far, far away from them, but I will say that for me, Facebook Ads didn’t do much. That said, I have heard other authors who have been successful with them, so it’s really about what works for your book. Marketing books effectively is hard. I think we all have to learn as we go. Just make sure to track what you’re doing so that you can keep up with what’s working and step away from what’s not working.

How was your book trailer made?  Did you make it yourself?  If someone else made it, where did you find their services, and how much input did you have on the creative process?

This is another case of me being really lucky. My sister happens to work in digital film, so she helped me put it together. I told her the concept I wanted and found the stock videos to go with it, and she worked her magic to turn it into a book trailer. I had a ton of input on the creative process because my sister was amazing at putting up with my perfectionistic ways. She’s used to it by now, I guess!

How did XODUS win its awards?  Did you submit it to a contest?

XODUS won the First Place Paranormal Award in the 2015 Paranormal Awards contest run by Chanticleer Book Reviews. I did submit it to that contest, as well as a few others that have yet to announce the winners. Here’s hoping I can call it a multi-award-winning book soon!

How do you connect with your readers?

I try to connect with readers via social media (though, admittedly, I’m bad at being consistent with it) and newsletters for those who subscribe to my mailing list. I’ve been lucky enough to have readers reach out to me via Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, so I make a point to respond to all of them. For now, their numbers are not so overwhelming that it’s impossible to keep up. I intend to keep responding as long as I can

Being an indie author, how did you approach Barnes and Noble to do an author event?  What was the event like for you overall, and do you have any advice for other authors at their own events?

Luckily, the founder of Fuzzy Hedgehog Press who took XODUS under his wing had connections at the Barnes & Noble in downtown Seattle, so he and I did a combination author event for the release of our books. The event was a good experience, as I had a lot of friends and family that came out to support me, and a handful of strangers who took an interest, too. My advice for other authors at their own events is to get as many friends and family members to go as possible and to have realistic expectations. Generally speaking, if you are not a well-known author, you’re not going to have a ton of people there that you didn’t invite yourself. That said, don’t be discouraged. I think people are drawn to places where they see a crowd has already assembled, so that’s where the friends and family come in to draw in strangers. I enjoyed the event—signing books made me feel famous!—but I didn’t sell thousands of copies or anything. I’m just happy I got it in front of more people than I would’ve been able to reach on my own.

Were you nervous at your Barnes and Noble book signing?  What was it like talking to strangers who were interested in your book?

YES! I was shaking so badly before the event that I couldn’t even pour a cup of water without spilling it! Most of the people there were people I knew, so you would think I would’ve been able to handle it, but…not the case. Once I got started, it got better, but the butterflies never quite went away.

Talking to strangers who were interested in my book was a lot of fun. I love my book, so talking about it with people who are also excited about it always makes me happy. I do much better talking one-on-one or with just a handful of people than I do speaking in front of large groups, so there was much less shaking on my part during these conversations. That alone was a win.

Do you have any advice on getting more reviews?

I’ve read that if you put a request at the end of your book, people are more likely to leave reviews, but there’s really no way to track that. I did it just in case there’s truth to that. Mostly, I’ve reached out to book bloggers and posted in Goodreads forums offering read-to-review programs. Basically, you’re giving the book away for free in exchange for an honest review—though some people are not as good about the reviewing part. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of everything, so I know who got the book when, and I can reach out accordingly. That said, make sure that if you are giving away the book for free that the reviewer states s/he got a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Amazon is kind of picky about that.

What are some of the best Goodreads forums for read-and-reviews?

I posted Read-to-Review (R2R) offers in the following groups:

We ♥ YA Books!
Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Readers, Writers and Reviewers
Read Together, Blog Together
Lovers of Paranormal 

I also posted one for my audiobook in Audiobooks, for those who have put their books in that format, too. I don’t know if they’re the best forums out there, but they got new readers/reviewers for my book, so I am thankful for that.

What do you love about being an indie author?  Do you hate anything about being an indie author?

This probably won’t come as a surprise now, but I love the freedom and control I have when it comes to my books. I like that I can experiment with pricing and promotions, and that I can obsess over little things in formatting like making sure that lines I want to have an extra second to sink in fall at the bottoms of pages whenever possible and avoiding having hyphenated words on the same lines as em dashes. (I know, I have a problem.)

The thing I hate about being an indie author is that some people still have a tendency to assume that self-published and indie books are bad without giving them a chance. I have seen many book bloggers that refuse to even consider reviewing self-published/indie books, and I’ve had my share of bookstore managers turn their noses up at me when I approach them simply because my book wasn’t published by one of the major houses. That’s just not cool. At least give something a shot before you decide you don’t like it.

How can you ensure that “lines you want to have an extra second to sink in” will be at the bottom of pages?  That sounds incredible, as far as ebook formatting goes.  (Unless you’re talking about paperbook formatting.  Either way, I’m still interested in how you do this.)

Hehe, this is my crazy side coming out! I can only do it with paperback formatting, and it’s only doable if the line is already somewhat close to the bottom of the page already. If it’s only a few lines off, I’ll tweak the wording around it accordingly to shift the lines up or down as needed. I also do this if a chapter ends too close to the bottom of the page because I’m that obsessive, and I hate it when a chapter endsright at the bottom of a page, especially if they’re the dun dun dun! endings that I love so much. I will go through the entire chapter and reword sentences that only have a word or two on a line just to shift everything up. I like to make sure the chapter endings are at least three lines up from the bottom of the page so they pack more of a punch with that visual cue. Yes, I know I have a problem…

Would you like to see your book in another medium?  Audiobook, film, TV series, video game…?

(Also, not surprisingly) I would love to see my books as a film series. A TV series would be cool, too, though that’s trickier to picture. If they can pull it off, more power to them! Hehe, I never even considered a video game. That would be amazing to see! I have an audiobook for my first book that I’m very happy with, so I would love to make audiobooks for the rest of the main books in the series, too.

Did you find a narrator for your audiobook through ACX?  What was the process like for you auditioning them?  Does hearing your writing through another person’s voice change how you perceive your characters?

Believe it or not, my audiobook narrator was recommended to me by the employees at my favorite cupcake shop in Seattle. (Yes, I went there that often. I love cupcakes.) She was already working through ACX, so I listened to samples of her work, met with her, and hired her.

What are your favorite cupcakes? 😉

Pretty much any flavor that has cream cheese icing will win my heart, but my usual go-to flavors are Red Velvet and Carrot Cake. In Seattle, there is a chain called Cupcake Royale (the one I frequented so much they recommended an audiobook narrator for me) that has seasonal flavors, and there was a stretch of three glorious months where they had my favorite cupcake of all time: Blueberry Lavender Honeycomb. Genuinely the best cupcake (okay, cupcakes—I probably had at least 5 per week) I have ever eaten. It was so serious that on the last day they offered that flavor, they actually saved one for me before they sold out. I walked in and saw they had just sold the last one in the display case, and I’m sure my heartbreak was written all over my face. Then the girl behind the counter looked at me and said, “I saved one for you.” I nearly cried tears of joy.

Have you made a “dream cast” for your characters?  Is there a particular director you’d like to see handle a screenplay of XODUS?

Good question! I have not made a “dream cast” for my characters, though I feel like I should now.hehe As far as directors, whoever did the Hunger Games movies is welcome to take on my books. I feel like those movies were incredibly done, and so true to the books. It always breaks my heart when movies make a lot of changes the storylines of books.

Let’s talk about your favorite character, Kai.  Does his being the love interest have anything to do with why he’s your favorite?

I don’t know that it is so much about his being the love interest as it is about the fact that he resides in the morally gray area. I was always very black and white about morality when I was growing up, and I like that he challenges that and makes the protagonist, Lali, (and hopefully readers) consider circumstances over behavior. For example, what is and isn’t acceptable behavior when it comes to trying to save someone you love? I think most of us would throw the rules out the window if it came down to saving a loved one, but it’s so easy to judge someone for doing that very thing. So, I guess the short answer is that he makes you think.

Did you include anything in your book that you had experienced or would have liked to experience when you were sixteen?

Alas, I have never been able to astral project, but I would have loved to be able to do it at sixteen. (I would also love to be able to do it now, in case the powers that be want to toss that ability my way.) Really, the only experiences that Lali and I share are the small town upbringings and a similar family dynamic. I grew up the second of five children, so the banter between Lali and her four younger siblings is very much like the banter between my own siblings and me. Honestly, the scenes with Lali and her brothers and sisters were the majority of my favorite scenes to write because it was like revisiting growing up in such a busy house. As far as the small town upbringing, I grew up in a town that had an annual Drive Your Tractor To School Day. That pretty much says it all.

Has traveling given you a different perspective about how to create your characters and world?

Definitely. I love seeing how people differ from place to place, and I like to weave quirks and unique characteristics that I have seen into characters. To me, it makes them feel more realistic.

Do your siblings know that they’ve inspired something in your writing?  How do they feel about that?

They know it, and they got a little competitive about it! I made specific references in the book to things they enjoyed or used to do growing up as little inside jokes between us, and there were times where they would say things like, well you made references to three things about so-and-so and only two about me! My youngest sister takes great pride in the fact that the “Salaxia Quiz” was inspired by her constantly quizzing the rest of us about her favorite things when she was little. I only have one brother, and Lali has two in the book, so my brother likes to joke that he is so cool that I had to make two characters to encompass his awesomeness. So yeah, I guess you could say they’re happy about it. 😉


XODUS
by K.J. McPike

XODUS New CoverAll Lali Yavari wanted for her sixteenth birthday was for her mom to come back. Instead, she starts flashing between realities and seeing people disappear before her very eyes. Then the unsettling Kai Awana shows up at school, and Lali soon discovers she has inherited the ability to astral project—with a surprising twist. When Kai offers to use his own unique ability to help Lali find her mother in exchange for her help on a misguided mission, she can’t refuse…even if she’s not quite sure she can trust him.

In her thrilling urban fantasy debut, award-winning author K.J. McPike takes us on a ride with “enough tantalizing twists and turns to captivate readers, transforming them into instant fans” (SPR). Don’t miss this whirlwind adventure, where what one girl learns about her mother’s past will make her question everything she thought was true—and just might put her family in even more danger.

Buy XODUS here!

Amazon


Nemesis _Companion_Nemesis
by K.J. McPike

Kai Awana can find anyone . . . well, almost. His ability to appear next to whomever he envisions should have made things easier, but even after months of searching and a series of morally questionable actions, he is still no closer to reaching the one person he desperately wants to find—his sister, Kala. That is, until he comes across someone whose ability just might be exactly what he needs. The only problem is, this someone has every reason to hate him. But Kai will do anything to ensure he gets his sister back—even if it means blurring the line between right and wrong.

See the events before, during, and just after XODUS through Kai’s eyes in this original companion novel set in the thrilling and captivating world of the Astralis series.

 


Author Links

Website – www.kjmcpike.comHeadshotLowerRes

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter @kj_mcpike

Instagram @kj_mcpike

K.J. MCPIKE is the award-winning author of XODUS, the first book in her urban fantasy Astralis series. She grew up in rural Virginia, where she started writing stories as a way to escape small-town horrors like Drive Your Tractor To School Day. (Yes, that was an official part of her high school’s spirit week.) Since moving far, far away from said small town, she has embraced the nomad life and has lived in Spain and Thailand, as well as all over the United States. Her travels have taken her to places like Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, England, Italy, Mexico, and Ireland, and she is actively adding more to the list. No matter where K.J. is around the globe, she is likely consuming too much caffeine and spending more time in coffee shops than her own apartment.

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