Interview with author Brian Rathbone

It’s Friday, it’s Friday, it’s Friday! That means it’s time to do another guest interview! Woohoo! I’m pleased to introduce you all to this week’s guest, author Brian Rathbone. Brian I always like to start by having my guests tell us a little about themselves. So tell us all about Brian Rathbone.

Brian:
Thanks, Kara. Hi, everybody! My name is Brian Rathbone, and I’m a bit of an odd duck. I grew up on a farm training racehorses with four generations of family. It was like living in a different world. I didn’t do very well in school, since I learn best by doing. After nearly dying from a ruptured appendix at the age of sixteen, I rebelled against the world and got kicked out of high school. I lived in my car for a while and then in a friend’s closet when the car, too, was gone. It was hard but I didn’t give up.

After getting my GED and realizing college suited me no better than high school, I went to work in the mailroom of a commodities trade company in 1991. Not long after, my boss told me to throw a bunch of broken computers in the dumpster. I asked if I could take them home and fix them. He laughed but said okay. Having almost no idea what I was doing when I started, I fixed eight out of the ten computers. Six years later I was Vice President of Research and Development for an Internet company and was patent pending on a virus resistant computer I developed for schools and libraries. Too bad Microsoft hated it. In 2005 I knew my time in the technology world was coming to a close, and I decided to chase a life-long dream of writing fantasy novels. It took me nine years, but now I get to write full-time. What a ride!

The Writing Piazza:
Wow, that was a rollercoaster of a ride! But I’m glad it ended so happily! I’m a sucker for happy endings. That’s probably why I became a writer. haha

So you’ve been writing for a while now and getting to do that full time is no easy task! Let’s talk a bit more about what you write. You are the author of the The World of Godsland series. Can you tell my readers a little about it?

Brian:
I’ve always loved to read fantasy, especially epic sagas. Godsland is the series I always wanted to write. I thought about the story line for close to twenty years before starting to write it, and I’ve been writing it for ten years now. It’s the longest and best job I’ve ever had.

The Writing Piazza:
And here I thought my story concept took a long time to think about but it doesn’t come close to your twenty years! I’m glad you were finally able to get it down, I think a lot of writers struggle with getting their story out there. There are many reasons that keep us from writing out our ideas but I love encouraging writers to just do it. It’s so rewarding to finally have that story down and letting other people read it really makes writing worthwhile, in my humble opinion. And you must think so too if you’ve been writing your story line for ten years! You don’t stick with something that long if you don’t love it.

I also like to look at the publishing side of things when I interview writers, so if we could switch
directions a little bit. Can you tell us what book was your first published work?

Brian:
The Dawning of Power trilogy.

The Writing Piazza:
And when was that published?

Brian:
October 2008

The Writing Piazza:
I read on the book info section that they are self-published. Are all of your books self-published?

Brian:
I am primarily self-published as of today. I do have a story in a new anthology from a small press, but that would still count as indie in most people’s books. After being turned down by agents in 2006, I chose to go my own way. Much like the rest of my life, I felt more secure knowing success or failure rested primarily on my shoulders. I also realized I was a pretty high-risk proposition for agents and publishers at the time because I was completely unknown and had no audience. I created White Wolf Press, LLC and set out to change that.

The Writing Piazza:
That is the struggle of most new authors. Not having any previous works to point to and not having an audience in place makes an author a risk for an agent or publisher. You aren’t alone in deciding to go the self-published route.

So then what happened once you created White Wolf and started publishing your own books?

Brian:
Once I had sold 50,000 or so ebooks and a couple thousand audibooks, people noticed. It was then that agents and publishers started contacting me. As a result, I now have two agents…sort of. Having an agent isn’t a whole lot of use until you’ve written something you’re willing to sell to a publisher. The Godsland series will likely remain self-published until someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse. I am certainly open to offers. Since I’m nine books into a twelve book series, I haven’t yet written a book for New York. It’s coming soon, though. My goal is to be a hybrid author with both self-published works and traditionally published works. I also publish works by others, which is another story entirely. I want to do all three and do them well.

The Writing Piazza:
I think that’s so great that you’re helping other authors publish their stories too. I like to see authors helping authors. It’s a great community to belong to and I always love connecting with likeminded people who are good enough to help others out.

Were there any other factors that made you decide to start your own publishing LLC?

Brian:
It makes solid business sense. The margins on my self-published works are excellent but I struggle to get exposure. While I will earn a much smaller percentage from a traditional deal, I’ll also carry a lot less of the risk and should have great exposure. Putting the two together seems like a recipe for success.

The Writing Piazza:
Yes, that does seem like the best of both worlds. And you summed up the big key differences between traditional and self-publishing in a nice little nutshell. Self-publishing means you keep a higher percentage of your book sales but you have to do a lot more marketing whereas with a traditional publisher you get a lot more publicity but you keep less of the percentage of your sales. That is an important consideration for anyone trying to decide which direction to go.

Now on your website I read that you built an author platform and “leveraged new delivery technologies and emerging markets.” This greatly intrigued me. Can you explain that a bit more?

Brian:
When I started White Wolf Press, ebooks were just starting to take off and audiobooks mostly came on a stack of CDs. When I found Mobipocket, everything changed. I started selling ebooks and had the best-selling fantasy on Mobipocket for over 18 months straight. When the economy crashed, there were times those royalties paid the mortgage, and I was so grateful. Then Amazon bought Mobipocket and everything changed again. I’m thrilled to have now sold over 250,000 books (mostly ebooks).

The Writing Piazza:
I would be thrilled too! Over 250,000 books is very impressive, congratulations! And of course paying the mortgage is a huge bonus haha. But that’s interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Mobipocket, I will definitely look into that though. That’s a great tip, thanks!

And you also mentioned audiobooks? What can you tell us about those?

Brian:
Around the same time that I was finding success on Mobipocket, my friend Steve convinced me to record audio versions of my books and give them away on Podiobooks.com. It took me months to do it, and I learned that I’m not the most skilled narrator or audio editor, but there have been over 1.4 million episodes downloaded to date. Much of that is due to Podiobooks distributing through iTunes. Though not for the faint of heart, if you’re building an audience from scratch, this is a great way to do it and get lots of feedback along the way.

I’ve since commissioned professionally narrated audiobooks that I sell through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. The free audiobooks read by me are still available and both are popular. I would never have guessed it.

The Writing Piazza:
I think a lot of authors are looking for ways to build their audience and they’re doing it from scratch so this is such a great tip, thank you for sharing it with us! I will have to look into that one too. You are just a wealth of information and I’m so glad you’ve generously shared this with us! And it’s good to know that it takes a lot of effort. I think it’s important to be upfront about things. I like to give people a real look at what it’s like to be an author and that sometimes includes the parts that are difficult. But for those of us who don’t shy away from hard work, you have given us some helpful new ideas!

The Writing Piazza:
How about the social media side of things?

Brian:
More recently I have been building my audience on Twitter. I’m @brianrathbone. It’s a great place to connect with readers and writers. It’s best to say anything but, “Buy my book” so I tried to come up with interesting things to tweet. One day I decided to insert dragons into every day sayings, and my life hasn’t been the same since. What goes up must come down unless a dragon eats it…

The Writing Piazza:
Haha, yes, I’ve seen those posts and they always make me smile! It’s one of the reasons I reached out to you, I thought anyone that liked dragons so much must be good people!

And you’re also right about not having every tweet be “buy my book” that is a huge turnoff for people and a fast way to have someone unfollow you. That’s another beneficial tip. Along those lines, in these interviews, I often like to ask, what is one thing you wish you had known before you published?

Brian:
I really wish someone had told me print-on-demand was coming as soon as it did. That would have saved me a $10,000 mistake. Oops. Equally important though is the fact that no matter how you publish, successful writers need to know how to market themselves and their work. It’s harder than editing. O.O

The Writing Piazza:
Yeesh! That’s a hefty mistake but I totally understand. I thought about publishing prior to the print-on-demand option and you’re absolutely right, it cost thousands of dollars and I would have been in the same boat as you if I had actually got my behind in gear to write a book then. A lot has changed in the publishing industry and I’m sure it’s not done yet.

As for something being harder than editing, la la la, I can’t hear you. haha sorry, I just finished editing my first full length manuscript and I’d like to delude myself into thinking nothing will be harder than that was. At least for a little while longer anyways.

And speaking of things changing in the book business, I just want to take a moment to talk about book trailer videos. You have one so I wanted to talk with you about it for a moment. Would you share the link for it, for anyone interested in checking it out?

Brian:
That old thing?

Here’s a link to the old trailer: Book Trailer

I created that back in 2009. It’s funny how we look back and cringe at what we’ve done. Those who use iMovie will probably recognize one or two of the effects I used, and there are a couple bits of stock imagery toward the end. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a slideshow over a stock audio track I licensed. I want to completely redo it using all the new art I’ve commissioned over the past couple years. I have these as layered Photoshop files, and I want to use Adobe Premier and After Effects to create parallaxed 3D effects. This is where the background and foreground objects move independently of one another. This is commonly used in TV shows where they have only static images but make parts of those images move. Not that I’m a complete geek or anything…

The Writing Piazza:
I’m just impressed you could do any of that. I am so technologically challenged I couldn’t even figure out how to make a video on my phone with music playing along with it. I had to get my seven year old to help me. lol Do you have other videos like that to share for those of us who want to live vicariously through you?

Brian:
You can now watch the first book on YouTube, using this playslist:
Book video

I’m even working on a custom Roku channel for the videos and podcasts. Nope…no geek here… Have a Roku? Take a peek at this! https://owner.roku.com/add/whitewolfpress

The Writing Piazza:
Trust me, geeks are appreciated here! I wish I could do even half of what you’ve done. Did you make those yourself or did you have someone do it for you?

Brian:
I made it myself using a combination of Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. I can hear the purists shrieking! I also used Photoshop, Poser and Audacity.

The Writing Piazza:
Haters are gonna hate man. Don’t worry about them. I think it’s awesome! And like I said, I’m super jealous you were able to do that. Sometimes I wish they made a recorder that could just record what I see in my head. Then I could make cool videos and movies that way because I sure can’t do it any other way. haha

But I digress, let’s get back to books and marketing and all that. Have you noticed a response to your book trailers?

Brian:
It’s had 4,000 views in six years. That’s not bad, but it’s not great. People often say that a trailer is so important, and it is good to have *something*. There’s a spot for it on your Amazon and Goodreads pages, after all. My advice to authors is to create one within your means. Don’t mortgage the house to get a theatrical trailer unless you already have a huge number of YouTube subscribers or some other ace in the hole.

The Writing Piazza:
Good stuff, that’s sound advice. It’s still a little weird to me that we’re making movie trailers for our books but I guess that’s the age we live in. As long as it gets people reading, I’m down to try it. I’ll just need to get a little help. haha

Before I let you go, I like to ask this question a lot and I’m sure it’s a question you get a lot but what advice would you give to someone who is pursuing or hoping to pursue a literary career?

Brian:
Write a lot, edit a lot, and start building your audience now. Engage people while you are writing your book. Build a mailing list and a huge Twitter following now, so when it comes time to release your first book, there will be people waiting to read it. That’s far better than releasing a new book to the sound of crickets–trust me. Sites like Wattpad and Podiobooks can help you build an audience and get feedback along the way. It’s hard work but you’ll thank me for it later.

The Writing Piazza:
More fantastic advice! Thank you again for agreeing to let me interview you and for offering all this spectacular and practical advice.

And I can’t let you go without asking you, where can we go to get more information on your book series?

Brian:
The most convenient way is to get your copy of the ebook bundles here: Ebook bundle.

If you grab the first ebook for free, you can get the professionally narrated audiobook for just $1.99 at Audio book link. You can also get the free ebook and audiobook read by me with no sign up or credit card required here.

For dragon jokes, writing tips and inspirational jokes, follow me on Twitter. Brian Rathbone on Twitter

If you’re interested in beta reading, new releases and special offers, join my mailing list.

The Writing Piazza:
Well my friends, I’m sad to say this interview is at an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s interview. Brian, thanks again for being here with us today! I have learned a lot and I hope everyone reading has too. Have I mentioned how much I love doing these? They are seriously a blast and I hope you all think so as well.

Until we meet again!

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