Author Spotlight: Jim Stein

See full issue for 2018 07-09

If you had a writing motto what would it be?
Write what interests you, using daily word count goals and sprints to keep the momentum.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
Life, imagination, and dreams. Of course a lot of my own life and observations go into my narrative. I worried that delaying full time writing until I retired from my “day-job” would leave me exhausted and lacking imagination. I do think our sense of wonder and ability to ask “what if” diminishes as we age, especially during decades of crushing and high-stress work. But I retained sufficient spark to ignite some interesting stories. It does help that the vivid dream factory in my head is well staffed for third shift—even if I often cannot make sense of their products.

What is one interesting fact about you?
Strange Tidings is the third full-length manuscript I’ve written, but my first published work. I wrote my first manuscript in 43 minute increments on the train commuting from Northern VA into Washington DC during 2004. I was still ten years away Navy retirement and working long hours, but used those rides to focus my time and chip away until I had a 100k word draft. That Fantasy/SciFi crossover novel has undergone about a dozen revisions and may never see the light of day.

Have you learned anything from the self publishing process and would you do anything differently next time?
Rather than go fully independent, I published through a small press. Although there’s no upfront advance, this freed me from having to hire editors, find a cover artist, and buy my ISBN. I learned that it didn’t help me at all with marketing and promotions and that those activities are super high stress for an introvert who would rather just write. Since I’m stuck with the high-stress stuff either way, I will likely self-publish the first book in my next universe (a Scifi adventure with a female botanist and vain, talking slug pursued by killer plants.) It’s sort of funny because some of the author groups I participate in have people wanting to go the other way (self to small or traditional publication). I guess the genetically-enhanced grass is always greener—as they say.

What has been your most successful marketing strategy?
I haven’t seen enough data to know for certain (and my release was in Feb!) I can tell from my Amazon book rank that I sold a number of copies during a two week 99¢ sale in May, but have to wait for quarterly reports to see any actual numbers. I believe self-published authors get to see sales numbers in near-real-time through Amazon (someone please correct me if I am wrong.) My Facebook and book promotion ads certainly had some impact, but my guess is I sold at best 100 copies during the promotion, compared to about $300 spent on targeted ads. It’s a loss leader, but hopefully got my book in the hands of people who will enjoy it.

What is the best kept secret you have found in regard to indie publishing?
Communities like UBR that are out there to help us. It takes searching and getting word of mouth recommendations, but there are great virtual locations like this where you can garner awards, accolades, and general exposure. Take advantage of it! I know I need to do more.

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