Back in 2001, I was transported out-of-this-world by a funny, smart, and original Space Opera novel called Switched released through ImaJinn Books, the small press known for its outside the traditional box paranormal romances. For those who missed that first orbit, it’s baaaack, this time in e-format, and author Diane Burton has another surprise . . . Switched Too is coming soon to a galaxy near you.
It’s my pleasure to chat with Diane about writing, learning new tricks, and how this Earth girl makes interplanetary romance look easy.
Nancy: Welcome back! What made you decide to enter the e-pub world with SWITCHED?
Diane: Thanks, Nancy. I'm glad to be back. I got a Kindle last fall and discovered how great ebooks are. (Yes, I'm late to the party.) I wanted to publish the sequel to Switched (Switched Too). I understood most publishing houses don't want a sequel to a book they haven't published. At the MMRWA Retreat last spring, I heard how writers were publishing their backlists (and new works) using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. And here we are. Switched has a new life.
Nancy: A lot of authors with backlists are considering bringing them out in e-format (waving hand). How difficult was it to do all the formatting? Was there someplace specific you went to get the how-to information?
Diane: It was more tedious than difficult to do the formatting. I still had the original digital file for Switched unlike some authors' backlists that were pre-computer. I used Smashwords' owner Mark Coker's Style Guide: How to Format, Publish, and Distribute an Ebook. When it showed up on a blog I follow, "Free Kindle Books Plus a Few Other Tips", I saw it as a sign. The free guide took me step-by-step through the process of preparing the manuscript for ebook formats (which Smashwords then distributes). If a writer has the time (and, believe me, it takes time), it can be done. For those who don't have the time or inclination, there are people willing to do it for a fee. Coker has a list and, I'm sure, all an author needs to do is ask around on-line for recommendations.
I will add a caveat here. Before attempting to self-publish, an author needs to make sure the manuscript has been well edited. There are many poorly written, poorly edited self-published ebooks out there. Don't be one of them. If you don't have a friend with an eye for the big picture as well as the nit-picky details, hire someone to edit your book.
Nancy: Do you foresee e-pubbing by authors as a threat to traditional publishing? Are you going to pursue both?
Diane: From what I've read, the traditional publishing industry has been slow to change. In these days of instant everything, any industry that doesn't change with the times loses. Who knew how quickly readers would embrace ebooks? What we (the older generation) forgot was we started our kids on this path when we gave them their first Atari or Nintendo. As adults, they embraced the electronic revolution, leaving the rest of us in the dust. A writer who doesn't capitalize on that loses a huge audience. That said, there are still those who love physical books, myself included. So, yes, I'm pursuing print publishing, also.
Nancy: With so many e-titles flooding the market, what are you doing to capture the attention of a would be fan?
Diane: I'm learning as much as I can about self-promotion in the Digital Age. I checked out other authors' websites and blogs. I learn best by example. I'm reading what others say on-line about how they're promoting their books. I read your book Getting It Out There: PR and Social Media for Writers. Very helpful, by the way. I'm putting into practice what I learned.
Nancy: What’s the story behind SWITCHED and the soon to be released original, SWITCHED TOO, both literally and fictionally?
Diane: Switched is a space adventure. It's the story of twins who were separated before birth. Yep, you read that right—before birth. Jessie was raised on Earth, Veronese on an alien planet. When Veronese goes AWOL from her starship to meet her biological family in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jessie is "beamed" aboard the starship by mistake. She's a wise-cracking free-spirit—a good sport, just one of the boys—who's never met a guy who raises her heart rate. Until she meets the hunky captain. Marcus is flummoxed by his unexpected visitor who displays all the emotions he forces himself to suppress—a regular Mr. Spock. As Marcus and Jessie work together to save the crew and themselves from sabotage, their mutual attraction escalates until treachery forces them into decisions that tear them apart. Switched, Too is Veronese's story.
Switched came out of my fascination with space travel. Ever since the U.S. took its first baby steps by sending men into space, I've been excited about the prospect of exploring other worlds. Star Trek, the original series, whetted my appetite. My fascination really took off when I heard John Williams' score to Star Wars. Now that was space adventure. Skip several years and I started writing romances. Received a lot of rejections. Was told there's no market for futuristic romances. I wrote one anyway because it was fun. Then, I heard about ImaJinn Books, a niche publisher of paranormal romances. The publisher liked Switched and gave me my first break. Switched was published in 2001. After it went out of print, I got the rights back. Skip a few more years and Switched has a new life as an ebook. There are some differences in this version, new scenes, changes in others, but the story is the same. I mention that (here and in all the descriptions) because I don't want those who bought the original to feel conned by the new cover into thinking this is a new book.
Nancy: How cool is it seeing your name on a book cover again (especially a gorgeous Pat Lazarus original)?
Diane: Thrilled beyond belief. Pat knows how to capture the essence of a story. Everything started in Switched with Jessie being "beamed" aboard a starship. The way Pat indicates movement in the cover, with the high-tech designs in the background, lets potential readers know right away they won't be in Kansas anymore.
BTC: What advice would you give to an author struggling with frustration and rejection?
Diane: Don't give up. Don't take rejections/criticism personally. Hard to do, I know. Try to be objective. (It's hard to be objective when someone says your baby is ugly.) Listen—really pay attention—to the reasons for rejection. You can't do much about "it doesn't meet our needs", but when an editor/agent/contest judge takes the time to write comments, pay attention. Also know when to cut your losses. Sometimes, you need to set a project aside and come back to it later. Sometimes, the project belongs under the bed. As soon as you finish a story and start sending it out, begin a new project. Don't waste time haunting the mailbox or checking your email inbox. This is a business. You have to expect rejection/criticism. Develop a thick skin. Do I follow my own advice? LOL As I said, it's hard.
BTC: Any tips or tricks for getting the ole creative juices flowing? Music, coffee, pictures of H/H (Mine is vacuuming, but that’s just me!)?
Diane: Vacuuming? Seriously? My dust bunnies have great-grandbunnies. Coffee is a necessity. Silence helps. If I listen to music, it has to be instrumental. I can't listen to music with words. They get in my head and interrupt my concentration. I like light classical and New Age. Anything by Enya or Andrea Bocelli works too because the lyrics are in a foreign language. Although I work best in silence, I'm learning how to shut out distractions. Difficult but not impossible. Earbuds from the MP3 player work, too.
BTC: Since we’re both rather Type-A /OCD gals, do you have a fixed writing process? Time of day, pantser/plotter, note cards, chronic rewriter?
Diane: Really? I've never thought of myself as Type A, but you have the OCD part right. I have "tunnel vision" where I can get so wrapped up in a project that I don't pay attention anything else around me. (The dustbunnies taught the paper in my office how to reproduce.) Contrary to the OCD part, I'm not a plotter—not at the beginning, anyway. I never know what surprises are waiting for me as I write. I find that exciting. In Switched, I wasn't sure who the villain was until almost the end. Consequently, I rewrite a lot. I like your term "chronic rewriter"—very apropos. When ideas pop in my head, I jot down notes in a notebook (I would lose notecards). I write best first thing in the morning when everything is quiet. Since my husband retired, he's turned into a night owl while I've become the morning lark (a complete reversal of how we used to be). In the late morning, he drags me away from the computer to go to the fitness center. Otherwise, when I'm "in the zone" I'd still be in my p.j.s writing into the afternoon. Then, I use the time after lunch to revise, check email and FaceBook, update the blog and/or website, and now do PR. Of course, there's always the mundane stuff that has to be done like paying bills, laundry, house cleaning (yeah, right), etc. If I can help it, I don't do any of those things in the morning when I'm at my creative best.
Nancy: What’s next for Diane Burton? What’s cooking on your creative back burners?
Diane: As you mentioned, Switched Too (the adventure continues) is in the final stages and should be available in early 2012. I have a P.I. story that takes place in a small resort town on Lake Michigan which I'd like to develop into a series. I also have a YA (more middle grade) space adventure that I had a lot of fun writing. As soon as Switched Too is out there, I'll be trying to find homes for my other projects.
Nancy: Where can we find you and your books?
Diane: You would save the easiest question for last. LOL My website is www.dianeburton.com and I blog every Monday at http://dianeburton.blogspot.com I'm on FaceBook as "Diane Burton – Author". Switched is available at Amazon.com for Kindle and at Smashwords.com for all e-readers.
Thanks, Nancy, for asking me to share so much about myself and Switched.