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Self-Publishing Talk: Interview with Stephen Hayes, author of ‘The Seventh Sorcerer’

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Stephen HayesStephen Hayes lives and writes in Melbourne, Australia. Having been born partially blind in 1986 and lost his limited vision in 2000, he started writing stories at the age of eight, winning the Harold Dickinson Memorial Australian Literary Competition for a short story about a haunted house at the age of eleven. He completed his first novella in Braille at fourteen and by sixteen, had completed the first draft of ‘The Seventh Sorcerer’.

Since 2002, Stephen has allowed his imagination to run wild with The Magic Crystals saga; sometimes pushing boundaries that today’s somewhat moral society deem to sweep under the carpet. Although classified as fantasy genre due mainly to the prominent magic component, Stephen’s writing also includes a good balance of drama, mystery, romance, humour, and he isn’t afraid to address controversial moral issues.

His latest books are The Seventh Sorcerer and Rock Haulter from The Magic Crystals Series.

Visit his website at www.themagiccrystals.com.

The Seventh SorcererThank you for this interview, Stephen.  You self-published your latest book, The Seventh Sorcerer.  Would you please tell us why you chose the self-publishing route?
I believe in making my own luck. I know that I’ll require a bit of luck to succeed no matter which way I go about it, but at least as a self-published author, I’m not relying entirely on other people to make it happen for me.
Take us through the process.  You had an idea for your book, you wrote it, then you decided to find a publisher.  What were your experiences with that?  Or did you decide to self-publish without looking any further?
There was actually a lot of time between writing the book and deciding to have it published; for a long time, writing was only a hobby, and not something I considered sharing with the world. When I did finally decide to have a go at getting it published, I did look at other options first. It only took me one round of sending the manuscript around the block to decide that I was wasting my time and money in postage stamps. I looked at other options as well, such as vanity publishers (which I ran away from in a hurry once I got an idea of how they really worked) and eventually settled on just doing it myself. It’s for that reason that I’m only publishing in electronic format for the time being; testing the waters as inexpensively as possible, and only investing any further if there’s demand for it.
What different online stores carry your book?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Sony ReaderStore, and a bunch of other stores distributed by Ingram Digital. It’s only in eBook format for now, though. The two books can be purchased at the following links:
Do you think that having your book self-published makes any difference to the media? Are they open to interviewing self-published authors or reviewing their books? 
I don’t see why not. I’m aware of the stigma that is sometimes associated with self-published books, and the assumption that they’re probably not as good as published books (because they haven’t been approved by the editor of a publishing house, supposedly), but even those people can only judge by their own opinion. If a self-published author can find a way to get publicity, the media will sit up and take notice, and even more so if the author has useful contacts. It just means that self-published authors have to work a little harder than the traditionally published authors to make it happen.
Authors who go the traditional route have an edge over self-published authors in regards to distribution to bookstores.  How did you handle that as a self-published author? 
That only applies in physical book stores, where it costs them money to buy books from the distributers. Since my books are only available digitally, it costs nothing for online retailers to sell it. My books are sold in the major retailers and distributed to the rest by Ingram Digital, so they can be found in most places around the Internet.
On the other hand, self-published authors have the edge over traditional books in the regards that the author has all the control.  I’d like to begin with your cover.  Did you make it or did you have someone else design it? If you had someone else, can you tell us who it is?
I probably would have done the cover myself if I were capable of it, but being totally blind makes that a bit of a challenge. I probably would have looked for a freelancer, as I’ve done with most other tasks in the publishing process, but my father happens to be a competent designer and has already put covers together for the first four books in The Magic Crystals series. Since those covers were approved by iTunes, who I’m told are strict about professional-looking book covers, I reckon I can trust his designs.
Did you get someone to format it for you or did you do that?
I wanted the formatting to look as professional as possible, so I left that to the company who also took care of the distribution. I chose them because they provided the best price I could find while formatting the book into the three most widely used formats: PDF, Mobipocket (Kindle) and EPUB.
What was the hardest challenge for you to self-publish your book?
The same as it is for everyone else: The marketing side of it. I must confess, until very recently, I’ve made very little effort to market the book, but it wasn’t out of ignorance of the process. I knew how necessary it would be to get sales, but I wanted to wait until I’d had some ideas about how to go about it. The good thing about online publishing is that I don’t have to meet a deadline: The books aren’t going to disappear off the Net if I don’t sell a certain number of copies by the end of the year.
What steps are you taking to promote it?
I’m doing as much of the typical stuff as I can, but since the books are being sold on the Internet, I’m focusing my marketing efforts there. Social media is going to be my best friend, because it allows me to make connections and communicate directly with my readers. In addition, though, I am coming up with a few more obscure marketing tactics which will, if all goes well, set my books apart from others. We shall see…
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other self-published authors?
Don’t do too much of the work yourself if you want to separate yourself from the stigma I mentioned earlier. If the cover is dull, the formatting is poor and there are typos in it, your reputation may be shot before you even get started. At the same time, though, stay well clear of the vanity publishers. Hiring freelancers is the best thing you can do, particularly for editing, proof reading, formatting and cover design. Above all, though, do plenty of research before you take any action.
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