Author Jeff Rivera On Traditional Vs. Self-Publishing

jeff rivera8Name: Jeff Rivera
Author Website
Hometown: Hillsboro, Oregon
Current Residence: Costa Rica
Education: Glencoe High School
Briefly: Journalist, Author of Forever My Lady and No Matter What
Favorite Read: The Cheese Stands Alone
Pet Peeves: Selfish people.
If You Weren’t In the Book Industry, You’d Be… A College Professor or a Computer Programmer.
What You Have Lined Up Next: The prequel to my original novel, Forever My Lady.

Did you love reading when you were a little boy?

Absolutely. I loved hiding in the school library to get away from having to play at recess.

What inspired you to write your first novel Forever My Lady?

I was working at K-Mart. It was my first job after having been homeless at 19. I met a friend of mine whose life mirrored my main character and who was a person who was trying to change his life around for the girl of his dreams. That’s what sparked the original idea.

Originally, it was self-published. You single-handedly moved 8000 units of the book. How can new authors experience similar success in marketing their novels?

Now, looking back, I think it comes down to a few things:Knowing exactly who your audience is and where they hangout on and off-line. Hangout out with them online one at a time whether that be via social media, email or message boards and treating them as individual people instead of a bulk of people you’re spraying and praying. Writing material for them that is spread-worthy. Having a book that is not necessarily filled with pretty sentences but rather has scenes and characters that make your particular audience want to talk about the novel is the key. A good or great novel is not good enough. It has to be phenomenal for your particular audience. An audience that loves your story will do all the promotion for you. The rest of the stuff, landing an agent, a book and movie deal etc falls into place and they will come to you if you focus on at least #3.

You’ve pretty much seen both sides of the publishing realm. You got picked up by Warner’s afterwards. What are are some of the pluses and minuses when it comes to traditional and self-publishing?

I don’t think it’s necessary to bad-mouth either of them and it’s a shame when I see authors doing that. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous. Certain books are best-suited for traditional and others for independently publishing.

The pluses of traditional? You feel validated, that you wrote something that a multi-million dollar company feels strongly enough about that they’re willing to take a gamble on you. If you’re able to get under the skin of the people in the house in a good way and they really connect with you and your novel, they might even push it more but don’t count on it. I found that I had to take the helm and worked just as hard if not harder when I got a book deal than I did when I was self-publishing. Now, years later, I totally understand why that happened. I’ve become good friends with the people at the house. Before I thought they were ignoring me and was pissed at them but now, I understand they weren’t doing it on purpose. They were overwhelmed with other books and were doing the best they could with the time allotted to them.

The pluses of indie publishing?

I love indie publishing. Most of what I write is best-suited for it. You have total freedom to do what you want and if you succeed or fail it’s all on you. You have no one else to blame and your hands are not tied behind your back with corporate red-tape. But you also need to invest the time or have the resources to invest in professionals willing to do the leg-work for you but even then you have to really be hands-on to make sure everything is running smoothly.

You’re also a freelance journalist.

Well, I blog for several outlets and that’s a great way to meet people you respect and to build your audience as an author. Right now, I’m focused on my novels, but I do blog still from time to time.

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Are there some rules in journalism writing that apply to fiction writing?

Well, you have to sit your butt down and do it with no excuses. I only blog for outlets that let me do things the way I like to do them. I don’t like people who micro-manage me. Otherwise, in my opinion, they might as well just write it themselves and save us both the frustration.

What’s the most important things that authors should know about their craft?

I think learning how to write for your particular audience and how to become a great storyteller over trying to be a great writer. I’m amazed at how many incredible writers there are that haven’t been “discovered” yet but would love to see more incredible storytellers. there’s a difference. The other thing is, you don’t need to sell a million books to make a living. You can have just 1000 fans or 10,000 fans and depending on how often you put out books, you can make a liveable income. So, if you’re passionate about writing about English Sea Turtles in Jerusalem during the 1800s. You can do so and focus on only fans of that rather than trying to appeal to “everybody”.

What do you do when you get stuck while trying to write?

I don’t get stuck. My issues is having too many ideas or not sitting my butt down or being tempted to check my Gmail or Facebook for the 400th time. So, what I do is I unplug the internet. It’s that simple. And when I have too many ideas, I do a brain dump, print it out and highlight the ideas that are the best and those are what I focus on.

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