JR: I am here today with Kevis Hendrickson, a young adult author who has made quite a name for himself in the industry. Tell everyone a little about yourself and your work.
KH: I’d like to start by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself in this forum. Suffice to say, I like to think of myself as being more of a storyteller than an author. The stories I write reflect my passion for the human experience. Writing books is a wonderful way to share my stories with the world. It’s my intent to use the written word as a way to introduce people to a much larger tapestry of stories that I plan to showcase over time.
JR: How have you made yourself such a success? Your rankings are very high on all e-book sites and you have a pretty big following.
KH: There’s a saying that ‘a good book sells itself’. Although this is true to an extent, there are a lot of things competing for the attention of a reader. It requires a certain level of visibility in order to catch the eye of a potential reader. When I first published my books, I spent a great deal of time trying to promote them. Over time, I realized that promoting my books tended to be not only time-consuming, but also a draining experience. I eventually decided to shift gears and spend more time nurturing relationships with the people I met both on and offline and focus on promoting myself rather than my books. The occasional book promo is still a must. But actively pursuing relationships with other people is a much more effective and ultimately worthwhile endeavor in the course of trying to get one’s work noticed in a virtually limitless sea of books.
JR: What advice would you give a new author trying to get his/her foot in the door in an industry where that door is impossible to open?
KH: There are two things I believe a new author needs to have: a doggedly stubborn spirit and a healthy dose of humor. In a highly competitive field like the publishing industry, authors are going to encounter many roadblocks. Having soft skin is not conducive to advancing an author’s career. An author needs to realize that he is going to make mistakes in the course of building his career. He needs to be able to learn from those failures in order to adapt to an ever-changing industry. Whether an author decides to self-publish or seek traditional publication, being able to find the humor in a tough situation can carry one through to eventual success.
JR: Who are some of your influences?
KH: Since a kid, I’ve always looked up to George Lucas. Although an accomplished filmmaker, he is also a wonderful storyteller. Regardless of the hiccups he’s had in the last few years with some of his more recent projects, I’ve learned a great deal about how to tell stories by studying Lucas. Another great influence on my work is J.R.R. Tolkien. Much of what I learned about fantasy literature I discovered through reading his works. But I am even more impressed by his perfectionist mentality. There’s a lot to be said for a guy who spent nearly two decades writing one book. If nothing else, he’s taught me the value of spending the proper amount of time on each book I write.
JR: Give us an example of what your daily routine is as far as promoting your work.
KH: The typical day begins with me using social media such as posting on Facebook or Twitter to not only promote my books, but to connect with the people who follow me. I am also an active participant in book-related online communities such as GoodReads and KindleBoards. I spend at least a few minutes every day submitting my books to blogs or book reviewers. In addition to using print materials such as bookmarkers and posters to promote my books, I am also experimenting with purchasing ad space on various websites to help make my work more visible.
I believe it is very important also to help out fellow authors. So aside from doing anything unethical, I like to participate in networking with authors to help get the word out about each other’s books. I’d like to add that I’ve also learned the wisdom of limiting book promotion to only one or two hours a day so that I can focus on my writing. The most successful authors in the industry tend to be the ones who write prolifically and produce a large bibliography. On a similar note, spending one’s precious writing time prostrating on or offline as an author can be very detrimental to one’s career. I agree with the adage that the best thing an author can do to promote his or her book is to write another one.
JR: What is the toughest part of the publishing industry in your opinion?
KH: Like most authors, my joy comes from writing books. Since I don’t have a Public Relations manager, all of the work of promoting my books rests on my shoulders. I’ve discovered that promoting my books turned out to be a soul-sapping experience. It’s why I’ve shifted from hard promotion to networking. People don’t like to be spammed. So a more delicate approach is needed to win over new readers. In my case, I don’t like promoting anyway, so I find it a much more rewarding process to engage my readers as a regular person than as a self-promoting author.
JR: Do you feel the e-book trend is a positive or negative for the industry? For example, while more good stories are available that was not published by a big press for whatever reason, the market is saturated with more authors who aren’t talented enough to make it in the industry.
KH: I don’t see the plethora of poorly written self-published books as anything different from other mediums. Even with gatekeepers in place,Hollywoodis constantly churning out bad movies, the music industry champions mediocrity, while the large NY publishing houses seem obsessed with publishing fad-related celebrity memoirs and cookie-cutter novels. In fact, the quality of editing in large press books has been diminishing for years.
If anything, ebooks have given readers the power to decide what kind of books they want to read. This means that authors now have to interact directly with their readers since the monopoly that bookstores and publishers had before has been weakened.
I would also argue that the advent of ebooks have created a self-correcting industry where readers get to decide which books should float to the top and which ones should sink. In that sense, ebooks are a great positive for the industry since poorly written books will fail regardless of publisher.
JR: Where do you the see publishing industry going from here with companies like Borders going under and Barnes and Noble struggling to stay afloat?
KH: I do think there will always be a need for bricks and mortar bookstores and libraries. But the industry focus will inevitably, if it hasn’t already, shift to digital content. The sheer convenience of being able to download an entire book from virtually anywhere and anytime is something a hardcopy book cannot compete with. Being able to store tens of thousands of books on an ereader as opposed to a few books on a bookshelf only adds to the allure of ebooks.
Barnes and Noble was wise to develop their own brand of ereader (the Nook) since it gives them the flexibility they need to survive in this changing industry. Unfortunately, this is an evolutionary process that will claim its share of victims before the dust settles. Progress has never been a pain-free process.
JR: How do you get through staring at a blank page, with no motivation to write? Writer’s block as most call it.
KH: One of the things I do to avoid having writer’s block is to be as prepared as I can before writing a book. Doing the necessary prep work (including writing character bios, outlines, and treatments), researching the subject matter, creating a to-do list, and using visualization techniques are some of the tools I use to avoid writer’s block. But when all else fails, I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing to do is to put down the pen and pad or turn off the word processor and go do something that I enjoy doing, whether that’s playing videogames, watching a movie, drinking a glass of wine, or just spending time with loved ones. As far as I am concerned, the most effective way to overcome writer’s block is to make time to live your life regardless of how deep you are into a writing project.
JR: What is your motivation to write?
KH: I have one simple goal. To tell the best stories I’m humanly capable of telling. That’s what keeps me plodding on even when life gets a bit messy. I’m in this game to tell the stories that only I can tell. The fact that there are people interested in reading my stories is the icing on the cake.
JR: Where do you see yourself moving forward in the industry?
KH: As I mentioned before, I’m a storyteller, first and foremost. I will always have a presence in the literary community. But I do see myself transitioning to other mediums as time goes on. My mind is bursting with stories that I want to tell and I would like to take advantage of various entertainment forms to get them out there.
JR: Your turn. You can ask me any question you would like.
KH: What is your the most rewarding aspect of being a publisher?
JR: I get to read a lot of material before it is in print, and some that will never make it to print. I try to help each submission to get it to be publishable, even though many will not be published by Hobbes End. It feels good to help out authors who do not get any feedback from big publishing houses.
Bin Laden…Sleeping with the fishes.
My celebrity crush is definitely…Estella Warren
If I were President for a day I would…Go play golf.
My favorite television show is…Babylon5.
My biggest pet peeve is…Mediocrity.
I think authors are…Changing the world.