Thursday, January 9, 2014

Author Interview: Alex McDonald in Switzerland

Today Writer Abroad welcomes Alex McDonald, a fellow expat writer and an international school teacher in Lausanne, Switzerland. He is the author of the new book, Jasmine Evans and the Master of the Lamp, an urban fantasy novel.

Can you tell us a little about your book and what inspired you to write it?

Sure, Jasmine Evans and the Master of the Lamp is about a teenage girl who has moved from place to place with her dad. At the start of the book they have just moved to a small coastal town in Australia where Jasmine hopes that she will have the chance to be an ordinary girl. 

But things do not go according to plan and one fateful afternoon she discovers that she has the power to grant wishes. Her new powers unlock dangerous secrets that threaten her new home, her friends, and her very existence. 

She begins to solve the mystery of her past with the help of ancient societies and mythical creatures while realizing she is being stalked by a dark enemy and must race against time to stop them from imprisoning her forever in the mystical and fabled lamp of Aladdin.

I have been writing and reading for years and love fantasy novels and old tales. I was thinking about a 'Thousand and One Nights' and how those stories, in particular Aladdin, could be related to modern day society. I love it how Aladdin sets his genie free at the end of the story and thought about the possibility that the genie could have actually become a mortal after being released from his prison, which would mean that he would have descendants and so, Jasmine Evans and the Master of the Lamp was written.

What was the independent publishing process like? Can you explain why you chose to publish with amazon?

After having interest from an agent in New York that fell through due to being an ocean apart, amazon's kindle direct publishing (KDP) was a good option. It is really user-friendly and helps authors get their books out to readers quickly. It doesn't take long to upload your book, fill out a few questions and decide on a price to sell it. Within 24 hours Jasmine Evans was in the amazon marketplace, which was very exciting!

For now, I have chosen to exclusively sell my book on amazon. The reason for this is if you give amazon exclusivity they allow you 5 days out of every 90 day period to give your book away for free for kindle. They also offer you other deals that help find your target audience. For new authors like me, working with a site as large as amazon is a good place to start.

Is there a reason you only published an e-book and not a hard copy?

The ease of not having to wait for my book to be printed and the instant access readers have to my book convinced me to begin by publishing Jasmine Evans as an e-book. For now, I would like to keep publishing my books as e-books as I like how I am in control of any changes or updates I need to make to the book. For example, I changed the book cover to a much more dynamic and exciting one to what I previously had and the users who had bought Jasmine Evans were able to have their copy updated to the new cover.

However, I do understand that many readers (like me) still love to hold a book every now and then and actually physically turn the pages. So I have looked into companies like createspace, that allow authors to have their book as a 'print-on-demand'. This simply means if somebody wants to buy a book it gets printed when the sale is made. For self-publishers this is a great option and means you won't have dozens of copies waiting to be sold in your cupboard.

How did you find your editor and cover designer?

My editor was a close friend of mine and I worked with her to get Jasmine Evans to a publishing standard. However, there are great editors out there who I have spoken to that will edit the first 1000 words of your manuscript for free. It is a great way to have your writing critiqued with no added cost.

For my cover design I found a website called that has dozens of great freelance designers from all around the world bidding on projects. I had over twenty artists/designers apply to do my book cover. In the end I chose a fantastic artist called Cristian S. Aluas, who was completely professional and came at a very reasonable price.

Can you talk a little bit about how you are promoting the book? You recently ran a very successful 24-hour free giveaway. How did that help boost sales later?

As a self-published author I am reading a lot about how to promote yourself and connect with the right readers. It's been a bit of hit and miss to begin with. Basically it starts with finding other authors who write in your genre and trying to connect with bloggers (like yourself). Then you need to offer people something of value, like free advice, tweets that link to articles of interest and talking about your experience.

The 24-hour free giveaway was a great success and has helped me to connect with people out there who read my genre. I mean who doesn't like things for free? What this has done for my sales is it is now appearing in people's recommended list. You have probably seen this on amazon where it says, 'people who bought this item also bought this' and then there is a list of related items. So my book is now connected with tons of other fantasy novels. 

Anything else you've learned about independent publishing that might help other writers looking to do the same?

Keep writing and success will come. It seems the most successful independent publishers out there have a lot of material. So if you get someone who likes one of your books they are more likely to go looking for more of your work. For example, one author I have been following has a series of 5 books about witches. She often gives away the first book for free then charges $0.99 for the second book, the rest of the books in the series are around $4-$6

It is a huge achievement to actually finish a book, but I have found that once I had written one it got easier when I wrote the second. I am now in the midst of writing my third novel and it seems to be going quicker.

Thanks, Chantal for having me feature on your blog and good luck with all your writing. 


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