C S (Christine Stuart) Marks is from Indiana and lives in the middle of a state forest in Owen where she loves to ride horses. Elfhunter, Fire-heart, and Ravenshade are classic high fantasy, fast-paced novels that share her passion for backwoods and all the creatures that live there. The trilogy evolves around a formidable villain and the quest of elves to rid the world of him, and his quest to rid the world of every elf that lives.
CS Marks admits that anybody that lives near her have seen Elfhunter all over her car and on her shirts. Elfhunter shirts are a novel way for her to advertise without being pretentious. This is a very powerful weapon in her arsenal of attracting new readers, which consists of about 30,000 at present, which isn’t too shabby for an Indie. She has aspirations of increasing her fan base and writing more books. It’s always about the next book anyway, and keeping the ones that are out there alive and healthy.
CS feels books are like children, a product of the author that have a gestation period, a birth, and then a post-partum depression. They sit around and go now what, then eventually mature into something that’s worth a look. Every time she meets a new reader, it just makes her day she admits. Right now, the youngest reader she has is a very, very, astute eight year old, and the oldest is 92, and everybody in between. Her highs come from going to a book signing and seeing a line of people waiting for an hour to get an autograph. Being able to share your story with as many people as possible who want to go on the journey is a great reward for any author.
1. Success comes from discovery and good reviews. Do you ask friends to give you a good review when you first launch an eBook?
My case is a little different. I published my books in print first (Kindles were not yet available). Therefore, I already had reviews of all three books when the e-versions came out. I have always felt a little ‘odd’ asking for reviews from friends, though the earliest reviews of Elfhunter are from people who know me (that’s typical, especially with print books, as distribution is likely to be limited to the author’s immediate vicinity in the beginning). Let’s put it this way: I might not ASK, but if a reader wants to leave an honest review I certainly won’t object. 😉 Exception: family members are absolutely forbidden to post reviews.
2. With your current success on the Internet, do you feel as compelled to be out promoting your work?
Well…I don’t do a lot of promoting. Not nearly as much as I should, as a matter of fact! Examples: My blog is woefully neglected, my e-books are only available on Kindle, and I am extremely conservative on Amazon. I’ve enjoyed a modest success, which I believe is due more to reader recommendations than anything else. Blogs like this one help, too, and we all appreciate the opportunity they provide. (Thank you!)
When sales are down, it’s tough to know what to do. But there are promotional opportunities available–it’s a process of deciding which will give the most yield. Unfortunately, I’m kind of a dinosaur, and that limits my abilities in the e-universe.
3. Amazon is changing the book market. Authors are no longer dependent upon big publishers to get known. Still most authors long to have a big publisher pick up their work. What are your aspirations?
I would love to have a publisher, but not necessarily one of the ‘Big Six’. A genre-specific, smaller publisher might be a better fit for my books. I have secured the services of a top NY agent, and she has been working hard, but it’s a tough nut to crack. I’m doing fine on my own, and I have been approached by a couple of small presses. One is under consideration at the moment–we’ll see what happens. What I really aspire to: gaining real independence as a writer (meaning ‘I can afford to be a full-time writer’), having an ever-increasing readership, and becoming increasingly adept at my craft.
4. The trend for many eBook authors is to write, write, write. Are you compelled to put out volumes of work?
When I am in the middle of a good story, there’s little that can slow me down. However, I am a conservative publisher and won’t put work out before it’s ready. That means several drafts, beta readers, proofreaders, and yes…professional editing. I might be writing the next one while getting the previous one ready, though. 😉
5. Your art adds to the vision of your writing. Many authors lack the talent to create a good cover. Did you have any help creating yours?
Not with the art, but certainly with design. Again, the covers are designed for print books, not e-books. They could use a makeover for thumbnail display. I had a lot of input from professional designers and formatters on the print covers. The back cover copy, which is extremely important in a print book, took a number of drafts. I learned HEAPS from them.
6. Creating eBooks isn’t as simple a process as one would hope. What was your experience in dealing with all the formats?
(ahem!) Well, the fact that my e-books are only available in one format kinda speaks for itself here. I haven’t exactly been a shining example of computer-age-savvy. One of the many reasons I’d love to have the backing of a publisher. I have a lot of different skills, but I still must rely on others.
7. How are you eBooks sales compared to you paperback?
I have print sales?? (Just kidding.) Actually, because I do a number of conventions every year, I have sold quite a few paperbacks. Bookstores are still selling them, and I sell a set on Amazon about once a week. I have no intention of abandoning print format, as I love my hard-copy books, and so do many of my readers. But I would guess the ratio of print to e-book is about 1:10.
8. Any words of wisdom for other authors venturing into the digital world?
1. Don’t rush things. There’s the temptation to look at successful e-book authors and say: ‘I can do that!’ One looks longingly at their income (which, in some cases, is astonishing) and quite understandably wants to ride the same wave. However, because it is SO easy to e-pub, there’s also the temptation to rush into publication. That’s a mistake. It’s not as likely with print books because of the investment involved, but e-books deserve every bit as much attention as any other offering.
2. The best investments you can make are in editing and cover design/book description.
3. Try not to spend too much time agonizing over sales, checking rankings, comparing your results with other authors’. The question ‘why am I not selling as much as author X’ is unproductive, as you are not author X. You are you, your work is different, and your readership will be different. Certainly, learn from your colleagues, but the best service you can do for your books is to make them the best they can be.
4. Get help when you need it! If you can’t afford it, save your money until you can. You are a professional, and all aspects of your work should reflect it.
5. Before you push the ‘publish’ button, realize that NO book appeals to every reader. Some people won’t love it, and that’s ok.