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ANITA LAYDON MILLER INTERVIEW AND BOOK GIVEAWAY
Today I’m interviewing Anita Laydon Miller. She decided to e-published her debut MG novel EARTHLING HERO. She’s calling it “an inexpensive ebook for kids.” The book came out in late March 2011.
Hi Anita. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your book?
First of all, thank you so much for welcoming me here! It’s an honor to be allowed into your great space in blogland.
As for me…hmmm…I live with my four kids and husband in Colorado Springs. It is a fabulous place to live and all the outdoorsy stuff we do really leaves a mark on my writing. In addition to my mom/wife work, I’m the book columnist for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE. My column prints every Sunday and reaches about 100,000 readers. I’m also working on my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction.
My book is about an eleven-year-old boy, Mikey, who wakes one night to find a stranger standing next to his bed. The stranger, Axe, is Mikey’s alien clone. Together with Axe’s sister, the boys must save the world. It’s a fun adventure story. And it only costs $.99.
2. You chose to make Mikey and Axe clones of each other? But their personalities are unique. How did you develop them and their individual voices?
I did a lot of daydreaming about Mikey and Axe before I started writing them—mostly while I was shuttling kids around. By the time I actually put fingers to keyboard, the voices just flowed.
The thing about Mikey and Axe being clones also developed from daydreaming. I think a lot about how we all have multiple personalities, and when those personalities work together, they can really rock. Sometimes I’m cowardly and sometimes I’m brave. Those two sides of my personality help each other, and I thought it would be cool to develop characters who could do something similar for each other.
3. That’s an awesome tip for developing characters. Did you plot out the story and the unique gadgets like the Knocker-outer before you wrote the story or as you went?
I knew how the story would start and I knew how it would end. I knew that in the middle I wanted a chase scene inside a mall, a shootout inside NORAD (a military installation built into a mountain), a fight with Chinese assassins, and a final scene inside a cave near the Garden of the Gods.
For research, I visited Cheyenne Mountain (the military installation), went on a field trip to some awesome caves, and hiked all over the Garden of the Gods. I also shopped at a mall. But I couldn’t find any Chinese assassins.
I “invented” the Shut-up and Sit-still Spray before I started writing. Some of the other stuff (like the Knocker-outer) I added as I went along and revised. I made each version a little more sci-fi. I’m working on the second and third books in the series right now. One of the books will take the kids to an alien planet. That will be much more sci-fi.
4. Wow! That’s cool that you have the series planned out. You were represented by Sara Megibow. I would so love to be represented by her and I bet a lot of our readers would too. Yet you chose to part ways when you decided to e-publish your book. Was that decision hard and what made you decide to do this?
Sara Megibow is an awesome agent. She’s savvy, professional and fun. The agency is run intelligently. I think it will weather the storm in publishing well. But publishing is changing and I wanted to change with it.
Here’s the thing: Do I think I would’ve eventually been published traditionally? Yes.
I don’t think I’m the best writer who ever lived and I don’t have a huge head, but I read A LOT, and can look at my own work critically. I know I was headed toward publication. And it just didn’t look good to me. I’d have to wait years to see my book on shelves, and I’d have little control over how edits would be made on it…so I pictured myself making changes that were lateral changes, ones that didn’t truly improve the story, but just changed it. I also pictured myself worrying whether the publishing house that bought my book would even be around by the time my book was printed. And I didn’t want my ebooks to cost readers more than $2.99. Because to me, that seems like a fair price for ebooks.
Basically, there were about a hundred reasons why I did what I did. But the biggie was control: Financial and creative.
5. Once you made the decision to e-publish your book, it seems like it came out within a matter of weeks. What were some of the things you had to do to get it ready for publication and how did you do them so quickly?
I did a final revision of the book. (I still found several errors after it was up, but fixed those quickly). My husband investigated the formatting techniques and formatted the book. We researched how to sell books through Smashwords, Amazon, the Barnes & Noble Nook store and other locations.
We also made a cover—it’s a photo of the Siamese Twins rock formation at the Garden of the Gods. This is appropriate, since Mikey and Axe are basically twins. It’s also appropriate because a big EARTHLING HERO scene takes place near the formation.
I read buckets about epublishing. JA Konrath is the best resource. If you’re a writer considering publishing (traditionally or independently) you need to stop by Konrath’s blog before you sign anything. I also suggest that you purchase an independent ebook in your genre. Writers need to be aware that authors with good books are making the decision to epublish independently. My book doesn’t suck. Don’t fool yourself into think people who publish independently are sucky writers.
I had the book for sale within ten days of deciding to epublish. That’s with four kids and a part-time job. It’s doable.
6. I love how you decided on the cover for your book. It’s perfect for your story. You are now are in complete control of the marketing of your book. A lot of aspiring middle grade authors feel like it’s already harder to get middle grade books reviewed on blogs than YA books. And I’ve read that some book blog reviewers won’t review an e-published book. How are you planning to market your book and get it in the hands of middle graders?
My goal is to have three entertaining middle grade ebooks for sale before Christmas of this year. The more books I have for sale, the more the books will feed off each other. I really think of my marketing plan as a one year plan in which I give these three books a chance to find their audiences, so that my career as a middle grade author can grow.
My biggest push in marketing is being done by Kindle and Nook. If they can get their ereaders into the hands of middle graders (and believe me, their marketing team is working on that right now), you can bet those middle graders will be looking for good, inexpensive ebooks soooon.
In addition to silently cheering my Kindle and Nook teams, I’m going on this blog tour (thank you, Jonathon, for helping me). I’m also visiting large groups of kids and their parents…talking to them about reading and ereading (because, by the way, I love families to read together)…and I’m giving a reading/writing workshop to local kids this summer. I’ll also be getting EARTHLING HERO info to my GAZETTE readers soon, and I have other plans, too.
Real readers will review the book. And I’ll swallow whatever they write. I’ve already had a few people review it…people I’ve never heard of or communicated with in any way. That’s fun!
7. Are you working on any other projects?
I’m epublishing a MG mystery this summer. I love that book because my daughters love it so much. I think it’s a great book for girls, but I think boys could like it, too. I’m writing a sequel to EARTHLING HERO that I’m hoping will be done by Dec 15. And I’m writing a YA that will be done about this time next year.
8. How can we buy your book and how much does it cost? Do you need an e-reader to read it?
EARTHLING HERO is available through Smashwords, Amazon and the Barnes & Noble Nook store for $.99. It can be read on ereaders, iPhones, iPads, iTouches, etc. It can also be downloaded to PCs and Macs. If you want to download it to a computer, you can go through Smashwords and get it as a pdf. Or you can use a free Kindle app and buy it from Amazon and it downloads it to your computer automatically. The Barnes and Noble Nook app works the same way.
If you can come to this blog, you can read an ebook. If you have any questions about how to do this, email me. I want people to be able to read ebooks…not just mine. I think every writer should own an ereader, though…but that’s for another post.
Thank you, everyone! Feel free to ask me questions. I’ll pop in and out of here all day.
Thanks Anita. Good luck with your book. And she’s right. It’s super easy to download the book to your computer. I did because I don’t have an e-reader.
You can buy a copy of her book here. And you can find Anita at her website, her blog, and her middle grade blog.
I’m giving away one copy of EARTHLING HERO. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 30th. I’ll announce the winner on May 2nd. International entries are welcome.
Don’t forget to enter my giveaways for THE HOT LIST and an ARC of POSSESSION by midnight on April 23rd. I’ll announce the winners on April 25th. And be sure to stop by on April 25th when I’m interviewing Karen Mahoney and giving away a copy of THE IRON WITCH.