You might say Jennette Marie Powell is responsible for my writing career. Li’l Sis, as I’ve come to call her in the 27 years I known her, told me on New Year’s Eve, 1999, that she’d written a novel. Then she asked me when mine would be done. Which meant I had to go home and write Northcoast Shakedown.
Jennette started out in ebooks before they were ready for prime time. She has a new book out, Time’s Enemy, an early draft of which I had the privilege of reading. She talks here about her experience in the era of Kindle and Smashwords.
First off, tell us about Time’s Enemy.
Time’s Enemy is the story about an ordinary guy who becomes a time-traveler, thanks to a freak accident, which makes him
an unwilling initiate in the Saturn Society, a secret society of time travelers. Determined to prevent his daughter’s murder, he violates the Society’s highest law and becomes a fugitive. But the Society refuses to tell Tony how to time-travel within his own life, so he seeks help from Charlotte, the woman whose life he saved during a prior trip to the past.
When Tony arrives in 1933 looking for answers, Charlotte is both thrilled and terrified to see her childhood hero. Loyal to the Society, she is honor-bound to bring to justice those who manipulate time for their own gain. In giving him sanctuary, she faces a terrible choice-condemn the man she loves and to whom she owes her life, or deny her deepest convictions by helping him escape and risk sharing his sentence.
It’s labeled a romance, but as a couple of reviewers have noted, it has more of the science fiction, dealing-with-paradoxes type of stuff in it than is found in most time travel romances. The romance really isn’t front-and-center throughout the book as much as the typical romance either, so it’s something that guys are more likely to enjoy despite the romance label. My husband decided to read it after I told him the main character gets beheaded in the first chapter. 🙂
You started with ebooks over a decade ago. What was that like, and how has it changed since then?
Ebooks have been around and available via mainstream Internet stores since the mid-nineties. Way back then, people were saying “this is the wave of the future,” and predicted the soon-to-come demise of print publishing. I suspected those people were a bit ahead of their time, but I believed them. I had a book that was rejected at the one publisher who took short, romantic suspense novels, so I figured, why not? This was in 2002, and ebooks were just starting to find their first market. Thing is, that market was pretty much composed of other authors, and erotica readers. My book was almost as far as you could get from that, but unfortunately, that was what my publisher was discovering to be their main sellers, so erotica was where they focused their business efforts. When my contract ended 2-1/2 years later, my book had probably sold all of 2 dozen copies. The other factor at work was that it was my first book, and while it wasn’t bad for a first book, it wasn’t really ready for prime time, either. So I’ve been published, but I never really felt published until now.
What advantage do you see in going the independent route?
There are many! The main one is that books that lack a wide enough appeal to make a profit for a big publisher with big overhead, can now find a readership because we can offer them directly to readers. The other huge advantage is control – no more worries about getting a crappy cover, or being forced to change a great title. Also, we can control our release schedule to coordinate promo activities, or to bring out a sequel quickly after one book is released. We can control our royalty rate, our pricing and more – all with the reader in mind.
What factors went into your pricing decision?
When I decided to go indie, I started my own publishing company, Mythical Press. As with any other business startup, one of the decisions I had to make was what sort of business model I wanted to pursue. By that, I mean did I want to be a discount publisher, a high-end (i.e., collectible) publisher, or a regular/traditional publisher? My goal for Mythical Press was to produce books of comparable quality to those from NY publishers, so that means going with a regular/traditional model. Dean Wesley Smith explains this much better than I can. As he states, a publisher following the “regular” business model would typically price ebooks as follows: $.99 for a short story, $2.99 for a novella, and $4.99 for a novel. Time’s Enemy is a long, complex book, so IMO that would be a suitable price for it. Since I am brand new, I dropped the price to $3.99, to be more firmly in impulse-buy territory. As a reader, I consider this a fair price to pay for several hours of entertainment.
What challenges did you have around bring the book to market?
The main thing was letting it languish in submission to publishers who don’t buy books they consider to have only niche appeal. Otherwise, it was the time spent learning about the business, and learning how to format for epublishing, getting accounts and such set up at the various vendors, and so on – al of which I knew would be a lot of work, Despite my technical background (I’m a web application developer/designer and formerly, a graphic artist, in my day job), this took a lot more time than I anticipated. Getting it to look “pretty good” was easy, but I’m very, very picky.
What’s in the pipeline?
I’m currently working on a print version of Time’s Enemy, plus I’m revising Time’s Fugitive, the sequel, which I’m planning to release in December. I have another book, a historical paranormal romance, on submission with traditional and e-publishers. If they don’t bite, that one will become a Mythical Press book too. Otherwise, I have several projects in various states of completion. There’s also room for more Saturn Society novels. Which I work on first could change, depending on reader feedback.
Thanks for having me, Jim!
Check out Jen and her book here: