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Author Interview – Peter Birk

Author Interview - Peter BirkAuthor Interview – Peter Birk

Peter Birk was born in Oakland,California in 1971, but grew up in Decatur,Illinois. He discovered writing in high school, and pursued it through college, where he had the privilege of working with and being taught by Maxine Kumin, Marilynne Robinson, and David Foster Wallace, among others. While in college, Peter Birk had several short stories published in literary journals. Last December, he self-published his first novel, To Trust the Wolf and is busy working on the second.

Your book To Trust the Wolf was made available to the public in December, 2011. How well has it been received by the public so far?

The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been overwhelmingly positive. 8 five star reviews on Amazon, several positive reviews on Goodreads, and an extensive review by an independent book blogger. Since I had only let friends and family read it before I published it, it’s been amazing to get feedback from complete strangers, and talk to them about the book.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing vs being published?

The advantage of self-publishing is that it is your book. You are putting it out there, and no one can tell you what you can or cannot do. And you can do it. You don’t have to get approval from some gatekeeper to allow the public to start reading your book. It’s out there, ready to be read. Once I found out how I could self-publish my book, it became a huge goal for me to do so. Before, I was sort of spinning my wheels, working on the book, but worrying about how to get it to an agent or to a publisher, and that worry was really keeping me from finishing the book. When I decided to self-publish, suddenly it all became real. I didn’t have to wait for someone else to approve it. I could get it to the point where I felt it was finished, and I could then release it to the world.

The downside of self-publishing is marketing. It is really hard to sell books without proper marketing, and publishers know all about marketing. More so, they have the time and energy to devote to marketing a book. There are people whose job will be marketing your book. That would be really nice, because it’s hard to find the time and energy to market a book and write at the same time.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?

My wife edited my book. She has a bachelors in English from the University of Iowa, and comes from a very literary and writing focused family. Do a lot of couples have extended conversations about grammar? Because we do. Plus she works for free, so that was a plus.

I had been bouncing the story off of her for years, so it was nice to let her get her hands on the manuscript and start marking it up. It was an intense couple of months for us, marking up our different copies and discussing our notes before I’d revise and reprint it again. I don’t know how many different iterations we went through.

But it’s vitally important to have another set of eyes go through your text, and it’s really important to have someone you trust read it and tell you what works and what doesn’t, because after a point it gets really hard to tell the forest from the trees. You’ve been through this scene so many times, you might not even be reading it any more.

Who formatted your book? In how many formats is your book available?

I formatted the book myself, using Scrivener. Currently, the book is available in Kindle and Paperback formats, because I’m participating in the KDP Select program. The book has been available in Nook, ePub, PDF, etc, through Smashwords.

What problems did you run into?

I only ran into a problem with Smashwords not being able to aggregate the book to the Apple iBookstore. It took months of bugging them and emailing them to finally determine that the image of the map was not being handled correctly. I’m in the process of creating a new Apple specific edition of the book.

What do you think is the main factor, other than writing a quality and professionally edited books that differentiate a successful self-published writer from one who remains forever out of the limelight?

Reviews. They are the most effective marketing for a book– someone else saying, hey, I read this, and this is what I thought. People who are looking for new books to read go to the reviews to find their next treasure. And most self-published ebook authors run into a huge wall when trying to get their books reviewed. But even reviews on Amazon are hard to come by. I’ve had over a thousand downloads, and I’ve gotten 8 reviews.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?

I would like to devote as little as possible, to be honest. In actuality, I’ve devoted most of this year to marketing the first book, while not writing the second. I’ve tried to put the marketing on hold a couple of times. I’m actually using the KDP Select program as a path of least resistance right now. I’m marketing the book, but don’t have to focus that much attention on it.


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