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    Interview with Cindy Vallar
Interview by Lee Masterson


Cindy's novel, The Scottish Thistle, will be released April 8, 2002 by NovelBooks,Inc -

Fiction Factor - Would you consider e-publishing to be a viable stepping stone into the publishing world?

Cindy Vallar - I'm not sure everyone would agree that it is, but I became an e-author with the hope that eventually the sales of my novel would show agents and print publishers that I had a following and a market for historical fiction. Some authors, like MJ Rose and Leta Nolan Childers, have successfully stepped from e-publishing into traditional publishing.

Even if it's not a viable stepping stone, e-publishing provides a great opportunity for authors whose works are considered unmarketable by print publishing houses. E-publishers take chances with cross-genres and less high-selling genres such as historical fiction. Also, my books are available sooner and for much longer time periods than they if they were in print.

One thing that e-publishing allows a new author to do is amass a following, people who are interested in the type of books that he/she writes, and to acquire a positive or negative reputation as a writer and marketer.  New authors may not be aware of how much work the author must to do to make his/her book a success.  If you can show that you're willing to promote your book, you increase your chances of making good sales.  This provides statistical ammunition to present to an agent or publisher to show them what you're willing to do to sell the book.

FF - Has e-publishing helped or hindered your career?

CV - Both.  On the one hand, e-publishing has allowed me to establish a professional persona in the writing world.  The reviews I write of other authors' books - print and electronic - are found on a variety of web sites.  They show I can write concisely and meet deadlines.

My maritime piracy column, Pirates & Privateers, also demonstrates those points, but also helped me amass a following of people with an interest in piracy.  I've also become an authority whom people contact when they have a question. Recently, a sheriff asked for some help on behalf on his son who had to do a school report on pirates. University students in England contacted me for suggestions on where to go or who to contact to locate information for dissertations.  A Hungarian needed information on a particular Barbary corsair, and through my contacts I provided him with information to help him. There
aren't a lot of web sites where people can find quality information on piracy, yet the need for such a site exists and Pirates & Privateers fills that need.

Yet, I've also endured some stumbling blocks in my career.  RFI West published my first novel, THE SCOTTISH THISTLE, in January 2001.  The book received great reviews and I did a lot of marketing.  The release even got me an invitation to attend the Clan Cameron gathering in Scotland last August. 

Two months before my plane left, though, I had to pull my book from the publisher because they breached the contract several times.  Aside from some major miscommunications within the company, they failed to provide promotional copies of my book and only secured one review of the book contrary to the terms stipulated in the contract.  The biggest problem, however, was their failure to pay my royalties as promised.

Other authors left the company for similar reasons about the same time.  One requested the attorneys general in two states investigate the company for fraud.  I contacted the company's lawyer three months after I terminated my contract to request payment of my royalties.  It wasn't until I sent supporting letters for the fraud investigations that I received my royalty check. 

My intent here is not to bad-mouth the company, but I do feel that other writers should be aware of problems that exist before they sign a contract.

Making the decision to terminate my contract was not easy.  I worked for ten years on my novel and having it published was a dream come true.  I consider myself a professional writer, however, and must consider more than just my personal feelings.  Business-related concerns and my professional reputation are part of each article or novel that I write.  To continue with the contract meant I gave tacit approval to the company's unprofessional and unethical business practices, and that I agreed they could make money off my hard work without paying the royalties due me.  I would also have endangered my own reputation as a writer.  If I hope to have other publishers take me seriously, I must be willing to protect myself and my work.  The sum of money owed me was minimal, but the potential injury to my reputation and work was not.  That's why I felt it necessary to take the action I did.

I was lucky.  When I returned home from Scotland, there was a message from another e-publisher offering me a contract for THE SCOTTISH THISTLE. NovelBooks, Inc. has a good contract.  They visibly market their books.  They have both a business plan and an author's handbook.  The publisher answers her e-mail and provides support to her authors.  While I'm sorry that I had to go through this learning experience, I'm glad it happened because I know that when NBI releases THE SCOTTISH THISTLE in April 2002, it is being done by a reputable e-publisher who cares about her company, her authors, and her booklist.

FF - What pros or cons can you suggest that e-publishing brings?

CV - I already mentioned two pros - fast track publication and long shelf life.  One of the best pros is the worldwide availability of e-books.  People from as far away as Japan and Thailand have corresponded with me about my book, and I've met highly respected researchers from around the world because of my piracy column.

The cons might include the large amount of promotion/marketing that falls on the author's shoulders.  We would do it if published by print publishers, but e-authors not only have to promote themselves and their books, they also have to promote e-books.  It consumes a lot of time.

Recently, an e-author whose book was published by a New York publisher finally received his first royalty check. The sales of his book took almost ten years to pay back the advance. There are no advances in e-publishing, but royalties are paid from the first sale - making this both a plus and a minus.

Stability and reliability of e-publishers also qualifies as a con.  A number of e-publishers closed their doors in the past year.  A signed contract doesn't guarantee that your book will be available, not even from a print publisher.

The best an author can do is to research the longevity of the e-publishing company and check with the authors of that house as well as with other e-authors to learn what they know about that company and its reputation.

FF - What major differences have been most noticeable with e-pub vs. print publishing?

CV - Having been a librarian for twenty years, the biggest differences for me are the wider availability of titles that better fit my needs and tastes as well as the length of time a book is available for purchase. E-books allow me to store them directly on the computer and if they're interactive, I can load them and click on hot links to get directly to the site I want to visit. You can't do that with a traditional book.

Non-fiction e-books can be updated quicker than a print book, so their
information is more time-sensitive. Another difference is the willingness of e-authors to respond to their readers.

Even if a print author's book is badly written or poorly edited, they garner far greater respect from readers than those who write e-books that are well written and edited.  Some people, including librarians, don't have respect for e-authors and think that an e-book isn't really a book unless it's in print.  Of course, these same people have no lack of respect for an author whose book is in audio format. Yet at one time, books on tape were equally disparaged.

FF - Would you personally recommend e-publishing as a starting point to new writers?

CV - The other day an author contacted me via e-mail.  Although unpublished, her books have garnered several writing awards, but when her agent tried to sell them to print publishers, all she received were "nice" rejection letters.  After viewing my web site and reading my page about e-books, she felt as if I had read her thoughts.  She asked for advice and recommendations, which I gave and offered to answer any other questions she has as she ventures into this new avenue of publishing.

One print-published author I know hasn't had much luck in recent years acquiring a publisher. He asked about e-publishing, and I just read his latest book to review it for an on-line review site.  Another reason he followed up on my recommendation was because he wanted his out-of-print titles to become available to new readers.

FF - What initial reactions did you receive from friends/family when you announced that you would be e-publishing your work?

CV - Hesitancy and surprise, but some were willing to try an e-book.  When I explained my reasons for choosing an e-publisher, they agreed I made a sound decision.  Not everyone wants to read online, but they either print out the book or give me support while they wait for the print version to be released.

FF - Would you do anything differently if given the opportunity?

CV - Probably.  I'd do a lot more investigating into a publisher than I did before signing my first book contract.  I'd also check with other authors to hear what they had to say.  I did buy an e-book and a print book from RFI West, and I read the sample contract before submitting my query and again when they offered me a contract. 

Still, I had a bumpy ride and the elation of being a published author didn't last long.

Every stumble I make, though, is a learning experience.  It might leave me feeling bitter, but I have to set those personal feelings aside and try again. For each bump in the road, there are rewards that will far surpass the bad moments.  A writer needs to acquire a hard shell to withstand those bumps while at the same time maintain the feeling and sensitivity that enable him/her to write a well-crafted story. That's what I try to do, and when something rewarding happens, I cherish it all the more.

Cindy Vallar, cindy@cindyvallar.com
~ Author of The Scottish Thistle, coming April 2002 from
NovelBooks, Inc.
~ Contributing Editor - Pirates and Privateers at
~ Home Page: Thistles & Pirates at

Copyright 2002 Lee Masterson. All rights reserved


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