Welcome to the first installment of my “Introducing…” blog series, featuring indie authors, their craft, their struggles and achievements and, of course, their adventures in Social Media. This week we meet Karen M. Black, author of the evocative novel, Moondance.
Karen received her MBA in marketing from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and has worked as a communication consultant in the Canadian pension and benefit industry since 1992.
She’s also a practicing karmic astrologer, associated with Linda Brady, author of Discovering Your Soul Mission.
Karen lives in Toronto and is currently writing her second novel, which picks up where Moondance leaves off. After self-publishing Moondance and winning more than five awards for Moondance in 2008 and 2009, she has also recently launched her book consulting business which assists aspiring authors in the creation and publication of their work.
Tell us about your book, Moondance.
Moondance is a freethinking, emotionally charged, highly addictive coming-of-age, exploring life, love and the nature of reality. It’s part psychological thriller, part paranormal romance, and part magical realism.
What drove you to base the novel on such a unique and evocative subject?
Moondance explores questions (and arguments) that I had about life in my mid- to late thirties. It’s the result of being bounced around in the corporate world, having some painful relationship experiences, and wondering why my life didn’t turn out as I had planned.
I wrote the first 120 pages of Moondance in 1996 after a relationship ended. In a state of heartbreak, the words gushed out of me in a curious, unstructured wave (the first page I ever wrote was page 271). What I wrote scared me. What I had created wasn’t aligned with who I thought I was, which was logical, tough, steady and calm. I was creating scenes and dialogue I didn’t understand with my logical mind. So I rejected it and finished my MBA instead.
Five years later, still single, with questions about my life mounting, I participated in a five-day retreat called the Trust Program. Trust was a turning point, a powerful experience which helped me understand who I am, what I believe and what’s important to me. After Trust, I embraced my sincere belief in reincarnation and began to study karmic astrology while working full-time as a benefit communication consultant, something I never could have imagined before.
Who would you recommend read your book?
I wrote Moondance for me. I published Moondance for anyone who’s had their heart broken by life or by love, and has had the curiosity and the courage to ask why (plus anyone who likes thought-provoking, addictive page-turners)
You self-published your book. How was that experience?
Well, self-publishing was something I came to slowly.
First I researched the publishing process. I created synopses, a log line, even query letters and sent them out to agents and then publishers. During this phase, I didn’t like what I was learning. I don’t like how little money the author actually sees, plus the control they give up creatively and on the marketing side. I also learned that signed authors often have to invest their own money and time in promotion and marketing anyway, yet there isn’t much flexibility in the contract in recognition of this effort. After giving away complete control and profits, the vast majority of debut novels lose money-making the prospects of publishing a second novel with the same publisher grim.
Self-publishing non-fiction is commonplace. Self-publishing commercial fiction is not. Yet the more I weighed the pros and cons, the more self-publishing made sense for me.
I know myself – when it comes to business, I really like control. With my business background, I am accustomed to creating strategy and with my communication consulting background, I understand the publishing and production process. I knew I wanted input on the cover and layout design. I knew I’d want to be involved in the marketing. I began to wonder if the traditional route was the best way to go for me.
During this time, I met Arnold Gosewich, former President of MacMillan Canada, now an agent and publication consultant. After some discussions, he confirmed my suspicions. As the publisher – which is different from vanity publishing and print on demand publishing like lulu or Trafford by the way – I control the entire process. Economically, I get to keep all of the profits, and have to sell fewer copies to break even. I also take all the risk. Yet early readers responded well to Moondance – I knew I had a great product. With the internet, I have global reach.
In 2008 and 2009, Moondance won a number of awards (details on my site). It’s been great fuel for Arnold who’s now my agent for U.S., international, television and film rights. I now share what I’ve learned with my book consulting clients.
Bottom-line, self-publishing hasn’t made me rich (yet), but it has been gratifying. I’ve produced a high quality product, got some good recognition in the form of awards (and reader response), and have maintained control. Also, I’ll be able to continue to promote it for years to come and still have the option of approaching big publishers. I have no regrets.
How are you going about promoting Moondance?
I started out using my existing network, and then created a list and a monthly newsletter called IDEAS that PROVOKE and INSPIRE. I’m also active on social networks LinkedIn and Twitter.
I’ve been interviewed on a number of radio shows online, and in traditional media, and have generated a bit of print and online publicity on my own. Most of my sales, though, have come through word of mouth. I’ve also attended some book clubs.
I’m going into a new phase now, where I want to do more speaking engagements on self-publishing and karmic astrology, possibly collaborating with other authors with complementary books and skill sets. I’d also like to work with more book clubs – the ones I’ve attended have been a lot of fun.
What is your favourite place to write?
At my cottage in Georgian Bay, with the window open so I can hear the waves.
What advice can you give other writers?
- Write for yourself first. If what you’re writing scares you, that’s perfect
- Read The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes (he says the same thing, above)
- DON’T write with your marketing hat on. Heart comes first. Marketing comes later.
- Hire a good editor, or (at least) proof reader before sharing your finished manuscript widely
- Hire a good book consultant / publication consultant to help with the process.
- Read Stephen King’s On Writing to get really good advice on how to get feedback from your nearest and dearest (or whether or not you should)
- Before sending out queries, do your research! I suggest using www.absolutewrite.com and Jeff Herman’s Guide as starting point
- Take some time to create your marketing positioning and query materials: Who (and where) is your audience? Why is your work different? What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your log line?
- If you’re considering self-publishing, signup for Dan Poynter’s free newsletter (even if you’re a fiction writer) and consider buying his book.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m part socialized introvert, and big part nester. So I see friends, generally in small groups or one-on-on. I cook with and for friends and love sampling ethnic foods. I listen to music (I’m an eclectic music lover who’s passionate about www.radioparadise.com – the best mix anywhere).
I read mostly thrillers and philosophical/spiritual stuff. I enjoy the outdoors, especially boating, and time on the water. And oh yeah – I meditate, continue to study astrology and look for ways to promote Moondance.
Where can people get a copy of Moondance?
Folks can get a hard copy or a PDF online at www.karenmblack.com. If you’re in Toronto, there are also a couple of other ways you can get it – see ‘Buy Moondance’ on my site.
What can we expect next from you?
I’ve created a few hooks in Moondance, and a number of characters who will come back, and grapple with new issues in their lives. So what I’ll be working on next is the sequel, and my promise to readers is that it’ll be as intense and as hard to put down as Moondance is.
My aim in life is to have as many people ticked off at me for keeping them up late as possible…
Thanks to Karen for sharing her story with us. Check out her website at www.karenmblack.com.
Richard S. Todd is the author of the critically-praised Raincloud: A Novel and holds talks on the self-publishing experience. He spends his time blogging and working on his next novel, The Orphans of the Creek.
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