Publishers don't always get it right. Trevor H. Cooley was rejected by publishers many times until one day he bit the bullet and self-published. The rest is history. He has since published many more books and even quit his day job.
He has amassed a loyal following and great reviews on Amazon; he has over 200 reviews for Eye of the Moonrat alone. All because he acted on a story that started melding in his brain in seventh grade. If you like' the epic fantasy genre, you'll likely enjoy his books.
From his interview: "The first hurdle is finishing that first draft. If you don’t give up and keep going, that is a big accomplishment. You are already a more accomplished writer than 90% of aspiring writers. The second hurdle is making that draft into a good novel. Work on it until you are confident. Share it with friends and family. It is scary, but an important step. Writing is a lonely art. It’s easy to get so involved in our own world that we can’t see the mistakes."
Read the rest of his interview below.
Check out his website and blog: http://trevorhcooley.com
Check out his Amazon page and books here: Trevor H. Cooley on Amazon
Check out his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EyeOfTheMoonrat
1. How many books have you published and when (year)?
THE MOONRAT SAGA
Book One: Eye of the Moonrat (2012)
Book 1.5: Hilt's Pride (2012)
Book Two: Messenger of the Dark Prophet (2012)
Book Three: Hunt of the Bandham (2012)
Book Four: The War of Stardeon (2013)
Book Five: Mother of the Moonrat (2013)
THE JHARRO GROVE SAGA
Book Six: Tarah Woodblade (2014)
Book Seven: Protector of the Grove (2014)
Book Eight: The Ogre Apprentice (2015)
Book Nine: The Troll King (2015)
Noose Jumpers: A Mythological Western (2016)
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started writing my first novel, Eye of the Moonrat, in 2001. The idea was one that had been developing in my mind since I was probably in the seventh grade. The main characters in The Bowl of Souls series had been with me for all that time. I would say that they are heavily influenced by comic books and the fantasy writings of authors like Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and R.A, Salvatore, among others.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
The most difficult part about writing the book was learning how to put a smooth paragraph together. I wrote many short stories in high school and college and just for fun, but I had never attempted anything longer than thirty pages before.
One big hurdle was the fact that I was working full time in a call center. I would write in-between calls and email my work home at the end of the day, then write more until I had to go to bed. Completing that first book, which eventually became the first two books of my series, took about sixteen months.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I showed it to friends and family and edited it many times. Then I started submitting it to publishers. I submitted it to 80 different publishers and agents and received form letters back. It wasn’t until ten years of rejection that I finally decided to self publish.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
It’s funny. Before writing my book, I was always dismayed when an author spoke about the numerous rewrites their book went through. That process sounded so tedious to me. But once I had written it, I found that the editing process was pretty fun. There is something satisfying about knowing that you just made your book, in whatever small way, better.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
Basically, I do rewrites on a chapter by chapter basis. When I am finished with a chapter, I go over it once myself, then print it out and give it to my wife. She reads it and gives me notes. I fix the errors she finds and then I move on to the next chapter. I rarely completely rewrite a chapter. When the book is finished, we both do a final pass and then I upload it to Amazon.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
My wife is my main editor. She is the first to read anything I write. Then as I complete each chapter, I send it to some family and friends to read. They call me back with their thoughts and I make changes as needed. I quite enjoy the experience. I do not have alpha readers that I do not know well. And I don’t want sit on a completed manuscript to wait for readers to finish. One great thing about Kindle publishing is that I can update the book at any time. If anyone finds an error, I can go back in and make a fix and the change is live within 6-12 hours.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
Originally, my first cover was designed by my brother. He has a passion for art and one weekend he came over and drew the cover with my input. I was happy with it, but I did have some readers remark that it wasn’t professional enough.
A year later, I discovered an artist by the name of Renu Sharma. I was very impressed by her work and asked her to redo my first cover. She did such a fantastic job, that I have hired her to do all of my Bowl of Souls Series covers ever since.
The funny thing is that I have never met her in person. She lives in India. I email her what I want, often sending her a chapter of the book to help her get the idea. She then sends me a rough draft and I reply with changes. Together, we hammer it out until we get the final product I am happy with. She is amazing to work with.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
I went through ten years of rejections. Finally, I had some friends tell me about the Kindle marketplace and how it was exploding for Indy writers. I resisted for a long time. Finally, late one night, I went to the KDP website and set up an account and uploaded my first book. It was scary. I didn’t have a finished cover at the time. I just used their online cover generator and hit send. Then I started telling my Facebook friends about it. My brother made the cover. At first I knew who was making each sale. Then one day, a stranger left a review. It was an amazing experience. I uploaded my second book and the numbers started to increase slowly but steadily. It was really exciting.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
I have tried many things. At first, I had it priced at 99 cents because that was the advice given to new writers at the time. Then I messaged Facebook friends, set up a website, and Twitter account. I paid for ads on Goodreads, Facebook, and a couple other sites.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
The reviews were great. I have pretty much kept a 4.5 star average from the beginning. It was exciting to hear people talk about these characters that had before lived only in my own mind. The eventual bad reviews were hard to get over at first, but I had to realize that not everyone was going to identify with my world.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
My sales were very slow at first. It wasn’t until I released my second book that the sales numbers started taking off. It started as a trickle, just one or two a day. Then it was five a day. Then ten. When I put out my third book, my wife was able to quit her part time job.
If I were to pick one thing that helps me sell books the most, it would be communicating with my readers. They love to speak with the author.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I probably sell 1000 Kindle copies for every print edition. This is likely because of my audience with the Epic Fantasy Genre. If I had a traditional publisher putting my books into bookstores, I’m sure it would be different.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I did set the prices. I kept my first book at 99 cents for a long time just to get readers in the door. This worked pretty well for me. I had the confidence that if people would read that first book they would want to keep going. The subsequent books sell at 4.99. Studies have shown that ebooks priced under $5 tend to sell better than higher priced versions, especially for Indy writers.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
Being a writer is all I ever wanted to be. I have several series in mind and it is a passion. One thing that changed for me is when I quit my day job back in 2014. I had been working for that company for 14 years and it was scary to leave that steady pay and benefits, but I wanted to live my dream. I quit that job half way through writing Mother of the Moonrat.
The difference now is that I have to be more diligent in my writing habits. Before, writing was an escape from work. Now there is an extra pressure knowing that if I don’t finish the book within a certain amount of time, bills get hard to pay.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
The only difference now is that I know exactly what I’m doing. The process is a lot smoother and I am prepared and know what to expect.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
I considered myself a writer when I finished that first book. That feeling faded over those ten years when I was trying to get my book published. I didn’t feel it again until I got my first paycheck from Amazon. That $12.50 was the best $12.50 I ever made.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I do most of my writing in the afternoons and late at night while my kids are in bed. In the beginning, my motivation was just getting this story that was in my mind out there. I wanted to share it with the world. That motivation is still there, but it’s not what keeps me going. Now, my writing is a job as well as a passion. If I don’t write, my kids don’t eat. Those kinds of thoughts keep me up at night.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
I get a lot of questions, but the most common ones are about how to go about getting a book done.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
The first hurdle is finishing that first draft. If you don’t give up and keep going, that is a big accomplishment. You are already a more accomplished writer than 90% of aspiring writers. The second hurdle is making that draft into a good novel. Work on it until you are confident. Share it with friends and family. It is scary, but an important step. Writing is a lonely art. It’s easy to get so involved in our own world that we can’t see the mistakes.
Publishing can be easy or difficult. If you go the traditional publisher route, it’s like buying lottery tickets. Very few unknowns are published each year. If you are lucky enough to get your manuscript out of the slush pile and past a few layers of interns (who are trained with many quick and arbitrary reasons to toss a manuscript to the side), an editor will glance it and decide if they are looking to publish this type of book at the moment. If it fits those parameters, they will start reading. If it does not catch their attention right away, it gets tossed aside. If they like it, they may send you a letter requesting more of the book. It’s hard.
However, going independent is an easy way to circumvent that process. Putting your book in digital format lets you be in charge. You have to do the work of promoting the book, but you get to decide how to go about doing it. You also get paid monthly.