Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet author, Kim McDougall

Katie: I’d like to introduce my special guest today, Kim McDougall. Kim writers children’s and YA fiction under her married name, Kim Chatel, and dark fantasy under Kim McDougall. She has two separate websites so these genres don’t get mixed up. She is also the creator of Blazing Trailers, a site designed to showcase video book previews. Kim is originally from Canada, but now lives in Pennsylvania.


Kim, please share with us about your book, “A Talent for Quiet.”


Kim: “A Talent for Quiet” is more than a story. It is a journey with Reanie as she finds her voice and her artistic talent. Reanie is a shy girl with a new stepdad. She’s not sure about him but she’s curious about his cameras. He takes her on a photo safari in the creek. While he teaches her about cameras, she discovers that her new stepdad is kind of nice. She also learns that she has a talent she never suspected, the ability to photograph wildlife.


I illustrated the book with photography and it includes 4 nonfiction pages: a glossary of photographic terms, tips on taking better pictures and historical tidbits about photography.


Katie: This book is geared towards 8-12 year olds. Why do you write for this age group?


Kim: I don’t write for any particular age group. I write the story as it appears in my head and then decide which group it would best fit into. At this point I will revise it to better suit that age group, but I rarely set out to specifically write a toddler book or a middle grade book. In fact, “The Stone Beach,” my YA Paranormal novella, was originally going to be a picture book, but when I started writing it, I realized that it was a story that needed an older character and audience.


That being said, I have great respect for authors who write age specific books such as early readers or picture books. My books tend to be story books that have pictures. I have come to realize that a true picture book (one that depends on the images as much as the text) is a hard thing to create. Likewise, good early readers with engaging plots and characters are true works of art. I have started delving into these worlds and may come up with something yet.


Katie: Since you write in different genres, you have a website for each of your pseudonyms. What kind of time do you spend, on the average, working on your websites each week? each month?


Kim: I spend by far the most time on my children’s site. It’s huge, with five blogs (movies, book reviews, recipes, crafts and Daily News). It has games and contests and information about all my books. There is an art gallery and schoolhouse and… well it’s huge. I spend several hours a week updating this one. My two adult sites are more static, but they each have a news blog where I post reviews and announcements. I also spend about an hour a day updating Blazing Trailers with new content.


Katie: Do you have a blog, or do your websites take the place of a blog? Why?


Kim: Some authors use their blog to drive traffic to their website, or in place of a website. I have my blog on my site for a few reasons. One, I’m a terrible blogger. I’m too busy to blog regularly. So I don’t feel that having a separate blog would be good for me. Second, the search engines like changing content, which is why they favor blogs. By keeping the content changing on my site, I take advantage of that search engine bonus. Finally, I like the creative freedom that a website gives me over a blog. I can do anything on my site, and I do.


Katie: You have said you are traditionally published, but your books come through a print on demand basis. Why did you choose that option? What makes this different than being self-published?


Kim: Well print on demand (POD) is simply a method of printing. It’s a new business model that just makes sense. With POD, the books aren’t printed until they are ordered by a customer (or store). This means the store and the publishers don’t need to warehouse huge quantities of books. Publishers who use POD still edit books and market them (to the best of their abilities) where as self-publishers need to do all this themselves. Apart from the cost of self-publishing, I enjoy working closely with an editor. I have had such great experiences with my editors, that I can’t imagine having done it all on my own.


POD has often been mixed up with self-publishing. It’s not the same thing. In fact, many larger publishers (including Harper Collins) have begun new book lines that will be POD. I am pleased by the print quality of my POD printer and the books are returnable, just like traditional print runs. Seems like a no-brainer.


Once upon a time, self-publishing was the bad-boy alternative to traditional publishing. It was a way for gutsy authors to make a splash. Unfortunately, with the ease of technology, this small branch of publishing has been inundated with authors trying to make it on their own. This means that along with all those gutsy, great writers, there are also some not so great works getting published this way. This has given self-publishing an undeserved negative stigma which has bled over into POD publishers (because most self publishers use POD). My local Barnes and Noble won’t even consider having me for a book signing because my books are POD. Times are a-changing, but slowly.


Katie: What kind of promotional work have you done for your books? What is your least favorite? Your most favorite?


Kim: I promote my children’s fiction more vigorously than my adult fiction, because my books tap into niche markets. For “Rainbow Sheep,” I did a mailing to wool shops across the country and joined several online groups dedicated to fiber art. Since “A Talent for Quiet” is illustrated with photography, I did the same with photo stores. A large local photo store has sponsored me to do some workshops for kids at local libraries. I will be teaching them basics about cameras and reading from my book. This is my favorite promo. I love connecting with the kids. I visit local schools too. I bring my books and my art. The kids are always fascinated by the needle-felting. I have several letters from kids on my site. I cherish these.


I suppose my least favorite part of promoting would be the research to find the niche markets, to contact schools etc. It can be time-consuming and disheartening. But it’s all part of the business.


Katie: For those writers who are aspiring to write in different genres, please share three things you have learned to keep the genres separate in writing style and personality.


Kim: First, know your audience. Kids like scary stories too, but make sure the action, dialogue, vocabulary and connotations are age appropriate. I have a reluctant reader here. My daughter is nine years old and I find books that are too difficult for her get put aside the quickest. Second, develop your voice. When I was starting to write, my English professor (and mentor) used to say “This is vintage Kim!” I would read back to see what he meant and I found my voice that way. Every writer has a voice and don’t be afraid to let it shine through whether you are writing for toddlers or for adults. Finally, I believe that pen names are a good marketing tool when you write different genres. I don’t make a secret of my pen names, but they are important for keeping my audiences separate. I wouldn’t want a child who likes one of my books to google my name and find vampire books. Likewise, people who read romance don’t always like fantasy. There’s nothing worse than picking up a book by your favorite author and getting something in a different genre.


Thanks, Kim, for being my guest on my blog today. Check out Kim’s websites at www.kimmcdougall.com, www.kimchatel.com and her book view previews at www.blazingtrailers.com. Her book can be ordered here... (I have bookstores on both my sites that have signed copies and link to various retailers. You can also order them through Blazing Trailers. Here’s the link to see all my trailers:

http://www.blazingtrailers.com/browse.php?txt=kimmcd

4 comments:

Morgan Mandel said...

I also enjoy variety, so I do mystery, romance and soon, a dog book. Sometimes doing the same thing isn't enough.

I agree bookstores are still in the dark ages, but are slowly coming out of them.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://www.morganmandel.com

Donna said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and insights, Kim. I especially appreciated your suggestions about voice and knowing your audience. With so many balls in the air, it must be a challenge, but you're doing it beautifully!

The Book Chook said...

Great questions, Katie. I enjoy reading interviews that tap into what drives a writer.

Kim McDougall said...

Thanks for hosting my ravings, Katie!

Kim Chatel