Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meet self-published author, Mark Turnbull

I’d like to welcome Mark Turnbull as my guest today. Mark is the self-published author of “Decision Most Deadly,” a book he has worked on for ten years. At 29 years of age, Mark is a young sprout, and will undoubtedly have a promising career. He has a fascination with the 17th century and King Charles I.

Mark, can you please give us a brief synopsis of “Decision Most Deadly.”

Mark: Decision Most Deadly follows a fictional man, Sir Charles Berkeley, as he lives through one of the most crucial and turbulent periods in English history. I felt there were few writers dealing with how this great war came about.

Moving to London, Sir Charles’ new marriage is soon interrupted by the spiralling events of the 1640's where the struggle between King and Parliament begins to escalate beyond any control.

He agonizes over the decision King or Parliament? Very soon, Sir Charles is thrust into the dispute and is at the forefront of the crisis. The story combines the social and domestic with the political intrigue and civil unrest.

Katie: What fascinates you most about the 17th century? About Charles I?

Mark:The whole story of King Charles I attracts me to the period. His reign and eventual execution immediately intrigued me, especially when viewing the magnificently regal Van Dyck portraits of him and being aware of this end. I am a royalist! I also think that the era saw much change and the new-look Great Britain was in its infancy; the 17th century was like a golden age, with the country beginning to flourish. The fashion and architecture was so colourful and impressive too. I’m sure I have a natural affinity with the manners of the time - despite being a young sprout, I am quite old fashioned in my habits and a romantic at heart!

Katie: I’m always amazed by author’s who get the “voice” of the century they’re writing about down. Did you have to do special research for this? How difficult was it?

Mark: I had started researching the 17th century since I was around 10 years old, so special research was not really needed as such. The main thing I did though was to study in detail the chronology of events that led to the English Civil War, so that I could tie my plot in with it. I think if you love the period/topic you are writing about, then the "voice" you mention tends to come naturally with your writing.

Katie: Ten years, albeit intermittently, is a long time to work on a novel. What did you find the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The least challenging?

Mark: Apart from the obvious, time itself, the greatest challenge was finalizing and editing the finer points of the book, such as spelling, grammar, and checking the chronology and plot ran in line. These more technical aspects needed very close scrutiny indeed. Next, while the editor was working on it, this left me with a feeling of being at a loose end for several months, so I began researching the publishing process.

The least challenging aspect of writing was making it all real - I enjoyed bringing scenes to life, or working on characterization, especially regarding the true historical characters. It's all about making the period come alive.

Katie: This is a self-published book. What brought you to the point where you decided to self-publish instead of traditionally publishing?

Mark: I initially began sending the early work to publishers and agents, but it was far too premature when I was doing that. I seemed to veer towards self-publishing automatically, because I had my own views and desires regarding the work. I didn't want the story to be mutilated or cut by a third party, and I wanted to have a hand in points such as designing the cover and marketing it. Also I like the way that I can bring my whole work to fruition myself.

At the end of the day, every book is based on luck - if you send your work the traditional way to the right agent/publisher, at the correct time, and it fits with their portfolio, or slots nicely with public interest at that point, then you are ok. But I felt like this was all based on a few people's view of your book, regardless of what the public might think.

Katie: What has been the hardest part of self-publishing? The easiest?

Mark: The hardest part has by far been getting the book known about. Without big backers or publishing houses getting you inroads into the establishment, or contacts that can help you, this adds difficulty to the start of the process, but you can overcome this.

I think all aspects of self-publishing is challenging, but the lighter points turned out to be the nuts and bolts of it all, such as ordering the ISBN, designing the cover, finding a reputable printer and working out the price, size and such like.

Katie: Writing and publishing is not usually a solitary affair. Do you have family that have been supportive of your writing? A good mentor? A critique partner?

Mark: One problem is that very few of my friends are really interested in history. I needed clear critiques, and my friend, Keith Crawford was instrumental in helping me consider other viewpoints. He is writing a Roman historical fiction, so we often swapped manuscripts and gave each other feedback.

All my family and friends have been totally supportive though, regardless of whether they were involved in critique. My school friend, John Hopper, has built the website for me. My four year old daughter is over the moon that her name is mentioned at the start! She asked for her own copy, which I have put to one side for when she is older - one of the immense joys of completing the book is that I can give her something that I have created.

Katie: As writers, we have the responsibility to promote and market our own books. What avenues have you taken towards that end?

Mark: I thoroughly enjoy the promotion side. I have quite a creative mind, and I like to think about ways and methods to market the book, especially novel ones.

I had book marks printed and distribute these at author events, or leave them in shops. Also I am writing an article about the 17th century for a magazine, as well as holding author talks and book signings and there is the avenue of getting book reviews by papers or experts in the topic written about. Internet forums are good ways to let relevant people know about the book, if the discussion warrants information about the book. Additionally, running my own competition for free copies has helped too. I have also placed posters around various libraries or shops.

Katie: Which have worked best? Least?

Mark: The best form of marketing has been the book signings and talks. Discussion forums have brought the next amount of sales, due to the fact that you can let your natural audience know that your book exists. Lots of people ask for details of new books or authors.

The least effective way was advertising with a search engine, whereby I paid a small fee for every person who visited my website via the advert. It brought lots of visitors, but no sales. The vast majority of visitors were not staying on the site for long either, so this makes it doubly important that you are reaching out to people interested in your book, not just the casual passer by.

Katie: If you were to give someone who is considering self-publishing as an option, what 3 pieces of advice would you give them?

Mark: First, what are your reasons for self-publishing, or writing in the first place? Second, consider the cost and difficulty - are you willing to go ahead? And third, plan in advance first (For example, arrange book reviews, articles and newspaper slots to coincide with release. Also look at what competitions you could enter your book in on it's release)

Katie: Thanks, Mark, for being my guest today. Check out Mark’s website at


Bob Sanchez said...

Thanks for the good post, Katie, and for giving the interview, Mark. It's great to learn how fellow writers approach their craft.

Bob Sanchez

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent interview. Very informative. Thanks Katie and Mark.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the input on self publishing. I did both my books that way (via Lulu, but). Now to find people interested in them.

I like the idea of bookmarks and posters placed at strategic places.

Maryannwrites said...

Very good interview. Thanks Katie. And I really appreciated the info on self publishing, Mark. I have been considering going that route with one of my books and your comments were helpful.

Donna McDine said...

Fascinating interview. I enjoyed getting to know Mark.

Best wishes,

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm of the belief that the reading public doesn't want to know who published your book, just how to get their hands on it.

I've already done marketing for two books that I didn't publish myself. With Killer Career, I'm also joining the ranks of the self-published. The lines are drawer closer and closer these days.

Morgan Mandel