Welcome to the second part of my interview with Matt Powers, author of the book Ghosts of Manor House . By now, I hope that all of you have gotten word that you can win an autographed copy of the book. But just in case this news has not yet reached your noggin,’ here goes: I am featuring a Ghost Hunt contest – Find the ghosts that are hiding across my blog and earn points. Whoever earns the most points wins the book! Click on the link below for more details:
In the first part of the interview, we explored Matt’s influences and learned that he prefers a haunted house that exists as “a being with needs and desires.” For Matt, a haunted house should have a “mysterious power to it”. We tested his criteria against the house of his own creation – Manor House. I concluded that Manor House does, in fact, conform to Matt’s criteria and effectively so. It was an intriguing conversation to say the least! If you have not yet read the first part of the interview, I recommend that you do so! Click on the link and read, read, read!
In this second half of the interview, I ask Matt questions regarding the book-building process. How does an indie-writer with limited resources tackle issues such as marketing and editing? Also we learn about what Matt does when he is not writing books. He has an interesting profession outside the world of literature.
(The following information was gathered mostly on Sept 25, 26, 27 2017 )
Daniel: I’m curious about your marketing in general. This is your first published book. It seems you have promoted it quite well. Fifteen people have reviewed it on Amazon, most giving it five out of five stars. 21 ratings, 18 reviews on Goodreads, mostly all positive. How did you generate so much interest?
Matt: I’m glad it appears my marketing is going well, I’ve been working hard at it.
I’ve taken a number of approaches. First off, after finishing the book I started just promoting it to people I know. I would call it a “soft” launch – the goal being really to get as many reviews as possible. I gave the book away to people I knew who said they would read it. Then I pestered them to read it and write a review.
It should be noted – even with friends and family, you need to have a good book to start with. But I think one is more likely to get positive reviews from people you know.
I spent a couple months working on this “soft” launch. Then I had the “real” launch, which wasn’t that different except I actually told the world (via Facebook and Goodreads) that the book was now available. People who then looked at it saw it had positive reviews in the wings.
I truly believe people are more likely to purchase something if they see positive reviews. No one wants to be the first to try something unknown. I did a Goodreads giveaway in August leading up to this launch as well. Then for September I also sent query letters to cool websites like yours – blogs that I thought would appreciate my book, asking them to read and provide feedback. Also, I created accounts at Instagram, Twitter, and Wattpad
The gearing up continues; I’m always trying to build interest and get people to read (and then write reviews).
In summary, it has been a lot of hard work. Honestly, I was hoping I would have more reviews by now. But I realize that people are busy and not everyone reads as much as I do. For the 40 people that might have my book, I got around 12-15 reviews. About 30%? Probably good odds really. Again it is important to stress that this all starts with a good book in the first place.
Daniel: I do notice that a lot of people don’t leave reviews. Still your book has a lot more reviews than any of my books. Of course I never did a “soft launch.” Next time I’ll do that!
But you are right that it is important to have a good book in order to get good reviews. And Ghosts of Manor House is a good book. Not only is it a great story, but the writing is very good as well. In most self-published books (mine included), I find grammar mistakes or sections or awkward writing. But in your book, I couldn’t find any such things. Did you have an editor?
Matt: To get my book as good as possible I went through many stages. While I wrote GoMH I had a couple people who would read my writings and give input and check grammar and mechanics. I went to writing groups where I read chapters and received input. When I had a good portion of the story done I asked a member of the writing group to read it, do some editting, and provide feedback. I then took this input and made the changes that I agreed with and then I continued on the story. I did this twice before I finished GoMH.
When I thought I was pretty much done I had two more people read and edit. I again made some changes and finally thought I was done. Then I sent out query letters to find a small publisher who might be interested. I sent a lot of letters and I found a publisher. Together we edited it again – more changes were made. I parted ways with the publisher as I found they really didn’t have time to do the pre-marketing type activities I wanted to do. We parted amicably and I finally had my finished story.
But I look at it now and I see mistakes – mistakes in grammar, mechanics. I see paragraphs that I should have spent more time on. No matter what, I think we always feel our work could be better. But at some point we need to call it done and see what the readers think.
Daniel: I didn’t realize that you had a publisher at one time. But in the end you published w/out them. Still in the meantime, they helped you with professional editing.
Without a publisher, editing is difficult. Editors are expensive and many indie-writers, like myself, can’t afford them. What advice do you have for struggling authors that need to have their work edited? I know that the publisher wasn’t your only source for editing, you mentioned writing groups. Are there any other ways for writers to have their work edited? And can you tell me more about writing groups, where to find them and how members help each other?
Matt: I recommend joining a writing club near you. Then join any and all writing groups the club has nearby. I didn’t do this but check “MeetUp.com” and there are tons of writing groups. If you don’t have a writing group try and start one. I started one at work with co-workers to get more people to read and give input.
Then have friends and family give their imput, which is pretty challenging to do sometimes. I am lucky to have a couple of family members and friends who are into writing. They gave me a lot of good input.
I did pay for a lot of my editing. A couple places where you can find people to edit and give feedback are:
Fiver.com : inexpensive but the quality is sketchy
craigslist.com : can find editors here. I didn’t do this because it costs more and I didn’t know the people.
I did use some local editors and writing coaches that I found through people in the writing group. Since I had recommendations and could meet them in person, I felt comfortable spending money on them.
But the number one free way to get input on your writing is to join writing groups; groups where people bring chapters, read, and then critique each other. You learn a lot about your writing by having it critiqued but also you can learn a lot by reviewing other people’s writing.
The next part of the interview will focus on some aspects of Matt’s personal life
Writers come from all walks of life. They are gardeners, meat-packers, homemakers, etc. etc. Matt Powers (pictured on the right) is employed as a game developer at Zynga Inc.
Daniel: What is you job like? Are there any similarities between what you do as a game developer and what goes into your writing process?
Matt: I have been a video game producer for a long time. I started as a game programmer, creating Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games. Then I became a producer. As a producer I manage teams and projects. I make sure things get done on time, within budget, and at a high level of quality. I have a lot of daily meetings. I think about the project a lot. I need to make sure what we are doing now goes smoothly AND try to plan ahead to avoid problems and ensure we continue to go the right direction. Producers are traffic cops, mentors, organizers, babysitters, tradesman, and planners.
Making video games is fun and very challenging. We are working on technology, trying to push the limits of tech, and we are creating entertainment. Combining technology and “fun” is tricky. We have a very creative team and a very technical team working together to make the fun, the art, and the technology all play well together.
Being in a creative business but not being the creative person, I think, keeps my creative juices flowing but without a big outlet. Writing, I found, is a great way to express my creativity and it is different enough from developing games where I don’t feel like I am working, even though writing is work in its own right.
Daniel: So in the beginning you wrote computer code.
Matt: Correct. I started programming when I was 10 years old. My dad worked for Atari and taught me how to program. I went to college and majored in Computer Science. I actually got started with writing by blogging for Gamasutra.com. It is a video game site.
Daniel: I took a six-month computer programming class at a community college. Nothing came from it, but on the admissions test, there was one question that I can still remember to this day. “What would you most like to do?” It was a multiple choice question and two of the possible answers were a) Learn a foreign language b) Write a book. I chose “write a book” and that was a “wrong” answer. They wanted to see “learn a language” as the choice.
But you are proof that one can be both a programmer and writer.
Matt: To be fair, I’m an ex-programmer. : )
Matt: When I made the decision to write a book, I approached it sort of like a programmer and producer. I examined how writing is done, read books about how to write, studied authors (like Stephen King), looked into writing groups, etc. I wanted to understand the “process” of writing something good. Then I had to practice, a lot. I wrote a lot of stuff before finally getting to GoMH.
It helps that I really enjoy reading and I love movies. Understanding other forms of entertainment helped me find my “voice” in writing.
Daniel: Are there any other genres besides horror that interest you?
Matt: Probably my favorite genre of books would be Cyberpunk – Neal Stephenson my favorite but also Gibson for example. I also read Fantasy and Science fiction. I like to mix it up between genres and try different things. Last night I just finished a fantasy book. Before that I was reading science fiction. The next book I read will be horror.
Daniel: What is Cyberpunk exactly? Or better yet, what does Cyberpunk mean to you?
Matt: The proper definition of Cyberpunk is: a genre of science fiction set in a lawless subculture of an oppressive society dominated by computer technology
But to me it means more than that. It is the use of emerging(bleeding edge) technology into realistic, probable fiction. It is about taking science fiction and bringing into a realistic, modern age. That is part of it. Then there is the actual style of writing I associate with Cyberpunk. When I think of CP I think of being thrown into a story where I am immediately catching up. The world is assumed, not described immediately. You are thrown into the deep end of the story.
GoMH is sorta like this – I wanted to create a realistic story that could be true. Then put the reader right into it, figure it out as you go. And who’s to say Ghosts of Manor House isn’t a true story? I met Lucas, made a deal, and wrote the story I was told.
To buy Matt’s book Ghosts of Manor House, go to:
And of course don’t forget to participate in the Ghost Hunt contest for a chance to win a free autographed copy of Ghosts of Manor House