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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interview with author T.K. Boomer



Planet Song: Book One of the Fahr Trilogy 


1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
I see science fiction as a form of thought experimentation, a way of speculating about the way certain alternate scientific realities might play out.  Scenarios where humanity comes in contact with an extraterrestrial species have always interested me, but more than that, I'm in the way we would be perceived by such a species.   “Planet Song” is written largely from the alien point of view.  As a writer, I’m quite theme driven. This comes not from a conscious decision to write to a specific them but often, when I begin a story, I will find elements within it that suggest the exploration of a deeper idea. In Planet Song the Fahr have corporate entities that dominate their culture.  For years I’ve been thinking about the way that business interests and behaviours shape our culture and our environment, for better and for worse.  With the Fahr these business interests are feeding an addiction that is threatening to destroy their society.  That addiction is to song.  The Fahr react to song with a combination of sexual arousal and intoxication that leads to addiction.  The various Fahr corporations launch intergalactic expeditions to find singers that will feed that addition and generate profit.  Unfortunately these expeditions are usually bad news for the planets they visit and for any sapient species they might encounter.  This novel centres on what happens when the Fahr—an aquatic species—find humpback whales on the Earth.  The protagonist is a member of the Fahr crew who wants to protect humanity from the destructive behavior of her own species.

2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
As stated above, my work is theme-driven.  It will appeal to those science fiction and speculative fiction readers who like a deeper read.  Much of contemporary science fiction his aimed at those who like fast paced adventure stories with cool tropes.   This certainly has the tropes, but it’s more moderately paced.  What does appeal to most readers of this book is the world building.  They find themselves immersed in an aquatic alien culture very different from our own, but which also has startling similarities.  It took me quite a while to construct this, so it is a rich experience for the reader.

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
The book—and more broadly the Fahr Trilogy because “Planet Song” is the first book in a trilogy-- shows how difficult it is to resist a powerful corporate entity.  What I'd like the reader to come away with is how dangerous it is to allow profit-driven business interests to drive culture and how difficult it is to reign them in once they’re in that position.

4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
That would depend on what the writer's goals are.  How you would counsel someone who wants to make a lot of money writing might be very different from the way you would counsel someone who wants to write well without being overly concerned about creating a marketable product.  I do think that every writer should choose a specific genre to write in.  I have chosen science fiction because I know that science fiction fans will be potentially interested in what I do.   I find it helps to have a specific readership in mind when I write.

5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I’m also a former professional musician.  The music industry underwent a vast change when artists decided to go around the major labels and use the internet to release their music independently.  Something similar is now underway in publishing.  Many authors, including established ones, are choosing to self-publish.   But there are a few differences, the major one being the nature of the respective art forms.  Musicians need audiences and perhaps more importantly performances to do their art.  This means that most musicians that release their work independently have previously tested that material in front of a live audience.  Such is not true with writers. Most of us work closeted in front of our computers, and because our stuff is not being tested in front of an audience, it often gets released without the necessary feedback.  The cost of using professional editors often in results self-published authors foregoing that crucial step when releasing a book.  As one of my fellow writers put it recently, “reading a self-published book is often like reading someone's first rough draft.”  There is a lot of junk out there and this is driving readers away from self-published writers. 

What is also happening--primarily because of the digital publishing option--is that traditional publishers are now “testing” new authors by releasing their books only as eBooks.  I recently had an experience where “Planet Song" sat in a publisher's  slush pile for eight months,  only to have that publisher tell me that he liked my book and was prepared to offer me a digital contract.  By that he meant that he would test market my book by releasing it as an e-book before committing himself to a print version.  If it sold well as an e-book it would be released in print.  This is an almost risk-free way for a publisher to take on new writers, but it has huge disadvantages for the writer.   For one thing, it means that doing a physical book launch is not possible.  If you have no print copies to sell and sign, you can't do a book launch.  It also cuts out about half of the potential readers, those who haven't yet bought into consuming books on an e-book reader or tablet.  The big one, and the reason I didn’t take up the publisher’s offer, concerned royalties.  I was offered a 30% royalty on all ebooks sales.  Self-publishing through most online venues pays an average of 70% depending on how you price the book.  This means that the publisher would be receiving 40% of the royalties on my book without actually taking on the expense of printing and distribution. I passed and released the book myself.

Another concern I have is that this new self-publishing phenomena is creating some unrealistic expectations in readers.  The first of these concerns pricing.  It's great that you can get a 70% royalty rate if you self-publish, but that royalty rate is dependent on price.  On Amazon you have to price your book within a specific range to get that royalty.  It starts at $2.99.  If you price your book lower than that the royalty rate drops to 35%.  So the person who prices his book at $.99 receives only about $.35 for each sale whereas the author who prices the book at $2.99 receives $2.10 in royalties. Getting a 100,000 word novel for $2.99 is very reasonable pricing.   Nevertheless a lot of authors will price their books at $.99 or give them away for free.  This has created an expectation in the e-book consumer that he can get a book at little or no expense simply by waiting for the writer to drop his prices.  A large number of websites now exist to promote free or severely-discounted e-books.  This makes it quite hard to sell a $2.99 e-book. 

The second major reason that self-publishing is problematic is that some writers have discovered that releasing several books a year results in more income.   It's not unheard-of these days for writers to produce 10 to 15,000 words in a single marathon writing binge.  This makes it possible to write, edit and release a 100,000 word book in less than three months. I've attempted to read a few of the books produced this quickly and the caliber of them is quite poor.  It's a clear case of quantity over quality.  What amazes me is these writers seem to have trained their readership to accept this level of mediocrity.   Readers seem to be willing to accept mediocre books if they can get them more quickly.  This has even translated into unrealistic expectations in the traditional publishing community.  I have a writing friend who recently signed a three book deal which requires him to produce three 100,000 word novels in two years.  This man has a 9-to-5 job and two small children.  When will he write these books and, perhaps more importantly, how good will they be?

I think the publishing industry is increasingly driven by readers with short attention spans.  Gone are the days when you can produce a book, especially one that is part of a series, and expect the reader to patiently wait for the next book. I think this will drive down the caliber of writing.  

6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
I write a science fiction.  I'm not scientist.  This means that I have to do a great deal of research for every project.  I enjoy the research but it’s is time-consuming.

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
I will immerse you a strange and finely-drawn world.  There's nothing quite like “Planet Song” out there and your perspectives will be changed. 

T.K. Boomer lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada with his wife. He has a degree in theatre and has had several stage plays pro­duced. In 2014 he published a mainstream fiction novel, A Walk in the Thai Sun, written under the name G.J.C. McKitrick. Over the years he has been a professional musician, a song writer, a puppeteer, and a mailman. His workspace includes a home recording studio. He has used this to record songs and, more recently, a podcast serialization of Planet Song. See for more info: http://tkboomer.com


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs

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