With her experience in the music and movie industries, Samantha has ideas to change the independent book publishing industry next. We discuss thoughts and ideas and what is working now.
Samantha: Are you working on your author career, but struggling to get that first book published? Does the goal of being an author seem too lofty? Or thoughts of having multiple books and making a full time living are as fantastical as living in Cinderella’s castle? Welcome to Discovered Wordsmiths, a podcast where you can learn We’re aspiring authors can be heard.
Join Steven Schneider is he finds and talks to authors. You may not know, but authors that have gotten their foot on the author career path, hear what they’ve done to get there and where they want to go now. Settle back. It’s time for a bit of inspiration and advice. Come listen to today’s discovered word, Smith.
Stephen: Well, Samantha, welcome back. Discovered word Smith’s second part here with the author discussions. Um, let me ask you about, uh, something, some things about your writing before we have our big topic. What were some things you learned about writing that you would do different or you are doing different with your next book?
Samantha: Everything. I mean, well, first of all. I think I really taught myself to be a writer. I really, I really understand what it means now. Whereas when I first started, like I told you, when we spoke earlier, I based, you know, a lot of these books, you know, came out of my writing as a journal, being a writer, um, keeping journals and just kind of reflecting on things.
But journal writing is not A book, um, I mean, it can be, but it’s, it’s not as disciplined as I wanted this book to be. I really wanted to create a visual story. And so, like, I think, I think, like, the thing I learned was, I mean, everything from obvious things like show, don’t tell to just the importance of.
Proofreading and proofreading again. And I, you know, the first edition went out with a few typos and, and I think that, you know, really line editing is so important. I think that I learned to use my words more powerfully. I think that I naturally. Have always been a kind of a rock on tour, you know, storyteller and I was a good wordsmith because I’ve done copywriting, but writing a book is very different than writing a copy line for an ad.
It’s really layers and layers and layers and it takes a lot of discipline and I’ve definitely been 1 of those kind of people, bright, shiny objects, Sam’s gone, you know, um, and you really need to put in the time. You know, that’s the other thing I learned. I really thought like I had a girlfriend who I really respect as a writer.
And I said, could you just write this for me? I really want to get this done, you know, but it was just so personal. There’s no, no way anyone could write it, but me. You know, and also running a company, you’re so used to some, you know, having a great idea and saying, oh, could you just put these things together and make this poster or make this trailer or do this or do that?
You know, but, you know, being a writer is a very solitary. You know, event, you know, you really have to just go deep inside your soul, live there and be there with yourself. Have it come out through your fingers. At first I just, it was just like, I can’t, you know, I, you know, it was just too antsy, you know, I just like, oh, I think I need a cup of coffee now.
You know, and then I come back and okay, I think I need to go outside and talk to the gardener. I hear he’s here now. You know, I think, I mean, any excuse to just get away from. Sitting there and I think it’s also because it was my book, Blind Pony, as true a story as I could tell, it was also very painful, you know, it was evoking very painful memories.
The book I’m working on now, it’s just such a blast to write it because it’s a fiction and I’m just having so much fun with it. My chops are really there now that weren’t there when I first started Blind Pony, you know, and I, I got it, I had a slim volume of Blind Pony sort of coalesced and. And then I thought I had a book and then boy, it took me months after that to sort of keep squeezing it tighter and tighter and tighter and expanding and expanding and expanding, you know,
Stephen: so when you’re writing, what do you use?
What software or what do you use for your writing? What tools?
Samantha: I don’t really use anything. I, you know, I’m, I’m, I use just, um, Microsoft word. I mean, you know, very pretty. Yeah. I still, I still people, I still keep this around, you know, I like to write some things out longhand and it’s funny because when I do that, I never go back to it and, and type that or write that.
I write my thoughts down and then I come and write and whatever came out there comes out here in a different voice, so to speak. So I kind of trained myself to do that.
Stephen: So you had some thoughts. On changing the whole indie public. Now you’re, you’re indie published, but through your own publishing company.
Samantha: Yeah, I, I went through my own publishing company. I created my own publishing company because. Mainly because like when the book wasn’t in final shape, it was in, you know, I tried to work with an independent publisher, which I’m not going to name because it was a very bad experience for me. Um, you know, I got the first cover for blind pony back and it looked like Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm, which is totally antithetical to my story, you know.
It’s like a young blonde girl with a farm and a horse running in the background. I said, did you read my book? You know, it’s a dark book. I mean, you know, not all of it’s dark. It’s actually very funny in places,
Stephen: but you don’t want people to think it’s a fiction book about, uh, for a young girl coming of age
I mean, that could be any number of books. I mean, it put, you know, golden girl or, you know, like it could be anything. Um, I really, you know, and I’m very much a person who, because I’ve made a living on creating central images for films and album covers and things like that, it was very important to me that the cover be right, you know, be reflective of what the book is.
And so I called upon one of my colleagues. Um, Nick Egan, who was the designer of Flash and Sid Vicious, and he did music videos for Lannis Morissette. And we’ve had, you know, like different, like I worked with him in the movie industry and music industry. We worked on the Tesla project together and then, and then we hooked up when I had my bigger company and I got, you know, and he, as a commercial director, I hired him.
And so I called him up one day and I said, I have this book. I’d like you to read it. And I want you to do the cover. It took him all of reading the scene that’s on the cover of the book for him to, like, he just said, that’s, I said, that’s it, that’s the cover. And you know, I wanted it in kind of a Hockney style.
And I said, can you do that? And he said, yep. And it was done like in a day or two days. And it was perfect. So it was all him. It was all his idea. I think that, like, it really got me thinking the experience I went through. There’s no personal touch with these companies. Um, and then as my book started to get some heat, I started hearing from these, some of these independent places.
Well, we want to, you know, we want you to come out through us. We can handle your marketing and your publicity and blah, blah, blah. Oh, okay. For free. And you’ll give me an event. No, no. For 15, 000 or whatever, you know, but the book’s done and I’ve gotten the publicity and that’s how you heard about it. You know what I mean?
It’s, I see, you know, I took, I talked to you the last time we talked about, I’ve always been a disruptor. I’ve been thinking about this publishing business and how it kind of needs a bit of disruption, you know, I think that the things that are working about it with the big publishers are great, you know, they have, you know, if you’re Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, you know, Mary Trump, and you’re going to sell a million, millions of books, you need a big company like that to be behind you.
But I’ve met so many authors along the way with, with really great entertainments, really beautiful books that probably won’t see the light of day. I mean, I know my, my book has sold quite well because I’ve, I’ve been a marketer most of my life, you know, it’s not, you know, like, I kind of know how to do certain things.
Even though the book world is very different, I’ve learned to adapt and I’m kind of sponging off of different situations and whatnot, but like, a lot of people don’t have that luxury. And I had, you know, the, the financial ability to be able to hire good people around me to. You know, work on it with me in publicity and whatnot.
A lot of people don’t have that. And, you know, it really helps that, you know, my husband makes trailers. So, you know, we can make a new trailer for my book every day if we want it, but the trailers have to be strategic too. And so, you know, I’m strategic with this. You know, it’s given me pause to think about, like, well, maybe it’s time this book industry gets disrupted a little because you see, like, on some of these independent publishers, hundreds of books.
I’ve never heard of any of them. And
Stephen: one of the problems with Indy is getting the exposure, getting seen. Well,
Samantha: it’s like, so why are you doing it? Well, it’s important that you do it for yourself. There’s gotta be something else, you know, in it for the author, pouring their self on the page, especially good, the good books.
And there are plenty of them. But, you know, as we live in this world, that’s getting like, you know, independent bookstores are getting gobbled up. And. You know, the only way they’re going to survive is if they have the big books in the front window or whatever, you know, so it’s all this stuff. It’s just, there’s something not working.
And I think, you know, if one could figure that out, you might really have something
Stephen: true. And so you’ve been involved with it and you’ve had some background disrupting things in the music and film. What are some of your thoughts on disrupting and changing things for the better, for the help, helping the indie
I think that if you’re going to have a company like that, you have to have people at the helm that are running it, that. I think that it really comes down to, I’ve seen in my experience with indie film. I really feel like some of those films without my presence would have been lost in the shuffle.
Certainly like when, when we had Gramercy, there were five. For people, there was a publicity person, a media guy, there was me and there was a distributor and then there was the press and the five of us were, we’d get all on the same page and each of us would throw everything we had at each of those cat and we would just like by hooker.
But, I mean, I’ll never forget 1 of my 1st because I came out of the record business and all these people that were already there, the 4 key people. Um, they all have years of experience in film, you know, in their category, publicity, distribution, media, whatever. And I had no experience. I knew nothing, but sometimes that innocence.
You know, really enables you to see something people miss. Like we had a bet, you know, how much for weddings and a funeral would make. And they passed a hat around and he put the secret thing in. And so they opened it up and it’s like 2 million, you know, a million, five, you know, which would have been considered a hit, you know, and I said, 50 million.
And they go, Oh, we know who projected 50 million. Well, it made 60 million. So I was the closest by far because like I saw something and, you know, and when I was cutting the trailers, you know, and putting together the TV spots and. You know, coming up with the poster, you know, it was like tapping into that consciousness that would make that just connect with people.
How do you do that? And I’m pretty, I’m pretty good at that. You know, um, I mean, I thought the director, I like, you know, you can read about it in that book, uh, the oral history of Richard link letters days and use. How much Richard Linklater hated the stoned happy face. But if you say dazed and confused, the first thing people think of all these many years later is the stoned happy face, you know, see it with the bud.
Have a nice days. Everyone will be talking about. I mean, that’s
Stephen: super important. Uh, and I mean, the point I’m getting is. You got to know what reaches the people to market to get the material there, because I know I’ve been involved with a lot of authors that, well, I want my cover to look like this. It has to show this and put this on it.
But it like you look at it and then you have no clue what it is or their title. And you’re like, I have no clue what genre this is. And yeah, but then there’s the more seasoned authors in the authors that have been around and they’re saying, you know, people have to know, they have to read your title, look at the book and know what it’s about to be interested and it has to hit them like you just said.
Samantha: I mean, like I learned in the, in the movie business, most directors can’t cut their own trailer. Most directors don’t know what the central image is. That’s why, like on my book, I didn’t even try to, I had no clue. I get paid to do that. Lots of money. You know, and I didn’t know what to put on my cover and Nick Egan figured it out.
Like, as soon as he read the passage in the book where I’m walking down the street, Natal with a turban on my head, that should be the cover. And so, you know, I think that, like, just, you know, I think that there are too many companies are taking in too many books that, you know, maybe they’re just doing it for the money.
I got back notes from an editor from one of these companies. I wasn’t allowed to talk to her. She had to remain anonymous. I didn’t know who she was or he, and, you know, and it was like, she said that your book is a gift to your family and to the world, which was really amazing to hear, but then very scant on the notes and I didn’t really get much out of it, you know.
Um, it was, you know, my best advice to you is this, like, and, but I didn’t feel I got much out of that, you know, what I did. Um, and so I think that, I think that there’s a lot of people praying, you know, there’s, you know, people, if you want to write a book and you really don’t care, like if it’s going to make it or not, you know, these companies are fine, you know, but it’s like, it’s what’s hurting the industry is there’s a lot of problem.
Being recycled and being put out, or they can’t stand up to the author and say, you know, that cover sucks or, you know, you got to rip this thing apart. You know, it’s not good enough, you know, go back to the well, these people, places aren’t going to tell you that because they want to make the money.
Stephen: Exactly. I think from my observation,
Samantha: they’re kind of preying on people. That, you know, have a story in their heart. They want to tell, I mean, think about the story of to kill a mockingbird, Harper Lee, that editor ripped her to shreds. She said, I don’t like the, you know, the father figure. You have to like that guy, you know, for this to be a hit.
And so she went back to the well and restructured it. And, you know, I mean, that’s a good editor. That’s something that, you know, every, every book needs that, you know, um, my book could have used more editing, but, you know, it’s like, unless if you’re willing, you know, to be honest with an author, I don’t think you should be doing publishing their book, you know, I just think it’s weird.
I think it’s a weird system. You know, like, Oh, and it’s, it’s set up that way because they’re bleeding authors dry to make money for their companies.
Stephen: And from what I’ve seen, the traditional author set up with the houses is they give the author in advance and they kinda know what they’re doing, take care of it.
Like you said, they know where to put the. How to put the cover so it gets out there. They know what to edit and what people will buy for that genre and their, their audience and things like that. They take care of a lot of that. Whereas now we have the power for independence and I think people, some slimy business people, let’s say.
I saw an opportunity. Oh, if we look like a traditional house for these independents, they’ll give us, you know, they’ll work with us. But like you said, they’re not interested in making the book better, helping the book. They’re interested in getting the money without any real services and the benefit.
Samantha: It’s, it’s, it’s borderline
I agree. The benefit of being independent is not only do I have control of everything, but I can find the exact best person for each job. I can find the best editor. I can find the best cover artist, uh, that I, you know, seize my viewpoint and all of
Samantha: that. Or if you create a company like that, then you create a company like that, where you fight.
To the tooth and nail, you know, you only pick up the books that you think have a chance that you really believe in. And then you fight tooth and nail for that book. Like we used to fight tooth and nail for these indie films. Like when I had the challenge of boys, don’t cry. Don’t forget that was in the late nineties, you know, transgender people weren’t being talked about or embraced on any level, let alone gay people.
I mean, gay people weren’t embraced, let alone transgender. So, you know, I was very strategic with that film. And when we bought that film at Sundance, you had to scrape the president of Fox off the ceiling because he was so angry, but guess who was sitting next to Hillary swank when she won her Oscar, I mean, you know, we, you know, and so it’s like, but as a team, we, we felt like we could lift that film up and, you know, for my part.
Um, you know, like design, you know, coming up with the poster image and the marketing, you know, I, I fought to have 2 trailers. I wanted to 1st. Go out with a sexy trailer that might just appeal to the. Gay and lesbian community and and. Debuted at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, left out Hilary Swank, put Chloe Sevigny front and center because more people can maybe fantasize about kissing a girl than becoming a boy, you know, and then when the trailer came out, it was hard hitting about hate crime.
That was like a two step process to get to, you know, getting people psychologically on board. And we had a lot of straight people embrace that film. So it wasn’t just, it didn’t, wasn’t just a marginalized film about a transgendered kid. Uh, it wasn’t lost in the shuffle. And so I do believe there are a lot of really interesting entertainments and stories and books out there that under the right umbrella, under the right hands, loving hands.
Not greedy hands could really be lifted up. And, you know, this whole business, it just, it just makes me laugh. People say, well, what’s your social media following? Well, you know, look, my boys are 17. They don’t even have, so they don’t want to have social. Does that mean they’re not going to be successful?
You know, it’s not, it’s kind of like, I mean, I do it because, you know, I know it’s important at this point or whatever, but, or it’s expected, but I mean, and it is a good way to get the word out or whatever, but to preclude an author from getting a deal, even though their book is amazing because they don’t have a big social media following, it’s just silly, you know?
I mean, There was no social media when, you know Sylvia Plath was writing. Right, right. You know, I mean, or, or Harper Lee What? Or
Stephen: Harper Lee, you know, you mentioned.
Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s just, it’s just like, it makes me angry. I mean, the social media, media falling is definitely a plus. I’m not trying to be, as you know, as a, a funny that you hear a Scrooge or whatever.
Um, about social media, because I think it can be really valuable again, in the right hands. Um, but like, you know, what’s your Tik Tok following, what’s your Facebook following, what’s your LinkedIn following, what’s your, you know, um, I don’t think that’s the end all, you know, it, it makes it easy for these bigger companies, you know, to like, uh, like One of the prop, you know, one of the real book companies now, like a penguin or whatever, they’ll definitely look at that and make a decision based on that in part.
Um, but I’m not talking about those kinds of companies as much as I am talking about some of these companies that are out there that are just their sole reason is to take your money. They don’t care about you, they don’t care about your book, and that just gets me angry. And I think, you know, more and more, I am seeing some resources for indie authors, but I think, I think it needs some disruption.
I think it needs to be What
Stephen: are some of your thoughts on Some of your thoughts and suggestions that you would, what would you, well, I think I should start
Samantha: a, I think I should start a company Disrupted. Well, you go, so maybe I’ll, um, no, I think I have to put more thought into it, to be honest. Um, my gardeners here, so apologies if you can
Stephen: hear that.
That’s okay. I’ve had people walking around, so we’re good.
Samantha: Um, but, uh, you know, it, it’s, it’s definitely. Been on my mind, you know, it’s a, you know, I’m torn because like, of course, I would love it. If Harper Collins called me up and said, we want to give you a huge advance for your next book, because we love blind pony and it performed so well, uh, for an Indy.
Oh, you know, I’m not saying I wouldn’t, you know, love that, but if that shouldn’t happen, you know, what’s the next best thing that’s. Where I think it needs to be, something needs to happen and change and shift.
Stephen: I think some of it may be happening. And I think part of it is education. A lot of people say, well, I want to write a book.
They sit down, they write a book and then they’re like lost in an open world. They have no clue. They’re just. You know, floundering, uh, to, to see, you know, what choices there are. Um, but there’s more voices out there saying, you know, you got to watch this. Don’t, uh, sign up with these people cause they rip you off and here’s some things to do, and here’s people to talk to.
I think education itself may be
Samantha: helping. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and I think that there should be. And, and I do see some of these places, you know, I’m getting a lot of emails from different places, you know, that are trying to unite indie authors, but, you know, maybe there’s like something else that could happen.
I mean, like, back in the early days of indie film, they were indie film companies were more like vanity companies for labels for bigger film companies. But then it, it, you know, it did get to a point where it was just a way to get actors to work for less money, you know, put them in a boutique film. Um, but they were, you know, special entertainment, you know, so maybe you would take a cut and pay or whatever, um, but you get more on the back end or, you know, that type of thing.
You know, I just think that it’s, I don’t know. I don’t have the answer just at this point. But I do think that there, there could be a solution here that would be good
Stephen: for everybody. All right. Well, um, Samantha, before we get going, um, what would be your advice for new authors? Your, your top of the mind advice for any new authors that are listening?
Samantha: Find a good editor and try, you know, find somebody you trust, you know, maybe ask around people, ask for recommendations, take your time with it, you know, to, to get it perfected before you, I mean, like I said, I had a couple of typos in my first release that the line editor didn’t catch. So, you know, but, but, uh, but I think the, the, my, the main thing, the main thing that I would advice I would give to any author is commence.
Just start writing because, you know, you know, until you start running, I mean, the director Steven Soderbergh told me that years ago, like, you know, he said, if you’re trying to do something creative, you just have to start, you just have to commence because it’s like, you can have something in your head for years.
And if you don’t spill, you know, if you don’t commence, it’s not going to come out and then stick to it, you know, be. You know, know that it’s worthy to stick to it and keep going. And being asked what’s my advice, because like I, you know, I, like I said, I still can’t believe that I can put author on my resume.
You know, I mean, I’m still stunned, you know, that I did it. So I think that it’s just, you know, follow your heart. I mean, everybody deserves to be seen and heard. I think that’s why people write. Right. I agree.
Stephen: So, well, Samantha, thank you for taking some time to talk with us today. I appreciate it.
Samantha: Thank you for listening to discovered word.
Smith’s come back next week and listen to another author, discuss the road they’ve traveled and maybe sometime in the near future, it might be you.