INTERVIEWS with author Karl Beckstrand (for The Children's Author Show, Smashwords, & KTALK radio, etc.)
CONTACT: info @premiobooks.com 208~403~9634
Sizzle Quote: His first publisher passed away the day his first book was to print.
How long have you been writing? Since 1991—I began writing by accident. I didn’t used to like to write; but story ideas kept coming to me (when I should have been doing my homework).
Give us a bit of your background. I’m from San Jose, California, but I’ve lived in a lot of places—including South America. I now live in Midvale, Utah. I have a B.A. in journalism from BYU, an M.A. in international relations from APU, and a certificate in broadcasting and film. I was published by two companies (my first publisher died the day we were going to print!). Since 2004 I’ve run Premio Publishing & Gozo Books. I teach media at a state college (UCAT) and speak on traditional vs. digital/self-publishing.
How many books have you written, and how many of those have been published? I have written about 30 books; sixteen have been published (with translations I have about 45 titles out).
Where do your ideas come from? I’ve never had writer’s block. I am constantly ambushed by story ideas—things I see people do, or things my family says; I scribble them on scraps of paper and file them. I try to use the cleverest ones (I have more ideas than time to write).
Please share about your book. I have a new Young Adult suspense novel set in the Nevada silver rush: To Swallow the Earth. I inherited the manuscript from someone who grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains on horseback nearly a hundred years ago. My challenge was to develop the characters while preserving the action and authentic vernacular. My newest picture book is Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words.
Please share about your work. Most of my stories have characters of color, and many are bilingual with a pronunciation guide in English and Spanish. I like the idea of sneaking learning into a good story.
If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be? Outcast, rebel, different (half-Mexican, raised by Indians), loyal, fearless. In addition to a tough, dark hero, there’s a gutsy female lead who’s unintimidated in the worst kinds of opposition.
Can you summarize the plot? What if you came home after a journey and your family was no longer there? What if someone else was living in your house, running what you used to manage—and trying to kill you? Could a beautiful woman be behind it? Wade Forester has to stay in the shadows. His father has disappeared, and his sister won’t speak to anyone. Patricia Laughlin is searching for her family as well. Few people gain her trust or approval. Wade must decide if risking his life to help Patricia means aiding the enemy. And Patricia must choose a killer to trust with her life.
Is there a book trailer for your book? Yes, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CzbQKuLVr8
Why should we read your book? A man and a woman clash amid a Nevada silver rush scheme that leaves both unsure who to trust—and scrambling to stay alive. Enter a mystery that will make your heart pound and fill your lungs with the “rarefied air” of the old Sierra Nevadas.
Can you tell our readers how you were forced to take over the publishing and marketing of your first book rather unexpectedly? My first publisher was local--in the Salt Lake City area. The day we were to print, he passed away from a sudden illness. I had to learn the ropes of publishing and marketing as a neophyte. With lessons from the first book, I self-published my second; then another publisher asked to write my third. Publishing isn’t easy, but with new online options I’ve managed to bring a nice return.
What were the biggest challenges when you set up Premio Publishing, and how did you overcome them? Having enough titles to get a major distributor--and financing hard cover printing. I wrote a lot, found artists that were willing to accept a percentage of profits over an advance, then cranked out several books. (Today, with POD this is more doable.)
What are some of the books you have on your nightstand—or name favorite authors? I love history, so anything by David McCoullugh is ideal. Other authors I love: Tolkien, Harper Lee, C.S. Lewis, Clancy, Grisham
Who were your early writing influences? Who or what has inspired you during your career and ignited your imagination? I didn’t like to read as a kid. When I got the measles in the third grade, my grandmother bought me a chapter book: Bicycles North: A Mystery on Wheels by Rita Ritchie. I learned that books can transport and excite (textbooks still seem dull). I love Shel Silverstein. Some of his contemporaries captured the same whimsical feeling in The Golden Book of Fun and Nonsense by Louis Untermeyer, illustrated by A. and M. Provensen (Western Publishing, now Random House?). Untermeyer collected some of the silliest verse from brilliant writers of the previous hundred years. He added his own wacky lines and the Provensens crafted images to match the mirth.
What is your favorite genre to write? I enjoy putting together biographies (mostly family stories that have inspired me) and mysteries are great fun.
What is your favorite genre to read? I love suspense.
Why do you prefer the self-publishing process? Can you outline the pros and cons of self-publishing for our readers? Technology has turned publishing on its head. Instead of sending a manuscript to a publisher and waiting several months for a response (often a rejection), authors can publish at very little cost and retain control of content and profits. It’s easy to find an affordable Print-On-Demand service online. This way, you can get a good idea of demand before you invest in a large print run (ebook demand is a good indicator too). All of this depends on the quality of your work and on your marketing efforts (which publishers always required of authors anyway). I’m excited about the books we have coming up.
Can small publishers make a mark on literature and the book market? How? I have found that technology has revolutionized book sales. My revenues were low until I started POD and ebooks. Fortunately, these technologies are available to even small publishers (and are growing in global reach).
What are some of your books? The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga – ISBN 978-1512161786 A Sky So Big (Romance, suspense) 978-0692426777, To Swallow the Earth (Western thriller) 978-0692407974, Polar Bear Bowler: A Story Without Words 978-0692220962, Ma MacDonald Flees the Farm – It’s not a pretty picture … book 978-0692220979, Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story 978-0615856155, No Offense: Communication Guaranteed Not to Offend (Humor) 978-0615856162, Arriba Up, Abajo Down at the Boardwalk (opposites) 978-0615688237, Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery ISBN 978-0977606597, Sounds in the House! Sonidos en la casa 978-0615442303, Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids 978-0977606511, She Doesn’t Want the Worms! Ella no quiere los gusanos 978-0977606528, Why Juan Can’t Sleep 978-0615692296, Anna’s Prayer 978-1599921136, It Ain’t Flat: A Memorizable Book of Countries (free ebook).
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future? I’m working on another novel, biographies, and more multicultural/multilingual children’s books: The Bridge of the Golden Wood teaches children how to earn and save money. The Christmas House is a non-fiction picture book of my Christmas memories. Agnes’s Rescue is a non-fiction story of a girl who walked a thousand miles across the plains into the Rocky Mountains—in blizzard conditions (much of the way without shoes). Muffy & Valor is a true story of doggie courage and friendship as I witnessed it as a child. Butterfly Blink is the second in a wordless book series. I’m also working on a graphic novel.
Where can people find you/your work? Titles available via Amazon/Kindle, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble.com/Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Flipkart, Follett, Gardners, iBooks, Ingram, Inktera, Kobo, Library Direct, Mackin, OverDrive, Quality, SCRIBD, and txtr.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced? First book/first book signing. Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story hit #2 on Amazon's Hot New Children's Books list (opened #5 Feb. 2014) and won a 2014 UP Author’s design award. To Swallow the Earth is a finalist for the Laramie Award, She Doesn't Want the Worms - Ella no quiere los gusanos named in top 10 "Best Books" of 2011 – ForeWord Reviews Magazine and featured in School Library Journal. Crumbs on the Stairs - Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery consistently ranks in Amazon's top 10 bestselling books for ESL, large print, and Spanish children’s titles. Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids was praised in Horn Book's blog. Bilingual app of Sounds in the House was given a nod by Kirkus Reviews.
Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader? I love it when someone says a book I wrote held them captive—or that the twists were totally unexpected.
How different is your approach? Is there one style that you most enjoy writing? I think the easiest writing involves those stories that just come (where the writer simply writes what comes to him/her). For non-fiction I have to research and get the facts right, as well as create a good beginning, middle, and end. These books are rewarding to me because they preserve true acts of courage/faith for new generations to witness. Then there are rewrites—lots of polishing. In my genre I have to grab the attention of both children and adults (who buy and read kid’s books).
What kind of advice/tips do you have for someone who wants to write and get published? Write every day. Get an editor. Use the latest technology and services to get your books available POD and in ebook form—also to market them. Write from your heart—from what you know first-hand. Don’t try to write about something that you think is popular (unless that’s what you know). You don’t have to have an agent or publisher. Have several people critique your work—people who won’t gloss over glitches. These people can help you be your best.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? My books are my life laid out in color (my food obsession has found its way into most of my works).
What is your writing schedule? I write or research every day—usually in the morning—though half of my work is marketing and business correspondence.
What do you do when you are not writing? Marketing, studying, volleyball, socializing, and making music
How do you publicize your books? Press releases, TV/radio appearances, social media, web sites, blog, personal appearances/presentations, any way I can!
Do your books have a teaching objective? Yes. I write mostly to save families from “I’m bored” disease. But yes, my stories teach language, counting, courage, friendship, sharing, faith, cooking, astronomy, geography, zoology, and entomology.
How did you develop the characters in each of your books (If you have more than one)?
I write mostly from my own experiences and often use people/characteristics I’ve known.
Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? Lots of competition—that is why I add unique things like bilingual mysteries, characters of color, and online secrets.
Do you create other materials with the books? I have a bilingual app of Sounds in the House, and I’m working on having an audio book and a graphic novel of To Swallow the Earth.
What kinds of publishers should authors avoid? Be wary of any entity that wants an investment of $300 or more up front (outside of actual printing costs) and any entity that is not using the latest technology and platforms.
Does an author have to have an agent? How does a writer find an agent? I landed a dud of an agent, and haven’t looked for another. An author should always market—and sometimes that is sufficient. Ask for referrals (look in the acknowledgements of a book like yours).
How should an author query? I recommend getting a referral—unless you have some great titles/reviews/sales already. I no longer advocate query letters for publishing houses (but perhaps for an agent). An agent looks for great titles/reviews/sales. Write a letter that hooks!
Is there always an editor assigned to the author? Publishers should have in-house editors (don’t rely on these alone). Have as many as 20 people review, critique, edit your work.
Is there a marketing budget for new authors? It is never enough (most publishers don’t do very well in this department). There are lots of free ways to market too.
What should an author know about her/his publisher’s distributors? LOTS. Sometimes, getting your book in certain venues is up to you (be careful not to jar publisher egos/rules in the process—though increased distribution should please them).
Can books usually be purchased from the publisher? Some publishers give advanced copies. All should offer wholesale rates to the author and others.
Do all publishers assist the author in exploiting their subsidiary rights? Not always.
What considerations should be given to a book’s cover art? Some publishers want total control. If you know what is right and will work, be assertive. The cover is key. Don’t skimp.
What should an author know about royalties? They are low (5 – 12%. This is why I recommend self-publishing)
Should sample books be distributed to various reviewers, newspapers, bookstore owners, retailers, and radio stations? Absolutely. Be choosey about who gets a review copy—this can get expensive. Try sending an ebook.
Can you tell writers the purpose of a publicist? How does a writer get one? A publicist helps when you’re wildly popular (or helps you get there if your work is good enough to make you popular). Many people will accept pay to do this (but if you’re going to hire one, try to get one with a great reputation in your genre).
Do most publishers provide posters? Shelf talkers? Bookmarks? They do if they think the book will do very well. Bookstores are not where most book sales take place. Most sales take place in unusual venues, associated venues (e.g.: Crate & Barrel for cookbooks) and online.
How long does it take a publishing house to make a name in the industry? I think establishing one’s reputation is an ongoing process. It’s nice to have enough titles to get distributors’ attention. It’s awesome to have more than one bestseller.
Is there a story you haven’t told because it would be too controversial?
Perhaps my own story. But whose life isn’t loaded with drama?
If you could go anywhere in the world to research an upcoming book, where would you want to go? Greece—I’ve been near, but have yet to enter that island paradise.
Do you select the illustrators? Who does the art? I illustrated Crumbs on the Stairs and It Ain’t Flat. Bad Bananas was illustrated by Jeff Faerber, Sounds in the House by Channing Jones, Anna’s Prayer by Shari Griffiths, and She Doesn’t Want the Worms by David Hollenbach, Why Juan Can’t Sleep and Bright Star, Night Star were done by Luis F. Sanz, Polar Bear Bowler and The Dancing Flamingos were done by Ashley Sanborn, Ma MacDonald was illustrated by Alycia Mark.Anything else? I love to share stories in person (and with groups). I write scripts and speeches, and I do free 20-minute Skype sessions anywhere.
Many of Beckstrand's stories feature minority characters. He has 45+ titles on Amazon.com and Kindle. Titles also available through premiobooks.com, Baker & Taylor/Follett, Bn.com/Nook, Biblioboard, Brodart, EBSCO, Flipkart, Gardners, iBooks, Ingram, Inktera, Kobo, Library Direct, Mackin, OverDrive, Quality, SCRIBD, and txtr. Ask for his multicultural books at your favorite bookstore or library. (Leave your own review of multi-cultural books on Amazon or other site.)