2016 Snapshot: Patty Jansen

Interview by Tsana Dolichva.

Patty Jansen lives in Sydney. She used to work as research scientist for CSIRO (budget cuts ahoy!), has run an online non-fiction bookshop and has been writing since 2003.  She dabbled a bit in short fiction, winning Writers of The Future in 2010 and selling a few stories to “pro” magazines (Baen’s Universe, Analog, Redstone SF). She first self-published the novella His Name In Lights in 2011 and self-published the first original novel, Fire & Ice, book 1 of the Icefire Trilogy, later that year. Twenty-five books later, she is a full-time writer, and could live off her writing if she didn’t have three cars and three adult kids at home and university. Her most popular books at the moment are the Ambassador books.

You can find Patty and all information about her books at http://pattyjansen.com

After many years of experience, you have become somewhat of an expert on self-publishing. Do you think you would have taken the same path with self-publishing if you had started writing ten years earlier or ten years later?

Ten years earlier…

Truth is, I self-published my first book in 1995. It was niche non-fiction and I sold every single copy I printed (no ebooks back then). In 1985, I would have been way too young.

I self-published my first fiction in 2011, which was not terribly early. In those days everyone was still adhering to this thoroughly silly mantra that if you self-published, you’d shoot your career down in flames. There were some people out there in a little corner saying “Hey, come here, the water is nice,” but I wanted to make sure I did not publish a first draft, or even a final draft of my first book, before I knew I would not be embarrassed by it later. I started with some shorter work that was out of contract. The first novel I published did, in fact, get a contract, which I chose not to sign.

In short, self-publishing always had my name on it, but I wanted to make sure I put work of acceptable standard out there. If I started right now, I would be even less inclined to go traditional. I want a career in writing and thoroughly dislike the idea of that career be on the behest of someone else’s business. My husband travels to Canberra to work every week. The plan is that he can stop doing this and we live off  my writing income. I’m about halfway there. Either I double my income, or we boot our kids out of the house.

You have been organising a lot of cross-promotions among self-published authors. Do you find this more effective than other means of promotion?

There are a lot of things that fall under the umbrella “promotion” that would not at first sight appear to do so. Getting the right cover is promotion. Getting your book in the right categories is promotion. Getting reviews is promotion. Getting people on your mailing list is promotion. Paid advertising is only a small part of it.

About a year and a half ago, there was a big push from some prominent self-published authors to build up mailing lists via Facebook ads with the incentive of giving away a first book in  a series for free in return for that person’s email on your mailing list. This has, by the way, been proven a highly effective means of promotion in case anyone reads this and goes “oh, but those people only sign up for the freebie”. Sure, some do, but you’re not interested in those people. You’re interested in the ones who buy the rest of the series.

Anyway, some people were much better at the Facebook advertising thing than I was, and all of a sudden they had giant lists without a clue what to do with them. I knew what to do with the lists, but lacked the lists, so put the two together, add some authors with giant followings on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and you have a pretty powerful promotion engine. On the first weekend of each month, over 100 authors make their books free or 99c, I put them on a page and we go kill the internet with it.

It’s been surprisingly effective, has given me a can-do community of people I can go to for help of any kind, and it’s a lot of fun.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming releases. What can we expect to see from you next?

Currently, I’m about two weeks off finishing the Moonfire Trilogy, the sequel series to the Icefire Trilogy. This is post-apocalyptic fantasy turned into almost-hard SF. After that, I will write at least one book in the Ambassador series, maybe more depending on how the wind blows.

I write about five full-length books per year, and like I did in 2016, I want to start something new in 2017. I might finally take the plunge and start my Urban Fantasy series that will be based on the area where I live (Sydney’s North Shore), councils, corruption, murder and were-possums. I guess I’ve been threatening to write this thing for long enough now, and I should actually go and do it.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I read more non-fiction than fiction these days, but I’ve read Glenda Larke and have Kate Forsyth on my TBR pile. Other than that, I read a lot of ebooks, and kinda baulk at some ebook prices of newly released books. As consequence, I’ve bought a lot more self-published than traditionally published, and none of those are Australian, especially in my genres.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I am terrible, terrible at fangirling. I would just prefer to read my favourite writer’s books (it’s C.J. Cherryh, by the way) and not know her as person and find out that she’s not what I’d imagine her to be. I really don’t like talking with writers about their books. I tried and it’s just soooooo awkward.

That said, I would *love* to sit next to Kim Stanley Robinson, because he is such an interesting person and has so many great ideas. We probably would barely say a word about his  books, though. I prefer to enjoy those in private.

I know, this is nuts.


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