Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interview with Gregory Blecha

After picking Love in the Time of Apocalypse as the indie published book for August, I tracked down it's author and asked him a few questions as to how we published it and what he was thinking about as he did it. He was kind enough to answer my questions, and I am passing those answers along to you.

KR: I'd love to know why you picked iUniverse, and how many other publishers (both mainstream and POD) you checked out.

GB: When I was shopping for a self-publisher, I evaluated perhaps four other houses in addition to iUniverse. I chose iUniverse because of the Editor's Choice program. The Editor's Choice program indicated to me there was a review process and a standard of quality (whether or not the standard was enforced was a different issue, but at least there was a standard I could aspire to). I also liked the fact that the material belonged to me and I retained the rights to what I'd written.

Apocalypse was published in 2005, and the publishing world has changed substantially in the intervening five years. For my next project I will probably produce all aspects of the book collaboratively, from editing to marketing (I have a lot of out-of-work friends who are involved in the arts and who are very talented). I'm not suggesting that I'm dissatisfied with iUniverse; I just like having more control of the process.

Once I've finished a book, I am more interested in my next project. To me, the finished book is like dried paint; I can't continue to change and adapt it. I prefer the wet paint of a blank page.

KR: How many copies have you sold? How many have you given away? What techniques work best at drawing attention in the form of actual sales to your book?

GB:I have probably sold less than one hundred copies of "Love in the Time of the Apocalypse". My best medium has been Amazon Kindle, although I haven't quite figured out how to determine what my total sales has been on the Kindle. I usually gauge the rate of sales by the book's sales rank, which usually fluctuates between 20,000 and 120,000. My best sales venue has been paid advertising on Facebook.

I've given away approximately two hundred copies. I will frequently leave a copy of Apocalypse at a "Friends of the Library" bookstand (where the sales price is fifty cents) or at coffee shops, subway stations and on park benches. This is a marketing technique known as "shop dropping'. I've found that at a fifty cent price point the demand for my book is seemingly infinite, because I continually have to replenish the stock of books I leave at the library. I have noticed that no one has ever returned a copy of my book to the "Friends of the Library" bookstand, so I hope the book stays on my readers' shelves.

KR: Who is your target audience?

I am my own target audience. I wrote Apocalypse to satisfy myself. I wanted to craft a novel that was in keeping with the novels I've read and enjoyed, such as "The Sot-Weed Factor" by John Barth, or "The Frog" by John Hawkes. Sot-Weed Factor is a dense, multidimensional satire that works as an anti-novel (that is, the book is cross-grained to the formulaic definition of a novel) while The Frog is more of a fable where the characters and story lines are instruments of the author's intent.

KR: Do you intend to go mainstream publication for your next book?

GB: I have enjoyed tremendously the modicum of exposure I've received, having published my own novel. Once or twice a year, someone happens upon Apocalypse, reads it, enjoys what they've read, and then is moved to drop me a line to express what they've appreciated about the book. Of course, with equal frequency someone happens upon Apocalypse, reads it, is convinced that I am a moron and have wasted their fifty cents, and then is incensed enough to drop me a line to to express disdain. I've learned to savor the former and ignore the latter.

Speaking of moments to savor, when I first published Apocalypse in February of 2005, a local book club was kind enough to feature my novel as its book of the month. During the meeting we spent an hour discussing the plot, the characters and the writing style. You can argue that someone who self-publishes a book is not a writer or author in the conventional sense, but for an hour I felt like a craftsman, a weekend hobbyist whose work someone enjoyed and admired. That moment affirmed to me that I made the right choice in publishing my own book.

If you're wondering what kind of reception your DIY novel will receive, let me just share my experience: the praise will be muted and condemnation strident. You'll have to be pretty thick-skinned to put up with the vituperation that emanates (mostly) from other aspiring writers. It's the equivalent of a flesh wound in a pool of sharks.

KR: How did you get your cover design?

An august pair of statues overlooks the Hoover Dam. The statues are the "Winged Figures of the Republic", designed by Oskar Hansen to commemorate the dam's construction. Apocalypse opens in Las Vegas with a trip to the Hoover Dam. The book describes the momument as follows:

"On either side of the pole sat a pair of bronze figures, erect and austere, with daunting wings protruding upward from their shoulders, like kitchen knives."

I was fortunate enough to visit Hoover Dam in 2004 and took a picture of the monument. The black and white rendition of the picture appears on the front cover of Apocalypse.

I enjoy designing my own book cover, and will design the cover of my next book.

If you want to know more about Greg or Love in the Time of Apocalypse you can find him at his website.


  1. But was he referring to Love in the Time of Cholera in the title?

  2. He has told me that, yes, he was referring to Love in the Time of Cholera.