Nicholas Rossis lives in Athens, Greece with his wife, a dog, and two cats. He is the author of the Amazon bestselling epic fantasy series, Pearseus, and the Amazon bestseller, The Power of Six, which is a collection of short sci-fi stories. You can also read for free his children’s book, Runaway Smile, on his website which is an award-winning finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.
Nicholas was part of the first group of authors who had come to ratebookcover.com to upload their covers, wondering how they would be rated and perceived among other people. Overall, Nicholas’s covers didn’t seem to rate that badly but I did catch wind that he might be looking to redesign them.
At first I felt bad — almost responsible. Us authors know that getting a cover developed can be a daunting task and knowing that this new site that I had developed contributed to his sole decision to seek new cover designs, prompted me to question how responsible I really was. But on the other hand, I realized it meant that the site was an excellent tool for authors, aiding in their decision making process. But was I kidding myself?
I decided to approach Nicholas on the subject to see if he might be willing to do an interview and answer a few questions. He seemed very happy and most willing to shed some light on the topic.
1. So, I read on your website you have a wife, a dog, and two cats. How long have you been married and have you lived in Athens your entire life?
I met my wife, Electra, some 23 years ago. I had just broken up with my girlfriend of almost three years, and was spending the weekend with a cousin of mine. A strange thing about his family; they’re big cat lovers. I mean, real fans.
The day before, one of his cats had spotted a tabby sauntering down the street, and decided to act like a typical male, by making a pass on her. Sadly, he forgot that they lived on the fifth floor (that’s male thinking at work, for you). As expected, the fall was not without consequences and he was rushed to the vet. The doctor placed him at the vet equivalent of an IC unit, and the love (and pavement) stricken cat spent the night there.
That afternoon my cousin and I went to visit the poor beast. While my cousin was chatting with the good doctor, I noticed this cute girl who had brought her Dalmatian for her shots. This was a young dog, with the nervousness typical of her breed. As such, the girl had trouble lifting her up to the exam table and holding her there.
Ever the gentleman, I rushed over and helped soothe the Dalmatian, in the process chatting up the girl. When we left, she gave me her number. I called her the very next day, and we chatted on the phone, hitting it off like a wooden, gasoline-filled house on fire.
A week later, we went on our first date, and shared our first kiss. Three years later, we moved in together, when we both started living in Edinburgh. We studied and worked there until our return to Greece, shortly before the Olympics. We’ve now been married for thirteen years.
2. When did you first start writing books?
Ever since I remember myself, I have enjoyed writing. At school, many of my classmates dreaded essay-writing, whereas I could count on my essays to be read in class.
In 2009, I felt ready for a career change and decided to try again my hand at writing. A Greek newspaper had a segment called 9, that included a short science fiction story each week. I submitted my story, not expecting much.
They published it, and sent me a cheque for 150 euros. I was ecstatic. Sadly, by the time I had written and submitted another couple of stories, the newspaper had ran into financial trouble and discontinued that segment. So, I sent one of the stories to a short-story competition, and, to my great surprise, won. The story was published in an anthology called Invasion.
I then started working on my novel, Pearseus, which turned into a series. I first published that on Amazon in late 2013, certain that I was missing something: surely it couldn’t be that easy. Sooner or later, someone would call my bluff. Amazon or someone would take a look and go, “hey, you’re not an author. What are you playing at?”
Instead, people bought Pearseus and reviewed it. They said nice things about it and actually paid to read my work. It repeatedly became an Amazon best-seller.
Wow. People liked my work. This really was an eye opener, and I have continued to write and publish ever since. I’ve learned a lot, developed my voice and made scores of wonderful new friends. I now wonder, why did it take me so long to take the plunge?
3. Most every writer finds inspiration or has been influenced by a well-known author. If you had to pick one or two well-known authors who have really inspired you to be a writer who would they be?
I love Philip K. Dick’s works, and find him tremendously inspiring. Indeed, I consider him a modern-day prophet. His short stories taught me everything I needed to know about that genre, while his many ideas have repeatedly found their way into my work.
Then, there are Tolkien and Martin, two of the main influences in fantasy: Tolkien practically invented the genre; Martin redefined it.
Also, Clark and Asimov, who showed us how science fiction needs to be rooted into hard fact, to be believable. Their work, and especially Asimov’s Foundation series, have heavily influenced Pearseus.
Finally, there’s Herbert, whose Dune series has also been a main influence. In fact, I couldn’t be happier when a reader described Pearseus as “a cross between Dune and Game of Thrones”!
Still, if I had to choose one, that would have to be Dick. I’m currently reading his Exegesis, which is in effect his personal correspondence, and am fascinated by it. Indeed, Exegesis is the best trove of wonderful ideas, as far as I’m concerned.
4. What other things do you like to do besides writing books?
Lol – not much! With anything else I do, there’s a little voice in the back of my head going, “wouldn’t you rather be writing right now?”
Still, we’re lucky in that we have two national parks near my house, plus the sea. So, I enjoy walks there. Our dog is a wonderful excuse for this, as she’s always keen on a bit of running around.
I also enjoy Tai Chi, which helps me work out the kinks in my back after a day of staring at the monitor.
5. What does your typical day of writing look like? Do you have any set goals of reaching a certain word count, for example? Do you write every day?
I try to write every day, and usually do. I have also undertaken a ghost writing project, so I’m very time-conscious about that. Still, I have to juggle a day job and a marriage, so I regularly long for extra hours in a day or, indeed, extra days in a week. Plus, I post at least every two days on my blog, so that’s a lot of writing as well.
I don’t have a specific number of pages, though. And I try not to get hung-up on it. For over a month after finishing my last book, I only wrote on my blog, plus a couple of short stories. That’s okay; we sometimes need a rest, to recharge our batteries. As I often say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
However, even during that month, I would spend many hours each day dealing with promotion and marketing. When you’re an Indie author, you have to function like a small publishing house. So, even when not actually writing, there’s a ton of stuff to do.
6. On average, how long does it take you to complete the entire process of writing a book, editing, and finally publishing?
Depending on the size of the book, between four and six months. My process is as follows:
First, I write the first draft, then I edit and reedit until I’m satisfied. Then, I can finally show it to my wife and beta readers. Once I have their feedback, it’s back to editing, while I incorporate their suggestions. After that, it’s off to my professional editor, Lorelei.
Only after I’ve gone through her comments and have proofread the book is it ready to be published. Which means that I now have to create the book cover, organize blog tours and publicity etc.
My Greek books follow a slightly different process, as I have a publisher to help out with that last bit. However, any time saved is spent making publishing deals and on book presentations.
7. Are you planning on publishing anything new soon? Any sneak peeks you can give us?
Absolutely! I am currently working on three projects, actually. One is my second children’s book, called Musiville (you can actually read my first one, Runaway Smile, for free on my blog.) This is currently at the final stages of formatting, so it should be published shortly in Greek by Delta Ekdotiki. Then, I’ll translate it into English and self-publish it.
My second project is my second collection of short stories, to be called Infinite Waters. I love short stories, and they are one of my favorite genres. This collection includes many of the shorts I have written in the year since the publication of my first collection, The Power of Six: 6+1 Short Science Fiction Stories. This is finished; I just need to work on the cover, marketing etc., so I hope to publish it within the next few weeks.
My third project is Pearseus: Endgame, the fourth book of my epic fantasy series, Pearseus (fifth if you count Schism; the prequel to the series). It continues the story from where Vigil left. Although the main threat has been dealt with, the two main faction on the planet are preparing for all-out war. The characters are forced to fight for what they believe in or lose it all. The remaining story lines will be wrapped up in this last volume. This is still at the first draft stage.
8. There is something I have been curious to ask you which pertains to your book covers. I had read on your blog that you are looking to redesign your covers. Is this true, and if so, was it ratebookcover.com that made you decide or some other factor — or a combination of both?
I had been flirting with the idea of a redesign for quite some time now, but had been putting it off. Getting feedback from ratebookcover.com helped me make up my mind and take the plunge. So, you could say it sped up the process.
It helped that Alexios Saskalidis has already undertaken Musiville’s formatting, and is an incredibly talented artist. I have designed my previous covers myself, with the help of my illustrator co-creator, Dimitris Fousekis, but Alexios’s work is absolutely brilliant. So, I have now asked him to prepare a new cover for Pearseus: Rise of the Prince (the first book in the Pearseus series), along with one for Infinite Waters.
9. So, can you envision authors using ratebookcover.com as a tool during the process of choosing a book cover, or even after publication, as another way to assist in marketing their books?
In a number of ways; that’s what makes ratebookcover.com such a great tool. It allows authors to instantly test possible book covers for reader feedback. As visitors rate it, you get to know right away if a cover has traction with readers or not. That way, you can upload a bunch of possible covers and let the readers decide which one is the best.
That’s not all, though! You can also use it for inspiration, by browsing the site to see what kind of covers people like. This is what my editor, who introduced me to the service, did. As she wrote to me at the time, “I started paying attention to my own tastes, and I found a trend. I was drawn to blurry, bright covers, with closeups of people rather than full-body images.” She has now redesigned her book cover to reflect just that. In that sense, it’s like an instant trend-o-meter!
10. You mentioned spending time marketing and doing blog tours. For new authors who might be overwhelmed by this process, can you describe in more detail how you go about arranging blog tours and what distribution channels you use for marketing? In the past, what have you found to work the best, email lists like Bookbub and Ereader New Today, or other platforms?
To be honest, this is too broad an issue to answer in a few words. I have written a blog post on the subject, called, “I Just Published my Book. Now What?” that deals with just that. I think your readers will find it very useful.
A brief summary of that post would be that people need to build their platform; choose wisely their Amazon categories; use promotional tools like free days and countdown deals; and use advertising sites like the ones you mention. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Bookbub, for example, only accepts a fraction of the books submitted to them. That’s why you need to work on all these aspects simultaneously.
11. Do you find social media to be an effective platform for marketing your books? If so, which platforms do you use mostly?
Absolutely. I may sell a few hundred books each month when advertising, but I also sell a couple of books a day when I don’t. This is solely due to social media.
Personally, I love my blog. My most meaningful relationships have come through that, and I’m very lucky in that some great authors engage with me daily there.
My second preferred medium is, surprisingly enough, Google+. I have met there hundreds of wonderful people.
Third would be Twitter. I don’t use it as much I used to nowadays, for lack of time, but it can be a very effective tool if used properly. For anyone wishing to learn more about that, I suggest they read Rayne Hall’s excellent book on the subject, “Twitter for Writers.”
Finally, Facebook. Again, I don’t use it as much as I should, but it can be an excellent way of networking.
However – and I can’t stress this enough – we all have our preferences. What works for me might be different to what works for you. People should stop worrying that they don’t use X social medium enough. They should focus on the media that they enjoy, instead.
Another big secret is this: they should never focus on promoting their book. They should be making new friends and networking. A case in point is a Facebook party I once hosted for an hour. The organizer had told me to use that hour to promote my books. Instead, I invited my friends and asked them to talk about their books.
It took some convincing, as they did not want to steal my moment on the spotlight, but they did. This was followed by a fascinating discussion on the present and future of publishing. The hour flew by, and I still had not uttered a single word about me. The poor organizer was livid. She kept sending me private messages: “You now have 45′ to discuss your books.” “30 minutes left!” “Ten minutes!”
Five minutes before my hour was up, I posted a couple of links with a simple “if you want to find out about me or my work, here’s the links” kind of message.
The next morning I saw that I had sold eight copies, without even trying!
Incidentally, if you want to hear more about my book marketing secret, I’ve written a post just for that (hint: it’s all about brand-building).
12. I like to try and end interviews with a fun question. If you could take anyone to dinner and spend the evening in their company, who would that one person be and why?
Each and every single one of my readers! I’m still shocked that so many people have read my books and not showed up at my doorstep with torches and pitchforks. So, a nice dinner would be a nice way of saying how much I love them!
Erm, you’re buying though, right?
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