Self-pub or Traditional: Jana Oliver Interview

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Jana Oliver has been putting words to page for over ten years. Her previous works (The TIME ROVERS Series) were published by Dragon Moon Press. The Time Rover books are best described as “Time Travelers. Shapeshifters. Jack the Ripper.” The series (SOJOURN, VIRTUAL EVIL and MADMAN’S DANCE) was nominated for fifteen awards and has won twelve to date. Which still amazes her. She’s also sold a short story (alas, not yet published) and a non-fiction article for an anthology. She credits her crazy imagination for her success and honestly believes she has the best job in the world. She loves single malt scotch and fine chocolate. She doesn’t think it’s a bad combination at all. I’m more of a beer and chocolate kind of girl which, surprisingly, isn’t a bad combination either. You can visit Jana’s website at JanaOliver.com


Today, Jana I’d like to ask you some questions about the differences between being self-published and traditionally published. I am what is sometimes referred to as a hybrid author. One who is (or in my case will be) self-published but is also seeking the traditional route. I read you actually self-pubed your first three books before going traditional. Can you share your thoughts on Traditional vs. Self.E-pubinng?

Traditional vs. self/e-pubbing is the question right now. Is it better to hold out for a publishing contract through a bigger house or do-it-yourself? There are challenges no matter which path you choose. At the heart of that choice is “visibility”, the ability for readers to find out you exist and that your books might be the kind they’d like to read. I refer to this as “author platform” and it’s just as difficult to build today as it was for me in 2001 which I first self-published. Social Media has helped, but with that comes tons of new authors talking about their books. The signal noise ratio is an issue.

If you publish with a big press (like St. Martin’s) it is much more likely your books will be found in the chain stores. Small press? Maybe not so much. Self-published? Highly unlikely. Traditional press usually nets you a fatter paycheck, but not always. Small press publishers can offer a smaller pond in which to begin your career, the opportunity to work with an editor who will most likely spend more time on your book. As for self-publishing, it’s all on your head and that’s why it’s a tricky proposition. If you don’t spend the time and money to bring a quality book to the market, there is no one else to blame.

In the end, it comes down to your long-term goals. The choices are not mutually exclusive — you can self-pub while being traditionally published. A new author needs to lay out his/her goals, research the options and decide which is best fo them.

What are your favorite/least favorite things about self-publishing and traditional publishing so far?

Traditional Publishing

Favorite – my books are in bookstores. That rocks

Least Favorite – a lack of “hands-on” control in regard to some of the decisions that are made regarding my books


Favorite – that control I was speaking of. I am required to handle (or contract out) all aspects of a book’s production, ranging from cover to editing to distribution and marketing. That gives me a hands-on feel for the project.

Least Favorite – the lack of a backup in case anything goes wrong. It’s part of the package if you self-pub: the buck stops on your desk.

There are so many theories in regards to e-pubing while attempting the traditional path as well. One, in particular, worries me more than others, and that’s the idea that e-pubing/self-publishing could hurt your chances of landing an agent if the sales of your book aren’t brag worthy. Thoughts?

 I have been told that self-publishing would ruin my career, that NO ONE would ever buy my books if they found out I had previously published my own works. Buzzz! That might have been the perception in years past, but it doesn’t hold water any longer, not when Amanda Hocking (and others) are signing with traditional publishers after going it on their own.

I don’t believe that less-than-stellar e-sales are going to affect your chances that much. An agent might make note of them, but each new book is a fresh adventure. However, having self-pubbed will force you to build that platform I spoke of, so you should be bringing readers, Facebook and other Social Media savvy to the table. That’s important as well.

Self-publishing is a lot of work and requires mad networking skills. Did that come easy to you? Did it make staying in contact with fans easier after you went traditional?

I do admit to having mad networking skills and, for the most part, they do come easily. I started my career attending science ficton/fantasy conventions, meeting/greeting and making sure that I was a model guest so I’d be invited back. Those connections led to me signing with Dragon Moon Press (an indie Canadian press) and then a few years later, with my literary agent. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been out and about.

 The advent of Facebook/Twitter, etc. has made it easier to remain in touch with my fans. That instant connection has made so much of a difference. I have two Facebook accounts: the everyday Jana one (where I can be political if I choose) and the official Jana Oliver page (for my books, appearances, etc.). I try very hard not to overdo it with book stuff as nothing bugs me more than someone who keeps whining “Buy my book!” Jeez. I try to intersperse book news with comments about other topics, etc. I’m less dedicated to my blogs, Goodreads, and my forum (yeah, I have one of those). But I do try to spread myself around to keep in touch with the readers because they’re the reason I have this awesome job.

Getting published is hard work. The query letter is harder. LOL. Did you send both email and snail mail queries? I’ve heard the format for email queries is a little different. Did you find that to be the case? What about that dreaded second paragraph? The mini-synopsis. Yikes! Do you have any tips on how to sum it up without going overboard?

I sent a few email queries out to agents and in my case it was a query for a previously-pubbed series so it was a bit tricky. No success, but then I heard that one agent receives 30K (yes, that’s thousand) email queries PER YEAR.

The dreaded second paragraph is a bit easier for me (only 20 or so rewrites) because I used to write advertising copy. Essentially I write back cover copy because that’s the way I’m wired. It should let the agent know who is at risk, what is at risk, why this situation is important and what happens if the hero/heroine doesn’t resolve the problem. In Katniss Everdeen’s case, she dies. For Harry Potter, the world will be overrun by Voldemort’s minions and all his friends will die. There has to be some personal stake involved.

Which lifestyle, self vs. traditional, keeps you the busiest? I’m sure they were both maddening. Some days, I look around and realize my life would be way  better if I had a clone. Which leads me to my next question. What’s it like to have an assistant? Is he willing to change diapers? Can I barrow him? LOL. (CJ, you were so prompt and nice. I couldn’t help throwing a little something in here about you. Plus, I do so envy the idea of having a personal assistant. *sigh*)

Both lifestyles keep me equally busy. My publisher takes up some of the slack, but that “free” time has been filled with social media and appearances. So it appears to be about the same, actually. Having a personal assistant is a very good thing, though CJ isn’t good with diapers, alas. Sorry!

Jana, a good read is a good read no matter where it comes from, but people can be persnickety (yes, I really used that word) when it comes to changing author lanes. I’ve got to know: did you lose any of your fanbase/writer friends when you flipped on the traditional blinker on?

Not that I know of. From what I hear my early readers have followed (and cheered) me onto traditional publishing. They’ve enjoyed watching my “journey” as it were.

What one piece of advice (or warning) would you have for a girl, maybe this one, who was looking to break into both sides of the publishing biz?

Publishing is a blood sport. It’s rough and tumble. Make writer friends who will stick with you when things are good and not so good. Cultivate those friendship as these are the folks who will keep you sane when the industry does its best to drive you crazy.

Last question. It’s a just for fun question because these are the random things that fly through my brain. Jana, Demons are entertaining and lord knows I love, love, love your Demon Trapper Series, (I heart Beck and Riley) but summer is coming which means HBO is going to be breaking out a lot of fangy goodness. If I were to put these hot vampires in a cage, paired up like this:

Damon Salvatore vs. Eric Northman

Stefan Salvatore vs. Spike (Or William the Bloody if you want to get technical.)

Bill Compton vs. Angel

Who would you want to win the match? Angel

Who would actually win the match? Spike

Which two blood suckers would make it to the final round? Spike & Stefan

And who do you think would win it all!? Buffy, with two well placed stakes

I love that last answer. Also, I agree hands down. Buffy would just stroll in there and  poof take them both out. Jana, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and time. I know you’ve had a lot on your plate recently. I love your books and can’t wait for the fourth installment in Beck and Riley’s journey. Gotta say, I didn’t see that whole Beck thing coming. I mean, I knew that journalist wasn’t going away quietly but wow. She is not a person to piss off! Here are all the places where you can go to read more on Jana Oliver and her books.





Facebook: facebook.com/JanaOliver

Twitter: @crazyauthorgirl

Also, Jana has written Riley Blackthorne’s debut demon trap. It a quick, fun read that will give you a taste of Jana’s Demon Trapper’s world and it’s FREE. http://www.amazon.com/Retro-Demonology-ebook/dp/B004FPYZKM/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1337592622&sr=8-3

Retro Demonolgy works as either an introductory peek into Riley Blackthorne’s life or a comforting visit while we long time fans wait for the next installment. For those of you who have read Forgiven, I pose this question: what do you think is next for Beck and Riley? Leave your answer in the comment section along with an email addy and you could win one of two prizes. 1) An official Demon Trapper’s patch. 2) Demon Trapper Temp. Tattoo! Let the speculation begin.

 A final shout out to Jana Oliver who took a chance on my little blog. Thank you so much for making this ‘go big or go home’ moment possible. I’m squeeing my geeky, fangirl lungs out.


7 comments on “Self-pub or Traditional: Jana Oliver Interview

  1. Thanks for asking all this awesome questions, Jennifer. And my answer to “what’s next for Riley and Beck?” I think she’s going to join a nunnery and he’s headed for TV career. 😉 But then I might be lying….

    • Yeah. I can’t see either of those things working out well, Jana. Riley is not nun material and poor Beck would probably end up punching out the camera men. I am glad you liked the questions and are happy with the way it turned out. My squee moment just got a lot louder.

  2. Great interview! Thanks so much for your thoughts on the industry. It gave me a lot to think about.

  3. Thanks for the interesting interview. New to indie pubbing, and am sitting on the fence between Trad vs. Indie. Good to hear both sides of the discussion from a seasoned writer.


  4. @ Lily – Luckily you can do both, if you wish (if you have more than one book). There’s a ton of pros/cons for all the different platforms, but at least writers have SO many more options now than they did in years past.

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