Interview – Jack Heath

Jack-Heath-Ash-Peak-cropped1I don’t often do interviews on the blog, but I recently saw that Jack Heath is crowdfunding his next novel through Pozible and it seemed like a good chance to ask some questions about that process, which I thought you might like to hear the answers to.

Jack is a pretty driven guy. He began writing his first novel at 13 and it was published when he was only 18. Since then, he’s gone on to write a bunch of successful YA action novels including The Lab, Money Run and Hit List. He’s on the board of the ACT Writers Centre, and I’ve worked with Jack in the past so can also vouch for him being a nice guy to boot. If you’d like to know more about Jack and his books you can check out his website here.

Jack’s new book Ink, is a YA action thriller that he’ll be writing and funding through a Pozible campaign.

Every day, Lukas is forced to swallow an empathy supplement. Without it, he wouldn’t feel guilty about the incident.

He works deep underground, digging up metal ore to fuel the six billion 3D printers on the surface. Now that anyone can print any object, the only viable industry is ink. 

When Lukas is abducted by an insane surface-dweller, he’s left in a desperate situation. He doesn’t know what his captor wants, but he knows he has 72 hours until the drug wears off – and he’s afraid of what he’ll do…

You can support the project for varying rewards (not the least of which is knowing that you’ve played a major part in the publication of a book), watch the book trailer, and even download a free short story if you check out the campaign here. I highly recommend looking at crowdfunding projects whenever they cross your path, I always feel like it’s pretty amazing to be a part of making someone’s dream come true, and I’d like to think that maybe one day the same thing will happen to me!

So I was curious about the whole project, wondering what this means for books, for authors and for this book specifically. Jack kindly agreed to do a quick Q&A for me, check it out below, and then jump over to Pozible and check out the project too.

Why did you decide to crowdfund this project?

Ink will appeal to a very specific kind of reader – the kind who enjoys sci-fi just as much as crime, and who likes young adult fiction but also enjoys pushing boundaries. Those readers are going to love it, but the only way for a traditional publisher to turn a profit is to sell a lot of copies, and that doesn’t work with such a limited audience. Crowdfunding enables me to sell things other than the book – access to the work in progress, naming rights to characters, posters, VIP launch tickets and more. This way, the book is economically viable and the readers get more enjoyment out of the process, both before and after publication.

Do you think there’s a difference between crowdfunding books and other types of projects? Or is the difference more a broad arts/business type divide?

Investment has always been a huge part of both the art world and the business world – crowdfunding is just a new isotope of an old element. But raising funds for a book is a little harder than for some other projects, since the costs aren’t widely understood. Most people know about printing expenses, but they don’t think about the costs of hiring copy editors, typesetters, proof readers and cover artists. Even if I successfully raise $5,000, I don’t expect to make much profit in the long run. I’m doing this because I want to tell the story.

Are you concerned that people will judge the book harshly because it’s not distributed by a publisher? How different is crowdfunding to self-publishing?

Online retail has made self-published books much more accessible than they used to be. I’ve bought more self-published books in the last two years than in the previous ten combined. I think so long as Ink becomes a high-quality book – well written, well copy-edited, with professional cover art – the readers won’t care that there isn’t a traditional publisher backing it.

How do you market something like this? Do you think there’s a further reach or more limited reach for the product overall?

My marketing strategy is as follows. Step One: write a great book (so as readers like it enough to buy it for their friends). Step Two: never turn down an opportunity to talk about it, in public or private. Step Three: produce plenty of blog post and videos in the hope of getting noticed by more potential readers. This is basically the same strategy that I’ve always used. Without a traditional publisher I can’t get the book into brick-and-mortar retailers, which limits the reach, so I’ll have to work harder than usual – but I think it will be worthwhile.

Do you think that people will continue to buy the book once it’s published, or are you essentially pre-selling to the intended audience?

I predict a brief flurry of sales in the weeks following publication, but unless something spectacular happens, it will then fade into my backlist. That’s not a bad thing. The old must make way for the new. As long as the investors and the first group of customers enjoy it, everything else is gravy.

Do you think that this sets a precedence for publishers to try to get authors to ‘prove’ themselves via crowdfunding? You can see a similar debate on the Veronica Mars Kickstarter project here.

A growing number of publishers are purchasing the rights to successful self-published books rather than taking on the upfront costs and risks associated with producing new books. I think that’s a short-sighted strategy, since it removes from the process almost everything traditional publishers are good at, but there’s not a lot I can do about it.

I don’t think Ink sets a precedent, since it’s not the first book to be crowdfunded, but I do think any publisher who asks authors to crowdfund their books is giving away all their power. An author who can run a successful crowdfunding campaign will get their advance from the readers and may decide they don’t need a publisher at all. I should also add that being good at crowdfunding doesn’t necessarily equate to being good at writing, so asking authors to prove themselves that way would be a very inefficient method of finding the diamonds in the rough.

Are you going to write the book regardless?

I think so. I’m so in love with the story that I can’t imagine not writing it. But if I don’t meet the target, I’ll have to sell it to a traditional publisher, which might take a few years – and they’re likely to want to dilute the story so as it appeals to a broader audience. Having more readers isn’t a bad thing, but Ink has the potential to be completely unique. I’d hate to miss that chance, so I really hope I hit the target.

If you think I’ve left any major questions out, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll see if I can talk Jack into answering them as well.

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