Interview with Author Dianna Gunn

Welcome Dianna! Happy book birthday: Moonshadow’s Guardian is out today, that’s so exciting. Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to writing?

I’m 25 years old and I’ve known I wanted to be a novelist when I grow up since I was eight. Before that I had somehow gotten it into my head that all authors were dead. It also never occurred to me that they might have made money from those books.

Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered that JK Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter books I loved so much, had become filthy rich writing stories. I immediately decided I want to do the same thing, and although I now know I’ll probably never be filthy rich, I am more committed to my books than I am to… Anything else, really.

You’re not unknown in literature, your first book was traditionally published. Why this decision of self-publishing your second book?

The publisher for my first book was a small press, and a couple weeks ago they announced that after December 31st they will no longer be selling books. They’re still going to publish some free short stories, but all the novella rights are being returned to authors. I’m thinking about seeking another traditional publisher for that book, but this story ties into my main reason for self publishing Moonshadow’s Guardian: control.

Some of this is about creative control, but mostly it’s about the power to control my pricing, my marketing strategy, and my overall business model. I don’t have a choice about whether or not my first book comes off the shelves. My publisher decided that for me. And if all my books are with a publisher, if they close, I lose my entire income until I’m able to re-release them.

Of course, there are drawbacks, too. I have a team of freelancers who help me prepare the book, but when it comes to marketing, I’m on my own. I have to pay for everything, including hefty bills for editing and cover design, myself. This is why I still plan to sell some of my books to traditional publishers. I want the opportunities provided by both paths.

How did you feel just a few days before the release of your second book, Moonshadow’s Guardian?

Honestly? Exhausted and terrified. I had to take on some extra freelance work earlier this fall due to some financial issues, and I wasn’t able to do the level of marketing I hoped to, so I’m really afraid this launch will fall flat on its face. And as much as I know one or even two or three failed launches don’t break a long term writing career, I still feel like everything’s riding on this book.

Moonshadow’s Guardian is the first instalment in a book duology. Have you already planned out the following book? What does it take to write a book series?

I’m writing the second draft of the next book, Moonshadow’s Champion, right now. This book has been an enormous challenge, so while I’m hoping to have it out in November 2019, I may have to push it back to early 2020.

The Moonshadow Rising Duology itself is part of a larger series, the World of Omicaer Novels, and I currently have six more of those planned. So I’ve got an enormous amount of worldbuilding ahead of me, and an equally enormous number of characters to develop. It’s a lot of work and commitment, and a good editor or three who can help you keep the details consistent.

How do you make time to write? Do you follow a schedule or do you write when you can?

All of the above! I’m a nonfiction editor and writer for my day job, so I’ve got very flexible hours. I like to devote 2-3 of those hours to writing every day, but when those hours happens varies a lot. I struggle with insomnia, and when my sleep schedule changes, so does my optimal creative time.

For Moonshadow’s Guardian, you created a Kickstarter campaign and got funded! How have you made the magic happen? What’s the pros and cons of a crowdfunding campaign?

I had been part of crowdfunding campaigns in some way several times before. One of my old day jobs was working for STEAMLabs, a Makerspace that funded some of its equipment through a Kickstarter campaign. I got to work on some of the back end stuff for that, including some of the marketing prep. My work has also appeared in the Tiny RPG series that is largely funded through Kickstarter. I’ve also contributed to a bunch of campaigns (enough that I had to set a strict annual Kickstarter budget starting this year).

My goal of $1,500 was smaller than the goals of any of those campaigns, so I’ll admit that I didn’t hustle as hard as I could have. The main thing I did was amass a collection of amazing rewards by asking other authors to donate copies of their books. And the main advantage of this campaign was that it paid for my editing, so I didn’t have to shoulder that burden even though I self published.

The main drawback, I think, is that running a Kickstarter is like running a product launch before you run your product launch. Even when your goal is small, the process is exhausting. And the people who support your Kickstarter aren’t going to also buy your book at launch, so depending on the size of your audience, it can actually hurt your book release.

How are you planning a book release? Any marketing tips?

Like I said before, the past couple of months were rather chaotic for me so I’m not doing as much marketing as I would honestly prefer. I’ve got a handful of blog appearances and two paid promotions booked, and I’ve also been more active on social media than usual lately, but that’s about all I’ve had energy for.

This is frustrating because the first thirty days a book is available are considered crucial, but the truth is that a book with a mediocre launch can still become successful later, either through price promotions or by piggybacking off the success of another book you’ve written. So, do what you can with the time you have, and try not to guilt yourself about the time you don’t have. We all have limitations.

You are present on social media: Twitter, of course, but also YouTube. What part are they playing in your marketing?

Twitter plays a very active role in my marketing. I connect with other authors and bloggers there first, and then we sometimes get to work together in other ways. It’s awesome!

YouTube, on the other hand, is something I’m not really considering a marketing tool at this point. I am going to post a release day Q&A video and I’ve got a couple other Moonshadow-themed videos coming in the future, but honestly for me YouTube is more about the chance to connect with people I’m already friends with in other places in a new way. Of course, I do have plans to make it a more direct marketing channel if my videos take off.

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview! I wish you all the best in your author’s journey. Congratulations once again!

If you have any questions for Dianna, please feel free to leave it in the comments.

Dianna Gunn has wanted to be a writer since she was eight years old. She wrote her first novel for Nanowrimo at eleven years old, but quickly discovered that writing books is not an easy way to make a living. So she decided to broaden her horizons, seeking another way – any way – to build a career in publishing. Her career began in earnest when she became a marketing intern at Musa Publishing in September 2011, and quickly became a staff writer, in charge of multiple imprint blogs.

In April 2017, Dianna’s first book, Keeper of the Dawn, was published through Book Smugglers Publishing. Her second novel, Moonshadow’s Guardian, releases on November 17th, 2018 and is currently available for sale on Amazon and Kobo.

When she’s not writing, you can find Dianna sharing writing and self-care tips on her YouTube channel or on Twitter @DiannaLGunn.

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