Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

An ILMK interview with The Behrg, author of the Kindle Scout winner Housebroken

January 2, 2015

An ILMK interview with The Behrg, author of the Kindle Scout winner Housebroken

When I recently wrote about the first books being selected in Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, I was pleased when one of those authors, The Behrg (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), commented on it. I arranged through The Behrg’s blog to do an e-mail interview, which is below. The Behrg’s Kindle Scout winning title, Housebroken, has not yet been released: I will update this with a link when it becomes available.

Bufo: Congratulations on your novel, Housebroken, being selected in the first round of the Kindle Scout program! I also want to thank you for sharing with my readers your experience as an author in the program. What was it like when you found out your novel was chosen?

The Behrg: Thanks so much!  It was a bit surreal, especially as this was the first round with Kindle Scout so no one knew how many books they would be selecting or what criteria they were looking for.  I’m humbled to have been chosen alongside many other authors I respect and admire.

Bufo: Tell us about your past publication history. I believe this is your first novel in the Kindle store: what else have you had published?

The Behrg:  You’re correct, this is my debut novel.  I’ve had various short stories published in online magazines and print anthologies.  Most of my writing time over the past decade was spent on screenplays.  The difficult thing with screenwriting is compacting your ideas into such a tight framework.  As I moved over to prose I felt immediately liberated — there was so much I could explore!  While I strive to keep pacing tight I love roaming through people’s heads and getting those inner thoughts that make someone who they are.  I still love the art of screenwriting but will be sticking with novels for awhile.

Bufo: Have you felt like you’ve been pretty much in control of how things have gone with your works, or have there been goals you’ve struggled to reach?

The Behrg:  I’m a very cautious individual when it comes to putting my work out there, something I learned from screenwriting.  You don’t want to submit a work until it’s 110% ready.  Being the perfectionist I am, this means umpteen drafts and a slower writing process than many other authors I know.  I look at authorship as a journey not a destination, so each little step and success along the way isn’t something to check off on a list of goals but rather a part of the experience.  Viewed in this light I think authors have complete control over their works and what they want to do with them.

Bufo: How did you hear about Kindle Scout? What was it about the program that convinced you to try it? What concerns did you have?

The Behrg:  It’s interesting because I had been sitting on my novel for over six months, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it — submit it to publishers? Self-publish?  Bury it in my backyard?  Then I heard about the Kindle Scout program on Twitter through a few fellow writers.  One of the things that convinced me to submit my novel was the backing of Amazon’s marketing behind the selected books.  Let’s face it, Amazon is a beast when it comes to marketing.  Very few companies do it better and to have the #1 seller of ebooks backing and promoting your product?  It’d be hard to lose.  I’ve been in the entertainment industry for years and don’t mind giving a piece of the cut to someone (or some company) for a larger percentage of the pie.  With this being my debut novel, it made the decision even easier.  

Bufo: How have other people supported you in this effort? Friends, family, fans?

The Behrg:  That’s a great question because to have a successful campaign with Kindle Scout you have to rely on others.  I’m a big believer in not spamming people with my own promotions.  There’s nothing worse than seeing your Twitter or Facebook feeds clogged up with the same message being delivered from the same person twelve times a day asking you to buy their book.  So I asked my family and a few close friends if they would help in promoting my novel once the campaign began.  They responded better than I ever could have imagined and were an integral part of my book remaining on the Hot and Trending list for so long.

Bufo: Did you have a strategy for Kindle Scout? Was it your primary goal to actually get published in it, or would you have considered it worthwhile to have participated? Were there other efforts that you had to put aside or de-emphasize to do Kindle Scout?

The Behrg:  Great questions.  I didn’t come into the program with a built-in audience or fanbase seeing as this was my first real novel.  In fact I was surprised when my novel hit the Hot list and stayed there for so long.  There were, however, some things I put in place which I feel helped tremendously in the process.  I actually put together a post on my blog for authors who are looking to submit to Kindle Scout, offering some tips. (Not to toot my own horn, but you can find it here:  http://thebehrg.com/2014/12/10/how-to-create-a-successful-kindlescout-campaign/).  One of the key things is to remember your campaign is a marathon not a sprint.  Be sure to spread out your promos to your fanbase or marketing or whatever means you’re utilizing to promote your work and get those nominations.  If they all come in at once, that’s great but where will your book be weeks 2-4?  As far as the efforts that went into promoting the campaign, I purposely chose not to allow it to interfere with my writing time.  I really didn’t do much other than blog about my experience and do the occasional post on Facebook or Twitter.  Luckily fans, friends and family did the grunt work for me and kept that thing humming along.

Bufo: How has participation in the program been? Have things gone smoothly? What was the best surprise you got about it?

The Behrg:  I don’t think the program is for everyone, and that’s okay — it’s not meant to be.  But I would highly recommend anyone who has a completed novel that is ready to go to give it a try.  Even if you don’t win, there’s so much you learn from the process … plus you’re picking up fans and new readers who wouldn’t have known about you any other way.  One of the best surprises to me came from comments on my blog and people sending congratulatory emails about my book’s acceptance, all from readers I don’t personally know.  I’ve also made some great contacts with other authors who were in the program, some who were chosen and some who weren’t, who I’m now speaking with about future projects or helping as a beta-reader with their new works and vice versa.  None of these contacts would have been made had I not given the program a chance.

Bufo: What else would you like to tell my readers about Kindle Scout?

The Behrg:  I think Kindle Scout is very much in its infancy and we’ll probably see a lot of changes to it as it continues.  Many authors are waiting to see how it works out for those who were selected in the first go-around.  I’m happy to say, from the contact I’ve had with the Kindle Scout team, they’re taking it very seriously and are providing even more than I had hoped for.  For readers, I think it’s a fantastic program.  You’re able to discover new authors and talent you might not have heard of and also help support those authors in reaching their dreams.  Plus you have a chance of receiving free copies of the books that are chosen if you nominate them.  There’s really no downside.  A few of the books I nominated were not chosen, but I’ve taken the opportunity to reach out to those authors to let them know I’d be interested in purchasing their book once they are released (whether self or traditionally published).

Bufo: Would you put another book into Kindle Scout? How would you change the program if you could?

The Behrg:  I’m not sure if I would put a second book into the Kindle Scout program.  I’m wanting to try several different methods of publishing to see what works the best.  I don’t think there’s one magic bullet that will put an author on a fast-track to notoriety, it’s just a constant stream of activity and work and eventually all of those parts add together to hopefully an impressive sum.  As far as changes I would make to the program?  I think it would be in everyone’s interest for the authors to be given a way to communicate with those who nominated their works.  For instance, the books I nominated that weren’t chosen, I would love to hear an update from the author on when they might be publishing them.  Amazon would win as it would lead to more sales, the authors win as whether or not they’re chosen they’re picking up a wider audience, and the readers win by finding great new books.

Bufo: One more question about Kindle Scout: did you participate in it as a reader?

The Behrg:  Absolutely!  It would be a shame to only be in a program like this for myself and not support other authors.  In truth, I’ve discovered new authors and have gone on to purchase some of their backlists.  Most of the promoting I did during my campaign was for the program itself, telling people about Kindle Scout and sending them to the home page rather than my own link for a nomination.  We need programs like this to succeed, ways to sift through a lot of the noise and help great books rise to the top.

Bufo: Finally, tell us about the book. How would you describe the genre, and your writing style? What type of person would find Housebroken especially appealing?

The Behrg:  Housebroken is a dark psychological thriller, a home invasion story with a twist.  The basic premise is about a family that is taken hostage in their own home yet their kidnappers have no demands — all they want is to observe the family for a week, following their every day activity.  As you can imagine, that’s a recipe for disaster.  Add to it that the kidnappers create rules for the family that when broken, cause the kidnappers to break their own rules — rules that include no one getting hurt, the family’s son staying with them, and the observation lasting only a week.  There are a lot of twists and turns and surprises along the way.  Anyone who enjoys Dean Koontz, Gregg Hurwitz, or Stephen King novels would enjoy this.

Bufo: Thanks again for doing this interview! Books are at the heart of it all, and they don’t exist without authors like you. Time may be the most valuable resource for a writer, and I appreciate you sharing yours with us.

The Behrg:  I appreciate the opportunity to share a piece of my journey with you and your readers!  I myself am an avid reader and to me there’s nothing more exciting than discovering a new author whose voice just speaks to you.  Some of my favorite authors today are writers I hadn’t heard about a year or two ago!  Gregg Hurwitz, Michael Sears, Ted Dekker, Joe Hart, Blake Crouch, Douglass Clegg; there really is so much talent out there.  It’s a great time to be a reader!  Ten or twenty pages in, when you’re reading with a smile, already lost in the world that’s been created — partly in print but mostly in your own imagination — that’s an amazing experience.  My aim with my own writing is to facilitate that journey and join you on the ride.

Update:

Housebroken (at AmazonSmile*)

is now available for purchase for $3.99, or to read as part of Kindle Unlimited at no additional cost.

Join over a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

An ILMK interview with September Day, the voice of the Kindle Fire HD

August 7, 2013

An ILMK interview with September Day, the voice of the Kindle Fire HD

I was honored recently when September Day, the voice artist behind the text-to-speech software used on second generation Kindle Fires, left a comment on this blog.

I’ve always liked voice artists (Paul Frees is a personal favorite), but I do feel like I have a different connection to September Day. I typically listen to text-to-speech on my Kindle Fire HD for hours every week…I’ve spent a lot of time listening to September!

September was kind enough to answer some questions for me and my readers:

ILMK: While many of us have spent so many hours listening to you that we feel like we know you, we realize that we actually don’t. Tell us a little bit about the life path that brought you to doing the voice we hear on our Kindle Fires.

September Day: I was a veterinary technician for 13 years right out of college. I absolutely loved it, but it was tough on all fronts; physically, emotionally, mentally. One day, I started to consider a career change and remembered that back in my youth I had loved a particular local radio station. I would call in and chat with the DJs and one of them, the commercial production guy, would constantly ask me to come in and record but my shyness held me back. In 2007, I finally got the guts to give it a try and 6 months into my career, I was voicing at the MTV VMAs. By the way, that same DJ from my teenage years happened across my voiceover website years later. We reconnected and have been married 3 years this October with 2 little girls and a baby boy.

ILMK: You’ve done a variety of voice work, including announcing the MTV VMAs (Video Music Awards) and voicing MJ* in a Spider-Man motion comic. You’ve also appeared on screen in a movie. Your delivery has been quite different in different situations. When you recorded the voice that we have with Ivona, do you consider it acting, or something else? Are you thinking of a character, perhaps picturing the person speaking?

SD: Working with Ivona was unique in many ways. One has to keep a consistent tone for many days, many hours a day. They were asking for a youthful voice and I am 36 so I have to work to keep that youthful pitch. The acting part was keeping the mental fortitude to keep the pace and tone level throughout every single sentence. It was perhaps, the absence of acting. I was permitted no inflection of my voice except for the last words of some sentences. I had to read all of “Alice in Wonderland” and many, many news stories from the AP wire. As Ivona is based in Poland, it was the European AP wire, which is *much* more difficult and unfamiliar

ILMK: Have you done any audiobooks? How is that different? Do you listen to text-to-speech or audiobooks for your own entertainment?

SD: I have done a few short audiobooks. It’s not my favorite aspect of the industry simply because of the long recording time. Also, there are times when I am requested to edit my own audio, which is the bane of my existence as a voice talent. I don’t listen to many audiobooks as speaking and listening to speech is my job. I much prefer music of the classical, house, electronic, world and ambient varieties.

ILMK: Presumably, once you’ve recorded a voice for software like this, you don’t know how or where it will be specifically used. Have you ever been surprised by encountering your own voice in your daily life?

SD: Oh yes! I had no idea of the plans for the software. I had assumed it would mostly be used for GPS navigations or IVR. There have been times I have been in line at the bank or grocery store and have heard my voice coming from a tablet. The first time it happened, it was incredibly surreal. I was holding my daughter, just kind of snuggling and whispering in her ear that she was going to get a lollipop from the bank teller when my voice spoke up reading out loud. We both turned and my daughter shouted, “Mama”!. I had to explain everything to about 15 bank customers and 4 tellers. It was hilarious!

ILMK: Many of my readers are also authors. It can be hard to balance your creative life and your personal one. Is there anything about being a voice artist that makes that easier?

SD: Definitely! Having a home studio means that I can work in pajamas!… or less. I’m able to squeeze in auditions and jobs during naptime and after the kids go to bed. I also take my recording setup on the road when we travel, so I’m able to work and finance our travel as we go. That is really convenient. Because I have been doing it so long, auditioning and editing can be done very quickly and gives me plenty of time to have other outside interests and be a mom.

ILMK: What’s it like when you record a voice like this? Do you do it out of your home studio, or do you go to a studio? Does anyone direct you in your performance?

SD: For this particular job, I went to GM Voices, a large studio in north Atlanta. The Ivona representative would call in on what’s called a phone patch using Skype and listen as I spoke. It was his job to make sure I didn’t lose pace or tone and to help with the pronunciation of the names of prime ministers from European and African countries.

ILMK: Are you given specific material to read? Are you reading actual books, or are they words and sentences designed for use with the software?

SD: Yes. I read over 196,000 prompts from “Alice in Wonderland”, the AP wire, and many just random sentences. Apparently, the software knew beforehand the sounds it needed from me and so it crawled the web to find sentences that would make me deliver those sounds. I do remember one particular sentence I’ll never forget: “Here one of the guinea-pigs cheered, and was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court.” It was the line we played at the start of each session for me to get the tone perfect again.

ILMK: Do you do any research into the “proper” way to pronounce things? Some words are pronounced differently in different regions of the country, for example, and you may also be encountering scientific terms or (in the case of science fiction, fantasy, and proper names), made up ones. How do you decide how to say it?

SD: Honestly, we say it every way it can be said. That is true in all aspects of VO. When a script contains a word or number that can be said different ways, it’s easiest to just give every variation because inevitably, the one you choose will be wrong.

ILMK: Do you ever re-record, because you want to change your performance?

SD: All the time! Sometimes, a 60 second commercial session can take a half hour to do depending on the director, how many people from an ad agency attend the recording, how creative the team is feeling. Sometimes, they re-write the whole thing on the spot. Most times, it’s done quickly, but I have had sessions last for 8 hours for a 30 minute infomercial.

ILMK: About how much time did you spend recording for Salli, the voice we hear on the current Kindle Fires?

SD: Salli was recorded over 8, 8 hour days with short bathroom breaks. I couldn’t eat between takes because that changes how your mouth sounds so I would always leave the studio starving! I had also just given birth to my first baby girl 4 days prior to the project so sitting that long for that many days wasn’t easy. It was at that point that I got the reputation in the industry as “hardcore”!

ILMK: Is there is anything else you’d like to say to my readers? Many of us are very grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy books when we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do so.

SD: I’m very honored and pleased to be the voice of the Kindle Fire. I have always enjoyed volunteering in the community and throughout my voiceover career, I have donated my services to many nonprofits including reading for the blind and print handicapped. Knowing that my voice is able to help these people on a global level now is so rewarding.

===

Thanks again to September Day for taking the time to answer these questions is such an entertaining way!

* MJ is Mary Jane Watson, an important love interest for Peter Parker

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The Kindle Lending Club: borrow and lend Kindle books for free

January 16, 2011

The Kindle Lending Club: borrow and lend Kindle books for free

Amazon recently introduced the ability to loan Kindle books to people who aren’t on your account.  This creates parity with the NOOK’s lending feature.

However, it raises an obvious question…how do you find people with whom to lend and borrow books?  Sure, it could be a coworker…but which of them have Kindles?  It might be a family member or a friend…but it may be better to just have them on the same account with you.

Enter Catherine McDonald and The Kindle Lending Club.

This is a free service that originally started on Facebook and is now in a public beta (testing phase) at another site.

Catherine is one of my readers, and commented on my announcement when Kindle book lending first went into effect.

She was also nice enough to answer some questions* for me about the service, and to allow me to share those with you.

Those questions and answers follow:

===

1. Why should someone use The Kindle Lending club?

The Kindle Lending Club is a free service that connects Kindle owners who would like to borrow books from one another.  We have had a Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/KindleLendingClub) since December 31 and our website (http://www.KindleLendingClub.com), which will provide a more powerful book search, browse, and instant borrower-lender matching, launched in beta on Friday, January 14.  Our large, diverse group of readers means that there are all sorts of books available to borrow at any time, including the bestsellers.  

2. About how many members do you have?  Do you know approximately how many books have been loaned?

As of today, January 15, we have 4,593 members on the Facebook page and 854 people partcipating in the public beta of the website.  We haven’t had the time to really keep track closely, but there have been hundreds of book loans arranged at the Facebook page since we launched on December 31.

Bufo’s Update: Catherine was nice enough to give me these figures when they became available

Books listed to loan: 1,804
Borrow requests: 753
Completed loans: 313

4. Do people have to publicly reveal their e-mail addresses?  If so, have people expressed privacy concerns?  Do you worry about being involved in a complaint?

People do not have to publicly reveal their e-mail addresses.  Borrowers have to reveal their e-mail address to the lender, of course, because Amazon requires an email address to process the loan.  But you don’t have to use your Amazon account e-mail address for a loan; you could set up a free e-mail account that you only use for this purpose if you are concerned about privacy.

5. Some people think that loaning to strangers is outside of the “spirit” of the program.  How do you feel about that?

This is a great question.  My feeling is that Amazon developed a pretty abuse-proof lending system to so that you or I can choose to lend any given book to a personal friend, a family member, or someone we know from an online community.  When you purchase a Kindle ebook, you really purchase a package of digital rights, including the right, if the book has lending enabled, to lend it once to a person of your choosing.  Whether you lend to a friend or fellow club member online, the book can only be loaned once.  Shouldn’t people who do not have a large circle of book-loving “real-life” friends still have the pleasure of lending their books?

6. What will be the biggest surprise people get when using The Kindle Lending Club?

I think there are a couple of surprises in store.  First of all, the size of our community means that there are hundreds of books available to borrow, even many copies of popular bestsellers, at any given time.  Our members have said that they sometimes get loaned books within moments of requesting them.  The second thing that may surprise people is how friendly and generous our community is to one another, and how welcoming they are to newcomers.

8. How do people join?  Does each member need to have a Facebook account?

To use the Facebook group discussion boards to borrow and lend right now, people will need to have a Facebook account.  However, a Facebook account is not mandatory at the website.

===

I found Catherine to be professional, forthcoming, and clear in our communications.  I haven’t tried the site myself yet, although I have looked at it.  I think it will be a tremendous resource for some Kindle owners.  I can’t vouch for the organization, but my intuition is that it is what it appears to be.

If you have experience with the site, or decide to use it as a result of this article, please feel free to comment on this post.  I assume Catherine will also see this, and may reply to comments as well.

For more information on Kindle book lending, see my Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: special book lending edition

* Catherine initially provided a set of answers.  Unfortunately, through purely my error, I didn’t see it for several days.  The best way to reach me concerning this blog and my other writings is by leaving a comment on this blog.  If you want it to be private, please let me know in the comment.  With Catherine, the correspondence went through another channel, one I don’t check as often or as carefully, and I simply missed her e-mail.  The reason I bring this up is that her answers needed to be updated to reflect the new beta non-Facebook service.  I rewrote the necessary answers slightly, mostly just changing tenses and that sort of thing.  I sent it to her for her approval, which she gave me.  She was also able to give me some more detail, which is separated out in the interview. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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