Thursday, October 17, 2013

Darcia Helle - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Darcia Helle. She writes Suspense Novels.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction

Website: Quiet Fury Books
Author's Blog: A Word Please
Blog: Google +
Twitter: @DarciaHelle
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
Darcia Helle lives in a fictional world with a husband who is sometimes real. Their house is ruled by spoiled dogs and cats and the occasional dust bunny.

Suspense, random blood spatter and mismatched socks consume Darcia's days. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else's mind.

Join Darcia in her fictional world:
The characters await you.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

After finishing Killing Instinct, my tenth book published this past June, I spent much of the summer on marketing as well as catching up on various projects. I’ve just started working on book #11 and only have a vague idea where it’s going. The characters and I are in our early stage of getting to know each other. This one started as a psychological suspense, but is now leaning into the supernatural. My characters always seem to surprise me!

Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process?

The whole thing is an ever-evolving learning experience. When I first decided to self-publish, I didn’t have a Facebook account, had only a passing knowledge of blogs, and had never even heard of Twitter. Amazon had launched their first e-reader, but it was very expensive and not well known. And publishing e-books wasn’t easily accessible for indie authors. Within a year, Amazon’s cheaper Kindle and their program allowing indie authors to self-publish e-books turned the entire market upside down.

For most of us who are independently published, social media plays a huge roll. It’s how we connect with fellow authors and our readers. There is a constant influx of self-published authors into the market, making it too easy to get swallowed up by the masses. A stable presence is necessary to maintain that connection. Without social media and the connections I’ve made, I’d be lucky to sell a few books a year.

It took me a long time to find an ideal balance between time spent on social media, marketing, and blogging, and time spent writing. This year, with the launch of Amazon’s KDP Select program and the subsequent avalanche of free books, everything is once again changing. What worked with promotion and marketing back in 2010 no longer works, because there’s just too much competition. Plus, I’ve noticed participation on Facebook seems to be declining. People are moving into new areas of social media, such as Pinterest. Keeping up with this means I sometimes spend more time than I’d like doing things other than writing.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I am a total hands-on person. (Some might say “control freak”.) The cover is typically a reader’s first impression of the book, and the design has to represent the content. I wouldn’t hand a story idea over to someone else to write for me, nor would I give someone else control over the cover art for that story.

The design process for each cover has been a little different. Sometimes, as with my novel Secrets, I know exactly what I want. Other times, like with No Justice, I go through a few designs before I land on the right thing. I always ask for input from people whose opinions I trust, such as my editor, fellow authors, and graphic designers. I’ve also posted ideas on Facebook for readers’ opinions.

You have several great book trailers. (See links below.) They look very professional. Do you know how much impact they have had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailers? Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

I have absolutely no idea if the trailers impact book sales at all. Judging which promotional and marketing techniques work and which don’t is difficult at best. As for the process, I start by finding the right words to express the heart of the story without giving away too much. Really, what I need is a short tease. Then I go to photo sites and look for images that express the words. Then I spend time finding the right music clip to fit the mood. Once I have all that, I put it together using Windows Movie Maker.

All of my trailers can be found on my website’s Trailer page:
They’re also on my YouTube channel:

I don’t use the trailer in my character development. The trailer is the last thing I create, after editing, formatting, and cover design.

I try to keep the photos vague enough that a reader can visualize the scenes and characters their own way. But sometimes I land on a photo that fits a character perfectly, as I did with Maria Milan from Killing Instinct, as well as the photo for the cover image of Secrets.

Several of you novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience?

The audiobook market is still very new to me, and it’s been a fun experience. I’ve actually been surprised by how much I enjoyed hearing someone else bring my characters to life. I think audiobook listeners are often an entirely different group from e-book readers, which has been my main market so far. I’m still working on ways to reach this new audience.

Overall, I think it’s important for an author to have his/her books available in as many formats as possible. Even if I only sell a handful of audiobooks, those are readers I might not have otherwise reached.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

This is one of those questions I could spend hours on. I did offer one of my books free for a long time. That was the first book I wrote – Enemies and Playmates. This was prior to Amazon’s exclusive deal, where authors can sign on and are allowed 5 free promotional days per 90 day cycle. Consequently, this was also prior to the current onslaught of freebies on the Kindle market. Since there weren’t a lot of free e-books available, giving one of mine away worked well as a promotional tool. Many readers found me this way, and went on to purchase my other titles. I felt it worked far better than the costly advertising options, and it didn’t cost me anything at all.

My opinion is that most of those people who downloaded my book free would never have found me otherwise. Also, it allowed me to build up reviews for that title, which also helps with promotion. Amazon will only promote books on their site once they have a magic number of reviews. (A number they keep secret, but which I apparently reached with that title.) Because most readers don’t leave reviews, you need a lot of sales (or free downloads) in order to build them up.

Now the free market is absolutely overrun. A large majority of authors sign onto the exclusive deal with Amazon and offer their books free for their allotted 5 days over each 90 day period. They do this with each of their titles. Therefore, rather than using one freebie as a draw for readers, they’re essentially giving all their books away. I think this has worked in reverse, and many readers are no longer purchasing books they have to pay for. Also, readers are downloading so many free e-books that most of those downloads go unread.

I have not used this program, first and foremost because I do not believe in exclusive deals. While my biggest market is Kindle, I don’t think it’s fair to shut out readers who use Nook, Kobo, etc. Now that the program has been in use for a time, I wouldn’t bother offering a free Kindle book even if they removed the ‘exclusive’ clause. As I said, the market is overly saturated with freebies and I don’t see the benefit. I’d prefer to give away review copies to readers who are genuinely interested in my books.

What has been your experience with book tours? Did they contribute to the increase of your book sales?

My experience is that in order for a book tour to do any good, you need to find bloggers who are outside of your usual network. Otherwise, you’re only reaching readers who already know about you. But you also need to be sure the bloggers have an audience that fits your niche. If the blogger hosting you has an audience mainly interested in romance, and you write fantasy, you’re not likely to pick up new readers. The other thing I’ve learned is that by offering a giveaway of the title during your tour, you’re essentially stopping the spontaneous purchases. And a large percentage of blog readers won’t remember to buy the book later if they don’t win.

Book tours certainly help, particularly when handled well. All promotion is good. The more places you have your name and your books, the more likely someone will stumble upon them and give your books a try.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

Thank you! My primary goal with my blog is simply entertainment for readers. I don’t want it to be all about promoting my own books. That would be dull for me, so it would have to be dull for readers as well. I love promoting my fellow authors, particularly those whose work I enjoy and respect. And I like writing interview questions for them. It’s kind of an indulgence on my part, to be honest. Back before I was published, when I was “just” a reader, I’d always have questions after I finished a great book. Where did the idea come from? Why did the author make certain choices? Now I get to ask all those questions!

I also like to add content that is, as I categorize it, ‘General Nonsense’. This allows me to talk about my dogs, music I love, things that irritate me, and things that inspire me. And, sometimes, my writing process. I hope the mix keeps people interested and entertained and, occasionally, gives them something to think about.

As for time, that’s always a juggling act. I am fortunate, in an odd kind of way, to no longer have a ‘day job’. I have chronic, late-stage Lyme disease, so I’m mostly housebound. Maintaining my blog is a great distraction from the health complications. Sometimes, though, I find it all a bit overwhelming. That’s when I have to step back and unplug for a while.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I haven’t sought out many reviews that would be considered professional. A couple of years ago, I did try to get my local newspapers to review one of my titles. I wrote to the reviewers for both papers, explaining that I was a local, self-published author. One reviewer didn’t even gave me the courtesy of a reply. The other sent a generic letter stating she did not review self-published work. This attitude used to be pervasive in the mainstream world, though it is finally (slowly!) changing.

Another reason I haven’t sought out professional reviews is because many of those companies charge a fee to review self-published books. I am personally against paying for a review. There’s something about giving someone money in exchange for reading my book that just doesn’t sit well.

I do offer a monthly giveaway on my website. I can’t (and don’t want to) make leaving a review a policy for those who win. Some do leave an Amazon review, but most don’t. I also offer occasional giveaways on Goodreads, which helps build my reviews there. Many of those readers do not cross-post their reviews on Amazon, though. I’ve tried mass e-book giveaways on LibraryThing, with the request that readers review the book. I haven’t had much success with that method for Amazon reviews, either.

Most readers don’t realize how important reviews are to indie authors, particularly reviews on Amazon. Before I self-published, I never reviewed anything. Now I review everything! I suppose my method for gaining reviews is to talk about how important they are in general, and hope readers see that and go on to post a review about something I’ve written.

Now to the good part. Tell us about the Feed the World With Words project? How can other authors get involved? (See first short story book in list below.)

Helping to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless have been passions of mine for a long time. After the economic collapse, the homeless situation in the US grew exponentially. Here in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, we have an entire “tent city” filled with families who lost their homes. Families are living in their cars. People are starving all around us, in this rich country. Wealthy people own entire islands and 50-room mansions, while a family on the other side of the city starves. It’s appalling.

I wanted to use my writing to help them somehow. I talked to my editor, Bob Helle (no relation), about my ideas. He is an incredibly giving person and feels much the same as I do. Together, we came up with the idea for the Feed the World With Words project. I am the publisher and acquisitions department, while Bob handles all the editing. There is no cost to the authors who contribute.

Our goal is to publish a series of theme-based short story anthologies for this project. At this time, they will only be published as e-books and cost 99 cents for readers to download. Absolutely all royalties will be sent to The Hunger Project, which does amazing work in helping to feed the hungry.

Authors can get involved simply by contributing a story. Each anthology will have 10 stories. Once we have enough to fill an anthology, it will be published and listed on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Readers can get involved by purchasing a copy. Everyone can get involved by helping to spread the word.

My health took a downward turn this past summer, and I haven’t been able to spend the time I’d like to promote this project. We do have one anthology published that is in desperate need of reviews and promotion to help it gain visibility.

Authors can find all the details for contributing at:
Readers can find information and purchasing details for the first anthology – Murder, Madness, and Mystery – here:

Thanks to all for taking the time to read my ramblings!

Author's Book List
Killing Instinct - Michael Sykora Novel
Sandman built his dubious reputation by turning the dreams and nightmares of others into harsh reality. Now he’s pursuing his own twisted dream; the beautiful Maria Milan. But she doesn’t want to become a player in Sandman’s sordid fantasy.

Michael Sykora is a hit man who kills for justice. Sean Riley is a hit man born to kill. Together, they’re out to take down Sandman and his organization. Whether mercy is given depends on who catches him first.

Book Trailer: Killing Instinct

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Samantha’s monsters aren't under the bed; they’re the people she calls Mom and Dad.

She makes it out alive, her sanity barely intact.

She creates a new past that fools everyone, including herself.

A life filled with love and security teeters on its base of lies.

When it all comes crumbling down, will Samantha make it out alive?

Book Trailer: Secrets

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Into The Light
Max Paddington refuses to go into the light until he finds his killer. This presents a dilemma, since Max is even less competent as a spirit than he was as a live person. No one sees or hears him and he can't manage to get anywhere or do anything on his own.

Joe Cavelli is a private investigator, living an ordinary life. Then one day he walks across a parking lot, gets yelled at by a ghost, and his life only gets stranger from there.

Max and Joe team up to find Max's killer. In the process, they form an unlikely friendship and change each other's lives in ways they never expected.

Book Trailer: Into The Light

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Cutting Edge
My name is Skye Summers. I’m a hairstylist and I can’t stop fantasizing about killing my clients. Not all of them, of course. I only want to kill the ones who irritate me, which, if I’m being honest, is most of them. My occasional fantasies have turned into chronic daydreams. They’re bloody and vivid, like watching a slice-and-dice movie on IMAX.

I also want to kill my husband’s ex-girlfriend. She’s not a client but she tops my list. Eighteen years ago, she gave birth to his daughter and she has tormented him ever since. I should be troubled by this growing desire to use my surgically sharpened shears for more than a haircut. Instead, I wonder how I can get away with it.

Book Trailer: The Cutting Edge

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Beyond Salvation - A Michael Sykora Novel 2
A teenage runaway disappears from the streets. The only people that care, or even notice, are her two best friends who are also runaways. For reasons of their own, they can't go to the police for help

They seek out Michael Sykora, a software designer by day and hit man by night. Known on the streets as The Ghost, Michael has a reputation for taking on the twisted criminals. Rapists. Child molesters. He has never been hired to find the lost. Until now.

Michael teams up with ex-prostitute Nicki and full-time hit man Sean. Together they bend the rules of the justice system in order to find a young girl few people care about. In the process, they uncover a world where salvation comes with a price tag and God's words are used to incite fear in a congregation of believers.

Book Trailer: Beyond Salvation

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
No Justice - A Michael Sykora Novel 1
How far would you go to right a wrong?

For Michael Sykora, killing started as blind rage. Then it became something he's good at. To most of those who know him, Michael is a software designer, a smart but average guy with a workaholic nature. To a chosen few, Michael is a part-time hit man whose specialty is eliminating hard-core criminals.

Michael has managed to keep his two personas separate. Until now. When Nicki, a close friend, gets into trouble, Michael steps in to help. Having lost his fiance to a brutal crime, Michael will do whatever necessary to keep from losing another woman in his life.

At one time or another, don't we all wish we could do the things our Justice system cannot or will not? What would it take to push you over the edge?

Book Trailer: No Justice

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Enemies and Playmates
When the abused decide to fight back, the abuser's world might just shatter.

Lauren Covington's family maintains a grand facade that belies the life they live behind closed doors. Alex Covington, Lauren's father, keeps a tight rein on his family through dominance, abuse, and obsessive control. Consequently, Lauren doesn't believe she could ever trust a man, much less fall in love with one.

When Lauren meets Jesse Ryder, her carefully constructed protective wall shatters. She falls hopelessly and completely in love. It's only fitting that Jesse is a private detective who had once worked for her father, had defied him, and was now the subject of Alex Covington's wrath.

Amidst devastating loss, betrayal, and her father's destructive pursuit of Jesse, Lauren finds the trust and love she had always longed for.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Hit List
Would you give up your sanity in order to forget?

Sanity is not something you lose, like your car keys or that elusive sock in the dryer. That's what Ian believed before his mother stepped over the edge from sane to crazy.

No one is able to give Ian a reasonable explanation. Corinne suffers from severe memory loss, odd behavior, and paranoid delusions. Or at least Ian had been told they were delusions. After all, who would be hiding outside watching his mother? And why?

Ian hires private investigator Lucianna Martel to retrace the events of his mother's last sane day. During Lucianna's investigation, she and Ian learn that Corinne may not be so crazy after all.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Murder, Madness, and Mystery - Feed the World With Words
10 authors - 10 stories. 100% of proceeds donated to The Hunger Project.

Have You Considered Voodoo by Wayne Zurl
Good Boy by Jonathon Kane
Accidents Will Happen by Maria Savva
Wish List by James Everington
Kellie Takes A Mulligan by Joe Schwartz
The Story by Julie Elizabeth Powell
The Waxed Jacket by Geoffrey West
Jane Doe’s Last Straw by Mitsuki Yoruichi and Max E. Stone
Wednesday’s Child by Jay Faulkner
True Colors by Darcia Helle

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle
Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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