Michael Bailey is a professional writer from Falmouth, Massachusetts who kind of hates writing bios.
Michael has been a working writer since 1998 when he simultaneously (and at the same time) sold his first freelance article to Renaissance Magazine, and landed a job as a staff reporter for the Enterprise Newspapers. In 2013, Michael ended his time at the Enterprise to focus on his creative writing.
Over the years Michael has contributed several more articles to Renaissance Magazine and other local publications, and has since 2004 worked on the writing staff of two New England-based renaissance faire production companies: Pastimes Entertainment and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.
In September 2013, Michael released his debut YA novel “Action Figures.” Book two in the series is scheduled for a March 2014 release, and book three is tentatively set for a fall 2014 release.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
I kind of wish someone would ask me why my story has no love triangle. It has a female lead, it’s a YA book, so where is the love triangle? All the other YA books aimed at female readers have them.
That’s one reason why I’ve chosen to avoid a love triangle storyline: everyone is doing them. Why do what everyone else is doing? Besides, love triangles are lazy writing because they generate cheap, easy drama with no effort, and — surprise! — not every reader wants to slog through a love triangle. Some readers just want a good story and don’t care about a melodramatic romantic subplot.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I have what I charitably call an “organic” writing process, which is really a nice way of saying “undisciplined and disorganized.” I sit down to work on a story with a general concept in mind, usually a series of plot points I want to hit over the course of the story, and just go. Along the way, as I work on individual scenes, new ideas will pop up and take things in unexpected directions.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?:
Whenever my creative energy wavers, the best thing I can do is step away from writing and let my brain clear out. If I try to push through writer’s block, I usually just wind up staring at the computer.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Writing is not a solo activity. You need people to read your early drafts and point out the flaws so you can fix them. You need a real editor to review your manuscript, because spellcheck isn’t good enough.
Letting others in on the process does not diminish an author’s artistic integrity, it doesn’t result in “art by committee,” it results in a more solid, polished final product.
What are your current/future projects?
I’m working on the third book in my “Action Figures” series, and I’m hoping to find time this year to do a final polish on an urban fantasy novel I’ve been working on for, no kidding, about 10 years (entitled “Bostonia – The secret History of the City on the Hill”). That project is the most ambitious thing I’ve ever written, and it’s past time for it to see the light of day.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I stumbled into YA. “Action Figures” as a concept had been kicking around my brain for years, but I never found the right way to tell the story. I started reading “The Hunger Games,” and I loved the first-person perspective approach, so I applied it to “Action Figures,” and it worked
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
Indie authors need to continue holding themselves to high standards, and need to encourage high standards in others interested in self-publishing, if indie authorship as a whole is to continue improving its standing in the eyes of the general reading public. I expect it will remain easy for would-be writers to enter the world of self-publishing, which means a lot of bad books will make it into the marketplace, but with so many good writers now in the field, it’s becoming easier to distinguish good novels from bad.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I’m a self-published author, and I used the Create Space platform for my novels. I tried the traditional publishing route for years, to no avail, and decided to give self-publishing a go. So far, it’s worked out fairly well.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Only once, because I found an egregious typo that somehow slipped past me, five test-readers, and my editor. It was too embarrassing to let it slide, but the Create Space platform made it easily to simply upload a corrected manuscript file.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
I’m still rather new to the whole thing, but I’ve been interviewed a few times, and I have my first book-signing coming up. I think the best memories have yet to occur.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I hit social media fairly hard, and I make sure to keep my social media presence diverse; I don’t rely on one outlet for all my exposure. So far my best promotional effort was a one-week giveaway of book one in my YA series, which coincided with the release of book two. I thought letting readers have such a generous taste of the series in the form of an entire book might entice them to pay for more, and so far, they have.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
My series is a superhero adventure, which I wanted to pursue because practically no one else was writing superhero prose fiction. Everyone seems to be writing derivatives of “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight,” so I thought something radically different would stand out in the marketplace.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I replay a scene in my head repeatedly, memorizing it, until I can get to my laptop. I’ve developed a lot of material whole driving.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I never set a word count target. It feels like an arbitrary constraint, and I worry that putting pressure on myself to meet a goal no one but me cares about will hamper my efforts to tell a good story.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I think the cover is a major factor. Like it or not, people do judge books by their covers, and a terrible cover is an instant turnoff. If the cover grabs their attention, they’re more likely to see what the book is about.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I write my own press releases, but I don’t go crazy hitting up the media, because they really don’t much care. Local papers might give a local indie author some exposure, but a major news outlet isn’t going to invest any time in a writer who doesn’t have the backing of a major publishing house.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews can be critical for an independent author. A few good reader reviews on Amazon might not sway readers, who might dismiss them as planted by the author’s family and friends, but several good reviews send a positive message to would-be buyers.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
I hate review exchanges. It’s an unstated assumption that if I offer to trade reviews with another writer, he’ll speak positively about my book and I’ll speak positively about his, regardless of how we actually felt, and I can’t bring myself to claim that I liked a book I in fact hated – or worse, that I felt was technically inept and wasn’t ready to be published.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I think there are some writers who view indie authorship as a contest to be won, and try to win by tearing apart others rather than building themselves up. Fortunately, the indie author community is quick to expose these types and fight back on behalf of writers how have been victimized by such underhanded tactics.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
The marketplace is pretty packed, but most bad writers expose themselves pretty quickly through a terrible cover, blurbs that are riddled with misspellings and misused punctuation, and synopses that sound painfully familiar and unoriginal. I think readers are sharp enough to smell a stinker.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?:
My biggest fear us that my book will bomb hard, in terms of sales or reader response. It’s easy to think a novel is great while you’re in the process of creating it, and it’s only after the fact you realize you screwed up.
What is the intended audience for you book?
I like to think my YA series is accessible to teens and adults alike, but I’d be very happy if geek girls latched onto it. I think teen girls with an interest in superheroes would love the story, which features a teenage girl as the main hero.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
Some of the characters have been in my head since high school. I originally created them for different projects that never panned out, so I cannibalized my old ideas and brought them together in “Action Figures.”
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Sick of overly serious, downbeat YA novels with no sense of humor? Then check out my series.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
Absolutely, and I use Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Facebook has lost its prominence in my social media repertoire due to changes that suppress how my posts are shared with people who have “liked” my author page.
What makes a good story, why?
Solid characters can elevate any story. If readers cannot connect with the characters, if the characters do not feel well-rounded and vivid, if they do not drive the story, the greatest novel in the world will fail.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I sometimes consider the meaning of character names very carefully, and work to give them significance to the story, even if it’s only subtle symbolism, but other times a name simply sounds good to my ear.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews, but I’ve adopted the philosophy that authors should NEVER respond to them, whether good or bad, but especially when they’re bad. I have yet to receive a negative review, and I hope that trend continues, but I’d like to think I’d be able to respond accordingly. If the review includes well-thought-out criticism that addresses a legitimate weakness in my story, then the best response is to learn from the mistake. If someone pisses on the book without offering any clear reason why for the sake of acting like a jerk, the best move is to dismiss the critic as a troll.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
For me, dialog scenes are easy. The challenge sometimes is to make sure the dialog is relevant to the story and provides the reader with information, and doesn’t just eat up page space to no effect.
The hardest scenes are transition scenes, those scenes that connect the larger set pieces. They’re necessary to get the plot from one point to the next, but they can be incredibly tedious.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
I had a dream once that led to me writing a horror novella, which is currently sitting on my computer, and shall remain there until vampires no longer glut the market. I can’t bring myself to release it while vampires are still so overdone.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
The main character in my YA series, Carrie, is inspired by several young ladies I met through my experiences in community theater, and while working as a reporter for my hometown newspaper, which had me covering the schools. I met many teen girls who were highly intelligent and remarkably mature, poised, and self-assured, and they went a long way to informing Carrie.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Good writing keeps the story moving. The reader should never think, “Get on with it!” If pages go by and nothing happens with the plot or the characters, it’s time to start some ruthless editing.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
E-books are a great option to make available to readers, and the lower retail cost of an e-book can entice people to give your book a try, but personally, I will always choose a print edition over an e-book.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
For me, writing is an outlet for my creative energies that I have been fortunate enough to turn into a career.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
The biggest challenge was is getting my book out to readers. Traditional publishing stymied me for years, and one particular rejection a few years ago took the wind out of my sails hard. I didn’t write for months. It wasn’t until I considered self-publishing that I was able to shake off my setback and move forward again as a writer.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
My books get reviewed by a group of test-readers, who look for everything from typos to continuity errors, and then goes to an editor or a final review before publishing. I’m lucky in that my sister-in-law is a professional and experienced editor.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Traditional publishing has too many gatekeepers that turn away a lot of very talented writers. Self-publishing has none, so good writers have to work even harder to get their work noticed.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
I don’t write straight dramas. They’re too boring for my tastes. I need the weirdness of genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror) to keep my juices flowing,
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
As I mentioned previously, almost no one is writing superhero genre fiction. In the YA field, which is full of wannabe Katnisses and Bella Swans, doing something so radically different is, by itself, enough to grab people’s attention.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
I’m smart enough to know that I would bungle a cover but good. I come up with general cover concepts, that hand them over to my cover artist, Patricia Lupien, who has turned my okay ideas into great covers. They capture the tone of the book perfectly, and just look damn cool.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
I hate the final read-through, because I’m always terrified I’m going to miss a painfully obvious typo…which I have done, so at least I know my paranoia isn’t unfounded.