Carmen Anthony Fiore: May, 1962 When you do the math, that’s 49 years ago and I’m still enthused about being a writer. It defines who I am. It’s the oxygen I breathe. I wouldn’t want to be anything else in my life. For a majority of the years, I had to write part time while working at a full-time job to support my family. Now that I’m retired
from the earning-a-living rat race, I can devote myself full time to my real career: writing.
IR: Are you self published or did you use an independent publisher?
CAF: I’m both. I started out having others publish me, then I decided to take control of my publishing career and went the self-publishing route for a while–before the days of P.O.D. It was okay but I grew weary of the daily marketing/publicity/promotional grind. So, I decided to let others publish me again. Sometimes that gets irritating, too. I’m back to at least taking partial control of my publishing career. I’m bringing my previously published print fiction into the digital age through Amazon’s Direct Publishing Program. Up to now I’ve published three of my print novels (that are still in print) on the Kindle e-book reader.
IR: What genre do you write in the most?
CAF: I’m an eclected writer, and I’ve always been one. I started out writing mainstream fiction, long and short. When I branched out to genre writing, it was mystery/
suspense. But I still return to writing mainstream fiction on occasion. To get published in the commercial genre fields, it’s necessary to get an agent, if you want to be published by the New York publishers. So, I’m trying to get representation for my private-eye series and my amateur sleuth series. New York publishers won’t read direct
submissions from writers. I also branched out to educational publishing. (I was a school teacher for a while.) My first effort was published by Royal Fireworks Press (an indie publisher located in Unionville, NY) and it’s titled YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR. It’s an educational text aimed for the juvenile/young-adult market as well as the school/home-schooled market. (I’m am American history buff.) I also have a contract from Royal Fireworks Press for my educational text titled SUPPLEMENT TO
SHAKESPEARE. (Besides being a fan of the great Bard’s work, I’m also a student of his fantastic plays and poetry.) My supplemental text is aimed for the school and home-schooled kids as well on a middle and high-school level. I also write nonfiction. I’ve done three How-to/Self-help manuscripts, but I can’t get agents or publishers interested in them because my national platform isn’t strong/extensive enough. So, I’m thinking of maybe going the Kindle e-book route with them. I think that I write fiction and nonfiction in different genres to keep from getting bored. I could never work in the same genre forever. It would stifle my creativity and probably bore me to tears to keep repeating the same (generally) book in the same genre. I need challenges to keep me stimulated. I need the brain food, so to speak, and make myself reach beyond my comfort zone.
IR: What is it about that genre that attracts you?
CAF: I always did like the mainstream/literary genre, because of the challenge to write deep into character in order to tell the story. As for my interest in mystery/suspense, the challenge makes me think and write more from a plot-oriented perspective. You have to set up the clues and the red herrings. I like the private eye and the amateur sleuth in the mystery/suspense genre. I write what-if historical fiction for the sheer joy of research and playing God with history. It’s a real power trip. I wrote a manuscript involving Lincoln and the Civil War that I’m trying to get agency representation for. So far only nibbles. I write nonfiction how-to/self-help for the opportunity to rant on my favorite pet-peeve subjects of contention. I can pour all my knowledge and life experiences into those texts. It’s a good way to get pet peeves off my chest. The educational stuff I’ve written involves history: American and European. Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Era, satisfies my interest in history and fills my need to continue teaching. Believe me, once a teacher, always a teacher.
IR: How many books have you published?
CAF: So far I’ve published seven books: four adult novels, one juvenile novel, two works of nonficition, with one nonfiction in the works with Royal Fireworks Press. After 49 years of being in the writing trenches, “I’ve just begun to fight” to paraphrase John Paul Jones. And I intend to keep writing and publishing the long stuff as well as the short work: short stories, articles, essays, print and online. Note: I also write screenplays and I’ve sold five options, but the indie producers couldn’t raise the money to make the movies. That’s life in La-La Land. The studios get all the money they need.
IR: Which one should people start with?
CAF: Start with my early books that I’ve had published in print and that three are available on the Kindle e-book reader with two more to be available by the end of May or June of this year. I revised the print versions to fit the e-book format, editing them to read faster while improving the story lines and the characterizations wherever possible. I guess writers are never finished with their stories, are they? My novels THE BARRIER, LITTLE OSCAR and SEARCHING are all social commentary.
THE BARRIER is based on my experiences as a social worker. LITTLE OSCAR is erotic realism/social commentary and is based on the last case of incest and child abuse I worked on before I left to go into teaching. SEARCHING is racial and tells about the collisions between whites and blacks during the Civil Rights movement during the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s and also comes out of my experiences as a social worker and having grown up in an integrated neighborhood in Trenton, New Jersey. So that novel can also be considered social commentary. If you’re into suspense and foreign settings, then my novel VENDETTA MOUNTAIN is your cup of tea with its setting being southern Italy and it’s about an American of Italian descent who goes back to his homeland mountain village of his grandparents and walks into a long-lasting inter-family feud and becomes its target and its all downhill after that. If you’re a woman of ethnic background, then my co-written nonfiction work titled VOICES OF THE DAUGHTERS is for you. It’s interviews with women of Italian descent. If you like to read what other women say about their lives, it would be “red meat” for your particular reading tastes. If you’re into juvenile novels, my lost-in-the-woods adventure story titled THE SNAKESKIN is for you. If you’re into historical nonfiction about the Civil War, then my creative nonfiction work titled YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR is recommended. If Shakespeare fascinate you, read all about him and the Elizabethan Era in my forthcoming supplemental text titled SUPPLEMENT TO SHAKESPEARE. I can almost guarantee that it will make you an expert in Shakespeare and the Elizabethans and their theatrics in comparison to our present-day theatrics.
IR: What was the prime motivation in publishing your work through independent channels?
CAF: The gatekeepers (read: agents, editors, publishers) were exasperating to me year after year, telling me how much they liked my work and how they really enjoyed reading my manuscripts, but didn’t think they could publish them successfully. Read: they didn’t think my stuff was commercial enough to make money on. I always asked myself: How do they know that for a fact? Gut feelings? Luck plays a lot in getting published. You have to send the right manuscript at the right time to the right person (editor) in the right publishing house. That’s four “rights,” which is always a long shot to accomplish. Of course, these days in New York publishing, editors don’t usually out-rank the sales department and most decisions, if not all, are made by committee consensus. Either they all love the book and think they can make money with it or it doesn’t get published. New York publishers are not into niche publishing. It’s mass distribution or nothing with them. Keep that in mind when you evaluate your novel or nonfiction book to decided if you want to interest an agent to sell it to the big “boys” in New York.
IR: What were your early experiences like?
CAF: Frustrating with long dry spells between sales. After I sold my first short story for $100.00 dollars, I thought I was on my way to big-time success. How naive can you get? What a delusion I was suffering under. It took me years to make my next sale. But I’ve develop a tough, thick alligator-type hide; the rejections bounce off me with indifference these days and I just keep on submitting after doing my market research. Writers have to realize how subjective the publishing business is. You just have to keep trying to get all your “rights” into place. Quitters never win in publishing.
IR: What did the process teach you?
CAF: To never give up on myself and my ability to produce publishable fiction and nonfiction. Now that I’m no longer a neophyte, I know when I’ve produced something good. I’ve had novels and short stories and nonfiction (long & short) published after multi-rejections. But I never gave up on any of it. So, I say to all my fellow writers, never give up on yourself, or your work, because anytime one of us quits writing, it means the gatekeepers have won.
IR: Have you seen a change in the independent publishing community?
CAF: Yes, it’s even getting tougher to get indie publishers to accept your work these days; just as must as to get an agent and almost as difficult to get the big publishers in New York to even take a peek at your query or proposal. Some indie publishers are going the same route as the big guys in New York
by insisting on submission by agents only, and that’s a shame. Agents have an agenda–to make money to sustain their standards of living. So what they accept to represent they have to love the work and also think they can sell it. Commercial is the key and their credo that they work by and under. I wonder about their need to have to love the manuscript to pieces before they can represent it, or sell it. I have only one thing to say to that: REALLY?
IR: Do you read other independently published authors works?
CAF: Yes, on occasion, if recommended to me by other writers in my local writing groups, or by other writers in articles I read in writing magazines or on blogs and interviews in print or online or other sources. I always like to help out my fellow writers. We have to help one another as well as “stick” together in defense
against the adversarial gatekeepers.
IR: Any favorites you would like to plug?
CAF: Charlie and Natalie McKelvy are two Michigan indie writers who have been producing great fiction for many years. Check them out.
IR: Where are you most likely to purchase indie works?
IR: Where can people find your books and which source has been the must successful for you?
CAF: My website: www.carmenanthonyfiore.com for autographed copies of my print editions and on Amazon.com, print and the Kindle e-book reader store. Royal Fireworks Press, publisher of my creative nonfiction work on the Civil War titled YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR. They have a website: www.rfwp.com (Note: Royal Fireworks Press will publish my supplemental textbook SUPPLEMENT TO SHAKEASPEARE sometime this year. I also had a short story titled A TIME TO LIVE published in a trade paperback titled WHEN LAST ON THE MOUNTAIN published by Holy Cow! Press, and I’m told it is now available as an e-book.
IR: Do you have books in print? Where can we find them? What was that experience like?
CAF: All of the books I’ve mentioned are still in print and can be found at the sources I’ve mentioned. The experiences were mixed at readings, book festivals, bookstore signings, library and school visits and talks, presentations to reading clubs and other literary-type organizations. I enjoyed the personal talks to these groups and the feedback the most from people who love books and reading and appreciate what writers have to go through to produce books.
IR: Do you have any advice for some one who would like to be an Indie author or publisher?
CAF: P.O.D. offers the best route for full control of your marketing and allows you to buy in small numbers, allowing you to keep fewer books in your inventory at any one time. But self-publishing or small indie publishing requires extra effort to promote and sell your books against the overwhelming competition from the big publishers in New York who control bookstore distribution and are in cohoots with the big distributors who make it difficult for small publishers to exist if they try to deal with the big distributors. They can easily put you out of business, by over-ordering a title and then six months later returning all of the copies and demanding their money back. If you’re small, operate small and stay away from the “sharks” in the book-publishing business. Presentations to small reading groups where you can make “back-of-the-room” sales are the best for small publisher authors and self-publishers. Book signings in stores are chancy and usually not worth the effort and time. Readings are nice in stores if you can get them, but make sure you do plenty of pre-promo work to get people in the seats. But bookstores in general are the worst places to try to sell indie books, because the competition is too great. Presentations by you as the only writer talking about how you came to write the book is the best way to sell your book; no competition and a captive audience. Can’t beat that. Audiences love to hear about the back story. It sells books. Just remember to bring along somebody to handle the money and to make change. You’ll be too busy doing the schmoozing and the autographing.
IR: Do you do your own cover art or do you have some one do it for you?
CAF: My wife, Catherine, is an artist and she does my covers for me whenever I submit a book for acceptance into the Kindle store and for my screenplays when I submit them to AmazonStudios.com screenplay contests. Covers are important. Make sure they look good. They’re half the battle to get attention and to sell the book.
IR: Do you have any new works coming out soon that you can tell us about?
CAF: My educational textbook SUPPLEMENT TO SHAKESPEARE is supposed to be published this year as promised by the publisher, Royal Firewords Press. But we’ll see, right? I wrote it to be reader-friendly to the high school students and home-schoolers. I avoided the stuffy and boring textbook format. The text reads more informally,
on purpose. Shakespeare is tough enough for the kids and especially when they have teachers who don’t know how to teach the Bard’s work. I tell them in the text to let the kids see and hear a play before you have them read the play’s text. Even better still, have the kids play the parts of the plays’ more entertaining and important scenes in the classroom instead of having them read the plays on their own.
IR: Is there anything you would like to share?
CAF: I think all writer should try to work together to foster more reading and acceptance and love of books and other kinds of writing formats from print to digital. We need all the readers we can get and it’s our responsibility to produce the best work we can write. And I also suggest all writers, new or old or in-between, get yourselves a private editor whom you can work with. Okay, I admit I’m also an editor besides being a long-time writer, but I have my own private editor who critiques my stuff before I send it out. She’s an annoying nitpicker, and that’s what you want in an editor. As I state on my business card: “Everybody wants to be a writer”—-“But everybody needs an editor.” Anything to improve our work before we send it out to editors/publishers who will eventually send it out to our readers, and we never want to disappoint them. Remember readers hate typos and confused syntax. So, don’t be in a hurry to submit your work, especially if it’s not ready to be seen, because that’s the sure sign of an amateur. Be professional—-always.
I thank God every day that my southern Italian grandparents had the temerity and smarts to emigrate to America back in the early years of the twentieth century. Only in America is there true freedom to be the best that you can be.
I’ve always been a writer. My teaching, social-working, civil service professional positions were just on-the-job training for my real goal: published author. My novel of social commentary, SEARCHING, about a man who stopped being black, Negro, or colored, is now getting a second life as an e-book on Kindle. I’m an amateur historian as well with a creative nonfiction book for young adults titled YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR. My novels: THE BARRIER and LITTLE OSCAR(more social commentary), which grew out of my social-worker experiences are now available as e-books on the Kindle reader. My juvenile novel, THE SNAKESKIN, a lost-in-the-woods adventure story, grew out of my summers spent in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and it is now available for download on the Kindle. My novel VENDETTA MOUNTAIN, a story of suspense, came out of my southern-Italian ancestry listening to the fascinating stories about the “old country.” is now available on the Kindle. My latest addition to the Kindle reader is my novella titled WHERE’S THE PARTY, which is about teachers on the loose at a seaside convention and doing “naughty” things. My coauthored nonfiction book, VOICES OF THE DAUGHTERS, is my homage and tribute to all Italian and Italian-American super women who helped the Italian immigrants and their issue to become a positive contributing part of America, yours truly included, despite the stigma of the Mafia. And I’m still writing, because there’s plenty of creative gas left in the tank. Hey, I’m a writer; it defines who I am.
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