Interview with Stephanie Osborn

I chose to interview Stephanie Osborn about her writing and publishing work because I really admire her Displaced Detective Series, and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at LibertyCon 25 last year. She’s a charming woman, and a terrific writer dedicated to her craft. You can find out more about her, her books, and some very interesting articles on space exploration at her blog.

Stephanie Osborn
Stephanie Osborn, scientist and author.

Cedar Sanderson for Amazing Stories: Why do you write?

Stephanie Osborn: Wow. That’s hard. I think I simply write because I have to. I have all these stories in my head and they have to come out. Had I had children, they might have come out in the form of bedtime stories; I don’t know. But they have to be told. I call those kind of stories “plot bunnies.” They bite and won’t let go until I get them told!

ASM: Why (or why not) did you decide to self-publish?

SO:  Well, in the main I have stuff that is either too small, or not something a tradpub would want to mess with – poetry, short stories, things like that. But my indie pub is being done in conjunction with my principal publisher, Twilight Times Books. It helps promote my bigger works, and I’m hoping that if it should go well, TTB might even acquire my indie pub to become an imprint of TTB.

ASM: Where did you publish? Amazon, Smashwords, B&N? What made you choose the platform(s) you did use?

SO:  Heh, yes! All of the above. I wanted to get things out as widely as possible. So I went with all of them. Now, since that initial attempt, I’ve pretty much quit posting to Smashwords, because I simply don’t get enough response out of it to be worth the effort. But I still post everything to Amazon and Barnes-Noble. The majority of sales comes from Amazon Kindle, though.

ASM: How did you format your manuscript?

SO: I spent a lot of time researching how to do it and even took an online class. Sarah A. Hoyt and Amanda S. Green gave me a good deal of advice, both of them being respected establishment authors who also publish indie. The most annoying thing about it is that each platform requires a different format of the original manuscript – which means I have a version for Kindle, a version for Nook, a version for Smashwords…oy. By the by, there’s a reason it’s called Smashwords, and their translator, Meatgrinder. Yeesh. Smashword’s Meatgrinder also only really likes MSWord, so if you use, say, Open Office, you’re gonna have a ton of problems.

ASM: How has it worked in terms of sales (I do not need specifics)? 

SO: Well, I don’t have as much up yet as Sarah Hoyt does, so my income from that is mostly pocket change. But I do get positive feedback from it, and there is a feedback loop in terms of marketing my major books, in addition to the pocket change. So I can’t complain. The more stories I get up, the more I expect to bring home from it.

ASM: Would you do it again? Or would you prefer to publish through traditional routes?

SO: I tend to prefer publishing through traditional, for the simple reason that there is a whole lot there that is invisible to the author. But I will continue putting out short stories and the like, I think, through indie/micro press.

ASM: Do you call yourself self-published, or an independent publisher? And why? 

SO:  I prefer independent publisher. “Self-published” has a stigma of being poor quality, and being a perfectionist, my works are as good as I can make them. So I use “indie” or independent publisher. And I do use a professional editor, a professional cover artist, and a professional layout editor, so it isn’t just helter-skelter. I learned the business as an author first, and picked my publisher’s brain with her full cooperation.

ASM: I know you just created an audiobook. Can you briefly describe that process? 

SO: I like to do dramatic readings at SF conventions; it usually gets people really interested in the book. I can do it pretty decently too, because I met my husband Darrell when he and I both auditioned for and were cast in a play in college. We’ve done a lot of theatre together. So I guess it wasn’t that big a surprise when my fans started asking me to record my books as audiobooks.

I decided to record one of my short stories, so I picked the shortest one, The Bunker, which was originally published in the first Dreams of Steam and is now out as a standalone ebook. The reason I did that is because I wanted to make sure my voice would hold out for the recording. My husband does a good bit of media work online, so I swiped his microphone headset, turned everything off in the room so there wouldn’t be much background noise, and recorded the thing start to finish. Then I sent it to a friend in Atlanta who does audio editing, and she cleaned it up and spliced out stammers and such. Then we worked out a lead-in and a closing statement and she recorded those and added them. My husband, who is a graphics artist and does many of my (and other authors’!) book covers, did up a version of the ebook cover, then I gave him the mp3 file and he had CDs burned and put into cases with the cover. I plan on uploading the file to soon so it’ll be available for smartphones and mp3 players and such. I just haven’t had time yet.

Now, with the first audiobook behind me and some conversations with my audio editor, I’ve decided not to attempt reading straight through anymore. After about ten minutes I start to fatigue and stumble over words. So I’ll start breaking up the sessions into 10-minute increments, then send the whole lot through Dropbox to my editor to splice together. We think it’ll be much better that way.

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