Today I have the great pleasure to invite at CrediNellaTuaStoria.com fantasy author and self-publishing consultant Ben Galley, who have been self-publishing books since 2010, and is on the cusp of releasing his 11th title. In this exclusive interview also published in Italian, Ben and I talk about his books and explore many subjects related to writing and publishing, such as world-building, self-publishing, a sound marketing approach for promoting a book, a long-term plan, difficult decisions and much, much more.
M.A. Hi Ben, welcome over at CrediNellaTuaStoria.com and thank you for taking your time to answer these questions for us. First off, could you give a short introduction as to who Ben Galley is?
B.G. I’d be delighted – I’m a fantasy author and self-publishing consultant from the south of England. I’ve been self-publishing books since 2010, and am on the cusp of releasing my 11th title, The Heart of Stone. As a self-publishing consultant, I help hundreds of authors to publish and sell their books via 1:1 sessions, events and through my self-publishing guide, Shelf Help. It’s a job I truly love, as I get to meet a whole variety of writers and at the same time, assist them in achieving their goals.
M.A. If you would have to name your top 5 favorite authors, who would they be?
B.G. Neil Gaiman, JRR Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, and CS Lewis.
M.A. You have self-published two dark fantasy Series, Emaneska and The Scarlet Star trilogy. If you had to describe both in one sentence, what would it be?
M.A. You have already published seven fantasy books (not counting the graphic novel of ‘The Written’). Your upcoming ‘The Heart of Stone’ will be number eight. Tell us a bit more about this latest project.
B.G. The Heart of Stone is my first standalone novel, meaning it’s not part of any series. It’s also the first book where I’ve written a non-human protagonist, which has been very fun, if not a little tricky in certain places. HoS is set in a 17th century world called the Realm, similar to Europe during that period. The protagonist Task, a four centuries-old stone golem, is bought by one side of a civil war to end the stalemate. To Task, it’s just another war in a long line of wars, or so he thinks.
M.A. Is there any reason why you focus primarily on the fantasy genre?
B.G. It’s where my passion lies as a reader. Thanks to my parents being avid readers of the strange and the fantastic, I grew up on fantasy and mythology. I devoured anything that wasn’t reality, that was weird and wonderful. The real world is great, don’t get me wrong, but there are boundaries to it. With fantasy, there are few boundaries, if any, and so the scope of what you can create is practically endless.
M.A. With the Emaneska Series and the Scarlet Star trilogy you created two complex and fascinating worlds. A few months ago you also wrote two very interesting blog posts about worldbuilding, and gave useful advices on how to forge a three-dimensional story. Reading and writing surely help to do this, but are there any other tips you would give to writers who want to improve their ‘worldbuilding skills’?
B.G. We have to look at our own world to create believable and immersive worlds of our own. Whether a world is incredibly far-fetched and fantastical, or very close to reality, there will always be a number of shared aspects to every world. When world-building, we usually focus on the main aspects, such as landscape, weather, history. But it’s very easy to forget the minutia of a world. For example, in every world there will be some form of culture, architecture, politics, cuisine, military, recreation, transport, religion, illness, flora, fauna, decoration, clothing and many more. One trick is looking at our the real world, at all its parts and idiosyncrasies, and translating that to your own world. By making sure you address as many of the little details as possible, you can easily enrich a world.
M.A. Let’s dig into the self-publishing stuff. You are a true believer in the DIY route and your desire to help other people to self-publish their books created ‘Shelf Help: The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing’. There is something you said at the very beginning of the book that really resonated with me: “Self-publishing is not a last resort or a consolation prize; it is a choice.” I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit more on this concept?
B.G. Absolutely! I say this because many people think that self-publishing is for those that can’t get published. It’s a hang-over from the early days of indie publishing, when it was called “vanity publishing”. However, this is simply no longer the case. Self-publishing is now as viable an option, and as viable a route to success, as traditional publishing. No arguments. This is best illustrated by the fact that over 40% of the Amazon US top 100 best-selling titles are self-published. That shows that indies are succeeding without the help traditional publishers, and that’s why it’s a choice, not a consolation prize.
M.A. Author Joel Friedlander wrote in his article ‘10 Tips for Aspiring Authorpreneurs’ a very interesting collection of advices. One of those especially made me think. He says: “Realize that every book is essentially a mini startup business, with all that that implies.” For an indie author like yourself, do you think that the ‘startup business’ approach is useful when it comes to publish books? What is your approach?
B.G. Pretty much exactly the same as Joel’s. I completely agree with the startup approach – you have to be business-like to succeed in this game. That’s because a business knows the importance of a professional-looking product, of spending time marketing and connecting with consumers, and being organised and shrewd when it comes to initial costs. These “pillars” of business help you to build a strong platform for success. Without them, and without approaching publishing in a professional mindset, you’ll have a lot more work to do.
M.A. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Hugh Howey’s blog post ‘So You Want to be a Writer…’ I was hooked. It changed my perspective on what writing should really mean for an aspiring author. Hugh lists ten useful points for people who wants to make it as a writer. The very first one is ‘Make a long term plan”. Hugh explains: “My plan was to write two novels a year for ten years before I ascertained whether or not I had a chance of making this work.” Do you have a long term plan, Ben, or do you have a different approach when it comes to plan your next step?
B.G. I do indeed. My long-term plan is half marketing-based and half writing-based. I have a list of about 16 novels that I have allocated into the order of writing, so I know what the next three years looks like in terms of releases. Alongside that is my plan for marketing those releases and increase my overall fanbase and notoriety. This is where my side-projects reside, such as focusing on YouTube as a platform, creating merchandise, audiobooks, seeking translation and adaptation deals. These projects are spread out over the next few years, much like the books, and the whole plan is led by the goal of being a consistent bestseller, simple as that!
M.A. In these years of self-publishing and storytelling you have influenced a lot of people with your books, with your conferences, by connecting with other writers and always contributing in the self-publishing community. I feel like this calls for a rather profound question. At the end of the day, how would you like people to remember Mr Ben Galley?
B.G. A very profound question! From a self-publishing consultant point of view, I’d like people to remember me for the passion I have for indie publishing and the opportunities it affords, as well as the help I’ve provided to authors over the years. As a writer, I’d like to be remembered with the best of my genre. That’s been my dream ever since my dad handed me The Hobbit.
M.A. As an avid sci-fi reader, this next question comes naturally: Are technology and aliens (rather than magic and dragons) somewhere in your writing list?
B.G. They definitely are. Sci-fi has also been a love of mine for a number of years, and is a close contender for fantasy’s top spot. I’ve got a few sci-fi standalones planned at the moment, however I can see more developing as soon as I dip my toe in.
M.A. Allow me a random question, now. Farden against Tonmerion. Who wins?
B.G. Ouch. That’s like asking a father which son he thinks would win. I have to say Farden, mainly because his magic is simply more powerful and intrinsic than Merion’s, and to tell the truth, he’s been playing a badass for about 30 years longer than Merion too.
M.A. Where can readers find you?
B.G. You can find me on Twitter as @BenGalley and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube as @BenGalleyAuthor. You can also find all my books at my site www.bengalley.com, as well as free eBook version of Bloodrush, Book 1 of The Scarlet Star Trilogy, if you sign up to the mailing list!
M.A. Thanks again for your time Ben. All the best to you, and to your future projects.
Ben Galley is a best-selling purveyor of tall tales and dark fantasy from the UK. He is the author behind the gritty and epic Emaneska Series, as well as his new western fantasy series, the Scarlet Star Trilogy.
Aside from writing and dreaming up lies to tell his readers, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant and tutor, helping fellow authors from all over the world to publish and sell books. His website www.shelfhelp.info will tell you all you need to know about DIY self-publishing.
Michele Amitrani is a self-published author living in beautiful British Columbia. He has grown up writing of falling empires, space battles, mortal betrayals, monumental decisions and everything in between. He now spends his days traveling through time and space and, more often than not, writing about impossible but necessary worlds.
He is the author of the Omnilogos Series, an action packed Sci-Fi tetralogy drenched with what some has called the sense of awe typical of Asimov’s Foundation series.