An Interview with Indie Author Russell Newell
We sit down with indie-author Russell Newell to discuss what it is like to be a first-time author venturing into the intimidating world of self-publishing. Newell’s first novel, The Boy and What Might Have Been, is among the top 50 downloads of 2015 in the Amazon Kindle Store and is one of Indie Reader’s 55 Best Self-Published Books of 2015. Not bad for a first at bat.
How does it feel to be a published author?
It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. To finish a novel and publish it when so many people talk about doing it and never do. I couldn’t be happier.
What sparked the idea for your book?
I’m from Massachusetts. In 2000, a young girl named Molly Bish disappeared while life guarding at a pond in her hometown of Warren. I remember thinking this has to be the worst thing a human being could go through; to lose a child and not know what happened to them. It’s worse than a death because there’s no closure.
Exploring this type of story and how it affects a parent (particularly a dad) really appealed to me. I wanted to delve into what happens to a character who loses his son and capture how everything in his life unravels as he looks for his child.
How did you go about writing your book?
I did a lot of research into missing kids and read (criminal investigator and creator of America’s Most Wanted) John Walsh’s book. He became a missing child advocate after his son went missing in 1981. I thought it would help me gain a better understanding of what a parent goes through. The child in my book is abducted by a religious cult, which meant also researching cults and restrictive religious faiths like the Puritans. Once the research was done, I just started writing without a detailed outline. The writing took me where it wanted to go. I wrote in stops and starts over a period of ten years.
You and the book have received very positive reviews. Will you talk about your marketing plan?
My strategy was to get some early industry reviews, like Kirkus and Indy Reader, which would give me some credibility. People started reading it, posting good reviews on Amazon, and things grew from there. I did a couple of promotions through Book Hub and Goodreads that got people interested in the book and reading it. Promoting on those sites helped and generated some great reviews.
How did you build an audience for your book locally?
Since my book is based in New England and I grew up in Billerica, Massachusetts, I decided to hold the book launch at my hometown library with friends, family and new readers. I did get the local press to cover it, although as a self-published author, none of the larger papers like the Boston Globe or Boston Herald would review it. That’s the challenge for an indie author.
What do you think your readers connect with most? The plot? The characters?
People reviewing the book have said it’s a gripping, a page turner and that they can’t put down. Many said they couldn’t wait to find out what happened. Any writer will tell you, that’s music to our ears. The book does deal with a heavy subject matter -a child’s kidnapping- but I think readers want a book with substance. They are drawn to a father who loses everything (his child) and yet perseveres. It strikes a chord with them because they don’t know how they would react in similar circumstances.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
I had never published anything but I knew I wanted more control throughout the process. I had a lot to learn, like how to come up with the right title. The original book title was The Boy and the Bastard but advertisers objected to it on Facebook so I changed it. All in all, it was a great learning experience. It taught me a great deal about the business.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and self-publishing a book?
My advice would be to write the best book you can. You only get one shot to make a good impression. Figure out who your book’s readers are and focus on them.
What future writing projects are you working on?
I just spent 14 months in Iraq. I am working on a thriller/love story based on that experience. I’m
excited to be writing and hope my readers enjoy it. This time around, I have a much better idea of how to market it. I’m going to put what I learned on my first book to good use.
Why Dog Ear?
Like you, we can’t wait to read Russell Newell’s next exciting thriller. As an indie author, he has already taken control of his publishing destiny. If you’d like to discover how you can do the same, check out our website at www.dogearpublishing.net. With over 50 years of traditional publishing experience, we can help you produce a quality publication that will reflect who you are as an author.