Author Interview – Robert David MacNeil

I want to open by saying how glad I am Robert agreed to answer some of my questions. I’m loving Iona Portal so far and thought I’d find out a bit more about him and his work.

First of all let me introduce Robert David MacNeil, author of Science Fiction Thriller IONA PORTAL.

Robert bio pic 2011Robert is a teacher, author, wine-lover, and world-traveler. Over the past twenty years, his travels have taken him from the steppes of Mongolia to the jungles of Thailand, and from the Eskimo villages of Northwest Alaska to le fin del mundo, the “end of the world,” at the tip of South America.  He presently lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

Robert has authored five non-fiction books under a different pen-name. His first novel, IONA PORTAL, is currently the top-rated Science Fiction book on Amazon, and #2 in mysteries and thrillers.

Robert is presently working on the sequel, IONA STRONGHOLD.

1. How would you describe yourself and your writing?

Thanks for inviting me to do the interview, Andy. I really appreciate the opportunity.

In my “day job” I’m a writer, speaker, and dean of a graduate school.  I also travel frequently. Several times a year I teach in schools in other countries. As my bio indicates, I’ve traveled to some remote places, including the steppes of Mongolia, the jungles of Thailand, and the remote isles of the Scottish Hebrides-which includes the Island of Iona.  (A lot of these locations turn up in Iona Portal, and the other books of the Synaxis Chronicles trilogy.)

Concerning my writing, I’ve been an avid reader all my life, and to me, that’s the first step in becoming a writer. In high school I got frustrated when I realized I’d read every science fiction book in our hometown library! I read many genres, but continue to love science fiction and suspense thrillers.

2. How many books do you have published and tell us a bit about them?

I’ve written five non-fiction books under a different pen-name, but my first novel is Iona Portal.  Iona Portal is a SF thriller that views the ancient battle between good and evil through the lens of Science Fiction.  I like to think of it as Lord of the Rings meets The Matrix. 

3. Can you tell me a bit about how Iona Portal came about?

I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural, and in the course of my travels have talked with a lot of people about their experiences. Other cultures are often more open to the supernatural than ours, and I’ve met people with some incredible stories. In the process, I’ve had a few unusual experiences myself. There’s a lot more “out there” than most of us suspect.

Two years ago a friend encouraged me to write a science fiction book about some of these encounters. The result is Iona Portal.

4. What made you self publish your novel and what has the experience been like to date?

I’ve published non-fiction books through traditional publishing houses and assumed I’d do that with fiction, but as I began to research agents and publishers, I found that the ebook revolution has shaken the publishing industry to the core. Sales of traditionally published books are plummeting.  Bookstores are going out of business. Agents and publishers are fearing for their existence. In the light of these new realities I decided to go the indie route and e-publish Iona Portal. It’s harder in some ways. You have to wear a lot of hats. But I’m convinced it’s the wave of the future.

5. Who have you published with?

Iona Portal is now published on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Apple’s iBookstore, and at Barnes & Noble for the Nook. A paperback version is coming out this month through Amazon’s CreateSpace.

6. Did you prepare your e-books yourself? Any pointers?

Yes. It’s not an easy process, but there are some excellent tutorials available online. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing also has some great step-by-step instructions. I’d advise reading several of these tutorials before you begun, then take your time and go step by step until the process is finished.

front cover of Iona portal7. Who does you cover art?

I do all my own graphics. I’m fortunate to have some skills in that area. For those who don’t have those skills, I would definitely recommend getting professional help for a cover design. People really do judge books by their covers.

8. Do you do a lot of self promotion? How do you market and promote your work & what do you find are effective methods of self promotion?

I’ve done most of my promotion thru Twitter.

Twitter is a great tool for marketing, but you need to understand what you’re doing. Some authors think marketing means posting a “BUY MY BOOK!” tweet several times a day. That’s not an effective way to market.

The primary goal of twitter is to engage people and build relationships. I also believe there’s a principle in the universe that says, if you want to receive, you must first be willing to give. It’s the whole “do unto others…” thing, and I’ve found it to be true.

So in addition to promoting my own book, I actively read books of other authors. When I find books I like, I try to promote their books as much as I promote my own. This has brought me into some mutually supportive relationships with other authors I respect, and it has definitely helped in marketing.

9. Do you find sales peak and then drop off after your initial self promotion?

Sales peaked after the first week or two when my close friends had all bought their copies. But I’ve tried to be pretty consistent in promotion. Sales picked up by the end of the first month, and have been increasing ever since. This last month, sales more than tripled.

10. What advice would you give to a newbie to self publishing?

Go into self-publishing with the expectation that being a writer is hard work. That’s true no matter whether you publish traditionally, or self publish. If you just write a book and post it on Amazon, it won’t sell, no matter how good it is. No one will even know it’s there. You have to learn to market your book. That’s part of being a writer.

Your ultimate success, of course, will depend on the quality of your book. If your book is dull, boring, or poorly written, it won’t sell no matter how hard you promote it. But if you write a good book, and do a reasonable amount of promotion, your book WILL find its market.

11. What lies in store for Robert David MacNeil?

In one interview, Clive Cussler said he viewed himself more as an entertainer than a writer. That’s my desire also. I want to entertain my readers, whether they’re reading my tweets or my novels. I want to write books that entertain and enthrall, and that open the reader’s minds to new dimensions. If I can do that, I’ll be a happy writer.

Beyond that… I’d LOVE to see Iona Portal made into a movie!  (In 3-D of course!)

My website is http://ionaportal.com/, and my blog is http://ionaportal.com/blog/

Readers can also follow me on Twitter at @RDavidMacNeil

You can find Iona Portal on Amazon here…  http://www.amazon.com/Iona-Portal-Synaxis-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B005IA87WA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313854512&sr=8-1

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