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03 Jun

Everyone has a story to tell. Listen to Sybrina Durant’s…

JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

Sybrina: I have always wanted to be a writer – from the moment I learned how to string letters of the alphabet together to form words and sentences.  But until these modern times, I never had much hope that many people would ever read anything that I’d written.  We live in a time when anyone one can pursue any dream they come up with.  The internet has allowed that to happen.  Anyone can have a blog which they post all of their ramblings on and there’s a chance that some or many people will stumble across it and some or many will read it.  And of those who found it, some or many will either love or hate it.  Everyone can have their 15 minutes of fame, if they are so inclined.  In the same vein, anyone can write a book and self-publish it these days.  It is the easiest thing in the world now.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that every writer writes well or even has a good story to tell.  But there’s absolutely nothing stopping them from telling the story that’s dancing around in their mind now.

JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

Sybrina: I have to describe myself as mostly self-taught.  I really didn’t like the formalities of school much but I always did like to read. . .so much so that I read more than I did anything else.  If I didn’t understand what something meant or how to pronounce it, I would look it up in the dictionary or even in a dusty old encyclopaedia.  That was way back before there was such a thing as the internet or cell phones.  Now days, I enjoy reading what other authors are discussing on different Facebook groups.  I’ve learned a lot about different aspects of the craft of writing from following their conversations.  I think a formal education is all relative.  That is the best way for some people to learn so it might be necessary for them.  For me, …not so much.

JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

Sybrina: There are very few people who can claim to make enough income to have the luxury of being full-time authors unless maybe, they are ghost-writing for other people.  Unfortunately, for people writing books on their own, the competition is so immense and intense that there will never be a very large audience for their work.  It truly is not a stretch to say that over 800 brand new books are published each and every day in the US alone.  (source from 2013: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/books_published_per_country_per_year).  This towering number makes it necessary for most authors to have another source of income.  At what I call my “day job”, I do design and drafting for an engineering/analyzer company.  Between that and creative writing, both sides of my brain get quite a work out each day.  After 10 hours on the paying job, I come home to tackle my independent author publishing business.

JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

Sybrina: Reading so many books got the creative juices flowing in my own mind.  Stories presented themselves to me and I started writing. Key word being “started”.  I can’t tell you how many stories I started and never finished.  There were too many ideas flooding into my brain for me to concentrate too heavily on any one.  After a while, I just quit writing.  I put it all away and only thought of it occasionally.  It was nearly 30 years before I decided that I needed to finish at least one of my stories.

JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

Sybrina: Yes, hiring professional editors is very important.  But it’s even more important to check their work once you get your book back from them.  Many times, I have had to make additional corrections to the document after receiving it.  Ultimately, when you are self-publishing, the quality of the final product lies squarely on your own shoulders.  This can be a very expensive and embarrassing lesson if you don’t pay attention to it.

JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

Sybrina: There are many ways to promote a book these days.  First and foremost, you must make it available in any format that might be requested by a consumer.  In the case of The Blue Unicorn’s Journey To Osm’, it is available in both .mobi (Kindle) and .epub ebook formats.  It is also available in soft cover and hardback print versions.  When I had the illustrations made, I specifically requested that the deliverables be in two versions – 1) full color and 2) black and white.  The black and white illustrations allowed me to offer readers what I’m calling a “Read and Color Book”.  It is especially for people who want love to color.  Finally, I hired a narrator to read the story so that I would have a professional audio book to offer for sale.  Most authors may already have an author page on Facebook but I highly recommend creating separate Facebook pages for each book or series, too.  Posts on book pages may be boosted for a reasonable fee.  Make sure that you constantly update your Amazon Author page.  Many people who find your book on Amazon want to read about you on Amazon.  I also do Amazon, Goodreads and LibraryThing book giveaways.  If you’re lucky, winners will post a review of the book on Amazon.  I’ve learned not to expect it, though.  Some people only enter contests because they want to win something.  Make sure you also have a Pinterest page for your book and pay to promote a pin once in a while.  Very important – all books these days pretty much need a youtube book trailer. There are a thousand other things you can do to promote your book.  The good news is there are many reasonably priced service providers available through the internet who can create just about anything you could possibly want in order to promote and market your book.

JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

Sybrina: If you want your books to have an opportunity to be read by other people, then you must self-publish.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t continually try to submit your work to traditional publishing companies at the same time.  But even if you are signed by a big publishing company, they will want you to do the same kind of work that you do as a self-publisher.  Marketing and promotion is always something the author must be actively involved in.  So, get some practice at it by self-publishing.  Also, these days many traditional publishers want proof that your book is already financially successful before they will be willing to invest in it themselves.

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

Sybrina: I’ve written about 10 books and have self-published them all.  I’ve also published books for other friends and family members.  My sister writes historical romance.  My dad also wanted to be a writer.  I published one of his stories a couple of years after he passed away.  I’ve published my mother-in-law’s memoirs and I’ve published about 15 children’s story books for a friend of mine.

JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

Sybrina: I always think the book I just finished writing is the best book I’ve ever written.  I think most writers feel that way.  You have to feel good about it or you wouldn’t spend all the time required to finish it.  For me, ‘The Blue Unicorn’s Journey To Osm’ is the last and best book I’ve ever written.  I actually started it over 30 years ago.  It was one I let sit on the shelf while life happened.  It took me over a year to finish it and get it out to the public once I started working on it again it.  The long time frame was mainly because the book has so many illustrations in it.  It began as a novel (which I will finish) but I decided I wanted a book filled with illustrations because who doesn’t love a good story about unicorns with lots of pictures of unicorns.  These illustrations are by the fantastic Dasguptarts team led by Sudipta Dasgupta.  The illustrated book is nearly 200 pages long but each chapter is only 2 pages long making it very easy to consumed in bite sized chunks of fast-paced excitement.  There is also a companion coloring book/character description book that goes along with the illustrated book.

JR: Any other works in progress?

Sybrina: Yes, the ‘Blue Unicorn’s Journey To Osm’ Novel and a separate glossary that I’m calling the MarBryn Compendium.  I did a lot of world building with this story so the glossary will contain everything readers could possibly want to know about the land the story takes place in and all of the characters there.

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

Sybrina: If you have a story in you, then by all means write it down. . .NOW.  Immediately after it is finished, don’t wait around hoping someone will come along to do any of the hard work of marketing and promoting it for you.  It is completely up to you to write it and then do your very best to make people aware that it exists.  In other words, help yourself. . .because more than likely, no one else will.  As I always say, “The best place to find a helping hand is on the end of your own arm.”

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

Sybrina: I have a website – http://www.sybrina.com, facebook pages for each of my books (the Blue Unicorn’s Journey To Osm page is https://www.facebook.com/The-Blue-Unicorns-Journey-To-Osm-794155627353303/), and an Amazon author page – https://www.amazon.com/Sybrina-Durant/e/B009K3WGMS .  There are many other places you can find out things about me including my Pinterest boards – https://www.pinterest.com/sybrinad/ .