Interview with Time Anderson, Author of Tune In Tokyo
PUBSLUSH interviews Tim Anderson about his debut novel, Tune In Tokyo, his trials and triumphs being a self-published author, and what it means to be “published” in the 21st century.
PUBSLUSH: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background?
TIM: I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC, went to school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before I went to Japan I’d lived in England a couple times, once in Manchester and once in London. After Japan I was back in Raleigh for a few years before migrating up to NYC, because I apparently love living in impossibly expensive cities.
PS: Tell us about your efforts to get published. What was this process like for you?
TIM: It was a loooooooooooong road I traveled! Of course, in order to be published you first have to have a solid manuscript, which took me a while to whip into shape. (My first draft was waaay too long!) I jumped through all the traditional hoops—got an agent, wrote a book proposal, revised bunches. But ultimately, though we got very complimentary responses, no interested editors were able to get it past the veto of their marketing departments. So ultimately my agent gave up, understandably, and I started working on something new.
PS: What made you decide to self-publish?
TIM: After writing a few chapters of a new book, I realized that I really needed closure on the previous one. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that, contrary to marketing department declarations, there IS an audience for Tune in Tokyo. I basically decided to not take no for an answer on this, especially since it’s so easy to just put something out there yourself these days. So I self-published in June 2010 and sent it out into the world.
PS: Do you feel you benefited from self-publishing? How did you promote and market your book?
TIM: Absolutely! Of course, the hard part about doing it yourself—with no publicity budget, no presence on book shelves, no nuthin’—is getting folks to pay attention to you—i.e., getting reviewed, talked up on blogs, etc. I got very little of that because I’m kind of a hapless self-promoter. I did have a really fun book launch party here in NYC and managed to get the event listed in Time Out New York, the Village Voice, Downtown Express, and The Villager. But with no local bookstore support—the local stores I tried to woo in Brooklyn showed no interest—I couldn’t get any momentum or word-of-mouth. I did do a bit of guerilla marketing—going around and putting copies of the book on bookstore shelves—it’s the opposite of shoplifting! And it was certainly gratifying to place my book on top of the new one by Tucker Max on the New Paperbacks table. (That was a public service.) I also had some bookmarks made that I would then go stick inside best-sellers at shops around town. But it was a one-man operation that amounted to me trying to foist myself on an indifferent universe, and the universe seemed to be busy with other things, like the latest Sarah Palin book or whatever.
Then in September of 2010 Publisher’s Weekly announced that they were going to start doing a quarterly review of self-published titles, so I threw my hat into the ring and managed to get Tune in Tokyo reviewed in the inaugural self-publishing supplement. A few months later I was contacted by an editor at Amazon Publishing, who had read the review, then read the book and loved it, and wanted to bring it to a larger audience. And nine months later I’ve got a new edition of the book available as both a trade paperback and in a Kindle edition, hooray.
PS: What does it mean to you to “be published” in the 21st century?
TIM: That’s a great question, because the whole notion of being “published” has completely changed, since any Tom, Dick, or Harriet can very easily publish themselves (as they should, go for it!) and, therefore, be “published.” I guess now the sweet spot is no longer the sight of your own book bound and with your name on it, but actually the establishment and growth of an audience for your writing, which is the whole point of publishing anyway. I feel like I’m starting to do that now, though obviously there’s still a lot of attention-whoring I need to do. (Hi Facebook! Hi Twitter!)
PS: What is your take on PUBSLUSH’s less bureaucratic approach to publishing?
TIM: It’s really compelling, actually. Because it bestows the traditional gatekeeper function on readers. If there’s interest and support from readers, you’ve got yourself a book, as well as an already-committed audience. It’s a really interesting model and I’ll be curious to see how things progress with it.