In Conversation: J R Koop

J R Koop is a fantasy writer from Adelaide whose debut novel, Racing the Sun, was released on April 12 this year. Koop has spent years building up her world and her novel to the completed version we see today. The self-published book is available in paperback or as an ebook on all major ebook retailers. Racing the Sun is a queer throw-back to Sleeping Beauty and a tribute to her fiancé, Salsabil Hafiz, set in a South-Asian inspired land. Tulpa’s Kayla Gaskell had the opportunity to chat with Koop about the book and her writing journey.

Having already spent time shopping her book to traditional publishers, earlier this year Koop decided it was time to self-publish her long-time project, Racing the Sun. A stand alone in her fantasy world of Abrecan, Koop has spent four years developing the novel. From a first draft with a typically Western setting, Racing the Sun has come so far. Koop decided to alter the novel after feedback from Hafiz suggesting Koop make it “more interesting”.

And by interesting, she means diverse. Racing the Sun has a wide spectrum of characters ranging from the blind oracle, Taeng, through to the PTSD and chronic-pain suffering faerie Qadira. With plenty of input from a variety of sources and sensitivity readers, Koop says “a lot of people helped make this book what it is and made sure I’d written in a non-offensive and accurate way.”

Set in a South-Asian inspired land, Koop says that the conflict between the Praitosi Empire and Delorran was reminiscent of the conflict between India and Pakistan. While this is a fantasy, Koop was sure to discuss these allusions with friends and sensitivity readers, keeping in mind that the world is inspired by ours but at the same time very much its own. The novel turns away from a more traditional Western-centric fantasy vision, presenting more POC than not. When asked about this choice, Koop replied: “If I just wrote white characters it would be a boring world.”

IMG_20190319_151156_236

In terms of challenges, Koop’s greatest one was accepting that Racing the Sun was finished. She says: “I could keep staring at it for years, or I could put it out there.” Having done countless edits on the manuscript Koop says she was starting to wonder when it would be enough. Once the decision was made, Koop turned her mind to researching self-publishing where-upon she settled on a joint e-publication and print-on-demand package with publishing service IngramSpark. Koop didn’t want the limitations of e-publication to hold her back when so many readers who prefer physical books.

Koop goes on to discuss how expensive self-publishing her novel was, although she was lucky enough to engage an illustrator who has become a great friend. Sylvia Bi took to the project with enthusiasm and produced a gorgeous cover. Koop decided on an illustrator for her book because she wanted Racing the Sun to have a professional feel as well as take a little of the pressure off of the process.

In earlier drafts of the novel, Koop says there was a pronunciation guide to help readers with the many and varied unfamiliar terms, however, in the final version this was scrapped. “I kept adding to it, there are too many things in this list, people might get scared.” Like with many fantasy novels however, Koop confirms that you can easily pick up the terminology as you go.

The world of Abrecan is already a vibrant alternate world and Racing the Sun is just the beginning. A stand-alone within the world, Koop has plenty of plans in various stages of completion to bring more of Abrecan to life. As she says: “people are just coming across this one book, they’re not seeing the other works just yet.” With more than twenty folders of ideas on her shelf, there is always something to work on. Her next project is a circus novella set in a French-based area, although she also has plans for a Cinderella retelling and an Egyptian-based retelling of Cupid and Psyche.

 

To keep up with Koop, follow her on Twitter or Instagram or visit her website.


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell
Images provided by Jasmine Koop

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

Kylie Leane Booth.jpg

Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

KE Fraser Panel.jpg

Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Self-Publishing Your Poetry (or Other Writing-Related) Book

Let’s be realistic here: the publishing market is tough.

This can make the dream of holding your very own published book (that you’ve spent countless hours toiling over) in your hands a little…disheartening but, hold on. Have you ever considered self-publishing before?

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Listen Leeza, that seems pretty hard, and I’m not sure what to do. I mean, where would I even start?’

Well, the very same thought occurred to me, so I interviewed some successful and experienced authors who have self-published their own books. These authors are all poets, but the same strategies can apply for writers seeking to self-publish other books too.

So, here’s what you need to know about self-publishing:

(The following answers are by published instapoets, who can be found under their respective usernames. They are fantastic, and I would one hundred percent recommend perusing through their pages.)

__

Michaelapoetry

selfpublishart2
michaelapoetry’s ‘when he leaves you’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Honestly, I ended up self-publishing because I was too impatient to wait for a publisher. I submitted my proposal to one publisher, but they get so many submissions that their response time is longer than three months. While I was waiting for a response, I ended up writing the entire book. It got to the point where I just wanted it to be in people’s hands, and I knew going with the traditional publishing method as my first route could take months, if not over a year.

Also, fun fact! A lot of self-published poets that I have a lot of respect for went on to be picked up by publishers – Rupi Kaur, K.Y. Robinson, Amanda Lovelace, Dawn Lanuza, Courtney Peppernell, Alison Malee (the list goes on!).

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

Amazon’s Createspace – it’s seriously so easy to use. Once you figure out formatting specifications, all you really need to do is upload your cover and interior files. Createspace also has a ton of forums that are just a Google away – you can answer most of your questions with those which is so helpful!

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

A bunch of fun random things I learned:

  • Make sure you’re using an embedded font. At first, for the italics in my book, I was using a font that didn’t have an italic setting – so I just used the “italic” function in InDesign. InDesign was manipulating the font, which means it wasn’t embedded (technically it didn’t exist). When I printed my first proof, the font didn’t print fully in some places. I switched it all to a real font and we were good to go!

  • Single page book layout.> InDesign defaults to the double page layout (think two pages side by side), which is actually helpful for setup to see how your pages will look – but when you upload to Createspace, you need to have a single page PDF.

  • Just look at other books. If you want your self-published book to look legitimate, look at a ton of different poetry books – how they format their dedication, acknowledgements, headers, page numbers, which pages they leave blank, etc. It’s cool to be original here, but some conventions are standard and add a level of professionalism to your self-published book.

  • Canadians get free ISBNs! This was awesome to learn – you can also get a free ISBN from Createspace, but the legality of who owns what part of your book gets a little foggy with it (honestly, I was never able to figure out if I’d be able to re-publish my book under my own ISBN or under a publisher if I used a Createspace ISBN). If you’re Canadian, you can very easily apply for a free ISBN account here.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I got a professional designer to design my cover. I think that if you want readers to feel that you’ve really put yourself into this book and it’s actually worth buying, you should definitely get a professional to help you out. I know personally I’ve passed on books that used a generic stock image or something that could be found on Google as cover art – not bashing those authors, I just think it’s important to show readers you care enough to invest your own money into the cover that will end up on their shelf.

Marketing? Please explain?

I like to think of marketing as community building, especially on Instagram. As “instapoets”, we’re so lucky to have the Instagram community on our side! My main advice here is, if you don’t care about what anyone is writing or doing, no one will care about what you’re writing or doing. You often see accounts with large followings complain about the Instagram algorithm – but these are the same accounts that follow 100 people, sparsely respond to comments, and barely ever read, like, or comment on other people’s content. Instagram totally gives back what you put into it – I’ve built such an amazing community of writers and readers that I genuinely love connecting with, and to be totally transparent, I’ve been able to grow my Instagram following and engagement because of it.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

I just wrote my own copyright at the front of my book, haha. I did not consult a lawyer. In terms of finances, between the cover and paying for proofs to be shipped to Canada (proofs cost about $3, but shipping is like $25 to Canada), I spent less than $400. I had savings to dip into and am happy to say I made all of that money back through book sales since then!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

Don’t be afraid to do a few $5 boosts on Instagram posts or run some $6 ads (I’ve done both of these things) – it can be a really inexpensive way to remind people of your brand and your book. If you make $3 per book and a $5 ad will help you sell 5 books, you’ve already made $10. Definitely play around with small amounts and make sure you’re calculating ROI [Return on Investment]. There can also be value in just finding a larger audience for your work vs. getting concrete sales. Really think about what’s important to you before starting ads. Also, there are A TON of resources online about Facebook and Instagram ads – get to Googling!

___

Maiapoetry

selfpublishart4
maiapoetry’s ‘the fall, the rise’ poetry collection

Why did >you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Well, I always thought of self-publishing first. I did submit to a couple of publishing houses, but I didn’t want to wait—haha! I wanted to get my work out there, something that I had been working on for so long. I decided to self-publish because, after all of the hard work, I knew it was something I would be proud of. It was something I could say I did for myself. I believe the benefit is the joy you get from knowing you did it all yourself, literally. Of course, I had an artist for my cover, but reaching out to him initially, going over designs, ordering copies of my book to edit, hiring an editor, finalizing the finishing touches, it’s a lot! And it feels good to say I did it all with the help of my artist and editor. That is definitely a priceless feeling.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Create Space to self-publish. 

Any tips of the trade?

Edit, Edit, Edit! Haha, you don’t want to miss anything. Always look at one part of the book at a time. For instance, read through the actual work of the book, but then with fresh eyes go back and check the headers, page numbers, etc. Also, have a friend read it and edit it, or an actual editor. Just proofread until you can’t anymore! But don’t stress yourself out, make it a fun journey.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

My artist designed it for me. He is amazing. I told him what I wanted and boom – there it was coming to life. Now you can always do it yourself if you have the means, but seriously, there is some amazing talent on Instagram—reach out! That’s exactly how I found mine and I am glad that I did.

Marketing? Please explain?

For marketing and promotion, I did some promotion shoots with a photographer prior to the release of the book. I now use those to market my book on my Instagram. Also, reaching out to poetry pages that post other people’s work is beneficial. Just reach out and ask if they do anything for new authors, such as posting work for you, and some definitely will help you out. There are other pages that cost to promote on their Instagram; it all depends what YOU want to do.

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

I have a certain budget I set out this sort of thing. I had an artist and editor I paid for, so it might be more than others who self-published. Once again, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The decision is yours!

___

thetaleofmymind

selfpublishart3
thetaleofmymind’s ‘The Tale of My Mind’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I have had a life long interest in writing, and the idea of publishing my own book one day has been a dream of mine since I was a child… I never imagined that it would be something I could achieve myself. In the past nine months or so, I began writing a lot of poetry and realised that I was putting together enough quality content to consider amalgamating it into a collection of sorts. I did extensive research into publishers as I pieced together my manuscript and contacted several, who turned down my approach. I quickly came to realise that as a new author, the best solution moving forwards in the modern age was to self-publish, with so many cost effective solutions available. My plan was to gain enough traction through an Instagram campaign, my book and other techniques that I would have a worthy and proven case in the future, if I were to re-approach publishers.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I made the decision to use Lulu. My main reason for this was cost. Many of the printing agencies I researched required buying an inventory of stock, which was a route I considered. My original plan was to put together a Kickstarter campaign and raise enough money through pre-orders to guarantee sales and lock down a quantity. However, this would have also meant handling every stock item, order and postage myself and would also have placed liability on me for quality and damages, etc. The beauty of Lulu was that I could simply create my ‘Print Ready’ manuscript and artwork online, order a proof copy and then let them handle everything else. Each book is printed to order and shipped directly by Lulu, so the only involvement I have is collecting a small royalty! It’s worked seamlessly up to now.

Any tips of the trade?

My biggest tip would be realising the importance of others. Writing my book was the easy part. Gaining a following, creating the artwork, putting the manuscript together and perhaps most importantly editing are all steps of the process that I owe to family, friends and other incredible authors out there. Without this help, I would never have got my book to market.

Make sure you have a solid plan for what you want to achieve, and stick to it as best you can. This will ensure continuity throughout the journey and make sure that the writing process is as smooth as possible.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I was very fortunate in this aspect. I decided that my creative talent stopped at writing and that I needed to enlist the help of an artist. I started my search on Instagram and discovered the incredibly talented Rishikant Patra (@doodleophile). I immediately fell in love with his hand drawn, space-esque drawing style and asked for his help. A 17-year-old artist based in India, he immediately jumped at the opportunity and within about 3 weeks he had created artwork better than I could ever have imagined. The results were phenomenal and I would say without question that I owe the initial attraction of my book to him.

Marketing? Please explain?

This is probably the area I have struggled with the most. When I first started writing the book, I created a project-dedicated Instagram account. In the modern world of marketing Instagram is a fantastic tool (particularly with creative projects) and I grew to over 2000 followers in less than 3 months; a figure I was very happy with and continues to grow. Being social media active gave me a great pedestal to demonstrate my potential in a physical, ongoing manner and when the time came to release my book, I had a ready-made platform from which to plug. Unfortunately, my day job is sucking up a lot of time so I haven’t had the opportunity to market the book elsewhere as much as I would have liked, but it is selling steadily and I am gradually putting together a long-term marketing strategy to expand my reach.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

Copyright was something I managed to put together fairly easily, after a little online research. Making sure my content was protected was a top priority and, fingers crossed, I have everything in place that I need! Financially speaking, Lulu has made this process a walk in the park. My main outlay has been promoted posts on Instagram, but I would certainly say that at this point, my project is profitable!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

As previously mentioned, Instagram has been my main port of call for advertising. Using the media platform to hint at book content, showing the creation process through Stories and using promoted posts to expand the reach allowed me to gauge the general reaction towards my project and writing style in real time, which helped me sculpt the book as much as it advertised it! A great way to kill two birds with one stone. The next step is to begin contacting local papers, magazines, and journals to help expand my promotional reach.

___

cristinafilomenapoetry

self-publishart
cristinafilomenapoetry’s ‘Lost’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I had no other choice to be honest. This is my first book, I’m a recent graduate working a part time job (and at the time I published I was unemployed) and publishers cost a lot of money. I wanted to get my work out there but I just didn’t have the means to bring it to an actual publisher, so I did some research on different self-publishing platforms and picked the one that made the most sense to me!The biggest benefit of doing it myself as stated above was the fact that it didn’t cost me much at all to get it out there, and I was able to publish EXACTLY what I wanted to publish in the way I wanted to publish it! It was an amazing learning experience doing it all myself too because I was able to experience not only writing but also editing, designing, AND publishing, so I ended up gaining a ton of knowledge on the process of the work that goes into publishing a book that I would have never gained if I had gone through a professional publisher.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Ingram Spark, and at the time I thought it was the right choice, but for first timers out there I would recommend a more user-friendly publisher. Ingram Spark is amazing for publishers that are a bit more seasoned and know how the business works, but platforms like CreateSpace and Blurb are amazing for first timers because they’re 100% free and easy to use!

Any tips of the trade?

I’m still a beginner in the field myself, but the one thing I would suggest is start building your following AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. If you’re thinking of writing a book but haven’t started, get that Instagram account going! Start posting examples of your work so by the time you’re ready to make some money off of your writing you have a ton of people that will want to support you in it!

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I didn’t design my own cover art! I used a design group called Yonderworldly Premades which (until recently) offered pre-made book covers that you could purchase and have altered to fit the aesthetic and vision of your novel. They were great to work with and I’m very happy I got a professional to do the cover because it’s one of the first things a potential buyer sees. If you have a good looking cover, you’re more likely to make that sale, because unlike the saying, people do judge books by their covers. It says a lot about how serious you take yourself as an author and how your present yourself as a seller.

Marketing? Please explain?

I’ve done all of it myself, and I’ve learned A LOT, but I still have a long way to go! The thing I would recommend for sure is using Instagram to market your book every chance you get. It’s one of the most popular and accessible social media platforms and allows your readers the chance to put a face to your name. It’s also important to brand yourself as a writer and a social presence. What kind of writer are you? What do you want to ultimately achieve by sharing your writing with the world? What kind of aesthetic will people think of when they see your writing? These are all super important questions to think about as you move forward with your marketing. And if you have the means and don’t want to bother with marketing yourself, there are a ton of different options for hiring a social media marketer to take care of it for you!


Interview by Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

Main image accompanying article by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A big THANK YOU to all of the Instapoets who participated in this interview. You can find their profiles, and links to their self-published works, below:

Michaelapoetry

Check out her healing words:

https://www.instagram.com/michaelapoetry/

Buy her book:

http://michaelaangemeer.com/shop

maiapoetry

Check out her raw words:

https://www.instagram.com/maiapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.maiapoetry.com

thetaleofmymind

Check out his deep words:

https://www.instagram.com/thetaleofmymind/

Buy his book:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/daniel-fella/the-tale-of-my-mind-as-told-by-dan-fella/paperback/product-23646924.html

cristinafilomenapoetry

Check out her powerful words:

https://www.instagram.com/cristinafilomenapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.cristinafilomenapoetry.com/the-book