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Paul Doiron is the author of the Mike Bowditch series of crime novels. The series—which Paul prefers to call a “saga” based on the importance he places on narrative continuity—tells the story a young Maine game warden who appears in the first book, THE POACHER’S SON, as the emotionally damaged son of an abusive and estranged father and evolves personally and professionally from novel to novel. “I always have it in my head,” Paul says, “that I’m writing the biography of this man who is struggling to overcome his past and become the hero other people believe he can yet be.” Paul Doiron grew up in Scarborough, Maine and attended Cheverus High School in Portland before enrolling in and graduating from Yale College. He was the longtime editor in chief of “Down East: the Magazine of Maine,” and is certified by the state as a professional Maine Guide, specializing in fly fishing. He lives on the Maine midcoast and is lucky to have a river in his backyard where he can catch trout after a long day of writing. His wife is the award-winning poet Kristen Lindquist, author of TOURISTS IN THE KNOWN WORLD. Please visit him at www.pauldoiron.com.

Now on with our interview!

Question:

 

Answer:

1. Please explain to aspiring authors and booksellers just how much work is required, even as a traditionally published bestselling author, to maintain your level of success?

 

Whenever I talk to aspiring authors, I always emphasize the importance of two things: perseverance and luck. In a way, perseverance is the easier is subject because it seems attainable. The idea that if you just outwork everyone else you will succeed. And there’s a lot of truth in that. But luck is the element that makes publishing success alchemy instead of chemistry. Like it or not, you need a little magic to hit the bestseller lists that matter, which are the ones that cause more stores and libraries to order your book.

2. What's the biggest mistake you've seen bookstores make? And how would you suggest fixing it?

 

As an author, I’ve had all sorts of experiences doing bookstore events, some, where almost no one showed up (two people is my all-time low) and some with crowds out the door. The stores that are most successful in my opinion are those that truly commit to doing events. They understand the importance of publicity and nurture contacts in the press, they publish regular email newsletters to their most loyal customers alerting them to readings and signings, they do enough events that people expect it’s a regular part of their business. Obviously space is at a premium in retail, but you’d be surprised by how many invitations I get from stores that don’t have the physical capacity to hold more than ten people. And there are few things more depressing than showing up for an event and seeing that the buyer has ordered the bare minimum of your books or that he or she doesn’t want you to sign stock.

3. Do you believe there is still a bright future for independent bookstores?

 

Absolutely. I live in Maine, which has fared better than some other states in terms of retaining independent bookstores and that was because we never had them wiped out during the era of Borders and B&N domination. We’re also a rural state with small cities and towns, and one thing I’ve noticed is that successful indies seem to be the ones that best reflect the unique characters of their communities. For instance, if you have a bookstore in a seasonal coastal town that empties our in the winter, it doesn’t matter if you want to make it a year-round community center. At some level, you have to accept that tourists will make up the bulk of your customers and choose books accordingly. That said, you can certainly *guide* these buyers to making better choices than some of the more shallow stuff you sometimes see. To put it in Maine terms: there are good lobster books and bad lobster books.

4. For the aspiring authors reading this who have dreams of making writing their career, how long did it take before you started earning enough money from writing to pay your bills?

 

I had written five books (and was on my third contract) and had stashed away a nice nest egg before I could make the leap. So this was five or six years into my being published. And I was still anxious! Here’s the thing most people don’t understand about being a working novelist: you are paid irregularly and you can’t always estimate how much the next check is going to be. In my case, I receive royalties twice a year. Imagine budgeting for a household on two payments a year. Now, of course, I receive other payments when I deliver a book or one is published. But I have had more than a few anxious weeks waiting for a check to arrive so I can pay the mortgage. The best thing is to have a spouse or partner with a more traditional job or income stream so you’re less vulnerable to your publisher’s bookkeeping department.

5. Continuing off that last question, is there one thing in particular that you believe got you to that point where you were paying your bills by writing?

 

I finally decided to quit my day job to write full-time — after effectively having two full-time jobs for four-plus years — when I realized I would be unable to deliver my novel on schedule unless I did so. That was my do or die moment.

6. So many libraries are struggling to keep their doors open. Either a lack of funding or lack of public interest. Do you have any advice that could help struggling libraries?

 

My own plea to libraries — and that’s all it is — is not to sacrifice print books as you embrace your new missions and destinies as information hubs and community centers. I am a great champion of libraries and librarians. I would never have become a writer without them. And I am more than sympathetic to their challenges. But I believe that libraries are our last defense against short attention spans. Print doesn’t offer instant gratification. But it offers a much deeper, life-changing form of pleasure and enrichment (e.g. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). Someone has to keep placing books into the hands of young people.

7. What steps should an author take to build their platform?

 

Platforms are overrated. What was Anthony Doerr’s platform for ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE or Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH? I guess it was that they had won praise with earlier works, but lots of acclaimed authors stumble with new books.

8. Why do you think your books are so successful?

 

I don’t KNOW why my books are successful, but I have my hopes why they might be. I try to tell good stories first and foremost. I went to Yale and majored in English at the tail end of the postmodernist era, and I still don’t understand the line of thinking that readers embrace novels to be tested, outwitted, or hocus-pocused by the brilliance of the author. Give me Robert Louis Stevenson any day. I hope that my characters seem like relatable facsimiles of actual human beings. I hope that my stories live on in readers’ inner lives in hard-to-parse ways.

9. Do you edit and proofread your own work at all or do you just write it and hand it off to an editor?

   I would distrust any author who didn’t edit and proofread his or her own work. 

 

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for more from Paul Doiron and other bestselling authors!