Mark Tufo Interview
Month of the Living Dead (aka October) featured two novels by independent novelist Mark Tufo – a former Marine turned regular working man who took his life experiences, a few what-if scenarios, and created the Zombie Fallout series. Just before September was out, Mark and I sat down over a steaming bowl of MSN (and in my case an ice cold water) and discussed his series, the inspiration behind it, and some of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of working in the independent marketplace. And here is where I also feel a bit crap for critiquing in a harsh manner.
So first of all, would you like to tell the boys and girls about yourself?
Um, sure unlike my main character I will try to keep this short. I grew up in a blue-collar family, joined the Marine Corps and when I got out I wanted to “move on up” to the white-collar field so I went back to school. The damn thing about the white-collar world was I kept finding myself getting laid off. My last lay-off was the reason I wrote Zombie Fallout at all.
Now, what instantly drew me to the first Zombie Fallout novel was the opening narration involving a timeline of the events up until the dead walk. Was this the first piece of the novel you wrote or did it come about as you were writing it?
That was one of the few pieces that I had actually thought about before I decided to write a book (yeah that’s a whole other interview). Just kind of lying in bed going through the whole ‘What If’ scenarios.
What was the process for hiring an editor like? Did you have other people proofread your books beforehand?
My first BIGGEST mistake was thinking that myself and my wife could edit. Then I had my brother proofread, he was an English major, but he had ideas for a very different story. Actually had a fan say that she would like to proofread my books, she said she’d do the first one for free. And I can honestly say Mo Happy has been an awesome editor for me. I would not recommend anyone publishing without having some sort of professional help. And not THAT kind of help, although I could probably use a few sessions.
In order to make in this business, you have to be a bit off the meds, I think. As an independent writer, what sort of things do you need to manage in terms of distribution and advertisement?
Man my wife has been a huge asset. It’s a full time job for the both of us. She’s responsible for the marketing and distribution and I pretty much stick with the writing and formatting. Twitter and obviously Facebook have been great vehicles to promote the books, as have been awesome bloggers like yourself.
So word-of-mouth (or in this case, tweet-of-site) and reviews are vital to getting people to notice your work?
Advertising is mostly word-of-mouth considering I have an operating budget of about 17 bucks. So reviews and word-of-mouth are huge, man. My readers have been great, they always leave reviews and they are always willing to let those around them know about the books. Reviews have been a key element, without them, you can’t get folks to take the plunge with their hard-earned money, and I can’t blame them.
What sort of support (if any) do you find in the independent community? Are other writers quick to advertise or offer tips to newcomers?
There are some who are willing to bend over backwards to help out, but I think others are just so busy with their own works that is very difficult to help. But if you post on writers’ boards, which I belong to a few of, you will always get responses.
So most of the support comes from the online community?
Yeah for me it has to, I moved to the STICKS! The online community is the way of the indie author for sure.
You’ve mentioned earlier that your wife has been a huge asset and support to you, and one of the most defining characteristics for Mike is that he is so loyal to his family and puts them before any of his own needs. I imagine much of that comes from your own values.
Yeah early Mike was definitely developed with some of my values. You write what you know.
Do you still have hopes of getting it approved by a major publisher, or do you feel comfortable in the indie niche?
Yeah I still have hopes, I look to previous indies like Rhiannon Frater and Amanda Hocking, I mean obviously they are huge successes but I would still, I guess, like the validation of it although the indie market has been a life changer for me.
Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers with respects to going indie or even submitting?
I strongly suggest the indie route. Huge publishers are taking fewer and fewer risks with new authors they are almost single handedly making the indie market grow exponentially. Best advice I could offer to an aspiring writer is to make sure the product they put out there is the best possible. Readers will absolutely let you know if you have put out a sub-par product, just check out my early reviews before I got ZF1 edited. Friends and family aren’t necessarily the best folks to proofread work they will almost never let you know what they truly think about your work.
So at the moment, indie would be what you consider is the way to go, but make sure your product is the best out there?
Readers will rain all over your parade if they spend their money on what they think is an inferior product no matter the price you’re selling at. I know it’s difficult especially at first to shell out the money for editing, but if someone is serious about writing it’s the way to go.
It may not provoke questions or be something that’ll be studied in school, but Zombie Fallout is entertaining and that at the end of the day is what writing is supposed to be.
Yeah never hinted that I’m Shakespeare, just a guy that loves zombie stories.
Mark Tufo’s latest novel, Zombie Fallout Part 4: After the End is out now.