Interview with Gini Koch
By Saul Garnell
June 6th 2012
For those who don’t yet know her, Gini Koch is a hot new author who writes the fast fresh and funny ALIEN/KATHERINE “KITTY” KATT series for DAW Books, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. As G.J. Koch, she’s written ALEXANDER OUTLAND: SPACE PIRATE, which released June 5 from Night Shade Books. I met Gini for the first time at Leprecon38 (see previous article), and ran into her again at Phoenix Comicon which took place during the Memorial Day Weekend at the Phoenix Convention Center. It was wonderful meeting up with her again, and because Gini was very active throughout the con — having participated on many panels — I asked her to share her thoughts on the whole experience from an author’s point of view. A week after the con ended, Gini was gracious enough to grant me the following interview.
Gini Koch: My overall impression of Phoenix Comicon is that it was awesome. I think it’s the best con I go to all year, and that includes San Diego Comic-Con. The reason I like it so much is that it’s big enough that you get a lot of people there; you can meet a lot of existing fans, and meet new ones, too. Yet it’s not so huge that no one can find you, and you don’t get lost just walking around. (laughter)
SG: And what about the panels? How many were you on?
GH: As an author I got a lot of panels, which is great because that’s where you really get to meet new people. The con also gives authors like myself a table, which ends up being our payment for being participants. Most of the time, authors don’t get paid to attend cons. Other than the Guest of Honor, most authors attend on their own dime, so it’s very nice of the committee to provide a table in author’s alley [inside the exhibit hall]. For me, it’s just huge, and makes this con a real favorite.
SG: What’s your primary goal when you attend cons like this?
GK: Let me break this question up. I want to meet existing fans, and I really want to connect with new fans. For me, the big benefit is meeting people, in a way that I just can’t do by sitting at home and using social media. Also, as all my fans know, I just love to run my “yap”. So getting the opportunity to be on panels and run the yap live is always fun. I’m not afraid of public speaking, I’m one of those people who actually enjoys it. Plus at cons you get to see people that you don’t normally see anywhere else. A lot of my author friends and I see each other only at cons because we’re all busy and not necessarily located right next to each other. So yeah, my primary goal is to meet fans and make new ones, and hopefully sell some books.
SG: Some authors shun cons because they don’t feel they’re worthwhile. What’s your take on that?
GK: You know… (laughter) I think that someone shunning a con is probably not going to the right cons, or isn’t working them properly. I think if you go there to make friends and have a good time, get introduced to people as a side aspect to your work, then I think cons are very worthwhile.
SG: And what about the upheaval in the publishing world, has that changed the equation on that?
GK: Well…the upheaval in the publishing world I think makes going to cons even more important: not less. I think that’s even more true for those authors who are only self published. How else are you going to find people that can become your advocates, that love your books, and love you so much that they decide to support you as an author? I think cons which allow authors and readers to interact have become vitally important in that respect.
GK: Well let’s see. (laugher) I would say my favorite panel had to be Evening Erotica that I did with Jordan Summers, because we played the Euphemism Game. We had a really packed house and a great audience. We were giving away a lot of prizes for the best euphemism that described the act, and the naughty bits (laughter). That was probably my favorite. There were also some other great ones like the humor panel. You know, I had eight panels — they were all great and I really enjoyed all of them. Marsheila Rockwell and I were on a critique panel where aspiring authors came up and read from their works. Honestly? You go into those kind of things having no idea what you were going to get, dreading that they were going to be awful. But you know? They were all really, really good! And even those that needed a bit more work were still all quite good, so it made me so happy because I think we’re going to hear from a crop of new voices coming up sooner than we think. That was a pleasant surprise, because we were really dreading…(laughter) what that could have been. But in the end, what can I say? It was awesome.
SG: Was it too big a con, and do you feel you had enough time for each fan?
GK: I don’t think it was too big, but I go regularly to San Diego Comic-Con. Where it’s, oh let’s say you and about 120 to 160 thousand of your nearest and dearest. My first panel as a published author was in San Diego in 2010. It was one of the things that got me very excited to be there. It was huge! I got to meet authors, but I really didn’t interact with many fans due to its size. That’s changed a little, but by comparison — Phoenix Comicon? Its awesome! Perfect size, and even if it gets a little bigger it will still be great because you want it busy. Honestly, I like the fact that there were lots of people that come through. Now I did miss some fans because I was on panels while they were in the exhibit hall. But that happens at every large con, so that wasn’t that big an issue. I did get to meet and talk with more people than last year, and this being my second year at Phoenix Comicon, I can say it was incredibly well run. Better than last year. We had plenty of traffic and thankfully we got lots people in costumes to come by, though they didn’t do that so much last year even though we begged them. I would put the costumes we had here in Phoenix up against San Diego. We might be a smaller con, but for those who came in costume, we’re just as good!
SG: As you recall, we met at Leprecon38 in Phoenix. How does Phoenix Comicon compare to a smaller con like that?
GK: I try to look at them differently because they have different impacts from a business perspective. Leprecon being very small, was a lot of fun because I got to hang out with people like you and also with some other people that I had never met, or don’t get to see all the time. Regarding fans, the amount of time I had with them was about the same. Obviously the dealer room was small, and I didn’t have a table. So, there wasn’t a place for fans to find me other than the panels. Still, I made the best of it and had a good time.
SG: Do you wish your publishers would help support the cost of going to cons, or is it just reality that writers should pick up the cost of promotion?
GK: Every author wishes their publisher would help, believe me. Sadly, the way it works is that if you don’t need the marketing support, they give it to you, and visa versa. It’s the 80/20 rule. If a publisher gets 80% of their money from Stephen King, then they’re going to give him 80% of their marketing budget. Even though, as a former marketing professional, it would be smarter if they gave money to those of us who are not as high up the food chain. Just let Stephen King put out another book and have his millions and millions of fans flock to buy it. That said, it’s not going to happen. At cons, Guests of Honor get paid and are covered by the convention. Now, there are cases out there where a publisher will pay to bring an author to a convention, but it’s very rare. None of us should expect that kind of thing. It’s a boon, it’s a gift if it does happen. (laughter) Would I love it? Of course. I spend a lot of money going to cons, and everyone should understand that authors are not paid to show up. Usually, what the con pays for is our entry fee, and that’s it. If we want a table, usually we have to pay for it. No hotel, meals, travel, and it ends up being quite costly. So as an author, you do need to pick your cons very carefully. I’ve been very lucky so far, and I’ve picked very wisely. Phoenix Comicon as far as I’m concerned is absolutely the best value because as I said before, they give me a table, lots of panels, and it’s an opportunity to sell some things so I can hope to make a little money during my time there. For me, it’s a perfect storm.
SG: Talking about publishers, what’s your feeling about all the changes going on in publishing. Is trade publishing a dinosaur like some say?
GK: It’s funny, and it cracks me up because people have been foretelling the death of print since Gutenberg built the printing press. So I don’t think traditional publishing is dying. In an interesting way, when my first book — Touched By An Alien — was coming out, nobody, and I do mean nobody out there asked me who I was published by. Readers were just excited for me, and asked questions like “what’s it about”. I’d show them postcards I had made of the cover and they’d get very excited. Now however, during a flight to the Jambalaya Writer’s Conference in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana — they paid to have me come to their conference, they run a fabulous con, and I just love them (laughter) — there were three passengers on the plane not going to see the Final Four, and I got into a discussion with one man sitting next to me who asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a writer and his immediate response was: “Oh so who’s your publisher?” This man worked in green air-conditioning and was not someone who knew anything about publishing. When I told him I was published by DAW who is distributed by Penguin he then said: “Oh okay, I see you’re with a real publisher.” It was one of those things that was a big wake up call, and I get that question all the time now. Readers are suspicious.
SG: So I guess you’re pretty down on self-publishing?
GK: No, I’m not dissing self-publishing, but I’ve got to be very honest and say that if someone has written their first book and typed the ending and throws it up on the internet: it’s not ready. I guarantee it’s not ready. I’ve been writing a long time now and I’ve worked with a lot of writers, so I know that for a fact.
If you look at the reading public and treat them as consumers, which we all are — and here’s the marketing side of me coming out right now — you can only fool them so long and make them feel ripped off until they stop. Every consumer has a limit: it’s a dollar limit, an hours limit, or it’s a number of tries limit. As soon as they hit that limit, where for example they’ve read three self-published books which they thought were awful in terms of everything: no plotting, no story, no punctuation. It then doesn’t matter if you’ve written the best book in the world. If they’ve already hit that limit, they’re not touching yours. The dreck that’s out there has really harmed many of the self published authors. I know many who are really good, making great books. Those writers are being harmed much more than I will ever be. They can’t touch me because I’m with a traditional publisher. My Alexander Outland series is with Night Shade Books, a small press but a traditional small press. My eBooks are with Musa Publishing, an eBook publisher which again is an eBook publisher that provides me with important things. Things like editing, covers…all these things that help me stand out from the pack, I get that from my publishers.
So I don’t think traditional publishing is going anywhere. In fact, I think the glut of self-publishing is going to make the role of traditional publishing more important. The issue is the eBook channel, and I wish to stress that it really is just a channel. It is not the new wave of the future. It is only a wave of the future. But it is not the be-all and end-all. That channel needs to be supported. Those who talk about the death of print tend to be ePublished only and have no expectation of ever being anything but ePublished. They want print to die to prove that they’re right. I don’t believe print is going to die, certainly not in the next decade. Do I think the market could consolidate again? Certainly. You know, will we see some of the imprints die? Yeah, unfortunately. Look at Dorchester, they’ve gone all eBook and are looking like the next one to go. Triskelion is already gone. They represent the poorly run, the ones who took the wrong chances, the ones who weren’t prepared for market changes, like Borders. That happens in business regularly and publishing is a normal business. But as for the death of traditional publishing, I don’t see that yet. It’s still the best gatekeeper out there. Are they right 100% of the time? No! Absolutely not. No one is right 100% of the time. The difference is that you can normally trust something that has come out from Penguin Books, that it has been edited, has been reviewed, that someone has given some attention to the cover, and so on and so forth. The readers care about that, and they’re the most forgiving people in the publisher’s food chain. But even they have limits. And when you reach those limits and the readers have too many bad experiences — and that’s true with an author as well, if they don’t like what you’ve written they won’t pick you up anymore. Self publishing has that problem. So in the end I see the dinosaur sleeking itself down a bit, but not necessarily going away.
SG: Now is a chance for you to talk about something that you want to address: fire away!
GK: That all said, I am going to be entering into self publishing. And you — you Saul, my friend — are getting the scoop on that. I don’t know when this article is coming out so maybe this will be old news when everyone reads this, but I’m actually going to take a title and self publish it. I feel that I have a large enough fan base that I can do that without having to kill myself with the marketing side. And I’m also very excited about the title, it’s something my fans have been asking about for quite some time, and I just feel the time is right to give it a try. I don’t feel that I lose anything by this because I do have my fan base which I love and adore — hugs and smootchies to all you who are reading this! (laughter). I’m being very careful, treating this just as if it was going through a New York publisher. It’s being carefully edited, we’re focused on the cover, making sure the cover looks as much like a Big Six cover as possible. It will be available in both print and eBook versions because I have a large mass market base, so most of my fans are used to holding a physical book. It’s going to be interesting, I’m calling this the Grand Experiment and we’ll see how it goes. I am a business woman first and an author second, so I look at the situation like this: I have a title with the Big Six, small press, and with eBook only. Now I’ll have my own self-published title and see how things go.
SG: What’s the title?
GK: I’m not announcing the title just yet because….I’m not going to give you that much of a scoop! (laughter). But I don’t know when this interview will go live so just in case it comes out soon before the title is ready, I think it’s better not to give that away yet. But you — you Saul — have the first scoop and it’s coming soon!
For more information on Gini and her books, please see the following links:
Saul Garnell lives in Arizona, and publishes science fiction with Hotspur Publishing. Saul debuts with Freedom Club, a speculative fiction novel in the near future and is currently working on his next novel, a comedy Military SF to be published by Hotspur later this year.