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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT

Ingenious Marketing Strategy Launches Xlibris Author's Debut Novel

An author's journey does not stop once a book has been written and published. For authors who want to become successful and have their book widely read, it is just the beginning. This is especially true for an unknown, first-time, self-published author. The hard work comes in getting your book out to your readers and marketing it successfully.

Martin Skogsbeck's debut novel, Destructive Interference, was recently released through Xlibris. He has also designed an ingenious way of combining his love for the works of Edgar Allan Poe with his penchant for puzzle-solving to produce an innovative book marketing strategy that we think all of his fellow authors should hear about.

The Origins of the Poe Competition

The Poe Competition was born years before Skogsbeck even considered writing Destructive Interference, "a psychological drama that includes many of Poe's attributes—mystery, horror, tragic love [and] paranormal events." It all started with his mother sending an eleven-year-old Skogsbeck from Sweden to attend boarding school in England.

"At first I was a bit lost—I knew only Swedish. But at that age, you pick up foreign languages quickly, and within a few weeks I was doing fine. When back in Sweden, I was looking for things to read in my new language, and someone gave me a book with a collection of Poe's tales and poems. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair. Before long, I made the rounds of the Stockholm bookstores and antiquaries and put together a small Poe library. I read and reread most of what he had written and learned several of his poems by heart."

So what was it about Poe's works that so enthralled the young Skogsbeck and continues to draw him back to them again and again as an adult?

"It's like an invigorating morning walk in a dense forest of tall, somber trees," he says. "To me, writing fiction is a craft where language is the material and imagination and creativity the tools. Edgar Allan Poe's writing epitomizes classic fiction. It is ‘pure' in the sense that all you read is the product of his extraordinary imagination. And in terms of his language, it remains a bottomless source of inspiration."

It is little wonder then that when Skogsbeck sat down to write Destructive Interference, "those childhood memories of [his] first encounter with Poe came rushing back." As an experiment, he tried incorporating some of Poe's style into his own writing.

"For the fun of it, I threw in a phrase from one of his stories. It looked great in the text! A chapter or so later, I added another hidden reference to him."

So What Exactly Does the Poe Competition Entail?

Skogsbeck has planted nine "Poe Clues" within Destructive Interference's text. His challenge to fellow puzzle enthusiasts and Poe aficionados is to read the book and identify all nine of these references. The first three readers to successfully answer all nine correctly and submit them to the competition's website will each win a prize of $2,000. The winners will be announced on January 19, 2013—Poe's 204th birthday.

How Confident Is Skogsbeck That Readers Will Be Able to Decipher His Clues?

"You have to be quite familiar with Poe's writing and have a penchant for solving puzzles and quizzes to get there. Would I find the clues myself if I didn't know about them? I think I would, and if I can do it, I'd be surprised if there aren't a number of other Poe fans out there that can do it as well! But your question is a good one—we'll know by January 19 next year!"

Skogsbeck goes on to say, "You don't do puzzles if you don't want people to solve them, and I would be delighted if the competition attracts attention to the book within the global Poe community. To be perfectly honest, it is with some trepidation that I await the judgment of this group of readers. They are, by definition, well versed in the work of—in my mind—one of the best mystery fiction writers of all time. I hope my modest contribution to the genre will entertain them even if they don't manage to find all the clues!"

About His Book Destructive Interference

One Amazon reviewer describes reading Destructive Interference as like "galloping across the cultures of France, Sweden, Japan, China, the USA." This comes as little surprise as Skogsbeck is an extremely well-traveled individual.

"Being a Swede, writing in English and living in France, it is perhaps not surprising that my first novel has broad geographical coverage. As I mentioned above, I attended school in England. At twenty-three, I went to the US and did my postgraduate studies with an MBA from Harvard. And I have spent almost all of my ‘pre-author' adult life working with American companies out of a Paris base.

"My wife and I are very fond of Japan and its culture; we have traveled extensively across the country and have a number of friends there. In fact, she is the tea master mentioned in the acknowledgments section of the book.

"I have always enjoyed living at the crossroads of different cultures. Somehow, the people there offer more of themselves and are engaged and open-minded. It was therefore natural for me to try to create a similar, multicultural ambiance in Destructive Interference. As my readers will notice, I allow myself to tease the different nationalities a little on their respective idiosyncrasies. I hope everyone will take this in the goodhearted spirit it is offered!"

Two of the book's protagonists, Gustav and Redan, are to some extent also drawn from Skogsbeck's own life.

"Take Gustav, for example. His persona is an amalgamation of fictitious elements and real life individuals: our son (who is a surgeon in Sweden), his physician friends, my father, who was a gifted amateur pianist, etc. Redan also represents a mix of people, including a bit of myself for that matter."

Skogsbeck's Xlibris Publishing Experience

Skogsberg had this to say about his experiences working with Xlibris while publishing Destructive Interference:

"This is my first novel and I have no prior experience with self-publishing. I have had the good fortune of being assisted by my media agent, Marianne Nicoloso, but she is also new to the book publishing world. Marianne has been involved in the editing and taken the lead in dealing with all the administrative and logistic issues involved in the publishing process. Right now, she is giving me valuable support in the marketing of Destructive Interference, including, of course, with The Poe Competition.

"Up front, we were in contact with several self-publishing organizations and ended up short-listing Xlibris and Amazon. The choice of Xlibris was due to better ‘chemistry' with our initial contact and an attractive, year-end promotion by Xlibris on the price of their publishing packages.

"I should add that Xlibris have given their enthusiastic support to our idea of the Poe Competition and are involved in making it happen."

Skogsbeck's Advice to Aspiring Authors Considering Self-Publishing

There are three essential areas to consider when choosing a self-publishing company, according to Skogsbeck.

"1. Compare several self-publishing houses before you decide with whom to work.

"2. Look carefully at a number of books you like the appearance of to get ideas for cover design, type face, text layout, etc.

"3. Take the time to have several meticulous friends read through your manuscript for editorial suggestions and typos before you give the final OK for printing. Don't be in a rush."

He also offers these words of advice from Mario Vargas Llosa: "Writing fiction is the best thing there is because absolutely everything is possible!"

Future Book Projects

Fortunately, Skogsbeck has caught the writing bug. He left us with a teaser of what we can expect from his next book.

"The most rewarding part of the Destructive Interference experience has been that I have discovered that I really like writing! The book I am working on now is quite different. Certainly fiction, but fiction in seventeenth-century Europe with some imaginary characters and some very real!"