Interview with Marcel Heunks – an Indie Author from the Netherlands
2 september 2018
When it comes to connecting with others, nothing beats a solid interview to find out what makes a person tick and to find out more about the subject you’re interested in. Why discover everything by yourself, if someone else has already gone down that route? In this particular interview you’ll hear from Indie-author Marcel Heunks what his experiences are in writing and publishing his books.
Because this website was created by and for Indie Authors, I thought it would be a good idea to pick the brains of Indie Authors such as myself. My experience doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as others, so that is why I posted a message on Facebook in order to connect with other Indies and ask them lots of questions.
The Dutch Marcel Heunks, self-published author of Justin and the Tree of Origin, responded enthusiastically. I asked him about his experiences as an Indie Author and his thoughts on where the road for an Indie Author might lead to.
Here’s the interview!
Marcel: “My name is Marcel Heunks, I’m 47 years old and I live with my family in Maarssen, in the Netherlands. Besides writing, I teach Dutch, Calculus and Ethics at the ROC in Amsterdam. Unlike most writers, I can write everywhere and any time. I don’t need silence or a spot somewhere in the attic. I mostly write in the living room, preferably when my wife and children are busy watching television, playing or making their homework. I am convinced that you have to write to gain inspiration, not the other way around, no matter where you are and what you do. Just sit and write and not sit and wait. That’s not going to work. Sometimes I write a whole morning and sometimes it’s just for half an hour. It depends on the circumstances, how fast I’m distracted, and how intense the writing is.”
Marcel: “It was on one of those typical rainy Sunday afternoons, I think about five years ago. At that moment I worked as an educational manager and I thought it would be useful to blog about my experiences and maybe throw in a lesson here and there. A few months later I discovered that blogging with a sense of humour about everyday life experiences was much more fun.”
Marcel: “At the beginning of my son’s seventh grade schoolyear, his teacher asked me if I wanted to give a workshop in creative writing for children. I thought this would be fun, so I said ‘yes’. At that point I hadn’t had any experience in writing for children so I thought it was better to gain some experience in that before teaching them about writing. So I practiced writing children’s stories first. A few months later, after the workshop, I thought: I should write a long story for children. As soon as I started writing, I was mesmerized because within four months the first version of Justin and the Tree of Origin (Original Dutch title: Justin en de boom van oorsprong), was ready.”
Marcel: “From the start, I was convinced I should self-publish my book. There were two reasons for that. The first one being that the experience of many, many (debut) authors is that once you have send your manuscript to a publisher you either end up on the slush-pile. or when you do hear something, it at least takes months to get a reply. I didn’t want that because I am too impatient. The second reason is that I like to sit in the driver’s seat. When I self-publish I make every decision and I like that. Okay, the other side of the coin, of course, is that I had to do everything by myself. I had to search for an editor, a printer, a graphical designer etcetera, and invest my own savings into the book. But to me, it was all worth it.”
Marcel: “In my opinion, that’s one of the most difficult parts of self-publishing your book. How do you get your book under the attention of your potential readers? For instance, I visit as many primary schools as I can to introduce my books to the children and their teachers. I think it helps when they see my face. During those visits I tell about writing, children ask questions and I read a passage from my book. My precondition for a school visit is that the school pays my travel costs and buys two of my books for the school’s library. Besides that, I use social media, most of the time Facebook where I find my buyers; moms. In addition, on Facebook there are many special interest groups, for instance groups for children’s books, book promotion and self-pubbers. Also important in promoting is my own network. My family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances; they all hear about my books from me. From this group you mostly get the goodwill factor. They buy your book and promote you and your book. During my writing process I blogged on a regularly basis about writing a children’s book, and my struggles, insights and happy moments. I published them of course on my own website, but also on social media. Over time, I learned what works for me (and what doesn’t work), but I am still learning every day.”
Marcel: “Actually, there are two things. First of all, my readers tell me they really enjoyed my book. One time, a young girl told me she couldn’t stop reading and she went on until midnight that evening. Secondly, and this is an enormous acknowledgement, in 2017 I won an award in the Dutch Indie Awards. These awards were given in a number of categories and I won in the category Best Cover. The cover was made by designer Yasmine Medjadji.”
Marcel: “There are several things, so I can’t only mention one important thing. I restrict myself to my three most important lessons:
Being an Indie-author is fun, because you decide everything yourself and you are really independent;
Book promotion is at least as important as the writing itself;
Indie-authors aren’t always taken seriously, especially by book stores, book reviewers and traditional publishers (which I think is a pity).”
Marcel: “Currently I am working on the sequel of Justin and the Tree of Origin. The story follows Justin and his battle against a dangerous giant gnome called Vilinius, who has magical skills. And it also includes a book called Fall out spells. The title of the second book is Justin and the bookkeeper (Original Dutch title is: Justin en de boekbewaarder) and will be on the market as of the 1st of November 2018. After his adventure in the first book, Justin finds out more about the meaning of the book Fall out spells. He loses this book, but his opponent doesn’t have the book either. What follows is a race against the clock to find this book, but the story’s also about the search into the roots of his late mother. Together with his friends Marinda, Naomi and tittle-tattle-rabbit Archibald he has to battle against Vilinius to save the book, himself and his friends.”
Marcel: “Rubbish. Firstly, because more and more writers choose to become an Indie-author. They don’t even think about presenting their work to a traditional publisher. Secondly, because the quality of a book is decided by the public. The public doesn’t care if the writer is an Indie or not. And lastly, because it’s the arrogance of reviewers and traditional publishers that only the books published in ‘their little world’ are worth reading. I couldn’t disagree more. Everybody knows books, published by traditional publishers, that are not worth reading at all.”
Marcel: “In five years’ time, the Indie-author is just like any other author an important player in the book market. He’s taken seriously by reviewers, book stores and libraries. It’s completely accepted that there are more ways to publishing a book besides the traditional route. Both worlds go hand in hand in promoting beautiful books.”
Marcel: “Deep down, do you, as an Indie Author, cherish the dream that one day you’ll be acknowledged by a traditional publisher? And my answer to that would be: I’m not sure, that’s why I chose this question. I’m curious. In the end, I think I’d rather like to be acknowledged by the big audience.”
Thank you Marcel, for your time and sharing your experiences as an Indie Author. Good luck with your books!
Petra is a published Indie author. She’s been writing all her life, but only dared to publish a book when she started writing the Somnia Series. She’s a motivational coach for (Fantasy) writers, offers all kinds of services on her own Dutch platform www.fantasyschrijfcoaching.nl, and uses her author’s website to help other writers achieve their writing goals. She loves using her platform to promote other Indie Authors who have the courage and determination to make their books worth your (reading) time.