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steveouchI met author-illustrator Steve Ouch on Twitter several weeks ago and was immediately impressed by his 5,000 followers. (Which has now topped 10,000.) Just who is this guy? Why had I never heard of his book SteamPotVille?

The easy answer is that Steve wrote, illustrated, and published SteamPotVille himself. And now he’s a one-man marketing juggernaut, making connections with parents, teachers and fellow writers through social media.

Smart? You bet. His book, released in early January, already garnered 19 five-star reviews on Amazon. The word-of-mouth is spreading…and spreading fast.

Fascinated by his approach, I had to learn more about Steve and his creation.

SteamPotVille is a topsy-turvy romp through a fantastical dreamland. The  illustrations feature animals in impossible situations–a lion riding a pony, a monkey swinging from a straw–created by photomontage. Steve, one has to wonder, what came first? The pictures or the text?

The text came first. Just as in the development of a movie, I changed some of the script as images came to life. Each page has about 150 hours of illustration time. When you spend that much time on one piece, the characters start their improvisations. Adjusting the text to express this phenomena makes the book a better read. That’s a flexibility that comes with being the author and the illustrator.

steampotvillecoverWow! 150 hours! Truly a labor of love. And that shows not only through your elaborate, whimsical illustrations, but in the way you’re marketing SteamPotVille via social media.

Can you tell us why you decided to release your book as an independent title? Did you have a viral marketing campaign in mind all along?

I did a logic problem and this is what I discovered:

a. I shouldn’t spend all my time looking for an agent and a publisher when I could be trying to make money selling books.

b. By enacting my own campaign and getting the book viewed, I’m doing a service to a publisher by testing how the product will be received on the market.

c. Once SteamPotVille is established then I can meet with publishers for wider/deeper distribution. I like the idea of getting things done. It’s really taxing to forge new paths all the time, but that’s life. As far as a viral campaign: I don’t see it as a campaign but more of an ongoing experiment. 

And you’re definitely getting things done. How did you attract so many Twitter followers? What other kind of online promotion have you been involved in?

twitterfollowTwitter is parallel to human society. All of the general rules of socializing apply to this medium, so I get out there and socialize. The more I do it, the more popular I become.

Online I’m trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most cousins on FaceBook (add me as a friend and I will make you my cousin). That’s a slow and long term promotion. The other promotions happening at the moment are my inefficiency campaign and sending bottles of the Internet to people who can’t get access.

Ha! And let’s not forget about blog interviews!

Some may call you brilliant and yet others might be cynical about your publisher-come-to-Mohammed approach. What do you have to say to the skeptics?

:chuckle: I wonder if Mohammad had a hard time finding a publisher? That would be a fun story.

I never place judgment on what others choose to do for themselves. Each of us have our own path to go down. I am not saying that mine is the best nor is it right. I am just doing what seems to be right for me for the time. Whether it works to deliver SteamPotVille in the right hands will be like a bad mini-series (to be continued). For now though, I am enjoying the opportunities to chit-chat with people like you and that makes me happy enough.

Thanks, Steve. No wonder you’re so popular!

Can you tell us a little about your photomontage process? How do you start illustrating a spread? Do you make a rough sketch first, or does it all come together on the computer screen?

I spend time breaking apart a scene I have developed in my head, then I rough it out on paper. Next, I take pictures and apply them to the layout on my Mac, over and over, until I feel like the image is strong enough to stand on its own. 

Are you working on another book now?

I finished writing my next work. I hope to get started on the montage at the end of the year.

Have you approached traditional booksellers about carrying your title? Will be you making any appearances to promote your book?

I have yet to approach any traditional booksellers, know any buyers? Speaking of, anyone who would like to get my book into any store or chain, I would offer a commission of the sale.

I plan on doing a book tour this summer/fall! If it happens, it will be pretty interactive from a web perspective. 😉 

What advice do you have for other authors who are interested in publishing and marketing their own title? Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

I would advise anyone who is going to setup their book “indie style” to begin marketing your book before you are done. I wish I knew that one.

I think that’s good advice for any author. Thanks, Steve! Good luck with your books!

Check out SteamPotVille and follow Steve Ouch on Twitter for his book updates.

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