Hi everybody, I am happy to present the amazing author of children’s books – AJ Cosmo (that’s him on the left side). AJ has been independently publishing quality children’s books for over four years. Each story is age appropriate (1st-4th grade), has a moral (without being boring), and is affordable (because reading is for everyone.)
He will share with us some insides on his process and his inspirations. Hope you will enjoy this interview. 🙂
- So AJ, tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I inspire heart and imagination in children. My work aims to be of use by either solving a common problem for the child, such as bullying or the fear of monsters, or for the parent, such as dating as a single parent or the sacrifice of going to working. The stories seek to do all of that while still being entertaining, funny, and easy to understand. I’ve been writing and illustrating professionally for over four years now. In that time I have completed over thirty titles and sold well over a quarter of a million copies. Most of my work is available on the Amazon Kindle while a few titles are in print and for the iOS. There’s a huge cast of characters across the library, so it’s hard to pin anything down, but I always put the highest quality content out there.
- What were you like at school?
I was a lazy, above average, student. If it was taught in class I would have it memorized but any advanced level of reading or research would usually be my downfall. I found school boring and so I would often get distracted and doodle. I now recognize boredom as the mother of creativity and try to make time to be bored.
- Were you good at English?
That depended on the teacher. If the teacher valued creativity and communication- I did well: if the teacher valued grammar rules and spelling- I did poorly. I believe that language is malleable and constantly evolving, so I have no problem breaking rules in order to communicate better.
- What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I wish to continue creating and living as a working writer and to expand the worlds I have made into other mediums. I want to be of use to people and I want these characters to live on the same way that Peter Pan has lived on.
- Which writers inspire you?
Kurt Vonnegut for adults. Roald Dahl for children. Charlie Kaufmann for screenwriters. Neil Gaiman for everything else. I tend to prefer writers who tilt the status quo sideways and twist genre expectations- writers that get away with much more than they should.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
I have always written, however, the time before choosing to make it my primary means of living was filled with compromises. I would take work “for now” and write when I could. The problem with that approach, and most people take this approach, is that you rarely have time for what you want to do when you’re doing something else. There are simply too many chores to do on top of your job. If you are serious about being a writer, you have to take a leap of faith.
- Which comes first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
That depends on the piece and the author. For me, the concept usually comes first, however, concept and character are interconnected and your main character should spring from the concept. All parts of the story are interconnected, so it doesn’t really matter what piece the muse gives first.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
I spent the majority of my life so far asking permission to be a creative. I had a sense that a committee like American Idol existed that deemed people artists or everyday workers. In truth, people call themselves whatever they want and if the world agrees with their assessment- they become what they say. If you say that “someday I’ll be a writer” then you will be just that- a person waiting for tomorrow.
- Why do you write?
I write to be heard. I think a lot of authors felt marginalized early in their life and use writing as a means of expression and validation. To have someone closely read your work is to hold their attention so tight that they only listen to you. Hopefully you have something profound to tell them, because we also write to share the common truths that we don’t understand.
- So, what have you written?
I have written a lot of children’s books, over thirty, and they are surprisingly complicated. You can find a full list of them on my website. The most popular title is “The Monster That Ate My Socks.” While the book I’m most proud of (right now) is “Soaked.”
- Give me an insight into your main character of your last book. What does he/she do that is so special?
“Soaked” was my last major release and the main character of that story is Aiden Jones. Aiden is special because he stands up to fear (in this case the school bully.) Most people think about standing up. They fantasize about how they would say X if Y happened, but in reality most of us are silent. Aiden isn’t silent and on top of that considers himself a coward. He simply acts in the way he feels is right, even though he knows that doing the right thing will be the hardest thing.
- What sparked the idea for your books?
I believe most of the stories come from my own childhood and an attempt to work out deep seeded personal issues. If that’s not the source, then something that makes me laugh out loud will often be the seed- though even then I will try to add depth to it.
- How do you market your books?
It’s a constant moving target but I think most of my sales are through word of mouth. I write a blog, have a website, have a mailing list, have a large twitter base, a decent Facebook page, have done school visits, book fairs, and have even bought advertising- but if the book isn’t good it won’t move. I often wonder if marketing brings any returns at all. People love to share a hidden gem.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Experiment. Read everything you can but understand that what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. You wouldn’t sell a cake the same way you sell a car, yet people think you can apply rules for selling genre fiction to non-fiction self-help books. There is one universal truth however: “what does it do for the customer?” If your book doesn’t solve a problem for the reader, it’s useless. That includes fiction (if you can’t at the very least be entertaining, no one will buy your product.)
- What do you do to get book reviews?
I don’t do anything. If people aren’t moved to review your book, you need to take another look at your work. If you buy reviews, you have failed. If you have to beg everyone for reviews, you’ve done something wrong.
- What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a published writer?
Dedicate yourself to it. You will either spend a huge amount of energy on one book being traditionally published, or a hundred self-published books that are sort of bad- before you see any return on your investment. Remember that anyone can self-publish now, so you have to be so good that readers will pay for yours over all the content that’s available free. Make sure you are offering your best and be honest with yourself about what you are actually creating. No one starts out good and no one dies perfect, we’re all at different points along the same unending path.
- Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
You need to be decisive and persistent if you want anything from this world. When you start creating, you are no longer a customer, and we are all used to lavish treatment as a customer. Expect hardships and learn to offer more than you take.
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Visit my website at ajcosmo.com. 🙂
- Current writing projects, school visits, and persistence:
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview A. J. Cosmo, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you AJ!!! Good Luck with everything!