Our latest guest is Jaka Tomc, a writer and publisher, who takes both writing and publishing extremely serious. In a short period of time he has written and published quite a few novels (The Story of David Locke, Manic Poet, Dandy Dildo, Bubble Popping and his latest, 720 Heartbeats has recently been released on Amazon in English). Visit his website, but most important – buy his books.
Hi, Jaka. What would Jaka Tomc tell us about Jaka Tomc?
That I’ve known him for 38 years and still haven’t completely figure him out.
Writing is more than pleasure to you. You seem to view the work as a mission right from the beginning?
Maybe. I still enjoy writing immensely. If I ever stop enjoying it and start seeing it solely as work, it will probably show. I see writing as an important part of my life. When I started writing my first book, I knew it wasn’t only a pretence, I felt I was being me. I got back 20 years, right when I wanted to write my first story as a kid. I remembered my high school period, when I used to get straight As and praise from the teacher. A lot of time had passed before I got the courage and started writing seriously. But it was worth it.
You’ve gathered quite a few interesting Slovenian authors – how do you usually get in contact with them?
They’ve usually contacted my publishing house or me directly. A known author does promise bigger sales and recognizability of our publishing house, but we have standards we don’t compromise. Each and every book we put out there, is of the highest quality. There are many authoresses and authors and every one of them thinks they are good. But the truth is – just as in any field – everyone cannot be good.
What about Slovenian reading (and buying) habits?
We have many regular readers in Slovenia. On the other hand, there are about half of people who do not read at all. On average this would not be that bad. The quarter of inhabitants are library members, which is half a million people. I don’t think that’s bad. Buying books is another story. Some bookshops are closing. Some add items to their line that have nothing to do with books. Plus many books are too expensive for an average Slovenian. He’ll think three times before giving €30 for a Slovenian book, when he can get three foreign authors’ books for the same amount of money. Then there are eBooks which generally cost a couple of euros. As a publisher I’m aware that you can’t survive if you publish books and sell them for five euros.
What is your experience with Amazon? Your last book has been released in an excellent English translation and you tackled the project more than seriously.
When I decided to release the translation of 720 Heartbeats on Amazon, I knew it would be hard, My expectations are high as I intend to sell 100.000 copies, but I’m aware that this is a marathon. The biggest challenge is to stand out in millions of books on Amazon. I’ve read somewhere that every week 20.000 eBooks are published. Most of the authors never manage to sell more than a couple of copies. Amazon is an extremely high and difficult mountain and not many get atop of it. But they do offer you a chance to do it.
Have you ever thought of writing for theater, film and TV? 720 Heartbeats is pretty filmic.
You’re not the first to tell me that. If I got the opportunity to write a script, I’d do it. If someone would write a script based upon one of my books, I’d take the offer. Life constantly offers you new opportunities. We recognize some of them and seize them, some not. Theatrical play, film or series would be something new to me but I’d be happy to work on such projects.
How important is Social Media to promote your work and network with your readers?
I’ve built my „career“ on Social Media. Maybe I could succeed without it, because I believe in quality of my work, but it would’ve been a lot harder. Nowadays you can connect not only with readers but with other writers, publishers, book bloggers. The world has become smaller and more accessible. You can literally tell the whole Slovenia you have launched a new book with just a couple of clicks. If you use them moderately, Social Media can be invaluable.
Do you have any method or ritual to get your creative juices flowing?
Coffee and cigarettes. (Laughs.) Actually I do have a pack of cigarettes and a drink with me when I write. It can be water or coffee, tea, wine or anything. When writing, „mini-breaks“ are very important. There are moments when you can knock two pages without a pause, and others when you write one sentence at a time. You tend to stare into distance between those sentences, have a sip or drag a smoke. And then get back to writing. During these breaks you might get great ideas, that’s why they are so important.
Do you start writing when you have outlined the plot in your head or do you allow the story and character to develop as you go?
I need at least an initial idea of the story. Then usually a core happening forms in my head, and most of the time the ending too. Anything else develops as I go. I’m not the kind of writer who has the plot all figured out. I’m not the kind of writer who writes single parts of the story and then puts them together. I might be good at it but I just haven’t tried yet. I write the story from the beginning to the end and develop characters and relationships between them on the fly. I don’t assert this is the best way, but it works for me. For now.
If you didn’t write, what would you be doing?
I was a journalist in the past, I worked on European projects, I had a crack at HR, and now I’m in accounting and publishing. It’s the writing I feel fulfilled and I never dreamed of being anything else. Well, as a kid I used to say I’d like to study pandas, so that’s what I’d probably be doing.
Your future plans?
I mentioned already that I’m trying to sell 100.000 copies of my book. This is one plan for the future that does not seem unrealistic to me. I wish I make it abroad. Okay, I haven’t said my last words here in Slovenia and I don’t intend to neglect my loyal readers here. Because I don’t have any long-term plans, I’d say my most important goal for the next year is to write another hit.
Who are your literary heroes here and abroad?
To me anyone who dares to write and publish a book is a hero. Not everyone can make it, that’s a brutal fact, but if you don’t try you’ll never know how good you are. We always expose those who have succeeded, so I’d like to congratulate those who haven’t. For being brave and for daring to follow their dreams. This to me is worth much more than money and fame.
I you met a young writer who had just started to write, what advice would you give?
Don’t get scared of the first rejection. We know many stories of authors who got rejected dozens of times and are world-famous today. Rejections are part of the business and you’d better get used to them and try to make the most out of them. Once again, not everyone is made to be a writer, some are but they give up too soon, which is a shame.