Peter Besson’s e-book The Last Checkout is the Grand Prize winner of the 6th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards. The entry was selected among over 580 other e-books to capture the title. His prizes include $5,000 and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. For a complete list of 2018 Self-Published e-Book Awards winners, visit this page.
The dystopian book tells the story of two lovers in post-apocalyptic world, where resources are running out and suicide is encouraged by society. The lovers meet as guests at a suicide hotel, where the only way to check out is to die.
As a film school graduate, Besson has also worked on short films as well as written scripts for video games. He currently lives in Los Angeles and works as a film trailer editor for Universal Pictures. To learn more about Peter, visit his website peterbesson.com.
Can you tell me how you balance your writing life with your job?
I write whenever I can snatch a few minutes here or there, like at work when I have lunch. Everyone else usually does something else, but I write. Early in the morning and when I have time at night, I write.
It’s a struggle. I would like to write longer and more, but I need to pay the bills too. I try to write as much as I can, whether it’s 10 minutes, sometimes 15 minutes. I take my laptop everywhere, usually to sit down and write.
What is your writing process is like?
It starts with an idea. For me, I have to have some sort of understanding of what the premise is. Maybe this is coming from the elevator pitch in the film industry—I have to understand what the hook is that makes the story interesting. I do admire people that can just write about characters that are really interesting, but for me I have to understand why the world is the way it is or what the setup is.
For The Last Checkout, the impossible two lovers came together because you know they’re going to die. That was the idea, and I developed the rest of the story from that.
Where did you get the idea for The Last Checkout?
It had been molding inside of me for the longest time. For some reason, everything I write has some sort of a love story or relationship in there. I thought it would be interesting [to have a world where] suicide was actually encouraged and there was hopelessness, and to try to find the hope in that. Maybe you find the bright spark or hope or love even in the shittiest circumstances.
Why did you decide on self-publishing the book rather than traditional publishing?
I did reach out to agents and there was some interest here and there, but it kind of petered out. Then I realized that in today’s world, why not [self-publish]? I did some reading about self-publishing. I figured why not, because I do believe in the story. It’s the same as with why I made a short film—if you do believe in what you’re doing, you just have to put it out there and see what happens.
Why did you decide on the e-book format?
What were the chances of this ever going to the bookstore without a traditional publisher behind it? Without a traditional publisher behind it, getting it in the bookstore is a tough sell. Also with an e-book, a greater percentage of it goes back to the author. With the ease of getting the e-book into people’s hands, the hope is that it can reach people across the globe.
How did you create the e-book?
I went to a freelance hiring site and found a book cover designer from Spain there, who had also done some cover design work for publishing houses. I did some research on formatting and found someone who had wrote a book on e-book formatting. I also found several potential book editors through freelancing sites and chose the one whose edits were the most helpful.
Creating the book took about a year and a half from start to finish, including the writing and publishing process.
What would you say that you enjoy most about self-publishing?
The control. When you’re self-publishing, you’re not at the mercy of anybody else. You can decide what you want. If you like this cover, you can do that cover. If you like this typeset, you can do this typeset. You can set your own price and see if it works or if it doesn’t work, and you can do your own promotion.
Essentially, if you work hard at it, something will result from it. It’s entirely up to you. It’s the freedom of taking fate into your own hands and saying “I believe in this, I can push it and I can make it work.” You’re not just handing off the reigns and saying ‘You guys go.’
What advice do you have for other authors who would also like to self-publish?
Make sure that your work is the best—don’t just write the first draft, put it up and see what happens. Seek professional help, because it’s out there. There’s people who are really good at what they do. There are specialists for a reason, and I believe in finding the best fit for yourself and giving people the chance to actually add to the product, finding new things that you never thought about and getting new ideas, angles and inputs. It’s up to you to take it or leave it, but it’s up to you to get the thought process going. It’s a collaborative effort.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you were to go through the process of the creating the e-book again?
I would probably write faster. I would’ve also started writing earlier.
Is there anything else that you would like WD Readers to know?
At the end of the day, you have to just do it. If you believe in it, you have it in you and that’s the beauty of it these days. You can actually do it and you don’t have to rely on anybody else. Don’t let your inner critic kill it off. Don’t think Who am I to write a book? Who am I to do this? Why me?
Why not? There is always somebody who could do things better, of course. You can always find someone who can run faster or jump higher or be smarter, but there’s only one of you so maybe your voice is needed or wanted and desired, so just go write the book.