Today, we’re featuring an interview with French self-published author, comedian, and YouTuber, Superflame. He’s the creator and star of his eponymous channel, SUPERFLAME, and his new novel, Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin des Temps, (“The Calendar from Before the End of Time” in English ) released in the Lulu French Store in November. Lucky for us, he was kind enough to share his experience publishing on Lulu. But first, a little context:
Superflame began his YouTube career in 2013, with the publication of his “51 Imitations & Sound Effects” ( 51 Imitations & Bruitages ). Over the years, Superflame has diversified the content on his channel, adding comedic shorts, satirical news reports, and even a series of audio-novellas narrated on video. These audio-novellas would eventually produce the transcript adapted for the young author’s self-published novel.
Translated from French by Zachary T. from Lulu
Getting To Know Superflame
What lead you to writing in general and later to the conception of your first book, Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin des Temps ?
Ever since I was a child, I loved to write. I had a gift for arranging words and weaving sentences together to tell stories. Generally speaking, it wasn’t until YouTube that I really had a chance to explore that part of me. For the most part, my videos are transcribed ahead of time. On my channel, there’s one particular format of video that necessitates an enormous amount of written preparation: my SUPERFLAME STORIES, audio fictions in which I serve as the narrator and voices for the whole cast of characters. A common thread between these stories is the mashup of real world and supernatural phenomenon. Near the end of November 2017, I had an idea for an entirely new type of SUPERFLAME STORY: rather than a 10-minute long short story, I’d release an entire series composed of 24 episodes, one episode per day, from the 1st to the 24th of December. The name of this story? Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin des Temps.
The story goes…
On the first of December, the small mountain town of Marmotin, ordinarily so peaceful, is plagued by a series of daily murders. Every day, the victims are chosen seemingly at random and found decapitated. Amidst the general confusion, Inspector Nathan Bloom endeavors to shine a light on this curious case and finds his investigation troubled by a strange man, a certain Andrew Bennett, who seems to know more than he lets on about the crimes at hand. If the case isn’t closed soon, it will be the end of time.
My followers were so captivated by the story that, when I crossed them at conventions, that’s about all they wanted to talk about. For the first time, they were more interested in the characters and universe that I’d created than in me, the narrator. They wanted to know more, know what was going to happen next, discover the next adventure. It was then that I realized what kind of potential this narrative had.
Naturally, I wanted to get everything I could out of this universe. So, I started the following projects:
- Convert this audio fiction into a book (which was relatively simple given that the transcript was already basically written like a novel)
- Take this universe onto the screen, which I was able to do with the help of a production company (and a 100,000 Euro Budget)
Read SUPERFLAME’s Debut Novel
Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin des Temps
Depuis le premier décembre, à l’approche de Noël, le petit village montagnard de Marmotin, si calme d’ordinaire, est bouleversé par une série de meurtres quotidiens. A chaque fois, les victimes semblent choisies au hasard et sont retrouvées décapitées. Dans la confusion générale, l’inspecteur Nathan Bloom tente de lever le voile sur cette curieuse affaire et voit son enquête troublée par l’arrivée en ville d’un homme étrange, un certain Andrew Bennett, semblant en savoir beaucoup sur ce qui se trame. Si l’enquête n’est pas résolue rapidement, ce sera la fin des temps.
Why self-publishing? What brought you to Lulu rather than a traditional publisher?
The ease of use, the turnaround, the cost (or lack thereof) and the total control I retain over my work. For me, the ability to get this text out there quickly and economically without having to answer to anyone was paramount. If I’d gone the traditional route, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would’ve wanted me to change certain paragraphs, modify chapters… essentially distort my entire work. Besides, submitting your work can take time, months even, whereas with a self-publishing platform, it takes minutes. Not to mention that, with traditional publishing, authors cede a lot more of their rights. It seems to me that, in France, an author only sees about one euro (1.13 USD) for every copy sold, meaning that you’d have to sell a pretty hefty sum of books for that to be profitable. With Lulu, I think that with only a few hundred copies sold, you already have a better chance of making a “livable” revenue.
While the “traditional” self-publishing industry already existed, I preferred to use Lulu in order to minimize my own financial investment and avoid having to manage the logistics. The advantage being that this platform prints books upon demand. With the old model, you had to order a few hundred copies upfront and handle distribution on your end. I figured I’d have some difficulty with that.
Could you tell us a bit about the role of YouTube in the development of your project? Do you have any specific advice for other authors regarding marketing yourself in the Digital Age?
I’ve been a YouTuber since 2013. I have a YouTube channel with more than 425,000 followers. One immense advantage of YouTube is it’s a platform that allows you to connect with your audience, while still affording the opportunity to do basically whatever you want. With this medium, the name of the game is finding something that captivates your audience and I think, unconsciously, I’m always looking to create things destined to interest people, pique their curiosity, and maybe even surprise them.
As I mentioned before, my stories originated on my main channel, SUPERFLAME, in a format entitled SUPERFLAME STORY. After a few months, I gave my SUPERFLAME STORIES their own channel. The idea: unite the community specifically interested in my audio fiction pieces.
The upshot was that it permitted me to communicate directly with potential future readers (my main channel still primarily focused on humor, the second one permitted me to cater to the fanbase that was more interested in my fictions). Beyond that, the purchase of my books constituted both an extension of what they could listen to in my videos and a sort of “cult” object. In my opinion, more so than just the desire to read my story, for some it was the need to own it, to physically possess it, that drove sales. As far as advice goes for those who want to market themselves: start with something interesting to sell. Write to be read…by other people! I have the advantage of being able to show my work to a few tens of thousands of people, which gives me a chance to evaluate a certain commercial potential. If le Calendrier d’Avant la fin des Temps had been a total flop with my audience, I never would’ve made the book.
Finding a ‘why’
Here’s what I figure as well: if you don’t even want to read your story, why the devil would anyone else?
To be interesting and stand out, either start off with something that’s already interesting, or do something totally unprecedented. I think too many authors forget that they’re writing to be read and they lose themselves in convoluted sentences that don’t progress the narrative. Build an audience, form a solid connection with them, and, above all else, show them that you’ll never let them down. Always endeavor to “do better than the last time.”
If my sales on Lulu are good, it’s because I knew how to build an audience over the years that was ready to follow my projects and who trusted me. It’s clear that without this, I would’ve sold a lot less copies.
One thing I observed about Lulu, there aren’t too many authors that take the time to make nice covers and descriptions that provoke the reader. It’s a shame. These two elements are like the “trailer” for a film. You could have the best story in the world, but if your cover is ugly and your description falls flat… it’s going to be tough to sell your book. Ultimately, many of your potential customers only have these two elements to make the call as to whether or not they should buy your book.
In summary: communicate effectively, create an audience for yourself, establish a rapport with that audience founded on trust and never betray them.
In addition to the publication of your work with Lulu, you collaborated with Soundlife Studio to create your web series, Andrew Bennett—would you care to tell us a little bit more about that experience?
Faced with the success of Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin de Temps, I knew that the universe I’d created had some real potential. So, since I have a YouTube channel and am also a comedian, I told myself that taking this project to the screen could be a good idea. I endeavored to write an original script centered around the character Andrew Bennett (one of the main characters from Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin des Temps). The idea was to go beyond what I’d already done. Since I knew I didn’t have quite what it would take to create an entire series on my own, I reached out to a production company, people for whom this was their bread and butter. The filming was a real adventure on a technical level as well as a human one; I had the tremendous good fortune during those months of preproduction and filming to work with some formidable people.
Can we expect more from Inspector Bloom and the mysterious Monsieur Andrew Bennett in the future?
Yes. As far as Andrew Bennett is concerned, you can expect to see him in my next novel entitled Les Démons d’Hugo as well as in other SUPERFLAME STORIES on my designated audio fiction channel. As for Inspector Bloom, he should be making his return in the sequel to Le Calendrier d’Avant la Fin des Temps, planned (a priori) for the end of 2019. We’re also hoping to make season 2 of the series with Soundlife studio. But the project is so ambitious that it’ll require even more funding than what we were able to collect for season 1!
So, we’ll just have to see.