1- As a major in the police department, what’s the most common mistake fiction writers make when portraying members of the police force?
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Saturday, November 10, 2012
1- At what point in your writing career did you sense that you could actually survive on the money you made from writing books?
Being an indie author—writer, publisher, and marketer—is exhausting! And the ups and downs of ebook sales can be nerve wracking. Winter/holiday sales are terrific, but in August, the money can get tight. More important, I believe Amazon will take my career to a new level. Its marketing clout is unparalleled, and I’ll be able to reach thousands of readers who have never heard of me. And with Amazon taking some of the production and marketing off my shoulders, I’ll have more time to write…and spend with my family. I don’t want to work 70 hours a week forever.
In that same vein, it seems that Amazon will eventually streamline Kindle Direct Publishing and start vetting books just to keep some of the absolute crap from clogging up their website. Someone will create a software program that can scan submissions and reject anything with a lack of grammar and punctuation. And I think all the digital distributors will start to drop books that don’t sell. Once their inventory hits a certain point, quality over quantity will become a factor.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Chris is the author of The Expats, which debuted on the New York Times bestseller list immediately upon publication in March 2012. I read this book myself and found it fascinating. Chris grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from Cornell, and was an editor at a variety of book-publishing houses that included Doubleday, Crown, and Artisan, most notably as executive editor at Clarkson Potter. He spent a year and a half as an ex-pat in Luxembourg, but once again lives with his wife and children in a very flooded New York City.
Yes, and yes. To help me organize the plot I maintained a couple of invaluable documents. The most basic was a list of a dozen reveals that I wanted to present to reader over the course of the story; the list enabled me to easily play around with their sequence, which I did frequently over the course of writing different drafts. The more extensive document was a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline—the action, the characters, the questions I wanted to dangle in front of readers, the answers I wanted to dole out slowly. These documents were always open on my laptop along with the manuscript’s file.
2- Luxembourg is as much of a character as Kate and Dexter.
How well do you know the country?
2- Luxembourg is as much of a character as Kate and Dexter. How well do you know the country?
Most of the crucial plot elements of The Expats are completely made-up. But some important aspects of the story, and all of the atmosphere, are true. In 2008, I left behind my career and my home to follow my wife’s job to Luxembourg. While she worked a demanding, time-consuming, and travel-intensive job, my existence was very similar to Kate’s: taking care of small children, learning to live in a foreign country and a different language, reinventing myself as someone without a career, without the self-definition I’d lived with for the entirety of my adult life. This is a central theme of the book: reinvention. For me—and for my protagonist—this takes place in the rainy cobblestoned expat-heavy city of Luxembourg.
3- It seems everyone is a spy and no one trustworthy. How fun was it to work with an unreliable narrator at times?
Unreliable narrators offer wonderful opportunities for tremendous paradigm shifts in a story; I love them. And in my first draft of The Expats, Kate was in fact much more unreliable: readers didn’t learn her most important secret until the last page of the book. But I became worried that if the protagonist was this outlandishly unreliable, I was creating too much distance, too much dishonesty, between reader and storyteller; it might be an unsatisfying read, difficult to connect with. So I backed away a bit from that unreliability, and hope I found an intriguing balance between compelling engagement and exciting surprise.
4- The Expats seems to have found an audience on both sides of the Atlantic. Where do you spend the majority of your promotional time?
I’ve done roughly equal numbers of events and media in America and in Europe; there are fifteen different editions of the book being published in as many languages, and the bulk of these publishers are in Europe. But I’ve also spent as much promotional time in that untethered international space of the digital world.
5- How has the digital age affected the way you promote the book? Or has it?
In America slightly more than half of The Expats’ sales have been digital units, and probably the same proportion of my promotional time has also been digital, mostly in the form of writing essays, articles, and odds-and-ends—dozens and dozens of individual pieces—to websites of one sort or another. I worked in publishing for nearly two decades before writing this first novel of mine, and I’m comfortable with the processes, with the business as a whole. But I’ve always been intimidated by the promotional aspects. It’s one thing to sit by yourself in a quiet room, typing; it’s altogether another to stand in front of a crowded room—whether a physical room in a bookstore, or a virtual room on a website—talking about your book and your life. I was prepared for the talks and readings and signings in bricks-and-mortar venues, but I’m astounded at the amount of time I’ve spent in the digital world. I’m writing this in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy. For a few days we haven’t had electricity in our apartment in downtown New York, so my children and I are sitting in a conference room at sparsely populated Random House (my wife works here, but most employees haven’t been able to make it to Midtown); the kids are reading on e-readers, and I’m writing a few hundred words for a book blog, neither of which would’ve been conceivable just a few years ago.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
I've assembled a group of three prominent authors who use social networking sites to do a variety of things, including as a promotional tool. Claude Bouchard is an Indie author who publishes thrillers. He has almost 300,000 Twitter followers. Luke Romyn publishes a darker type of thriller and he has over 225,000 Twitter followers. Our third guest is Bob Mayer, who is a NY Times bestselling author who's sold over 4 million books worldwide. He has over 10,000 Twitter followers himself.
1- How many books do you suspect you sell each month as a direct result of Facebook or Twitter, or any other online site?
A better answer, however, would be that I have my sites open whenever I’m on a computer, so that while I’m writing or editing I often check up on things, and if something piques my interest I’m likely to chime in. The trick with this, however, is to avoid getting dragged away from your writing into the magnetic abyss that is social networking, and before you know it hours have passed and not a word of worth has been writ.
BM: After attending the Discoverability Conference in NY, I am now focusing time on Facebook and Goodreads. I'd say around an hour a day.
CB: As discussed above, I don’t believe the bulk my book sales are the direct result of Twitter and Facebook activities. However, my presence on these platforms, particularly Twitter, where I now have close to 300,000 followers, has certainly helped getting myself known. Let’s be realistic. If I had published my seven novels as I did but had never linked up to social media and simply let the books try to sell themselves, I doubt I’d be selling even half a dozen units per month. Being present, being visible on Twitter, Facebook, interview blogsites and the like are all elements which have played a role in my growing success as an author. What I believe is key is actually being ‘socially’ active versus continually shouting ‘BUY MY BOOKS’.
LR: I have met so many people in the writing industry who have selflessly helped me along the way. Not just other writers, but editors, publishers, marketers, and readers, many of whom have assisted me in ways I could never have imagined. Doors have been opened and contacts made through the simple tapping on a keyboard to a stranger on the other side of the planet. Not all of these contacts are of benefit right now, but who’s to say where things may lead in the future.
BM: Not selling books but building platform. Making connections. However, a danger I see is the incestuous relationship where writers are only talking to other writers. I think we have to expand our networks.
Overall, I believe social media doesn't really sell books, but it does build platform. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but the vast majority of writers would be better served by writing more content, rather than more social media.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
As a screenwriter, Alex has sold original thriller scripts and adapted novels for numerous Hollywood studios. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, west, and the board of the Mystery Writers of America.
In her spare time (!) she performs with Heather Graham's all-author Slush Pile Players and dances every chance she gets.
2 - You’ve received praise from writers like Michael Palmer to Lee Child. How did those wonderful testimonials come about?
But if you’re asking on a practical level:
A – I never ask an author for a quote unless I’m a die-hard fan of theirs. You have no idea how many people ask me for blurbs who don’t even know what genre I write in – they haven’t even done that much basic research. I’ve read everything Lee Child has ever written and I didn’t ask him for a quote until I’d written a book that I knew he could recommend to his own readers without reservation. It wouldn’t make sense for him to blurb a ghost story. You have to take those things into account.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
As with most writers I interview, I found him attentive and considerate. Just a real down to earth guy who deserves all the attention he receives. Thanks Michael for your time and your thorough answers:
1- Tell us about your newest release, Grave of Angels. It’s already inside the top 50 on the Kindle bestseller list. Did you expect to see this success so quickly?
I didn't know what to expect. Some of my self-published books have climbed that high on the Kindle list, but it took time — a month or two, usually. This book is put out by Thomas & Mercer, a division of Amazon Publishing, and it has the force of Amazon's marketing behind it. And that makes a big difference!
2- Back in the 90's you were a traditionally published author who wrote under the name Brian Harper, then you became Michael Prescott and one of the first authors to go the Indie route with ebooks. How did your new agreement with Thomas and Mercer (Amazon's publishing house) come about?
My self-published ebooks have done very well — much better than I expected, and better, really, than I ever did in print. I've sold well over a million digital copies so far. As the sales added up, Amazon Publishing took notice. Acquisitions editor Maria Gomez contacted me, and we set up a phone call that involved Maria and other members of the Thomas & Mercer team. Initially I had some doubts about going with them, but the phone call convinced me that the experience would be different from my experiences in traditional publishing. Amazon is much more author-centered and really aims to deliver services to the author, rather than just treating the author as a resource. Their enthusiasm and the prospect of working with a new kind of publishing house convinced me to give it a shot.
3- So, after all these years of complete independence, did you have any concerns over losing artistic control?
4- Was there trepidation about placing all of your eggs into the Amazon basket?
5- Okay, since you've probably done this yourself before you signed on with T&M, give us your best case scenario and your worst case scenario, five years from now. And what do you think the publishing world will look like?
I see the signing as a test case. It involves only two of my books, and one of them is a backlist title, The Shadow Hunter, which Amazon will reissue in September. I don't yet know how I'll handle the remaining titles in my backlist or any new books I put out. I want to see how it goes. There's something to be said for running the show yourself, but there's also something to be said for having the power of Amazon.com behind you, and working with professional editors and designers. Of course, I also don't know if Amazon will want to continue the relationship. Time will tell.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
It's easy to see why he'd gotten here. After all the publishing industry is about making money, not discovering new literary talent. So if a publisher has a choice between a new author with some serious writing chops and the twentieth unauthorized Frank Sinatra biography, well, you see what I mean. When an illiterate like Snooki gets a books deal, I think it's obvious traditional publishing has become a place for no-talent big names to get their book deals. Think Kardashians and Paris Hilton.
So why do I bring this up when I've been doing quite well with my own little career writing thrillers? Because many writers have been stuck in the old model of query an agent, get a publisher, then wait two years to see your book in print. It's an antiquated system which rewards very few authors who wiggle their way through the hoops to get to their goal. It also doesn't allow for writers to try new things. If a new writer attempts to write a story in first person from several different people, it's considered edgy and too much of a risk. Meanwhile Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy can write an entire book without using quotation marks for dialogue and that's just fine. Don't get me wrong, McCarthy is obviously an unbelievable writer, it's just that he makes money for the publisher, which means break any rules you'd like.
So if you're a new writer, stay within the lines and don't stray too far from the norm. In other words, don't get too creative, please. And what about self-publishing? Well, that's even more frustrating for newer writers because the pool has begun to fill up and now they're supposed to suddenly go from concentrating on writing to becoming an expert on formatting and marketing on the fly. Or pay a large fee for someone else to do that for you. Is this how the system should have gone? No. There was a time when publishers actively searched for new voices, then when they found him/her, they would throw some marketing money behind the book and get it off the ground. But somewhere along the line they decided to go for the quick buck. People like Kato Kaelin, (remember OJ's poolboy) who struck a $500,000 deal with St. Martin's Press were lurking in the alleys whispering to the industry with soft, alluring words of guaranteed profit.
Am I indicting the entire industry? Of course not. Am I suggesting publishers could have prevented a lot of this mass exodus toward independence by creative writers? Sure. I feel for my friends who have struggled to reach the masses and I will always champion their work. Writing is the one profession where fellow competitors for the same readers would help each other whenever possible. I've seen too many of my talented friends get lost in the shuffle and I hope the day will come where they can find their audience so I'll never get an email like the one I received yesterday.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Ann was very gracious enough to spend a little time to play five questions with me and I think you'll be glad she did:
Okay, who’s going around spreading rumors that I’m wholesome and nice? Ha!
I spent summers growing up in and around Deadwood, South Dakota, learning about the history of the place, daydreaming about what life used to be like in the Black Hills during the area’s rough and rowdy past. Several years ago, when I was back in Deadwood visiting my mom, who still lives there, a story idea hit me about a single mom of twins trying to make it on her own in a town full of colorful characters and a past that just won’t die. That was the birth of my Deadwood series, and I’m loving every minute of writing one book after another with many of the same characters and several new ones appearing along the way.
2- Your protagonist, Violet Parker, is a single mother of twins—how is Violet different from you?
While I’m a mom of two kids, I’m not a single mom, nor are my kids twins (whew!). I am lucky to get to tag-team with my husband and have down time to keep from pulling my hair out some days. I can’t imagine how single parents handle the constant responsibility of be “on” for their kids. I have tons of respect for parents raising children on their own, and that was at the forefront of my mind when I came up with Violet. I wanted a heroine whose strength is not necessarily in her ability to shoot a gun or kick the crap out of a bad guy, but rather more in her determination to keep standing while taking one hit after another.
3- Tell us a little about your career path and how did your relationship with your agent stay afloat during your Indie phase?
My agent grew as frustrated as I did with me making it “close” to getting a contract time and again only to be rejected for a book that wasn’t considered to be able to draw a big audience. Together, we decided to put it out without going through a New York publisher and let readers to determine if it could draw an audience or not. She’s been by my side throughout this whole venture and is loving seeing my success.
4- Between work and family, when do you find time to write?
I don’t sleep much. Ha! No, seriously, I don’t sleep much. I average about five hours a night for most of the work week, dragging my sorry hiney into work every day and slamming the caffeine throughout the day and into the evening. Once a week, I try to get seven or more hours of sleep to catch up a little. Then I’m back at it. Until I can afford to quit my day job, this is the routine. I would love to write/publish books faster, but three a year is my absolute max because my books average 100,000 words.
5- With your experience writing about marketing, how do you see authors like yourself finding an audience in the future?
Using whatever means they can get their hands on. There is no one thing that makes you successful. Building your empire takes a lot of time and hard work. You have to build with long-term in mind, focusing on different areas of your platform at different times. I have done everything from blog tours to writing articles, winning contests to buying ads. I have also given over 150,000 ebooks away through Amazon’s Kindle Select program. Somehow, you have to get visibility, and the competition is fierce for readers’ attention. You’re competing with television, movies, video games, other books, and more. I joke about all of the chickens I have sacrificed to the publishing gods to get my name out there, but it’s tough. Patience, persistence, determination, and a lot of stubbornness pays off.