Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Over the past year and a half, I've highlighted some very talented writers just on the verge of becoming superstars--John Locke, Rick Murcer, and Robert Bidinotto are just a few.  I believe Allan Leverone is the next rising star in the publishing world.  His thriller, "The Lonely Mile," went from #11,000 on Amazon's Kindle bestseller list to #15 over one weekend, going from selling one book a day to selling several hundred a day.  He explains that here, plus his insider view of the future of publishing .  To me, the most intriguing part of Allan's career was the fact he actually got a job as an air traffic controller before ever stepping foot inside of an airplane.  He's been an air traffic controller at Boston's Logan airport for the past twenty years now and at 52 he's going to be forced to retire in four years.  Maybe, just maybe, if he continues on this torrid pace of selling thrillers, he might find a sweet home writing bestsellers and make a lot of readers happy.
Here's Allan:

1- How do develop your stories?  Do you outline, or fly by the seat of your pants?

I’ve outlined one book, and by the time I was maybe halfway through writing the first draft I had deviated so wildly from the damned thing it was completely useless. This outline, this supposed roadmap, which I had spent dozens of hours over several weeks developing, was now nothing more than a taunting reminder of how little I know about my own book when I start writing it.

That was the first, last, and only time I’ve ever outlined on paper before starting to write. This is not to say I have no idea where I’m going when I start a book, only that the process of outlining is just too specific for the way I write.

To me, writing a book is a little bit like taking a trip with a blindfold on. I know where I’m starting, and I have a pretty good idea where I want to end up, but the route I’m going to take to get from Point A to Point B is mostly a mystery. I might follow the highway, but I just might drive through a field and plow through a few houses, too. And that’s kind of good thing for a thriller writer, because if I have no idea what’s going to happen next, how in the world could a reader?

Plus, more often than not, I drive right on by Point B and end up somewhere in the vicinity of Point C. Or D.

2- Have you ever considered writing a series with a continuing protagonist?

I’ve absolutely considered it, and in fact, my newest release, PASKAGANKEE, is the first in what I envision as at least a three-book series. I’ve already completed the first draft of Book Two and am running ideas for Book Three around my twisted brain.

As you know, being an author yourself, the biggest hurdle facing any mostly unknown author—at least in terms of making sales—is the lack of name recognition. My theory is that readers don’t buy books, they buy authors. If a potential customer is trying to decide between buying my book and buying Harlan Coben’s latest release, I’m facing an uphill battle, because a hell of a lot more readers are familiar with Coben’s work than mine.

The advantage of writing a series is that not only does the reader become familiar with my name, but if they buy one book in a series and like it, they are that much more likely to buy another. And we all want sales. If we didn’t, we would just stick to keeping a journal. Fewer bad reviews, you know?

3- Give us a short recap of what happened a couple of weeks back with "The Lonely Mile," and how you ended up in the top 25 of the Amazon bestseller list?

Wow, what a ride! I had been promoting THE LONELY MILE pretty much nonstop since its release last July, trying various promotional ideas, giveaways, etc., without really ever gaining much traction in terms of sales. I was stuck in a rut, selling around thirty copies a month, give or take.

I had been extremely skeptical of Amazon’s Kindle Select promotional program, but after seeing numerous reports from authors I trusted, all saying their sales had spiked after taking part in it, Aaron Patterson (CEO at StoneHouse Ink, publisher of THE LONELY MILE) and I decided to give it a try. What did we have to lose?

The response was phenomenal. We gave away 42,000 copies over the three days of the giveaway, spending most of that time period at #1 in Amazon’s Free Store (Free Store – there’s an oxymoron for you). When we ended the promo and resumed charging for the book, sales went through the roof. We started the day at #11,000 in the Paid Kindle Store, and by the end of that day we were in the Top 100.

Over the next three days, we hovered at between #21 and #25 in all Kindle releases, got as high as #15 in all fiction titles, and camped out at #2 in Suspense Thrillers. We sold 8000 copies over that three day period, and although the pace of sales has slowed, it’s still several hundred times better, literally, than it was before starting the promotion. I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around the unbelievable success of the promotion and the book.

4- What is your relationship like with Stonehouse Ink and what service do they provide for you?

StoneHouse Ink isn’t my first publisher, but when I heard my friend and bestselling author Vincent Zandri rave about this little publishing outfit in Boise, Idaho doing everything right, I knew immediately I wanted in.

To me, StoneHouse is kind of a hybrid, the perfect publishing model for this brave new epublishing world. They were among the first to utilize a strategy of epublishing first, following that up with print publication several months later. They pioneered the use of digital shorts as a way to raise the profile of their authors.

CEO Aaron Patterson understands the importance, also, of things like excellent cover art, solid, consistent editing, quality formatting of digital editions, and, most especially, how to sell books to the author’s best advantage at Amazon, the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the new publishing jungle.

I owe a lot to StoneHouse Ink, and you’ll have a hard time finding a more vocal proponent of the company than me.

5- What do you think the publishing world will look like in 5 years?

Man, everyone has opinions on this subject, and I’m no different.

I believe mass-market paperback books will disappear almost entirely, and sooner rather than later. The amount of overhead required to print books, warehouse them, ship them, deal with returns, etc., is staggering. At some point in the not-too-distant future, ereaders will become so cheap and so prevalent (we’re almost at that point right now, I believe) it will simply become too economically inefficient for any publisher to continue the mass-market paperback format.

This is not to suggest print books will disappear, though. I believe the biggest-selling megastar authors will continue to feature large print runs of their books, but all other authors will be featured in print-on-demand technology. The quality of that technology has risen almost to the point where you can’t tell the difference between it and offset printing, and the economics favor its use with all but the best-selling titles.

Hardcover books will continue and probably flourish, as collectors and the biggest fans will be happy to shell out the money for the latest Lee Child book, or (insert your favorite bestselling author’s name here) book.

Some of the biggest, top-heavy publishers, real biggies, will have to adapt, and quickly, or there will be a rush to bankruptcy as the big-name authors come to the conclusion they don’t need to be satisfied with the paltry royalty being offered by their Big-Six publisher when they can self-publish and work out a distribution deal for print books that will put far more greenbacks in their pockets than they’ve been used to. John Locke and his deal with Simon and Schuster for distribution of his physical books might be the most revolutionary thing to happen in the world of publishing. Ever. Mark my words on that one!

And I believe all this will happen in far less than five years. Publishing is undergoing its first real revolution in five hundred years, since the invention of offset printing, and we’re here to see it. It’s a pretty exciting time, unless your name is Random House.


  1. Congratulations on all the success Allan! Aaron Patterson wowed me with a top-notch seminar I took on working the Amazon system, something you have done recently! Its exiting to be a new author on the cusp of this revolution.

  2. How wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing this information. As an author with a Feb 26 release date of the paperback, with ebooks soon to follow, I can't tell you what an inspiring message this is! Here's wishing you continued tremendous success. ~Janet Beasley~

  3. Donna and Janet, thanks very much for reading and for taking the time to comment - Janet, best of luck with your release!

  4. Donna, Janet, thanks for the comments. Allan is a feel good story and it's easy to root for someone like him to make it.

  5. How great that Kindle Select did so much for THE LONELY MILE, Al! It couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

  6. What a great interview! Al is doing all the right things -- and clearly, so are two guys named Aaron Patterson and Gary Ponzo. It's so exciting and inspiring to see quality authors figuring out how to navigate the churning waters in this new publishing era, then be willing to share their charts with others. Congratulations, guys.

  7. Thanks for the props, but it make selling a book easier if it is a good one! Allan has some skills and it shows. We have some cool plans in the future for some of our titles, so keep an eye out...gratz Allan!

  8. G'day Gary,

    Thank you for (once again) highlighting authors that embrace the new world of publishing.

    Aaron, your interview with my good friend, Gary, speaks volumes. I am sure; THE LONELY MILE is the first for many milestones in a wonderful career: congratulations.

  9. Jenny, Robert, Aaron, Stuart,
    Thanks for participating--the publishing world is changing practically weekly, so it's interesting to see how things develop from an insiders perspective. That's why I like to showcase these writers on the frontier, so to speak. I appreciate your comments.