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.
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.