Thursday, December 8, 2011


Dani Amore is a crime novelist living in Los Angeles, California. Her first novel, "Death by Sarcasm," has been in the top 100 on Amazon's Kindle bestseller list for almost a month.  That's where she brought to life, Mary Cooper, a Los Angeles-based private investigator with a quick wit and a steady aim.

Her second novel, "Dead Wood," introduces readers to John Rockne, a disgraced ex-cop and private investigator looking into the murder of a woman who built custom guitars.  Dani is a rare treat to interview and just by her answers alone I'd run to Amazon and check out her work.  Her answer to question # 4 should be put in the interview answer, "Hall of Fame." Thanks, Dani for your time.

1- The main character in your debut novel, "Death by Sarcasm," Mary Cooper is a very strong woman who doesn't take herself too seriously. Would you say that mirrors your own persona?

Well, we’re both totally friggin' hot. Beautifully sculpted a***s and all that, you know? But that’s about as far as any commonality goes between Mary Cooper and myself. She’s a lot stronger and tougher than me. She drinks wine, I prefer beer. And I take myself, and my work, very seriously. In fact, I believe my efforts at crime fiction are on the same plane as the achievements of Mother Theresa, Genghis Khan and Henry Winkler. If I keep going at this pace, I’m hoping people will mention my name and my legacy in the same breath with The Osmond Family. Fingers crossed, baby.

2- Your webpage is "" Does that pretty much explain your demeanor about creating your characters?

When I write a book, I feel like I’m a kid again in the back seat of the family station wagon going home after the Friday Night Fish Fry at the supper club, with my Dad at the wheel after a half dozen martinis. In other words, I’m reasonably confident I know where I’m going and will eventually get there, but there could be some funny, shocking, and downright scary moments before I do. I always set out to write the best crime novel I can. Sometimes the humor, or dark comedy, just lands on the page, like the trees that would just “jump out” and wrap themselves around the front bumper of my Dad’s car.

3- Sometimes sarcasm can be used to defuse the utterly disgusting images a private detective must come across. Is that one reason Mary Cooper has such a biting, sardonic wit?

Absolutely. It’s a defense mechanism. One thing I’m really looking forward to is revealing more about the basis for that. I’ll give you a hint: in DEATH BY SARCASM, it’s briefly mentioned that her parents were lost at sea when she was just a kid. In Book Two, a little more light will be shed on that, and in Book Three, it will be the primary focus. In the meantime, she’s not big on displaying vulnerability. And since the next book, MURDER WITH SARCASTIC INTENT, involves the porn industry, she’ll put that sarcastic shield to good use.

4- Has anyone ever interviewed you without using the word sarcasm once?

Yes. Barbara Walters and I met at my golf course, because she’d heard about my passion for swinging the sticks. Anyway, our tee time kept getting bumped so we plowed through about three pitchers of daiquiris. After a little bit of French kissing in the ladies locker room, Barbara and I finally got out on the course where she promptly passed out. I strapped her in the back of the cart with the clubs and finished the round. No interview, but I shot 3 over, which is pretty good for me.

5- Your second novel," Dead Wood," is also in the top 200 on Amazon's Bestseller list. What kind of sales were you expecting when you decided to publish as an Indie author, and to what do you attribute your astounding success?

Let me put it this way. Do you remember a few years back when Stephen King was run over by that car? Well, I expected my sales to be so torrential that they would do the same kind of damage to Mr. King, physically, professionally and psychologically. (I’m kidding of course! I love Stephen King and his book On Writing is a must-read.)

Let’s be honest, though. Compared to the John Lockes and Amanda Hockings of the world, my progress has actually been very modest. And despite my belief that there might be a small market for crime fiction with my brand of humor and strong female characters, I figured I wouldn’t sell even one copy.

So I appreciate and thank every one of my readers, and thank you Gary, for allowing me to stop by. That last line was sincere, so now I’ve fulfilled my quota for the year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


There's a new breed of author out there--brash, unfiltered and untouched by the New York publishing industry.  These are writers who chose to go it alone without a life jacket or the approval from the establishment.  Shame on them.  They bypassed and integral part of the system.  The part where an editor in NYC decides whether his publishing house can make a bunch of money off their book.  The reason these fine men and women decided to skip this step was because: A- They decided they could make more money on their own without a publisher taking 85% of the profits, or B: They didn't need to make a killing from their book sales, because they don't have to pay rent in an uptown Manhattan high-rise, or pay a bunch of staff, or any number of expenses a big publisher incurs.

Now, I never bag on big name authors, they deserve all the accolades and revenue they derive from the current system.  I've interviewed many of them on this blog and will continue to do so.  I just felt it was time to promote some very talented writers who deserve even more attention than they've received.

Victorine E. Lieske:    "Not What She Seems."   Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law...and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger.

Chris Culver: "The Abbey."  Ash Rashid is a former homicide detective who can't stand the thought of handling another death investigation. In another year, he'll be out of the department completely. That's the plan, at least, until his niece's body is found in the guest home of one of his city's most wealthy citizens. The coroner calls it an overdose, but the case doesn't add up. Against orders, Ash launches an investigation to find his niece's murderer, but the longer he searches, the more entangled he becomes in a case that hits increasingly close to home. If he doesn't solve it fast, his niece won't be the only family member he has to bury.

Dani Amore: "Death by Sarcasm."  Mary learns that her uncle, a former stand-up comedian has been murdered. She is asked to assist in finding the killer by both the police and family members. Mary quickly discovers that her uncle’s death was just the opening act for a bloody rampage. As Mary investigates, she exposes a dark and deadly legacy with mysterious links to her own past.

The common thread of all of these books are: A- They've been written by Indie authors. B- They are extremely well reviewed books. C- They are all currently in the top 100 on Amazon's bestseller list for Kindle books.
If you're looking for a good read, give one of these books a try.  You're going to get the story straight from the author's mouth, exactly the way they wanted it.
Happy reading.

Friday, October 28, 2011


All you have to do is glance at Amazon's top 100 kindle books to notice Michael Prescott's presence.  He's all over the place.  Including the top 10 for quite some time.  His publishing story is conventional, yet the way he became an Indie writer is unique.  The theme which run through his story is very familiar.  You'll notice a resemblance to other writer's stories, which means there may be a common thread to success.  I can guarantee, however, talent and a lot of hard work is still your best bet.  Fortunately for Michael he has both, tremendous talent and a good work ethic.
Thanks, Michael.

1- What convinced you to convert your titles to e-books and was it a scary leap?

I started out by self-publishing a thriller called Riptide, which had failed to find a traditional publisher. Basically I just wanted to get the book into print in some form, as a vanity project. I was focused mainly on the print-on-demand edition, which I put out through CreateSpace. The Kindle edition was an afterthought. I figured as long as I'd gone to all the trouble of revising the book, formatting it, creating a cover, and so forth, I might as well make it available in ebook form. As it turned out, the ebook edition ultimately sold much, much better than the POD edition.

Still, sales were pretty small at first. I put out a couple of my backlist titles as ebooks just to get them back into print. I thought maybe if I was lucky I could generate a few hundred dollars a year in royalties, and of course I would be keeping the books alive, since the print editions were long since defunct.

Then a friend of mine, J. Carson Black, who writes suspense novels, experimented with dropping the prices of her ebooks to only $0.99. Her sales took off in a big way. After some trepidation, I decided to follow suit and see if I could have the same kind of success. It was really the change to $0.99 that got the ball rolling. Before that, sales were slow, but once the price dropped to that level, sales started to grow and eventually snowballed. There is a whole subset of ebook fans who look for bargain-priced books, and there are discussion boards hosted by Amazon that focus on such books and invite authors to promote their work.

2- Stealing Faces was the best selling e-book in the US way back in 1999. Do you remember how many copies you sold that year to accomplish that feat?

I don't remember how many copies it was, but I'm sure it was a very small number, probably less than 1,000. At the time, the main ebook reader was something called the Rocket eBook, a neat little device with a backlit monochromatic screen. It was expensive, about $500, and had limited functionality, but the design was ergonomic and it was possible to download a lot of free books from Project Gutenberg and other sources. I used my Rocket eBook for years and caught up on a lot of classics that I should have read earlier. I remember particularly enjoying Robinson Crusoe.

My publisher, Penguin Books, decided to put out Stealing Faces as an ebook before the print edition was released. It was the first time a major publisher had done that. It was a publicity stunt, and it worked pretty well, generating good sales for Stealing Faces and creating a little bit of media buzz. The book ended up selling very well in mass-market paperback, but the ebook market was too small at that time to amount to much.

3- Tell us what occurred which caused you to change your author name from Brian Harper to Michael Prescott, and is it sometimes an advantage to be a lesser known commodity?

Both names are pseudonyms, and I changed from one to the other because after doing six books as Brian Harper, my sales figures had slumped. Retailers were reluctant to continue ordering my books in large quantities. You really are only as good as your last book, so once you have even one flop, it affects your ability to get your next book into the stores. This becomes a vicious spiral, because each subsequent book gets a smaller and smaller order from the retailers and inevitably sells worse and worse. It's really a pretty stupid system, and it's one reason I'm not sorry to see traditional publishing and brick-and-mortar stores go away.

The only way around this problem was to reinvent myself under a new name. Since the retailers didn't know that Michael Prescott was really Brian Harper, they had no track record of sales to deter them from ordering my book. So I was able to get my titles back into the stores, and sales were generally good, though later on they declined when the entire mass-market paperback end of the book industry started going through a crisis. Pocket-sized paperbacks are definitely on the way out now. The industry has failed to keep them viable, and sooner or later they'll be replaced by trade paperbacks and ebooks, in my opinion.

4- Do you have a recurring protagonist running through any of your books or are they all stand alone thrillers?

For a long time I resisted the idea of doing a series or even a sequel, because I thought it was more creative to come up with new characters for each book. But then my editor at the time, Doug Grad, suggested that since I had written a number of books about strong female characters, and since they mostly lived in Los Angeles, it might be interesting to put two or three of them together in one novel. At first I was going to have three characters meet up, but that got too complicated, so I simplified it to only two–Tess McCallum, who starred in my novel Next Victim, and Abby Sinclair, who starred in The Shadow Hunter. They worked well together because they were opposites. Their first meeting was in Dangerous Games, and I was happy enough with the way it turned out that I wrote two more books featuring the duo–Mortal Faults and Final Sins. I discovered that I'd been wrong about a series being less creative. In some ways, reusing the same characters forces you to be more creative by coming up with new ways of exploring their issues, backgrounds, and personalities.

5- What advice would you give a new author if they asked you whether they should go the traditional route to publication, or start out as an Indie writer?

Well, I'm biased because I've been doing very well in the independent ebook market, while I found my years in traditional publishing to be quite frustrating at times. If you long for the opportunity to see your book in print and on display in stores, then it makes sense to go the traditional route, though it's getting harder to do that. As for me, I don't really care about print editions or bookstore displays anymore, so I'm perfectly happy to release the books in digital editions, even without a print counterpart.

One advantage of traditional publishing is that you may pair up with an excellent editor who can give you valuable guidance and improve your skills. Certainly I benefited from some very good editing throughout my career, particularly in the earlier years, when I needed it the most. On the other hand, it's extremely difficult even to obtain a literary agent, let alone to get a book deal with a major publisher, and even if you do get a deal, it probably won't be for much money, and there will probably be a long and frustrating delay before the book is released. Everything moves very, very slowly in traditional publishing–it's almost a glacial pace. It took more than two years for my publisher to bring out my very first novel, and by the time it came out, the genre that it belonged to had fallen out of fashion and the book didn't do well.

So it's really a mixed bag, but for me personally, I'd say that self-publishing my books in ebook editions has worked out so well that I would not want to return to traditional publishing. And honestly, I don't know how much longer traditional publishing will even be a viable option for most writers. Though I doubt that traditional publishing will become completely extinct, I do think there will be fewer books appearing in print, if only because there are fewer bookstores in existence. The future belongs to digital technology, so in that sense I guess I would advise someone who's just starting out to focus on the future, not the past.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I have to admit, I was compelled to reach out to Tim because of my 9-year-old son.  He is a huge fan of Tim's series of sports books where the protagonist is a terrific baseball player, yet struggles with grown up issues which all adolescents have to cope with at one point in their lives.

If you're keeping score at home, Tim is also an attorney who played defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons for 8 years.  He's also been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a star player at Syracuse University where he graduated as the valedictorian.  He's extremely busy with a career as a journalist as well as coaching a local high school football team.  Somehow Tim found time to answer some questions, even one my son wanted to know.  Thanks Tim.

1- The kids in your novels are so rich and realistic--do you think you could've created such deep characters if you didn't have kids of your own?


2- Benji is the comic relief for all the tension provided in your stories, is he based on any one person, and do your kids chime in with their own Benji-isms?


3- Even though your novels are written for kids, you manage to incorporate very mature themes throughout your narrative --divorce, steroids, bribing umpires. Was that a conscious decision, or a product of mining for good material to draw from?


4- Are your kids involved in sports and have they ever provided you with material for your stories?


5- Since you're a multi-talented author with many adult thrillers reaching the NY Times bestseller list, how has the emergence of digital devices affected your own career and how do you see it affecting the future of publishing?



Thursday, October 6, 2011


I was reading an article in a recent Poets and Writers Magazine where they interviewed several new authors and asked each one how they found their literary agent. One said they had met their agent through a friend of a friend.  Another was introduced to their agent through a mutual friend.  After the third one said their neighbor was an agent, I immediately threw the magazine in the recycle bin.  It reminded me why I'd become and Indie writer in the first place.  I'm not suggesting any of these fine writers aren't talented, but unless your neighbor works at Harper Collins, I'm thinking you found your path to getting published a bit more arduous than some of these authors.

There are many writers who still look down at the whole Indie thing as rather unseemly and I get that.  I was one of those people just last year.  I was able to acquire an agent (who's not a neighbor) by winning the S.W. Writers Award, but with so few publishers willing to risk taking on a new author, there weren't a lot of opportunities out there.  Which brings me to my question: Do you read books from Indie authors?  It seems that writers are much more aware of the Indie label than readers are.  For example, did you know the current NY Times bestselling author of The Mill River Recluse, Darcy Chan, is an Indie author?  How about NY Times bestseller of The Abbey, Chris Culver?  Do you even care?

I pay attention to such things because it's important to me.  Although I've interviewed some of the biggest names in the industry, I want to keep track of the market and even go out of my way to support the Indie movement.  Now that pretty much anyone can publish an E-Book whenever they wish, there's a lot of mediocre stuff out there.  So I try to sift through the pile and shine a light on the authors which I believe have written some good work.  John Locke, Rick Murcer and Robert Bidinotto are just a few which have been highlighted here and have gone on to tremendous success.  As a reader, has the lower prices compelled you to try new authors?  And if they have, what is your experience?

Sunday, September 25, 2011


J. Carson Black was a really good writer for quite a long time until New York lost interest and the dreaded midlist label was placed on her head.  Somewhere in the middle of 2010 she decided to try the arduous task of reinventing herself and starting over as an Indie writer.  Now, her Laura Cardinal Mysteries and stand alone thrillers have sold over 230,000 copies just in the past few months.  Just another example of an ambitious writer getting over on the Big 6 publishers.  I found her very accessible and friendly, someone you want to see succeed because you just know it'll never go to her head.  I think you'll enjoy her story:

1. After a solid career as relatively little known author you recreated yourself as J. Carson Black and went Indie. How did the name change come about and explain why it’s better sometimes to be an unknown author than to work on growing your past success.

Gary, I had seven books published by New York publishers. While it was wonderful to sell a book to a New York publisher, I was paid only $2500 for my first book. In fact, five of my books were in that range. The most I was ever paid by my publishers, Kensington and Dorchester, was $3500. That’s no way to make a living!

I worked hard to bring up my game, and wrote the first book in a crime fiction/thriller series called DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN. I approached my former editor, who had moved to a new house—New American Library. She loved the book and we signed a two-book deal. I’d already planned to change my name, and liked the name J. Carson Black, so that was what we went with. The secret here is this: by simply changing my name (and writing a better book), my two-book deal with NAL came to eighteen times the amount I made for my last sale to a publisher--a one-book deal with Dorchester.

Here’s why. Say Barnes & Noble orders 6 books for each store. Because of the way publishing has been structured, the publishers print more books than they can sell, so they expect to sell about half those books. Barnes & Noble sells 3 books. The following year, they order 3 books—half what they ordered last time. The publisher uses the orders to decide the print run, so now you’ve got only half the number of books you sold last year going into the stores. They’re not seen in as many places, and thus begins the downward spiral. There are authors who can buck the trend with the publisher’s help, but generally speaking, most authors’ sales go down. And now that author’s name and record are in the bookseller’s computer. No one wants to back a writer with dwindling sales, so the booksellers across the board will order fewer books by this writer. This is why authors are asked to change their names when they come up with something new and different.

When my agent went out with my new thriller, THE SHOP, I changed my name again. My agent took the book to the best editors and publishers on the highest level, and she was sure we’d get six figures for it. She must have submitted to 35 publishers—I’ve lost track—and no one picked it up. Early this year, having experienced the same downturn in our economy as the rest of the country, I was just hoping and praying to get a deal with Kensington again—even $2500 would help! They turned me down—a fortunate turn of events.

When we put the books up on amazon, I decided to stick with the pen name J. Carson Black for all my books. Some of my books say “J. CARSON BLACK Writing as Margaret Falk.”

2 .In the summer of 2010 you decided to put you backlisted work on Amazon as a Kindle book. Were there any fingernails left after you’d only sold three copies the first two months?

Pretty awful, isn’t it? My husband and publisher, Glenn McCreedy, got the rights back to all my books. He started putting them up on Amazon. To say I was skeptical is an understatement. I liked coming up with the covers, but after that I thought it was a fool’s errand. I didn’t pay much attention to what was happening with those books.

But Glenn is a patient man, and just kept putting up books. And I loved coming up with covers—the two of us work on this together, although he does the hard part in Photoshop.

3. Speaking of your husband, Glenn McCreedy, he runs Breakaway Media which, among other things, distributes your ebook. Do you two work well together?

Glenn and I understand each other. We both have a good eye for composition, and we study the market. We try to emulate the Big Six publishers by following what they’re doing—their latest offerings. Both of us decided to make the books look like big hardcovers to create a unified look---a brand people can recognize and be comfortable with. Since most of my books are in the mystery/crime fiction/thriller category, it’s not hard to present that unified front.

We like tossing around ideas. We try to think how best to present a book, and study other successful authors. We’re small and nimble enough to make decisions on the fly—to try different things---and if they don’t pan out, we go back to the tried and true. For a while we both thought we were geniuses, but I really do think amazon’s algorithms have more to do with our success than anything else. Write a good book, present it well, and keep it simple: a reader should know by looking at the cover what kind of book they’re buying.

I look at it this way: when the wave comes, you have to be paddling your surfboard in the right direction.

4. You’ve signed a three-book deal with Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer beginning with you book, “The Shop.” Was that a nerve-racking decision or was it a welcome sight?

I always wanted to get back in with the Big Six. When my agent said, “I’ve done all I can---there’s just no other place I can send the book,” I was deeply disappointed. I asked for her blessing to put THE SHOP up on Amazon, and she said, “Why not?” Three weeks later, the book took off. By the end of that month, everything had changed. I did not want to sell my books to a Big Six publisher. I began to remember the bad things about New York publishing—the diminishing returns, the smell of death surrounding an author whose second book doesn’t do as well as the first. The phone call that starts with, “You know how much I love your books, but…”

Still, I knew you can’t stay on top with any book forever. We have more books and I’m writing a fourth Laura Cardinal novel, but we knew there would be ebbs and flows. When I saw Thomas & Mercer buying up Konrath and Crouch, I thought: that’s something I’d really like to find out about. And then Barry Eisler came over. That was a major turning point for the industry. I emailed my agent and said, “Can we get with Thomas & Mercer?”

Think about it: Amazon is the elephant in the room. They have all that power, and they know how to market books. The whole distribution system the publishers had is coming apart at the seams, because Amazon has changed the way books are bought and sold. Amazon is a smart company. They know how many books by an author they sell, they know how to boost that up with their algorithms, and they’d devised the most powerful selling tool in the world: the also-boughts. When your book starts to appear in the also-boughts of other authors, you can be seen hundreds of thousands of times a day. They say that it takes the average person seven times of seeing a product before it even registers. Amazon provides a Hall of Mirrors for your books. At a certain point, if you’re lucky and your book is good, the algorithms take over and propel you up the best seller lists. Thomas & Mercer was the only publisher I wanted.

But at the same time, we wanted to keep the Laura Cardinal books and some of my other books.

5. Look into your crystal ball and tell us what the publishing world will look like in five years.

I’m not very good at that, but I’ll try. I think Amazon is going to dominate publishing for the next three to five years. They are out to bigfoot everybody else, and I’d rather be with them than against them.

This has been a wonderful time for authors, because so many good writers are finally getting a chance to sell directly to readers. I don’t know how long this will last, but it is a Golden Age of sorts. More and more midlist authors who found it impossible to build a career with the New York publishers are coming over to ebooks. And there are talented newcomers who couldn’t sell to New York, but really have the goods.

I don’t know how long this particular phase will last. It might be like the Gold Rush of the nineteenth century. The first adopters may be the ones who do the best. There will be changes—some big, some small---and it’s hard to tell where we’ll be five years from now. But I can’t help but think that Amazon will be running the show.

Monday, September 12, 2011


My uncle phoned me recently to tell me of a friend of his who'd read both my books and absolutely loved them. This friend is retired from the movie industry and an avid reader, yet it took him a year of my uncle's nagging to finally get to my books. Why did it take so long for him to read them? The price. He told my uncle, "How good could they be if he's selling them for .99 cents?” He also told him, as many other people have, that I'm doing myself a disservice by pricing my book so low. Serious readers will be turned off.

There's some validity to his comment. The perception of a cheap product is that's it's . . . well . . . cheap. Let's face it, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is—right? I mean if a stranger calls you at home and congratulates you for winning a free vacation you'd never entered to win, you hang up as quickly as possible—right? I do anyway. So it's understandable for readers to be suspicious.

Now it's hard to have a serious conversation about .99 cent e-books without bringing up John Locke. Just in the past year John decided to direct his focus on the publishing world and made no bones about the fact he wanted to be the most successful .99 cent author on the planet. Mission accomplished. It's easy to point fingers here, I mean if you live in a neighborhood of $250,000 homes and someone starts selling their investment houses on your street for $99,000—guess what? You now live in a $99,000 home.

But this isn't John's fault and he bears no responsibility for this situation. On the contrary, without John's success, hundreds of Indie authors would never get their books read without his rise to the top of the charts and subsequent media attention. It's not his fault we don't have his marketing skills. Remember, the guy was an extremely successful businessman before he ever laid eyes on the publishing world and set his goals.

So how do we break these preconceived notions? How do we convince readers to take a chance on an unproven commodity like a cheap e-book from an unknown author? Become a known author! That's right, you sell your books for .99 cents or $2.99 or $4.99 because you want to develop fans. There are hoards of readers out there just looking for new talent and when they find it, boy they'll latch on to you for life. You can't compete with James Patterson's name, but you can undercut his price to lure potential readers to your writing. And remember, the strongest marketing tool is word of mouth. People who do buy those inexpensive e-books will tell their friends about it and so on and so on.

Now here's the important part of this entire conversation: don't rush out there and throw garbage onto Amazon just because John Locke made millions selling these things and why can't you? If you're serious about developing a fan base, then write quality books, then write more quality books, then repeat. You may need to write 20 novels before you can make a nice little income from your sales, but it will be a result of your hard work and passion. And after all, isn't that why we began writing in the first place, because we had a passion to write? At least that's why I started and I think there's many of you out there who began the same way. Never lose sight of that fact.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Robert Bidinotto is an award-winning investigative journalist whose 1988 piece in Readers Digest, "Getting Away with Murder," stirred a national controversy about crime and prison furlough programs. That article was honored as a 1989 National Magazine Award finalist by the American Society of Magazine Editors. While editor-in-chief at The New Individualist Magazine, Robert was also a 2007 Gold Winner of Folio’s prestigious “Eddie” Award for editorial excellence—the magazine industry’s highest honor.  
When at the age of 60, Robert decided to take a stab at fiction, he used all of his investigative skills and spent two years just researching and plotting his first novel--"Hunter."  Now, just three short months after being released, "Hunter" has become the top rated Kindle book for Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue, and is at the top of Thrillers as well.
Whenever I see solid, lesser-known writers gaining traction within the publishing world I want to know more about these people and expose their story to my readers.  So enjoy Robert Bidinotto's journey:

1- As an award-winning investigative journalist, you’ve seen the seedier side of the real world—what made you decide to write fiction? Was that always a desire for you?

When I was a little kid, my brother and I would make up and act out stories. Later, when I was in school, I remember being given an essay assignment: “What did you do on your summer vacation?” I started it the conventional way, but slowly turned it into a science-fiction fantasy in which I was kidnapped by a UFO. Fortunately, the teacher appreciated my creativity and gave me an “A.”

So yes, I’ve always loved to write—had to write—and I’ve wanted to write fiction since at least my teens. But I had no idea how to go about it. So instead, I pursued my interest in current events and politics and began a career writing about those topics. I wrote everything from investigative journalism to book and film reviews, essays, speeches, and opinion columns.

Still, my yearning to write fiction wouldn’t rest. Over the decades, I outlined a number of stories; but Life always somehow got in the way, and eventually I outgrew those stories before finishing them.

You know, Gary, it’s scary when you reach age 60 and there are still major “to do” items on your Bucket List. I felt that if I died without finishing and publishing a novel, my life would be a failure. So, after getting a brainstorm in November 2009, I decided to get on with it. Even though our financial circumstances were not ideal for setting aside time to write a novel, my dear wife understood and encouraged me.

I worked on HUNTER whenever I could, while continuing nonfiction contract work. It was by far the hardest writing assignment I’d ever tackled. But I vowed to myself that I would finish it by June 5, 2011—my 62nd birthday. Well, I completed the manuscript and printed out the final pages at 11 p.m. on June 4th—with one hour to spare. I can’t begin to describe to you how I felt as I put those final pages on the stack. I was a basket case for a week afterward.

2- While changing names or locations, of course, are there times when you’ve used pieces of real events in your fiction?

Absolutely. Certain well-known events over the past two decades play important roles in the personal history of the title character in HUNTER. This backstory is revealed about three-quarters of the way through the book: It’s part of the mystery about this man and what motivates him. Real-life events at the CIA also motivate the heroine, Annie Woods, who works there as a security investigator.

As for locations, the tale is centered in and around Washington, D.C. I live nearby and used to work downtown, so I’m familiar with many of the settings in the story. As for those places that I hadn’t or couldn’t visit in person, I found “Google Earth” to be invaluable—especially its “street view” feature. It allowed me to take “virtual” tours of those locales and add realistic descriptive details to the scenes.

3- In your novel, HUNTER, Dylan Hunter is not your typical protagonist. Tell me how you created him and how he’s different from other operatives?

You’re right, Gary—he’s not typical, and that was a deliberate choice. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to compete with great thriller writers like you, Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, or Lee Child by creating some clone. I knew that my hero had to be completely distinctive.

The idea for the Dylan Hunter character emerged from my background years ago as an investigative journalist writing “true crime” articles for Reader’s Digest. I was outraged by the leniency toward predators in our so-called “criminal justice system.” As I investigated and wrote articles exposing these practices, I befriended victims of thugs who had been freed by our “revolving-door” legal system. The faces of these crime victims haunted my dreams then, and ever since.

In a sense, I became a crusading journalistic avenger on their behalf. Dylan Hunter—an idealistic journalist at war with the corrupt legal system—is a cathartic fictional projection of my own fantasies of retribution.

As for how he is distinctive: First, Hunter is an intellectual tough guy. Yes, he’s hard as nails; but he’s also highly educated, witty, well-read, even philosophical. At core, Hunter is an idealist, a crusader for strict, absolute justice. He isn’t responding only to some immediate physical threat or narrow injustice, as most “lone-wolf” fictional heroes are. Instead, he takes on big, controversial issues and systemic injustices. And his enemies aren’t limited to the usual criminals and terrorists; they include some of the most politically powerful and intellectually influential people in society. Moreover, because he upholds absolutely merciless justice, Dylan Hunter also stands alone against much of the wider society, too.

Second, there’s this big mystery about his background and identity, as well as his motives. From the moment this guy appears in the story, it’s clear that there’s a lot about him that he’s hiding from everyone else. He’s living in lonely isolation, with only his pet cat for company. And he seems driven by goals that are not clear to the reader, or even to the woman who loves him. Who is Dylan Hunter? That question is a big part of the story’s suspense, as much as the dangers and perils he faces.

The result, I think, is a fast-paced, suspenseful vigilante thriller that also challenges the reader to rethink some of his core values and assumptions along the way. One reviewer described HUNTER as “a thinking man’s Death Wish.” Another described it as “Batman meets Jason Bourne.” I laughed when I read those reviews, but there’s a lot of truth in both analogies.

4- The response to “Hunter,” has been remarkable. Did you expect this kind of success? And what were your expectations?

Let me be completely frank with you, Gary: When I finished HUNTER, I had no idea whether it was any damned good at all. Honestly—not a clue. Sure, I’d written award-winning nonfiction for decades. But creating fresh characters, a serpentine plot, engaging dialogue, and imaginary settings from thin air, then weaving it all together into a compelling tale, involves skill sets entirely different from nonfiction writing.

So, when I stared at that stack of manuscript pages, I didn’t know whether I’d written something awful, great, or just mediocre. Only when my wife and then my “beta readers” came back with wildly enthusiastic responses did I dare begin to hope that I might have created something special.

The reader reviews at Amazon and Barnes & Noble have blown me away. As of this moment, there are 57 customer reviews on Amazon; 54 of them are “5 stars,” two are “4 stars”—all raves—and only one, from an anonymous reader, is negative. Based on those customer reviews, HUNTER is the #1 “Top Rated” novel in three Kindle categories: Thrillers, Romantic Suspense, and Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue. It also is reader-ranked #2 among all Kindle “Mysteries and Thrillers,” and number #3 among all “Romance” novels.

I never expected that, not in a million years, and I’m grateful to my readers. They’ve made it possible for me to continue writing future Dylan Hunter adventures.

5- With the publishing world going digital, what do you see the industry looking like in 5 years?

Nobody can predict with certainty what publishing will look like in the future. But a few things seem clear.

The traditional publishing business model is circling the drain. That model focuses on publishers estimating future customer demand and delivering print books to retail outlets, which then return a large percentage of the unsold books back to publishers, or dump them at a loss onto remainder tables. This outmoded business model constitutes a colossal waste of capital and resources in the digital age. It’s a lousy deal for customers and for authors.

Customers increasingly prefer the convenience and lower cost of online book purchases, particularly ebooks. No print publisher or brick-and-mortar store, with their huge overheads, can possibly compete with the vast online inventory and almost-instant delivery available to somebody sitting in his easy chair or on a beach somewhere with a Kindle or Nook in his hands.

As retail outlets disappear and print press runs fall, ebooks constitute an ever-growing percentage of book sales; yet authors find that their publishers take the lion’s share of their ebook royalties. By self-publishing ebooks, though, we authors can cut out the middle men—publishers, bookstores, even agents—keeping most of our royalties and all of our rights. Amazon has pioneered this process, and I think the consequent decline of big publishers and chain bookstores is inevitable.

Still, I think print books do have a future, Gary, because many people still prefer them. But the production model likely will be “print on demand,” which many indie authors are adopting already. That option doesn’t require big publishing houses or bookstore outlets.

One thing for sure: More of us will become what I call “vigilante authors,” taking business matters into our own hands. We’ll assume full responsibility, not just as authors of books, but also for their publication and marketing. We’ll contract for the services we need, at costs far less than the royalty shares we now surrender to publishers, bookstores, and agents.

In short, I predict that five years from now, we’ll be enjoying the Golden Age of Authors. We’re already seeing its first glimmers right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Jenna Wright was personally responsible for getting me signed with my first literary agent, then 18 months later was courageous enough to guide me out of that relationship.  That's too long a story for this format, but Jenna was the first person outside of family and friends who really believed in my writing.  Since then she's left NYC for the sunshine in California and the prospect of reading scripts and deciding whose work will make it onto the big screen.  I thought Jenna might offer an interesting perspective for anyone with aspirations of getting their work made into a movie.  She was very generous to spend some time playing 5 questions with me.

1- What's the biggest difference between reading work for a literary agency and reading for a movie studio?

I’d say the quality. Agencies that are open to queries get a lot of submissions from amateur writers looking to become represented, so the quality can vary widely across all skill levels. When you’re getting submissions at a production company (or studio), the scripts / books are coming from agents or managers who have already vetted the material, so it’s already reached a certain level of professionalism after being developed or read by those agents / managers. Not to say that quality work can’t come from queried submissions to agencies. It’s just a smaller percentage.

2- Where do most of your scripts come from?

Agents and managers. We could get into legal trouble if we read an unsolicited submission. That’s why some places make you sign release forms before they read your material.

3-Now that you're on the inside, so to speak--How much of the film business is pure nepotism compared with looking at a project purely on merit?

The vast majority comes from merit, I’d say. Let’s say some Hollywood player’s nephew wants to break into the business. His spec script might get read or he might be able to get his directing reel seen by people simply because of who he is, but if nephew isn’t bringing anything to the table in terms of quality and aptitude, he’s not going to get hired. Movies are too expensive to take chances like that.

4- Does it make sense for a writer to submit their screenplay to a studio, or is that done exclusively through agents?

Through agents and managers. Again, because of the legal problems that could come from having read unsolicited submissions. Being represented is key because they’re the ones who can get you read. Also, you’ll have someone who’s vouching for you. Out here that’s everything. It’s a very risk-averse town, so to have somebody willing to say “I took this client on, I believe in them and their talent” is huge.

5- How much has the digital world and Indie writers affected the film industry?

I think that the studio system will always be in place, but there’s absolutely been a shift. People have much more control over the content they choose to put out for public consumption, as well as the content they choose to purchase.

If you’re getting frustrated and can scrape together a few thousand (or even a few hundred) dollars, you can go out there and shoot your own film. You can submit to festivals. Use it as a calling card. Upload it to YouTube and get discovered. Same with book publishing. Tired of agent rejections? Upload it and publish it yourself! Pay a fee to get it formatted and boom: you can have your novel up on any number of websites where readers can download it to their personal devices. It’s pretty incredible.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Anyone reading this blog for a while knows I try to stay ahead of the curve with interviews from edgy newcomers to established N.Y. Times Bestselling Authors.  This time I'd like to highlight a real life criminologist who doubles as an award-winning fiction writer.  Jennifer Chase is the author of the Emily Stone series of novels which are part mystery-part thriller.  Emily Stone is a female vigilante armed with a digital camera and the uncanny ability to interpret valuable information the police seem to be overlooking.  In her thriller, "Dead Game," Emily Stone actually uncovers a social network community for serial killers.  This is highly evolved stuff which Jennifer pulls off amazingly well.  Thanks to Jennifer for taking time to play 5 questions with me:

1- With all of your forensic background and technical skills, what gave you the urge to create fiction?

Actually, writing came first and then forensics. I’ve loved books and writing for as long as I can remember, so the urge to write has been part of my DNA for quite some time. As I began to study forensics and criminology, I had the idea for my first book Compulsion, which was loosely inspired by a violent neighbor who threatened my life for more than two and half years. I found that a forensic background and writing crime fiction complimented each other. I love being both creative and scientific. It’s the best of both worlds for me.

2- How much of Emily Stone is really you? And what traits are simply not in your repertoire?

Ah, I love this question. Yes, Emily Stone is the more intelligent, savvy and tougher version of me. She takes the next step and hunts down killers and the most feared and heinous members of society, something I think about quite often. All my characters, the good and bad, are some part of me I suppose even if it’s just the dark part of my mind. Emily Stone encompasses the traits that I would love to see in someone out there helping law enforcement anonymously, but it’s not in my repertoire. After my first hand-to-hand combat fight with a killer, I’d probably run screaming for my mommy. Lets face it, law enforcement is overburdened, outmanned, and in need of more specialized training when it comes to serial crime and cold cases. I felt that Emily Stone filled a need as a phantom detective. It’s my version of a law enforcement forensic superhero.

3- What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging and the most rewarding?

For me, setting out to write a full-length novel is the most challenging. It’s a huge undertaking and a little bit scary too. There’s a little bit of me that feels like maybe I can’t do it this time, but I’m a person who has always loved a challenge. I try to take each novel to the next step, not only for my readers, but also for myself as a novelist. Funny thing, the most challenging part of writing is also the most rewarding for me. There’s nothing better than the feeling of finishing a first draft of your novel.

4- When a criminal acts irrationally, like keeping your dead girlfriend's corpse in the house for a couple of months, doesn't that create a great insanity defense all by itself? And do you suspect that can be staged?

The use of the insanity defense is used rarely, despite what we see on television. However, there have been a few successful cases. And, it’s possible (but unlikely) to stage all the “psychological” elements, both before and after the homicide. This would take someone who knows quite a bit about psychology and the criminal justice system. They would have to know how the local detectives would investigate the case along with prosecutors, etc. As with the case you stated above, it appeared that the individual killed his girlfriend in the heat of the moment and then didn’t know what to do. Basically, he didn’t want to get caught carrying out a body from his apartment and couldn’t stomach dismembering her. He committed the crime and then knew it was wrong afterward. People do strange things under stressful circumstances. A psychological history and the use of drugs would play a significant part to his defense. I don’t think this case would fit the requirements of an effective insanity defense.

5- What are your thoughts on the tendency for authors with traditional print publishing contracts deciding to go Indie instead? Do you see that trend continuing or is it just a temporary blip in the new digital publishing world?

I think it says a lot when an author with a traditional publishing company decides to go independent instead. We’ve been told over and over that getting that big publishing contract is the way to go and the only way you’ll be successful. Or, is it? I’m in awe of Indie authors who are kicking butt and selling loads of ebooks. That’s fantastic! I think that a little competition is healthy for publishers. I don’t see this as just a trend. Readers have spoken loudly and don’t care if a book is published by a big publisher or self published. The bottom line is the book must be good. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a need for mainstream publishers, but nothing ever stays the same and it’s time for publishers to make some changes too.

Here's a link to Jennifer's Web Page:

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Let me tell you everything I know about Rick Murcer.  He lives in Michigan with his wife and blind black lab, "Max."  He has two grown kids and three grandkids.  Oh, and he has two of the hottest Kindle books out there.  The Manny Williams thrillers are both running up the charts--the first one, "Caribbean Moon," is currently #27 on the bestseller list for all Kindle books.  We're talking almost a million books avaliable and Indie author Rick Murcer has two in the top 100 in sales.  Who is this guy?  I have no idea.  Honestly.  But I kept seeing his name show up on my book page--people who were buying my book were buying his as well.  Finally, I asked him to answer a few questions for me and it turns out he's a genuinely nice guy.  He seemed humble and appreciative and boy it's hard not to root for an Indie writer like that, huh?

So folks, let me introduce Rick Murcer:

1- You seem to have come from another planet and taken over the Amazon Kindle bestseller list. Can you tell us what brought you to Indie publishing?

LOL.  My wife thinks the same thing...regarding the other planet.

I actually was published in 2003 in Writers Journal for a story called Herb's Home Run. My best friend had died from a massive heart attack at age 42, and we hadn't talked much during the previous year. I wrote the story to cope with my grief, I guess, but he and I used to talk about spiritual things and I was hoping Herb had that resolved. After Herb's Home Run was published, I thought maybe I had something to offer so I did the first draft of Caribbean Moon in about four months, but only played at finishing it for a few years. Then I lost my job, couldn't find another, and decided I'd bettter do something productive. After numerous edits, I released Caribbean Moon in March of this year. The Indie thing had tremendous appeal to me because of the control it offered. I can write what I want, when I want.

2- Did you attempt having your work published through traditional channels first?

Not really, much to my wife's chagrin. I sent 13 query letters and had a couple of nice responses, but decided waiting until 2012 to get something published was, well, plain silly. God willing, I'll have at least four ebooks out this year. That would've never happened in the traditional world.

3- You obviously have some serious writing skills--where did you develop them?

This question is very humbling to me. I still think I have much to learn. I've always been a good storyteller...ask my Mom. :)...and I love books. When I was a kid, I read every comic book I could get my hands on, plus sports books, and the Hardy Boys, Doc Savage, etc. Then I picked up reading again a little later in life. King, Koontz, Patterson, and Noel Hynd tell great stories. I simply love to read a good story. Combine that love of story with the fact that I've dealt with people since the beginning of my work life (car sales, collections, marketing, management, to name a few) and it equals a certain curiosity about human nature. What we want, what we need, what scares us, what completes us, and where we are going when this life is over. I just love people; each one of us is so unique! So, I've turned those life experinces into character-driven novels, and I hope folks can identify. The technical side of writing is a little more difficult, but my wife is a professional proofreader/editor and she is a tremendous teacher. Even though I'm stubborn, I guess we got some of it right.

4- What have you done to market your Manny Williams thrillers and what did you find most effective?

Marketing is a strength for me and I based mine on one principle; find your audience. If you can't define and contact your audience, how will they ever know who you are and what you do? Since Caribbean Moon's setting is a cruise ship in paradise, I posted at every cruise ship forum and blog I could locate. I tried to think where I would go If I were searching for this kind of read, and went there. Most cruisers are voracious readers, so that was a plus for me. I did the other things: Facebook, Twitter, posting on forums, and those all helped some. I also wasn't shy about telling my 300 e-mail contacts about my new adventure, and many responded with their support...and subsequent surprise on how much they enjoyed the book. The old saying about a prophet not being accepted in his own home was certainly on my mind, but my friends and family were amazing and I thank them, again. I'd like to mention Amazon here as well. Once I started making some sales, Amazon's list system came into play...very powerful mojo that has been a tremendous boost.

5- What is your overall goal as an Indie author and what do you see the future of publishing looking like in 5 years? 
The first part of this question is a tough one. I want to be able to make a good living so that I can continue to write stories that people can escape to. I want to leave my kids and grandkids with something more than memories, and ultimately, do what God wants me to do to help wherever I can. I'm convinced our rapid success has to do with being blessed far beyond my expectations so we can give back. There are so many folks hurting right now, and our desire to help is almost overwhelming. I know, a little corny these days, but if we don't help lighten the fears of others and help to offer them hope, what's the point of being here?

Whew! Publishing in the next five years, huh? I'll draw on my business background and simply say that things will never be the same for traditional, or Indies, ever again. I don't think HC or paperback books will ever disappear, but the Big Six will have to figure out how to compete with the proliferation of e-books, and also the pricing. I read once where it takes five miles to turn a cruise ship around, meaning changing direction for something so large takes time and space. Traditional publishing may have to move faster than that. I also believe you'll see more and more offers to Indies for traditional contracts, and many will live in both worlds. New publishers like Thomas and Mercer and their bold new contract system will become the norm and authors will finally get the majority of profits for their work, instead of 15-17%. I've never hammered the traditional system, but evolution is inevitable and they need to get there.

When I first got into the business, someone, another author, told me that if the book is good, readers will find you, if not, maybe you should consider doing something else. I'm mentioning that to say that time is a great equalizer and I actually believe the number of Indies will decrease.

I do believe the public IS the ultimate gatekeeper in this new order and they will answer the questions of quality and readability. Some authors will become discouraged, and I believe, at some point, Amazon, B&N, and others could create some kind of criteria for publishing on their sites. That's just my opinion, however.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I've known Michael McShane for 30 years, back when I would visit him in San Diego and play golf, bet horses, eat dinner, then repeat the next day.  Mike's path to publication is a remarkable one.  The moment he passed his bar exam he opened up a law office.  This isn't a prudent move considering what real estate costs are in San Diego, but Mike wasn't the type to be an employee for a giant law firm.  No, Mike has always lived exactly how he wanted--on his own terms.  So much so that he worked at a local grocery store for three years stocking shelves at night while he developed enough clients to be a full time attorney.  Gutsy.

Finally, after years of fighting other lawyers and judges and preparing for trials where Mike would turn an average citizen into a bumbling, villainous buffoon, he'd had enough.  He gave his secretary three months notice, then closed up his office to write novels full time.  Gutsy.  Especially since this was fifteen years ago and he's just released his first novel, Bum Boulevard, to the world as a Kindle book just this past week.  It's not the first novel he's written, oh no, he's had several going at one time.  I know, I've read much of his work and he's got talent up the wazoo.  This is just the first one the public has ever seen.

I'm posting this because there are so many questions I'd like answered, but he's so elusive.  Maybe in this forum he'll come clean and tell us of his master plan?  You think he'll do anything he doesn't want to do?  Of course not.  But I do know he's a terrific writer and his work deserves a wide audience.

You think I'm exaggerating about his singularity?  Check out his answers:

1- Why did you decide to give up a thriving career as an attorney to write fiction full time?

For me it’s important to continually challenge myself. A good challenge is what keeps me thinking properly. As humans we have a tendency to limit ourselves. We learn a particular skill or job or trade and we keep at it. With so many jobs available to us, the odds of finding the one that really suits us are sky high, particularly when we don’t try that many jobs to begin with. We do something and we continue doing it. It’s probably nothing we ever imagined we’d be doing full time or forever. It just sort of happens that way. Most of us would be far better off doing something else, and doing it would be far better for us. For that reason I decided to make a change, take a chance of falling on my face—and I have, financially. But as far as meeting a challenge and using my time effectively, I do not waste one minute of my day. Writing is that worthwhile an endeavor for me. I know only two other things about writing. First, writing is re-writing. Second, writing truly is its own reward.

2- Since you’ve just released your first book on Amazon, how do you pay the bills?
Loans and the kindness and generosity of friends and family, and the odd law job. Starving to death doesn’t take a whole lot of money. I checked.
3- Most writers dream of the chance to write full time. For someone who’s actually done it, what’s the hardest part of that equation?
Discipline, cutting oneself off from the outside world. I honestly believe that most people are not meant to write full time even though they pine for it. To minimize distractions—Gary can vouch for this—I have no message machine, which people find annoying because I also have no cell phone. I’ve never owned a cell phone. I have a land line, that’s it, and I unplug it a lot. I do not have call waiting, call forwarding or caller ID. I don’t have a Blackberry or a blueberry or a raspberry. I do not have a pager or a Palm Pilot. I’m not on Faceplant or Tweety Pie Bird or Spacebook. I disconnected my doorbell. My television doesn’t work. It’s a 32 inch, 1994 Sony and it’s broken. I do not own an HD television, never have. I also don’t own a laptop. I wrote my first novel in cursive in five spiral notebooks. Later, I bought a personal computer, the best invention since the microwave oven. Most technology, television included, is a distraction for a committed writer. The gadgetry of the modern age offers reasons and excuses not to write. People dream about writing full time, that’s great. Dreaming is fun. Full time writing is a grind, but if you can manage it, if you can discipline yourself and shield yourself from all the temptations brought about by “free” time, you’ll grind yourself some of the most amazing fairy dust ever, and it will show in the stories you tell . . . Best of luck out there. We’re all pulling for you.
4- How did you come up with the idea of a female protagonist for Bum Boulevard and how tough was is to get inside the head of a woman?
We’ve all heard that we’re supposed to write what we know. I think that’s bunk. That’s why I write about women. I don’t know a thing about them except they’ve always been very nice to me. Come to think of it, so have dogs. I’ve made a decision. My next story will be about a woman and her dog. Please, whoever reads this, don’t steal my idea.

5- What do you see the publishing world looking like in 5 years?

Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets. Less paper, more e-readers. They’re going to make an e-reader you don’t have to hold. Holding something is passé, it ties up the hands. It’s archaic. We should be past it by now. They’re going to come up with a neck harness for your e-reader—like a harmonica brace. You’ll be able to watch your e-reader, talk on the phone and throw a football all at the same time. It’ll be fabulous fun, multi-tasking at its finest. Re texting: Biologically, they say we lose what we don’t use, which is why the pinky toe continues getting smaller and smaller. The opposite is also true. If we use it, it gets larger, like the human brain. Following this train of thought, texting is going to make our thumbs so big that we’ll have to carry around cell phones the size of televisions so we’ll be able to hit the proper key pads. If you throw out your mutant thumb to hitch hike, the momentum will carry you into the street. No worries about getting run over. They’ll be using air cars by then. The paved streets will be used strictly by texters wandering mindlessly around like a bunch of big-thumbed Zombies. Remember, you heard it here first.

If you like Mike's story and are interested in checking out his novel, Bum Boulevard, here's the link to his Amazon site:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Author Scott Nicholson has written 12 thrillers, 60 short stories, four comics series, and six screenplays. He's also a freelance editor and journalist. He lives in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, where he tends an organic garden, successfully eludes stalkers, and generally lives the dream.

Scott is one of those Indie authors who has made a name for himself and will be around a long after the dust settles.  His latest thriller "Liquid Fear," is running up the charts on Amazon.  I've asked him to offer some advice to Indies who'd like to know how to get where they want to go.  He was kind enough to put together a small excerpt from his book, "The Indie Journey," to guide those who could use a little nudge:


I am not sure anyone yet knows how to sustain an indie career in the digital era, despite the experience of some people who have been self-publishing since the dinosaur days of paper.

The only ones who have bankable careers are those who are already closing in on their indie million. If it all ended tomorrow, they could probably manage okay with some smart investing.

Those who are getting a decent income right now could see it go one of two ways. If it ended tomorrow, a solid percentage would immediately shift to giving their books away to “build audience,” even if a paying audience down the road seems unlikely. Those who quit their day jobs to go indie can probably find other jobs and have a great story for the grandkids about when they were “real authors.” A few will continue to parlay indie success into a corporate career.

But even corporate careers are tough to sustain, with only a minority of lucky authors getting those third and fourth book deals and then building a long-term career. And, if the indie era collapsed, one would suspect those same factors would probably make an even more dramatic impact on publishers with much higher overheads.

While it’s difficult to predict how everything will turn out, your chances of surviving either way are best if you continue to run your writing like both an art and a business, like so:

1. Continue to write, no matter what. Without products, you have no options.

2. Expand your markets. You’re on Kindle. Great. So are a quarter-million other authors, and that number is expanding daily. So get on Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, OverDrive, and everywhere else, and try to develop sales at your own site—the only site where you will be guaranteed to maintain control and a suitable royalty.

3. Consider diversifying your genres. You don’t know what the next trend will be. If you don’t find trends artistically satisfying, write what you like and hope the market catches up. While branding is helpful, it is also limiting. If you are prolific, consider a pen name—but a pen name is probably wasted on a one-shot, so unless you are going to establish the pen name as its own brand, avoid it.

4. Pay attention to the markets. Try to anticipate and stay ahead of the curve, whether on pricing, content, covers, devices, or what readers want.

5. Keep building your network. Having more friends makes writing more fun, but be careful you don’t spend more time tweeting than writing. As the digital revolution evolves, you might see new opportunities open that you hadn’t considered—everything from ad-supported e-books to interactive, shared-adventure stories.

6. Take chances. In any evolutionary leap, a number of critters are left behind. Usually they are they ones who are slowest to adapt, often because they are following the herd, which means they are the last to get to the vital resources. Extinction is the result.

Most of all, enjoy it. A number of indie writers seem unhappy because they have certain expectations and are disappointed because they aren’t one of the indie lottery winners. Be grateful for this incredible opportunity. If this is as good as it ever gets, that’s still pretty darned good!

Scott Nicholson
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To read the entire book, The Indie Journey, it's available at Smashwords Amazon and B&N

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Somewhere along the line the rules were changed.  The old rules meant you had to get approval for your book from a literary agent, usually after a 3-12 month wait.  Then wait another year or so to find a publisher.  Then if you were one of the lucky few who found one, you got to wait another 18 months before your book hit the bookstores.  Whew, am I glad those days are over. E-Readers have changed the game.

This is a complex issue with many layers.  The gatekeepers are going away.  This means some really good writers are finally going to find their way without the hindrance from a suit in New York who doesn't like vampire books, so goodbye dreams.  Unfortunately, this also means that every shmoe with a laptop is now writing a novel and posting it on Smashwords because, after all, the gatekeepers are gone.  Is this intrinsically a bad thing?  No.  Readers will find the good stuff, just like they find the good music without ever hearing it on the radio.  The most common way will be word of mouth, which is always the most powerful method. 

The reason I believe this isn't a bad thing is because of my experience within the publishing world when the gatekeepers were still taking three martini lunches.  After one publisher told me how much he liked my Nick Bracco novel, he then admitted how much he despises mafia books and if The Godfather were offered to him, he'd have turned it down immediately.  Really?

Okay, you say, that's just one guy.  But therein lies the problem.  With all the consolidation within the publishing world, there's only 5 or 6 big publishers left anymore.  What if four of them don't like mafia books?  You mean your chance of bringing your award-winning novel to the masses depends on the approval of maybe three or four people in a high rise in Manhattan?  Good luck with that.

So where do we go from here?  Up.  Where?  Up.  That's right, we move up the evolutionary ladder to a new system where the reader gets to decide what's good and what's not.  Will it be difficult at times to sort things out?  Sure.  But eventually the readers will have their say good or bad.  I wouldn't want it any other way.  Let me decide what I like.  After all, I'm a reader too. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Bob Moats began his writing career a few years back with his Jim Richards series of murder mysteries and has not stopped since.  He's one of the most prolific writers on the scene today.  His first book, "The Classmate Murders," went on to hook tons of fans and 18 books later he's reaping the benefits of his labor.  For those of you wondering how an Indie author makes any money, Bob has some suggestions for you.  He's a talented writer and very accessible, so for those who have any questions about his work feel free to contact him at   Now, here's Bob:

Spreading your book sales beyond Amazon.

When I first started writing my books, I had an illusion that I would be the next Robert B. Parker, with a series of novels about my private eye, Jim Richards. I finished that first book "Classmate Murders", and then started book two, before I really had any idea of ever being published. Mainly because I didn't know how to go about getting published. My brother is a professional photographer and he had a coffee table book of his photos that he sold at art fairs and such. He finally got on Amazon to sell his books also and he introduced me to selling my books there.

I checked around online to see how much it would cost to print my books and found that for the number of pages and size, the cheapest would be about $5.00 per book to print in quantities over 100. (I did check local print shops and they wanted over $14. per book!) I had originally figured on selling my books for about $7.99, which was average for paperbacks in stores by famous authors. I could only aspire to put myself in their category, but I had to set a price. I figured out how much Amazon would take out for their booty on each sale, I realized I was going to make about .75 cents for each book sold after printing costs. Not a healthy profit, so selling my books in paperback wasn't much of an option.

Then my brother introduced me to Twitter and Facebook. I joined and started to meet people who were putting their books online as ebooks. The word I was reading was that getting an agent or a publisher is about as much fun as a tooth extraction, but self-publishing was not such a bad way to go.

I looked into this and having a background in computers, I set up my first book and put it on Amazon. I tweeted and Facebooked my ebook on Amazon and after a while I sold a couple of them. I also found that the price I was asking was a little high for an ebook, so I lowered my prices as I put more of my books up for sale. My first royalty payment from Amazon came and it was for $13.65 (a whole four books) and I was happy, I was now a paid published author. Each month after that my sales were going up, nothing tremendous but enough to keep me in beer and chips.

I was also reading about how everyone praises Amazon as though it were the only venue to sell books, but I discovered a place called and how they sell books for authors. The nice thing about Smashwords is that they are a distribution channel to other ebook retailers like Apple for iPad, Kobo, Diesel, Sony for Nook, Barnes & Noble and even Amazon for the Kindle. This was a way to get a wider coverage for my books so I put them on Smashwords and waited to see what would happen. I was surprised.

I had to promote to start the ball rolling, but now the the thing has taken on a life of it's own. Every month was showing an increase in sales and I'm hoping they continue. My last royalty payment from Smashwords (covering most of the retailers) was almost $500. while Amazon came in a modest $200. but I took it. I'm not going to get rich, maybe, but using more than one avenue to sell my books compounds the sales nicely.

What I'm boring you to death about is that you shouldn't put all your ebooks in one basket. I hear authors I've met online talking about the thousands of books they are selling on Amazon, I'm happy for them, but none mention about any sales on Smashwords or their retailer partners. Amazon sells only for Kindle, I know people who have other tablets and ereaders but not Kindle, so they can't read the Amazon DRM locked books on their readers, but with Smashwords the options and formats are wide open.

To end this and summing up, I'm just saying if you have a book worthy of selling to the masses, don't just use Amazon, go for the other retailers, you can only improve your sales as I have.

Bob Moats

Website: - Blog:

Monday, June 6, 2011


When Taylor Stevens was 14 she wrote her first short story.  Instead of being encouraged for her precociousness, her notebooks were confiscated and she was put in solitary confinement and held without food.  It would be 2 decades before she would write again.  Such is the amazing story of a young girl who was born into a religious cult.  For more info on Taylor's grim upbringing you can read her own version of the events at her Facebook Fan Page:

Stevens' debut novel, The Informationist, has received rave reviews from USA Today to the LA Times.  Her protaganist Vanessa Munroe is a resourceful loner who grew up overseas and has combat training and a wry sense of humor.  The Informationist is a remarkable story worth investigating for many reasons:

1- In “The Informationist” your main character, Vanessa, “Michael” Munroe is insanely clever (she speaks 22 languages) and has worldly experience. Was it cathartic to write about a character who was so physically and mentally powerful?

There was a time, many years ago, when I wrote essays for myself and for a select few friends as a way to process, internalize and put to rest many of the things we experienced while growing up. In its time, that form of writing was rather cathartic, but writing good fiction is hard, and although there’s a certain sense of accomplishment when I look back on what has been completed, and I love who Munroe is now, it certainly didn’t feel good while I was struggling to produce it all.

But that said, from the beginning, when writing Munroe, I never viewed her in terms of strong or weak, good or evil, or even, in a sense, male or female. Initially, when thinking of her reactions to situations, I was drawn to pull from the emotional conflict and skill of Jason Bourne, and the sensual confidence of Lara Croft, but these were gut feelings, nothing specific or tangible. Michael Munroe as a chameleon and predator, a woman with her own brand of morality and a take-no-prisoners form of justice, gradually came alive as a result of the demanding environments she was thrown into, so to me, Munroe has always been who she is as the natural result of her storied life, and I honestly didn’t realize just how strong—and perhaps unusual—she is until feedback started coming in from test readers.

2- Munroe travels in similar paths to your own, with Texas and Africa playing important roles. Was that a conscious decision because of your familiarity with those places?

When it comes to writing about Africa, yes, absolutely. I had lived in Equatorial Guinea for a little over two years and also spent several months in Cameroon, so I had been quite immersed in the location. When writing THE INFORMATIONIST, my initial motive, even before I had characters or a plot, or any idea really of what I would write, was to bring this tiny country to life for readers who might never have the chance to visit, and having only the location, I needed a way to show the experience of being there in a way that would make sense to the story without turning it into a travelogue. I also had to set the story somewhere in the United States, and it made sense to put it in a place where I had some familiarity with the location, rather than having to start anew elsewhere, for no reason in particular.

3- How do you feel about reviewers comparing Lisbeth Salander from the Steig Larsson series to Vanessa Munroe? Have you read any of those books?

This is such a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, what debut author wouldn’t want to be compared to a writer who has sold over 50 million copies world-wide, and who has an enormous fan base? I understand why the comparisons are there, and I am grateful for them and for the exposure they bring to my own writing, because there are certainly many people who would never have heard of me or even picked up one of my books were it not for the comparisons. On the other hand, I don't expect that many people enjoy their original work (in any art or field) being framed in the context of someone else's, no matter how wonderful the praise—but maybe one day, new characters will be compared against Munroe, and new authors will be in my position.

I haven’t read any of Stieg Larson’s books yet, nor seen the movie, so it’s difficult to say from my own perspective whether the comparisons are apt, but if I rely on the opinions of others: there are some similarities in the badassery of Michael Munroe and Lisbeth Salander, and those who enjoyed Lisbeth in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series would probably appreciate THE INFORMATIONIST.

4- You’re very stingy about revealing Munroe’s past, was that part of the intrigue for the reader to discover her motives along with her goals?

You know, I’ve come to understand that each person draws differently from the reading experience and will bring his or her own personal perspectives to a story. As this relates to your question about being stingy in revealing Munroe’s past, I’ve also heard that I revealed too much, too much too fast. In a similar vein, there are many readers who truly connect with Munroe to the point of feeling her anguish and understanding why she is so flawed, and others simply don’t “get” her or what drives her, instead seeing her as a caricature or feeling that she is unreal because she has no flaws. So the best that I can do is write what is true to the way I see her, and hope that readers also feel the same way. That said, there are scenes concerning Munroe’s past that were taken out of earlier versions because, although they did reveal more detail, they didn’t move the story forward—and that’s really what writing a thriller is all about: moving the story forward.

5- Do you have any thoughts about the future of the publishing world and its digital explosion?

Given the relatively little data I have available, I believe four people have bought digital copies of THE INFORMATIONIST for every one who purchased a hardback book. While certainly some of these were former paper readers who have converted to digital, I expect that there are also many who quite possibly wouldn’t have ever read THE INFORMATIONIST were it not digitally available, and I find it fascinating the way the digital world is opening up reading to a whole new market. There will always be those who love and crave the feel of a real book, but our world is changing, and I hope that I’m there to meet the future when it arrives.