Monday, January 21, 2013


For years writers were able to focus on the one things they were good at—writing.  It was prudent to be creative and find someone else to handle the business side of the publishing industry.  That was fine when agents and publishers were actually accepting work from unknown authors.  But now Lindsay Lohan's illiterate housecleaner will become a NY Times bestseller and Jack Plummer with an MFA and tremendous writing chops will be consistently snubbed for more reality TV pseudo celebs.

In steps Cheryl Bradshaw to the scene.  Cheryl decided to self publish her first novel, Black Diamond Death back in 2009, when Indies were considered pariahs in the publishing industry.  It was a risky move but it has paid off fantastically.  Her books are constantly on Amazon's bestseller list for several categories.  Cheryl has been very prodigious at marketing her work and dealing with the business side of the industry, something that today's author needs to become more efficient at.  I've invited Cheryl to discuss some of her tactics and her ability to juggle all things writing.  By the way, Cheryl's latest release is Strangers in Town and is receiving tremendous reviews.
Now, here's Cheryl:

1- It's a different world than it was even five years ago when writers wrote and agents sold books. Nowadays, how much time do you spend writing compared with being socially active and marketing your work?

I would say I write and promote equally. But, I have help. I hired a publicist in 2012, and she takes some things off my plate so I have more time to write. I also hope to have a full time assistant by the end of 2013. Right now, I have someone who helps me, but it’s still not enough. I would love to spend most of my time writing, as most writers probably would, but I do enjoy actively engaging with my fans.

2- How long did it take you to write your first Sloane Monroe mystery, Black Diamond Death? And when did you start the promotional process?

I had no idea what I was doing, and I knew little about the industry when I wrote Black Diamond Death, the first novel in my Sloane Monroe mystery series. It took me a year to write, probably because I spent more time trying to learn that first year. Now I can write a novel in about four months if I really hunker down and commit.

I started promoting Black Diamond Death as soon as it was published, which is very different than what I do today. Now I start beforehand, releasing the first chapter on my website and blog as soon as it’s written so my fans can get a feel for the book, the title, the storyline, etc. I also do a soft release for two to four weeks before my hard release. I promote everywhere and run contests. I’m sure there’s more I could be doing, but all of these things have helped book sales.

3-You created the Facebook page, Indie Writers Unite, which currently has over 1,600 members. Was this a mechanism for Indie writers to share their experiences or were you feeling a bit lonely out there?

I searched and searched for places to meet writers when I was first starting out, and I found a few, but nothing that was the right fit for me. I wanted a positive environment where writers could get help from each other, ask questions, and learn about the business. I didn’t want a place where authors belittled one another or used it as a venue to promote their books and then leave. When I couldn’t find that combination, I created Indie Writers Unite. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I’ve made many friends and learned more about the current state of the industry than I ever would have on my own. Now I get to share that knowledge with other authors starting out. I love the opportunity I’ve been given to pay it forward.

 4- Is it possible for an Indie author to simply publish a book without any have success?

I suppose anything is possible, but this would be a rare occurrence in my opinion. Black Diamond Death entered the top 100 list in both mystery and thriller six weeks after its release on Amazon, but now I believe it would be harder to do that without a following. Authors are publishing books at astonishing rates. There’s a lot of room for everyone, but there is also a lot of competition. It took three novels in my Sloane Monroe series before I felt I’d established life-long fans that would buy anything I wrote as soon as it was out. I still have a long way to go, but I believe an online presence is vital to building your brand, and I think every author should have a website, blog, a Facebook author page, and an active Twitter account where they talk about things that have nothing to do with their books.

 5- When traditional writers are going Indie with their backlists and Indie authors getting traditional deals from NY publishers, it does seem like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Where do you feel is the best place for a new writer to get published in 2013? And how will that change in five years?

 I still believe Indie is the way to go, probably because right now it works for me. I can see myself signing with a publisher one day and I can see myself not signing. I would love to work with a publisher who understands the changing industry and has the kind of mindset that makes Amazon so successful for authors today. For all Indies do for themselves nowadays, I think publishers should give more thought to the percentages and the royalty rates they are offering. There are many Indies out there right now who understand the business and could benefit legacy publishers in a lot of ways.

If I had a crystal ball I would guess that in the coming years we will see Indie authors getting traditionally published deals with houses that offer more than what they have in the past. I also believe writers will fall into two categories: successful and non-successful. Those who don't promote well, find an audience, or work hard to develop their brand will become frustrated. Many will give up and get out of the business altogether. Others will shine, make their mark and go on to be well known household names.

Thank you for having me Gary!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Here's just a few things you should know about this terrific writer: He's been writing fiction since the age of six.  His books have received rave reviews from such prestigious publications as The New York Times,  L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and Publishers Weekly.  He's six-foot-seven, has a sharp sense of humor and is fortunate enough to have friends with last name like Connelly and Gerritsen.  Also, he currently has two books in the top 10 of Amazon's bestseller list for Police Procedurals.  If you haven't heard of him before, that is about to change very soon.  Thank you Alan very much for your time.
1- Tell us about your previous publishing experiences and how the agreement with Thomas and Mercer came about?

I have always written the book I wanted to write, which in the world of publishing is probably not the best success strategy.   My first two novels were classical whodunits (“No Sign of Murder” and “The Forest Prime Evil”) featuring a private investigator.  Those novels came out about the same time everyone in publishing was saying the PI novel was dead.  I then surprised everyone by doing a bit of an about-face and writing two comedic novels (“The Hotel Detective” and “The Fat Innkeeper”) loosely based on my day job as a hotel manager in La Jolla, California.  Then I switched courses again and wrote two psychological thrillers (“Multiple Wounds” and “Shame”).  As if I hadn’t hopped around in the genre enough, I came out with two suspense novels (“Exposure” and “Political Suicide”).  It seemed every time I tried to expand my voice and writing muscles I had to find a new publisher.  I went from Warner Books to Simon & Schuster to St. Martin’s.  The reviews were great, and I was nominated for a number of writing awards, but I wasn’t having commercial success.  When my literary agent broached the idea of submitting “Burning Man” to Thomas and Mercer, I was initially skeptical.  I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable with the idea of a novel not coming out in hardcover.  And when I talked with editorial and they told me that over ninety percent of my sales would come through Kindle, it did give me pause for thought.  But then I said, “What the hell, the other way isn’t working.”  I did a leap of faith and I’m glad I did.  And it didn’t hurt that they promised to bring all three books out in audio, as well as let me revise and update “Multiple Wounds” and “Shame.”
2- You've just released a brand new book, "Burning Man," and have reissued "Multiple Wounds," and "Shame."  Tell us about Burning Man and where you came up with the concept.
When I was told by Thomas and Mercer that they would be bringing out “Burning Man” on the same day they were reissuing “Multiple Wounds” and “Shame,” I thought they were crazy.  All of the books were released on December 11, 2012, and so far it seems my publisher knows a lot more about marketing than I do.  It’s great to be wrong and benefit from it.
I think I was attracted to writing “Burning Man” because of the unique partnership of cop and K-9.  Before I wrote the first word I visualized Gideon and Sirius going through the crucible of fire.  Both come out the other side, but both are forever changed.  My favorite novels are usually those in which the hero is not the same person at the end of the book than he was in the beginning.  In most of my books there is definitely the element of redemption.
3- You're such a locally known favorite in San Diego, (Alan's won 2 San Diego Book Awards) do you ever get recognized when you're out on the town? And what's that like?
I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about the paparazzi, and as far as I know there are no literary groupies.  One of the great things about my craft is that my time is spent writing for smart people.  As a whole, readers are educated and bright.  I’ve been told that one percent of the population buys over ninety percent of the fiction, so I am writing for a very specific audience that cares about the words, and not the progenitor of them.  But I’m begging the question.  Yes, there have been a few times in my life where I was recognized as a writer outside of San Diego County, but I think the only reason I was noticed on those occasions is that I am a head taller than most people, which is what jarred their memories.  It’s always wonderful to be noticed by someone outside your family.
4- Are you active on social networks, and, in general, how much do you think that helps in promoting your books?
My 14-year-old daughter insisted that I go on Facebook.  And then everyone told me I needed to have a Facebook professional page promoting my books (  Because I am not comfortable tooting my own horn, I hired a social media person.  She does all my posts that say things like, “Buy Burning Man,” and, “Did you see Alan’s great review?”  I like hearing from people, and enjoy responding to their comments, but I’m still not comfortable with the megaphone (if you go to my website you can see I have the category of “Propaganda” where I comment on that –   I am glad my social media goddess is out promoting me, but sometimes I find myself blushing when I see something she’s posted.  It almost feels like I am the one on the mountaintop shouting what a wonderful person I am.  My two words to describe social media?  Necessary evil.
5- How has the industry changed since your first book was released and where do you believe the majority of your fans will be reading your books five years from now?  Paper, or digital?
When I talk about how publishing was when I first started writing, I feel as old as Methuselah.   The changes have been enormous, as has been the fallout.  I still like “physical” books.  I like dog-earing pages.  I like writing in the margins.  When I was young, I was that kid with a flashlight reading a book under the covers hoping that my parents wouldn’t discover me.  But nostalgia notwithstanding, the digital age is here.  One of the things I like best about the Kindle is that books are affordable.  I used to feel guilty when I would be signing my hardcover books that cost $27.95.  That’s a lot of money, and most people can ill afford such a luxury.  And if you’re an unknown writer to the reader, can you really expect them to make an expenditure of that kind?  I like it that readers can take a chance on you and not be out of pocket much.  Slowly but surely I am becoming a reluctant convert, but my home library will always have a place for actual books written by authors I consider special.