Friday, January 13, 2017

Introducing Amanda Byrd

"I become insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity" - Edgar Allan Poe
Amanda is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Tampa, Florida for school.  She spent some time in North Carolina working in racing, too.  Now, she is a full time psychology major and administrative professional.  She started with non-fiction but enjoys writing fiction more, as she has an extremely active imagination.  She’s got a knack for being a genuinely awesome person, as well as writing stories.  Her first book,  Miranda's Extraordinary Life: The Beginning of the End (Miranda the Universe Traveller), was published in the fall of 2016. Her second book, Miranda’s Extraordinary Life: The Magic Within, will be released in the spring of 2017. The hard copy can be found on her website.

Do you belong to any writers groups or other organizations which have helped you. Please share your experiences.

I do not.

What are your goals as an author, how do you define success?

My goal would be to earn a decent living from my books. Success, on the other hand, is having fans who enjoy your work.

What is your least favorite task associated with writing? 

Being mad at a person a character is based on, which makes me mad at the chatacter, which makes me force myself to write.

What do you think the future of literature will look like?

A lot better (and worse) for self-pubs like me. Not everyone who thinks they can write a book can.

Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing?​

This depends largely on my homework schedule, since I've recently gone back to school full time.

Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)? 

Typically, I write on paper, then type.  For my third fiction book, I'm going to give the straight lining thing a try and see how it works out.

What authors do you like to read?

I'm a HUGE Salvatore fan (he knows it, too. Great guy!)

How do you market your books?

Currently a ​F​acebook profile, local author signings, and a "street team" where I offer exclusives. Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? Not really,  still getting the hang of it...if at all. Haha!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Only People Who Matter

"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work." Stephen King

In creating Bookvetter we were unintentionally provided an opportunity to test the Pareto principle. Our preliminary results so far sadly confirm the validity of the Pareto principle and the need to alter our process.

In short, the Pareto principle when applied to the Bookvetter community predicts 20% of the members will produce 80% of the reviews. This has proven to be the case. The challenge moving forward is to retain the productive 20% and protect their drive and ambition from the less motivated 80%.

In the past and in face to face communities it was not possible to exclude the 80%. The contribution of the 80% while very small was needed as the total number of participants in a society was not adequate to support a community without including this unproductive majority. Fortunately the Bookvetter community is global, we have the option of focusing on the productive 20% and ignoring the less motivated 80%.

Starting out we had no authors and no books, thus we had to build both a member base and a catalog of books. When recruiting members and their books, there was no means of knowing who would be part of the 20% and who was one of the 80%. So our process didn't discriminate, we have let people sort themselves.

Let's start with a sample of two hundred potential members who are contacted about Bookvetter. We have a positive response rate of almost 50%, one hundred will become members. Of these one hundred members, fifty will submit their books for review and never return, thirty will submit their books and on average provide the community with two reviews apiece, the remaining twenty members will submit their books and provide almost twice the number of reviews they are required to provide.

It turns out talent and participation are very closely linked. Currently around only 20% of the books submitted will survive peer review. Care to guess what member segment is creating the books which survive?

Using the same sample of one hundred members, the books written by the overachieving twenty members will produce sixteen books which have scored high enough to achieve Vetted status, a success rate of 80%. The marginal thirty members will produce three Vetted books, a success rate of 10%. Drum roll please... the inactive fifty members will only produce one Vetted book, a success rate of 2%.

The books coming from the 20% make up over 80% of the books which have the potential to become a Vetted book. If you are one of the 20% there is close to an 80% chance your book can achieve Vetted status. If you are one of the less active 30% the chances of your book achieving Vetted status drops to around 15%, and if you are one of the nonparticipating 50% then your odds of success drops to 5%.

So the next obvious question is why even bother with the 80%, can they transform and become part of the 20%? The short answer appears to be it is a waste of time and resources.  Despite having received reviews the 50% which doesn't participate is completely unresponsive. To date not a single nonparticipating member has returned to participate and unlock their reviews.

The data for the 30% is more grey, a certain percentage will start to participate only after all the reviews for their book are completed. Some of these members will then go on to become part of the exceptional 20%.

So how does this affect you? We have rewritten the site code which matches books with reviewers. The books submitted by the nonparticipating 50% have been removed from the review lists. This will dramatically shrink the number of available books, yet these books have proven to be a waste of time. They are not ready for a larger audience and their authors are not suitable for a participation based community.

The next step will be gradually adjusting the site code to exclude more books submitted by the 30%. There is a percentage of these authors we would like to retain and finding this breaking point will take some time.

While we have sought members wherever we can find them, we have never been interested in being the right fit for everyone. Our objective has been to find the people who have the passion and right attitude to work with us to create something extraordinary. The time has come to further cull the amateurs and focus on the professionals who are creating the community and producing the work we want to see.

In another post coming shortly I am going to explore in greater detail the differences we have seen between the 20% and 80%. While talent and persistence seem to always gather the most attention when it comes to creating great art, perhaps it's time to also consider attitude and empathy.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Introducing Melindra Snowy

"It takes ten years to become an overnight success." (Anonymous)

Hi, my name is Melindra Hattfield Snowy, and I of course prefer to be known as MH. I'm a part-time author and full-time dreamer. You can find me at

I am the author of several short stories and novellas. I'm currently writing a follow-up to We Three Laws of Robotics Are, which will eventually be a book of short stories (I say short, but each is about 8000 words), as well as a science-fiction series about the most unlikely hero who is pitted against Armageddon, not to mention being hunted by assassins from the future - the first episode of The 12 Nights of Jeremy Sunson will be released soon.

When I was eleven, I found a sea chest that had been unopened since the war. It was my great-grandmother's. I had never known her, but I had always heard stories of the great adventuress. How she was only the third person to fly alone across the Atlantic after her colleague Amelia Earhart. How she braved the darkest parts of Africa, collecting tokens and stories of the most amazing events. In the chest was a diary - if it could be called that. For it was not the usual depictions of a day in an emotional life. There was hardly any reference to her at all. Instead there were literally hundreds of anecdotes, notes and diagrams of the most amazing things. Secrets. Conspiracies. Miracles. Through it I've tried to recreate my great-grandmother's life. But the answers I find lead only to more questions. I can't escape the feeling she knew something, and maybe the answer to the enigma lies in the chest.

You see, every so often the oddest things happen to me, events that seem related to that chest. And they are not always warm and wonderful. At times I find them quite disturbing. Maybe I'll write about them at some point. In any case, I determined early on that the fantastic ideas in her diary were too good to keep to myself, and so I'm attempting to share them with the world. I hope you enjoy them for my great-grandmother's sake. Who knows - I might even learn more about her and whether she really did uncover secrets hidden from the world?

 When did you start writing, what prompted you to start, and what have been your biggest successes and disappointments so far?

 I first toyed with the idea of writing back in school. But the results weren't very good. I had to experience a lot of life and learn how to convey ideas before I was in any way ready for the writing journey. My journey really began about five years ago. I wrote a few novels which I'm not yet ready to share with the world. It took a long time, but I learned a lot. Now I think I've learned enough to start sharing my work. I've released some short stories (We Three Laws of Robotics Are was just released on Amazon), and my first novella sized book (In Harm's Way) is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

It's been an interesting ride with ups and downs all along the way. The best has been the response to my stories; the worst is that, as I can only write on a part-time basis, it takes me such an awfully long time.

 Do you belong to any writers groups or other organizations which have helped you?

 I've tried several groups to gain feedback, none of which I found to be as useful as Bookvetter. As I'm now releasing my work, I'm using GoodReads, Amazon, Smashwords, and review blogs to spread the word.

What are your goals as an author, how do you define success? 

I have many goals. For now, the next step in my progression is to release my work to the world. In this, success is awareness. That's a combination of a quality product (which in not just the story and how it's presented, but also the editing, formatting, cover and a myriad of other factors), reviews, interviews - all (more or less) following a long-term plan. But ultimately, success as an author is to be an author - and that means to keep writing. Whether my stories sell is quite another matter.

What is your least favorite task associated with writing? 

Writing is many things. I find myself constantly fighting with my need to make everything perfect, the entrenched formality of business-writing, and my absolute inability to take anything seriously. I consider my strengths to be humour (though, perhaps not everyone will agree with me:), as well as an ability to combine concepts and logic in ways that are unique. I don't find myself facing writer's block per se (I always have far more story lines than time to write), but I will struggle with how to express a particular thought or situation. As an introvert with a professional career, I also find spreading the word to be quite taxing.


What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

For me, the most surprising thing about writing was that I personally enjoyed what I wrote. It sounds silly (why would you write something you don't like?), but I was surprised just how much I enjoyed what I wrote. As if I have been seeking for stories like this, and fulfilled the need myself.

What do you think the future of literature will look like? 

Personally, I'm seeing stories falling into two broad categories based on length: very long series of several books, and shorter episodes (akin to how stories were released by Dickens). My strategy of focusing on shorter stories that build together is based on this. But the answer for each of us will be individual: work out where you think things are headed, and be guided by that - everyone will have an opinion, but you'll feel most comfortable writing in a way you believe is right.

Could you describe the mundane details of writing?

For me, writing is an interesting process of constant detailed struggle in amongst enormous fun-filled worlds. I generally start a story with a scene, and then identify the philosophical theme that I'm actually expressing. From there it's a matter of building up some more scenes and the characters, and setting out the whole structure of the story, before writing the scenes in detail. For example, In Harm's Way started as a scene about a warrior (Harm) who performed amazing deeds, but who could never remember them; nor hope to repeat them when he was able to remember. Finishing a story takes quite amount of time as, due to my double life with a professional career as my day-job, I find the main time I have to write is when I commute. I also try to focus on one story, but I'm generally writing several at the same time.

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I have read science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories for as long as I can remember. Tolkein, Asimov, Conan Doyle, CS Lewis, Chesterton. I find myself most in tune with stories of that ilk. I most enjoy humour, and settings which do not reflect the day-to-day grittiness of life. This is the basis for the stories I write.

How do you market your books? Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

 I'm just starting to release my work to the world. To do so, I spent a great deal of time seeking feedback, as I've found the how of description (how the events are told), for me, is much more relevant than the events themselves. Gaining quality feedback is difficult (I've found Bookvetter to be quite useful here), though I have also sought professional critique. I'm using several strategies to market my stories. I released my first short story (The Secret Invasion of George Kranskii), which describes how road-rage is really the result of an alien invasion, for free on Smashwords. I am seeking reviews for two other stories now. The intention is to continually release work (hence my focus on shorter stories, or episodes of larger stories) to build momentum. I'll let you know how it works.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Introducing Shauna Bickley

'When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.' Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

I love this quote as it sums up so well how I often feel as a writer when I first publish a book or send an early draft to someone for comment and feedback.

I live in Auckland, New Zealand but was born and grew up on the other side of the world in England. In the years between I’ve lived and worked in a number of countries, but am proud and happy to call New Zealand home. I've been reading books since I figured out what the squiggly characters on the pages meant, and my earliest memory, from when I was around three, is of a book.

While I love writing novels and short stories, I write technical manuals and design workshops and training courses to pay the bills. Before that I was a trainer, and in the past I've trained subjects as diverse as computer systems, presentation skills, personal efficiency and a few other things I've long since forgotten. I could probably do with some personal revision on the efficiency materials.

My novels range from contemporary drama to murder and mayhem with the occasional touch of romance thrown in for good measure.

My latest novel, Writing the Stars is a romantic comedy. Anna King suffers a crisis of confidence in her abilities to write horoscopes when her life takes some unexpected turns.

My novels include:
Writing the Stars - romantic comedy
Still Death - murder/mystery
Lies of the Dead - mystery
Lives Interrupted - contemporary drama

When did you start writing, what prompted you to start, and what have been your biggest successes so far?

I’ve always written in one form or another—letters, short stories, articles and in a work-sense technical manuals and training materials. The decision to take my creative writing seriously and to start writing a novel came over a period of time rather than as a blinding flash of light.

Successes? These come in all shapes and sizes, and I think it is a relative term. Finishing my first novel was a success, and then finally finishing an edited version that I felt was good enough to unleash on the world was another. Feedback and praise from a publisher on a submission and short stories accepted by magazines—all of these can and do cause me to dance around my office and do a few arm pumps as if I’ve just won Olympic Gold.

Do you belong to any writers groups or other organizations which have helped you? Please share your experiences. 
I’ve belonged to a writers group for the past six or so years. We met up on a writing course modelled on a Masters in Creative Writing the tutor had organised and run for a few years. At the end of the year we decided that we had built up a huge amount of trust and we wanted to continue to meet to offer feedback as well as acting as a sounding board and sometimes motivation for each other.

We meet about every six weeks and the week before our meeting the two or three who are submitting email their work to everyone so we are able to read it before the meeting. Our submissions are generally around two chapters / 6,000-8,000 words to give a good sense of the writing, plot and characters. Between meetings we sometimes send out a shorter piece we need more immediate feedback on or ask if anyone has the time to act as a beta reader for a longer piece of writing.

What is your least favorite task associated with writing? 

Writing is a solitary occupation which is a huge positive as far as I’m concerned! The part I dislike most is anything to do with marketing and advertising myself and my writing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The most surprising thing was that I hadn’t realised this particular detail earlier in my writing life. Writers tend to talk about being either a planner or someone who writes as the ideas come to them. But within their writing, I think authors also write either plot-driven or character-driven novels. Neither is right or wrong, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a choice; it’s how the story comes. The first time I really came up against a brick wall while writing, was during one of my mystery novels. These tend to be a little more plot-driven and I had endless trouble with the plot. One day I was out walking when I suddenly recalled comments from my writing group and also from book reviews about my tales being very character driven. Of course, that’s what I was doing wrong. I was trying to plan the plot when I don’t write or get my ideas that way. I needed to think like my characters and understand what would get them to act in a particular way. From then the writing flowed.

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I like to read widely, and with eBooks and indie authors there are many options. I love finding authors new-to-me through blogs, articles and websites like Bookvetter. My favourite category is mysteries but I also enjoy a literary element and since discovering Dorothy Johnston through Bookvetter I’ve read most of her books. I like books that make me think, especially those that weave themes and elements subtly through their writing such as ‘How to be both’ by Ali Smith and ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham. I am in awe of writers who make me laugh such as Bill Bryson. On the non-fiction side are writers such as Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Jonah Lehrer, Gary Klein and Chip Heath. These are just a few as my list could be endless.

I’m not sure if any particular books or authors have had an influence on my writing. I’ve always tried to be true to my own voice in my writing.

Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?

Working full-time doesn’t lend itself to the luxury of having a routine. I write when I can grab a spare hour or two, so most of my writing is done in the evenings and at weekends. I find this works well enough for editing but not so much for first drafts. I like to write the first draft of a novel fairly quickly allowing me to work more deeply with the characters. The last couple years this has meant I’ve written as much of the first draft as possible during my holiday and over the Christmas break. Usually the characters and early chapter ideas have been in my head for a number of months, and before I start writing I plan out many of the scenes. This means when I come to actually write the first draft I don’t waste a lot of time wondering what to write.

Once I have the first draft I then spend the following months (evenings and weekends) editing and polishing. I write straight to my laptop, but I often do my planning in notebooks before transferring that to the laptop.

Thank you, Marc. I appreciate the opportunity to answer some questions and if your readers have questions or comments, please contact me. I would love to hear from you. You can reach me via email at shaunabickley [at] gmail [dot] com, at my website, or on twitter @ShaunaBickley. Thank you again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Introducing Alastair Henry

When did you start writing, what prompted you to start, and what have been your biggest successes and disappointments so far?

Unlike so many authors, I never intended to become an author at the outset. It all happened by chance. My daughter gave me a journal to write in when I went to live with a small First Nations band in a remote fly-in community in the NWT, so that she would know what it was like for me. I diligently wrote in the journal, initially, more out of a sense of obligation to my daughter I guess, but it became a habit, and there was always so much to write about. 
When I came out of the north, two years later, I went to Costa Rica for a month to transfer the journal writings to Microsoft Word and then I worked on the records to make them more of a story. My intention at that time, was to create a story exclusively for my family. I called the manuscript, “White Man On the Land.” Other people read the script, enjoyed it and commented, “But readers will want to know more about who this man was who had this incredible journey – what did he do before he went to the north and what did he do afterwards” I began to go back into the archives of my memory and then forward with the result that my memoir, “Awakening in the Northwest Territories,”  now spans sixty years.
Do you belong to any writers groups or other organizations which have helped you. Please share your experiences. 
I joined the London Writers Society and served as their Treasurer for a while as well as the President. It was a supportive group, comprised of published as well as emerging authors, and the guest speakers we had were most helpful, particularly to aspiring writers.
What are your goals as an author, how do you define success? 
To sell books of course, but it is a way for my wife and myself to meet a lot of people and have doing it. Because our books are memoirs, we are able to put together book readings accompanied by photos pertinent to the readings. These audio/visual presentations are more entertainment than merely an author reading from their book. We have done so many shows now to a wide variety of audiences, such as libraries, retirement residences, senior centers, church groups etc., that we consider ourselves as entertainers. 
What is your least favorite task associated with writing?
Deciding which partners to use to self-publish.  We used Friesen on the first book and Ingram Spark on our second memoir. We might use Create Space on our next one. 
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Writing an auto biography is cathartic. As you go deep into the recesses of your memory to harvest images, feelings and details, you notice that your memory has archived everything -the weather, the light, the mood, as well a the details. Now, whether your memory has captured the truth is another matter, but for you the writer it is the truth, as you remember it. For me, as I reflected and explored the circumstances, environment, events and decisions I made, I began to see my life as a book with many chapters and twists and turns. I now have a better understanding of who I am and why, and the factors that shaped my life-outlook and values. It really was cathartic. 
What do you think the future of literature will look like? 
I think there will be printed books for a long time to come, because they present a different reading experience than an e-book. Just as there are still cinemas today, in spite of TV, Netflix, Shomi etc. Going to the cinema is a different experience than watching a movie on TV, and besides, the popcorn is better at the movies.
Will you write more books?
Probably. Because I write memoirs to share unique experiences with readers and to educate, enlighten, inspire and motivate others to think differently about the world. I will probably write a 4th memoir about my current assignment – a 4 month placement on Cormorant Island in B.c. working with a First Nations band. My 2nd memoir, “Go For It – Volunteering Adventures on Roads Less Traveled” was about volunteering internationally, and my 3rd one, ”Go For It – Budget Backpacking for Boomers,” which will be published later this year, is about retirees traveling through Central America and S.E.Asia.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Introducing S. Jay Jackson

S. Jay Jackson

Lori Jean Grace
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.” Ralph Walso Emerson

By focusing on the first sentence, it is believable to everyone. Most people can’t believe they are capable of miracles, but everyone can imagine they have some level of wonder within themselves. 
I am half of a writing team, and the lesser half at that. Lori Jean’s name is on the cover. Our books focus on an assassin from the ghetto. Lori Jean is the ‘personality’ of the writing team. She makes sure the characters Michelle, Deja, and Nikky have enough fun while covering each other’s backs in all the stories. She adds the reality of the hood, sex, and family from a woman’s perspective.
Jay, the thinker, comes up with the plots and the characters. He also makes sure the men are real, the punks are weak, and the players are strong but flawed like he knew them to be. I’m not a stranger to the environment we write about. I was born to a single mom on welfare in the county hospital. From my early childhood on throughout my teen years we bounced around a lot, always in the hood and often in the government housing projects.
As the only boy in the family I was surrounded by women. My mother’s house was where the neighborhood women gathered to talk. If you have ever been around that type of situation, you know how little boys become invisible and the women talk about anything and everything. If women talk about it, I’ve heard it.
My world oscillated between outside the guys being stupid and tough on the playground and eventually on the streets, and the women inside, talking about the idiot moves us guys did. My “safe place” was books.
We didn’t have a TV so I grew up reading. From early on I could get lost in, The Little Train That Could, or later in books like, Lobo in the Wild. Reading was a joy, but because we moved so often, school was arduous. After attending eighteen schools, I dropped out of high school during my senior year and joined the army. With my military duty finished, I returned to night school where my love of words payed off. Eventually I became the first in my family to graduate from university.
In more recent years I worked overseas. For ten years I lived in Vietnam and Thailand, where Michelle Angelique the protagonist of our books went through her training. The things Michelle talks about in our books are made up, but they are also based on my real experiences. Of course, I never did any of the ninja stuff.

When did you start writing, what prompted you to start, and what have been your biggest successes and disappointments so far?
To say I started writing in 2000 is true and quite misleading. I wrote a nonfiction book in 2000, another in 2007, and then two more in 2013. During those years I also wrote a lot of winning grants and proposals, a number of business plans, even a couple complete policy and procedure manuals. None of it prepared me for writing fiction. I started working with Lori Jean collaborating on our first novel May 12th, 2014.  
I started because it sounded like a fun thing to do. I know how foolish it may sound, but I’m retired and can do pretty much what I want. Sitting on the beach was good for a few days, then I wanted something to do. That was when I wrote the last two nonfiction books. After that, fiction somehow seemed more fun, and well, here I am.
It took five weeks to write the first draft of the first book. What we like to call, the FSD (First S#*++y Draft). That was exciting. 
Sixteen months, several complete rewrites, eleven edits by eleven editors later, it is published and I believe a C+ level book. Currently, it is back in for one more line edit because, even though it is published, I am not satisfied with it. That has been disappointing. My goal is to make it a solid B level book.
I think submitting the fourth novel for a content edit was the biggest milestone so far. Somehow, the fourth book, one more than a trilogy, signaled this writing thing is real. 
Do you belong to any writers groups or other organizations which have helped you. Please share your experiences. 
First, and this may sound like I’m polishing the apple, but honestly, I’m not. Joining Bookvetter early on was very helpful. Reading critically for other authors jumped up my awareness of both great examples and horrible warnings. By helping others I learned a huge amount in a very short time.
Other than Bookvetter, on the writing side of things I haven’t had much luck. I joined a few writer’s forums but they didn’t work for me. What has worked very well is the huge amount of literature available. My partner swears by Writing Fiction for Dummies, I don’t like it but love How to Wirte a Novel using the Snowflake Method. Both are by Randy Ingermanson. Another great book that has been extremely helpful is Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker.
On the marketing and sales side of things I bought both Mark Dawson’s and Nick Stephenson’s courses and have been active on the FB groups with each of those courses.
What are your goals as an author, how do you define success? 
My goal is to earn a six-figure annual income. I’m right on track.
I expect to earn close to nothing on my first five or six books. So far that is working out very well. When I do the math of my earnings on my fiction books against the hours worked I am earning almost half a penny ($.0047) an hour. 
My books are meant to be fun escapist beach reads, not literature. People buy what they enjoy and makes them happy. When the reviews are about joy and my books are widely read I’ll know they are doing the right thing.  
What is your least favorite task associated with writing? 
Not having enough hours in the day to do all the cool things I get to do. Really, I can’t think of anything having to do with writing that I don’t like. Some things are more stressful than others, but they are all enjoyable. 
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How valuable forward planning is. I started with the intent to do a series so came up with nine titles and put them where I would see them every day. With each title I wrote a sentence or paragraph about the story.
Next I created a one page synopsis for the next book in line. For example, when I was ready to start book 2, I wrote the synopsis for book 3. By having the synopsis of the next book done and posted where I see it, it reminds me of that story while I’m working on the current book. Every day, it just sat there where I could see it and ideas would come to me. By the time I started on book 3 I had worked out most of the story.
Now, I’ve taken it a step further. I’m starting book 5 but instead of doing a one page synopsis of book 6, I’m creating complete outlines for books 6 and 7. The outlines are all the way down to the scene level. It takes me about a week to complete that level of outline. It is hard not to start writing on book 5, but I know when I start on book 6 it will be a breeze to complete.  
What do you think the future of literature will look like? 
It will come full circle. 
Publishers will change, dramatically, but they will eventually come back into favor. Not the publishers we know today, and certainly not the big five as they currently operate, but the concept and service of the publishing company is the eventual future.
Right now, a lot of indie writers are putting out junk. It isn’t well crafted nor is it well edited. As much as we don’t like the big publishing houses, just like we didn’t like the strangle hold the record companies had on musicians, consumers generally enjoyed a higher standard of work. Publishers and record stores served as gatekeepers sifting out the bazillion bad books and records that should never have come to market. 
Sure, there were abuses, and some great people were stifled, it’s an old argument. That’s not the point. You didn’t ask what I think is right or wrong. You asked what I think will happen. There are two forces that will bring publishing houses back into strength. Readers and surprisingly, authors.
Rightfully so, readers complain that they don’t know how to judge a new author. They don’t have a lot of reading time, so their time is valuable and they are loath to waste it on a bad book. They buy books that come from publishers because they can trust the quality of the writing. An indicator of the truth of that statement is the price of Kindle books. Publishers ask for and get over $10 for an ebook. Indies top out at around $6.00 – regardless of quality. That is a reflection of trust in the marketplace.
Authors will be the force on the other side. I spend over half of my time learning about and doing marketing. I enjoy it. Most authors either hate it, or just greatly dislike it. Very few like it. Most good marketing authors are actually better marketers than they are writers. 

Imagine a business model with a small publisher where they take all the responsibility for development and content editing, line editing, proofing, cover development, launch, marketing — the whole thing. The only thing the author did was write good books and be willing to go through a rigorous editing process. 
Then the publisher used an inverse commission structure. If the book earned up to $300 a month the author got 90%. From $300 to $400 the author got 85%. From $400 to $600 the author got 80% and so on until when the book was earning $5,000 or more a month and the author got 50%.  
If it was a runaway hit, the publisher gets rich – oh and so does the author. If not, then the author will get most of the money and none of the enormous headaches.
Now, imagine you are the publisher. Who will you sign? Well, golly, only serious authors who will do the hard work and craft excellent books that have a real shot at doing well. Some version of this model will eventually make its way to the marketplace and the quality will become obvious. Readers will get excellent books, writers will write, and publishers will publish. 
Of course, just like there are independent movies and many forms of art, there will always be room for the independent author. But, the future will go to the better author who gets a deal with a small tightly focused quality oriented publisher. 
Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?
I spend all day, six or seven days a week, at my desk involved in my writing. My time is split between writing and the business of writing. 
The business part is a solid half of the time.
The other half is where I write. The writing part is split seventy / thirty. Rewriting and editing being the seventy percent and creating new material is the thirty percent. I use Scriviner software to create and edit in Word. Most editors prefer track changes in Word and that is fine for me.
How do you market your books? Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
My view is probably not what sounds good to most people. I guess that means I’m safe from the flattery of imitation. Here it is.
Write good books. Not excellent books, but good books. Books that genuinely deserve a B grade. Write a lot of them. It takes a about four months (once you know how) to produce a B grade book and two or three years to write and polish an A grade book. I’m going for B. On the other hand, don’t be a grinder who puts out five or six books a year. They will be crap and will command crap sales. 
Look at the long game in marketing. Plan on spending money for the first two to three years. Think of it like a business. Most businesses are in the red for a few years, your book business should be the same. If you don’t like that analogy, then use the education model. It takes four years of paying for classes to get a college education before you can go out and ask for a well paying job. 
It takes at the very least four, and more likely six or seven books in a series before getting any traction in the market. The early books are only milestones along the way to getting your business started, they are not a start.
While writing those first six books, build an email list of your readers. You need a real list with at least two to three thousand readers who have read and enjoyed your books. Read Nick Stephenson’s marketing books on how to do that. 
The whole point is to get Amazon’s attention so they will sell your books.
After you have mastered how to produce B grade books, have a reasonable back list, and a readership that you can contact, you can market to those readers when you launch a new book. The impact of your readership on your new release will show up on Amazon’s radar (algorithm) and be picked up by their marketing machine. From there they will carry the ball and push your books based on their value.
Where am I? Happily writing the next books and gradually building my email list. I don’t spend time on social media, don’t tweet, don’t do book signings, and don’t blog. I generally don’t do interviews. I only did this interview because Marc asked. He is a great guy and I believe in what he has done with Bookvetter. 
That leads into the next and last point. A lot of your success will come from relationships. Exactly how is a mystery as it will be different for everyone, but trust that relationships will open doors that would otherwise not be open. Treat your fellow authors, editors, publishers, and book sellers well. If you get a bad deal, walk away and forget it. Focus on the next good deal and it will show up.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Introducing Jack Petersen

"If it doesn't kill you, call it a learning experience."  Anon. 2016

Jack Petersen lives in southern Arizona with his lovely wife, a cockatiel and two dogs, all of whom consider him a pet that has not yet been sufficiently housebroken. Having spent years roaming the west looking for ore, he has decided to try mining a different commodity--the fictionalized accounts of many lives met in transit from Arizona to Washington, and beyond.

E-books available include From an Alien Perspective, No Fool's Gold, Gold Camp, Dreams, and  Hikmut's Folly. A new novel, The Birthday Club will be published in 2016.

When did you start writing, what prompted you to start?

Perhaps the better question is:  Why do you think people want to read the words you put on paper and when did that delusion first manifest?

I have been writing technical non-fiction since college.  My profession requires some facility in technical writing to explain complex natural systems to people who control the purse strings.  I am a geologist.  The complex natural system is the Earth. Since geologists are not imbued with x-ray vision the explanation involves projecting what one can see at the surface or in manmade sub-surface openings throughout an immeasurably greater volume of Earth one cannot observe directly.  If a geologist is being honest, there is no explanation he or she can give that is not partly fiction.
Consequently, I have been writing fiction for about the same length of time.

I conclude that people want to read the words I’ve put on paper (I usually pretend that the fictional part is extremely minor and so do they, I think) because they request that I do it time and time again, and seem to be willing to spend large sums of money to gather information to improve upon my fiction.  Every once in a while that fiction turns into non-fiction and that results in those monies being returned with interest.  And so the cycle continues to repeat.

One day a few years ago, while spending some of those invested sums of money in a remote place in Nevada where there was very little else to do at night I had the notion to write words of fiction about things above the surface of the ground.  To my surprise, the words came fairly easily and I found that old hermit I met some months before staring up at me from the typewritten page.  To my greater surprise, I discovered that spending time describing that old hermit was a lot more fun than feeding money to a slot machine.  Since then, I have discovered that writing above-ground fiction is a lot more fun than many things I could otherwise be doing.

Do you belong to any writers groups or other organizations which have helped you?  Please share your experiences.

The only “group” I belong to is Bookvetter.  I am not much of a joiner, being semi-hermit myself.  On second thought, I suppose that I also belong to that most informal group: those who observe the human condition.  I have learned some amazing things by being part of that second-mentioned group, and all those things I’ve learned inform my writing.

Bookvetter, in contrast, is usually a one-on-one relationship where two disembodied entities come together for a brief time to share secrets.  The writer bares what he/she believes to be his/her artistic soul, and the reviewer reveals his/her ability to nurture (or rarely to destroy) that artistry.  But wait, the reviewer also reveals something of himself/herself in the choice of words used to critique so it is a sharing of artistry from both sides.

My writing has improved by belonging to the Bookvetter community as a result of reviewers pointing out weaknesses I had not known to exist.  The scope of my worldview has benefited from reading the words of critique.  I have added to my list of characters of the ‘writerly’ sort ranging from the literary snob who cannot find even the slightest benefit arising from sci-fi writing to the effusive fan who sees a movie in my novella built upon layering lies.

What is your least favorite task associated with writing?

Undoubtedly it is the requirement for selling oneself and one’s works.  I prefer to at least pretend that I am the humble sort, although being a writer does not admit to that possibility.  I’ve always been one of those who never tell even a slight untruth in their curriculum vitae, no matter how dreadful the result might be.  I hate advertisements, how can I produce one?

Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?

I write at a keyboard connected to my desktop computer.  I tried longhand, but discovered that too often I could not read my own writing, and I find that transcribing to the machine is a disruptive process. I have no set daily writing routine, but generally write in the morning or early afternoon.  I write quickly, and may produce a couple of thousand words per day.  The time-consuming part of writing for me is review and edit, and I spend, easily, days per page of draft in repeated readings, waiting a week and doing it all again.  I am done when it seems to flow without effort and the stupid typos have been discovered (sometimes often the writer becomes blind to those things; requiring the intervention of a ‘beta’ reader.  Yea Bookvetter!).

What do you think the future of literature will look like?

I cannot picture a future without paper books and no amount of verbal abuse about being a Luddite will alter that.  E-books will undoubtedly become ever more important.  Since that will encourage reading it is a good thing.  My daughter has her phone read books to her while she does other things with her hands.  Personally, I think that goes too far, so maybe I am a Luddite.

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

No one who is a writer can claim that books read have not influenced style and voice to some degree.  Whether one of them has had a greater influence on my writing I do not know.  Certainly I remember some with greater fondness: early Piers Anthony, Jean M. Auel, Arthur Conan Doyle,  A Reverence for Wood, Ingenious Kingdom, All the Strange Hours, for examples; but I think more for what they have taught me about the world than for what they have changed in my writing.