Thursday, May 10, 2012

8 Authors Reveal Publishing Insights

Interview With Political Author Carne Ross

1.      What type of books do you write? I write non-fiction books about the world and politics.

2.      How and when did you know that your destiny was as a writer? I have always loved writing but I didn't dare think of myself until I started writing plays about 10-12 years ago.  My playwriting teacher said, "If you write then you are a writer". That was a very simple thing to say, but very inspiring.

3.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? My latest book, "The Leaderless Revolution: how ordinary people will take power and change politics in the 21st century" is about the state of the world today and how to respond to it.  The conventional system of governments is not working.  We have no choice but to act ourselves.  The book is part analysis, part manifesto and part memoir of my life as a diplomat and today, including my work with Occupy.

4.      What inspired you to write it? I resigned from the British government over the Iraq war (which I had worked on).  I was thoroughly disillusioned.  I looked at the problems of the world and began an analysis of what might really work to solve them.  That started the long journey that ended with the book's publication (and in some ways, it is a journey that continues…)

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? It's great to be published.  My advice to any struggling writer is keep writing.  Just write and don't stop.  If it's not working, write it again.  And again.  This book went through several drafts.  Each made the book much better.  I hated my editor telling me to rewrite it, but he was right.  There is no shortcut to learning to write well.  Just having good ideas to write about is not enough.

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading? In lots of interesting directions including multimedia and interactive text.  Media technology is converging but is also providing more and more possibilities for creativity. I think it's great.

For more information, please see:

Interview With Crime Novelist Jaden Terrell

  1. What type of books do you write? I write character-driven private detective novels featuring Nashville-based PI Jared McKean. At 36, he’s a man adrift—unjustly fired from his job as a homicide detective and divorced from a woman he still loves and with whom he has a son with Down syndrome. He’s a traditional tough guy, but his personal connections give him an emotional depth. I call him a hardboiled hero with a soft-boiled heart.

  1. How and when did you know that your destiny was as a writer? Always. When I was a child, my great-aunt and I would cut out pictures from catalogs, sort them into families, and make up epic stories about them. From the time I was eight, I said I was going to be a writer and a teacher. I can’t remember ever not wanting to write.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? In Racing the Devil, Jared meets a battered woman who begs him for protection. His Galahad complex kicks in and he agrees, but she isn’t what she seems. She ends up. She seduces him, drugs him, and frames him for murder. In A Cup Full of Midnight, due out in August, Jared’s nephew, Josh, is a suspect in the ritual murder of a man known as the Vampire Prince of Nashville. Knowing Josh is incapable of such a crime, Jared takes on the case. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting everyone who was close to the dead man—including Josh. Jared will do anything and risk everything to save the boy he loves like a son from a killer equally determined to destroy him.

  1. What inspired you to write it? I wrote Racing the Devil for a contest, but its seed was planted when I first saw the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the boats are landing and the soldiers and getting torn to pieces, but they just keep getting out of the boats. I thought, “My God, this is what we ask our men to do. Take on these terrible dangers, then come home and be good husbands, good fathers, and loyal friends.” And, for the most part, they do. I wanted to write about that guy, the one who can rise to defend innocence against evil and still come home and be a whole, good man. Jared has never been in the military, but in every other way, he’s that guy. A Cup Full of Midnight was inspired partly by events in the first book and partly by several cases in which self-proclaimed vampires committed murder. There have been several such cases, but the first one I heard about was in Murray, Kentucky in 2006. I’ve played White Wolf’s vampire role-playing game and have several friends who still do, and I wanted to explore the difference between those people, who are typically nice, creative, “regular” people and those who aren’t playing, but rather fully embrace the vampire persona. I was especially interested in the way the leaders of these dangerous fringe groups gain emotional and spiritual power over their followers.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? There’s a list of impossible things I always wanted to do: pet a unicorn, soar through the skies on the back of a kindly dragon, and sit around a campfire and listen to Tolkien elves sing. It’s like all those things rolled into one and sprinkled with sugar. But there’s also an element of worry, because you’re being given this incredible opportunity, and you hope your work is worthy of it. For struggling writers, I would say, persevere. If writing is what you want, keep at it and don’t let anyone tell you to give up. But persevering isn’t just knocking on the same doors in the same way with the same battered package in your arms. While you’re persevering, hone your craft. Go to workshops. Read everything you can. Find a good critique group or a mentor, or read books on craft. Whatever works for you. Study the industry. Be able to look at your work and see where it needs polish and where it needs added depth. Keep building relationships and making your work better while you wait for the lightning to strike so that, when it does, you’re ready to catch it. Self-publishing is a viable path for many these days, but there’s a temptation to do it too soon, before the work is ready. If you’re getting a lot of no’s, be willing to ask yourself honestly if it’s because your subject is a poor fit for traditional publishing or because you still need to polish your craft.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? The publishing industry is changing so fast, I’m not sure anyone can tell where it will be in five years. Some people say print is dead and traditional publishing is going the way of the carrier pigeon, but I think there’s a place for both print and digital books, as well as for both traditional and self-publishing. We already see more and more new businesses offering a la carte services for self-published authors—professional cover design, big-picture editing, line editing, digital formatting, and various marketing packages. There are more options than ever for writers, but the competition is overwhelming, so the biggest challenges—after writing the best book you possibly can—are letting readers know your book is out there and giving them a reason to choose it.

For more information, see

Interview With Business Authors Brad and Debra Schepp

1.      You teamed up to write How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  How challenging is it to co-write a book as a married couple? It's gotten easier. We know our respective strengths and go from there. So Brad researches and edits, Deb usually writes. It's the formula that works best. We've also given up our artistic temperaments. Makes for a smoother life as a couple.

2.      Your book, now in its second edition with McGraw-Hill, is a guide to social media job hunting.  Do you need to utilize all of these social media sites or can you use just one or two of them? You should probably use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, at a minimum. You need to use all three actively. Your strategy for using each one should vary with the site.

3.      How does one Twitter their way to a new job? Well as you know that's the title of an entire chapter in our book! But it boils down to: Tweeting about the right things in the right way, finding people to follow who can help you, building your own following, and using sites like TweetMyJobs to make sure you're getting the best job postings. The book, of course, has all the details.

4.      What do you like about writing books? Getting paid to learn about things that interest us, and also the chance to help other people out. Also, we must admit, even after 20 books, it's still cool to see your name and your words in print.

5.      Any advice for a struggling writer? Write with passion and verve, read as much as you can to inform your writing, and keep your day job!

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading? With e-books taking an ever-increasing share of the book market, but there remaining a place for some kinds of" dead tree" publishing.

7.      In which industries or age groups will it be most fitting for using social media to get a job? Everyone, regardless of age or industry, should be using these networks, considering how many people now use them and how varied their backgrounds are. The sweet spot for LinkedIn? Probably people in their mid-to-late 30s through their 50s. Younger for Facebook and Twitter.

Interview With Fantasy Author Ayize Jama-Everett

  1. What type of books do you write? I’m in the speculative fiction camp.  Mostly Sci-fi/Fantasy.  Lately I’ve been drifting into magical realism, and hope to one day write something with less artifice regarding the Lacanian Real.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? I’ve got two projects I’m editing now.  One is a follow up to my debut Novel, The liminal people tentatively titled Vish Kanya. The book focuses on a girl known as a Poison Damsel and what it means to never truly be heard. I’m also working on an ebook that comes with art and original music for each chapter entitled The Purge.  The book is my attempt to bring the spiritual back to the undead life of the zombie.   I’ve just started taking notes on a ruckus adventure about distilling spirits.  

  1. What inspired you to write it? I’ll take that as an ongoing question, What inspires me to write.  Simply, it is the impulse that makes me shout ‘Did you see that?”  Or “I wonder what would happen if…”  I like to translate the world I experience to a larger audience.

  1. What did you do before you became an author? I’m a therapist, a health educator, a professor, and a guerilla theologian.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? It feels great to be published.  It feels even better to have people enjoy my work.  As for struggling writers, A writer writes.  They may think about writing, dream about writing, takes copious notes about writing, go to writer’s workshops, and visit famous writers, but no first and foremost, a writer writes.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? Into the future.  Ebooks allow for an abundance of books to come out.  But the publishing is only part of what makes a books successful.  Marketing, press, editing, all that background stuff is necessary.  But ebooks also allow for the “reading” experience to be far more immersive.  What we now experience as the page will soon be a thing of the past.  I’m excited to see what takes its place.

Interview With Techno-Thriller Author Larry Bond

  1. What type of books do you write? The industry calls them "Techno-Thrillers." I like "Military Thriller," since the story always revolves a military crisis, which may or may not break out into open war. I've been writing in the genre since 1986, when I apprenticed with Tom Clancy on Red Storm Rising. That story is considered the first modern techno-thriller.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? The next book of mine to be published will be Exit Plan, on May 8th. It's the third book in the Jerry Mitchell series. Think Horatio Hornblower, but with nuclear submarines. The first book was Dangerous Ground, where he was a division officer on USS Memphis. In the second, Cold Choices, he was a department head (the navigator) on USS Seawolf, and in Exit Plan he''s the executive officer of an Ohio-class SSGN, USS Michigan. These are Trident SSBNs converted to carry Tomahawk missiles and SEALs. In this story, Jerry is piloting a mini-sub with SEAL passengers when they run into trouble and end up stranded on the beach. Beaches are nice, but this one belongs to Iran. They spend the rest of the story figuring out how to get out of Iran, while saving some spies and stopping a war. 

  1. What inspired you to write it? The headlines. There are a lot of good ideas for military thrillers out there right now. Maybe too many. My job as an author is to take a real-world situation and turn it into a story. The rules of the genre allow me to make one tweak in the beginning, and then everything else should flow naturally from that event. It may not be the most probable course, but I work to make it plausible.

  1. What did you do before you became an author? Several things. My degree is in computer science (Way back. Think steam power), but a few years out of college I discovered I did not like computer programming as a career and I joined the Navy. That was a rewarding and valuable experience. I served four years aboard a destroyer as a surface warfare officer, and two more of shore duty at a naval think tank in Virginia. I enjoyed the analytical work so much that I left the Navy and became a naval analyst, working for two different civilian think tanks for several years.

Along the way, I was playing and writing war games as a hobby. My first war-game, Harpoon, described modern naval warfare, and it was used as a data source by a new writer for a book he was working on called The Hunt For Red October. The author, Tom Clancy, was an insurance agent in rural Maryland (this is before email), and wrote to me with some questions about naval warfare. I answered his letter, and we continued to correspond, and became (and are) good friends.

After the wild success of HFRO, Tom and I collaborated on his second book, Red Storm Rising. I was basically his apprentice, watching him put the story together, fix it when it wasn't working, and polish it. After RSR was published I struck out on my own, and I've been paddling like crazy ever since.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? It's very satisfying, although I always remember that I'm only as good as the last book I published. My job is to deprive my readers of a good night's sleep, so I work hard at creating engaging characters and situations that seem impossible to get out of.

I learned a lot working with Tom, and some more on my own since then. 1) It's easier to research than just make stuff up. Whatever the topic, learn as much as you can, and ask lots of questions. Because of my topic, I occasionally ask questions that can't be answered because of classification issues, but aside from that, people are proud to show off what they do, and can become very helpful in developing the story. 2) You don't have to explain everything right away, but if you don't, the reader's putting their trust in you that it will become clear later. 3) Avoid numbers, unless they're important. 4) Surprise the reader, not just with big events, but even with the language and individual word choices. This is a personal peeve. I hate predictable dialog.

If it isn't fun to write, it won't be fun to read.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? That's the Big Question these days. E-readers are the biggest thing to hit books since Gutenberg. Hard copy sales are shrinking and will continue to do so for the immediate future. Consider how much of a book publisher's business has to do with the printing, storage, and movement of a physical product. At some point, if hard copy sales continue to drop, it will no longer be profitable for publishers to produce hardcovers, then maybe even softcovers. All you're left with is an editorial office and a server.

In a way, it's good, because the biggest barrier to new authors, the risk and cost of printing that first book, goes away. We may see a huge growth in the number of titles available in ebook format. But remember Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap"). The cost of printing also served as a gatekeeper and filter, keeping the worst of the slush pile off the shelves. How will we know what's good and what's not?

New publishers may pop up, since the starting costs are now so low. Many will probably specialize, so for a rough idea of a future publisher, go look at a Fanfiction website.

Interview With Romance Author Patty Wiseman

1.      What type of books do you write?   My books are romantic fiction, mostly historical. I do have a romantic comedy in the works, however.

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about?  My latest book, An Unlikely Arrangement is about a young woman in 1929 Detroit, Michigan trying to assert her independence. The city is an extremely dangerous place in this era. Her parents become exasperated and decide it’s time she should marry and settle down. They choose the man, but she rebels. This isn’t your typical romantic plot. It’s a city run by the mob. It’s also a time when the modern woman begins to redefine herself. There is much mischief, mayhem, and even a kidnapping and murder. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don’t. The sequel will be out this summer. It’s called An Unlikely Beginning.

3.      What inspired you to write it? The story is actually based on my own grandmother. She was the rebellious young woman. Her marriage was arranged, my father was born, and unfortunately when he was only 10 months old, his father was killed. Grandmother remarried and raised my father with his stepfather’s name. Dad didn’t know until he tried to join the Navy. Years passed, and I grew up hearing the story of my lost grandfather. A few years ago, I decided to try to find this man. I did, and the story that unfolded was the inspiration for my book. Of course, the book is fiction because I couldn’t find all the details. Everyone has passed on, even my dad. This is a three part series, and I tell the story the way I wish it had ended.

4.      What did you do before you became an author? For 24 years I was an Executive Administrative Assistant to a Financial Advisor. I married, raised two sons, and retired in 2011 to become a full time writer.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? At first, I was terrified. To actually put your work out there for all to scrutinize was daunting. My deepest wish is that people will like what I have to offer, to be a good story teller, to have people see that I care about my work, that I polish and strive to give readers their money’s worth. Now, that the book has been out there for a period of time, and it is getting good reviews, I have relaxed a little. To have people come up to me and say they loved the book, still takes my breath away. I hope I never lose that feeling.

6.      Advice for struggling writers? Well, I would say don’t be in such a big hurry to publish, be sure you have polished the story as much as you possibly can. The first book is going to brand you. If it isn’t good, no one will buy the next book. I am a believer in critique groups and friends that will tell you the truth about your writing, not just tell you what you want to hear. At the same time, you have to follow your voice. Be original. Just polish your grammar, punctuation, formatting, that sort of thing. It throws me off to read a book that has bad grammar or it is noticeable that the writer didn’t care about punctuation. Writing is a craft, it has to be learned, it has to be practiced, and it has to be polished.

7.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Everyone says electronic books and e-readers are the future. I won’t disagree to a certain extent, but I just wrote an article about small town libraries and the role they play in developing a child’s imagination. I discussed the people who struggle to keep those libraries open and their importance to the community. I have an e reader, and I use it, but nothing compares to stepping into a warm, cozy library, finding a quiet space to read and browsing the rows of books. There is something magical about it. So, yes, everyone can be published now, but I feel that true connoisseurs of the written word will be choosy about what they find to read electronically, and die-hard readers will fight to keep libraries open, even though book stores continue to diminish. The electronic age is here to stay, but I continue to believe there will be a need for the traditional way of publishing a book, and I think readers will demand it.

For more information, check out: 

Interview With YA Author Linda Joy Singleton

  1. What type of books do you write? I write books for young readers, most of my published books have been series: THE SEER, DEAD GIRL trilogy, BURIED from Flux.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? My latest book is BURIED: A GOTH GIRL MYSTERY from Flux, a wonderful YA imprint. It's a murder mystery set in Nevada following a teen with psychometric skills who calls herself Thorn. She comes from a large family with a minister for a mother and she doesn't believe she's special despite her ability to find things. This ability leads her to the grave of a baby, and puts her on a path to find a killer. Aimed for readers age 10-teens.

  1. What inspired you to write it? The character, Thorn, was first introduced in THE SEER series and she was such a strong character by book two that I had to push her aside for a few books. When THE SEER ended, my editor suggested a book about Thorn, so I wrote one just for her, and it was a great experience.

  1. What did you do before you became an author? I started writing at age 8 but didn't pursue it as a career till my 20's. I worked for seven years at the telephone company, mostly office work but for a while I was the voice of 611/Repair.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author?  Every step forward comes with many challenging step backs. I am very proud of my published books and know that achieving 37 books has been a combination of hard work and luck. Mostly hard work, but without that moment of luck all the hard work in the world won't get noticed. I also have a wonderful agent who is fearless and persistent.

  1. Any advice for struggling writers?  I have writer tips for young readers that also fit for new writers on my website:

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? My character Sabine is a SEER, but I'm not. I wish I did know what was going on. Certainly ebooks are huge and trying to push aside paper books. But I strongly believe we need strong publishers to keep bookstores in business and also to create quality books. It takes a village of editors, copy-editors, sales, marketing, etc. to create a polished book.

Interview With Literary Author Audrey Schulman

  1. What type of books do you write? I write  literary  adventure novels about women who go to far distant places and bad things happen.  My 1st novel was about a woman who  goes up to northern Canada to photograph polar bears  on something similar to a National Geographic expedition.  Once they're up there for a while on the tundra  observing the polar bears, the bus there in fails and they have to walk back  to civilization. it was translated into 11 languages, optioned for a movie, and reviewed by everyone from the New Yorker to CNN.

  1. How and when did you know that your destiny was as a writer? When I was 12 years old I wrote my 1st  novel and got so much attention for it  that I decided I would become a writer. I wasn't thinking very realistically at the time. I imagine the writer's life would be filled with  cafés, good conversation and sleeping in late. It seemed ideal. Only once I got older did I  begin to wonder about other critical components such as regular paychecks and health insurance. Unfortunately by then I was hooked on writing.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? 3 Weeks in December  takes place in Africa.  It has 2 parallel stories in it. One story takes place in 1899, when the railroad was being built across what is now Kenya. Historically, at the time, there were 2 man eating lions who killed and ate over 100 people. I place my fictional character in the midst of this historically true story and the plot results.

The second story takes place in modern-day when an ethnobotanist (someone who searches for plants to make into pharmaceuticals) goes to Rwanda in order to find a vine rumored to have 5 times the beta blockers of anything known to science. The only ones who know where the vine is are the mountain gorillas.  The ethnobotanist has to shadow the mountain gorillas in order to find the vine.

The 2 stories come together in a surprising way. The reviews have been fantastic, including the New Yorker and the New York Times Sunday book review.

 I read over 70 books from text books to novels in order to research it. I wanted the reader to absolutely trust   that I knew what I was talking about.

  1. What inspired you to write it?  Years ago my great uncle told me a story about shooting an elephant in India in the 1930s. He had been working on a tea plantation there when the villagers nearby asked him to kill a nearby rogue elephant that was killing people. He was chosen for the job not because he was a great hunter, but because he had a big gun. That story made me rethink  the classic myth of the great white hunter. Three Weeks in December  is the result.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers?  Publication to me seemed such a glorious  achievement that I always  imagined that  living as a published novelist, would  somehow be  fundamentally different from  life as a normal person. Angels would sing upon high, the heavens would crack open, money would rain down, and all small irritations would be swept away in sheer happiness. 

Even after 20 years of being  a published author, I'm still a little baffled each time I have to take out the trash.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? I think it's in deep poopie. Publishers are not technocrats. They simply know a  little bit about how to find  books  readers might enjoy. By  publishing a book,  a publisher functions now as a gatekeeper,  a way of saying this book is  worthwhile, appreciated by more than just the author and the author's mother.

Right now self-publishing is becoming more and more rampant,  to such an extent that it's impossible on Amazon to figure out which books are  conventionally published by a publisher and which books are self published.  While there are some books that are self published that are fantastic, most aren't even readable.   The vast increase in self published books means it's much harder to find worthwhile books to read. 

Publishers are suffering because they can't figure out how to make money in this rapidly shifting field. Readers are suffering because they can't find good books among all the  bad books. And writers are suffering because good writers can't find publishers to publish them.

There needs to be a  solution invented by someone who's savvy in both writing and the Internet. I hope it comes soon,  not only for readers and writers, but also for the good of this country.  Democracy is based on educated  thoughtful citizens.  The problems with publishing right now is limiting the field of new ideas being brought to the public out there and therefore limiting the depth of thinking on all subjects.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer.  You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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