Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interview With Book Reviewer & Author Myles Knapp

You review thrillers for the newspapers of the Bay Area Group. What do you believe makes for a great thriller?  A thriller that sells has to have great characters, a great story and enough momentum to keep you involved. Writers I talk with think tension, conflict and plot twists are critical but readers say things like, “I buy every Reacher book” or “When’s the next Dave Robicheaux come out.” Just the fact that I can spell Robicheaux without looking it up convinces me I’ve spent way too much time reading tough guy/tough gal books.

You have a new book that you seek to get published. How hard are you finding it to land a decent publisher?  At this point, I’m not convinced I know how to define a decent publisher. Of course there are the big five. And I suspect many, if not most, authors would love to get a 7 figure advance from a major. But is a typical first book author better of as a mediumish sized fish in a specialty pond working with great pros like John Raab at Suspense Publishing or Adam Chromy at  Moveable Type Management? Or being a smaller fish in Harper’s big pond? I don’t know. What I’m looking for in a publisher is a long term, mutually beneficial business partnership. My job would be to provide great writing and as much personal marketing – blogs, interviews, book clubs, speaking—as humanly possible. With the publisher providing higher level marketing, legitimacy, professionalism and distribution.

As the publishing world changes, I believe the agents, publishers and writers who get it right in the ebook arena are the ones who will have the best long term commercial success. But today, right now, finding a publisher who can provide editorial direction, extensive marketing support and get you into both Costco and Amazon is exceptionally difficult. Even establish writers are finding that promotional budgets and shelf space are shrinking.

It is important to mention that this is not a fault of the publishers. They need to make a profit in an increasingly complex and confusing business. One where no one appears to have figured out which key opens the lock on the chest of unimaginable wealth.

What are the challenges and rewards of bring a writer?  The best part of being a writer is reading something and saying to yourself, “This is GREAT, I wish I could write like this guy.” Then you realize YOU wrote it several months back. For me, those moments are golden. Working in my office, music turned up loud enough so I can’t hear the gas powered motor of the landscapers blow and go leaf sweeper, is the best job in the world. Just me, the music, my fingers and whatever part of my mind and the universe is in control of the keyboard.

As an author, the challenge is, “Is anyone going to buy this?” As a freelance commercial writer I wrote to order. Delivered the agreed upon ad, brochure or white paper, made the client happy, got a check. Under those circumstances, it is pretty easy to chug a couple of espressos, apply your rump to the chair and get typing.

As a novelist the pay back is a lot less assured. I’ve read over 5000 hard edged mystery-thrillers. My novel, Revenge School, is commercial fiction. As a book reviewer I have a good knowledge for what gets published and sells well. But, as a business guy I know that the sale is never made until the check clears.

Where do you see the genre heading?  There’s been a feeling in the industry that the modern day tough guy must be complex. Which seems to be a code word for flawed. And everybody seems to have read the MBA books about market segmentation and the need to be unique. Now we have heroes and heroines that are murderers, crooks, or have some type of unnecessary fault that makes them different. Carried to the extreme I’m expecting any day now to read about a new series featuring a gluten intolerant, serial killer, vampire and a heart of gold.

Complex characters can be interesting. But I don’t think that a quirk for quirks sake has actually resulted in commercial success. The classis heroes—Hercules, Superman, Superwoman—had weaknesses that made them interesting. They didn’t need weird flaws, too. I believe the genre is going to figure that out fairly soon. Then a bunch of characters that John Wayne would be proud to play will explode from books and movie screens all over the world.

What is it about thrillers that appeals to the masses?  Everyone has a place in the back of their mind where they believe that when the big bad guy attacks the school with an AK-47 they’ll run to the rescue armed with nothing but their Swiss Army Knife and blood stream full of adrenaline. Everyone wants to imagine themselves as a hero. Or at least imagine that they have friends that are heroic.

Tell us more about the diversified and successful career that you have had.  Like your readers, I’ve worked hard, had some luck and when I the time came to make a career decision, I tried to make one that resulted in fun, challenging work that brought money into the house and was good for my family. Thankfully most of my choices turned out well.

International high tech businessman. That was cool. Got to live in Europe and Asia.

Advertising guy. One of those unusual advertising guys who worked almost every job in the business. Wore nice suits and worked with Fortune 500 companies on marketing strategies. Shredded ties and started writing. Did ads for gasoline, car tires, allergy filters, software. Even successfully made surge protectors sound important and fun. Laughed a lot.

Realtor. Helped wonderful people find nice places to raise their families.

Marketing consultant. Helped one client hit their five year sales goal in just six months. That helped create good jobs for a lot of nice people.

Book reviewer. Meet some great authors. Read books I like. Write positive reviews for as many books as possible. As a policy, I only review books I like. Even though I’ve spent eons reading tough-guy-tough-gal-takes-on-the-world-and-wins-books, I don’t feel right piling recycled food on another author’s dream.

Where do you see book publishing heading?  As the amount of video options has expanded from three TV networks, to hundreds of cable TV networks, to thousands or millions of internet broadcast networks, the importance of writers increases. No writer, no show. Even “Reality TV” has writers. And the importance of books and short stories as fuel for scripts becomes more important than ever.

In the not too distant future we will see shorter books that are serialized for web consumption. The web folks and bloggers all seem to be focused on “fresh, new content of about 500 – 600 words.” This seems to be driven by Google algorithms. “Fresh, new, short” content appeals to search engines. So daily episodes from a favorite authors can’t be far behind.

Sadly, right now Google can’t tell the difference between 500 words of great content and 500 words of pure drivel. When Google figures that out quality writers will inherit the key to the chest of unimaginable wealth.

I can’t wait.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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