Ep 216 Meet Brett Battles, who is earning more than six figures through his indie novels.

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In Episode 216 of So you want to be a writer: An AWC graduate is on the Indie Book Awards Longlist! We answer what is middle grade fiction and how do you know when your manuscript is finished? Discover your chance to win Dogs with Jobs by Laura Greaves. And meet Brett Battles, who is earning more than six figures through his indie novels. 

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

podcast-artworkLinks

What is middle-grade fiction and should you write it?

The Chewing Gum Theory: How to know when your manuscript is finished

Bookboy’s music

 

Valerie’s new notebook from Al:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer in Residence

Brett Battles

Brett was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on, and there were many days his mom would kick him out of the house in the afternoon just so he would get a little sunshine.

He is the USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the Jonathan Quinn series, the Project Eden series, and the time bending Rewinder trilogy. His debut novel, The Cleaner (The Jonathan Quinn Thrillers #1), was nominated for the 2008 Barry Award for Best Thriller, and the 2008 Shamus Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Deceived, won the 2009 Barry Award for Best Thriller. He received an additional Barry Award nomination for the fourth in his Quinn series, The Silenced.

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Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

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Interview Transcript 

Valerie

Thanks so much for joining us today, Brett.

Brett

Well, thanks for having me.

Valerie

Now, Brett, we’re talking obviously online. However you are based in California. And you are the author of seemingly countless books. But before we go into them – we won’t go into all of them, because you’re an author of over 30 novels – perhaps you can tell us about your most recent one which is out now?

Brett

Yes, exactly. It came out December 12th. It’s called Town at the Edge of Darkness. It’s the second in my Excoms series, which is a spy thriller, a helping-people-who-need-help kind of series that’s a spin off from my very popular Jonathan Quinn spy series. So that just came out and I’m very excited about it. And so far, the early reviews have been great, so I can’t wait for more people to get a hold of it.

Valerie

Great! How would you describe the genre that you write in mostly?

Brett

I would say that I actually have a couple different genres that I write in a lot, though I would probably put the over-label of ‘thriller’ over everything. Because I have my spy thrillers that I do, the Quinn novels, for example, which are very popular. And the Excoms. And then I also do some just basic straight thriller, not spy-based, but crazy things happening, people need to do stuff or everyone’s going to die kind of stuff. And then I also do what I call present day sci-fi. It’s set in the here and now, for the most part. But there is definitely a thriller aspect to those stories, too.

I guess I can’t write anything that’s slow, is kind of what it comes down to. I’d love to, but I can’t seem to do it.

Valerie

So clearly there’s a common thread. Now are you a reader of thrillers, as well?

Brett

I am. I definitely am. I grew up, I started off reading sci-fi, straight sci-fi, because my dad loved it. So when I was eight or nine, that’s what I started reading. And then I moved into the Robert Ludlams, and the Alistair MacLeans, and the Jack Higgins, and Thomas Harris, and all those thrillers of the 70s and 80s. Those kinds of things. So I really got into that. And then I branched out and read a lot more of those as I started writing more and everything.

Now I’ve actually circled back and I tend to be reading a lot more science fiction lately, just because it’s something that is enjoyable to me, and it hearkens back to that first love of reading. But I do occasionally still jump in and grab just a regular old good old down-home thriller now and then, too.

Valerie

So you have written over 30 novels. Can you just cast your mind back, many many novels ago, when you first got into writing. Just tell me a little bit about how you started writing, what you were doing at the time? Did you have a day job and that sort of thing. And how you got your first novel out there?

Brett

Okay! Well, it really starts way back. Because I knew since I was in fifth grade, I’d be eleven years old, I knew then and I was telling people then that I was going to be a novelist. Not having a full idea of what that might entail, but knowing how much I loved stories and I just wanted to tell stories. So it’s always been in my head that that’s where I wanted to go. And I would write stuff on and off as I was growing up.

And when I went to college, I didn’t actually go in for English, I went in to television and film, because I figured I needed to have a real job while I wrote. And I ended up working in television for 20 years and was writing on the side. Like, mornings before I would go to work, or in the afternoons or whatnot.

I wrote my first full novel back in 1991, I’m going to say. And it is one of those famous desk novels that will never see the light of day because it is so horrible. But I didn’t think so at the time. And of course, I sent it out and I got a hundred rejections on it, naturally. Thank god. But the thing is, those first novels, you’ve got to write those. Those are the starter novels. Those are the things that teach you how to write, and prove to you that you can actually finish.

Valerie

Yes.

Brett

The thing that I always tell people here, it’s a baseball analogy so I’m not quite sure how well it will translate, but if you’re going to be a baseball player, you decide you’re going to be a baseball player, the first thing you do is not play your first game in the centre field for the New York Yankees – which is the biggest team and the biggest position. So you’re not playing striker for Man United your first time you’re playing football. It’s one of these things. You have to go through the practice. You have to play these games at totally lower levels.

So you’re writing at totally lower levels. You’ve got to finish that first book. And occasionally somebody sells their first book. Congratulations to them. But the most of us don’t get that.

And so the same thing happened with my second book, but I improved. That book went into a desk drawer. There was actually about an eight-year gap between those two books. But then I really, at that point when I started the second book, I really dove into writing as a… If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it.

So I wrote that book. As soon as I finished that one, I wrote my third book, which ended up being The Cleaner, which is my first published book, but we’ll get to that in a second. And both of those, I sent out that second book, got a whole bunch of rejections, put it in the drawer. I sent out The Cleaner to a tonne of places, got a whole bunch of rejections, was going to put it in a drawer. A friend of mine was being published by this small publisher in Los Angeles at the time, and he said, “send them the book, the whole book. I’ll tell them it’s coming and they’ll take a look. I promise they’ll at least take a look.” And I go, great. So I send it off to them.

And in the meantime I write my fourth book. Now, if we’re counting, my first book was urban fantasy, my second book was a present-day science fiction, my third book was the spy thriller, my fourth book was my take at a lit novel, although there is some murder-esque stuff going on it, too. But nonetheless, it’s a lit novel more than anything. So I write that book.

And about eleven months later I’ve totally forgotten about book three, The Cleaner. I’d forgotten about this, and I figure I’m just moving on. And I’m sitting at Starbucks doing edits, finishing edits on the fourth book, thinking that I’ll be sending it out pretty soon. And I get a call from this guy named Jim at Ugly Town Publishing, and he starts talking to me about my book and how much he liked it, and I had to stop him. We were talking five or ten minutes, and I finally stopped him and I said, “wait, are you saying you want to buy my book?” And he said, “yes!” And I honestly cannot tell you what he said after that point.

So I ended up getting a deal with this small publisher in Los Angeles. So I’m thinking, oh great! I’ve made it! Everything’s wonderful. Six months later on, they end up having to file bankruptcy and they haven’t brought my book out yet. And I’m thinking, oh crap. I’m back to zero again. But, I’m not, because they’re good guys, and they like my book, and they had some contacts at other publishers.

And they sent my book to a publisher at Bantam Dell which is an imprint of Random House. And she read the book and then she called me. And we talked for an hour. And she ended up buying my book from them, and then giving me a three-book contract. So I went from this tiny little small publishing house, which was a great very prestigious house, to this really big… I mean, to Random House, at the time, and still one of the biggest publishers in the world, right? So I did very well by that. It worked out very well for me.

And all the time, I’ve still got my fulltime job, and I’m writing, I get up early, 5am, whatever, 4:30, 5am, write for an hour or two, go to work. After work, if I have time, I’ll write for a little bit there. I also kind of planned my life so that I chose a place to live that was walking distance to my office, which is very unusual in Los Angeles. So it was ten minutes from my living room to my desk at work by foot. So I didn’t have to worry about… What that does is buy me an hour at both ends of the day, really, as far as travel and everything. So I was able to give myself more time to write. And that was really the motivation to do that, because I didn’t want to waste time sitting in a car when I could be working on what I really want to be doing.

Valerie

That’s committed.

Brett

So that was my first book. That was in 2007. My second book came out in 2008. And I had also, because of the way publishing works at big houses, I had already turned in and had accepted the third book in the summer of 2008. And in August of 2008, I pitched for a new contract, because I had fulfilled this contract. And Random House gave me a two-book deal, but it was large enough that I felt confident that I could at least quit my job for three years. It might have to be a lean three years, but I could give myself three years.

Valerie

Wow.

Brett

My whole target then, has always been to write fulltime. So in 2008, I went fulltime writing in the fall. Ironically, one week before the Lehman Brothers and all the crash, Lehman Brothers went under, all of that. So thank god that happened after that point, or I think that contract might have been pulled back before I signed it. But it wasn’t. Completely honoured. So that was great.

The problem was that with the Lehman Brothers stuff and all the financial stuff that was going on worldwide, and the rise of eBooks and everything, the publishing industry went into a turmoil starting in late 2008. In many ways it’s still going on. And my editor, seeing the writing on the wall where she was, left to another publisher, took a job at another publishing house. And then I was put with a junior editor who, let’s just say, we did not get along.

And then Random House went ahead and they merged two of their imprints: Bantam Dell, which I was under, and Valentine became one. And when they did that, the head of each of those, they only need one head when they come together. And before, the head of Bantam Dell – they call her the publisher, or the head of a division is the publisher – the publisher for Bantam Dell was my biggest supporter. She was great and was really always looking out for me. But she got boosted, and now I had nobody there who wanted me anymore. My book suddenly went from a hardcover first release to just straight to mass paperback.

And so my last two books had no real support or no hardcover and everything. And that’s fine. That’s business. That was their decision to do. I get that. And I hold no ill will about it or anything. I’m bummed. Because I think we really had something. But I think part of it was the timing. The timing with the financial crisis and everything.

And so I quickly got those two books done and approved. And then it was time for a new contract in 2010. And I knew they didn’t want me. And I really didn’t want to stay there anymore, because I didn’t want to be someplace that didn’t want me. So I had already decided with my agent that we would probably reject whatever offer they came at us with unless it was, I mean, we had to accept it. One of those kinds of things. But they did me the favour of letting me go without giving me an offer.

So I found myself in the fall of 2010 rudderless, and still working. I mean, I’m now a fulltime writer for two years, but now I don’t have a contract, right? So I talked to my agent and we said, okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Write a book, and I’m going to try to get you a new deal somewhere. And I’d also been hearing a lot about the eBook and independent publishing. I had some friends who had been doing very successfully by it. And I talked to some of them, like Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch and others like them. And we were talking, I was getting their feedback. And I thought, okay, I’m a fast writer. So I’m going to write two books. One you can send out, and one I’m going to try to self-publish.

And long story short, I ended up self-publishing both of them, and I basically haven’t looked back since. Although I flirted a little bit, I did something through 47North which is Amazon’s traditional publishing thing. So that’s kind of the story. I actually answered a lot more than what your question was.

Valerie

No, that’s fascinating! So basically from 2010, after your fifth book, you’ve been self-publishing, apart from the flirtation with Amazon’s publishing arm.

Brett

That is correct. I think I have, let’s see… This book that’s just come out is my 32nd. So seven of my books are traditionally published, so 25 books self-published. Plus short stories and a novella.

Well, the cool thing about self-publishing, I mean many cool things about going to indie, is that I’m not tied to only one book a year. And I tend to write fast, so I can get as many books out a year as I can write. I’m not tied to a single genre. So I can break out and start doing some of the sci-fi stuff that I’ve always been interested in doing. So all that stuff has been great. Freeing, in a lot of ways.

Valerie

So you’re obviously very successful as a self-published, as an indie author. Cast your mind back to the first book. So 25 books ago. And was it an easy decision? Did it freak you out?

Brett

I was scared out of my wits. Because, you know, up until around that time, the stigma with self-publishing and all that was like, oh, it’s just vanity publishing. You’re only doing it for yourself. And you’ve suddenly become this lowly type of writer if you’re going to succumb to doing this kind of thing. And it wasn’t… While yes, I had some friends that were having some success at it, that wasn’t a guarantee I was going to have any success at it.

And my biggest fear was ever having to go back and do a desk job again. It remains my biggest fear. It always will be there with me until I get to the point where I don’t have to worry about that.

So yes, I was very fearful that year. And that’s why I put out a tonne of stuff that first year. Because I had a couple of books that I had stockpiled. That lit novel that I mentioned earlier. I had actually written a middle-school book the year before that I said, oh, I’ll just put that out. I had a couple of other things. I did an origin short novel for my Quinn series that I could put out. I had some short stories and everything. I think I put out seven different things that first year. Many of them were stuff that weren’t written that year. I’m not saying they were all written that year.

My idea was… I mean, what stuck with me was Joe Konrath, J. E. Konrath, who’s really gotten into this, he said to me, “the most important thing is your digital shelf space, and getting as many product, as many things up there as possible.” I mean quality things, of course, but getting as much up there as possible, because it makes you more visible. And that shelf space, unlike at a physical book store where they’re going to pull your shelves off to put somebody else’s up there, you don’t lose that shelf space on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Kobo or whatever you’re on.

And so now when they look up your name they’ll see, oh, there’s ten books. Because I don’t like to start reading somebody and there’s only a book or two and then what do I do? Now I can’t go through all their stuff. So you get as much up there.

So I took that into my mind and I pushed that through. But that first book, that was Little Girl Gone. And I did that one month, and then the next month I published a book called Sick. And I literally was every day, and sometimes several times a day, checking on sales. Seeing how many sales. My stomach would clench or unclench depending on how well a particular day went.

And I knew that it had to build. It wasn’t just going to rocket overnight kind of thing. But my idea was that I’m building this snowball, and the more stuff I can add to the snowball, the bigger the snowball can become. But I’m checking it and I’m just going crazy. And I remember seeing Blake at a conference and I was telling him about this, and he goes, “you gotta stop that.”

 

Valerie

Yeah, you’ll go nuts.

Brett

You can’t check that every day. Once a month. And I go, oh. Right. That actually makes more sense. And from that point on, I only check once a month, if that, sometimes, now. I mean, yes, maybe it’s a month and a half sometimes. I try not to get into the minutiae of the day to day too much. Because if will drive you batty, man.

Valerie

You’ll go nuts.

Brett

Oh my god. It made it hard to write, because I’m all worried about sales.

Valerie

Predominantly your books are distributed in eBook form via Kindle. Is that correct?

Brett

For the most part. I mean, I do have some of the other eBook platforms. But quite a few of them are through the Select program in Kindle. Just because even when I was spreading everything out, 95 to 98% of my sales were Kindle anyway. And it just made more sense to do this, and then I get the added reads, and lending library and everything like that.

Valerie

So you’ve gone indie since 2010.

Brett

Technically 2011 was when I actually published the stuff, but yes.

Valerie

So 2011. So from a financial point of view, what can you tell us about the difference between what it was like before and since you’ve gone indie?

Brett

Well, I would say that that first year was very touch and go. Because I only had a few properties up, and they can only make so much. But I could see that it was getting better. And there was a month that first year that I knew if I could get past, I think it was October, and this is me looking at it from July. If I could make it past October, I was going to be okay. Because I was really just living on the margin. Just making enough to get by and everything. And I just made it through that October, and I haven’t looked back since. I would say… And from there, 2012 was a really good year. 2013 was even better. And I bought a house that year.

Valerie

Fantastic.

Brett

I didn’t pay for the whole thing, but I did buy a house.

Valerie

None of us do, really.

Brett

So 2014 was even better than 2013. 2015 even better. 2016… 2016 came down a little bit. And then this year has been down from 2016. So I’ve been going in a not the right way kind of trajectory at the moment, but I’m trying to do things now to correct that. I’m confident that things are going to be fine and continue on. But when I say it’s come down a little, it’s still a very nice number. I’m still well over six figures. I mean, not over six figures. I’m in a six-figure income that is more than just barely six figures, if that makes sense.

Valerie

Well, that’s pretty fabulous. So after 25 books, what have been the biggest lessons that you’ve learned to self-publishing success?

Brett

Well, I think… I don’t know if they’re lessons. They’re almost obvious, but I don’t think we always all see it. And that is, you know, get yourself a good editor. Make sure you have a good proof reader, copy editor. Make sure you do a cover that doesn’t look like your neighbour down the street did it who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

I mean, I look online sometimes or I see people advertising their books, and you look at the cover and you know, okay, that’s clearly self-published. The book may be great, they probably didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a cover, or they had a friend who said they could do it. Maybe they personally don’t have a lot of graphic experience or anything, so when they see it they say, yeah, that looks fine. Truth of the matter, it doesn’t look fine. It looks exactly like it is.

I mean, you want a cover that could look like it came off of a book out of New York, or out of one of the big publishing houses. I don’t want any of my readers to even wonder about who the publisher is. Because readers don’t actually care about that. But they do care… When you say, the old saying of don’t judge a book by its cover, everybody does! They say it because that’s exactly what people do. And they will continue doing that.

So you need to have a cover that is going to be visually stimulating and interesting and well put together. And I find the thing that most people don’t get right on the ones that you can tell they’re not paying a lot for, or the artist isn’t getting… The thing that really tends to be missing, although sometimes it’s the imagery itself, or how badly it’s photoshopped, but it’s really font choices. And how you treat the fonts on the cover themselves that makes the difference. Because people are just using the basic fonts they have. It’s almost like they’re just typing it on sometimes. And you can’t do that.

That’s, as crazy as it seems, that’s really important. In that 20 years that I said that I worked in television, most of that was spent in television graphics. So I was not a graphic designer, but I worked with graphic designers every single day. So I got a good education in that, thankfully for myself. I could never design my own cover. I have no skill in that way. But what I do know is I can see when something looks good or not. I know the difference between something that looks cheap, or something that looks incredibly professional. And if a writer can’t know that themselves, they need to find a friend who does know that, to help them with that. Just to act as a sounding board.

Valerie

And clearly you have an understanding of branding, because one of the things about your covers, they are clearly Brett Battles’ covers. There’s a look, a consistency, which I think is important.

Brett

Exactly. And I have several different series. And if you look at each series, they are consistent within that series.

Valerie

Yes, as well. Yes.

Brett

And then there is a definitely consistency to how my name is handled throughout, for the most part, throughout all the books. Yes. That also comes back from my television background. Because branding was what we did. We branded television networks, we branded television shows. So I understand the need to make everything look good and cohesive together.

And it is so important in book covers. Because your brand, your name is all you have. And if you’ve got somebody who liked your other book, and they’re looking for something new and they see another cover and they go, oh, I know that guy. I recognise, that cover looks similar, or not similar, but there are aspects of it and oh, I remember him. I like this stuff. I’m going to get his stuff. Yeah, you have to create your own brand, absolutely.

Valerie

Yes. It looks great. So this month, it’s the Excoms, which is Town at the Edge of Darkness. Now, I know that you’ve mentioned that in the release month of a book you could sell anywhere between 3 – 9,000 depending on a range of factors. Which is pretty fantastic.

Brett

Yeah, many, many factors.

Valerie

Which is pretty fabulous. Because that’s only during release month. Now presumably, after you’ve got 25 books out there, your monthly, or your quarterly or yearly or whatever income, is actually a combination or an accumulation… Like you say, it’s that snowball of the other books.

Brett

It’s my snowball. That’s exactly right. It’s the snowball. It’s everything adding in. Because even the books that I released back in 2011, they’re selling anywhere from 75 to 125 copies each every month. Which might not sound a lot, but when you’re talking about ten novels selling that much, that starts to add up. And then there’s 25, and everything’s selling something every month. Some a lot more than others. It just kind of piles on. And it all works together to create that snowball. Exactly.

Valerie

So lucky you’re a fast writer. Obviously, you’re also not short of ideas.

Brett

Thankfully, no.

Valerie

I want to talk about that. Because writing so many books is very, very prolific. What do you do? What’s your process in terms of your ideas? Do you come up with heaps and write them all down, then decide which ones to pursue? Or do you stick with one and map out the entire plot? Just tell me a bit about the process.

Brett

Sure. The way I look at it, every year, is I have three to four slots for books. In the past it’s always been four. Now it’s more like three. Because it just kills me sometimes to write four books a year. But I know that one of those slots is going to be my Quinn book, because that’s my biggest selling series. He’s my tentpole. So I always have to come back to Quinn. And now that I’m doing the Excoms spinoff, and we’re still in the early stages, only two books out, one of those slots is always going to be Excoms for the next several years.

So I have two of my, let’s say three, two of my three slots are already filled. So I have a wildcard slot that I can go back to one of my other series, or I can write something completely new. This is how I’m starting to do more of the sci-fi stuff. I have a kind of a sci-fi fantasy present day, I don’t want to say Stephen King-esque, but kind of where it’s a blend of a lot of things idea that I’m hoping to do in that open spot this year if I can map it out.

Coming back to a Quinn book, or even the Excoms now, is kind of easy in certain ways. I know the character, so I’m not developing any characters from scratch. I know how they’re going to react in certain situations and I know what needs to be done. What I have to do is come up with the plot. And I’m very careful, I don’t know if I’m always successful, I hope so, but I’m very careful of not trying to repeat myself in a series. Because I hate those series that you read where every book is basically the same thing. Now, there could be aspects of the same thing, just by the nature of the characters and the type of stories they are. But I want to give it a fresh enough twist.

And I also have in the Quinn series, and it’s starting to develop in the Excoms, too, I have a what I call the over-arching story that covers the whole series. Which is the inter-personal relationships of my team. And so I need to work that in to every book, and where they’re at. Because I also can’t write a book that, okay, I’ve finished this book, I’m going to start the next book in the series, and everything resets to zero, and nothing they did in that last book will affect anything in this book. I don’t do that. It affects things. But I also want to write them in a way that if someone picks up the twelfth book in the series, that’s fine. They’re not going to miss any of the plot. They might not completely understand, or might not get the full depth of the overarching story, but if it’s enough to bring them back they’ll go back and read everything. So I do a lot of that.

As far as the actual process is, as I’m getting ideas, especially if they’re new ideas for completely different stories, I’ll basically just jot something down and email it to myself. And I put it in my ideas folder. Or if I have an idea for a specific story, I may have created a folder specifically for that story. And so I’ll jot that down, email it to myself, and put it in that one.

Typically, when I sit down to write, I’ll have an idea of what the end kind of will be, or what the basic sort of story is, sort of, and who’s involved. And then I just sit down and write. I haven’t done outlines. I’m a pantser, not an outliner. Writing from the seat of my pants. I tend to do that.

I am trying for 2018 to change that up a little bit. I’m starting my new Quinn book on January 2nd, whatever it is, right after the holidays. And then I’ll have the Excoms, and then I have that third slot. And what I’m hoping to do in the next couple weeks or before the end of the year is come up with some basic outlines of these books. Not a full twenty-page kind of thing. But kind of a here’s a little bit of structure. And I’m doing that because I’m finding that, especially with this last Excoms book, which turned out great in the end, and I’m very happy with where it’s at, but there was a point there that I kind of got lost, when I was writing it. And I wasn’t sure where… I mean, the story was still going, but I wasn’t really sure where it was going. And I didn’t know if I was really going to make it. But I gotta make it, because I love to write, and I want to continue to write, but it’s also my job. And I need to write, and I need this book to be done so that it can come out by X date. And so if I’m getting lost it’s slowing me down, and that has a ripple effect, going forward.

So I am going to try to do some basic outlines for all three books, hopefully before the end of the year. Not sure if I’ll succeed, but at least the first book. And again, I’m talking like a page or two. And that’s something I can knock out, if I really think about it, in a day or two for each of them. And then see if that can at least keep me from having those few days of well, what should I do now? Because that always happens in every book. But I feel like I could be helping myself a little bit more, I think. And so that’s what I’m going to try to do anyway.

Valerie

So when you are indie, promotion and getting the word out there is so important. What have you found to… And I have read some interviews with you where you’ve said this is the thing that you neglect because you’d rather be writing.

Brett

I hate it so much.

Valerie

Exactly. But what are the key things that you have found to be most effective? Or the key things that you ensure that you do in order to get the word out?

Brett

Well there are a couple of things that I always do. I usually give out anywhere from 25 to 100… This time I think I gave out 100 copies of the book early to some people for free with the understanding that as many of them as possible will publish a review on or right around release date.

Valerie

But who are these people? How do you identify those people?

Brett

They’re just different… In the past, it’s been like I’ll do a not really a contest. I’ll be on Facebook or Twitter or something and I’ll say, okay, the first 25 people who respond to me, you’re getting a free copy of this.

Plus, I also have what I call my ‘street team’. I don’t want to call them the hardcore fans, but they’re big fans who have volunteered to help out as I might need them. And we’ve expanded the size of my street team just recently. So they all get a copy of it, automatically. And hopefully they’ll be doing that. So that’s number one.

A newsletter is number two. Just going to your fans, that you know. I’ll have some of my writer friends on release day post about it on Facebook and whatnot. Just to kind of spread the word. And then kind of go from there.

One of the things that I’m doing a little bit differently, or we’re just in the process of doing it, is that I’ve actually hired someone who is starting to help me get my marketing into the shape it needs to be. And she’s working with me, I think me exclusively, or pretty exclusively, to build my mailing list and figure out ads that we should be doing, and playing with all this. Because I know a lot of people have been having success with Facebook ads, and perhaps Amazon ads, and BookBub ads and all that stuff. And I’ve tried that a little limitedly, if that is even a word. And I’ve been okay with it, but I just don’t have the patience for that kind of stuff, so I need somebody else to do that for me. Which sounds ridiculous.

But luckily, I would rather not spend the money, but I think I would rather spend the money to make money. And Kate has been great, and she’s wonderful to work with, for me. And we’ve only been the first couple of months of just kind of getting things in place. So I’m hoping that that will… This is one of the things that I’m doing to keep the downward trend from continuing, and get us back if not on an upward trend, at least to level and then hopefully upward after that. But hopefully upward right away.

And from the things that I’ve been hearing from other writers and everything who’ve been doing, for instance, Facebook and stuff, it is very possible. And I have this large body of work that can help me utilise that in a really great way. I’m just not utilising it. I’m underutilising my backlist, and I need to do that.

Valerie

Well, I have to say that considering you hate doing that side of it, because you’d rather be writing, the fact that you’re making in excess of six figures is pretty fantastic, when you’re obviously not putting in that much effort on making the snowball go faster, right?

Brett

Right.

Valerie

I’d be really fascinated to check back in with you six months from now to see whether you have felt that once you actually have put the effort in, whether you have found that it’s paid off.

Brett

I’d love to do that. Absolutely. Let’s do that.

Valerie

So, now tell me what you’re… So you’ve got Christmas coming up, you’re writing your outlines, you’re probably going to write three books next year. Have you structured that promotional aspect into your working day or week or whatever? Because obviously if you want to take it seriously, I assume you have a plan of some kind?

Brett

We’re in the process of getting the whole plan working up and everything. So do I have it in my schedule? Kind of. But I have time in the day. Because I usually just write from… I write four or five hours. So that doesn’t take up the whole day. And then there’s time to do other things as needed, and everything. And again, I’m really hoping that Kate does a lot of this for me. Poor Kate. Don’t listen to any of this, Kate!

Valerie

So now when you are writing three books a year, and it’s great that you are a fast writer, you just said that you write four or five hours a day, do you have a… Do you just write four or five hours? Or do you have a wordcount goal?

Brett

I work on a wordcount goal.

Valerie

And what’s that goal?

Brett

It is anywhere from 2,500 to 3,500.

Valerie

A day?

Brett

A day.

Valerie

Fantastic.

Brett

Well, it’s a fulltime job, though. It’s a fulltime job. I would rather… Ideally, if I’m getting 3,000 words a day, I’m great. If I’m getting 2,000 words a day, I’m not great, but I’m not, you know, it’s not the end of the world. I used to be at like 4 to 5,000 words a day. Which sounds as bad as it sounds. I mean, it is as bad as it sounds. It would drain me unbelievably. But I have slowed down a bit from that.

Valerie

What if you get 1,500? Do you force yourself to sit there until you get to the higher wordcount?

Brett

What I have been doing lately is, I used to write at home. And by used to, I mean up until just September. And I’d been doing that for many years. And I’ve found that I’m just getting too distracted at home. So I started going to the library to write. And I get there right at 9 o’clock when it opens. And I write until about noon or so. And I’m hoping I get, I mean, 9 to noon is not going to get me 3,000 words. But 9 to 1 might get me 3,000 words, maybe, in a pinch.

But what I’ve been doing is, when I start to feel myself waning, wherever I am, hopefully I’m over 2,000 words at that point, or at least close to it, I’ll go home, have some lunch and then I’ll ride my bike to another library for another hour, hour and a half, later in the afternoon. And I’m hitting my three. Because I’m rejuvenated. And I’m able to get to my goal.

Now this is a new process. So I only used that for half of the Excoms. So we’ll see how it does for a full novel, starting in January. But that’s kind of my game plan for right now.

I used to, the way I used to write, and by ‘used to’, again, I mean up until August of this year, I used to get up at 4am and I’d be writing by 5:30 or 6, and I’d write until 1 o’clock here at home. And it’s fine. And I’d get about the same amount of work. But the thing is, I’d get to a certain point, then I’d take a half hour to check email, to do this or that. Now, when I go to the library, I don’t hook my computer up to the internet. So I don’t take a break. I just keep going until I can’t do it anymore, at which point, that’s when I come home. So I’m getting it done in a faster amount of time.

It sounds very scientific and everything, but you have to set up your own, the parameters of your work environment, and your work tool set. And you use what works for you to get the creativity out.

Valerie

Yeah, for sure.

Brett

So that’s kind of what I’m doing.

Valerie

And finally, what do you enjoy most about writing?

Brett

I… You know, the easy answer is saying writing ‘the end’.

Valerie

Ha! Don’t say that.

Brett

I’m not going to say that. What I love most is writing that unexpected scene, or that unexpected character just kind of shows up on the page, or writing even a scene you’re planning on, but you didn’t really know how it was going to turn out, and just the exhilaration you get as you’re writing it. Because you know this is, oh my god, it’s all coming together, this is so awesome! That thrilling moment, which doesn’t happen every day, because writing is a job. You’re not always going to be at this emotional high at every minute, because you’ll never get done and you’ll kill yourself otherwise.

But I write when I’m not excited about writing. I have to. You have to keep writing. But when you’re writing, you get that pure scene or that pure character that’s just so… There have been times where I feel like I got this shot of adrenaline after I finished, because it’s just so exciting. And it works so well.

Now, that said, I may end up not keeping that scene in the book. But at the time, I love those moments. That’s what I love, I think.

Valerie

Wonderful. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Brett. It was great to chat to you.

Brett

Well, thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

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