Hi Nick – thanks for joining us today for a quick peek into your work, and I’m sure some scandalous details about your personal life…
It’s an absolute pleasure to be here, David – thanks for the invite! My personal life… well, it’s scandalous to say the least, but I’m afraid that any specifics I reveal could put people’s lives at risk. In fact, I’ve already said too much.
No salacious secrets you want to share with the world? Oh well, it was worth a shot. On to the real questions, then. Can you tell us what your new book, Panic, is all about?
Panic is book number one of the Leopold Blake series of thrillers, with at least two more under development at the moment. The book has been described as “Sherlock Holmes meets Die Hard” and I think this sums up what I wanted to achieve perfectly – a blend of classic mystery and procedural, with the butt-kicking action and edge-of-your-seat tension of your typical action thriller.
The basic premise [from the back cover]: Leopold Blake, expert criminology consultant for the FBI, had his weekend all planned out – and it didn’t involve dealing with a murdered senator, a high-profile kidnapping, and at least three near-death experiences. Three politicians have been murdered in as many weeks, all expertly dispatched by someone who knew their business well, and only Leopold can get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, as all hell breaks loose on the streets of New York City, he soon finds himself the next target of a powerful enemy who wants him silenced. Permanently. Against the backdrop of political corruption and murder, Leopold and his team must fight for their lives to uncover the truth before it’s too late.
Like most thrillers, what you see isn’t always what you get. Leopold, while undeniably brilliant, is also inherently flawed. Behind that big brain, he’s still trying to prove himself, and it takes him some time (and a fair number of bruises) to realize he can’t do everything by himself.
I noticed right from the beginning of the book that there’s lots of information about forensic examinations, crime scenes, and gadgetry – as well as blow-by-blow accounts of some pretty complex action scenes. How important do you think it is for a writer to get the little details just right?
Those little details are what can really spice up a book – for me, you have to get the balance just right. Too much detail, and the reader gets overwhelmed and will eventually drift off in to a comatose state. Too little, and there’s not enough flavor to make the narrative seem realistic and interesting. Hmm one too many food references I think. Burritos, anyone?
How long does it take you to write a first draft of a novel-length piece of work? It’s wildly variable, unfortunately. Consistency is not one of my strong points when it comes to planning out my day, so some days are much better than others for getting words down on a page. Panic took me around two months to do a single draft, but then another two months to revise, rewrite, and edit. On top of that, I had to hire a cover designer, formatter, and set up a whole bunch of launch promos (thanks again, David!) which all takes up a lot of time. All in all, I think it’s safe to allow at least 4 months to get a decent product out there – one that’s polished to the point of supernova levels of shininess. Perhaps that will improve over time, but, for now, I think three books a year is pretty good!
How much time do you spend on the tweaking and editing process once you’ve got a draft under your belt?
The two months I mentioned above was just that – two full months of editing. Each and every day. Until my fingertips bled. I have read this book so many times, back to front, that I can probably recite the whole thing. I think this will get smoother over time, and I can already see marked improvements, but I’m very aware that writing – like any craft – is a continuous journey of self-improvement.
As a self-published author, how do you handle the quality control and marketing side of things?
I wear different hats. Not literally, although I do own several hats, but I have to be both author and marketer; writer and publicist. And it’s difficult to do all those at once. For me, marketing includes quality control, as that is what the market wants. This essentially means getting the product to the level that your customers expect – which can cover anything from choosing the right font, all the way to hiring editors, cover designers and deciding on promotional activities. I outsource everything that I myself am not an expert in (see Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory) which means my covers are done by a pro, my edits are done by a pro and my formatting is done by a pro. I will also pay for advertising and other promotional avenues, if the price / payoff is right. Yes, this costs money, but it’s worth it. Writing and selling books is a business, and should be invested in as such. I believe that my work can stand on the digital shelves next to the James Pattersons, Dan Browns and Lee Childs of this world – and for that, I am immensely proud.
Will you ever consider signing with a traditional publisher?
Yes, absolutely. The traditional publisher still has a big advantage to offer – that of the royalty advance. That offers a lot of value when a writer is planning their workload for the year, and can bring some reliable income streams. That being said, the figures would have to add up, and I would very seriously weigh up the pros and cons of any potential future contract, but I never say never. Except just then. Again, the publishing game is a business – and any sensible business partnership is always worth considering.
Do you have any advice for wannabe writers out there, thinking about jumping into the wild and wacky world of writing and publishing?
Yes! As I’ve hounded on at your request several times already – treat writing like a business. If you don’t do this – you can’t expect to sell anything. Why should readers part with their hard-earned cash for something you didn’t put enough time, money and effort into?
I think the top three takeaways are thus:
– Develop the best product you can. This means a slick cover design, snappy blurb, and a gripping storyline.
– Promote, promote, promote! The best work on the planet will never sell if nobody knows it exists. Consider paid promotions, free giveaways, and thinking outside the box.
– Maintain realistic expectations. Some of the most successful self-published and published writers sold practically nothing for months, years, decades before getting noticed. It can be easier these days with self-publishing opening up new opportunities, but you should assume that it will take at least a couple of years to become an overnight success. If you’re lucky.
Finally – what’s the main reason that readers should go right ahead and buy your book? This is not the time to be modest!
I wrote Panic to best capture the essence of books I enjoy reading the most. Namely; flat-out pacing, plot twists aplenty, pulse-pounding action, and a central mystery that will keep you guessing. I wanted to combine the brain twists of a classic mystery with the excitement of an action thriller, and I’m very pleased with the results. To top it all off, the book is currently FREE on Amazon – so now there’s no excuse for going on over and checking it out. It’ll change your life, save your soul, and solve world hunger*.
Can one little book do all that? You’ll just have to find out…
*please note – any life changes, soul savings, or world hunger solutions are purely coincidental.
Thanks Nick – it’s been a pleasure having you round. Or square, in fact. Dang, your British accent is rubbing off on me.
The pleasure’s all mine.
See more of Nick at on his website: http://noorosha.com/books/
Nick’s Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Stephenson/e/B004MYQ8K6/
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