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Interview With A PR: Honey Speaks!

Introduction

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to interview someone who knew something about PR. Now, I have my own PR and I figured if I interviewed him it would just look like selfless promotion…. So, who could I interview? Well… I decided to interview Honey Hutson- the master of promotion over at Black Rose Publishing…

HoneyPhoto2Q:  OK, Joe Author spends years working diligently on a novel.  Finally his work is complete.  He finds a publisher or self-publishes.  Now the book is “out” and there it sits, known only to some of his friends and family – sitting on some web page somewhere amongst hundreds of other books.  

Joe Author has dreams of being successful as a writer so he can quit his job at the gas station.  He wants to spend his days writing and earn a decent living doing so.

Suddenly he realizes that it’s one thing to write a book, and quite another thing to SELL it.  

What is going to determine whether he can quit his job at the gas station? 

A couple of things. One – if you want to write for a living it’s not as simple as writing a book in most cases. You have to be prolific, you have to put out several books a year until you do land that big contract and someone else determines how many you put out. We all want to be like Charlene Harris, or JK Rowling, but if you look at their careers you will find they wrote many books, produced regularly and consistently. Ms. Harris had an entire series before Sookie took the world by storm.

Two – You want the books to sell, to fly out into the world and make something of themselves (and profit would be nice too). You have to be writing other things as well. Blogs, interviews, promotions of your book, the next book and just as importantly – promoting yourself! Many writers ignore self-promotion. They use their book to hide behind. The day of a writer sitting at their desk and just writing and then handing it off to someone else for the rest is OVER. Understand this, embrace the reality. Readers today latch onto writers they like because there is so much material out there that does not meet its potential or even bad that when they find a good one, they remember you and look for you. This creates a personal interest and investment on their part, which translates into a personal relationship of sorts with the writers.

Three – you have to eat, you like having a roof overhead. If you want to write for a living in today’s environment it’s also important to understand that you have to do more than write books. For someone who has no other income, no other safety net, you generally have to have no less than three to four different avenues from which you are generating money. The reason for this? As everyone has seen the publishing landscape is a quickly changing one, it shifts and morphs and what is big one day is on life support the next. Incomes fluctuate and the economy does the same, which creates a whole other issue. Everything in this industry ebbs and flows. You can’t depend on one thing, unless you are Steven King or one of the lucky few like him and I’d wager even their jobs have changed drastically in the past decade. Plan on working hard.

Q:  There are good writers, incredible writers and lousy writers.  How much of a factor is that to their success? 

(i.e., is it all just marketing or can you make it on skill?)

It is nearly impossible to make it on skill alone. There is always that one exception – but what are the chances you will be the one in one billion? And that is a real number by the way.

I have seen people with not a lot of skill make it on good marketing, we all have. We have seen books, products, all sorts of things that either aren’t good or are marginal hit it big. Think of a movie you’ve seen recently that stunk but sold millions at the box office. Yeah, like that one.

Here is the breakdown: Talent, skill, being personable and available to your readers, marketing, promotions of your book, but also yourself, an understanding of business (and understanding this isn’t just your dream, it’s a business). These are all the basic building blocks. You build a foundation for yourself as a writer, that is the hard part. Once you have that foundation the rest is easier.

Q:  Do you know of anyone who has made it on writing excellence alone – without spending much time promoting themselves?

No. Even big writers, like Jayne Ann Krentz promote. In fact I had an email from her last week, promoting the new book “The Mystery Woman.” And a Thank You email to all her followers this week for making that debut rocket in the ratings and Best Seller lists. Her site is a great example of building that personal relationship with her readers: http://www.jayneannkrentz.com/. What I’m talking about here is really well illustrated by her promotions and interactions. And she has three lines that run in different genres, her form of more than one thing going on at a time.

Writers are the ultimate multitaskers. It is not an easy life! But it can be a lot of fun and excitement.

Q:  You can spend a lot of time on promotion – my god there’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Web Pages, Goodreads, etc. etc. (that alone can be a full time job) – if you have only a finite amount of time and you can only pick one or two of these avenues – which one would you choose?  Why?

Facebook you should have a presence in as an Author (Author page), just don’t get lost in it. It’s very easy to do! Twitter is quick, easy and easy to manage on a minimum amount of time for both you and your followers and has the most boost for the time spent. Web pages are a must, because your fans will follow and keep up with what you are doing there, interviewers and others interested in you (you’d be surprised how many authors are found these days as opposed to finding publishers, agents, Movie people) will Google you looking for a direct way to contact you. Goodreads and it’s now stepsister Amazon Central are for now the last ones I’d say are a must. Goodreads for your readers and Amazon Central more for your own uses to keep up with trends that may help you market. Time management is a must and I think the hardest part of what we do.

Q:  What is your opinion about hiring someone to promote for you (e.g. design your web pages, keep you blog updated, handle the tech side of it)  I know this costs money, but if it gets you sales….

Web pages, I think it depends on your level of expertise. If you need help don’t go to a big firm, pick small business people who can give you personal attention. Someone like Way 2 Kool Designs, (http://www.way2kooldesigns.com/),who take the time to get to know you and will even promote their work with your site! Bonuses are good! Take all you can get. And the little guys are the ones who will give you this.

As for other things, Blog Tours, Book Tours are the most bang for your buck. I have never yet seen one author who hired a high end, expensive firm and benefited from it. I have seen many who have spent thousands on PR firms and marketing campaigns that accomplished 0 return or a few hundred sales, which is nowhere near a return worth your money. This only works for celebrity writers, do that after you get there, but in the meantime the reality is a large number of small efforts are what will get you seen. If it’s over a hundred dollars buyer beware! A good example is Charisma Media (http://charismamedianetwork.com/tour-packages/tour-packages/). You’ll notice all of her packages but one is under $100, many under $50. And very effective because she’s very personal. She concentrates on getting you in front of the reader and making introductions.

Any time you make an investment in anything your main reasoning should be is the return going to be in balance with the investment? Research what you’re looking into, go see what they are doing and Google some of their writers, email some of them (not just one or two) and ask them what they thought, how it went.

Q:  What are some of the successful actions you’ve seen with new writers?

Blog tours are a very effective tool, so are book tours and book giveaways either on your Facebook page to build up your audience (two for one here) or on Goodreads.com for the same reason. Both are effective. Get out there, have a reading to help promote a library, do a reading at a festival or bookstore. Participate in a fundraiser for something where your book will fit in (Children’s Hospital for a children’s book, etc.). Join affordable Writer’s associations. Networking with others gives you great ideas and support.

Q:  What have been your successful actions in your book sales?

Blogs certainly. Book giveaways on Goodreads, my website has generated a lot of interviews and media articles. Always, always make sure you have contact information on the web page! I cannot stress this enough. Most of the time you can add a contact box that will allow you to do this without giving out information if you feel uneasy about just anyone having your contact information.

Q:  (Here’s a plug for you!)  What have you written?  Where can we find your books?

I have two books out and at least two, maybe three coming out this year.

Soul Inheritance

Inheritance Rising

Strange Relations Upcoming release with Mithra Publishing out of the UK

The third book in the Inheritance series will be out later this year, the final book in the series. And there is one more waiting in the wings that I hope will be out before the end of the year.

Q:  Self-Publishing:  Pro’s and Con’s?

Pros – you have a lot of control over your material, in face all of the control. You have to do it all from writing all the way through to marketing. If you are a control freak, it’s probably a good thing. If you want guidance through the process maybe not. You get 70% of your sales. Take from that your cover if you have it done for you, your editing if you have it done for you, and so on and you have your actual profits. This is where balancing what you put out with return will come in handy.

Con’s – like it or not there is still a stigma to this. There are no guidelines that must be followed which can often lead to loss of quality. Even if you are meticulous and one of the growing number who are very careful with your material and make the most professional and well-done pieces anyone has ever seen, you still live with the perceived notion of lack of quality. People assume you couldn’t get a publisher to touch it. It stinks, it’s not fair, but it’s there. There are many places from Bloggers to Reviewers to media that will not touch your promotion with a ten-foot pole. They want an actual publisher title on the book. Never mind that some of these are little more than buying their name to put on your book by signing with them.

Q:  You have a small publisher who will publish your book now.  You are also querying the big Publishers in New York.  Should you go with the little guy or keep soliciting the big dudes?

Go with the little guy to get yourself out there. The harsh reality these days is that unless you win the international lottery that is winning the JK Rowling type of contract, publishers want you to prove to them that you are a viable writer. The very first thing they will do is Google you. Do you have a web site? A following? Fan page? Can you get out there and do PR and publicity to suit their needs. Writers cannot hide behind a desk anymore. There are requirements that you get out there and do these things. Writing is work and it doesn’t stop when the book is done. That was the easy part.

Q:  Aside from writing excellence.  What do you think is the biggest factor in any author’s success?

Their ability to make themselves seen. Your own uniqueness will get you far, not only in your books, but in your personality and interactions. Beyond that, persistence. Don’t give up, keep trying and working and improving, take the obstacles one at a time, plot out what you need to do and do it and don’t let anyone tell you can’t. You can. You will and before you know it you’ll be able to say you did!

Fishing With My Father…. FREE!

Hi all,

I have decided to run a promotion this weekend! My short story “Fishing with my Father” will be free for the whole weekend! I think you will enjoy this one!

Fishing With My Father by J.W. Northrup is FREE today! Get your copy now!

MY INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW WITH A TRUE INVESTIGATOR.

INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW WITH A TRUE INVESTIGATOR.

Author: WAYNE ZURL

 Wayne is a real life police investigator turned author.  If you like to read Mystery this is the Author you SHOULD read!

WAYNE_ZURL1

I like to use the cases I investigated or supervised as a basis for my stories, but most true crime needs embellishment to make a good marketable story.

 

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS.

I hooked up with Wayne through our mutual association with our publisher.  I was excited that he wanted me to do an interview with me.  Here is our interview:

Q: Looks like you have been a very productive author since 2006.  Is that when you began writing?

In 2006, I started writing fiction, but it took me until January of 2011 to get my first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, published.  In 2009, I struck up a business agreement with Mind Wings Audio who produce novelettes as audio books and simultaneously published them as eBooks. So far they’ve bought fifteen Sam Jenkins mysteries from me.

Prior to 2006, I’d been writing non-fiction magazine articles dealing with colonial American history and the fiction of James Fenimore Cooper. I got lucky and had twenty-six of those published in ten years.

 

Q: Do you consider writing an enjoyable hobby or a desire to essentially write your memoirs or do you want the whole dream – being a popular bestselling author?

When I ran out of steam with the non-fiction, I looked at fiction as a creative outlet, and with the misconception that getting a good novel published would be as easy as getting a magazine article accepted.

In the beginning, I thought I’d be content just to create a novel or two for my own enjoyment. Now, after a smidgeon of success, I’d love to become a household word. But realistically, I don’t have the backing or the marketing skills to make that happen.

Note: to any of you Agents, Publishers and Marketing people.  What do you think?

Q: I have to admit, as an author, I love to hear back from readers. What kind of feedback have you received? Anything in particular that you really liked?

I have a pretty large ego, so positive feedback is a great stimulant. I love to hear readers or reviewers praise my protagonist. Some call him a smartass or that “he has a wise-cracking style akin to Philip Marlowe.” I take those comments as compliments. Others really make me happy when they say they laughed out loud at some of his humor. And it’s great to hear the ladies say he’s lovable, but the best compliment comes from those who mention his honesty and integrity.

In addition to all the mental massage, I love to hear from those readers who zero in on my intended message(s) or point of a story or book. That makes me think I did something right.

Q: I can see that you write about what you know (great advice to any author). How much of your own experiences did you put into your stories?

I like to use the cases I investigated or supervised as a basis for my stories, but most true crime needs embellishment to make a good marketable story. So, they’re really not memoirs or autobiographical sketches. I use the basic storylines for almost all of my work. Most often one incident isn’t enough to make good fiction. So, I composite two or more, or just toss in interesting or humorous vignettes at some opportune spots. In HEROES & LOVERS, for instance, I used am true anecdote about delivering a baby that might have made a good short story, but it worked better to break up a long stretch of investigation by putting Sam Jenkins and another cop in the right place at the right time to observe something that ultimately furthers their main focus solution and the story.

Letting Sam speak as I would, helps me write realistic dialogue. With all my characters, I try and envision real people talking to duplicate their delivery and get unique voices for each character.

Q: You seem like someone who lived your stories. How important do you feel that is for an author?

It depends on how vivid the writer’s imagination is. For someone like me who has more of a memory than an imagination, it’s very important. I’m not void of creative thinking, but I freely admit I couldn’t write about something very far from my personal experience. I’d be lost with sci-fi or anything within the current paranormal-vampire-zombie crazes. That shortcoming might limit me to cop fiction or a military drama, although I think I could pull off a western. I started a novel about the Vietnam War once, but after five chapters I saw that the language was so flagrant (atrocious, actually) that I wouldn’t want my mother to read it.

Now that I have more experience with creative writing, I’ve done a few things based on recent events that I wanted to capitalize on—sort of how the writers from LAW & ORDER produced scripts “ripped from the headlines.”

Q: Do you find yourself in any of the characters in your stories.

Sure.  Sam Jenkins and I share many similarities and personal history. My wife says he must have joined the Army on the same day and years later, sat next to me in the police academy. I say, Sam’s wife, Kate, isn’t too different from my Barbara.

Q: Do you write every day?

That’s not logistically or inspirationally possible. I don’t have a real job any longer, but living on five acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains means there are plenty of chores to be done. Cranking out a few novelettes and at least one novel a year creates a need for lots of post-publication promoting and marketing which, because I’m only a step above computer illiterate, takes me much longer than the average eleven-year-old. And we like to travel. Our vacations never involve relaxing under a beach umbrella, so writing while we’re away has never worked.

When the inspiration strikes me, I sort of hideaway and write until the ideas fade or I need a break.

Q: What do you have coming out in the near future?

Three new novelettes are under contract and on the coming soon list at Mind Wings. They’re called: GYPSIES, TRAMPS & THIEVES; HEAVEN’S GATE; and NOTHING FITZ. And I’ve just signed a contract and sent the manuscript of a fourth novel to my editor. I hope my proposed dust jacket summary for PIGEON RIVER BLUES will give you the basic idea of that story.

Q: Can you give us brief summary of it?

Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate.

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

And in my spare time, I’ll be working on my final revisions for a novel called A TOUCH OF MORNING CALM, a story about Korean organized crime in east Tennessee, and two new novelettes.

Q: Do you have a particular system you like to follow with your writing, terms of plotting your work and following guidelines?

For a guy who spent more than twenty years concurrently working in military or para-military organizations, I’m a fairly undisciplined and unstructured writer. When I get an idea I just grab a pad and pen and run with the idea. Outlining feels too much like work. I guess my rough draft is a form of outline. I pay a lot of attention to continuity and plausibility when I revise anything and always go back and ad all the little descriptions and the “flashing out” that keeps a story alive.

Q: As an author how do you promote yourself and your work? I.e. how can readers find you?

By necessity, I do many of the electronic media things to promote me and my books. I’ve tried to find a happy medium between non-involvement and being an annoying spammer. I might post my ‘advertisements’ once or twice a week and keep my face shown with other more passive promotions whenever possible. Here’s a menu of links where someone bopping around the Internet can find me:

Author website:  http://www.waynezurlbooks.net

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/#!/waynezurl

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/waynezurl

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4158372.Wayne_Zurl

Google &:  https://plus.google.com/109594006376039428353#109594006376039428353/posts

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/waynezurl

B&N author page: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl

Mind Wings Audio author page: http://mindwingsaudio.com/?s=wayne+zurl

Most recent novel, HEROES & LOVERS

HEROS

Amazon direct link: http://www.amazon.com/Heroes-Lovers-Wayne-Zurl/dp/0985138890/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346682245&sr=1-16&keywords=wayne+zurl

Barnes & Noble direct link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heroes-and-lovers-wayne-zurl/1111849688?ean=978098513889 http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Heroes-Lovers/Wayne-Zurl/9780985138899?id=55137888500979

Books-A-Million direct link: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Heroes-Lovers/Wayne-Zurl/9780985138899?id=5513788850097

Q: How do you feel about the whole Social Media boom? Is it something you engage in?

When we first bought a PC in 2002, it was the first computer I worked on since they stood seven-feet-tall. I attended classes to learn the basics, but still found myself dangerously close to throwing that sucker from our second floor window more than a few times. I’m not crazy about social media and probably wouldn’t engage in things like Facebook were it not for my writing. But because of the books, I do show my face in an electronic fashion.

Q: I have to admit I haven’t read your novels. What can you tell me (and the public) to get me excited about reading you novels/novelettes?

If you’re a fan of the over-the-top, improbable fantasy police work novel easily found in any book store, you may want to look elsewhere for your literary enjoyment. But if you’d like to experience what it might be like to ride along in a patrol car on a busy four-to-twelve tour or get called out at one in the morning to investigate a suspicious death, read something about ex-New York Detective Sam Jenkins, who now finds himself the police chief for a small city in east Tennessee.

I’m a pain in the neck when it comes to authentic procedure and the detail that would make a cop or ex-cop say these books/stories are the real deal.

I’ve felt the emotion, the lack of emotion, (by necessity) the frustration, excitement, satisfaction, and humor that fills a cop’s day.

I can talk you through a shootout from the moment you align your sights on a human target until the shot goes off. Then I’ll jumble your mind with the myriad things necessary after the gun confrontations and up until you sit before a grand jury hoping they agree that your use of deadly force was necessary and justified.

Give one of my stories a try. eBook prices start at only ninety-nine cents.

Thanks a lot Wayne.

Thank you, Jim, for inviting me to your blog to meet your fans and followers. And thanks for taking so much of your time to structure these questions specifically for me. Not many interviewers do that.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.