My Radio Interview on “Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem”

Today my interview on the Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem program (part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network) aired, and it was a terrific success.

The show is hosted by the friendly, knowledgeable and engaging Stephen Campbell, and as I mentioned a few days ago, I was taken aback by how well-prepared he was (he had read all of my work), and the penetrating questions he asked.

Using the SoundCloud player (below), you can play the interview right here on this webpage, or you can download a copy of the interview and play it on your computer offline.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please leave me your comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great holiday and an even better 2014.

—Chris

 

Send to Kindle

Chris Orcutt & Dakota Stevens Hit the Airwaves

Blogtalkradio

“Murders, Mysteries & Mayhem” on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.

Today, I’m in my first-ever radio interview.

I haven’t heard the completed, edited version yet, so you can bet I’m going to tune in to hear how I did.

If you’re interested in hearing about the Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, my fiction, and writing in general, tune in today (Thursday, Dec. 19) at 6:30 pm (Eastern time) to the Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem program on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.

The show is hosted by the friendly, knowledgeable and engaging Stephen Campbell.

 

A still of me from a video interview by Jason Scott.

A still of me from a video interview by Jason Scott. I’m talking in it, so I thought it apropos.

 

I hope you’ll tune in, or if you can’t hear it live, that you’ll check it out afterwards, when it becomes available for streaming. Thank you.

Send to Kindle

Interview with UK Author Sensation Rachel Abbott

Earlier this summer, fellow author and friend Rachel Abbott graciously interviewed me for her blog (you can read that interview here, by the way), and I am pleased to return the favor. Rachel’s detective/suspense/thriller novel ONLY THE INNOCENT has been an Amazon UK sensation, reaching #1 in the Kindle Store (Paid), as well as #1 in several other categories.

In this interview she talks about writing, living in Italy, the nature of internet celebrity, and much more. If you’re in the mood for a suspense/thriller, you should definitely pick up ONLY THE INNOCENT. Rachel is working on her second novel now.

* * *

ONLY THE INNOCENT has been ranked #1 in several categories on Amazon UK: #1 Kindle Store (Paid), #1 British Detective, #1 Suspense, and #1 Thriller. The novel obviously has great crossover appeal between genres. What about the novel is making readers respond so positively?

I think there is a level of intrigue that has compelled readers to find out the answers to all the questions. ONLY THE INNOCENT is not so much a book about WHO committed the murder, it’s far more about WHY and to some extent, HOW. It also seems to appeal to people on different levels: some are interested in the whole concept of the detective solving the crime, others are more interested in what would drive a woman to commit cold-blooded murder. So I believe it keeps people intrigued to the end.

 

Although ONLY THE INNOCENT has been profoundly successful on Amazon UK and has been rising up the Amazon US charts, you and the novel are somewhat less well known in the States. What would you like to say to American readers of mysteries, suspense and thrillers to encourage them to buy and read your novel?

I initially focused most of my marketing on the UK audience primarily because I am from the UK, and had quite a following there. But although ONLY THE INNOCENT is set in the England, there are parts of the book set in Venice and Positano and the protagonist does live in a very glamorous world. So I believe that the setting should appeal to people everywhere. In terms of the story, the issues faced by the main characters are universal. There is nothing that defines them as British, and although the policeman is – of necessity – English, the story is driven by mystery and suspense, rather than by a police investigation. There have been a number of reviews already in the US, and to date all of them have happily been favorable.

 

You’ve had over 100 5-star reviews of the novel from Amazon readers, but surely 1–2 must stand out as favorites. What are some of your favorite customer comments about the book?

I particularly like this review, because it covers quite a few aspects of the book :

Rachel Abbott’s rollercoaster debut is astounding and has bestseller written all over it. She explores some dark, dark places in the human psyche that will make you think twice about outer kindness and charity. The Devil’s in the detail but who is The Devil? Gripping from start to finish, the pages almost turned themselves as I enjoyed the fast-paced journey to the final denouement.

I also liked this review, which came early on, from the Kindle Book Review. This is just a brief extract :

A Stunningly Complex Debut Novel

Rachel Abbott has proved with this debut that she is a cracking writer. The book is a complex layered web, every chapter adding more and more layers of intrigue that pull you in further.

But perhaps the one that made me smile most was :

I nearly burned the dinner twice because I couldn’t put this book down.

 

Are you an avid reader of books in these genres (mysteries, suspense and thrillers), and is that why you were inspired to write one of your own, or did you write ONLY THE INNOCENT for other reasons?

I am an avid reader of various genres, but I suspect I read more thrillers than anything else, partly because my husband likes them too, so I have always tended to buy books that we can share. But in this case, I’d had an idea in my head for a very long time and never had the time to sit down and write it. I wanted to think up a scenario in which a woman – a perfectly normal, sane woman – would have no other option than to commit a cold-blooded murder. I didn’t want a psychopathic killer – I wanted a normal person, and that was my inspiration.

 

You were invited by Amazon KDP to the London Book fair to discuss your success with ONLY THE INNOCENT. What did you learn about publishing and yourself from the experience?

I was really excited when KDP asked me to come to the book fair, and the one thing that I learned was that I really want to be in this industry – not just as a one-off author of a book, but because I want to be a writer. I am very clear in my own mind that self-publishing has been really good to me, but in no way does that mean for a minute that I believe traditional publishing is dead. I loved seeing a pile of my books, actually printed (by KDP) for me to sign, and I do love the idea of walking into a bookstore and seeing them all there. But self-publishing has some real positives too, and I realized at the end of the book fair that I won’t rule out either option. One thing that is very clear, though, is that marketing your book to success has to be partially down to luck. If I had launched ONLY THE INNOCENT at the same time as the 50 Shades series, it would have been impossible to get to the #1 spot!

 

Your #1 success with ONLY THE INNOCENT on Amazon UK has made you something of a celebrity in the Indie Author community. How has your writing life changed as a result of this celebrity?

When ONLY THE INNOCENT was successful, I wanted to share the things I had learned with other indie authors. I originally launched the book with low expectations of sales. I would have been happy, to be honest, with a thousand copies sold. That was my goal. But clearly I was very lucky, and I must have done a few things right – so for quite some time I spent most of my days blogging about what I did, and sharing things with other authors.

But the biggest change by far came when I found myself an agent. I have Kerry Wilkinson – another successful indie author (although he now has a publisher) – to thank for this. He introduced me to my agent, and she has changed the way that I work completely. She edited ONLY THE INNOCENT – something that I hadn’t thought of doing, but should have – and has guided my writing, giving tirelessly of her time. So the so-called celebrity status had a tremendous impact, and has made me even keener to improve my writing and help other indies.

 

You live and write in Le Marche, Italy (Central Italy). How has being a writer in Italy influenced your writing and how you work?

Living in Italy is a joy, and I can write here practically without distraction. I am able to write full time – which I know makes me one of the few very lucky ones – and in an atmosphere of total peace and quiet.

But living in Italy also means that during the summer months it is extremely hot – this summer in particular has been relentless and we have had no rain for over three months. It is quite difficult to work when your arms are sticking to the desk! We don’t have air conditioning, because in a normal summer it’s hardly necessary – but I might think about that for next year! We also have a lot of visitors from May to September – friends and family looking to escape the very wet summer in the UK. We love having guests, but they have all had to accept that I hide myself away for a large part of each day. The temptation of a few hours by the pool in the afternoon, though, sometimes gets the better of me.

So for most of the year I can be 100% focused, but for the summer months it becomes quite difficult – particularly if everybody else is drinking a nice chilled glass of white wine with lunch and have feel I have to stick to water!

 

Who are your writing idols—those writers whose work inspires you to be the best writer you can be?

I’m not sure that I have any writing idols. If I have to choose one, it would be Daphne du Maurier. REBECCA is my favourite book of all time. What I love about it is that it is a mystery, but it’s all about relationships. It’s not a story that is led by a detective – it is led by the protagonists. ONLY THE INNOCENT had to have a detective in the story because a murder is committed in the first chapter. But I definitely wanted to feel that the story was all about the victim and the perpetrator, and was not a novel about a policeman.

There are writers whose books I always enjoy – and Harlan Coben would be right up there. What I love about his books is the complexity of the plot – and I am referring to the one-off titles rather than the Myron Bolitar series, which I enjoy for entirely different reasons. It’s this level of intricacy that I strive for.

A considerable number of books that fit into the thriller genre focus almost entirely on the investigation and the character of the policeman rather than the personality of the victims, but with the Harlan Coben books, the focus is on the people to whom the events are happening, rather than on the people solving the crime. So between Daphne du Maurier and Harlan Coben – a strange mix, you might say – they have shaped the way I think of a story.

 

You are something of a social media maven as well, tirelessly promoting ONLY THE INNOCENT on Facebook and Twitter. How has social media helped you as a writer, and how has it been a hindrance?

When I launched ONLY THE INNOCENT I had just nine followers on Twitter. I had a Facebook account, but I rarely used it. I worked hard to build a following – particularly on Twitter, although I am working harder on Facebook now by engaging people in conversation a little more.

I don’t think that social media has been a hindrance at all. I have used some of the tools available to make my life a little easier, because for months I was doing all the updating and searching for new followers manually. I now have two Twitter accounts, primarily because most of my followers on the first account were other indie authors. That is no problem at all, and I’m delighted to chat to them. But the things that interest them are different to the articles and reviews that interest readers – so I now maintain two accounts. The one for readers is where I post reviews – not just of ONLY THE INNOCENT – hardly ever, in fact – but reviews of other books they may find interesting, retweets from other authors, etc.

I’ve made some really good friends via Twitter – particularly in the indie author area. In general, they are a really supportive bunch of people, although of course you get the odd troll who sees that a book has received a load of good reviews so takes delight in going to the Amazon page and writing a particularly nasty one that shows no evidence of them having read the book. The aim is clearly to damage one book in the hope that it will make theirs more prominent. That, to me, is the only downside of social media. You are laying everything out there for the world to see, and not everybody shows the necessary respect for others.

 

You’re currently working on your second novel. Can you give readers a general idea of what it’s about and what inspired you to write it?

I wanted to explore what goes on under the apparently perfect surface of people’s lives, and how individuals – intentionally or otherwise – can cause harm through obsession, jealousy and delusion.

In my next book, an apparently perfect community is ripped apart by a terrible accident. But it is this accident and the investigation into it that gradually begin to expose circles of deceit that are lying just beneath the surface.

 

Is there any advice that you could give burgeoning Indie Authors, advice that you wish you had received when you were starting out?

Yes! As you know, Chris, I have now had ONLY THE INNOCENT professionally edited. The first version did incredibly well, and I think that’s because many people read like I do – they are driven entirely by the story. But some criticized the first version, and having had an editor pore over it and send me reams and reams of notes for improvement, I understand why.

The editing process was quite hard. I didn’t get back changes which was what I half expected. I got back notes with comments such as – ‘what’s going on in the room?’ or ‘what’s she seeing here?’ or ‘cut this section in half’ – and it really made me think. The story hasn’t changed, but the characters have been fleshed out, and there is more to visualize in a scene. I spent a couple of months rewriting chunks, and then it was edited again by a second person, who made even more suggestions.

It sounds hard, but I really think that if I had done that at the outset, ONLY THE INNOCENT would have been an even bigger success. As it is, it has been re-released in the new version on all platforms, and the reviews on iTunes (UK) and Waterstones – probably the biggest independent bookstore in the UK – are all incredibly positive.

So if I was starting again, I would try whatever I could to find the budget for a professional edit. It has changed the way that I will write going forward, but hopefully not changed the tension and suspense of the story.

 

How can readers buy ONLY THE INNOCENT?

ONLY THE INNOCENT is available in all ereader formats, and can be found by following the links below. For some of the readers, such as Kobo and Sony, it might be necessary to perform a search as the sites default to the country you are searching from.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble

iTunes (US)

Rachel Abbott Website.

Send to Kindle

The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe: An Interview with Jeff Bennington

Greetings, readers. Today, for the first time in the history of my blog, I’m making somebody else the focus. Today I’m going back to my roots as a newspaper reporter and interviewing Jeff Bennington, creator of The Kindle Book Review and author of a new book about the indie publishing phenomenon, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe.

Ever since I independently published      A Real Piece of Work late last year, I’ve been struck by how collegial and supportive the indie author/publisher community is. For example, out of hundreds of potential reviews to run on The Kindle Book Review, Jeff chose one about my novel. Grateful for his generosity, I wanted to pay him back somehow, and so I’m running this interview.

The indie author/publisher world is a fascinating one, and as one of the world’s movers and shakers, Jeff is well qualified to talk about its current state, as well as its promising future. So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Jeff:

 

What inspired you to write THE INDIE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE?
The inspiration to write TIAGttU came from my desire to learn from my past mistakes and share those lessons with other authors. I blogged about the lessons learned for nearly a year. I was actually surprised how thankful my readers were. I thought I was just being transparent, when in fact, I was offering useful information that writers were in desperate need of. The longer I immersed myself into the world of publishing, the more I watched other authors repeat the same mistakes over and over.

 

You’re the founder of The Kindle Book Review. Where did the idea for that very popular website come from?

Jeff Bennington

The Kindle Book Review was actually created as part of my “author platform.” I also wanted to help promote other authors in my genre via cross-promotion. What I didn’t know is, the blog would transform my platform in ways I never imagined. So what started as just another blog, turned into a review site, and then into a promotional tool on a larger scale. Every day the number of visitors increased. One day we had 400, and then 450 the next and then 500 and then 525 and then 600. It’s just amazing how fast it’s growing. We now have about 20 reviewers and several promotional venues for any budget, including a “Media Buzz” promotion that is working great. We’ve teamed up with WorldLiteraryCafe.com and DigitalBookToday.com to make this promotion extra effective.

 

What is the difference, as you see it, between self-published and indie-published? What are the advantages of being an independent publisher?
Good question. I address this in the book because I don’t think there is clear definition. Here’s what I say in the book:

I’ve been down the roads of self-publishing and what I call indie publishing. An indie author, in my opinion, is in complete control of their publishing project, including cover design, pricing, editing, formatting, and ownership of the ISBN. As an indie author, you report to no one but your readers.

A self-publisher, as I see it, is one who contracts a pay-to-publish business such as Tate Publishing, Outskirts Press, Author House or any other service that charges to publish an author’s book. I include 50/50 publishers as well because they require the author to pay a portion of the production expenses. Sadly, after all the hype, the publisher usually owns the ISBN, ultimately controls the price, and charges ridiculous fees for the simplest of tasks. In this case, you are self-published, but you are not actually the publisher.

 

What is the most common mistake made by indie publishers and how can they rectify it?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint one common mistake. But I think the most damaging mistake indie authors make is by refusing to pay for professional editing. What I’ve seen is a mentality that says, “If I sell some books, I’ll afford to pay for an editor, book cover design, and proper formatting.”

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. If you invest in those elements before publishing, you’ll have a better chance of selling, and a better chance of NOT killing your reputation as an author.

I have a checklist I refer to when an author asks me for help. It’s quite simple:

  • Book Cover, Book Blurb, Price, Writing Quality, Reviews, Marketing

If a book is not selling, I begin analyzing each one of these elements to discover which is broken. I often find that a book is not selling for obvious reasons, such as poor cover design, no marketing, inflated price, poor editing, etc. If you do not know how to fix these key elements, you will have to pay an expert. Although I do not have an exhaustive list of resources, I do list the professionals I use.

 

THE INDIE AUTHOR’S GUIDE is loaded with advice on marketing, pricing, coding and a lot more, but what aspects of the book are you most proud of?
The part of the book that I’m most proud of is that I think I paint a very realistic picture of what it means to be an indie author and what your life will become when you are your own publisher. I’m very honest. I give no promises of selling a million copies in a year. Like my blog, The Writing Bomb, I motivate authors who are discouraged, and encourage those who are considering going indie without giving them a false impression that they will grow rich and sell millions. Most will not.

I am also proud of the fact that not only have I had success with some of the strategies I teach, but I have been working with other authors who are seeing an increase in their sales.

 

How is THE INDIE AUTHOR’S GUIDE different than other books on the indie publishing phenomenon, books like David Gaughran’s LET’S GET DIGITAL?
I’ve never read that book, but I looked it up and was surprised at how similar they are. The biggest difference is that Let’s Get Digital was published six months ago and a lot has changed since then, specifically Amazon’s KDP Select program. I address KDP Select in detail and offer marketing and promotional strategies that can benefit authors who are enrolled in that program.

I also checked out David’s list of books and see that he has one that is currently ranked at 60K+ and one that is ranked at 100K+ in the Amazon paid store. Reunion, my supernatural thriller is a legitimate #1 Amazon category bestseller and hit #55 in Amazon’s Top 100 paid store. All of my books, with the exception of my short stories, now incorporated into Creepy, have been consistently ranked in the 2,000 to 25,000 range for several months and I haven’t seen six digits in over a year.

While searching for David’s book, I noticed that there are other related titles that were published in 2010. Those border on ancient history.

 

Ebooks have been under fire since their inception, with critics declaring them poorly written and edited. The standard argument is that they are of inferior quality compared to print books from mainstream publishers. Recently notable authors like Jonathan Franzen have joined the fray, adding to the criticism of ebooks. As a promoter of indie authors and one of the vanguards of independent publishing, how do you respond?
There is definitely some truth to the naysayer’s arguments. But what they don’t realize is, indie authors are selling A WHOLE BUNCH of books and readers are grateful for the variety and general quality. Is it likely that there are a greater percentage of lemons coming from the indie camp? Sure. But I believe critics of indie published books are speaking out of ignorance and fear, and their thoughts will have zero impact on our continued success. Your book, A Real Piece of Work, is a perfect case in point. You have 68 reviews and a 4.9-star rating.

 

Is epublishing a fad that will go away eventually, or is it here to stay? Please explain.
Easy. With the exception of a cataclysmic disaster, a foreign invasion, or a world-wide collapse of the Internet, epublishing is here to stay. Ebooks are an “inventory free” product, profitable and economical for all parties concerned. The more money eReaders like the Kindle generate, the more money their creators will invest in the products and technologies that they use. There’s a lot of money riding on these digital devices, and authors are the ones who create the content, and content is King.

 

In the introduction to THE INDIE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE, you mention that the bulk of the book includes morsels of encouraging and motivating material for writers. How about giving readers a sample right now?
Sure. Here’s a direct excerpt taken from Section One:

When Dreams Are Lost

“The best part of my indie journey has been the manifestation of ideals I believe in but which the universe seemed reluctant to validate until now.”

—Scott Nicholson, author of The Indie Journey: Secrets to Writing Success

The grill billowed with smoke. Your stomach growled. Children frolicked in the yard, and your mouth watered as you savored the flavors of life. You could practically taste the hotdog and ketchup in your mouth. Your mom slipped you some chips and soda, and you were in heaven.

As usual, you played until the streetlights came on, and when you lay in your bed at the end of the day you dreamed of who you’d become.

You were young. You were fresh. You were exactly who you were supposed to be, and your dreams were bigger than life.

If you were like me, you wanted to be a stunt man and jump the Snake River like Evel Knievel, soaring by the power of your will. Or maybe you wanted to be a dancer, a drummer, or a writer.

Then life happened.

You had children. You went to college. You started a career, working long hours, hoping to get ahead while you paid your bills. Sometimes, you thought about your secret dreams when no one was looking. Of course they were there, hiding, waiting, still electrified with that youthful energy you once had. But you pushed them aside.

You gave your time to your children. You gave your time to your wife or husband. You gave your time to remodeling the house. It all drained the life out of you, but you wouldn’t change a thing. Your family has made you who you are, loving you through the highs and lows of life. Or, maybe not.

And yet through it all, your dreams are still calling. Thoughts of soaring over the Snake River and writing your magnum opus have remained at your side, whispering to you, hoping that you’d drag them from your memories and realize them for what they are: your bucket list, your destiny.

Let me ask you a question: Do you hear your dreams calling, or are you blocking out the noise with the busyness of life?

I hope you’re listening, because your aspirations will never stop calling you. They’re a part of the child that exists within. Your dreams are who you’re meant to be. And if you dream of writing, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, at the very least, be your hobby.

Listen for just a moment, and remember who you are. Remember your calling. If you’re a writer at heart, there is no better time to rediscover yourself and publish your work. Life is too short for what-ifs.

Write. Publish. Live out your dreams.

 

Where is THE INDIE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE available, in what forms, and how much is it?
The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The ebook sells for $3.99 and the print version sells for $8.99.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your book or the world of independent publishing in general?
Why yes! Let’s wrap up this interview with my closing remarks in the book…

Amazing, isn’t it, this writing thing? The world has walked right up to us and crouched down with their ears pressed tight to our brains, listening to our ideas and to our hearts. Kindles and Nooks and iPads have changed everything for the writer, giving us an opportunity that has never been possible. We can write and publish with little to no restrictions, an unequivocal ticket to freedom.

We have been given a gift.

Yet nothing is guaranteed in this life. Everything can change without warning.

Now is the time for you to whisper in the reader’s ear. Now is your opportunity to share your story, your words, and your song with the readers of the world. Write it down. Get it professionally edited. Do it right. And send your words through Amazon’s Whispernet with my love.

Thanks for having me, Chris. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share my book with your readers, and for your insightful questions. And by the way congratulations on the success of your book, A Real Piece of Work. Sixty-eight reviews with a 4.9-star rating is absolutely amazing. You deserve to be a number one bestseller, and I think you’ll get there.

 

Send to Kindle