Tag Archives: Indie

RACHEL AMPHLETT—A CRIME THRILLER/INDIE AUTHOR GOLDEN GEM

Every so often, golden writing skills shine through to the surface. Raw storytelling rocks become polished gems. They combine memorable words into unforgettable stories of espionage tales and detective adventures that captivate our imagination. Page by page, we follow twists as they totally tanglethen shock us with stunning solutions. And today, no crime thriller writer shines brighter at this than internationally acclaimed author, Rachel Amphlett.

Rachel Amphlett isn’t one to watch for. She’s already here. Rachel is the creative mind behind her Dan Taylor espionage and Kay Hunter detective series. Both are wildly successful as indie publications. Rachel Amphlett is also an amazing example of entrepreneurship. She’s both writer and promoter—a true hybrid business person who knows what truly works in today’s hyper-competitive indie writing and publishing worlds.

Rachel also has a great sense of humor. Otherwise, we’d never be friends and she wouldn’t be silly enough exposing her busy self in a DyingWords chat.

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Hi Rachel! Why do you write crime thrillers… what do you see in the genre?

That’s an easy one—it’s what I grew up reading! I started reading before I began school, so I was devouring the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton by the time I was five or six years old.  By the time I was about 12, I’d outgrown what was available for that age group, and so my parents and my grandparents let me loose with their bookshelves. Before long, I was discovering books by Jack Higgins, Dick Francis, Ed McBain, PD James, Elizabeth George and the like. I haven’t stopped reading crime thrillers since!

Why do crime thrillers affect so many people? Is it like why ordinary people can’t resist gawking at gory accident scenes? I just read something that people only pay attention to 3 things—food, attractive people, and danger.

Personally, I think crime fiction is a good way of exploring social issues, and for me as a reader, I like to see the bad guy caught in the end – of course, that doesn’t always happen in real life!

I always liked catching bad guys, too. Back then it was job security and some got away… Setting that asidewhat are the basic crime thriller craft elements?

I studied screenwriting a couple of years ago, and that’s definitely helped me hone my craft. Essentially, I divide up any story into a five Act structure rather than three – that helps me keep the pace moving rather than worrying about that huge middle part otherwise.

I read an interview with author Peter James a year or so ago, and he recommends having what he calls a “gosh, wow!” moment at the end of each of those points in the story – something happens that keeps the reader turning the pages. It might not necessarily be another murder, but the detective might discover something that turns the story on its head and hooks the reader.

Research is important, but story must come first – if I don’t know something, I’ll put a marker on the page (simply, “XXX” or “[find out more about decapitated heads and post mortems]”), and get on with hitting my word count. Then, I’ll find out as much as possible about the subject, and return to fill in that detail.  Not too much, though. You don’t want your readers getting bored. I reckon about 90% of what I know doesn’t go into a book, but it does inform my writing better.

So why are some crime thriller writers are so successful?

They don’t give up 😉

Ah-haa… *suddenly gets it, nods & winks* Okay. What are your writing skills? I mean your writing process and quirks. Also your writing tools. Like, why are you so…freaking… good?

My skills are improving all the time – I’m constantly reading interviews with my writing heroes to learn more about the craft and how they sustain their writing careers. It’s like going back to school. My own writing process in a nutshell is that I’ll have an idea going round and round in my head for a few days, then I’ll start to flesh out the initial scenes. I guess I’m lucky, in that when I get an idea it appears to me as if I’m remembering a scene from a movie, so all I have to do is write it down.

I’ll spend a few days developing a basic framework around that five Act structure, and this includes a few bullet points for about 30% of the book before I dive in and start writing. That basic outline keeps me on track against any deadline, while allowing organic growth from my characters and a few surprises along the way.

I’m an advocate of Scrivener for writing rather than MS Word – for the first draft, at least because it’s so easy to organise scenes. If I can’t get into one particular scene of a morning, then I can simply start working on another one to get my word count target smashed. I’ll export the first draft into MS Word though, and work in that until the manuscript is finalized, and sent off to my editor.

Why’d you choose to go indie? How does your indie process go and how does your writing/editing/publishing team operate?

I got rejected by a number of agents and publishers who, although they provided some fantastic feedback about the original m/s for WHITE GOLD told me that “there wasn’t a market” for that sort of book. Reading between the lines, what they meant was that vampires were big that year, and they weren’t interested in anything that wasn’t in that particular genre!  However, the great feedback about the story gave me the confidence to try another route, and when an Australian mystery author emailed me suggesting I try indie publishing, I jumped at the chance.

It was a very steep learning curve though, and that’s why I like to do these sorts of seminars, because there’s so much bad advice out there, and I want to help people avoid the sort of mistakes I made when I started out.

Currently, my indie publishing process operates as a proper business— once the writing is done, I become the project manager. I hand over the editing, cover design, and blog tour organising to others while I take on the marketing effort required to successfully launch a book. That’s why I detest the term “self-publishing”. None of us does this on our own.

My PR person contacts book reviewers/bloggers to sort out a blog tour a week either side of the book’s publication date and she also arranges for them to do a cover reveal about 6 weeks out from publication to drum up interest. She also organises a Facebook online party on publication day and between us we write to other authors seeking prizes to give away to readers during the hour the party runs.

I manage all the advertising, including paid ads and social media for my business, as well as doing the book-keeping (although I use a chartered accountant to manage all the tax stuff).

On top of that, I work with distributors and aggregators to ensure my books are reaching as many people as possible worldwide, and also work with them to promote my novels through their platforms, such as Kobo and iBooks.

Wow! No wonder you’re killing it! Your marketing plan—what works in indie book marketing & what’s a waste of time?

I recommend that people find a template business and marketing plan online and tailor it to their book business needs – there are plenty available if you Google them, and it’s what I did when I took the decision to make this work for me two years ago. I also recommend that writers don’t simply make that plan for the next 12 months and then forget about it – you need to be constantly reviewing and updating what you’re doing to make this work.

My own business and marketing plan runs for each calendar quarter, as well as providing me with an overview of where I want my business to be in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years.

As for what works in marketing and what doesn’t, that’s an ever-changing beast. I’d recommend signing up for free updates from online publishing news sites such as Publishing Perspectives, and listen to podcasts such as Author Biz and The Creative Penn to find out the latest trends.

At the moment, it’s all about advertising through Amazon Ads, Facebook Ads, and BookBub Ads, but that could all change in six months. The important thing as an indie author is to be agile and open to change.

Hmmm… Your views on social media platforms…

A must for writers – it’s the only way to get visibility for your work. My own strategy is to have a website and Facebook page (not a personal profile) as my mainstays and then use Twitter and Instagram as “outposts”. However, a writer of YA fiction might find that something like Snapchat and Instagram works better for them. You have to be prepared to spend time experimenting.

Best publishing outlets? AZ, Kobo, iTunes, etc?

This comes down to the individual author. Some writers prefer to lock into KDP Select (Kindle Unlimited), whereas others like me prefer to “go wide”. Something like 30% of my sales come through Kobo Canada; another 20% through iBooks Australia, so there’s no way I’m going to lock something like my Kay Hunter series into KDP Select!

If you’re just starting out though, go for KDP Select to find your feet, and then expand using an aggregator like Draft2Digital to reach a wider audience. Again, test, test, test!

Is there a place for print/audio/foreign?

Absolutely! I have audiobooks for both my series, and print for every book I’ve published. Foreign rights are another pillar to your business, and I have sold rights to publishers in Italy and Germany so far for my Dan Taylor series – all without an agent!

Rachel, what you see in book sales/genre/marketing trends?

This goes back to what I was saying with regard to marketing plans—it changes all the time, but I would say take what you see in the press regarding eBook sales declining with a pinch of salt. A lot of indies who are making six figure salaries don’t use ISBN codes, so their sales aren’t factored into a lot of the reports, which skews the data of course.

Romance is always going to be a popular genre to write in, but crime thrillers have an attentive audience, too – it’s about finding a niche you like writing in (and that you read in) and checking out what those successful indie authors are doing that you can emulate.

Getting personal… What’s your dream where you want to be in 5/10/20 years? Yes, this means sticking your neck out.

I’m a traveller at heart, so I want to be in a position where my writing enables me to work anywhere in the world. That’s the five year plan. I expect to have at least 20 books out by then, and to keep learning the craft so I don’t become stagnant in my writing.

Advice for new and old writers?

Don’t be afraid to experiment, but DO analyse the results – whether that be a Facebook ad you’re testing, or a new genre you’re writing in. Don’t spend more than you can afford to, either. And, be easy on yourself. We’re all guilty of comparison-itis, but you must enjoy this to make a career out of it.

And some advice from now to give the future Rachel Amphlett?

Remember to come up for air every now and again!

What stops writers from being superstars like you’re becoming?

They refuse to learn and/or give up.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

Well, when I started I only wrote for myself so becoming a full-time writer hadn’t even crossed my mind at that point – I just needed to get the stories out of my head. It was only when I was approached in 2014 for the Italian foreign rights to WHITE GOLD that I realised I might be onto something and immediately took a long hard look at what I needed to do to make this work for me. I don’t think I’d do anything differently – you’ve got to remember that back in 2012, indie publishing as it is now was very much in its infancy.

Who are the best crime thriller/indie authors today? Besides you and me. What were their journeys? What did they do right and wrong

Ooh, I wouldn’t like to comment on what they did right/wrong – we all make mistakes, after all. Some of the people I look up to though are writers such as Mel Sherratt, Caroline Mitchell, and Louise Ross—all very smart cookies when it comes to their writing businesses.

Your takeaway for DyingWords followers?

Find out by attending our FREE thriller writing and indie publishing seminar at Literary Central Vancouver Island. It’s at 2 pm Saturday, October 21, 2017 in beautiful, historic, downtown Nanaimo, British Columbia across from the Van Isle Conference Centre. Seating is limited so make sure you pre-register at garry.rodgers@shaw.ca.

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Rachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience, and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.

She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014, and the Dan Taylor series sold to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag in 2017.

Get access to exclusive competitions and giveaways by signing up to the author’s Readers Group at rachelamphlett.com or keep in touch through:

Facebook (on.fb.me/TN7rpu)

Twitter (@RachelAmphlett)

Instagram (@rachelamphlett).

And Buy Rachel Amphlett’s Books at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.uk

Kobo

MINING THE MINERS

A1Self Publishing is the book-writing gold rush for indie authors. There’s money in them thar words and that’s no lie. A lot of people are making a lot of money outside the Big-5 print publishers and good for them. But most of the money is made by people selling stuff to gold-stricken writers.

The ones who made good money off the gold rush sold shovels to the miners. That’s right. They mined the miners. They also sold food and packs and clothes and toiletries. They sold eggs at a dollar a piece and whiskey at five bucks a shot. They sold a shave & a haircut for two-bits, baths for fifty cents, and women for whatever the gal could command.

A2The miners did mine, and some got quite rich, but most got frustrated and gave up.

Indie writing is no different. There has never been a better time to be a writer and I believe that. There is a fortune of information available on line, in print, and in person which you can turn into golden words.

Thing is, you have to pay for most of it.

And a lot of it is good stuff.

A3In the three plus years that I’ve taken writing seriously I’ve spent hundreds, no, thousands of dollars on author services. I’ve got over fifty books, print and electronic, on the craft of writing and the business of marketing. I’ve taken webinars and seminars and sat in bars reading about writing. I’ve paid for editors, formatters, and cover designers. And I’ve given away gobs of information to others.

It’s paid off.

Not in gold – yet. That’s to come.

A4It’s paid off because I’m starting to figure this game out and it’s been because I’ve paid for the help from others. I’ve made tremendous on-line acquaintances. Some actually personal. Some are ether mentors. Some are those who struck it rich.

Here’s an example of someone from my home town who hit the motherlode. I met Chevy Stevens (pen name because her real name is hard to pronounce) when she was a realtor showing a house for me. She aspired to be a writer and she sold the farm to succeed. Literally.

A6Chevy so believed in herself and her craft that she quit the realty business, sold her own house to survive, and sat down to write. She paid a lot of money to have Renni Browne of The Editorial Department work her first book, Still Missing, into a New York Times BestSeller. Now Chevy’s on her fifth BestSeller and internationally known. She’s the first to admit that it wouldn’t have happened if she didn’t pay for good help.

Good help is not hard to find.

I see a lot of online bashing of Author Solutions – a division of Penguin Random House. Now there’s an example of mining the miners. These clever bastards saw the indie gold rush not as a threat to print publishing, but a new vein to be tapped. Author Solutions has some great outfits for sale and they’ll upsell the shit out of you. Draining your wallet is their aim. But if you take the gold dust out of your eyes, and know what you want, there’s value in their pack.

A7An interesting new outfitter is Booktrope. Rachel Thompson, who I highly respect (Rachel in the OC / Bad Redhead Media), referred me to them and she’s now heading one of their imprints called Gravity. This is an interesting concept where you can get published without spending any money. Yep, it’s for real.

Booktrope is a cooperative of writers, editors, designers, and marketers working together to produce quality books. All you have to do, as a writer, is to provide quality content. They’ll help you to get published and, in their model, no one makes money till they all make money. It’s an interesting concept and I hope they succeed.

A8They say that those who can’t do, teach. I’m not so sure about that, but here’s some free dirt from someone who’s still digging a shaft.

For gold on the craft of writing, read Stephen King’s On Writing.

For gold on grammar, read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.

For golden motivation, read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

For the gold on scientific storytelling, read Lisa Cron’s Wired For Story.

For a pot of gold on everything writing, go to Joanna Penn’s TheCreativePenn.com.

What have you dug up that makes a better writer?

I’m dying to see your mine.

STEENA HOLMES – DO YOU NEED A PEN NAME?

“Surround yourself with other authors who are reaching for the same things you are,” advises award-winning author Steena Holmes, whose novels have sold over one million copies and landed her on the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Top 10 BestSeller lists. I’m so pleased to have Steena Holmes, a fellow Canadian writer, as a guest on DyingWords.

AE2At lot has changed since 2011 in the realm of publishing. So much that if you’re still reading blog posts dating back to 2011, you should realize that they are old and outdated. The publishing world has changed so much that it’s almost hard to keep up.

There are a few constants in the publishing world, however, that remain the same.

  • Write a good book.

  • Ensure that book is edited and has a quality cover.

  • Social media is a necessity in today’s world – you no longer can hide under that rock and assume others are going to market for you.

  • Brand is important. Essential even.

  • Your readers want the same thing they have always wanted. Your next quality book.

AE17There are things that have changed. How we can market ourselves. Amazon’s algorithms, where to sell your books, where to promote, where not to promote and… do we need a pen name still.

Honestly – whether you have a pen name or not is up to you. Some people need them – they write a genre that wouldn’t be acceptable in their line of work (teachers writing erotic anyone…). Some people have also found that creating a pen name and starting over has given them a fresh breath of life with their books and you’ll find names skyrocketing the markets today that you never heard of before.

It’s up to you.

There’s really no right or wrong answer to this question.

AE11I used to have a pen name. I don’t anymore. Everything I write is under my name, my brand, and everything I write is part of my brand. Yes, our brands change, they should…it means your writing is growing. It means you’re understanding yourself, your writing, your readers a little bit more than before, and that’s a good thing.

AE10Can we all just agree to stop arguing about this. If YOU feel that a pen name is necessary for YOU and YOUR brand…then go for it. If you don’t, then don’t do it. Regardless, you will still need to brand yourself, you will still need to find your readers, you will still need to write your books.

You can do searches and find blog posts and website articles dedicated to this one subject. If you are a writer in a writer’s group, you can ask this same question “do I need a pen name” and you’ll get a multitude of responses. Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is different and their own.

Think about this: Why do you need a pen name?

What is the reason for it? Is it because you’re writing in different genres that you don’t think will mesh together? Are you worried about your fan base, if your readers will follow you from one genre to the other?

AE15Remember this…no matter what book you write, you will still need to promote you and your brand.

Everything you do, everything you write should be under that brand you’ve created. It’s up to you to decide if your readers can handle you writing YA and Horror at the same time (I’m sure they can), or even sweet romance and erotic romance.

AE3Maybe the real question isn’t whether you need a pen name but whether you know how to brand yourself.

Just my thoughts…from someone who has been there, done that, and had to wear multiple T-shirts because she couldn’t decide what she was going to do or how to do it. 

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AE1Steena Holmes is the Top 10 New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon million-selling author of nineteen books including four series.

Steena, like me, grew up in a small Canadian town where there wasn’t much to do but ride your bike, hang out with friends, and daydream. She always wanted to write but never dreamed it was something she could do as a career. She loves to travel and fell in love with the sheep covered hillside, old castles, and romantic history of Scotland and England.

AE4Steena dreams about waking up in Tuscany and touring small town shops in the south of France with her husband, of placing her toes in the ocean, and experiencing history first hand. As a mother with three daughters, she says she’s learning that teaching them to pursue their dreams is a lasting legacy.

She loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains near her home in Calgary, Alberta, will forever enjoy the taste of coffee and chocolate, and can’t imagine the day when a story doesn’t unfold in her heart. “Living a life with passion and pursuing dreams is a life well lived,” she believes.

Here’s more advice for aspiring writers from Steena Holmes:

AE18“Surround yourself with other indie authors who are reaching for the same things you are. Always be willing and wanting to learn and don’t stop writing. Stop focusing so much on the promotion and focus instead on your words…nothing sells a book better than the next book – and even though we’ve all heard that, it’s so true! And don’t forget your readers. Above all else – don’t forget your readers!”

Follow @SteenaHolmes on Twitter: https://twitter.com/steenaholmes 

Like Steena on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SteenaHolmes.Author?fref=photo

Visit her website at: http://www.steenaholmes.com/