Welcome to the six hundred and twenty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with thriller writer Bob Mayer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Bob. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Bob: My name is Bob Mayer and I’m based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I recently moved here from the Seattle area for the birth of our first grandchild. I wrote my first novel in 1988 and it was published in 1991. I spent 20 years in traditional publishing, with over 40 books and hitting all the bestseller lists. In 2011 I went indie. I sold 3 eBooks my first month, but 18 months later have sold over half a million and earned over a million dollars in eBook sales.
Morgen: Wow, Bob. I’m sure everyone here would love to know your secret. I’d love you to come back and do a guest blog on your experiences of indie publishing. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Bob: I write in multiple genres. Science thriller with my Area 51 and Atlantis series. My latest release, I, Judas: The Fifth Gospel, is a science thriller in the vein of Michael Crichton. Because of my background in Special Forces, I’ve also written a number of military thrillers.
Morgen: Thrillers are incredibly popular and having experience you can write about will make it all the more convincing. You mentioned having over 40 books, have you ever written under a pseudonym?
Bob: All my books are now under my name, but for years I wrote under four different pen names.
Morgen: Some authors do for different genres but I think it’s easier now not to, especially as it’s tough enough to market one name. You’ve self-published for the past couple of years, what lead to you going your own way?
Bob: I went indie because I looked a couple of years ahead and saw great changes coming in publishing. I’m very glad I made the change as early as I did. While I am indie, I just signed a book deal with 47North, Amazon’s science fiction imprint and the first book came out in December: Area 51: Night Stalkers.
Morgen: Congratulations. It must still be a thrill to have a new book. Are all your books available as eBooks?
Bob: 99% of what I sell are eBooks. I believe it’s the future.
Morgen: Wow. That’s a high figure. Mine are (so far) eBook only and it’s certainly the way many people are headed. They save lugging a suitcase of books around if we go anywhere. Did you get to choose all the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Bob: As an indie, I have final say, but I work with my business partner, Jen Talty, who does the artwork and covers. Title is the #1 marketing tool you have, so spend a long time thinking about it. Covers for eBooks have to pop in thumbnail.
Morgen: They do, and the title / author’s name have to stand out. So many aren’t even legible. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Bob: I try to plot out as much as possible. I work with my wife and she’s a story-pusher so often she will end me material that gives me options on what to write.
Morgen: How handy having someone close to you who is so useful. I know some of your writing is written from personal experience but do you generally have to do much research?
Bob: I read a lot of books for research. I prefer books over the internet because books dig deeper and give more detail. For my historical fiction: Duty, Honor, Country: A Novel of West Point & The Civil War, I drew on my background having graduated West Point and also had to walk various battlefields. My Special Operations background could be considered research for almost all my books.
Morgen: Absolutely and nothing beats first-hand experience. What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Bob: I write in omniscient. It took me many years to sort out point of view. A key is figuring out what point of view you enjoy reading: that is probably the point of view you want to write in.
Morgen: Third person is certainly the most popular because when using first person you can’t have your main character knowing what other people are thinking. I’ve only written one novel in first but it was the write tense as it’s all about Izzy’s actions and her reactions to what happens around her. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Bob: For every one thing that worked, I think I average forty-nine failures. I had numerous rejections in the beginning: hundreds. It’s part of the job.
Morgen: It is but it hasn’t held you back, clearly, which is so important. I like to think (and often say) that it’s just the right thing for the wrong person). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Bob: I have had four agents. I don’t use them any more as an indie although I will be interviewing some agents regarding foreign rights at Thrillerfest in New York City. An agent is essential if you want traditional publishing. For an indie, subrights often need an agent.
Morgen: That’s interesting… and another topic for a guest blog perhaps. 🙂 Do you much marketing?
Bob: Fifty percent of my time is spent on marketing and business. That’s part of being an indie author.
Morgen: It is and it’s usually the answer to my “What’s your least favourite aspect of your writing life?”. It’s so time-consuming but I love the fact that we get to speak to potential readers directly. You can’t beat that. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Bob: Write. I think too many people are focused on promotion and marketing and not enough on writing. The best promotion is a good book. Better promotion is more good books. Be in it for the long haul. There is too much desire for instant gratification.
Morgen: Having posted the grand sum of one novel online since I gave up work 10 months ago, I’m guilty of that, although I have written 150 flash fictions and the first 51,000 words of the first in a series of crime novels. It sounds like a lot (and probably is to many authors) but I have five other novels vying for my attention! Still, I’m living the dream (home-based in a writing capacity) so I have no complaints. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Bob: I teach at a lot at conferences. I think it’s important to get out and network with other people in the industry.
Morgen: Absolutely, and conferences are such fun, although I’ve only ever been a delegate… so far. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Bob: Things are changing fast. Faster than most people can keep up. I think traditional publishing is in a lot of trouble. A key concept people have to understand is that the writer creates the product. The product is not a book. It’s a story. The story can get to the consumer, the reader, in a variety of ways, a physical book just being one of them. It can also get to readers via digital in writing or audio.
Morgen: Audio’s actually my favourite format because I can be doing other things like taking the dog for a walk (although I do usually read, edit or write when we’re out because he’s a ‘stop and sniff’ dog). I think I’m like most people; I read paper books predominantly at home but eBooks when I’m away because they’re so portable. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Thank you, Bob. It’s been great chatting with you.
I then invited Bob to include a synopsis of one of his books, and this is from ‘I, Judas: The 5th Gospel’…
What if Judas is still alive, hidden away in the jungles of the Amazon, waiting for the Second Coming?
As a massive object appears in space heading directly toward Earth, the Brotherhood heralds it as Wormwood, one of the signs the Rapture and it’s just three days away. They have been preparing to implement the Great Commission as designated by Jesus—where everyone on the planet must hear the word of God before the end in order to be saved.
They will use advanced technology to send that message directly into the minds of every human on the planet. The question is: will the message kill everyone who gets it or save them?
Believing him to be the anti-Christ, they also send a team of assassins up the Amazon to find the Great Betrayer and kill him before Armageddon.
Opposing the Brotherhood is the Triumvirate of the Illuminati. They believe they must stop the Great Commission and the assassination team. At the same time they rush to gather nuclear weapons and launch missiles into space to divert the Intruder, as they call the object, believing it to be a natural phenomenon over which technology will prevail.
Three survivors do finally make it to Judas, and he tells them a story, the true story of what happened over two millennia ago. And what is approaching.
As the object nears Earth, both sides become locked in a world-wide battle for the future of the human race, as Judas prepares in the jungle for the Second Coming, the fulfillment of his Fifth Gospel.
Which is not at all what anyone expects.
Bob Mayer is the NY Times Bestselling author of factual thrillers. He steeps his stories in military, historical and scientific facts, then weaves those facts through fiction creating an exciting ride for the reader. He’s a West Point graduate, former Green Beret, and author of more than 50 books that have sold over 5 million copies in print, digitally and in audio. He’s been on bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, suspense, action, war, historical fiction and is the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll. He is one of the top grossing indie authors in the world. He is the CEO of Cool Gus Publishing, which has earned over a million dollars in just eighteen months after selling only three eBooks the first month in business. He is a leading expert on digital publishing and the eBook market. He will have a new major release from 47North of Amazon on 11 December 2012: Area 51: Nightstalkers.
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