actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

IamA self-published author who has sold over 100,000 books in five years, hit the UK top 100 multiple times and become a Kindle AllStar. Ask Me Anything!

May 4th 2017 by Sean_Campbell • 33 Questions • 100 Points

I am Sean Campbell, co-author (with my brother) of the DCI Morton series. Five years ago on St Patrick's Day I bet that I could write a book in 90 days. By May 4th it was done, and Dead on Demand was the result.

In the five years since then we've written four more DCI Morton novels, hit the charts multiple times, and earned nine Kindle AllStar bonuses (which are given to the 'most read' books in Kindle Unlimited). We're now full-time authors.

As I don't want to sell books to Redditors, I'm making FOUR of my books free for you guys. I'd love to make the fifth one free too, but I'm not quite that generous.

Dead on Demand is free all time time. viewbook.at/DeadonDemand

The Patient Killer is free today viewBook.at/ThePatientKiller

Cleaver Square is free from May 7th to May 11th viewbook.at/CleaverSquare

Ten Guilty Men is free from May 10th to May 14th viewbook.at/TenGuiltyMen

My apologies for the need to stagger the freebies. I have to work around our 90 day rolling Select commitment to Amazon. Feel free to use RemindMe to nab them as they become available.

Oh, and if you've got questions for Dan in particular, post 'em anyway, and I'll get you an answer.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/DCIMorton/status/860106668667011072 https://www.facebook.com/DCIMorton/

EDIT - 22:00 GMT: Thank you for all the questions so far. Keep 'em coming. I'm offline overnight, but I will respond to each and every one of you tomorrow morning.

EDIT - 05:00 GMT: Back, all caught up. Shout via PM if I missed you.

Q:

Hi Sean. Do you think the situation has changed a lot since you published your first eBook, or do you feel like if you had made that bet today you could get to achieve the same popularity even nowadays?

Did you have a job beforehand that you quit for this? Are actually filthy rich, or just able to live off it?

A:

Hey,

It's changed. There were about half a million Kindle books back then. Now there are four and a half million.

Back then free / 99p was a big deal. It was new. Now it's pretty saturated. I think new authors have it harder than I do. They've got a bigger hill to climb in a more a crowded market with fewer levers (like price) to rely on.

Previous jobs.. I've done quite a bit. I was a tour guide, made (rubbish) Drupal websites during Uni, and even worked as an event photographer for a while. That paid my way through Uni.

I became a consultant after Uni working for a major publishing company (on the non-fiction side) doing big data analysis to try and upsell our customers. I can't be too specific about that because much of it was proprietary. I learned a lot about the publishing industry from the inside, and met some truly incredibly people.

Then there was a stint doing Software-as-a-Service Project Management.

Unfortunately I was balancing everything - studying and jobs - with looking after my Mum who is disabled. She's bed-bound, and requires full-time care. Writing was just one thing I could fit in around her hectic care schedule. I'm really lucky that it became a career.

I'm not filthy rich. Do you want the actual numbers? I'd have to go double check. But it's enough for two of us to live on (Dan and I split everything).


Q:

As someone who looks after my mum, who thankfully is not bed bound, good on you to look after her. It's tough but you'll do anything for them.

A:

Needs must, right? Though it's coming up for ten years, and frankly I'm not sure I can do it forever.

How's it going for you?


Q:

Mum had a TBI in July so it's relatively new. Worst part was that it was some cunt that did it to her so we got the legal action too. It's fine most of the time cos she can act normal inside the house mostly. Not allowed outside. But sometimes it hits you like a punch to the gut.

A:

TBI

That's really tough. You've got to juggle all these new needs, the legal action (and PI claims can be god-damned stressful at the best of times), and it's all going to get to you every now and again. Sometimes you just feel like you can't carry on, but you have to. I wish I could say it gets easier.

I'd love to say 'don't forget to carve time out for yourself' too but I know that's easier said than done.

If you ever need to talk just give me a shout, K?


Q:

Thanks dude. Yeah its tough, especially trying to carve time for myself feels selfish even if its probably not. And thanks for the gold too, made my day :)

A:

It's not selfish at all. Your Mum matters. So do you. And you're welcome.


Q:

As a software engineer that'd love to make it a career, I can relate! Thanks for the extensive response.

I'm not filthy rich. Do you want the actual numbers? I'd have to go double check. But it's enough for two of us to live on (Dan and I split everything).

Yeah, I'd love to if you're fine with it.

A:

Well I did say Ask Me Anything so why not. For the tax year that just ended we had a gross revenue of £59,909.87. After costs we netted £52,683.76. After personal taxes (NI, income tax, student loan) and split two ways, that comes out to just about doable (but of course it doesn't come with a pension, healthcare, company car, etc).

It's not a steady gig. Income is heavily new-release dependent and there's a huge difference between #200 in store and #50 in Kindle Store so there's never any guarantee it'll last. It's much like any self employment/ freelancing gig: the good times have to pay for the bad.


Q:

As a software engineer that'd love to make it a career, I can relate! Thanks for the extensive response.

I'm not filthy rich. Do you want the actual numbers? I'd have to go double check. But it's enough for two of us to live on (Dan and I split everything).

Yeah, I'd love to if you're fine with it.

A:

Books are products. Authors like to think of books as something mythical, ephemeral, even special. They’re not. They’re products, at least as far as a publisher is concerned, and when you’re the publisher, you’ve got to sell product.

We can breakdown the ‘book’ into its constituent parts:

Intrinsic elements:

• The plot

• The prose

• The characters

Extrinsic elements:

• The cover

• The blurb

• The sales copy

• The formatting

• The overall presentation including minor elements like the author’s backstory

That’s it. Your product is words. Make them count.

Your books is the combination of these elements, hopefully edited and polished to perfection, and then uploaded to Amazon.

When you sell product, you usually have to think about manufacturing, warehousing, distribution channels for physically moving product, and set up retail partnerships, negotiate contracts, and all that malarkey.

While it is possible to get involved with that if you’re printing a small off-set run of paperbacks/ hardbacks, it is generally much simpler for self-publishers. If you’re one of the handful of people looking to print thousands of copies of your book, and then get them into stores, this guide is NOT for you. Physical inventory is exceptionally risky, and I would urge anyone considering that route to think very carefully about how the numbers stack up (in particular the storage costs incurred for keeping thousands of books in a warehouse ready to ship via Ingram’s or Gardner’s)

Let’s assume you’re not thinking about off-set runs. That doesn’t preclude doing print, but it means you’ll probably be using Print-On-Demand technology for print, with the bulk of your volume coming from eBooks rather than paper.

I can’t tell you what your product is or should be. I can tell you that there are market segments with vastly more readers. While nobody has the aggregate numbers for all retailers in all markets (because retailers, especially Amazon, are notoriously secretive with their data), we can look at scraped data from AuthorEarnings (source http://authorearnings.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/genre- units.png ) to see that the genre breakdown is roughly as follows:

Romance – 39%

Mystery – 9% Thriller & Suspense – 14%

SciFi & Fatnasy – 15%

Literary – 7%

Everything else – 16%

It’s obvious where the money is. Even if you bracket ‘Mystery, Thriller and Suspense’ into one huge category, it’s only a distant second on 23% to romance’s 39%. That doesn’t mean we should all rush out and write romance, but if you’re considering multiple projects and one of them is in a bigger market then it logically follows that you should pursue the 39% over the 9%.

If you’re not writing in one of the big genre fiction buckets, you’ll probably struggle. If you’re straddling the lines between genres, you’ll probably struggle. Selling is first and foremost about your product. We all know there are books people want to read, and books people don’t want to read (or aren’t willing to pay for). As a writer, that hurts. But forget that because right now you’ve got your publisher hat on, and should be thinking ‘yes, I do want a slice of the big market, not a small one’.

There are counterarguments of course. It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond than it is to swim with the sharks in the big cats. If your product or presentation is off, you’ll sink more quickly in a busy, fiercely-competitive genre like romance than you would if you wrote for a smaller niche.

This game is about volume. You have to sell a lot of books to make a living. And it’s a terribly insecure living at that. You don’t get a monthly paycheque (unless you get to the point where you can vest your IP in a LTD company, pay yourself a salary, and then draw the rest as dividend payments). You will have good months and bad months. Release months will carry you through the winter – if you don’t blow the excess in the false belief that the only way is up. And don’t forget the stuff you’ll be paying for yourself that you would have included in a more typical career (read: a pension, health benefits, a company car, etc).

It’s up to you how to proceed, but my advice here is straightforward: write what people want to read, write it in a way that is compelling and effortlessly readable, and keep it coming out at a consistent pace.

If your book is great, your job as a publisher is easier. Everything starts and ends with having a book someone out there is willing to pay for. The three intrinsic elements matter. Personally, I think readers will forgive lacklustre prose but lacklustre plotting and cardboard cut-out characters are mortal sins. You need compelling, hooky, must-read-more story if you want to succeed. Curiosity is your biggest friend. You have to make the reader want the answer.

Every single chapter must answer a question, and then ask two more. Keep them on the edge of their seat, dying to know who killed the victim, which man our heroine will choose, how they’ll escape from the intergalactic empire’s death squad, and you’ll find readers race through your books and then demand more.

More importantly, follow expectations. In romance omitting a ‘Happily Ever After’ ending is a mortal sin. In Crime, failing to identify the killer is equally off-putting (and some will hate any book where justice isn’t totally served too). You have to balance giving readers what they want with avoiding cookie-cutter storylines. It’s OK to deviate, but do it for a reason. Think about how GRRM kills major characters. That would be a bad move for many authors, but he did it to show nobody is safe (though I’m sure you’ll spot the plot armour later on as he whittles down his absurdly-large cast). You need great characters. The big money is in series not because series are inherently better, but because people like to read more about their favourite characters. People will keep coming back time and time again for the right characters, the right universe. Your characters are your intellectual property. Craft them lovingly, write down everything you need, and keep them interesting. A little light in the dark, a little dark in the light. Everyone has secrets, desires, needs. Feed your readers characters who are as interesting as your plot is.

How do you get there? How do you know you’ve got a good story, great characters? You need a process. Ideally you want your own a-team of editors, but that may not be a financial reality for many.

So here’s what I’d do if you can’t simply hire in:

Step 1: Find your critique partner(s). Everyone needs one or two friends who they don’t mind showing their dirty laundry to. Fellow authors can be wonderful at spotting big picture issues, repetition, and cookie-cutter clichés. But make sure you trust them. Bad advice can be worse than no advice. You want to read the advice, put it aside, and come back to it after the sting has gone. Writing is hard, the book is your baby, but from the moment the first draft is done you need to be Mr or Mrs Publisher, and that means taking a long hard look at what you’re doing wrong, not patting yourself on the back for what you’re getting right.

Step 2: Find beta readers. You want real readers who can tell you if you’re hopefully-polished second draft works AS A STORY. You are NOT asking them to edit your grammar. They might point out typos, but this isn’t their jobs.

Step 3: Pay for copyediting. Good copyeditors are worth their weight in gold. Do not skimp here,

Step 4: Pay for proofreading of the FINISHED book (ideally AFTER typesetting because you can introduce new errors at that stage without meaning to).


Q:

As a software engineer that'd love to make it a career, I can relate! Thanks for the extensive response.

I'm not filthy rich. Do you want the actual numbers? I'd have to go double check. But it's enough for two of us to live on (Dan and I split everything).

Yeah, I'd love to if you're fine with it.

A:

...3...

OK. Back to ‘extrinsic factors’. This is everything that makes up your product EXCEPT for the words inside the book. It’s how your cover looks, it’s your sales copy in your ads, it’s your sales page presentation.

We know what you’re selling. Hopefully you’ve drilled down to work out EXACTLY where your book should be in the stores by drilling down to find the right subcategories. You’re not just a Mystery, Thriller and Suspense author, you’re a British Police Procedural Crime novelist.

Define your books carefully. You must hit the expectations associated with the labels you apply. If it isn’t a sheep, don’t call it a sheep.

From there you need to start thinking about who your customer is.

Are they men or women (hint, they’re probably women)?

Are they young or old (hint, they’re probably 45+)?

Do they prefer print or eBooks?

How much do they spend?

Where do they find their books?

How often do they buy a book?

The big ‘win’ are power readers. There is a small but very voracious segment of readers who steamroller through dozens of books a month. They tend to buy and read an author’s entire back-catalogue if they find an author they like.

Exercise #2: Pretend to be your ideal reader. Work out how you would find books like yours. What websites are you visiting? Where are you getting your recommendations?

Look at Goodreads. Find books like yours, and see who is reviewing them. See what they like and don’t like by reading some of their reviews. Some of them will mention explicitly where they find those books. If they don’t, google search the competition and see where they advertise.

Try reverse image searching a cover to see all the places it has turned up. Make notes – if the ad venue is working for the competition, it might be worth testing it for yourself.

Packaging: Cover Considerations Now we know what we’re selling, and who we’re selling it to, we need to know how to package it.

The ‘packaging’ is primarily the cover and the blurb. These MUST be on-point. If your blurb is boring, or your cover amateurish, you will find it much harder to sell.

Exercise #3: Look at the covers of successful books in your genre. Save copies of them into a folder or word document. Analyse what elements are common. Look at what colours are being used. Take note of the font choices. Consider how large the text is. Put each cover into a graphics editor and turn them into greyscale (so they appear as they would on an eInk kindle). Make them smaller to simulate the thumbnail and product page sizes. Are they easily legible? Do they have one focal point to draw the eye? Are they painted or photo manipulations? Follow the trends. Your cover must convey the genre and mood of your book. Branding is key here. A scattergun of uncoordinated covers will not see the same cross-sales as carefully curated and consistent branding. Your books MUST look like they belong together on a book shelf. Readers need to be able to look at the cover and know, instantly, what you’re peddling. You name recognition – “oh, that’s the latest so-and-so novel!” Your cover is a marketing tool. No more, no less.

I highly recommend working with your artist to split test your cover.

You want to try various iterations, place adverts wherever your readers are, and measure which covers get the best response based on ‘click through rate’ to a landing page (where you’ve got all the buy links, the blurb, your embedded kindle sample, and the opportunity to join your mailing list). Make your testing work for you by also making it part of ad strategy.

There are limitations to split testing blurbs – and the big one is cost. Making lots of cover variants is EXPENSIVE, even for basic stock manipulation. For full-blown illustration, you’d be nuts to try split-testing more than one or two alternate designs because you won’t recoup the added cost. Be sensible, but do try to split test at least your first book because book 1 is always a cold sell, and readers will be more forgiving of suboptimal covers when they’re returning readers who are already committed.

Remember that covers are a SALES TOOL not (just) a ‘beautiful thing’. There are beautiful covers about which DO NOT WORK because the text is illegible, because there are too many elements so the reader doesn’t know where to look, because it’s indistinct at thumbnail.

Always, always, always follow the numbers. Your gut cannot be trusted until you’ve proved you know what you’re doing, and you won’t know if you’re doing it right until you get the numbers to verify it. Do NOT ask a dozen friends with no artistic or marketing experience to evaluate covers. Their feedback is often worse than useless.

Want a quick guide? Can you tick off everything on my cover design checklist?

  1. I can read the title and author name at thumbnail.

  2. The cover looks good at all sizes.

  3. There is one focal point for the eye to be drawn to.

  4. My books (if more than one) share a uniform branded look (where appropriate).

  5. My book cover design ‘fits’ with the bestselling books in my subgenre.

  6. I have picked an appropriate colour scheme.

  7. My cover does not violate retailer rules on overt violence (e.g. guns if you wish to use Amazon Marketing Services) or nudity.

  8. I have licensed the art through lawful means (work for hire commission, licensing, use of stock photos or your own photos).

  9. I can tell my books apart from each other at a glance (“Oh, I’ve got the blue one, but I don’t have the red one”).

  10. I meet all of the current requirements on size, DPI, and file formats as required for each of the stores I’m listing my books in.

...


Q:

As a software engineer that'd love to make it a career, I can relate! Thanks for the extensive response.

I'm not filthy rich. Do you want the actual numbers? I'd have to go double check. But it's enough for two of us to live on (Dan and I split everything).

Yeah, I'd love to if you're fine with it.

A:

...5...

The product page is your most important sales tool. It combines your blurb, cover, title, and price with a whole host of other elements. Let’s take a top to bottom look at an Amazon product page.

Go look at ANY Kindle page.

What nabs your attention straight away? For me it’s the cover. It’s the dominant visual element, and it’s displayed here at much-larger-than-thumbnail size so those smaller details start to come through.

Then there’s the title and series info, the review average and count, thirteen different formats.

Most readers will glance at the review average. I think the average and volume are most important than the content of any reviews. People do not wade through hundreds of reviews to make a decision especially for cheaper books. Some will click on the cover for a look inside sample. Most will scan down to read one or two reviews, and then either request a sample or hit Buy Now if they’re interested.

Just so we don’t miss any elements, let’s list them:

  1. The title

  2. The series name (immediately after the title)

  3. The author name (in blue, under the title)

  4. A visual indicator of the average demarcated in half-star increments (which makes this 4.3 look like a 4.5).

  5. A space in the top right for any reported Quality Issues (hint, you don't want this!)

  6. The number of formats with tabs to switch and a quick indication on price

  7. The cover (which clicks through to Look Inside)

  8. A play button for an Audible Narration sample if you have an audiobook

  9. The length (taken from the linked print version if there is one)

  10. Information on word wise, Enhanced Typesetting, and Page Flip, plus device availability.

  11. The buy box on the right, with a checkbox to add audio.

  12. Series information.

  13. The “also boughts” which will send some readers elsewhere, but also act as an indicator of the kind of book that you’re looking at (just like a shelf in a bookstore group by genre!)

  14. Editorial reviews

  15. The text-heavy product details section (format, file size, publisher, language, ASIN, text-to-speech, x-ray, word wise (again), screen reader, enhanced typesetting (again), average review inc visual info (again), and finally store rank and categories ranks.

  16. About the author

  17. Also boughts (again)

  18. Customer reviews sorted by ‘most helpful’ with a search box included on the right

That’s a lot of data on one page. You control most of it. The title is yours, the series name is yours, the pen name is yours. You can control the quality – and respond quickly if you get a Kindle Quality Notice.

You control the formats, the cover, the audio availability, the length. You control the series info (albeit with a manual delay for Amazon to set it up for you).

You can choose which, if any, editorial reviews to include.

The author bio is yours. Every field that is made available to you should be filled, and that needs to be on every region’s AuthorCentral so that all stores display the same information.

What you can’t control are reader reviews, review averages, sales (and therefore sales rank) or also boughts. You shouldn’t be ignoring them because they’re going to tell you how well your efforts have been received, but you shouldn’t be fretting over them directly. Worry about the factors that go into your book (the input process) rather than results that follow (the output process). You can’t make everyone love you. You can do your damndest to write the best book you can, package it well, and put it in front of the right readers.

By now you should have a battle-proven blurb, and a kick-ass cover that you know turns browsers into shoppers. If not follow the exercises, and keep trying 'til you're happy.

...


Q:

Dude you're awesome. I'm goin to buy the one which you recommend first. I have some ideas on thrillers. I always start writing and end up drifting the story line I chose.

A:

Grab today's free one (The Patient Killer). The first four are free at various times this month (see my OP) so if you like 'em, grab the rest.

Thrillers can be quite hard. I like outlining for thrillers and mysteries so everything stays where it should. Russell Blake's "Outlining Made Easy" method is excellent. russellblake.com/outlining-made-simple/


Q:

Damn you sure do love to write, thanks for being so thorough with your responses

A:

No problem. I'm nothing if not thorough. I'm heading offline in a couple of hours, but I'll come back in the morning to answer any outstanding questions (and I'm always available via pm/email for anyone late to the party / for follow-ups).


Q:

You left out the fifth title! I downloaded "Missing Persons" earlier today & have already devoured a few chapters. It's an unusual setting & seems authentic. Did you spend anytime on canal boats for research?

A:

Hey,

That was deliberate. I can't give away the fifth book (if I give away everything, I've got nothing left to sell, and my bills can't be paid in goodwill!). I'm not here to hard-sell Redditors so I'm only mentioning the free books in my OP today.

Thank you for picking up Missing Persons, though! I'm glad you're enjoying it so far. Yes, we spent some time with a lovely chap called Brian going up and down the Grand Union. If you look carefully at the cover, the cat sitting on the roof is Fabby. She belongs to Brian, and she really does climb in and out of the water by clawing her way up an old pair of jeans.


Q:

Hi, what's the pay like for an author your size? Is it full time career pay or just hobby pay?

A:

It's enough to pay the bills. It's not 'fuck you' money (yet). I've posted the actual numbers for last year in a reply above so people have an accurate idea of what a midlist indie makes.


Q:

So no Yachts yet?

A:

Nah. Maybe Hugh Howey will let me steal his? Probably not though.


Q:

Hugh Grant? Hugh Jackman?

A:

Grant. I met him in a tapas bar called Tendido Cero in Brompton once. I gather he's a bit of a regular there.


Q:

Having read most of it, if you packaged it and put it up for $0.99 I'd pay for it.

A:

Hah. Keep your 99c. Put it towards producing your next book. Or buy a random redditor's book with the money. I'm sure we'll have a few volunteers.


Q:

Is it worth taking a writing class if you're having difficulty getting ideas on paper?

A:

There's no doubt that studying can help. I assume you're already reading loads. Are you reading critically and looking at how other authors do it? If not start there. Write down the plots, the tropes, the construction, the literary devices.

Ask yourself what works in the books you don't, what doesn't, and then emulate the best bits. Give yourself permission to write badly. The pressure to do it perfectly right out of the gate is enormous, and your first short story/novel is unlikely to ever be your best. Just get something down on paper. Start with a single character, a single scene, and then build out from there.

I'd also recommend checking out a few writing books if you need a bit more hand-holding - Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is excellent.

Take whatever you manage to write and ask for feedback on it (r/DestructiveReaders is gold). Read the feedback, walk away for a day or two (because the first time it'll probably hurt) and then consider the feedback in the cold light of day. Act on anything you agree with, discard what you don't.

And then do it all over again. And again. And again. Until you're happy with what you're writing.

Practice doesn't make perfect, but it makes for improvement.


Q:

Hi Sean. 100,000 is a lot of sales! Congrats on everything! I was wondering if you had any advice or information to pass on to somebody like me who has been into writing my whole life but never figured out a professional angle. Let's say I write a novel. As someone with zero experience and zero knowledge of the publishing industry, zero connections, being geographically removed with nothing but the book typed up on a computer, what are my options for turning the text documents on my computer into a book (product) and making it available in the public marketplace? How does that process work?

A:

Hey,

The easy way to self-publish is to turn your text document into a .mobi or .ePub file, and upload directly to retailers (Amazon, Nook, iBooks, GooglePlay, etc). You'll get 35%-70% of the sale price. But it's a lot of work.

See this reply above where I outlined what's involved in self-publishing successfully: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/6975wr/iama_selfpublished_author_who_has_sold_over/dh4ih27/

On the other hand there's always the trade / commercial publishing route in which case it's usually find an agent, submit to publishers, and hopefully make a deal.

That's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, and I really recommend heading over to a dedicated forum like AbsoluteWrite to see what the traditionally-published lot are doing.

And thanks! I should point out my co-author and brother, Dan, deserves a lot of the credit too.


Q:

Awesome, thanks a lot for the info and the AMA!

A:

No problem. If you have any follow up questions just give me a shout and I'll do my best to answer (or point you in the direction of someone who does know if I don't!).


Q:

Hello Mr. Campbell, could you write a novel with Brexit being a big part of the plot?

A:

I could. I actually started a comedy about the Isle of Wight going independent five years back. I think it might divide opinion though, and that would probably be commercial suicide.


Q:

Mr. Campbell how often are you on Reddit and what are your favorite subreddits?

A:

Too often. I browse R/writing a lot (and get downvoted plenty!). I quite like the chilled vibe at r/casualconversation too. And r/AskReddit is always fun.

I lurk over at PCMR and r/battlestations too.


Q:

Mr. Campbell, who are your favorite authors ever?

A:

Timothy Zahn is my hero. I loved Thrawn as a kid, and I got to read his new book a couple of weeks back. The Star Wars expanded universe got me booked on reading.

I'll read pretty much anything though, especially on the non-fiction side.


Q:

Mr. Campbell, do you have any pets?

A:

Sadly no.


Q:

Mr. Campbell, have you thought about writing a rough draft of a book while drunk?

A:

I'm barely literate sober. But if you lot want to pay for my alcholism, I'll go crack out the whisky right now. I've got a lovely bottle of Glen Scotia Victoriana to finish.


Q:

Mr. Campbell, have you ever too many characters in a story that you neglect a character or 2 within the book by accident in later chapters?

A:

In first drafts, sure. But I have a whole team now who are paid to catch that sort of things (though ultimately it's my responsibility anyway) so hopefully not too often.

In retrospect I'd have written Dead on Demand with fewer characters. There's always something a writer would change later on, and that goes double for debuts.


Q:

Mr. Campbell, best book review subreddits?

A:

Tbh the only subreddit I read reviews on is r/books (but I try not to post as I don't want to interfere in a reader-driven space).

From where I'm sitting reviews are really meant for others readers, not writers.


Q:

Mr. Campbell, did your ancestors' often camp with a bell?

A:

Not often as far as I know. I can trace my family tree back several generations, and they were all glass merchants from Belfast back then (though my great-Granddad moved to Dublin).


Q:

Hi sean. I've been working on a novel for a couple of years now and want to self publish on Amazon. Is copyrighting or trademarking necessary for self publishing? And do you have any advice for a story being expanded into a trilogy?

A:

Hello mate,

If you're in a Berne Convention country you already own the copyright to anything you write. If you're asking about copyright registration in the USA, I can't advise you because I'm not a US attorney. My understanding is that registration offers enhanced damages, and that it's cheap, but I can only offer the standard 'get a lawyer' advice.

Trademarks are another one for a lawyer. Most authors do not use trademarks. Generally the rule, at least here in the UK, is that single books are not trademarkable but series names are in theory (assuming they're unique). I don't use trademarks in fiction as I don't think the benefit is worth the cost, and there are other detective shows using the name 'Morton' now so I'd have a challenge to enforce the mark (and enforcement is obligatory - it's a blunt tool).


Q:

What's your advise to budding writers?

Who do you give your books to read after you finish the final draft?

What according to you should be the essence of storytelling?

And can you tell me which quote this is from " The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think but to give you questions to think upon". It's from a fiction fantasy novel. One of my favourites.

A:

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think but to give you questions to think upon

That's a u/mistborn quote.

My advice is simple: write, write more, and use whatever feedback you get to keep improving. If you're looking to trade publish then throw everything you've got into it. If you're looking to self-publish, the same applies.

My drafts go out to a couple of author-friends who alpha read for me. I use their advice to streamline it before my editorial team get a crack at it. Once we're almost-there, I have a libel read, send things to the typesetter, and then proofread it all once more to catch for any newly-introduced errors.


Q:

That's by Hoid Wit from Age of Kings. One of my favourite books. Glad you know it.

Thanks for responding. Got few more questions Mr.Sean.

What's your favourite genre of novels or books?

What's the best book of yours would you advise me to read first?

A:

I love scifi. There's nothing like losing yourself in an alternate reality for a few hours. Of course I'm a huge crime fiction junkie too (though right now it's crime tv/ streaming as it's a little easier on my schedule; Billions is awesome).

If you're looking for something a little slower, a little nuanced, go for Cleaver Square (which will be free on Sunday). If you're after fast paced, forensic, and, dare I say it, a little clever, then try The Patient Killer (which is free today).


Q:

I'm a doctor so I think I wil go for The Patient Killer. Sounds intriguing.

A:

Hah. You'll either love it or hate it then.


Q:

top book? i want to read it.

A:

Of all time? I'm going to have to say Brothers Karamazov. I love how it's semi-biographical.

If you're looking for something more recent Timothy Zahn's Thrawn is well worth a read (and every bit as good as the old Hand of Thrawn Trilogy).

Dan (who is peering over my shoulder laughing at everything I type) asked me to add his favourite for consideration too: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.


Q:

Got a feeling it's not mythical & Ol' Gregg's just broken the first rule.

A:

Does that mean we can't go? Oh no, what a terrible outcome.


Q:

I too, would like to know the answer to this question.

A:

If we get enough of us interested, we can have a pissing contest.