Writing Thrillers And Lessons Learned From Forty Years Of Writing with David Morrell

Most authors dream of creating a character that escapes from their books and becomes part of popular culture. Today I’m interviewing David Morrell, who created Rambo and whose writing career has spanned four decades, and we get an insight into David’s research process, his work ethic and his mindset.

In the intro, I mention my research trip to Barcelona and you can see the pictures on Flickr here; I also mention the launch of Pentecostés in Spanish and the Spanish book trailer that promotes it. Coming this month are also the German version of Desecration, and Delirium, plus I am off to New York for Thrillerfest, so expect a roundup of that mid July.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

David MorrellDavid Morrell is the multi-award winning and many times bestselling author of 35 books, as well as many short stories, essays and collaborations that have sold millions of copies and are available in many different languages. He has a Phd in American literature and was a Professor of Literature at the University of Iowa. His novel ‘First Blood,’ became the Rambo franchise, his latest novel is ‘Murder as a fine art,‘ a historical thriller, and today we’re talking about his book for writers, ‘The Successful Novelist,’ recently updated and released in ebook format as well as print.

murder as a fine artYou can watch the interview on YouTube here, listen above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below. We discuss:

  • The themes that David returns to in his writing
  • A thriller author who actually lives a thriller life. On taking research to extremes
  • On the inspiration for Murder As A Fine Art
  • David’s writing process
  • The precariousness of life. Don’t spend time writing books that are aren’t worth writing.
  • Writing a letter to yourself before you start a book
  • Screenwriting and Rambo
  • Movie contract clauses you should watch out for
  • The business of being an author. Even after so many years, David spends an hour a day on marketing
  • On The Architecture of Snow and publishing
  • Longevity in the business

You can find David at DavidMorrell.net and his books at all stores. You can also connect with him on Facebook/DavidMorrellAuthor

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Self Publishing In Spanish, Tips For Translation And Launch Of Pentecostés. Thriller de la serie ARKANE.

Last month, I shared the publishing and marketing experience for the German version of Pentecost, and today I’m super excited to announce that Pentecostés is now available in Spanish!

PentecostesYou can buy it on Kindle now, and coming soon in print and on other ebook stores.

In this article, I explain why publishing in Spanish is a good idea, and my translator, M.P.Amador shares her experience and tips, plus we outline our marketing ideas and reveal the Spanish book trailer. I’d also love to hear from you if you have any experiences or tips for marketing Spanish language books, so please leave a comment at the bottom of the post. Gracias!

Why publish in Spanish?

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, with over 400 million native speakers. It’s mainly spoken in Spain, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela, as well as Equatorial Guinea and the Western Sahara.

For the ebook market specifically, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the US, which is the most mature ebook market. There are also specific ebook stores for Spain and emerging markets in the South American countries.

The number of ebooks in Spanish is considerably less than in English, so it is a smaller pond. There are 97,702 Spanish ebooks on Amazon.com as I write this – and only 3928 in the Crimen, Suspenso y Misterio category.

The Amazon.es store looks quite different, and of course, South America is a developing digital market … so this is a just a start. But think ahead 5 years … what will the market look like? You know that saying about the best time to plant a tree …

Interview with M.P.Amador – Translator for Pentecostés

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing & translating background

Paola AmadorI was born in Ecuador but I have lived in several countries. I am an Economist with a graduate degree in Environmental Management from Yale University. I’ve always loved reading, both fiction and non-fiction books. I’ve been making up stories, especially for children, since as long as I can remember, but have only written a few down. I never thought I could make a living out of a ‘hobby’. While working on other jobs, I started translating documents from English to Spanish for some friends, after which I continued with technical documents and a short non-fiction book, all of them environment-related.

It wasn’t until recently that I started jotting down ideas, short stories, and sharing them with my children. I also experienced a renewed interest in drawing and illustrating my ideas and stories. My passion for all this was growing every day, so I started following blogs about writing, publishing, marketing, drawing and illustration, reading and learning everything I could. That is how I found Joanna and this adventure with her began. This is actually my first time translating a fiction book, and so far the process has been challenging, exciting and rewarding.

What are some of the particular challenges about translating from English into Spanish?

I found translating words and phrases that are country or language-specific to be the most challenging. It’s not about translating words but ideas. So, you have to make sure that, even if you are saying things in a different way, you are communicating what the author originally intended. For me, technical documents are much easier than literary books, although the latter ones are a lot more fun.

Translating the names of famous places and people can also require some research, when you can’t just use a regular translation or their equivalent in Spanish, but you need to find out if there is a specific name being used in the language of your choice. In Pentecost for example, is the Apostle James Alphaeus known in Spanish as ‘Santiago el Menor’ or ‘Santiago el Mayor’?

Why did you want to do a royalty split deal with an indie author? What are your tips for translators who want to do this kind of thing?

My tips for translators: First, get to know the author: follow them, read their blog, listen to their podcast if they have one, read/listen to interviews. Make sure you like them, what they say, and of course, read their book so you know if you like it. If you don’t like the book (or books), I wouldn’t recommend translating it. You have to remember you will be working on it for a long time, not only for the translation itself, but also for promoting it, so you have to believe in it.

I had been following Joanna for quite a long time before I contacted her: listening to her podcasts, reading her blog, getting to know her work. I started following her because of TheCreativePenn, and when I learned she was a fiction author I visited her author website and followed her there too, because I liked what I read. One day, I read a post where she was asking for translators, and I decided to give it a try. Knowing who she was and what she did beforehand made this decision really easy for me; she wasn’t just ‘another indie author’, she was an author I liked, and with whom I could imagine myself working with. If I wouldn’t have known her or her books, I don’t think I would have approached her.

Why did you want to translate Pentecost? And were there any surprises on the translation journey?

I wanted to translate Pentecost because I already knew and liked Joanna and her work. I knew I would like working with her and translating the ARKANE series, plus I believe her books have a lot of potential. I also have an additional incentive, which is learning about the writing, editing, publishing and marketing processes from a great teacher; I hope I can use all that knowledge for my own books one day.

The only surprise was that after giving the book a more profound read, I wanted to investigate and actually see the sites it described. Since I couldn’t travel to all those places, I started looking for pictures on Google, and before I knew it, I was spending so much time looking for more information and pictures of those places, just for fun. Nonetheless, all this ‘research’ allowed me to understand why Joanna decided to use those places for the story.

How should indie authors find a good translator for their book? How do they evaluate it when they don’t speak the language?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear and concise answer for this question. If you do an internet search, you could find independent translators as well as translation companies and services. Some translators even offer samples you can read. The problem with this, as well as with approaching people who have translated books for publishers, is that they are used to charge in advance for their translation, so you may have to consider the possibility of an upfront payment. You might be able to find someone interested in a royalty split deal from these places though. The other option is to post an offering on your website/blog.

If you don’t speak the language you want your book to be translated to, there are a few things you can do to evaluate your potential translator. If the person you want to work with is a known translator, you can ask for references. If it’s someone you found on the internet or who approached you on your blog, ask for a sample of their work. Then you can have someone you know and trust (friends, family, colleagues…), and who speaks the language, read both the original and the translated sample.

Above all, what I feel is more important than anything else is getting to know your translator – do a search on the internet, read their blog (if they have one), exchange emails, do an interview and conversation on Skype, and make all the questions you need to ask. Then, go with your feelings. Let your intuition guide you.

It is not a foolproof recipe, but if you are doing a royalty split deal, the translator will also be taking a risk by working with you. Translating a book is a lot of work, and they can’t be completely sure they will get a reward that compensates all the hours they need to invest. They will also want to know you and be sure they can trust you. After all, you need a good story but you also need a good translation, so mutual trust is not only a must but a necessity.

How do translators work with authors during the translation process?

I believe authors and translators need to work very closely. Fluent dialogue is key. There should be as many email conversations and Skype meetings as needed, where both the author and the translator can ask and answer all the questions that can arise during the translation. As I see it, there aren’t ‘silly’ questions when your goal is to do the best job you possibly can.

If you have a doubt, just ask. Asking doesn’t hurt. I lost track of how many questions I asked Joanna. Fortunately, she never complained for all the emails I sent her, she answered all my questions and I felt much more confident that my translation was expressing what she wanted to communicate with the story.

How have you found the publishing process? Is it as you expected?

Yes and no. It’s a lot more demanding than I expected, but it’s not that complicated if you have someone who knows what they’re doing. If I was doing all this by myself, I would have gone crazy by now. Fortunately for me, Joanna knows how to handle it and I can learn from her little by little.

Where can people find you online?

If anyone wants to contact me, they can do it at:


Twitter: @MPaolaAmador

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/MPaolaAmador/

The Author’s Perspective – from Joanna

I’m now working with five separate translators and some of them have a lot of experience, and a couple have very little with translating fiction. When I interviewed Paola on Skype after she contacted me, I was really impressed with her passion for creating and for learning about this new way of getting books into the world.

I want to partner with creative people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, and are willing to take risks on the journey – and Paola fitted the bill! Her questions through the translation process showed a deep desire to understand what I really meant, in order to use the right words to convey my meaning. Of course, I can’t read the translation (although I have started learning some Spanish so maybe one day!) but trust, on both sides, is a huge part of this game. We’ll see how it goes!

I do 50:50% royalty splits with the understanding the the translator is also a marketing partner – but of course, there’s no guarantee of making any money – especially as, right now, I have no existing audience in a new language. I am very honest upfront about the fact this could be sunk time with no reward, but I also see this as a long term project – so one of the most important things is being able to talk with your translator honestly. Control freak indie authors can have a hard time with this!

Marketing #1: KDP Select, Reviews, Categories and Keywords

As I have no foothold in the Spanish market at all, we’re using KDP Select as a way to try and get reviews and initial sales. After the initial 90 days, we will move the book onto iBooks, Kobo and Nook. I don’t use Select for my individual English books, but I think it’s a good idea when you are just starting in a new market with few other resources.

Researching the categories and keywords is difficult in another language, as Amazon KDP has categories in English on the publishing end, and of course, the Spanish language store looks different for US Spanish books as well as in the Amazon.es store. The keywords are also difficult, so Paola spent hours using the auto-complete on Amazon.es and Amazon.com to try and work out the best ones to use. We’re playing with them to try and get the best results in terms of categories and keywords right now.

In terms of reviews, we’re reaching out to our extended network, If you’re a Spanish reader, or book blogger, we have some review copies available, so please contact me if you’d like one, or if you have any ideas for marketing. There will be a print version in the next 6 weeks as well.

Marketing #2: Email list

This is not just one book – I fully intend to have lots of books in Spanish over time. I see translation as part of the trickle of income streams from multiple books over the years, so it’s important to gather emails over time. I’ve set up a page in Spanish here and made it prominent on my JFPenn.com site. Lists take time to grow, but you never know what can happen and if lightning strikes, you need to capture as much of it as you can! Plus, there will be some people there for next time at least. All of this is a long term game.

Marketing #3: Book Trailer

I made the original version for Pentecost in English 3 years ago – you can read about the process of making a book trailer here. All I needed to do was switch out the English text for Spanish and change the links and the cover, and it was ready to go. I’ll be doing the same for German as well. I’ll admit to being skeptical about the efficacy of book trailers for selling books, but in an increasingly noisy text-blogging space, having a video to share on social media is a great asset and this didn’t take much time as I already had the material. So one big tip is to look at your English language marketing and see if you can duplicate it in another language.

Marketing: Other things

We’re going to put out a free short story that will link to the book, plus we will do a Goodreads giveaway when the print book is available. Then it’s just the usual rounds of trying to get reviews, interest from book bloggers, and putting out another book. We’re also looking for paid promotional opportunities, so if you know of any, please add a comment below.

Pentecostés. Thriller de la serie ARKANE

Un poder mantenido en secreto durante 2000 años. Una mujer que podría perderlo todo.

pentecostes spanishIndia. Cuando una monja es quemada viva en el ghat sagrado de Varanasi, y la piedra que llevaba en el cuello es robada, se desencadena una serie de sucesos a nivel internacional, en los que varios grupos irán a la caza de las reliquias de la iglesia primigenia.

Forjadas en el fuego y sangre de los mártires, las piedras de Pentecostés han sido traspasadas de generación a generación por los custodios, quienes han mantenido su poder y ubicación secretos.

Hasta ahora.

Los custodios están siendo asesinados y las piedras robadas por aquellos que pretenden utilizarlas para el mal en un mundo transformado por el fundamentalismo religioso.

Morgan Sierra, psicóloga de la Universidad de Oxford, se ve obligada a participar de la búsqueda tras el secuestro de su hermana y sobrina. Jake Timber, el agente de ARKANE, una organización secreta del gobierno británico que se especializa en experiencias paranormales y religiosas, la ayudará a llevar a cabo su misión.

Morgan deberá arriesgar su propia vida para salvar a su familia, ¿pero podrá mantener la lealtad de quienes la ayudan?

Desde los lugares más antiguos y sagrados de la cristiandad en España, Italia e Israel, hasta los confines de Irán y Túnez, Morgan y Jake deberán descubrir dónde están las piedras de los apóstoles. En una carrera contra el tiempo y ayudados únicamente por el conocimiento de los mitos de la iglesia primigenia, tendrán que cumplir con éxito su misión antes de que un Nuevo Pentecostés sea convocado, esta vez por las fuerzas del mal.

Pentecostés, el primer libro de la serie ARKANE, es una historia de suspenso y acción que explora el alcance y limitaciones de la fe dentro de los confines de la historia cristiana de los primeros siglos, la arqueología y la psicología.

Sample or Buy Now in Kindle format – coming soon in print and other ebook formats.


Have you published in Spanish or do you read in Spanish? Please share your tips and experiences below! Thanks

Freedom Of Expression, DRM, Piracy And Censorship With Cory Doctorow

On Fri 13 June, I went along to The Literary Consultancy’s conference and heard Cory Doctorow speak about DRM (digital rights management), the scary side of monitoring, why you shouldn’t support DRM and some sobering information about the freedom of creation and the internet.

cory doctorow TLCI don’t have DRM on my indie books, and I certainly support the fight against censorship on the internet, BUT this talk helped me realize the extent of my own ignorance about these issues.

I’m now remedying this situation by reading a LOT more about it – this is a critical part of our future as creatives and as internet entrepreneurs. I hope you will feel the same way after you’ve listened to this speech.

You can listen to the talk below. The main talk is the first 23 mins and I’ve broken down some notes below. After 23 mins is the Q&A

Here are a few notes:

Doctorow’s 3 Laws

  • Anytime someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and won’t give you the key, it’s not there for your benefit. On why DRM is a bad idea. Also, how Hachette is one of the publishers with mandatory DRM. Plus, indies should make sure they actively choose not to use DRM – on some of the distribution sites, it is auto-selected. It’s certainly not necessary – as publisher Tor is now DRM free.
  • Fame won’t make you rich but you’ll have a hard time getting sales if no one has heard of you. Starts around 9mins in. Discusses how the deal for creators has got worse as the big conglomerates have consolidated into larger organizations. Talking about copyright laws, entertainment companies and law suits that are trying to control technology. Mentions Hugh Howey and indie authors, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Madonna switching to the concert organizer instead of a record label/distributor.
  • Information doesn’t want to be free. Starts at around 17mins. On censorship, privacy and more. The laws that protect DRM also stop the disclosure of flaws that can harm you. Scary stuff about ‘ratting,’ how your devices including your computer’s camera can be hacked – but now it is illegal to inform you how you can protect yourself. Seriously, this is awful stuff.

More information

What do you think about these issues? Please comment below. If you’re specifically knowledgable about this area, please add links in the comments to more resources. This feels like a critical topic for us to be more educated about.

The Mindset Of Successful Indie Authors And Longevity As A Writer with Bob Mayer

Today, I’m really excited to bring you a fantastic interview with Bob Mayer, who definitely counts as one of the leaders of the indie community.

In the intro, I talk about DRM and some of the things we need to be aware of as authors. The next blog post will go into this in more detail.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

bob mayerBob Mayer is a West Point Graduate, Former Green Beret, CEO of Cool Gus Publishing and a NY Times Bestselling Author. With 60 books published, Bob has sold over four million books, and is also a leadership speaker and consultant.

You can watch the interview on YouTube here, listen above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below.

We discuss:

  • Discipline and putting in the work as an author
  • How authors lie and some of the myths around sales figures and the industry
  • How to stay afloat in the river of digital books
  • Focusing on a niche for long term success
  • Longevity as a writer
  • How Bob works with his COO, Jen Talty to run Cool Gus Publishing
  • On the mindset of successful indies and the lure of control
  • Multiple streams of income and how Bob manages his speaking as well as writing
  • On the future of foreign rights, subscriptions services and other things to consider for the next few years of publishing upheaval
  • The themes that span Bob’s fiction work – you can check out a sampler here
  • What writers can learn from TV

You can find Bob at CoolGus.com and on twitter @bob_mayer

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Tips On Public Speaking For Authors, Creatives And Other Introverts

Successful writers have to be speakers – eventually literary festivals, podcast interviews, radio and TV shows will be on the cards, and it’s

speaking in bali

Speaking in Ubud, Bali. Travel is one of the reasons I speak!

best to learn to speak before you absolutely HAVE to!

If you want to run a business as an author, professional speaking can add another stream of income to your portfolio, and there are lots more reasons you might consider adding speaking to your repertoire.

I’ve been a professional (i.e. paid) speaker for 6 years now, and I love connecting with audiences in person. But I’m still an introvert who needs a lot of alone time and finds crowds difficult. In this interview, Viv Oyolu from AudioByte interviews me about being an introvert author and a public speaker, and quizzes me on my tips for starting to speak, or improving along the way, as well as managing anxiety. (Viv also has a lovely voice so you’ll enjoy listening!)

You can listen below or here on SoundCloud:

You can also find the interview on Stitcher or iTunes.

public speaking for authors, creatives and other introvertsWant more help?

Everything I know about speaking is included in my book, ‘Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts.’ While much of it is aimed at anyone who wants to speak, there are some specific chapters around introversion, as well as the business side of being a speaker.

This SlideShare contains some of the highlights:

You can find the book in print and ebook formats here:


Do you have any tips or questions about public speaking? Please leave them in the comments below.