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In today's podcast, we discuss the hybrid model of managing an author career, as well as the secrets of marketing and becoming a pro writer. In the intro I talk about the London Olympics, Thrillerfest and why I have signed with a New York agent.
CJ Lyons is the New York Times Bestselling author of 16 novels, described as thrillers with heart. Her FBI thriller series continues to dominate the Amazon charts but today we're talking about her latest novel Blind Faith which has just been released. CJ and I have also worked on the ProWriter series of multimedia courses together.
- CJ talks about how the idea for Blind Faith was born. She was inspired by a newspaper article describing a mother's journey across a major highway searching for the graves of her 2 children. Her ex-husband had killed the children and then committed suicide before he told anyone where the bodies were. The grief and betrayal inherent in the story became the heart of the story. In writing of the grief, CJ experienced the grief for a friend of hers that was murdered when she was at med school.
- The publishing journey behind Blind Faith is also fascinating. It started when CJ had been contracted for her first two novels with a NY publisher. She quit her medical job to write full-time, but then the publisher cancelled the book. The dream debut was over and in the turmoil of that change she wrote the next book, which turned out to be Blind Faith. CJ indie published Blind Faith at the end of 2010 and in July 2011 it hit #2 on the NY Times bestseller list and made #4 on USA Today bestseller list. Then St Martin's Press bought the rights to it, and now it is being turned into a series. There is a new ending in the re-issued version.
- On the hybrid career. CJ has books with traditional publishing and also sells over 100,000 books a month with her indie published books. The latest studies from Book Industry Study Group show that ebooks are up to 30% of the market. That leaves 70% of books that are print and many people still shop in bookstores. CJ wants to be sure she serves her readers by having books in bookstores and a great quality print product and this is something traditional publishing does very well. CJ also feels she is still learning so much about the industry. She has just started writing in the YA genre which she needs to learn about. In a way, she is getting paid to be educated in the new genre. It can be the best of all worlds. If you know what your vision is – for you as a writer and for your book – then definitely explore all the options.
The secret to selling thousands of books a month
- Write great books, write more of them. Then give readers time to find them and tell their friends. That's it. It boils down to hard work and patience, which let's face it, none of us like to hear! Having the time actually is a blessing as we can all write more books over time. I mention that at a breakfast in New York there were over 200 books written between 3 authors. Evidence that it can be done over time. Being at the bottom of the ladder is a step and you can see people above you who have just kept delivering. CJ thought her own tipping point was at 4-6 books. It might be faster for some people but it definitely takes a while.
- The promise to the reader as it relates to author branding. The reader will immediately want more of your books if you deliver to your promise. I have a tagline as “Ancient Mystery, Modern Thrill.” That's what I am promising the reader. You have to start with what you love. I love the research into ancient mysteries and evocative settings. CJ is focused on the heart of the relationships between people in her books. Having consistency within your books is critical – within a specific author brand at least. Some authors don't like this because they want full artistic license. But you can use different names for divergent books, or brand the author specifically. I use J.F.Penn for my fiction, and Joanna Penn for my non-fiction.
- Being a professional writer means treating your career as a business. It means consistently puts out good quality products that satisfy their readers. They keep their promise to the reader. Writers write, successful writers keep writing. You can push the boundaries and play with ideas but satisfying the reader is critical.
In the words of Jeffrey Deaver “The reader is God.”
- You can write for yourself, that's fine. But when you publish it is about pleasing the reader and making it worthwhile for them to invest their time in your books. This is a mind-shift. Stop being selfish. In publishing, you want other people to read and enjoy your work, so it's got to be about them. You can write all you like for yourself – there's no need to publish that. This comes back to the old saying ‘Kill your darlings.” It's about getting rid of the stuff that is selfish and interesting for you. I talk about how I have just done this with some of Exodus, ARKANE #3 where I really got into nuclear physics and then realized it just wasn't relevant. CJ keeps a ‘snips' file on her desktop for chunks that she cuts out along the way.
- On the ProWriter series. CJ and I have just finished creating these multimedia courses with everything she knows and a lot of my learnings as well. CJ talks about how passionate she is about sharing but that she has to write more fiction to satisfy her readers. So she wanted to create these courses so they could be an ongoing resource for people who want to learn. I credit the information I have learned from CJ in helping me get an agent as well as refining my fiction branding and making more sales through my Amazon sales page
Blind Faith is available now at all bookstores.
You can find CJ's fiction site at: CJLyons.net
Ilana Waters says
Hmmm . . . . I agree with most things here, except the part about not “being selfish” and that “the reader is God.” Wanting to write about what you like isn’t selfish–it’s normal. You just have to find where your interests and the readers’ converge. If you write about something you’re not passionate about, I bet readers will see right through it and be turned off. It is not only the subject the readers connect with–it’s also the passion and excitement created by the author.
Otherwise, great stuff. Congratulations to both you and C.J. Lyons on your phenomenal and hard-earned success!
CJ Lyons says
I’m not saying not to write what you’re passionate about–in fact, anyone who knows me, knows that my first question to any beginning writer is: What are you passionate about?
And I’m definitely not saying to follow trends instead of your own passion and vision.
But, once you decide to publish, your work goes from being solely for you and must be treated as a product that will delight your readers–which means looking beyond your own needs and considering theirs. After all, just like you invested time and effort into creating it, you’re asking them to invest their time and money.
The joy of writing (and one of the reasons why this is the best job in the world) is that you get to have it BOTH ways!
Write the books that you love and are passionate about, have a blast with the creating…then step back and learn what your readers’ most enjoy and make sure you’re reaching them. If you want to write as a career (not just for fun) then you need to connect with your readers and keep them foremost in your mind when you’re getting ready to publish.
In my experience no book succeeds without passion…but you also won’t succeed unless you know how to engage readers other than yourself.
Hope that helps clarify things. Thanks for stopping by,
Amber Dane says
Really good post and your journey is indeed fascinating as well as inspiring. Congrats on your work being turned into a series. I like the part about author branding, gives me some more to think about as I’m branching out into 2 different genres from my debuts and am curious as to how my readers might receive them. I do have stated in my bio that I am a multi-genre author, but will it affect my growing followers? Will have to see. Thanks for sharing.
This is another great interview… I enjoyed the flow between you two!
L Dowless says
I disagree with all of this information, because what it instructs writers to do is the write for the market and the income potential, if successful. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I choose to write simply for the love of being creative, the pride and joy of a supreme completed work, and the unique quality of my work. First and foremost, I am an artist….I paint portraits with a select choice of words that also convey intense feelings. I create works that I am very proud of, and if they find their place among the masses, then wonderful! If they do not, then so what? I have done what I love to do…and will continue to do until I die!