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Ebooks and self-publishing are pretty much mainstream these days but a few years ago they were relatively unknown. Boyd Morrison was one of the first authors to go indie, subsequently getting a book deal off the back of his self-published success. His action-adventure thrillers are also in my favorite genre, so I was keen to interview him for today's podcast.
In the intro, I talk about where my books are right now and other news in publishing.
Boyd Morrison is the author of the Tyler Locke action-adventure thrillers as well as 2 stand-alone novels. His latest book, The Roswell Conspiracy, is out now. Boyd is also a professional actor and a Jeopardy Champion. You can watch the video interviews on YouTube as well, separated into publishing and thriller writing, or listen to the audio as above.
- How Boyd became an author. He is an engineer by training and made a pact with his wife. He would support her through 9 years of medical training and when she was a full-time doctor, he would get the same number of years to pursue writing. It took him about 4.5 years to become a published author.
- Boyd had written 3 books and the third one, The Ark, got him an agent but the books didn't sell to publishers. So after some rave rejections, he decided to self-publish back in early 2009. The Kindle was only just out and Amazon had just opened to self-publishers so he loaded the book up there. The 3 books went up, the first priced at 99c and the others at $1.99. With a month, The Ark was the #1 techno-thriller in the Kindle store and within 3 months, he had sold 7500 copies. These days, those numbers aren't spectacular, but back then, no one was really doing this so he really stood out in the market.
- Off the back of this success, Boyd got a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster and the books came out 2010 – 2011. At that point, you think ‘yeah, I've got it made' but in Jan 2012, Boyd was told that his 3rd book in the series wasn't what the publisher wanted so he was dropped from that contract. But the book had sold to other publishers overseas so The Roswell Conspiracy came out in the rest of the world first, and Boyd ended up self-publishing in the US. An amazing roller-coaster publishing ride! (and who knows what's next)
- What does Boyd think about publishing. We all have a different idea of success, and clearly we'd all love huge sales and mega-bestsellers, but self-publishing means his books can be available, and readers can continue to grow.
- How do the partners of writers cope with self-publishing? We talk about Boyd's deal with his wife on his writing career and she had been very supportive of him, encouraging publishing of all kinds, and not distinguishing between self-publishing or other forms of success. That kind of belief is critical for a writer. Now many people have an ebook reader and the big difference now is that most people can read the book whether it is self-published or not.
- We talk about Thrillerfest and Boyd mentions that among the peer group of writers there is a cachet to mentioning a publisher name but the stigma of self-publishing has gone away. A lot of authors don't realize you can make money at it. Boyd mentions CJ Lyons who is making a fantastic living with her books. This is a viable career path now and it's based on the quality of the books and the effort the writer puts into their career. It is harder to get on panels at conventions or get reviews at mainstream media, but in general, there's not a big difference.
- On the thriller market and writing action-adventure. You have to write what you love to read and to your strengths. Boyd loves to read and write thrillers and the pendulum will swing again. Right now erotica is huge, and crime fiction is big but things change, and you can't chase the market or you'll hate the job. It's a cumulative process and the more product you have out there, the easier it is for new readers to find you, so you just have to stick at it.
- How much of Boyd is in Tyler Locke, his hero? Boyd was an engineer and they're about the same height but otherwise Tyler is quite different. Boyd wanted to make an engineering hero in the same way that Indiana Jones made archaeology cool. It's not just nerdy Dilbert types, but a lot of adventurous people e.g. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. Boyd also comes from a family of engineers and he recently realized that Tyler Locke is based on his own father, who died when he was young. He was in the army and went to MIT and had that kind of adventurous spirit.
- Traveling is a love of Boyd's and he has traveled for research. In Roswell, there is a chase on the jetboats in Queenstown which we have both done. As a writer, you're always looking for new things to incorporate in the writing. It's partly an excuse to go do research e.g. driving fast on the autobahn in Germany. We also talk about writing about places we haven't actually been, using Google maps and YouTube as well as other online resources. On writing fight scenes, based on movie knowledge and workshops, like the ones from Thrillerfest. Raising the stakes is more important than the detail of the fight e.g. if he doesn't land this blow, the bad guy will shoot the girlfriend etc.
- We also talk about scuba diving as we're both huge fans. Boyd recommends the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, as well as St Lucia in the Caribbean. I mention Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia which is less visited than the Barrier Reef and spectacular. We talk about organizing a thriller writer's scuba diving trip, and inviting James Rollins and Clive Cussler amongst others. It would be a lot of fun!
You can buy The Roswell Conspiracy on Amazon and at other bookstores.
You can find Boyd at BoydMorrison.com and on twitter @boydmorrison
Good morning, Joanna.
Oh, I soooo want to be a writer – it all sounds so much fun!
I attended a seminar yesterday where a young man (well, everyone’s young compared to me these days!) had self-published and released his first 3 books as ebooks, then gone on to secure a very lucrative deal with a BIG name publisher – very impressive. Needless to say his work is in the crime/thriller genre, so that would have helped I guess.
But you mention erotica….
Right. I’ll give that a go. Wonder what my chances are with ‘The Revelations of a Bawdy Brit’!
Joanna Penn says
Hi Linda, There have been a lot of examples of successful self-publishers getting book deals. Obviously right now erotica is the big play, but you have to
a) read in the genre you want to publish and
b) love to write in the genre you want to publish
so it would be better to focus on what you’re interested in, rather than trying to chase the market. Although of course, you’re welcome to try both avenues 🙂
Pamela Hegarty says
Hi Joanna, If you ever get that thriller writer scuba trip together, I’m in! As always, thanks for the great post. And congratulations to Boyd Morrison for being quick to adapt to the volatile new world of publishing. Sometimes it’s best to dive in even if you’re afraid you might be getting in over your head. Otherwise, how would you know what wonderful experiences you can have?
Thank you, Joanna.
My first ‘under-the-bedclothes-after the lights-were-out’ book at a quite tender age, was Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I won’t reel off the ones that followed, but suffice to say I have undertaken a certain degree of study these matters. And then of course, one always has life to call upon……
My only reservation about current trends in erotica are that they seem to leave little to the readers imagination – which I always think is far richer than explicit prose. Having spoken to a number of people (women mainly) from different walks in life, I know my thoughts are shared. To what extent though, is difficult to determine. I suppose it’s likely to be one of those ‘suck it and see’ situations. Write it; promote it like fury; and hopefully the readers will come.
I might be wrong, but I get the impression that’s how the most recent offerings to hit the book-stand made it. I really struggle to believe it was on the basis of the quality of the writing or even the content!
J.D. Meier says
> the same number of years to pursue writing
That’s quite the deal. Way to go.
> self-publishing means his books can be available, and readers can continue to grow
I like this perspective because it’s about setting a meaningful goal, that can be tuned and improved with time.