Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #4 - Michaelbrent Collings



Today we have another special interview in the popular series - Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors. Today's guest is author Michaelbrent Collings, an internationally bestselling novelist, a #1 bestseller in the U.S., and has been one of Amazon's top selling horror writers for years. He is one of the most successful indie horror writers in the United States, as well as a produced screenwriter and member of the WGA, HWA, and several other writing groups with cool-sounding letters. He's also a martial artist, and cooks awesome waffles ('cause he's macho like that). He published his first "paying" work - a short story for a local paper - at the age of 15. He won numerous awards and scholarships for creative writing while at college, and subsequently became the person who had more screenplays advance to quarterfinals and semifinals in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship screenwriting competition in a single year than anyone else in the history of the competition. His first produced script, Barricade, was made into a movie starring Eric McCormack of TV's Will & Grace and Perception, and was released in 2012. Michaelbrent also wrote the screenplay for Darkroom (2013), starring Kaylee DeFer (Gossip Girl, Red State) and Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle, Law & Order, Heroes). As a novelist, Michaelbrent has written enough bestsellers that listing them seems weird, especially since they're already listed elsewhere on the website. In addition, he has also written dozens of non-fiction articles which have appeared in periodicals on several continents.

Here he is, Mr Michaelbrent Collings:



Who are you and where do you come from? Do you think that your life experience has gone someway towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre?

      I come from a background that is mildly schizophrenic: a sickly, small kid who devoured every martial art he could growing up; was a missionary for two years in an exceptionally poor part of South America; graduated from college majoring in TV production; went to a top 20 law school where I juggled work as a law clerk, work on the law review, and an unpaid church job that took up close to thirty hours a week; became a partner at a respected Los Angeles law firm; and having failed at my fallback job moved into work as a full-time writer. Sheesh.

       Yes, this totally helped with my writing and my success. I learned to talk to people as a missionary, I learned to work with graphics and layouts (talents that port over to book covers and book trailers!) in college for studio work, I learned lots about people in general through all of it. And my writing was a thread throughout, learned from the very beginning at my parents' knees: my father, a tremendously talented writer and English professor at a major university; and my mother, who is Made of Awesome.



You are a #1 best-selling author on Amazon  – if you could pinpoint one thing in particular that has grabbed readers of your work, what would you say it is?

       Most people who write me say it's my honesty and my outlook. By which I think they mean that I write a lot of scary stories, but those scary stories are, at their core, stories about hope – about the light beyond the darkness. Or at least about a sense that there is more to life than just loss. And a lot of my books are populated not by nubile teens whose prime motivation is "To bang or not to bang?" but by families with real world problems – paying the rent, taking care of wayward kids, loving each other.



You are also a successful script-writer and a public speaker – how important are the things that you do outside of writing novels and fiction, to your success as an author? I.e. how important is it to self-published authors to be other things (than just an author) and to spread their work across other genres and creative outlets?

      I think it's tremendously important that authors today be willing to do things that take them out of their "writing caves." I blog, I tweet, I Facebook, I speak at schools and comic cons and symposia. All this feeds into people who (hopefully) look at my books. The books have to be awesome to keep them as readers – and, more important, as people who will recommend the books to their friends – but it's all a great net for catching more audience.



I notice that you and other best-selling self-published authors also write non-fiction titles. How important is it for successful self-published authors to establish themselves as ‘experts in their field’ via non-fictional works?

     Non-fiction titles aren't tremendously important for me. I've written some law and some martial arts instruction books, but those are so outside my bivouac that most people looking for those aren't looking for my fiction titles, and vice-versa. Or maybe they are, because they're as crazed in their interests as I am. <grin>



What kind of marketing did you do to establish your author brand and what do you think is the most successful marketing for self-published authors? Is there any one thing that you have determined has helped you sell more books – i.e. could you outline your path to establishing your brand and your most successful sales method/s as?

      My most successful practices for marketing and brand promotion are simply this:

1)   Write great books.

2)   Tell others about the great books.

A lot of people don't care to learn how to write. Or if they do, then they don't write volume – one or two is enough for them. Mistake. Forbes recently did a study of the top selling authors of all time, and the ONLY things they had in common were a huge body of work cranked out over time. 
And then, once you've learned how to write awesome books (which will take an average of ten years of hard study), and you have actually written them… you gotta tell folks about them. No one will search in your underwear drawer for your manuscript, you have to take it into the world yourself.
       Well, I might poke around in your underwear drawer, but that's a whole other ball of wax.


Do you design your own covers? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader and how big a part do you think it has played in your success to date? 

       Cover design is critical. I do design my own covers, but again – thank you crazy background – I had a bit more schooling on the subject than a lot of authors. Don't do something that looks amateur – people won't buy it. They just won't. If you haven't the skill to put together a professional cover or the commitment to shell out some bucks to have someone else do it, people will infer that you're work sucks. And they'll likely be correct. Stinky but true.



In your opinion, is traditional publishing on the way out? Do you think that traditional publishing can continue to keep up with the rise of self-publishing?

      I think they both have an important place in our reading landscape. Self-pub is here to stay, but trad-pub has great strengths, too. I'm not a "hater" of either. The more the merrier . . .



For more of this fascinating interview, please visit Self-Publishing Successfully for full transcript.


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Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #3 - Matt Drabble


Today, I'm proud to bring you another interview in what is proving to be quite a popular series - Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors. In the hot seat is Best-selling U.K. author, Matt Drabble. His Amazon Author's page bio describes him as thus: 

"Born in Bath, England in 1974, a self-professed "funny onion", equal parts sport loving jock and comic book geek. I am a lover of horror and character driven stories. I am also an A.S sufferer who took to writing full time two years ago after being forced to give up the day job. I have a career high position of 5th on Amazon's Horror Author Rank of which I am immensely proud. "GATED" is a UK & US Horror Chart Top Ten Best Seller & winner of the Full Moon Awards 2014 Horror Book of the Year. "ASYLUM - 13 TALES OF TERROR" is a US Horror Chart #5 It was also voted #5 on The Horror Novel Review's Top 10 Books of 2013 & is a Readers Favorite 2014 Gold Medal Winner.
"ABRA-CADAVER" won an Indie Book of the Day award."


Without further ado, let's get in to it. Remember to make sure you check out Matt's excellent books and the other interviews in this series here on my website. 


Who are you and where do you come from? Do you think that your life experience has gone someway towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre?

My name is Matt Drabble and I am originally from a city called Bath in the South West of England. A few years ago I suffered a nasty back injury and as a result I was unable to keep on working a full time job. I have always liked writing and had many a notepad full of ideas and the beginnings of books. One day I stumbled across an article on Amazon’s self-publishing platform. With time on my hands I figured why not turn one of my half finished stories into a full book, mainly just to see if I could, so I did.


Where do you get your inspiration from for your writing and for the way you brand yourself as an author?

For me King is King and long live the King. I am increasingly working in the short story format and have produced three anthologies so for and am currently working on my fourth. Inspiration for a short story with a twist really comes from the world around me. It could be a news article that makes me think “what if?” What if the outcome was different, what if something else happened that changed the whole complexion? Normally I start at the end with a twist and work backwards from there.


If you could pinpoint one thing in particular that has grabbed readers of your work, what would you say it is? I.e. What do you think it is about your work that makes readers buy your books?

I always try and write stories with some depth to them. There is a market for the gross out horror fan, especially amongst younger readers, but my audience seem to be older readers. I’d like to think that I write with a decent pace, interesting and exciting situations, but all with three dimensional characters that you’ve come to care about.


You have enjoyed best-selling status – is there a particular moment in your career as an author that you realized that you had done something right to get where you are now? Can you pinpoint what it was that spiked your success to date?

When I first started self-publishing about two and a half years ago, the market was less saturated and you could do a free giveaway and I’d average maybe 3000 downloads a day without any marketing. Now without any advertising you’d be lucky to see 100 [downloads]. I set myself a deadline of three books to see some improvement in sales figures to give me any encouragement to keep going. Luckily, after the first two sank without trace, the third offering was a horror thriller called “Gated” which was a more deliberate attempt to produce something with more of a commercial appeal. The going was slow but with a lot of patience and determination sales started to pick up, reviews were good and I had a big free giveaway weekend which netted me around 31,000 downloads. My next book was a horror anthology called “Asylum – 13 Tales of Terror” which sold about 1600 books in the first month with no marketing. I am a firm believer that as long as your work is decent, once people see it they will buy it. The obvious problem with Amazon now is getting your book high enough up the charts for readers to see it.


Did you try to get publishing contracts for your books early on with traditional book publishers? If so, did you have any success there or if not what was it that made you decide to self-publish the majority of your work?

Yes. I sent out my stuff to every agent and publisher that accepted submissions. I did finally sign a deal with a publisher based in San Francisco who then unfortunately went out of business about four days before my launch.


Why self-publish?

The great thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it; unfortunately, the bad thing is also that anyone can do it. I believe that a lot of readers have had their fingers burnt by poor work and can be more sceptical and less willing to give a new author a chance. Self-publishing also gives an author time to grow and breathe, time to develop and time to forge a very thick skin. The only way to get better is to write and write a lot.

For more of this fascinating interview, please visit Self-Publishing Successfully for full transcript.

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Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #2 - Matt Shaw

Hi again, today I'm pleased to bring you the second interview in what is proving to be a very popular interview series - Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors. Today's interviewee is none other than the inimitable, best-selling U.K. horror author, Matt Shaw. His Amazon Author's page describes him as thus: "Matt Shaw is the published author of over 50 stories. Although known as being a horror author, he also enjoys spending time in other genres too - something he had always planned to do in order to have at least one book, in a wide collection, which would appeal to people from all walks of life. Shaw was first published in 2004 with his horror novel Happy Ever After - the first of his books to reach the number one slot on Amazon and the first of his books to use his trademark style of narrating the stories through the first person perspective. An extremely prolific writer, Matt Shaw is continually writing as well as keeping up to date with his readers via his (some might say) crazy Author Page on Facebook. Once Published weekly in a lad's magazine with his photography work, Matt Shaw is also a published author and cartoonist. More recently he is known for turning his stories into films."


Who are you and where do you come from? Do you think that your life experience has gone someway towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre?
Matt Shaw. Earthling. Sort of.
I was born in Winchester Hospital, down the South of England. I remember the day well. The birds were singing and the Gods were looking down upon my mother, and smiling, as she pushed me out. Then when I was past the point of no return, and spilling into the world, the Gods began laughing at her.
“Too late! He’s your problem now, wench!” they shouted in unison.
I have always been good at telling stories (don’t mind me, just blowing my own trumpet) but I’d never really found myself an audience, which was frustrating me to say the least. It was only after I was disowned by someone whom was supposed to love me, that I really pushed myself harder and harder with each passing day to prove them wrong in what their last words said of me. Had I not been disowned, I couldn’t honestly say I’d be in this position today. For all I know, I’d still be in the same dead end job that I was in before my personal life exploded.
I couldn’t tell you where the horror came from though. For all intents and purposes I had a normal childhood :S

Your stories are many things –  violent, satirical, horrific – with an obviously penchant for the dark macabre – if you could pinpoint one thing in particular that has grabbed readers of your work, what would you say it is?
I think it is the fact I don’t pussyfoot around with subject matters. I write horror, therefore you need to expect a full-on experience which will - in places - sicken you. Too many ‘horror’ authors are out there now who like to pull their punches for fear of putting the readers off. Horror fans do not want to have things diluted. They want the full experience. Once word of mouth gets out about what I write, they tend to give my work a go and then fall for the writing style (the majority of my books being in the first person perspective).

You have enjoyed best-selling status on Amazon recently and have also been the recipient of book contracts and even a movie deal – is there a particular moment in your career as an author that you realized that you had done something right to get where you are now? Can you pinpoint what it was that spiked your success to date?
My ‘success’ came about after the release of my first Black Cover Book (black cover books are the extreme horrors). The book - ‘sick b*stards’ - came out and just instantly took off. I was surprised to be honest. The whole thing was written in an attempt to shock and sicken people but they lapped it up. After that, it was all about pushing more Black Cover Books out. I believe there are ten now and that is since February 2014. I have another three written and due out over the next few months too: “Don’t Read”, “ASHES” and “MONSTER” - the latter being co-written with ART co-writer Michael Bray.

Did you try to get publishing contracts for your books early on with traditional book publishers? If so, did you have any success there or if not what was it that made you decide to self-publish the majority of your work?
I decided to self-publish immediately and have never looked back. Funnily enough now, I am getting knocks on my door from people interested in publishing me but - at this stage - I am not interested. I am doing okay by myself and the publishing companies hitting me up can’t offer anything I am not doing already. Self-Publishing doesn’t really carry the stigma that it used to anymore but I will tell you this - to be noticed, it is extremely difficult. More and more people are turning to writing to make money now thinking they can write the next 50 Shades. It doesn’t work like that. It’s hard to find readers, especially those who have the potential to turn your fortunes around. This is not a short-term get rich quick scheme!

What do you see as your most innovative promotional strategy?
I don’t sell the book, I sell me.
I am turning myself into a brand. Someone people want to check in on, over on Facebook. That strange little horror author who keeps doing silly strip videos, or videos putting condoms over his head. I act the fool to keep people watching. They are then more likely to invest in my work. There are a lot of authors who just continually push their books in the shape of adverts or shout-outs. Really, this isn’t the way. They get lost in a sea of publicity and all read the same and smell of desperation. Whatever you try, the most important thing is to be original! Do not copy someone else, do not rip off a style that you’ve seen work elsewhere. You will highlight yourself for the wrong reasons . . .


For more of this fascinating interview, please visit Self-Publishing Successfully for full transcript.


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A FREE BOOK FOR YOU

Hi everyone, hope you are doing well and enjoying the month of February? Things are starting to get quite busy here at williamcookwriter.com. You may have noticed the first in a new series of interviews with the self-explanatory title of Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors.  The first interview is with a great author and online pal of mine, Mark Edward Hall. Mark details his path to self-publishing fulfillment after having experienced the pitfalls of traditional publishing first-hand. 

This interview series should prove fascinating reading (for readers and authors alike), providing many details and information from an insider's perspective on the world of digital and POD (Print On Demand) publishing and the pros and cons from an author's perspective. The next author that I interview is uber-talented, best-selling Horror writer, Matt Shaw. Get ready, this interview will be a doozy! 

Scheduled for the next month or two, will be a continuation of these interviews with other talented and successful self-published authors including Matt Drabble, April M Reign, Michaelbrent Collings, and Russell Blake. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter to stay tuned for future interviews and freebies etc.

In the meantime, I'd like to thank you all for visiting and reading this blog/website and offer you a link to a free copy of my latest ebook - 'One Way Ticket.' It has been warmly received so far and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. If you have a spare moment when you've finished reading it, please leave a brief review* and check out my other titles for more goodies.

http://www.amazon.com/Ticket-Short-Horror-Fiction-Book-ebook/dp/B00RAMNUBM/ref=la_B003PA513I_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424815754&sr=1-6
FOR U.S. READERS
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/503706
FOR REST OF WORLD READERS

One Way Ticket

Fast Train To Hell . . .
From the belly of the swamp issues forth a visit in the middle of the night from a force as dark and unimaginable as hell itself. Poor pig-farmer Abel Laroux, must battle the demons of his past as well as the nightmarish reality of the present, as he confronts a devilish visitor who has come to collect on an outstanding debt, inherited by Abel from his forefathers.

Bonus Features: Includes an excerpt from the author's novel, 'Blood Related' + the long poem 'The Temper of The Tide', in its entirety.

Warning: contains adult content + themes of supernatural & psychological horror.

“This man is simply scary. There is both a clinical thoroughness and a heartfelt emotional thoroughness to his writing. He manages to shock as well as empathize, to scare as well as acclimatize, yet beneath it all is a well read intelligence that demands to be engaged. I loved Blood Related. Ordinarily I hate serial killer stories, but William Cook won me over. He is a unique and innovative talent.”
– Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Flesh Eaters and Dog Days

*******************************************************************

 * I am currently looking for book reviewers. If any of my titles appeal to you, please contact me via my About/Contact page and I'd be happy to provide you with a digital copy (format of your choice) of any/all of my titles. Thanks - I look forward to hearing from you.

Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #1 - Mark Edward Hall

Hi everyone - hope you are all well and enjoying life as much as possible. For those of you readers who sometimes wonder what all the hullabaloo is about self-publishing vs traditional publishing, this is the first in a series of exclusive interviews with best-selling self-published authors. The interviews will pretty much reveal all you need to know (plus more!) about why some authors choose to publish their work independently (as opposed to traditionally). For authors (and prospective authors) thinking of self-publishing, or wondering similar questions, I hope that this series of interviews will offer you some valuable tips and advice from these best-selling self-published authors, that you can use to navigate and hone your own adventures in today's exciting digital publishing world. Without further ado, let's kick it all off with this fantastic interview with best-selling author Mark Edward Hall.




Where do you get your inspiration from for your writing and for the way you brand yourself as an author?

As a writer my inspiration comes from the world around me. I’m a news junkie and I like to use current events as inspiration. I’ve also done a lot of reading in my life and use historical events in the mix. My unique author branding comes from a mix of genres. For the most part my novels are hard to categorize. They’re a mix of crime, scifi, horror, fantasy and apocalyptic. Some say this is the kiss of death but it’s been very successful for me. There’s always a little romance (and sex) in there as well, because to me it can’t be real without the tensions of love, the single most important driving force in human history. You have to remember that love and sex were here long before money and greed. I do write some straight horror, and I love it, but the supernatural thriller is where I’m most at home.



Did you try to get publishing contracts for your books early on with traditional book publishers? If so, did you have any success there or if not what was it that made you decide to self-publish the majority of your work?
My first novel, The Lost Village, was completed in the late nineties. At the time the Scott Meredith agency in New York had something called the Discovery Program. You send them four hundred bucks and they promised to put your book at the top of the slush pile and get back to you within a few months. They were a major agency with a great reputation, so I said, why the hell not and sent it along. They were true to their word. Within sixty days I heard from a kind editor who told me the book was amazing, that I had a promising future as a writer, but The Lost Village was too long and therefore unpublishable. He said there wasn’t a publisher on the planet who would publish a 258,000 word novel from an unknown. He said if I was King or Patterson, no problem. But I wasn’t King or Patterson. Please send something else along that’s at a more appropriate length, say 90 to 110 thousand words. This was in 2002 and I said screw it and published it myself. Back then, there weren’t any kindles or nooks so I went with one of those vanity presses. The book came out quite well. It was in hardcover and paperback and I was happy with it. I joined the New England Horror writers, did some group signings and actually sold quite a lot of books.  To the chagrin of some of the other members who were all traditionally published authors.
     I was the only outlier. I did a tremendous amount of self- promo and soon I was receiving fan mail, some from as far away as Australia and the UK. By 2004 I had written two more books, The Haunting of Sam Cabot and The Holocaust Opera, both horror stories. I self-published them both. In 2009 I got an email from a new small press publisher called Damnation Books who wanted to publish my work. They subsequently republished all three of my novels. I signed away my rights for five years. I wish I never had. The royalty rate was a little higher than most traditional publishers but still terrible. That was about the time kindle exploded on the scene. Damnation did very little for me other than put my books out there and let them go stagnant. I was sorry I’d given my rights away.
    In the meantime, I wrote three more novels and several novellas. These I self-published. No way was I ever going to let another publisher have my books. Apocalypse Island came out in 2012 and has done amazingly well. Soul Thief, its sequel, came out the following year and is doing very well also. I’m publishing the third in the series (Song of Ariel) as a serial novel simply because my readers are demanding more now.
    I know this is a long answer to your short question. The simple answer is, this is my publishing history. I never sent out queries to hundreds of publishers like so many other writers did. I’m independent and love going it alone. Damnation Books was my one fall down and I’ll never let that happen again. By the way, I received the rights back to The Haunting of Sam Cabot last September, and have sold more copies in five months than I did in five years with a publisher. I get the other two books back this year. That’s it, unless I am offered millions of dollars from a major publisher, I will never ever consider signing with one again. And I will never sign away my digital rights for any price. This is the future and any author who doesn’t retain his or her digital rights is a fool.

For more of this fascinating interview, please visit Self-Publishing Successfully for full transcript.

 





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Mark Edward Hall, Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors, Self-Publishing, #selfpub, Writing, Amazon Best-sellers, Selfpublishing vs traditional publishing, Mark Edward Hall, William Cook, Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, David Gaughran

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