PJ: How long have you been writing?
Rich: Since 1994. I commuted by train for years. I read newspapers in the morning and mystery/suspense novels on the trip home. Then I read a newspaper story about a father who refused to take his child home from the hospital because the newborn was diagnosed with a brain impairment.
That newspaper story struck a nerve because it was so horrendous. I asked myself, “What if the baby was misdiagnosed?”
With that question as a plot line, I began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus, my first book, The Nurse Wore Black, was born. (This book has been rewritten and re-titled as Secrets Can Be Deadly and is part of my Murder at the Jersey Shore Series.)
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Rich: After I finished The Nurse Wore Black I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejections. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a local independent publisher in the town next to mine that published books about nurses. Excited, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow!
Being a total novice, I had no idea what to expect from a publisher. I thought publishers would do the editing as well as create a proper cover. When I saw the finished product, the “Wow” factor fell into the depression factor. The cover was not well done and leafing through the book I saw a number of typos. Needless to say, it was an embarrassment and I could not sell it.
The moral: Make sure you are pro-active in every phase of your book’s production from editing, to layout and design of the cover.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer? At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Rich: The answer to both questions is when I got rave reviews for my work.
In 2006 I had finished Silk Legacy, an historical fiction novel. Every single review was positive. “Magnificent Characters” “Remarkable Storytelling” “A Tribulation of Yesteryear” “Vivid Enticing Characters” “An Absorbing Page Turner of a Novel” “Realistic Dialogue” “The fictional family is made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laugh, love, argue, fight, and have adulterous affairs.”
It was those reviews that whispered in my ear, “You’ve have made it as an author.” But was Silk Legacy a fluke?
In 2010 a wonderful independent press, L & L Dreamspell, took me on and published Beyond Guilty.
The reviews of Beyond Guilty solidified in my mind that I had become a writer.
“Twisting Action” “Thought Provoking” “A Fast paced Thriller” “Sympathetic Engaging Character” “Authentic Dialogue” “Complex Characters” “Spirited Prose” “A Real Winner” “A Damn Good Story” “Don’t go in expecting stereotypes because you won’t find them.”
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Rich: The quick answer to that question is, no. Like most authors, I wanted to make money from my writing. However, I quickly abandoned the idea that I was going to get wealthy.
I ran a linen and curtain store for twenty-five years and it was a lot easier to make money at that than it has ever been from writing. I competed with ten or so similar stores in my market area. Compare that small amount of competition to the million or so books published every year.
Building a following for my books compared to the promotion I needed to attract customers to my store became astronomically mind bending. Where it took me an hour or so to create an ad for the one newspaper and the one radio station in the store’s market area, it has taken many hours “talking” about my books on the huge number of internet sites and blogs.
I have made money from my books, but the time it will take to make a lot of money is more than I am willing to give. However, there is a light growing ever more brightly for authors to make money and that is the e-book market.
Relating again to my retail experience, once I got people in my store, they could easily see and touch the entire product. If they liked it and the price, they bought it. However, readers only get a taste of books from blurbs, excerpts and reviews, and they are getting more and more savvy about the value of those smidgens. Many are reluctant to take a chance on an unknown author at $15.00 for a trade paperback to $26.00 for a hard cover.
Enter the e-book for 99 cents to $4.99 as well as many free books. The amount of time to promote and e-book is the same as for a print book, but it’s far easier to get a reader to take a chance on a new author at those prices. I have made more money from e-book sales than I have from sales of my print books whether I self-published the e-book or my publisher placed the book on e-book sites.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Rich: Before e-books the only books we could read were the ones the big publishers “chose” for us to read. Those books were selected by the publisher based on the publisher’s idea of what the greatest number of readers would like.
I wrote my first books with that same thought in mind. Now with the ability to publish myself as an e-book, I write what I like. If I can’t find an interested publisher, so be it. My book will still be available to those who like my subject.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Rich: Of course an interesting plot is important, but the two things that make a book standout are the characters and the conflict.
For example, I have been told that my protagonist in Silk Legacy is not likeable, but his motives are understandable. Yet those readers have loved his wife who is constantly in conflict with her husband.
The same goes for my Murder at the Jersey Shore series. One reviewer said, “What really grabbed me was watching the hero deal with his issues while his girl friend dealt with him and her issues involving him.”
In Beyond Guilty it’s the torment the protagonist goes through because she knows she is responsible for her sister’s deaths.
In Murder Goes Round and Round it about a man who overcomes his mourning for his deceased wife by solving a murder.
In my latest book, Keiretsu, coming out this fall it is the conflict between the protagonist, a third generation Japanese American brought up with every advantage an American can have, and his father who blames the U.S. for the murder of his parents by a mob after being released from the internment camps.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Rich: I have sold the most books after reviews and interviews on a blog such as yours. Also, there are many interactive sites on the internet where you can join the discussions. Like all advertising, repetition is the key. Keep your name in front of readers by participating in those discussions. Sooner or later people will say, let me try one of his books.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Rich: Once you begin your writing try to find a critique group that will give you honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting. But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel. Remember, it’s your story. Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit. Say you have a six person group. If one person criticizes something then it may or may not be valid. But if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then you should take it under serious consideration.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title.
Keiretsu is a political thriller ripped from the headlines.
Toshio Nagoya, ultra-nationalist CEO of Japan’s largest keiretsu (conglomerate), foresees dire peril for his country from China’s growing military. Toshio and the CEOs of Japan’s other keiretsus form a secret cabal to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent to China. However with the United States’ demanding Iran and North Korea end their nuclear weapons programs these men know that when the U.S. discovers Japan is making nuclear weapons the U.S. will have no choice but to demand Japan cease-and-desist.
With the help of his cousin, a lawyer in the United States, (father of the protagonist. See above) Toshio and his associates begin to build a powerful Political Action Committee spread across many states to garner widespread influence in America’s congress which they will use to blunt any administration’s demands that Japan abandon its nuclear ambition.
Conspiracy, lust, infidelity, treachery, betrayal and murder permeate this political thriller and make Keiretsu a riveting read.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Rich: Getting reviews from reviewers who post in mass media. While I think that reviews from readers who recommend your book to other readers is really the best review, a review from a syndicated reviewer that reaches possibly millions of people will sell many more books.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Rich: When Silk Legacy was available in print, I had a book signing at a small book store. I had advertised to friends and family and put a small add in a local newspaper. I sold thirteen books which wasn’t a lot, but it was the only business the store did during the three hours I was there. Sadly, the store is no longer in business.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Rich: This is embarrassing, but I got Ds in English in College. The last thing I would have ever thought I could do was write a book. Then I wrote that first one and I was hooked.
PJ: LOL That’s a first for me! Where can we buy your books?
Rich: See my website: www.silklegacy.com for book jackets, excerpts and links to book sellers.
Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy, Silk Legacy, and Murder Goes Round and Round are sold through Kindle or any e-reader that can access Amazon e-books.
Beyond Guilty and Keiretsu are available wherever books are sold whether print or e-book. Book stores may have to order them for you.
Richard Brawer has published seven novels in mystery, suspense and historical fiction genres. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and growing roses. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife. Watch for Keiretsu in fall of 2012.
Rich, thanks for taking the time to share with us today. I hope you gain lots of new readers from this endeavor!