Today I am fortunate to have Michael Jason Brandt on my blog.
What inspires you to write? I have always had a creative streak that led me to write ever since I was a kid. The inspiration to start writing novels came from the migraines, however. They were severe enough that they hindered my ability to do much of anything. It became a tailspin of frustration, so I took to writing during those few hours each day that the headaches eased up simply in order to remind myself that I could still be productive.
What book are you promoting right now? What is it about? Plagued, With Guilt is my debut novel. On the surface it is a story about a pandemic that is accidentally unleashed during an archeological dig in Iraq and the lives of the handful of people who unwittingly unleashed it. Beneath the surface, I included a lot of the science of diseases as well as history and international relations because those are topics that I have a background in and find fascinating.
What do you read? What are your favourite books and who are your favourite authors? Normally, I read a ton across a spectrum of genres: contemporary fiction, suspense, thrillers, horror, science fiction and fantasy, biography, and history…you name it. My favorite authors are Patrick O’Brien, Mark Helprin, Stephen R Donaldson, and Anthony Beevor (if you aren’t familiar with all these, let it suffice to say they are all very different). Once I started writing in earnest, however, I found myself cutting way back. I learned that the style of whichever author I was into at the time had a way of creeping into my own writing, so now I only read fiction when I am not actively working on a book of my own.
How do you market your books? As an new and independent author, this has been the tricky part. I’ve been experimenting and trying to soak up lessons about what works and what does not. Amazon’s KDP and CreateSpace have some wonderful tools to help indie authors, but that initial battle for visibility is still an uphill climb. Thankfully, with the Internet all things are possible. Social media and kindly bloggers have helped, but of course the most important element is word of mouth. I’ve been fortunate that the book is well received and getting good reviews.
I also plan to make my third book the start of a series, and I believe that will help streamline the marketing process.
How do you get book reviews? Has this been successful? On a related note, this is probably the toughest part of marketing for a starting author. As we posted on our Facebook page, reviews are literally the sustenance for indie writers, particularly on Amazon. Sadly, the vast majority of readers will never leave reviews. It seems to be purely a numbers game…getting the book into the hands of enough readers that those occasional reviews eventually add up. I’m open to suggestions from anyone who has them.
Do you have any advice for someone starting out as a writer? Focus on quality. When I started researching how to market a book, I saw a lot of sites mention the importance of churning out as many books as you can. I personally think that’s the wrong focus. Yes, I see how it benefits one from the perspective of being able to make free offers and get multiple sales to readers who love your work. But for someone just starting out, without an established reader base, the focus should be on writing something that people are going to love. If readers don’t become loyal followers, it won’t matter how many books you write.
A related issue is overcoming the stigma that comes with indie publishing. A lot of people have a negative impression of the quality of “vanity novels” that have flooded Amazon in recent years. It is partly the natural consequence of self-publishing, which has overall been a godsend, but even publishing houses have allowed quality to deteriorate. In the current environment, it becomes that much more important to make your work stand out in quality. The more great books that are written, the more we all benefit.
Is there anything else you’d like to share? Thank you to Coreena for offering me this opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, bloggers are a really valuable ally to writers and readers alike.
I welcome feedback from any and all readers. It helps me to become a better writer. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Thank you Michael for being here and for your insights.
Michael Jason Brandt’s Bio:
I grew up in Western Maryland, which is the setting for most of my first novel. I received a business and programming degree from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, worked for a decade in business, then returned to school to study history and international relations. Along the way I’ve lived in Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Spain, and England. At the same time as I was completing my postgraduate degree at the London School of Economics, I was hit by a lengthy (two years) and debilitating spell of migraines which led me to start writing in order to stay productive.
I returned to Maryland to finish my novel, and there co-founded Casus Belli Books.
You can find Michael here:
You can find Plagued, With Guilt on Amazon. (Michael is currently offering the ebook for $0.99. It will likely go up to 4.99 in February.)