Welcome to a special interview with the self-published author Mike Wells, a multi-genre writer whose books are consistently rated four stars and above by readers, publishing what he calls “unputdownable” stories. Wells’s focus has been on pushing his content to a cheaper, more readily available media format, and as such he is an advocate for eBooks in today’s market. I previously reviewed several installments of Lust, Money & Murder on my blog and found them to be fast-paced thrillers packed with action and drama.
Now that you know a little about Mike Wells, let’s see what he’s working on, as well as his thoughts about his work, trends, and new media.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m focused on the next trilogy in my Lust, Money & Murder series—Books 7, 8 and 9. This story has snowballed and taken directions I never could have predicted back when I wrote the first trilogy five years ago. My latest experiment was to post the newest book I was working on, the sixth, serially on my blog, as a free read for anyone who was interested and was willing to join my VIP Reader List. This advance review copy proved to be quite a success, with around 1,000 people reading it by the end, and I plan on doing this with all my future books. It has a lot of advantages for both me and my readers—they give feedback as I go, catch typos and continuity errors—but at the same time it gets the book into their hands a few months faster. Of course I will also publish the books the usual way when the serialization is complete, for those who don’t care for that approach or would simply rather download the whole thing at once.
What was your favorite piece to write?
I don’t really have favorite pieces, any more than a parent could have favorite children. If any part of a book is not fun to write, I simply don’t write it, or stop writing it and delete that part. If it is no fun for me, or feels laborious or like a struggle, then it will probably feel that way to readers, too. There is no place for this in any book if you are trying to produce gripping, “unputdownable” fiction.
You have quite a few books and series. If someone hasn’t read your work before, where do you think should they start?
Probably you should start with Lust, Money & Murder, simply because Book 1 is free. This is my most popular series, and if you like it, there are more books in that series to enjoy than in any of the others.
You offer free advice on your website to help other writers. I do know other writers who are willing to help each other out, but usually it’s strictly people they work with—This way they know when they’ve made an impact or can better control the flow of information. You’re a different case, giving away bits of information you’ve had to work for from the bottom up. What makes you want to share?
Well, I think what you may be getting at is why I don’t not want to share or hold my cards close to my chest. I have been a creative writing teacher for a long time, and what I’ve found is that the vast majority of people don’t ever do anything with this sort of information anyway, no matter how good it is, and the few who are going to do something with it figure it out anyway, so why not help them along? Besides, writing down what I know to share it with others clarifies the principles in my mind and helps me, too.
What made you decide to self-publish, and how did you go about doing it?
Hard to say exactly where the publishing industry is heading. The advent of eBooks and the ability to self publish, digitally, for free has certainly shaken up the apple cart. I decided to self-publish simply because I am a control freak and highly opinionated about how things should be. I did go the traditional publishing route and burned through four different NYC and London agents but was never able to make a deal, which was as much my problem as theirs. But what I finally learned is that most publishers don’t know anymore than I—or you or anybody—does about which books will become successful and which won’t. There’s a huge luck factor involved. To put it another way, I believe I know what’s best for me, what readers want, what will sell in the market, what a “good” book consists of, and I don’t have the time or patience to try to convince other people of that, especially when their track record shows that 70% of their debut novels flop. What’s the point of dealing with them now, anyway, when the gates have been torn down and you can reach readers easily and develop your readership yourself? What you give up, of course, is having the blessing of the Establishment, having them sprinkle their holy water over you and say, “This writer is a REAL author.” Such validation matters to a lot of people, and it matters a little bit to me, but not that much. What makes up for it is having direct contact with thousands of readers who love my books, can’t wait to get their hands on the next one, and have no problem pulling out their pocketbook and paying for them. It’s incredibly satisfying. By self-publishing, I don’t have to convince anyone of anything, I just quietly do my thing.
Do you have any advice for people looking to self-publish?
Good question. First, from square one, if your intent is to make money from your writing, I believe it’s important to think of your self-publishing as a business, if. Of course, some people who self publish are just interested in sharing their work with others, and it doesn’t really matter if they spend more than they make—For them, it’s kind of like a hobby, such as owning and showing horses. Nothing wrong with that. But if your goal is to make money and perhaps earn enough to write full time, I think you have to become an “authorpreneur.” You will be responsible for every aspect of your book, from the cover design to the jacket copy, to the pricing and promotion, and you better be ready to learn to market and sell, too. The latter is the aspect that many writers loathe or outright refuse to have anything to do with. If that’s the way you feel about it, by all means, do not self-publish, go the traditional route and let someone else worry with the details. If you want to sell your self-published books, believe me, you are going to have to market like there is no tomorrow. Nobody needs your novel—you have to convince them to buy it, and the competition in the fiction market is fierce and increasing all the time.
There are no rules about tools, because what you do yourself and what you outsource or barter for depends on your experience and interests. For example, I design all my own book covers but I have an artistic background and a little prior experience with graphic design. The most important advice I can give you is to conserve cash. Most new authors grossly underestimate the difficulty of selling their work and forget that every penny they spend on editing, proofreading, creating their book covers, websites, video trailers, etc. must be made back if you intend to make money at it. This is much easier said than done.
One final point. It’s my observation that most authors self publish far too early, before they have honed their craft and know how to write a great novel. Writing high quality fiction is not easy. All the fancy cover illustrations and video trailers and websites and social media marketing are not going to help a bad book. And most first and even second and third books are pretty bad—mine were; I admit it. But when I actually self-published, though, I had been writing novels for twenty years and had the advantage of lots of interaction with editors and agents, and at least I learned how to write a good enough book for that group of readers to take seriously. So, my advice is that before you self-publish, either: 1) Go down the traditional publishing route until you are a good enough writer to at least get a top literary agent to sign you up for representation (this is far from a guarantee of a book deal, remember—they will probably not be able to sell it), or 2) Post your book(s) on free fiction websites like Wattpad and fine tune your writing until you start building a following of loyal readers. I think success along either one of these paths will ensure that you are not self-publishing prematurely.
I noticed you have reached the maximum friend limit on Goodreads—That’s quite amazing! Do you find it’s a great way to connect with readers and other authors?
I think Goodreads is an excellent platform for readers and authors alike. I am not crazy about the user interface; think it’s kind of hard to navigate, at least for authors. Also the fact that there are often several pages created for the same book because anyone can upload anyone else’s book is kind of annoying. But those are small things, and overall, I think Goodreads is a great resource and an easy way to connect with reader and writers. I do a lot of posting there.
Which of your books or series has been downloaded the most, and what do you think makes it so successful?
Again, that would be the Lust, Money & Murder series, but it’s hard to say whether that series actually has wider appeal than any of my others. This is because Book 1 is kind of my “greeting card”, a book (eBook) that I give free to every new reader I encounter on social media. If I had been doing the same with, say, Book 1 of Passion, Power & Sin, that series might be just as popular or even more popular. It’s hard to disentangle the marketing effort behind a book from its inherent appeal.
Do you enjoy going to seminars, classes, or conventions?
I used to do some of that and I think it’s great, especially when you are on the steep part of the learning curve with writing and publishing. I don’t do much of it now simply because I don’t have the time to do it and don’t need it as much. I prefer to be a speaker now, rather than a member of the audience, even though it is a lot more work. The same holds true for books on writing—I highly recommend them to new authors.
In closing, is there anything you’d like to tell everyone?
First I would like to thank you for interviewing me on your blog, I really appreciate it and you asked some interesting questions, not the usual interview fare. And as always, a huge thank you to all my readers for your continued support.