Roger Johns interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Oct 21, 2017 2:56:23 PM
Roger Johns interview with David Alan Binder
Links to my website, blog, Amazon Author Page, and Twitter:
Brief author bio:
Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, with law degrees from LSU and Boston University. Before, during, and after those endeavors, and before turning to mystery writing, he also worked as a script reader, drapery hanger, waiter, bookseller, tuxedo rental clerk, ranch hand, television-commercial agent's assistant, and party photographer--among other things. His debut novel--Dark River Rising--was released in August 2017, by St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books. Roger grew up in Louisiana. He and his wife now live in Georgia.
1. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Set your goals for your writing career, clearly, from the beginning and structure you efforts to reach those goals. Recognize that your plan may have to change along the way, to account for obstacles or turns of good fortune, and be flexible enough to make those changes. Become involved with your local writing community, and be willing to give more than you receive. Write every day. Never give up. Bring as much creativity to achieving your writing goals as you do to your writing.
2. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Most writers I’ve come into contact with seem to dread the editing and rewriting process. Oddly, that’s my favorite part of the process.
3. Tell us about your experience with your publisher?
My publisher is St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, in New York. Working with St. Martin’s has been an amazing experience. Every step of the way, from initial contact with the editor who eventually acquired my book “DARK RIVER RISING” to the negotiation of the contract, through every step of the editing process, the solicitation of blurbs from established authors, the creation of the cover art, and the publication and marketing of the book has been interesting, educational, and a great deal of fun. I can’t imagine a smoother, more professional process.
4. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
Dark River Rising is my first novel, and it is being traditionally published, so I have no experience as a self-publisher. My goal, from the outset was to be traditionally published, and I am extremely happy to be with St. Martin’s. The book is published in both hardcover an e-book formats, and while I’m able to see a bit about how well the book is doing on Amazon, I don’t have any information on how the e-book is doing relative to the hardcover. Because the book has been out only about six weeks, it’s too early to have that data. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that creating the book is just the first step in the process. After that comes marketing and promotion. Even with a traditional publisher, the expectation is that today’s authors will be actively and continuously involved with marketing and promotion. For a self-published author, the full marketing and promotional effort is in the hands of the author and people the author hires. This is something every author needs to be prepared to handle. It is a skill different from writing, and it can be quite a challenge if it’s not something you’ve done before. Such was the case with me. However, I have to say that I’ve enjoyed delving into this aspect of the business. As much as I like the creative part of writing, the opportunity to connect with booksellers and readers has been enormously satisfying.
5. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
This goes back to my answer to the question above, about important things I’ve learned along the way: Make sure you’re absolutely clear on what your goal is. Because my goal was to be traditionally published, I forced myself to recognize that traditional publishers publish only one kind of book, one that can be sold for a profit. And the only books that make a profit are those that meet the commercial standards of the marketplace. As a first time, unpublished writer one must understand that traditional publishers know more about the standards of the book selling/buying marketplace than you do, so if you want them to publish your book you have to be willing to do your part to make sure it meets those standards. That means you must learn to accept criticism from those who know what they’re doing. Set your ego aside, put your cooperative-soul hat on, and understand that you will need to make sacrifices to get your manuscript up to commercial standards.
6. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I met my agent at the New York Pitch Fest, although she became my agent after I was offered a contract for my book. An editor who did a 20-page manuscript critique for me at an Atlanta Writers Conference asked to see the whole manuscript, then eventually made an offer on the book. I was able to use that offer to engage the agent I had met at the pitch fest a few weeks earlier. This is backwards from the usual order of events, where an author first finds an agent, then the agent shops the book to a publisher, and eventually a sale is made. But I do a lot of things in reverse order. Sometimes that’s just the way it happens, so one has to be open to an unconventional pathway. If you want to publish with a major publisher, you will almost certainly need an agent. Lots of smaller publishers, however, will accept unagented manuscripts. Just be careful about contracts. I’m a lawyer with lots of commercial law experience, but publishing contracts are different from other types of contracts, so even if I had gone with a smaller press, I would have had the contract reviewed and explained to me by someone knowledgeable in such matters. As to how to get an agent, I don’t have anything terribly interesting or new to offer here. Just be persistent, learn to pitch your book, don’t let setbacks stop you; make sure you’re pitching to agents who are looking for the kind of book your hoping to sell.
7. Do you have any suggestions or help for new writers (please be as specific and informative as possible)?
Join a critique group, preferably one with members who are farther down the path than you are. Learn to distinguish good advice from bad. If the group you join isn’t helping, find another group. If the group isn’t actually critiquing your work, find another group. Once you’re with a group too long, you will probably become friends with the members of the group and this may compromise their ability to provide honest critique. If this happens, you know what to do find another group.
8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
Writing a book-length manuscript can be a messy process. I’m a generally precise, thoroughly-organized person, so dealing with the chaotic process of crafting a story took some getting used to. I’m still getting used to it.
10. How many books have you written?
My first book is available now, wherever books are sold. My second book, the second in the series, is in the editing process now.
10. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and informative as you possibly can)?
Read a lot â€“ books of the type you want to write, as well as those you don’t â€“ so you can see what has been successful and learn from those writers. And, at the risk of becoming tediously repetitive, learn to take criticism, and don’t let your ego get in the way.
11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
I write mysteries and I like to create twists by providing ambiguous information â€“ information that can credibly support more than one perspective â€“ then use context to nudge the reader to adopt one perspective, while setting the protagonist up to later adopt a different perspective on the information, one which will allow the protagonist to see it for what it really means.
12.What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
A strong female protagonist, a south-Louisiana setting, a villain who is motivated by something no one saw coming. And, while the story involves a lot of danger for the protagonist and while there are dark parts in the story, there are also a lot of light-hearted, uplifting, and even tender moments.
13. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
Facebook, Twitter, my own blog, my newsletter, guest blog spots, author appearances at bookstores, libraries, literary festivals, and book readings, and interviews.
14. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I would become involved with my local writing community from the outset. Things did not â€˜begin to happen’ for me until I became involved with my community and learned to use the resources available. There’s just too much to learn and too much that you don’t know that you don’t know to try to navigate the publishing world on your own.
15. What saying or mantra do you live by?
Book publishing is a business, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing, and you have to run your writing life in a business-like manner.
16. Anything else you would like to say?
Thank you for having me on your blog and for allowing me to share my experience and my thoughts with your readers.