Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guest Post by bestselling author, J. Carson Black. (Update)

I did a post with J. some time back and I wanted to do an update. She has been on fire and yesterday she was #1 on the Amazon Bestseller list for Kindle with her novel, "The Shop". She is a great lady and so without much more from me, here is the interview.

P.S. Here is her author page on Facebook, she has a cool app you should check out: HERE

J. Carson Black:

1. So, we all want to know and I could ask after some small talk, but what is the fun in that? What is with T&M? We want details, juicy and the behind the scenes!
How do I feel about T & M? What’s not to love? I kiss the hem of their garments.

They have been with me every step of the way, and involved me in everything. Maybe it’s because they’re new. But here’s an innovative idea: they actually listen to the author who wrote the book! For the first time in my writing life, I’m not at the bottom of the food chain.

They are responsive, organized, smart, and generous. They’d make a great husband. Here’s an example. My editor asked me to send ideas about the cover of my book, ICON. I went looking on Amazon at “Thrillers”, and saw the book cover/movie poster for ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovich. And it hit me—hard—that when you’re talking about a man who is an icon, you have to put him on the cover. I could see it. I described him walking toward the camera on a desert road (a scene in the book) and he’s got to be both handsome and dirty. T-shirt, jeans, desert boots. And mad. Mad as hell. It’s got to come off him like testosterone. He’s holding a gun and he’s had enough. So they did that. And then they made it “one louder.” They made the words “ICON” huge! It looks like a movie poster.

T & M gave me a five-mile-long questionnaire, even asking me to describe my ideal reader (which I did, right down to the capri pants—middle-aged women love thrillers, they love Coben, Crais, Koontz, Child and Connelly. Which means they love the “k” sound, too). T & M asked me about my style and vernacular, so the copy editor wouldn’t try to change it.

They included me on everything, including the jacket copy and copy-editing and page proofs--a completely different experience than I’d had with a traditional publisher.

And, since they own the company, they know how to push the book.

They have been generous with me, too. We have the coolest app called Odyl on my J Carson Black author page. This allows me to incorporate a website Glenn and I built together called http://www.whokilledbriennecross. It’s the pre-story, of sorts, to the murders in the Aspen house at the beginning of the book. We can do giveaways, polls, quizzes, and provide additional “exclusive content” for the reader.

2. The Shop is making waves, again. How do you feel about the future of your books?

Honestly? I have no idea. I believe they’ll be a steady stream of income. But how much that will be? I don’t know. It’s a bit unpredictable. I’m feeling my way along like everybody else. I listen to people who have put in the time and learn from them. Vin taught me to raise the prices when the books started to go on. Smart stuff like that.

I think we’re all learning as we go.

3. Are you planning on doing some of your own books or will you do them all with T&M?

I kept my Laura Cardinal series, and plan to write a fourth when I get some time. I have one more book with T & M, tentatively titled THE SURVIVORS CLUB. I also have kept a bunch of books that were previously published to little or no acclaim, and I like them, although they won’t be burning down any barns. They’re a source of steady income. I plan to put up my two historicals next—I’m very proud of them. I think it’s good to have your own books, books you can always depend on to keep you going. I’d love to sell more books to T & M, but I think it’s good to diversify.

4. Can I publish one of your books? Hey, I had to ask!

Who knows? I may come crawling to you, and it might not even be too long from now. You’ve done a great job with your authors, that’s for sure.

5. Amazon, B&N, bookstores, what do you see in three years, is the future bright or dull?

I think Barnes & Noble is already stepping away from the Nook – as I recall, they are outsourcing that part of the business. Amazon is a monster, and right now it’s bigfooting everyone in sight. But Kobo may be the wave of the future—or not. I think it’s good to keep your ear to the ground and be flexible and willing to make judgments on the fly—and hope they’re for the best. Like this KDP Select thing. Is it good for the author or not? The jury is out. What might be great for us now could kill us later. I’m hoping that independent and specialty bookstores will start coming back. I’m seeing some growth there. For instance, Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego just added a second store. And other bookstores are opening across the country as well. I read a news report that even Amazon’s opening a bookstore.

6. Freestyle, tell me something we may not know?

You probably already know this, but there are few overnight successes, even in this ebook craze. There are people who have been working on their careers for 20, 30 years. They may have been traditionally published, but some of them never had a publisher; they kept submitting and maybe they only came close. But one thing the majority of these folks have in common is mileage. They’ve put a lot of miles on their writing craft. They’ve developed themselves as writers whether they’ve actually sold books are not. (Selling books in NY is a crapshoot, and has been for some time.) Writing isn’t a static thing. You get better, but you also get worse. Sometimes you have to hit the dip before you start improving. Taking chances can really foul you up, but it can also make you better. And perhaps that actually hurts some writers, because the audience for ebooks is massive but somewhat amorphous. You can sell a lot of books, but a goodly number of those books may go to people who don’t like the kind of stuff you write. It’s great to get a huge audience, but it’s even better to reach a targeted audience who will get what they want. I try to aim my books toward the crime-fiction and thriller kind of crowd, and make “a concerted effort”, for lack of a better term, to brand my books with the covers and product descriptions. Tastes are different. The greatest urban fantasy book in the world will probably never reach me, because that’s just not my taste. Same for sci-fi. So I try to dance with them that brung me.

7. What is one thing you would say to a new writer and one thing you would say to a guy like James Patterson or Stephen King?

To a new writer I would say, find your bliss in the kinds of books you want to write, and study the best. Learn from them. Their lessons are there for anybody—all you have to do is open their books and open your mind.

I’d say to Stephen King, “Good on ya!” In my opinion, his latest book, 11/22/63, (based on the few books I managed to read this year) is the best damn book of the year. In that book, he taught me that I need to reward the reader more. It’s all about the internals of a book. He brings things full circle several times in that story-- puts the periods to the sentences--and that satisfies a reader and makes him smile. They’re gifts, pure and simple. Readers are smart, and they like to feel smart.

To James Patterson, I’d say, “congratulations on your franchise.”

8. With new stuff coming out and the potential for some green, cash, money! What is one thing you might buy or do that is kind of a splurge?

Oh, shoot. I don’t know. I would like to be a partner in a racehorse. But then if anything happened to the racehorse, I’d be a basket case.

I’d like to take a small ship tour into the Sea of Cortez. Yeah. I’d like that.

9. Biggest fear?

Being broke again. Or getting sick. One of the two. Or both at once. Ick.

10. Funniest thing that ever happened at a book signing?

I signed my first book, DARKSCOPE, at a B. Dalton in the local mall. I got my Masters Degree in vocal performance (opera singing) and the ladies of the local Opera Guild helped me out in a number of ways. I was young and thoughtless then. To be honest, they all kind of blurred together, lovely people though they were. And the signing was about five years later. So one of these ladies came up to me and I thought I knew her name, and I said, “Rita! How good to see you!” and hugged her. I signed the book to Rita and she left, smiling. (I think she was smiling.) Ten minutes later, the real Rita showed up. I’d gotten them mixed up. I still can’t believe the non-Rita let me sign the book to “Rita”. Now that’s polite!

Thanks for everything!

J. Carson Black

Author Aaron Patterson: Blog: The Worst Book Ever.


  1. That Rita story was hilarious. When I was a young journalist, I interviewed a politician and called him by his opponent's name. So not cool. Needless to say, I quit journalism after that.

  2. Thanks, David. Aaron asks great questions. PJ, the worst thing for me is memorizing names. They always go right over my head. I have to ask again. Lame. It's so much easier when you see a name in print. That's funny about the politician. Can you imagine calling Mitt Newt, or vice versa?

  3. What a fun interview. I'm glad to hear that Thomas & Mercer are treating you well. Awesome Rita story. Nicely done!

  4. Thanks, Laura. I am amazed at Thomas & Mercer's way of doing things. They just seem to bring a new and unique energy to the business. It's a different way of doing things, where the algorithm is king. But there's a lot of enthusiasm and willingness to listen there. Not to say I didn't have good experiences with the other publishers--but it was a lot more autocratic. Except for the editors, who were wonderful.

  5. Wow, Jake, you make it sound so much fun... I'm so thrilled at your success and so glad that T&M are doing well by you. That ICON cover is AWESOME! I want to meet that guy!! (Ssshhh... don't mention it to my husband -- we'll keep it just between us.)

    And I love your opera-singer story. Well, I'm a mezzo, so easier to remember than all of those sopranos! We ought to get together and sing sometime... do you do the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffmann? A fun duet...

    Thanks for sharing so much of what works for you. We're all learning.

    1. I'd have to scrape the rust off my vocal chords to sing anything. How about The Letter Duet (Sul Aria ?) from The Marriage of Figaro? At this point, I'd be better singing the Countess's part--lower! And with a mezzo, that would be a race to the bottom!

      We have so much in common--singing, best selling books, and we're both poltical animals. What's not to like?

  6. Jake, you've paid your dues and now you're reaping the rewards. And rightly so. I've watched you climb the mountain, slipping a time or two, extending a hand to someone behind you, fighting the uncertainties, until you made it to the top. Stand tall, fling back your arms and shout out to the world, "I made it!"

    With that out of the way, quit that addictive number watching and get back to work! Your good buddy, Chill.

    1. I agreed with everything except the last little bit. I'm sitting out on a chaise in the sunshine, thinking about my new book to be (kind of) and flipping through Esquire and King's ON WRITING. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

  7. I agree Mag, I am kissing the hems of all T&M garments entirely...What a huge difference they are making ...

    1. Don't know how I got such a nice, soft landing, Vin. But I'll take it!

  8. Great interview, Jake! It's been fun to track you over the - what? - last 25 years or so. Your hard work, belief in yourself and never, ever giving up have been an inpisration to us all. You rock! Zeke

  9. Love your interviews. You make me smile, then rethink something. Congratulations on your success with The Shop.

    1. Thanks, Zeke - and thanks for the mileposts between Jerome and Prescott! We both rock. Just at different times!

      And LJ - what can I say? A fabulous writer and your books will stick with folks for years to come.