Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Joe: So tell us about HIT, the 40,000 word prequel to the Codename: Chandler series.

Ann:  Hit takes place before Exposed. Chandler is tasked with assassinating the CEO of a biotech company who is attempting to sell top secret technology to the highest bidder. Her biggest challenge is getting past the man's bodyguard, and when that bodyguard ends up being a sexy spy with skills comparable to hers, she realizes she has met her match.

Joe: The character of Heath (the sexy spy) also appears in Three (coming June 25). I love this guy, and think he's among the best you've ever created. Coming from a romance background (4 million books in print) what makes Heath both a good and an unlikely romantic hero?

Ann: Heath has a lot of attitude, humor, bravado, sex appeal, and he loves women. He's also an over-the-top romantic, a guy who is in love with love, and a champion for the downtrodden.

So how is he not the perfect romance hero?

Well he also happens to be an assassin with an adrenaline addiction. He adheres only to his own code. He lives for revenge and doesn't believe in trust. And even if you're the love of his life, if he is forced to kill you, he just might.

In other words, he's the perfect guy for Chandler.

Joe: Like the others in the series (Exposed, Flee, Spree, Three) does Hit also contain graphic sex?

Ann: Of course! To me, sex is a way to dramatize a character's inner conflicts. Instead of sittin' and thinkin' about their deepest desires and most devastating fears, a character is engaged in an action that strips away their defenses and shows them for who they really are. And of course what a person does shows who they are far more than anything they could possibly say or think.

Violent scenes can bring out the same type of true, uncensored character moments as sex, although for Chandler violence is a day at the office. The emotion surrounding sex is much more dangerous territory.

Joe: So I heard your co-writer, Konrath, only wrote about 5000 words of this, and you wrote 35,000, yet somehow he still get's 25% of the profits. How does that work?

Ann: Yeah, that Konrath is worthless, isn't he? ;D

You created the character of Chandler, and in the first book, you invited me on board to help flesh her out and make her human. From there, we've come up with storylines and backstories together, and we decided early on that we would share the profit of any Chandler story. But while the novels are 50/50 in work and profit, we decided that on projects where one person wrote the majority of the book, we would split the proceeds 75/25.

We've spent a lot of time writing the novels (some are rather long), but we're also working on other projects. This arrangement enables us to write more Chandler stories while also doing other things. So while Joe was writing Stirred with Blake Crouch, I wrote most of Exposed. And while he was writing Haunted House, I wrote most of Hit. Now he will be writing Naughty while I'm focusing on Cut Too Deep.

Joe: So does that mean, when I finish Naughty (the next short novel in the series) you get 25% even if you don't write a word?

Ann: Hell yes! Didn't you read my explanation above? But I'm sure I'll contribute a few words. I wouldn't want you to have all the fun.

Joe: This series can be read in any order, and it isn't necessary to read everything to enjoy any story by itself. But for the diehard fans who insist on chronology, we wrote it so Flee, Spree, and Three all take place in the same week, and Hit, Exposed, and Naughty take place prior to that trilogy.

If you're obsessive about this sort of thing, the order goes:

NAUGHTY (coming soon)

What makes this series different than other spy novels about assassins, say like that guy Barry Eisler I've heard about?

Ann: Barry who? ;)

I adore Barry's books. Barry strives for realism, and his books reflect that. Joe and I aim for a more over-the-top sort of spy story with realism taking a back seat. I like to describe the Chandler books as action movies in book form. They are meant to be thrilling, exciting, sexy, humorous, and above all, entertaining. An emotional rollercoaster of sexy spy craziness. But suspend your disbelief before entering her world, and put your tongue firmly in your cheek.

Joe: Are we going to see Chandler and Heath again?

Ann: Definitely. At the end of Three, the story is over, but only for now. Chandler has much ahead of her, and we hope to explore that in our next Codename: Chandler book, FREE.

As for Heath, this annoying buddy of mine keeps bugging me to write a book featuring him, so maybe I'll put some thought to that.

Joe: So when is the sequel to your bestseller Pushed Too Far coming out?

Ann: I'm working on Cut Too Deep right now. So look for it late this summer. Dead Too Soon will follow before Christmas. And how about your next Jack Daniels book, Joe?

Joe: I'm doing Last Call with Crouch, which will tie up the Jack Daniels/Luther Kite/Lucy & Donaldson arcs. Fans want it, and Blake and I have a fun idea for it, if I can pull him away from his Wayward Pines TV show and M. Night Shyamalan long enough...

Any regrets leaving Harlequin and going indie?

Ann: The fact that you can ask that question, Joe, proves that you haven't been reading your own blog. ;) Try this story.

To add to the 2012 numbers I revealed in the blog, Pushed Too Far has now made more in its first year of release than any of my traditionally published books have in up to thirteen years. And of course that's not my only self-published work.

Besides money, the other amazing thing about self-publishing is the sheer fun of writing stories exactly the way I want to write them. When I published with Harlequin, I was lucky to have editors who allowed me to push the boundaries a little bit, especially earlier in my career. Later things became more restrictive. That isn't a bad thing, necessarily. There are reader expectations to consider. But I felt I wanted to do more.

With Pushed Too Far, I originally planned to submit to the Big Five (formally Big Six), and that was the game plan I worked out with my agents. But the landscape of the publishing industry changed beneath me. And I happen to have this friend who had been examining these changes for a while. So I listened to him and chose not to submit Pushed Too Far to anyone. Instead I self-published.

Best decision I ever made.

Joe: Any advice for authors?

Ann: Sure.

First, focus on the quality. Always. Forever. All writers, no matter how long they've been writing, no matter how they've chosen to be published, need to focus on telling a good story, a story readers are willing to pay to read. That is not an easy thing to learn. As Alexandra Sokoloff said in the comments section of her recent guest post on this blog, if you're not in it for the long haul, you're probably not going to see a lot of success.
The marketing is easy compared to learning to give good story. Publishing in any form is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Second, look around you. The people who are going to help you most in your career are your friends.
In 2006 I attended a mystery conference called Bouchercon. I wrote romantic suspense, had never attended a mystery conference, but I picked this one since it was held in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin. I met a fellow author in the bar, and we got into a debate about the value of conferences over a few beers. He insisted that conferences were useful to authors because they allowed us to meet fans and sell books.

I like meeting fans and selling books, but maybe because of our gender difference, or maybe because I came from the romance world, I saw things a bit differently. To me, the biggest value of conferences (and to a lesser extent social media) was and is meeting friends. Sometimes those friends are readers. Most of the time they're other writers. Occasionally they are even publishing industry professionals. But regardless of specific walk of life, I can say without hesitation that my career, my creative life, and my personal sanity have benefited more from making friends than from anything else I've ever done.

So my biggest advice to new authors is to find friends. Those are the people who will help you grow as a writer, and you will help them. Friendship is deeper than networking, and it's different from mentorship. Friendship is about genuine connection, and the benefits of that connection flow both ways.

Joe: Nicely put. I met you, Blake, and Barry at conferences, and have worked with you and them on many occasions. Not only have I made money with you guys, but I've learned with you as the industry changed, and I've been able to up my game as a result.

Collaboration is a wonderful way to become a better writer, double your fanbase, and increase your output (which increases your virtual shelf space.) And with the right partner, it's also a lot of fun.

Now everyone go and buy Hit. It's loaded with violence and explicit sex, and it's only $2.99.


Jude Hardin said...

Nice post, you guys. Hope it's a big HIT for you!

G. M. Frazier said...

Why is the barrel of the AK-74 (and yes, it's an AK-74) upside down on the cover?

JA Konrath said...

Why is the barrel of the AK-74 (and yes, it's an AK-74) upside down on the cover?

It looks fine when I'm standing on my head...

Fail. I'll fix it. Thx.

JA Konrath said...

Fixed. The magic of Photoshop.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I forgot to mention that the guy I was talking to at Bouchercon about the value of conferences? The one who disagreed with me? That was Joe. :)

Cristian said...

Yay !!! Just bought it ! pre-oredered 'Three' back in December so looking forward to that. In the mean time, this HIT should keep me going. I'm a huge fan of the series guys, congrats to both of you on a fabulous collaboration. btw, also really good to hear Joe ad Blake are going to give us another book in the whole psychopath universe of Luther Kyte, et al...that was my introduction in the whole indie publishing / Kindle world, where I first found Joe and Blake, etc. I'm now also a fan of AVP and can't wait for her next offering also. Cheers. Cristian (from Oz)

Anonymous said...

Who did the cover for this book? I really like it. Thank you.

Jude Hardin said...

Everyone should hurry up and buy HIT from Amazon while the rifle's still upside down, as those copies are sure to become collector's items. :)

Alan Spade said...

Both of you are right, encounters are what make us grow. Even virtual ones. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the cover. Congrats on the release.

Julie Kramer said...

I could hear your voices as I read this blog. Great dialogue.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Awesome. I love to hear the success stories. Interested in your take on the new Amazon deal for those who write in other writers' worlds.

Anonymous said...

The female model on the cover looks the same for the Chandler books.

Did you buy a series of covers with the same girl on them? Or do you have whoever makes the cover just look for a model who looks similar?

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe.

I notices you called the new book a "short novel", you explained in an earlier blog entry that you use the term "short novel" because:
1.) Novels sell better than short stories.
2.) And labeling a book as a "novella" for some reason doesn't produce better sales. Probably because some readers may be unfamilliar with the term.

So now my questions: What are your cut off word counts between "novel", "short novel", and "short story"? And your pricing structure for each?

Merrill Heath said...

With a character named Heath, this book has gotta be good.

BTW, the preview feature isn't working.

Jude Hardin said...

Shot you an email yesterday, Joe. Let me know. Thanks!

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Or do you have whoever makes the cover just look for a model who looks similar?"

This. Carl Graves does the covers for us (to answer the other anonymous's question). These models all look like Chandler.

Extra thanks to G.M. Frazier. Not sure how we missed that. Big duh.

Merrill, I think it takes a while for the preview feature to kick in on Amazon. This book just went up, so that should straighten itself out as the book integrates into the system.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"What are your cut off word counts between "novel", "short novel", and "short story"? And your pricing structure for each?"

I operate under the old print system (because I learned these definitions back when print was the only game around). But other people and organizations define these things differently.

Short stories were published in magazines, therefore they were actually short. Like anything under 5k or so. There's a lot of leeway there now, though. However at about 10k I personally think the piece is a novella.

Novella means short novel, but the range is so big that it helps to call the ones in the upper range short novels. Exposed is 35k. Hit is 40k. RWA's definition for novel starts at 40k. In my mind, anything over 50 is probably a full length novel, but others like a higher threshold.

Pricing varies depending on what you want to accomplish. The best thing to do is ask yourself what prices work best for you as a reader. How does price impact your purchase decisions? What assumptions do you have that are tied to price?

Mark Coker has a survey he has presented at conferences suggesting the 3.99 price point works best for novels. That doesn't mean it will be best for your novel.

Maybe you want to lower the price of the first in a series in order to entice readers to try it. Maybe you want to make it free. Maybe you want the price to be higher, and that works better for your book. You have to weigh your options and experiment.

I like 99 cents for a short story, 2.99 for a short novel, and somewhere around 4 to 5 dollars for a novel. That doesn't mean I won't try different prices and see what happens. That doesn't mean I won't change my mind.

A big part of the advantage of self publishing is that we have choices.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

More thoughts on choices:

The beauty of indie publishing is that we can decide these things and experiment. Not just in pricing but in content. Authors have both business and creative freedom that we've never had before.

Joe and I had a debate about whether Hit was a romance or not. It isn't. It has some romantic elements, but it doesn't follow the conventions of the genre at all. The genre conventions it does follow are those of the thriller genre. So it is listed as a thriller.

But you know what? As self published authors, we can play with genre conventions. We can find new and different ways to tell new and different stories. That is incredibly freeing creatively, and it's one of the things I most love about self publishing.

Mary Stella said...

Going over to download the book now.

Ann, please write bacon dipped in chocolate into a scene. It's a conference thing.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Shoot! I forgot bacon dipped in chocolate! It will be in the next book. :)

G. M. Frazier said...

Joe and I had a debate about whether Hit was a romance or not. It isn't. It has some romantic elements, but it doesn't follow the conventions of the genre at all.

For those of us who don't read romance novels, what are the conventions of the romance genre?

JA Konrath said...

For those of us who don't read romance novels, what are the conventions of the romance genre?

According to Harlequin rules, the hero has to get the girl at the end.

Also, depending on the imprint, no sex before love (or so I've heard.)

Hit qualifies as a prequel to THREE, so taken as a whole, I think the two books could be considered romance. But romance doesn't usually have martial arts, torture, over-the-top action, a bunch of psychotic assassins, and a plot to kill the President.

That said, I think the Heath/Chandler relationship meets most criteria for romantic suspense. But I don't write romance, so I may be totally off base.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"For those of us who don't read romance novels, what are the conventions of the romance genre?"

The hero and heroine have to be together in the end (just as a mystery has to be solved in a whodunit or the threat has to be stopped in a thriller). A romance is the story of two people getting together, so if they don't get together, it's not a romance. However they don't have to marry or even say I love you, just be together.

There can be sex before love, Joe (and how) unless you're talking about sweet romances (no sex before marriage). What there generally can't be in nearly all romance is infidelity. Once the hero and heroine are in love, messing around with someone else is generally frowned upon.

The conventions aren't defined by Harlequin. Harlequin has many more criteria than this, because each of their series lines target certain niches within the romance genre. Sometimes they can get pretty restrictive, depending on the line or what feedback they've gotten from readers.

Kathy said...

What is the best way to work out a collaboration agreement?

Diana Baron said...

I clicked on the book cover at the top of the post but it didn't redirect to Amazon. Not sure if that was intentional or not. I'm used to being about to click on a cover to get to the buy page.

Unknown said...

Ann, I'm always curious when traditionally published authors (turned indie) state, as you have, that the landscape of publishing has become too restrictive. Could you go into more detail, because I really need to know that I'm not the only one who feels as though traditional publishing is really battening down the hatches as far as what it's willing to accept from new authors.

Ann Voss Peterson said...


I've heard similar things, but I wasn't a new author when I left, so I can't -personally- verify that it's more restrictive for new authors.

However in my experience, the more print runs drop(in the case of Harlequin's series lines these are usually not author specific but line specific) and the more pressure a publisher is under to keep making more profit, the more likely it is that they feel the need to micro manage content. And that did happen to me.

But beyond that, I changed as well. I wrote 25 series romantic suspense novels for Intrigue, and it has been great to get the opportunity to explore some different stories.

Part of the beauty of indie publishing is that you don't have silly restrictions. You can tell your story the way you feel you can best tell it. Indie publishing has been worlds better for me in terms of money and in terms of creativity.

The Fatsnacker said...



'Maybe I could make due with a knife strapped...'

spelling mistake with word 'due'.

Unknown said...


I shot you a more personal email about this, but I thought I would just put it out here as well.

My own personal experience (as a writer) has led me to believe that any writer who is talented, experienced and industry-savvy should indeed self-publish rather than put him or herself through the rigors of traditional publishing. There is so much magnificent talent emerging from the indie writer pool. It's truly amazing how cream rises to the top.


As a reader, I find myself veering away from traditionally published books in my preferred genre, opting instead to take a chance on the indie writer, even if he or she is unknown. Sure, there's still some dreck to sift through, but it's becoming increasingly rare that I purchase a "DNF" ebook that's completely unreadable.

Anonymous said...

"Lelaina Landis said...

...rather than put him or herself through the rigors of traditional publishing."

A lot of the generally accepted "rules" for writing were made by publishers who wanted to save costs by saving paper.

Such as leaving out unecessary descriptions. While you certainly can go overboard, some mundane descriptions are useful in that it makes the prose flow more naturally by emulating the way the average person thinks or speaks. Cutting things out just for the sake of word economy (to save paper) makes the prose sound stilted, disjointed, contrived, and worst of all--VERY UNNATURAL.

Some of the old "rules" of writing are arcahic and were formed during a time when saving costs through saving paper was an accepted way of doing business in the publishing industry.

E-books in digital format remove the saving paper constraint.

I say this so that fellow writers can reevaluate what "good writing" really means, and leave the brainwashing they received from industry dinosaurs behind.

Unknown said...


You make some good points.

I have worked in "the industry" (literary; print; budget constraints), and selecting stories suitable for publication of our journal did indeed entail looking at those that used an economy of words. Sometimes our editorial team had to pass over a lot of really good stuff ...

What I'm noticing as I read self-published novels is that a lot of the big "honey don'ts" industry professionals advise against are astonishingly popular with readers. I'm in the middle of reading a novel with more backstory that one typically sees right at the beginning of the first chapter. This is supposed to be a big "no," but readers love this book, given the reviews I have read thus far. That in itself is extremely telling, don't you think?

So authors can write "to formula" *while* adding their own unique style. It is indeed possible -- so say they all. :)

Unknown said...

While you certainly can go overboard, some mundane descriptions are useful in that it makes the prose flow more naturally by emulating the way the average person thinks or speaks.

I can't even tell you how much I disagree with your entire comment. With so many forms of entertainment competing for everyone's attention these days, economy of language is more important than ever. Long descriptive passages invite skimming. Rambling sentences bloated with adjectives and adverbs are boring and confusing. Bad writing is bad writing, whether it's on paper or a digital device.

Anonymous said...

"Jude Hardin said...

I can't even tell you how much I disagree with your entire comment.
...economy of language is more important than ever. Long descriptive passages invite skimming."

Tell that to Isaac Asimov or J.R.R. Tolkien.

They were trad published authors. but they were good enough that they could break the "rules" that applied to newbie writers.

Unknown said...

I would say the The Elements of Style had way more to do with the way we've approach writing and editing in the past half century than any sort of "saving costs through saving paper."

Of course there will always be exceptions, books that become immensely popular even though they would be considered bloated messes by any decent editor's standards. Stephen King's The Tommyknockers comes to mind, and I say this as a huge fan of his. It would have been a much better book if a third of it had been chopped and tossed.

Anonymous said...

"Jude Hardin said...

Of course there will always be exceptions, books that become immensely popular even though they would be considered bloated messes by any decent editor's standards."

Yes, of course.

Because the "masses" can't be trusted to like "good writing".

How dare those commoners pretend that they have "good taste".

Mark Twain would approve. He of course never gave unecessary descriptions.