Saturday, June 29, 2013

Guest Post by Mike Dennis

Joe sez: If you've missed the last few guest blogs, they are worth reading and the comments are still open:

You can read Dakota Madison talking about finding success as a romance writer here:

You can read CG Cooper talking about his Rule of Three here:

You can read Todd Travis talking about fear here:

You can read Patrick Balester talking about how he learned to love e-publishing here:

You can readt Shantnu Tiwari talking about publishing cliches here:

So here's today's guest blogger, Mike Dennis...

First and foremost, I want to thank Tess Gerritsen for donating her considerable efforts toward this drive to eliminate Alzheimer's. That disease took my Mother a few years ago, and I want it eradicated. I feel a cure is near, and maybe Tess' campaign can put us over the finish line.

Then, I want to thank Joe for generously donating space on his widely-read blog. There's no way I could ever get this kind of exposure on my own blog.

For those of you who don't know me, which I'm sure is nearly all of you, I'm a crime/noir fiction writer living in the island city of Key West. With the exception of the years 2006-10, when I lived in Las Vegas, I've made my home here in Key West since 1991.

It was during those years that I came up with the notion of Key West as a great noir city, along the lines of Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Miami. It took me a few years of living here to realize it, to peel back the veneer of tourism and sunshine, but when I finally did, I saw a small town where everybody knows your business, including things you'd rather they didn't know.

I envisioned a series of novels (Key West Nocturnes, I eventually called it), each with a different central character, one who is no stranger to crime. Each book would of course be set in Key West, and some of the locales and secondary characters would recur throughout the series, but each book could be viewed as a standalone. The events in one book might be alluded to in another, but there is no principal story arc threading the series. The series instead pulls the reader deep into the shadows and alleys of this town, behind the margaritas and out of the sun, where the tourists never go.

As in most noir fiction, my central characters are driven by the urge to escape, whether it's from their past, from squalid surroundings, from pursuing lawmen, or from personal failure. This frequently opens them up to betrayal and deception, and some may face a narrow range of options. Deep in the collective American psyche is the drive for freedom, for independence, to be left alone, but not at the price of loneliness. These urges find their fullest expression in Key West, the little town at the end of the road, where everyone is welcome, regardless of his/her past, and where anything goes. It's where anyone can become anonymous. This is where the road story ends.

And where my Key West Nocturnes series begins.

The first novel in the series is Setup On Front Street, a tale of a native Key Wester (or "Conch", as they're called) returning home after serving three years in a Nevada prison on a diamond swindle. He comes back to collect his share of the proceeds but finds the money has vanished. It's set in 1991, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and everyone in Key West is certain Fidel Castro would fall any minute. This produces feverish angling for position when Cuba finally "opens up", and plays an important role in the novel.

The next two entries in the series are called The Ghosts Of Havana and Man-Slaughter. A fourth novel, The Guns Of Miami is in progress as I write this.

I was very fortunate to have received blurbs on this series from the likes of Max Allan Collins, Jeffery Deaver, Vicki Hendricks, Jonathan Woods, Heath Lowrance, and others. Thank you all.

And thanks again to you, Joe, for your generosity.

Joe sez: Mike is an example of a writer doing everything right. Killer covers, great product descriptions, lots of good reviews, releasing his titles in paper on Createspace as well as KDP. It's only a matter of time before he starts selling in big numbers.

And to that end, here are some of my suggestions:

1. Unless you're selling huge on other platforms, opt out of them and go all in on KDP Select. I'm all for reaching as many fans as possible, but right now Amazon is where the money is.

2. Start making your ebooks free, and use Ebookbooster and Bookbub to promote them.

3. Consider lowering your prices to $3.99 across the board. I'm not convinced the $4.99 price point is worth the extra 70 cents because in my experiments it doesn't sell well enough to make up for it. But don't take my word for it--do your own experimenting if you haven't yet.

4. Short stories can be sold as 99 cent singles.

5. Keep at it. The more you write and publish, the harder it is for readers to ignore you.

6. Though not every writer can do it, writing in different genres can be beneficial. First because it can expand your readership. Second because it's great practice. Third because experimentation is often the key to success. Konrath and Kilborn share some readers, but some readers prefer one to the other. My secret pen names are in entirely different genres. While it is key to be passionate about what you write, if you have the ability to write in other genres, it can't hurt to give it a try.


Jude Hardin said...

Nice post, Mike. My agent says the category I'm writing in (which is similar to what you're doing, I think) seems to be struggling right now, so Joe's advice to experiment with different genres might be something to think about. For me, I know that whatever I try will still have something of a gritty edge to it, because that's just who I am as a writer. And I think there's room for that kind of thing in any genre, even romance.

Anyway, best of luck with your books. They look great. And I swear I'm going to take you up on your offer to come down and hang out at your place sometime, :)

Andrea said...

Mike, your book covers are fantastic. Who's your cover designer?

Jill James said...

Mike, if your books have the flavor of your blog post I'll be buying them all. I love Key West as a locale. The covers are awesome too.

Mike Dennis said...

Thanks for the sound advice. I only recently started taking books out of Select because of an extremely disappointing BookBub/Select promo I did last month for SETUP ON FRONT STREET. But after reading your suggestion and some of your previous posts on the subject, I think I'll reverse course and go back in Select.

I actually do have another genre going right now. It's a private eye series set in Las Vegas. Currently, I have two novelettes and a full novel in the series. The first book in the series, a novelette, is scheduled for an Ebookbooster/Select promo next week. Here's hoping.

Jude--The offer still stands. Just let me know.

Andrea--Thanks for the good words on my covers, but the guy who deserves the praise is Jeroen ten Berge, the sensational cover designer from New Zealand. Check out his website.

Mike Dennis said...

Jill-- Thanks so much for the support.

Picks by Pat said...

Hi Mike,

Like the concept of using Key West as your setting. Lot's of history and perfectly placed when things change with our neighbor to the south. Imagine the plots; drug smuggling, gun running, international bank scams, I'm sure you've thought of a lot. I really like the idea of using a pen name, especially when writing outside your genre. My first book was a cozy, but I have another which is more of a thriller, and for that I will probably use a pen name.

JA Konrath said...

Had to kill anonymous posting for a bit.

If you want to post anonymously but fear industry repercussion (you're an agent, editor, writer with Big 5) just email me your comment and I'll post it.

If you want to post anonymously because you need to fill your empty life with cowardly potshots, email me and I'll try to point you to a good psychiatrist.

Alistair McIntyre said...

Like someone else said, I like your blog post, so I'm sure I'll enjoy your stories.

Good luck with trying out a different locale/genre.

Mike Dennis said...

Irnbru--Hope you enjoy my books. Please let me know

Merrill Heath said...

Hey, Mike. I'm currently reading "Setup on Front Street" and I'm enjoying it. I highly recommend it.

Alistair McIntyre said...

Mike, I gotta finish up Jude's COLT first :)

(fyi, it's a good read)

Jude Hardin said...

fyi, it's a good read


And as a fellow drummer, I have to say your band is really cool. Bagpipes, man!

Jason D. Morrow said...

In your opinion, Joe, would it be necessary for me to use a pen name if I went from Fantasy, to Crime Drama, to Zombie fiction. These are just examples, but I feel like it would make it harder for an unknown like me.

It seems like that instead of one unknown author name to build up, I then have two, or three.

Walter Knight said...

A good writer can write any genre. An example of that is Louis L'Amour when he wrote outside the Western genre.

Nancy Beck said...

In your opinion, Joe, would it be necessary for me to use a pen name if I went from Fantasy, to Crime Drama, to Zombie fiction. These are just examples, but I feel like it would make it harder for an unknown like me.

@Jason D. Morrow - FWIW, I'll throw in my 2 cents and say go with pen names if there's a huge difference in genres. For instance, if you're going to write fantasy, science fiction (SF), and horror, don't bother with pen names; they're all under the spec fic umbrella anyway.

If you're going to write fantasies and thrillers, go with a pen name with one of them.

I'll suggest to go to Dean Wesley Smith's and Kris Rusch's sites for suggestions/advice. In fact, I think Kris just talked about that not too long ago.

Me? I primarily write in fantasy, but I've also written a couple of romantic comedies - using a pen name. Because in my mind, the fantasy I write is way differnt than the goofy romantic comedies I write.

But, then again, this all my take on it. YMMV.

Good luck! :-)

Jessica said...

I've read all of Mike's books and the Key West Nocturne Series is my favorite, especially Ghosts of Havana and Setup on Front Street In Ghosts of Havana, the plot is so well crafted, so hidden in plain sight that I don't know anyone who was not impressed when the underpinnings were revealed. Very satisfying! Mike is truly underappreciated so I'm happy to see him profiled on your blog.