John T. Murphy, Author of Mission: Veritas, stops in to share some marketing and writing wisdom

JohnTMurphyphotoHappy Fourth of July, everyone!  As we Americans get ready to paint the sky with fireworks, toss some meat on the grill, and enjoy company with family and friends, let’s sit back and enjoy some coffee and chat with author John T. Murphy, whose novel Mission:  Veritas – an absolutely amazing, action packed thrill ride, to be honest – is available on Amazon.  John’s been gracious enough to stop by our little grotto of caffeination and answer some questions.

Did this book stay consistent through the writing and editing process, or did it evolve from the original idea?

Oh, it changed drastically. I first wrote it as a screenplay because I thought I could shoot it on video using green screen. I was a video hobbyist at the time, and I was going to get my (then) 18 year old son to play the lead role. That was an incredibly expensive idea, and I had to abandon it. A friend suggested I write it in novel form, then put it on Amazon. I did just that, but writing a screen play and writing a novel are very different. I had dabbled in writing for the past 23 years, read books on writing novels and so on, but had not gotten published. So, my writing skills by the first time I uploaded my story to Amazon were pathetic. Unfortunately, no one I knew would or even could tell me what was wrong with it. It wasn’t until I went on a freelancing website (Elance.com) and hired an editor to critique the story did I realize how much work I had to do. The only thing consistent between the time I started to the time I got published was the general concept and the story line. The rest underwent a much needed overhaul. Everyone has a unique inspiration for starting this arduous quest that will make you doubt yourself time and again. That is mine.

Who/What do you enjoy reading in your spare time?

I used to read Brad Thor, Steven King, Pies Anthony, Orson Scott Card, and on and on. The only time I had for reading was when on an airplane or at lunch breaks at work. However, since starting to write in earnest, I spend my ‘reading time’ reading books on writing skills.

Is there a place where you are able to “find your center?”

If, by “find your center” you mean “inner peace” then, no. There’s always turmoil in my head, despite living a pretty decent and stress free life. The turmoil comes from my constant wrangling over whether my writing is good enough, will I get published, will readers keep interested, am I being too boring here or wordy there. Then there’s the grander quest for  life accomplishment, and all the ordinary things that people worry about when they’ve got their basic needs satisfied. It’s important to have constant angst, though. It keeps one trying to do better. If we felt “inner peace” too much, we’d sit around and play video games or just meditate, or something else unproductive. Angst produces drive.

If you mean “getting in the zone” for writing, well, that’s a challenge as well. There’s always distractions, both external and internal. Calls I should make, errands to run, coordinating with other people’s schedules and so on suck up huge amounts of time. Then, I start remembering little things I wanted to look up, investigate, or something to buy on Amazon, which adds up to more time suck and diffusion of focus.

If you’re wondering how I get into the creative mindset, I first swear that I will not check email until later, nor open up a browser window unless it is the Thesaurus.com, or to research bits of fact for the story. No random surfing or shopping. I go back through the chapters just prior to what I plan to hammer out for the day. Getting my neural pathways warmed up, I’m usually able to get in the zone and stay there. Even if I go back and make edits to previously written pages, it’s all about being in those pathways where the story lives. It’s really hard to just pop open the word processor and start with my most recent sentence. Using this “review, edit, then create new” method, it doesn’t matter where I am, in someplace quiet, or in an airport.

What are some ways you effectively marketed your book?

My book marketing manager is probably best at answering this, but I would say that it is in, you guessed it (but probably didn’t want to hear it) social media. The whole idea behind marketing is to get your title and book idea before as many eyes as possible. Things like book marks, business cards, networking events, or standing in a trade show booth are all extremely limiting in the number of people who will encounter you, your book, and have it last in their memories. I think those kinds of gimmicks are fine for when you’re out and about and someone asks what you do. Fine, give them a book mark or card. But that shouldn’t be your main marketing thrust. I’ll bet you’ve never encountered a single inventor of the consumer products you buy. They didn’t give you a card or coupon, or anything close to that. It’s just as likely you’ve never met the authors you’ve read, or at least not very many.

I believe there are certain essentials to a good marketing strategy: A good cover design; an intriguing title;  a good hook line; a good blurb. Each of those elements ought to provide a tantalizing taste, then leave the prospective buyer wanting to find out more. Think about your own experiences when buying a book, even an ebook. You look at the cover, the title, read the blurb, then make a decision to buy or not.

A good hook line is something I suspect many authors overlook. They anguish enough over writing a two-hundred word blurb, then feel like they’ve paid their pound of flesh. But shrinking the story down into a twenty-word sentence that gives the gist of the setting, the conflict, and something with spice to add intrigue. Having a hook line will shorten the amount of time people need to invest before deciding your novel is of interest to them or not, to then read the rest of the blurb, or to even buy. It should be short enough that when people you meet ask, “What’s your book about”, you can tell them in less than 20 seconds. And, it should result in them being intrigued enough that they say, “Huh! I’ll have to buy it.”

Taming the social media beast is worth a few books all by itself. But, quick advice for marketing to an author newb: good cover, good title, a great hook line, then good blurb. If you have money to spend, invest in a professional cover designer.

What is the one piece of advice you can give to authors struggling to attract readers?

When new authors start out (much like I did), they believe they can create a finished novel in one go around. This is highly unlikely. This would be akin to saying, “I like music, and I listen to a lot of stuff, so I’m going to compose a symphony.” Read lots of books on writing. I’d recommend starting with “Writing Fiction for Dummies” by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy.

I’m not implying anyone is a dummy, but it’s really well written and illuminates readers into the structure, mechanics, and secret methods to use for coming up with pretty solid scenes and better story.

Another is “The Hero’s 2 Journeys” by Michael Hauge which gives the main character more depth, describing the outer struggle of the plot, and the inner struggle of the protagonist that drives his/her actions and choices.

So, my single piece of advice is… Start by assuming your first draft will be terrible. You need to endure that, we all do. Then hire someone with specific knowledge on novel writing to critique, then study, refine, study, refine. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Actually, several marathons because there’s the quest to get published, then marketing, and so on. Be mentally prepared for that kind of commitment.

missionveritas coverThanks, John!  Mission:  Veritas is available on Amazon.  Check it out!  We hope that John decides to stop back in soon!

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