Thursday, September 26, 2013

R.S. Guthrie - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on 5-Star Mystery Author R.S. Guthrie. He writes Mystery & Thrillers, essays, and short stories. His book: INK: Eight Rules To A Better Book is a MUST read for all authors.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction, Nonfiction

Website: R.S. Guthrie - Rob on Writing
Author's Blog: Google +
Twitter: @rsguthrie
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
R.S. Guthrie grew up in Iowa and Wyoming. He has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college.

"Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel" marked Guthrie's first major release and it heralded the first in a series of Detective Bobby Macaulay (Bobby Mac) books. The second in the series (Lost) hit the Kindle shelves December of 2011. Reckoning closes out the trilogy. For now...

Guthrie's "Blood Land" is the first in the Sheriff James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series and represents a project that is close to his heart: it is set in a fictional town in the same county where he spent much of his childhood and still visits. The sequel, Money Land, hit the shelves Christmas Day, 2012. Honor Land, the third in the bestselling James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series was released in May of 2013.

Guthrie lives in Colorado with his wife, Amy, three young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40-pound Aussie!

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes, actually I do. It’s “Honor Land”, the third book in the James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series (and the last for a while—I have some other planned books on the horizon. This one is going to be my favorite, I think. It’s about an All-American, student-athlete who’s recruited by every major football and baseball college in the country, valedictorian of his class—the kind of kid every parent wants theirs to be—but on his eighteenth birthday, high school diploma in hand, he’s outside the military recruiter’s door. All he’s ever want is to make Delta Force and server his country like his father, grandfather, etc.

He comes back from the way with a Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery and a serious case of undiagnosed PTSD. In an incident during Cheyenne Frontier Days, three men are dead and the boy finds himself charged with three counts of capital murder.

Sheriff Pruett has followed the boy his whole career in newspaper articles. He’s the boy’s godfather. He asks his now son-in-law, the infamous trial lawyer, J.W. Hanson, to defend the boy. The book is more of a legal thriller with Pruett being the investigative eyes, hands, and feet for Hanson as they try to save the boy’s life and reputation.

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process?

You know, I believe this about social media (Twitter and Facebook in particular, LinkedIn to a lesser extent for authors, though NOT to be ignored—I think that may very well be the “next horizon”): in the beginning, it is nearly everything. What talented authors forget is that their BRAND is their NAME. People (readers and writers) need to “meet” them and, eventually, remember that name. Social media like Twitter and an Author Page on Facebook is an excellent way to accomplish branding. Getting known. I’ll talk about this more in the question on book covers, but let me say this: book covers are extremely important to your success.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I have created all the covers excepting the James Pruett Mysteries. And those change very little (color, background behind the Wind River mountains). Here is the thing: for the most part (there are always exceptions) figure out a “look” for your author name and try to stick to it.

Also make it stand out on your cover. Think about it. When you go to buy a book, do you really care what the title is or do you look for the author, see a new book you don’t have, and either buy it outright or read the synopsis? Blood Land, Murder Land, Tribal Land. To an extent, the title is meaningless until after the reader has read the book and thinks “ah, that’s why it was called _______.” Your name is your brand. I can’t repeat that enough. Use the same font, same size (where possible), and I really don’t think it has to be always on top or always on the bottom but readers need to see it from afar, recognize it, and go to it.

You have several great book trailers. (See links below.) They look very professional. Do you know how much impact they have had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailers?

Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

The trailers I’ve done myself, always after the book is complete. THEN I find pics, scenes, etc. that help tell the story in a videography media. I always pick a song that really reinforces the theme. I only put my trailers (for the most part) on YouTube. Aside from the obvious fact that no other video site compares to numbers of users, they also normally now have a pretty good policy with most “unavailable” songs (i.e. copyrighted by the RIAA): as long as they can throw an ad that can be dismissed 5 seconds in and/or a link to buy the song, they’ll now allow it.

They didn’t used to allow it, but I always said they (and the artist) are missing a gold mine. I get so many “and that’s a GREAT SONG. I downloaded it right after watching your trailer!”

I think I’ve done more good for the song artist than myself! ;)

What writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

It’s more that I’m at the stage where I’ve “been there, did my time, have the t-shirt to prove it” kind of things. For beginning writers workshops are essential. You have to learn how to have your manuscript torn to pieces and get up, wipe away the tears (or hide the body), and do your rewrites. You don’t have to use everything you are told. The more you write (and workshop) the more you will recognize constructive advice from the chaff (jealous writers, bad critiquers, etc.).

In the beginning, every writer believes he or she has written the perfect piece. After all, who knows it better than them? Exactly the point. Realize if you ever expect to be popular and sell a lot of books, there are going to be haters. I currently have 105 5-star, 60 4-star, 16 3-star, and 5 1/2-star reviews respectively. Until I really got the book out there int hundreds of thousands of hands, I never had anything below a 3-star.

Tough skin—strike that—titanium, bullet-proof armor—every writer MUST develop, or you won’t make it. Your books will suffer, YOU will suffer, and the sales will go nowhere. I’ve actually used one or two suggestions from the 1/2-star reviews. Usually they are disgruntled people in general, but even in a disgruntled, crappy review, you can still sometimes find that little thing that would have made the book better. Throw away the rest. But in the beginning (especially I workshops) know that 90% of what others are telling you is with honesty, an you need to use 75%+ of the advice. Don’t dismiss it. There will be a few things where you know better but remember, these are readers reading your work for the first time. GOLD as far as criticism goes.

Between your book writing, blogging, workshops, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

Unfortunately, there needs to be nine of me (I’m still waiting on cloning). My wife helps a lot and I have a great friend who excels at the (let’s call it) less glamorous aspects of being an author (marketing answering tweets, FB comments, etc.). She is also an excellent writer, so she is racking up editor points with me and I am going to help her first book ROCK. She’s good. She keeps me alive when the other seven “me’s” desert me! The sad truth is, unless you’re fulltime, and even then, there aren’t enough hours in the day. Writing the book is the easy part.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

Use a pay-to-announce site like BookBub. The “free-listing sites” are find, but over time I noticed ZERO impact on anything (sales, reviews, etc.). When I ran a “free” ad (meaning my book was free), the ad cost $180 or something, I’ve since had over 100,000 downloads and my reviews have nearly tripled on Amazon. If you have a series, once you’ve got three or four books in the series, make the first one free, perpetually. Get the reader hooked on your characters. They’ll be clamoring for another in the series in no time!

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. As I did my research for your post, I found myself adding a comment to one of your great posts.

What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

The funny thing is, the blog is my outlet when “life” has my muse hiding out deep inside me, unwilling to be creative at all. There are a million things I blog about, mostly writing, but other things, too. The blogs are both my catharsis and my therapy and keep me writing. That’s another key for writers: WRITE. Blogs, articles for your local paper, long-winded comments on HuffPost. Tapp the keyboard and write something. Every day, if you can swing it (I can’t).

Another thing that helps me is that my first drafts are usually 95%+ final. Not a lot of rewriting anymore.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I rarely solicit review (never pay). Reviews are important but I think the Amazon system is VERY broken. Doesn’t matter. The books need reviews; it’s one of the first thing anyone (including me) notices, right next to the book. Amazon also uses the number of reviews in their algorithms on whether they are going to “help” promote your books.

I’m no authority (read above) on how to get them. Setting your book at free for a few days and buying a BookBub ad ($150-180, depending on genre), will get you at least tens of thousands of downloads from mostly real readers not what I can Kindle Hoarders (which the free-listing sites attract). They download EVERYTHING free and will likely never read your book. It’s been proven that about 1% of readers write reviews. That sounds about right to me. That means if you get 50,000 downloads, that could equate to 500 new reviews (plan for half or less but still).

You get your book from 30 reviews, to, say, 200 reviews—BIG difference. I’m told there are review blogs out there by the hundreds and they are a great way to get book reviews. Research them. Make sure they read your genre. You’re unlikely to be accepted or get a great review from a Romance reader/reviewer if you write Action/Adventure.

In the past you use to conduct workshops and share your knowledge. Now you do that with an author-oriented book, INK. Can you tell us about the book and what you have planned for the future?

Well, I haven’t run a workshop in years. However, if you want a small (think Strunk & White, and if you have no idea what that reference means, Google it, and buy it) meat-and-nopotatoes book on writing a better book, I wrote one Non-Fiction book, for writers, and every writer that’s bought, read, and used it, has reached out to me either in review or email or FB (or all three) and told me it changed the way they write. That’s why I wrote it. It is a sharing of everything I learned in all those workshops, books on writing, other writers giving sage advice, and my own instincts (much info from my blogs, so you don’t have to read them all to get the nuggets; they’re in the book). INK: Eight Rules To A Better Book. The next one is going to be long, more in-depth, more like a long workshop with more advice on marketing, branding, etc.

INK is meant to sit next to your computer, dog-eared, highlighted—used. (See INK in the book list below.)

Author's Book List
Reckoning - A Detective Bobby Mac Thriller - Volume Three
Reckoning is the third book in the Detective Bobby Mac Thriller series, returning Detective Bobby Mac to the streets of Denver. It's been ten years since facing the loss of his brother, Jax, but Mac has a new life now with his wife and daughters.

When a series of murders grips the city in terror, Mac joins an inter-agency task force charged with bringing the Judas Killer to justice.

After eight murders over the course of a year and the task force being no closer than when they began, events take a brutally personal turn. Detective Mac will come face-to-face with a past he's been running from for over a decade.

Once again in a gritty cop-drama twisted with a bit of the paranormal, the storytelling that has been compared to a mixture of Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, and Dean Koontz, R.S. Guthrie brings you his best Bobby Mac book yet. Reckoning will bring the trilogy of books together for a finale that will have you riding the edge of your seat and your jaw on the floor.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
INK: Eight Rules To A Better Book
A concise, personal read to share with you eight easy-to-implement strategies to make your book better. No gimmicks, no get rich quick schemes, just the lessons learned by a writer, writing personally to you (i.e. not a textbook or a collection of empty words and promises).

INK transcends all levels of authors; no experience, experienced; published, unpublished; confident, scared-witless. It is a particularly noteworthy read to the beginning writer because it focuses on rules we've all made early on in our careers and what better time to pick up some learned education from someone else without have to stumble yourself?

Seasoned writers with an open mind will learn a tidbit or two as well. This book is a sharing; a sharing of twenty-plus years of writing workshops, classes, flounders, flubs, successes, and all the information gleaned carved down into a fun, readable, get-to-the-meat, skip-the-potatoes, book you don't want to miss.

Be the best writer you can. Write the best book you can write. Make yourself and your product crisper, cleaner, more grabbing, more of a page-turner.

We learn from our failures, which hammer future work into gems.

We are in this together, we writers. Share your success with others. That is how this book is written: treating other writers as part of a larger collective where one can help the other to climb the mountain of success.

Put it in INK.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Money Land
Money Land is the second in the popular and riveting Sheriff James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series, and big crime has come literally crashing down on the remote town of Wind River, Wyoming.

When a small plane bound for the Canadian border carrying money for the Sustantivo Mexican Cartel loses altitude and smashes into the granite-faced Wind River Mountains, the event brings a heartless evil presence to one of the more remote places on earth.

The tail of the plane, when discovered, is empty. No drugs. No money. Shortly afterward, people start dying.

When the cartel comes to town, Pruett will do everything within his power to stave off a bloodbath.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Blood Land - A James Pruett Mystery - Volume One
Crime's an ugly constant in the big city. L.A. Chicago. New York. But when a savage murder brutalizes a small town and neighbor turns on neighbor, a tough-as-nails cop is essential to restoring order. Blood Land is a gritty, emotional saga set in the Wyoming badlands with both greed and vengeance at its core.

When billions of dollars in natural gas rights hang in the balance and the town's top law officer's wife is slain by her own blood, a reluctant hero is forced to battle his own demons and ultimately choose between justice, revenge, and duty.

In the tradition of Dennis Lehane, Tony Hillerman and James Lee Burke, Guthrie's sparse, haunting storytelling compliments his talent for creating richly-drawn, unflinching law officers with human frailties and a sense of justice.

Book Trailer: Blood Land

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
L O S T - A Detective Bobby Mac Thriller - Volume Two
Denver Detective Bobby Mac returns in this intense horror/thriller, set in the northern panhandle wilderness of Idaho. After receiving a phone call from his brother, the Chief of Police in Rocky Gap, Idaho, Bobby Mac travels north to assist in the investigation surrounding two gruesome murders and the abduction of an eleven-year-old girl.

These two seasoned cops---estranged brothers reunited---will bring all of their experience to bear in a case that threatens not only the safety of a small town, but also the sacred lineage of a family of heroes.

Book Trailer: L O S T

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Black Beast - A Detective Bobby Mac Thriller - Volume One
Decorated Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay has faced down a truckload of tragedy over recent years. The death of his partner; the loss of his own leg in the line of duty; the companionship of his beloved wife to cancer; his faith in God to his inner demons.

After the man who ruined his leg and killed his first partner is executed, Macaulay becomes the lead detective investigating the Sloan's Lake murders. The method of killing in this double-homicide is so heinous it leads Macaulay and his partner down an ever-darkening path--one that must be traversed if they are to discover the evil forces behind the slaughter.

Just when Bobby Macaulay is questioning the very career that has been his salvation, he will discover a heroic history buried within his own family roots: The Clan MacAulay--a deep family lineage of protectors at the very core of a millenniums-long war against unimaginable evil.

"Black Beast" is the first in a series of "Clan of MacAulay" novels--a stellar first outing for new author R.S. Guthrie. The book is a page-turner that avoids meandering, written with tight prose that keeps the action flowing. The reader is taken inside the heart and mind of a common hero who will make you believe in good again--Macaulay is a believable, flawed character with whom each of us can relate and for whom each of us will cheer.

Book Trailer: Black Beast

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS eBook Author’s Corner
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for having me; it was a fun interview to do. Seems like I always learn a bit about myself in these things (like I never want to send anything out without a typo/proofreader between my typing and the world!). Yikes.