Monday, January 27, 2014

Paul Draker - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Paul Draker. He is the author of gritty modern mystery thrillers.

Author Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Website: Paul Draker - Author of Gritty Modern Mystery Thrillers
Twitter: @pauldraker
E-Mail: pauldraker [at] gmail [dot] com
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Author Description:
Paul Draker writes tightly-plotted, gritty modern thrillers that combine a well-crafted mystery whodunit with gripping psychology and relentless suspense. Each novel is an immersive roller coaster thrill ride, filled with twists that keep the reader guessing, right up until the last page.

Writing and storytelling are nothing new for Paul. In sixth grade, when he was nine, a classmate liked a story he wrote, and took it home. The horrified parents called the school and demanded that whoever wrote it be sent to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asked Paul if he could keep a copy of the story... and then asked Paul to sign it for him.

Paul currently lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and three daughters. An avid scuba diver, he has spent much time underwater in Palau, Yap, Honduras, Thailand, Hawaii, the Florida Keys, the cenote caverns of the Yucatan, the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Caicos, and the "Red Triangle" off California's coast. He also enjoys skiing, swimming, and windsurfing, and has had extensive tactical training in firearms. After one too many high-speed motorcycle crashes, he is no longer allowed to own open-class sportbikes, which is probably a good thing for him and everyone else.

Paul has worked in the aerospace/defense industry on a variety of classified and unclassified programs for DARPA, Navy, Army, and Marine Corps, ranging from strategic national missile systems to technology augmentation for small-team tactical infantry units. He has also led a Silicon Valley technology startup delivering massively-scalable custom Internet software to Fortune 500 clients including Hewlett Packard and Robert Half International, and headed a leading videogame studio developing mobile games for top-tier publishers such as EA, Disney/Pixar, Sega, Warner Brothers, THQ, and Glu. He holds advanced degrees in electrical and aerospace engineering from MIT, Stanford, and U.C. Berkeley. This broad-ranging engineering expertise lends impeccable technical authenticity to his stories.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Mount Terror. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Mount Terror comes out in summer 2014. It’s the sequel to Pyramid Lake.

I have plans for several more books in this series, too—all featuring protagonist Trevor Lennox.

Trevor’s a 28-year-old maverick scientist with a genius IQ and an unmatched talent for making enemies. He comes from the wrong side of the tracks and says whatever he wants to whomever he wants. Trevor doesn’t play nice—but there’s nothing he won’t do to help the people he cares about, or to protect them from getting hurt. Readers and reviewers are deeply divided on Trevor—some love him, some hate him, and many both love and hate him at the same time. But all of them say they can’t wait to see what Trevor does next.

Mount Terror takes Trevor to the most hostile environment on the planet. Deep in the heart of Antarctica’s frozen wastes, Trevor’s old MIT classmate Dr. Jason Curtis is leading a top-secret U.S. research project—one that promises to revolutionize modern medical science. But reports from Antarctica have become unreliable, and the Department of Defense is worried.

Has Curtis gone rogue?

As the six-month darkness of Antarctic winter closes in, the DoD sends Trevor Lennox to join Curtis’s team. Trevor is supposed to report back on what Curtis is really up to at the bottom of the planet… but Trevor always plays by his own rules.

Will sending Trevor to Antarctica only make the situation worse?

(Anyone who has read Pyramid Lake can probably answer that question ;)

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

Every writer’s journey is different. For me, social media only became important after enough readers discovered me through my books and connected with me on Facebook. Now, I love being able to interact with readers and fans there every day. I am probably underusing Twitter.

I also have a private email list for fans that want to be alerted whenever a new book is coming out—readers can sign up for it at my website. But I keep those email announcements very infrequent and only about what readers want to hear.

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

There’s a Paul Draker book-signing event coming up at Barnes & Noble in San Mateo, California, on February 15th. Everyone is welcome to drop by—it’ll be a blast. Beyond that, I’ve got a busy family life and three young kids, so I’m still figuring out how much time to spend on public appearances versus finishing my next book sooner instead. ? Online interviews and guest blog posts are less of a distraction from writing, and are always great.

The best places online to contact me or keep up with my books: - author webse: - Facebook age:

You’ll also find my email and other contact info there. I always love answering emails and messages from readers—I’ve met a lot of great people and new friends that way.

You have great covers. 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 do my own covers. I’m handy with PhotoShop and I license the necessary stock art, which costs me $15 - $125 per cover. The ruined mansion draped with wildlife on the cover of New Year Island, for instance, is a photo of the novel’s real-world setting—California’s Año Nuevo Island—taken by a National Geographic photographer.

I took my New Year Island cover to a professional book designer for feedback, and he recommended something else completely. But I didn’t like the counter-examples he showed me, which were all bland, boring, and indistinguishable genre covers. “Blending in” wasn’t my goal at all. So I ignored his advice.

Instead, I stuck with my first instincts, and went with what I knew would stand out and catch my eye if it were sitting on a bookstore shelf or in thumbnail-icon-size on a Top-100 list. Then I showed my cover to several bookstores and asked for their opinions, which matched mine. With Pyramid Lake, I threw out several draft cover concepts and redid them until I started seeing the reaction I wanted from bookstore managers and staff.

So the most important part is to get feedback from the right people, while trusting your own instincts above all.

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

I run a twenty-person online critique group focused on the craft of writing, rather than the business side of publishing our books. We trade chapter critiques. When I first started writing two years ago, I also joined a local writing group—one focused on literary fiction. They were great writers and great people all—but I found their feedback didn’t really apply to genre fiction, the stuff I like to write.

For up-to-date marketing and publishing advice, there is no better place I’ve found than KBoards, a fantastic and growing community of writers. Kboards members include many independent publishing experts and big-name superstars, too—whenever I have questions, I can always find answers, support, and friendly faces there. Nowadays, writers help each other succeed by openly sharing information with their peers… even sales numbers and financial data… as we all hone our expertise in the fast-changing publishing side of the business.

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?

I send out twenty-five to thirty free ARCs and reviewer copies at the launch of each title. Other than that, I haven’t given away any books for free. I do know many other writers who have made a financially successful strategy out of keeping some books perma-free to bring in new readers who go on to buy their others. Perhaps later, when I have a few more books out, I’ll try an experiment with one.

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

Starting from final edited manuscript and cover image, I convert to e-book using The Ebook Design and Development Guide, a step-by-step “e-book cook-book.” The entire process takes me less than two hours to go from Word manuscript to reader-ready mobi and epub e-book files, which I test on a Kindle, Nook, iPhone, and iPad, to make sure they are pristine.

I upload the epub and mobi files directly to Amazon, Nook, Apple, Kobo, and Google, then choose my retail prices, and hit the “publish” buttons. Within hours, the Kindle edition is for sale on Amazon. A few days later, the Nook, iBooks, etc. editions show up for sale in the other stores.

(For writers who prefer not to hassle with e-book formatting, there are companies who do that part for you and only charge a small, one-time fee. Rob Siders of 52 Novels is a true pro who many of the big-name authors use.)

After the e-books go live, I publish the print editions next—in trade paperback and hardcover. I print the interior pages and front-spine-back cover into PDF files, using Word and PhotoShop, and I upload those files to CreateSpace and LightningSource. I decide my paperback and hardcover prices and then hit the “publish” buttons. I also select LightningSource’s Ingram-distribution option, which lets every brick-and-mortar bookstore in the country and many international ones order my books through their order-entry systems, the same way they order books from any huge publisher.

Then I call or visit different Barnes & Noble bookstores and independent bookstores, and I tell them about my books. Each bookstore manager then goes into their computer system and orders a few copies from Ingram for their shelves… or if it’s a big bookstore, sometimes 50 copies at once. These days, an author makes most of their revenue from e-books and online paperback sales… but I am a big fan of bookstores, too, so getting on their shelves is a labor of love for me.

How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?

I’m good at keeping complex plots, character psychologies, and timelines straight in my head—probably as a consequence of my tech background in writing complex software. Now, I write stories that are wild roller-coaster-rides instead, but each one rides on the carefully crafted rails of a classic three-act structure.

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

Launching the first book is always the hardest, James. I think many writers who publish a debut novel do know there’s a group of readers out there somewhere who will absolutely love the book. But it just sits there without reviews or sales, and the author doesn't quite know what to do next. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg problem. You can’t use email-promotion partners like BookBub, EreaderNewsToday, Kindle Books & Tips, or BookBlast without first having some good, honest Amazon and Goodreads reviews to help readers decide your book is worth a try.

But compared to writing a good book, getting a few honest reviews is easy. Here’s my guest post on Joe Konrath’s blog, which explains how, step-by-step.

For the second and subsequent books, getting those key initial reviews becomes much easier. You already have an eager audience waiting to read and review your next book.

Just following along with your bio, when will we see an underwater adventure?

Hah! There are some pretty intense underwater sequences in New Year Island —but I’ve also got a larger-scale underwater adventure novel on the drawing board, too.

Author's Book List
Pyramid Lake
Maverick computer scientist Trevor Lennox is the most brilliant programmer of his generation. He's also equally talented at making enemies. Exiled to a Top Secret government lab hidden in the heart of Nevada's Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, twenty-eight year old Trevor has spent the last four years working 24/7, leading a classified DARPA project which uses high-speed cameras and a supercomputer's limitless processing power to interpret human facial microexpressions with unprecedented precision.

Frankenstein, Trevor's custom-built hundred-million-dollar supercomputer, can detect lies or concealed emotions with infallible accuracy. It can read hidden intentions right off a person's face. Trevor has his own plans for the groundbreaking technology he has created—an agenda which might be very different from what the government has in mind.

Increasingly at odds with the other three DARPA scientists who lead Pyramid Lake's advanced-robotics projects, Trevor is assigned a new and unwanted project co-lead. Cassie Winnemucca, the descendant of Paiute tribal chiefs, is a gifted computer-science prodigy like Trevor himself. But is she his future replacement?

Trevor prepares to struggle to retain control of his own project. But first, he must find a way to help his equally brilliant but troubled seven-year-old daughter Amy, whose problems threaten to condemn her to a terrifying future.

When a series of grisly murders sows chaos throughout the DARPA facility, Trevor realizes he’s not the only one with a hidden agenda.

Luckily, Trevor’s no stranger to conflict. To win, he’ll fight whomever he has to, however he has to. He'll use every tool at his disposal to get to the truth and to help his daughter. But this time, he’s fighting to protect everyone and everything he cares about. Unknown forces have their own plans for his face-reading technology, and they are willing to kill for it.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
New Year Island

Ten strangers, recruited by an edgy new reality show and marooned on an abandoned island overrun by wildlife.

One dies in a horrible accident.

Nine realize they are all past survivors, alive only because they've beaten incredible odds once before.

One by one, their hidden secrets are revealed.

Eight discover they are trapped. Caught in a game so deadly that the most terrifying experiences of their lives were only its qualifying round, they must now face the greatest danger on the island... each other.

There's nothing deadlier than a survivor-type whose back is against the wall. And one of them is not who he or she claims.

Seven fight to escape.

Six try to solve the mystery of who lured them there and why.

Five... Four… Will anyone survive New Year Island?

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:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

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