Thursday, January 29, 2015

John L. Betcher - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author John L. Betcher. He is the award-winning, bestselling author of the James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Religion & Spirituality, Fiction

Website: Meet Author, John L. Betcher
Author's Blog: Self-Publishing Central
Twitter: @JohnBetcher
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Author Description:
Amazon TOP 100 Bestselling Author, John L. Betcher, holds a Bachelor's Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. Mr. Betcher has published an award-winning series of "Becker" suspense/thriller novels. The first five are THE 19TH ELEMENT, THE MISSING ELEMENT, THE COVERT ELEMENT, THE EXILED ELEMENT and THE CRITICAL ELEMENT. He has also authored the award-winning spiritual phenomenon, A HIGHER COURT.

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?

What a great question! I guess that depends on your definition of a horizon. I don't have a release date yet. And there's still plenty of writing to be done. But I can say this much. For those who read my books, you already know I like to introduce readers to new angles on technology, science, and geopolitics. And I try to have a "ripped from the headlines" feel as well. I've been researching my next book for the past seventeen months -- about seven months longer than usual. And the world has been rife with captivating novel material during those months -- from the disappearance of flight MH-370, to the emergence of the ebola virus in West Africa, to the North Korean hack on Sony, to the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and on the more positive side, to NASA's launch of the next generation of US space exploration technology -- Orion. The list goes on.

Plenty of fodder for intrigue and suspense in my next novel, which by the way, will be Book 6 in the James Becker Suspense/Thriller series. Readers can be certain the Beck, Beth, Bull and Gunner will once again drag Red Wing to the epicenter of some pretty compelling world events.

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 did you build your following in your niche? How much has it changed your book launch process?

Social media has been a vital component of both my development as an author and the successful promotion and sale of my books. I've built fast friendships with authors from across the globe, though I've never met most of them face to face. Social media (primarily Twitter and Facebook) has provided expansive networking opportunities among colleagues striving toward the same publishing goals. Through these networks we all learn of new trends in publishing before the disconnected crowds of struggling writers. And we find opportunities for collaboration, such as my 2013 - 2014 joint venture with eight other thriller novelists to publish two separate thriller compilations (9 KILLER THRILLERS and 9 MORE KILLER THRILLERS) that sold more than 200,000 copies between them.

Answering your question about building a following in my niche requires some speculation. In my experience, building a following is seldom the result of a single factor, or even two or three factors. Social media was certainly important as it allowed readers to notice and follow my books. And as I have already mentioned, my social media friends helped hone and enhance my marketing strategies. But personal appearances at Friends of the Library groups, proactively pursuing newspaper and television news opportunities related to book subject matter, and supporting fellow authors by sharing information are some other very important components of building a following.

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

I don't maintain a reader list. It's not that I don't think a reader list would be valuable. I've had to ration time in a busy life and that's just not an area that has yet garnered a chunk of my chronometer.

Do you do any 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?

I do a few books signings every year. I try to make myself useful for news stories in my local newspapers and television news programs. These are almost never about my books, per se. Rather, I offer the expertise I have collected through the extensive research I do for my writing. Most recently I got some ink in a local paper concerning my attendance at the inaugural launch of the Orion deep space capsule at Cape Canaveral. A fan of my books works for NASA in the Orion program and he sent me VIP tickets to the entire event. That sort of thing makes a good local interest news story and invariably leads to a mention that I happen to write books.

The best place to keep up with my books and appearances is my Facebook Page.
The page is open to the public.

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'm not sure my cover design process is something to be emulated. I have hired people to design covers for me in the past. Each iteration was an improvement over the previous. Most recently I have started doing my own cover design. I'm not very sophisticated with computer design tools, but with a little help from pictures from and my own suped-up version of Power Point, I get by. Occasionally I ask readers for input in the final stages of cover design. I believe this is an area I should probably pursue more avidly. Readers have great ideas!

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called 9 More Killer Thrillers Bundle. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other romance authors? How did you put something like that together?

I believe Author Bundles offer fantastic values for readers and great exposure for authors. In the case of our first bundle, 9 KILLER THRILLERS, our goal was simply to get visibility for our books. If we could garner enough sales to cover our costs in compiling and marketing the promotion, we thought we would be more than happy. That bundle vastly exceed expectations, selling more than 170,000 copies over a period of roughly four months. The second bundle which you mention above was a follow-on offering. Once again, the goal was exposure. I believe we sold about 50,000+ copies of that one and at one point made the USA Today bestseller list.

My social media friend, Russell Blake, actually organized the first bundle and he was kind enough to invite me to join in. BTW . . . my first direct contact with Russell was several years ago when he asked me via Facebook if I would consider giving him a blurb for one of his book covers. I agreed. I enjoyed his book and gave him a nice two-liner that is still featured with that book on Amazon. If you do a favor for another author, you never know when the good karma will come around your way. Russell certainly delivered in the case of our bundles.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?

I was an early adopter of digital publishing back in 2010. 99% of my sales are digital. And I really don't know another publishing existence. I do believe, however, that ebooks and POD printing have opened the door for tons of aspiring writers who had little opportunity to have their voices heard before the digital age.

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?

In the early days of KDP Select, I gave away a ton of books and sold ten tons of my other titles. Amazon's ranking algorithm at that time gave your free books visibility on bestseller lists that led to many sales. Those algorithms have changed, and in my opinion, free books are no longer a viable way to get noticed via bestseller lists. Giveaways still give your book a chance to be read. And giveaways cost little. So I believe giveaways still have their place in an author's marketing toolbox. It's just not as big a place as it once was.

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 don't use software (other than Word) to keep track of my books during the writing process. And the main approach I use to keep the plot moving forward is to have several different plot threads and use short chapters to alternate between the action in each plot thread. That way there is a small "cliff hanger" at the end of each chapter.

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?

I have pretty much given up on actively seeking reviews. I have a few diehard fans who I provide early copies of my new releases to and who frequently write unsolicited reviews. Otherwise, I will occasionally pay for a review as part of a book awards contest. That's about it. Any other reviews need to arise spontaneously from readers.

Author's Book List
The Critical Element - A James Becker Suspense/Thriller
The scientific community declared the North Korean “weather satellite” dead on arrival in space. And until recently, the scientists were right. But now the satellite has awakened and the Kim regime wastes no time in launching its secret space-based weapon against the American mainland. Unfortunately, the North Koreans’ aim is bad and their package lands in the middle of nowhere—Ottawa County, Minnesota—where the deadly delivery sets in motion a sequence of events even its creators in Pyongyang could never have anticipated.

James “Beck” Becker has retired from a twenty-year career serving his country as a military intelligence operative and now practices law in his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. When local huckster Rodney Holton seeks his legal advice regarding a meteor strike on Rodney’s farm in rural Red Wing, Beck suspects that the “meteor” may be more (or possibly less) than a natural phenomenon—a suspicion that is confirmed when the FBI rolls into town looking for the mysterious space rock.

But before the authorities can get their hands on the meteor, it vanishes from Rodney’s farm, leaving Beck and the feds behind to deal with an angry farmer and a troubling circumstance—Rodney’s cattle have begun to get sick.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
The Exiled Element - James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 4
In response to recent turmoil in Egypt’s intelligence community, the CIA has recalled Beth Becker to active duty. Though she accepts the assignment, the backstabbing and deceit she finds festering within the Agency remind her why she retired from government work.

Meanwhile, her husband, “Beck,” stays home in Red Wing, helping Chief Deputy Sheriff, Doug “Gunner” Gunderson, formulate what should be routine security plans for a visiting dignitary. But a less than stellar private security firm, and a determined sniper, result in a crisis situation that stretches our heroes’ abilities to their limits.

Filled with intrigue, humor, and ripped-from-the-headlines action, THE EXILED ELEMENT will remind you why you came to love the Beckers in the first place.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
The Covert Element - James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 3
Former military intelligence operative, James “Beck” Becker and his CIA code-cracking wife, Beth, have retired to Beck’s hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. Their retirement has already proven more exhilarating than they’d expected.

But they could never have anticipated the new source of crime and intrigue in their small community. A Mexican drug cartel has set up shop a few miles down the road. And they’re not just selling. The new meth production facility is the largest north of the Rio Grande.

To complicate matters further, Terry “Bull” Red Feather’s former comrade-in-arms has come to visit. And he’s on a mission. His decades-long assault on the cartels is coming to a head. His plan is to blow up the drug plant . . . if he can find it. He wants Bull to help.

The Beckers’ challenge? To dismantle cartel operations before a full-blown drug war breaks out in Red Wing.

THE COVERT ELEMENT has the characters you love, battling the cartels you'll learn to despise.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
The Missing Element - James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 2
town to enjoy a settled retirement in the small Mississippi river community of Red Wing, Minnesota. But "settled" is a relative term and no matter where Beck goes, intrigue follows.

When Minneapolis computer genius, Katherine Whitson, disappears under peculiar circumstances, her husband exploits a sympathetic Red Wing acquaintance to enlist Beck's aid in finding her.

As Beck searches for Katherine, the tangled trail leads from her luxury Minneapolis Warehouse District condo, through her husband's extra-marital escapades, past the entrenched hierarchy of elite computer professionals, and into the mind-bending world inside computer microprocessors.

Katherine's kidnapping is clearly more complicated than a typical abduction.

As it turns out, the Beckers must use all of their considerable experience -- his as a military intelligence operative; hers as a CIA code-cracker -- to save Katherine and bring her abductors to justice.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
The 19th Element - A James Becker Thriller
Terrorists plan to attack Minnesota's Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant, but they’re not your typical band of Islamic extremists. True, there’s an al Qaeda connection. But the heart of the ‘terror cell’ is homegrown, right here in the United States.

James "Beck" Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River Power Station. He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – a murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck, an explosion in the street in front of City Hall – but can't piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists. Only his American Indian friend, "Bull," will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it's Beck and Bull versus the best terror cell west of the Mississippi.

May the better men win.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
A Higher Court
My name is William Kensey. I have a wife and two great kids. Until very recently, I was a well-respected and financially successful trial attorney.

I was also a man who was comfortable with his religion. I preferred it served at arm's length from the pulpit on Sunday morning. And would rather not discuss it the rest of the week.

The circumstances that led me to write A HIGHER COURT changed all that. The entire experience was both bizarre and unavoidable. You see, I was summoned to serve as a juror in an improbable trial -- a trial to determine whether God exists.

I know.

You think that sounds ludicrous. I did, too . . . until the trial began.

Witnesses buried me under mountains of scientific evidence. My own eyes forced me to confront the reality of extreme human suffering. God seemed less and less relevant -- even absent -- as the trial progressed.

At the close of the trial, I had to render my verdict -- "God" or "No God." Affirm a new and deeper faith in a Creator, or confess the triumph of science.

A HIGHER COURT is the story of how I discovered my ultimate truth. If your mind is open, you can join me in this journey of self-discovery. Come along. You won't be sorry.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Self-Publishing Central
Author John L. Betcher established the Self-Publishing Central writer's blog in April, 2010 to share what he was learning about the turbulent seas of the self-publishing world. This book contains his blog posts through March 25, 2011 together with valuable live web links (if available on your device).

How to publish an eBook. How to publish a trade paperback. Which promotions work and which ones don't. What services you should pay for. What projects are easy to DIY. How to give your book credibility using independent reviews. Where to find reviewers for your book. The Book Festival experience. Pros and Cons of blog touring. Finding a price point for your book.

Betcher addresses these subjects, and many others, in the real time environment of the literary blogging world. The blog text is augmented with web links to valuable additional resources.

If you can make use of .01% of the information contained in this book, it will pay for itself many times over in time savings alone.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS Author's Spotlight
eBook Author’s Corner
Top Shelf Author Advice
Mystery Reader’s Circle

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

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