HBS Author's Spotlight is on Author Frederick Lee Brooke. He is the author of the Annie Ogden Mystery Series.
Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction
Frederick Lee Brooke
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Frederick Lee Brooke is the author of the widely-acclaimed Annie Ogden mystery series, which includes Doing Max Vinyl, Zombie Candy, and the upcoming Collateral Damage (due out in July 2013).
A consummate jetsetter, he was born and raised in Chicago (where both Doing Max Vinyl and Zombie Candy are set) and has lived in Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, France, and Germany; he has called Switzerland his home for the past two decades, and travels widely throughout Europe (at latest count, he has visited Italy over 50 times!).
Brooke's love of the written and spoken word is vast--not only has he taught English in various European schools, he also knows French, German, and Italian, and dabbles in Turkish in his spare time. This love of language led him to quit his day job two years ago and focus on his original dream: writing fiction. When not writing books, his three kids (and their homework) keep him busy. He is currently working on a new series of thrillers and, once that's done, he might take some time to visit one of those Swiss chocolate factories (but only for the free samples). He can often be found chopping vegetables in the kitchen, and makes a mean lasagna.
You can find him online at
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SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your new novel: Collateral Damage. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
I’m working on a short story featuring Roberta, a transgender character from my novel Zombie Candy. This story will appear in an anthology being put together by my friend, Jennifer Mosher.
My next novel will be the first book in a new dystopian series set in 2021. I’ve been planning this series for over a year now, and the first book will be ready in Fall, 2013.
You have a great following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
My social media friendships have been a Godsend. The biggest benefit is the friendship and support you feel from like-minded people, authors and readers. There is a great spirit of collaboration among authors who are active on social media, and of course chatting with them is the quickest way to learn new stuff.
Social media is essential for alerting potential new readers to your new books. But I’m very conscious of the spammy quality of a lot of posts and tweets I see on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and that puts me off. While social media can help raise people’s awareness of an author or his books, it won’t persuade them to buy any. My decision to buy someone’s book comes from something deeper – the book description intrigues me, or the author does.
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?
I would do interviews and readings if I didn’t live in Switzerland! I’m looking into participating in the Printer’s Row Festival in Chicago in June 2014. This year it just wasn’t possible. The best places to connect with me are on my blog or Facebook.
Today there is a buzz in the industry about high rankings on retailer’s lists because of the use of on-line advertising sites. Have you ever promoted your books with paid advertising? What has been your experience?
I’ve used several paid advertising sites, including Google AdWords. It’s hard to say if any one particular initiative is really working, because I’ve always got several going at the same time.
The problem is, you can write a really good book, but it’s extremely unlikely anyone will find out about it if you don’t get active on social media, with paid advertising, with blogging, and so on. As a writer, you also have to wear a business hat, and it’s a truism in business that you have to spend money to make money. Now so far I’ve spent more money than I’ve taken in, but I also have three books to show for my efforts. And I’m really happy to be doing what I like doing, rather than sitting in my old office doing the job I used to do. So money is not my only measuring stick.
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?
Thank you for the compliment. My last two covers were designed by Mallory Rock, a cover designer in Michigan. I give her a fairly detailed idea of what’s happening in the book, and which elements might make sense to appear on the cover, and she does the rest.
With the cover for my latest book, Collateral Damage, I couldn’t decide between two very similar versions, so I ran a two-part contest on Facebook. In the first part, people were challenged to spot the differences between the two covers, and everyone had a lot of fun with that. In the second part, I invited everyone to choose their favorite. In the end, the vote was 48 – 3, and I was one of the 3. So we went with their favorite cover, not mine.
There were actually good arguments for doing so, things neither my cover designer nor I had noticed. I wanted the cover with the man getting stabbed in the chest, because that’s how it happens in the story. But everyone pointed out that if he were being stabbed in the chest he would have his hands up, or be defending himself. And they found the image of someone being stabbed in the back more intriguing. So we went with stabbed in the back.
Have you created a book trailer for any of your books to promote them online?
I’ve always been tempted, but haven’t gotten around to it. Collateral Damage would really lend itself to a trailer, though.
Besides IAN, what other writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I’m also a member of the Chicago Writer’s Association, which sponsors and organizes events and contests in the Chicago area. And I’m a member of BestsellingReads, a group of independently published authors who collaborate on promotion. I think everything you do tends to help build awareness, generally. And I really like the people I’ve met by joining these groups.
Between your book writing, blogging, 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?
It’s a challenge, but you know what, who doesn’t have that challenge? I’ve learned that the only way to do all the things I want to do is to say no. Saying no is an art and a science. Writing is a priority. My kids. My health. I strictly limit the time I spend on marketing and social media. I have a positive outlook on life, and that saves a lot of time, too.
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’ve experimented with giving away masses of books for free as part of the Amazon KDP select program. The theory is that you will rise in the rankings for a few days, build awareness of your books, and perhaps connect with some new readers who otherwise wouldn’t have discovered you. I’m not convinced this really helps anybody. I’m told there are millions of Kindle owners who fill up their Kindles with free books, just because they’re free, and then never read them. I’ve done it myself.
Nowadays I tend to give freebies to people who subscribe to my newsletter. Simply because these are people I can really connect with, and they know they can connect with me. They are far more likely to actually read what I might send them, and I always ask first before sending anything.
Have you ever done a book tour? If so, did it contribute to the success of your book sales? What was your experience after the tour was over with your sales?
I’ve done a couple of book tours. I did one last summer for Zombie Candy, and it generated a lot of positive feeling for the book. Meaning a fair number of reviews and generous exposure on people’s blogs. Right now I’ve got an excerpt tour of Collateral Damage going on – here’s the schedule. People who leave a comment on every stop on the tour win a $25 Amazon gift card AND an autographed paperback of one of my books.
These tours, in my experience at least, do not make your book sales take off. They give you some exposure, some readers are moved to write reviews, and one of the greatest benefits is simply meeting new people.
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?
Oh no, I certainly don’t use software to keep track of the plot. I suppose I could, but I’m much more comfortable just putting the timeline and plot points down on paper and changing things around when I notice any kind of error.
Character development is more interesting to me than plot. I have a small corps of early readers who also check for inconsistencies, and when they are done and I’ve put in any of their changes that I agreed with, the manuscript goes to my sharp-eyed editor, Elizabeth King Humphrey.
Author's Book List
- Annie Ogden Mysteries
Annie Ogden is back. Like it or not, she’s about to learn about COLLATERAL DAMAGE.
A love story.
When Annie Ogden’s ex-boyfriend Michael Garcia reappears, she has to confront a lie dating back to her time in Iraq. Will she go back to hot, passionate Michael, who has developed a disturbing interest in meth, or stick with her pudgy PI partner and fiancé, Salvatore?
The calculus changes when Michael is arrested for murder. When Salvatore refuses to help investigate, Annie is forced to try to find the killer herself. Meanwhile her sister’s creepy husband, Todd, is making more of an ass of himself than usual.
Annie's problems with three obsessive men suddenly pale in significance when she realizes the killer has set his sights on her. Having changed his mind about helping her, Salvatore finds himself in a desperate race against time, the only man capable of finding the killer before it’s too late.
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Annie Ogden Mystery 2
From her gorgeous husband to her acclaimed cooking classes, Candace Roach's life looks nearly perfect from the outside. Well, appearances can be deceiving. Her husband, Larry, has three unruly addictions that drive her to the brink--zombie movies, cilantro, and having sex with other women. Luckily, her best friend Annie Ogden is back from Iraq and armed with a private investigator's license and a fierce determination to see Candace happy again.
Together, the women uncover the ridiculous extent of Larry's infidelity. He needs to be punished,that much is clear. But how can they hit him where it counts? Oh, if only she could find a way to tap into those three little addictions--what a lesson that would be. Italy is calling, as are the zombies in the night, as suburban housewife Candace Roach transforms herself into the ultimate fidelity vigilante, complete with a badass motorcycle, a very small pistol, and the nom de guerre "Zombie Candy."
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
Doing Max Vinyl
- Annie Ogden Mystery
Earth first. Okay, maybe second. Third? She'll KILL you!
Max Vinyl's type of success story can only happen in America. Rising from humble beginnings, he has reached the height of the computer recycling racket. Problem is, he's using Lake Michigan as his own personal profit center. Even that wouldn't have been a problem if his environmentalist girlfriend Tris hadn't found out his dirty secret. And while Max is devastated by his love crashing down around him, he's about to learn that the rage of a woman scorned packs far more firepower and potential for destruction than he had ever imagined.
Iraq War veteran Annie Ogden has spent three tormented months living in a cabin alone trying to re-discover her purpose in life. When two of Max's thugs threaten Annie's sister, she is dragged into his corrupt world in an unwitting alliance with the environmentalist, Tris. Which is really lousy news for Max. Will he hold up under the coordinated attacks of two furious women? As things spin completely out of control and complications mount, it's all Max can do to stay one step ahead until it's all he can do to stay alive!
A farce full of hysterics and chicanery, Frederick Lee Brooke's first installment of the Annie Ogden mysteries is an incisive examination of corporate lunacy, greed and modern disconnection. Having received multiple four and five-star reviews on Amazon, Doing Max Vinyl: An Annie Ogden Mystery is loaded with razor-sharp dialogue, ingenious plotting and so much fun it should be illegal!
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
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