Thursday, January 25, 2018

Khaled Talib - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Khaled Talib. He writes Thrillers, Mysteries, and Suspense novels and short stories.

Author: Khaled Talib

Author Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Website: The Official Khaled Talib Website
Twitter: @KhaledTalib
E-Mail: Khaled_talib AT hotmail dot com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
Khaled Talib is a former journalist with local and international exposure. His articles have been published and syndicated to newspapers worldwide, and his short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines. The author, who resides in Singapore, is a member of the Crime Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers. His novel Incognito won the Silver Award for the AuthorsDB Book Cover Contest 2017.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: Gun Kiss. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Thanks for having me onboard, James. I'm presently working on a murder-mystery set in a vineyard in South Australia. I don't have a timeline for its release yet. I'm taking it slow. Between late 2016 and 2017, I wrote two novels: Incognito and Gun Kiss. So I need to chill out a bit. A little tease about the story: I used to manage the public relations account for the South Australian Tourism Commission, so I'm pretty familiar with the state, which I would say is very different from the rest of Australia. It has one of the most beautiful landscapes on the continent. The manuscript I'm working on tells the story of a man working in the vineyard who discovers a dead body. Everyone suspects he's the killer. The prejudice deepens as the man has an unpleasant history.

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?

I began with Facebook simply as a platform to connect with friends without any idea how social media works. Then, about a year before my first book was launched, I set up a Twitter account. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect although I had every intention to use it as a platform to promote my first novel. I was wading in the water, so to speak. One day, however, by chance, I got everyone's attention when I tweeted a writing quote that I had created. I still remember the tweet: "Writers and artists are magicians. They have a real magic wand to conjure up images in the mind's eye." It went viral.

I started getting lots of followers and soon I found myself having thousands of new friends. Another person suggested that I published these writing quotes, which I did. I called it "The Little Book of Muses." I sold a great number of copies of the book via social media as I noticed that those who left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads were the same people who followed me on Twitter. But I had no intention of only focusing on that book as I had a novel about to be released, a thriller. It was a mistake on my part as I should have left the Twitter account as it is, focusing strictly on writing quotes. I realized too late not everyone enjoys reading thriller novels. I should have created a separate account, which I've since done. But either way, I have enjoyed networking with fellow authors who follow me and vice versa. They have helped me in more ways than one in promoting my books.

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?

Thank you. If you read any of my thriller novels, you'll find the scenes are vivid or what has been described by readers and reviewers as "movie-like." So the visuals make it easy for any designer to understand the theme. All my book covers were created by different publishers. I don't get involved in the initial stage as I prefer the "Surprise me!" element. Once it's done, and I'm allowed to see it, I do offer my two-cents worth if I feel it's necessary. So far, I've been lucky that I like all my covers. I might comment about the fonts used or suggest some enhancement but nothing drastic.

I don't get readers involve in its development. Too many hands spoil the soup. I also think if you keep showing the reader the covers while it's still in the design stage, there won't be any surprise left. But once my publishers say go, I'll do a cover reveal on social media for all to see. I do, however, have some trusted people behind the scenes whose opinion I value so I'll show them the covers and ask for their opinions before the covers go public. It's less complicated that way.

You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

I have a lot of short stories scattered in my mind, and it's actually one of my styles. I decided to publish some of them based on my mood at that moment in time. It's not a marketing ploy. However, I was uncertain how readers, especially new ones, would react as it could jeopardize initial impressions when it comes to promoting my novels. The style of writing these short tales is different from my novels. But it was a risk I was prepared to take. From the reviews, I noticed that some readers liked it while others hated it. It didn't help me with the sales of my main novels not because I was condemned, but because many readers prefer to stick with their favorite genres. It's a one-track mindset. I began to have some doubts about writing more short stories until several foreign translators offered to reproduce them in their native language. They loved the stories. That lifted my spirit. The books have been translated into Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. You just never know!

Also, my quotes from The Little Book of Muses have become merchandises and are sold on various Etsy platforms. They are available on handmade mugs, Tote-bags, T-shirts, prints, and burlaps. People love these quotes so it does generate some income for me. It also creates awareness about the book. This one I have to admit was a marketing intention. After I had published the book, I thought of ways and means to promote it. So I contacted several artists on Etsy and asked them if they'd be interested to recreate my words on their products. They agreed. In fact, author John Grisham even clicked like on one of the merchandises that I promoted on Instagram. It's a Tote-bag with the words: "A Writer Must Have Text Appeal."

Besides the Crime Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers org, what other writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

These organizations have primarily helped me with marketing. I have my own editors and Beta readers so I don't rely on them for such purposes although I know they do assist if you need extra help. These support groups offer different platforms that increase book awareness from interviews, guest blogging to social media promotion as well as giveaways. There are people behind the scenes who are doing a great job helping authors promote their books. Most are volunteers. For example, if you have an event or a book launch, physical or online, they'll publicize it for you not only on the various social media platforms but on the group's online magazines, which has a great number of readers.

What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?

I write thrillers. I do some advertising on book promotion sites but I'm also a member of several hundred book groups on Facebook. I also do giveaways, run contests - whatever it takes. I'm also a frequent blogger. I do lots of guest blogging and write for my own blog. I don't have a theme; I write whatever is on my mind. A bit of this and a bit of that helps. I learned a while back that as an author, whether traditional or self-published, you must do your fair share of marketing if you expect results. Even if you are up there, you still have to play your part.

I'm always looking for ideas. I'm a go-getter. I once wrote to Creative Artists Agency and asked a movie agent to pass my book to a famous movie director, hoping he might option it. They contacted me and send me some papers to fill up and send my book along. The novel didn't get option but it reached the right people. So, somewhere in the office of CAA is a copy of my book or if the agent brought it home with her, on her bookshelf. How's that?

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?

Depending on the platform you use, book giveaways are great. It certainly helps in creating awareness about your book. It has resulted in some sales. I use a variety of promotional sites to run a campaign. Each giveaway platform produces a different result for you. It depends what you want. Some platforms allow you to collect email addresses to build a list of potential readers. This is good if you have an e-newsletter. It takes time to create awareness but a little bit of everything helps along the way. I see it as a long-term investment.

One of the obstacles that I face is the cost factor of sending a physical book for these giveaways as I have to pay for postage. I live in Singapore and when I send a book to the United States or any other part of the world you can imagine what's it going to cost me. So I prefer to send a Kindle because it's more affordable. Even if I send a physical book via Amazon or other book sites it's not going to be cheaper for me due to the currency exchange.

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'm here, there - everywhere. I issue an e-newsletter twice a month and it helps me get new subscribers that way. If a subscriber likes your book they'll forward your email to their friends and it goes on and on. You'll also find me on several book forum sites. I have no issue with doing shameless promotion. I think it's my background being in the field of public relations. I know the value of PR. But I do it with tact. I am careful with my choice of words. I don't beg or spam. I might make a mistake or two after failing to read instructions but I always rectify the situation. I've made friends with lots of fellow authors from around the world who back me up and vice versa. I promote their works and they promote mine. We do book swapping where I'll promote their books on my e-newsletter and they do mine. It has improved sales across the board.

Living in Singapore creates a unique selling and marketing situation. Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation?

Would you believe it that most of my readers are from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom? I know this from the demographics of book sale reports. And they've all come to learn about me from social media and book promotion sites. And they happen to be my biggest followers on social media too. So, yes, marketing online has certainly helped me in more ways than one.

I believe it was a combination of factors that piqued readers' curiosity about me. I write in English and when readers see my novels endorsed by renowned American authors, they become curious. They know I'm not American or British and yet my books are endorsed by famous names, New York Times bestselling authors and USA Today bestselling authors. They want to know why. It has helped me a lot, especially since I am so far away in tiny Singapore. And the only platform to reach out to readers is to market my books online.

You have published your books in other languages. How is your audience abroad? Does marketing online help in this situation?

I just got paid for the first time a few days ago for the sales of my foreign-translated books. It wasn't much, but it's a start. I would say yes, marketing online helps. Some of these books were purchased by libraries in the United States even. So it's a good sign. I have also signed a contract with a literary agent, The Evan Marshall Agency. The terms included foreign rights for my novels, particularly Smokescreen, Incognito and Gun Kiss. So let's see what happens. Wish me luck!

Author's Book List
Gun Kiss
A stolen piece of history, an abducted actress and international intrigue…

When the Deringer pistol that shot Abraham Lincoln is stolen and ends up in the hands of a Russian military general, covert agent Blake Deco is tasked by the FBI to head to the Balkans to recover the historical weapon. Meanwhile, the United States media is abuzz with news of the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood movie star, Goldie St. Helen.

After Blake’s return from overseas, he receives a tip from a Mexican friend that a drug lord, obsessed with the beautiful actress, is holding her captive in Tijuana. With the help of a reluctant army friend, Blake mounts a daring rescue. What he doesn’t expect is to have feelings for Goldie—or that a killer is hunting them.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Pope Gregoire XVII was last seen waving to the crowd at Saint Peter's square from the famous Apostolic Palace window. Despite several layers of tight security, neither the Gendarmerie nor The Entity (the Vatican's secret service) or the Swiss Guards claimed to know anything about his sudden mysterious disappearance.

As the world mourns for the pope, a frantic search begins in Italy and beyond its borders amid speculation that the Holy See may know more than they are telling.

Ayden Tanner, a former British SAS commando officer -- who is officially dead -- is dispatched with two other crew members to find the Supreme Pontiff by The League of Invisible Knights, a covert division of Anonymous that aims to bring about the triumph of good over evil.

A secret arrangement is made for Ayden to meet Rafael Rabolini, the Papacy's press secretary, in Geneva, who might be able to tell him more. But trouble unexpectedly starts from the moment Ayden arrives in the city that winter day…

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

Stories to Creep You Out Until Dawn - 10 Eye-Bulging Flash Fiction
Ten real- life bone chilling stories from evil spirits, ghoulish figures to the paranormal, the supernatural, the unexplained, and things that do more than just go bump in the night.

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I Swear It Happened Just Like This - 17 Short Stories for Your Pocket
Scary stories, funny stories, philosophical stories, strange-but-true stories, and more. 17 personal stories altogether to share with your friends to keep the conversation going when words expire.

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At an ancient café in Cairo, two veteran spies plot a covert mission to resolve — once and for all — the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The pledge: Israel will make a major concession as part of the peace treaty. In Singapore, Jethro Westrope, a magazine journalist, stumbles onto the scene of a murder: the beautiful Niki Kishwani directs him, in her last breath, to a digital recorder, evidence that puts Jethro’s life in serious danger. And, much worse, he is framed for Niki’s murder. Jethro sets out to find Niki’s killer and is drawn into a web of deception and intrigue involving officials from the Singaporean, Israeli, and American governments, each with a complex, competing, and potentially deadly agenda. Against this pulse-pounding backdrop, Jethro races to find answers and save himself —yet nothing is as it seems. He finds himself at the centre of a political plot so diabolical and sweeping in its world implications that he is stunned to discover tomorrow’s news headlines today. He is being set up not only as a murderer but as an assassin, and something much larger than his own fate is in his hands.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

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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