Name: Mark S. Bacon
Book Title: Desert Kill Switch
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Those are really two very separate questions. I decided this when I was probably 14 years old. At the time I wasn’t thinking author as much as simply writer. I wrote short stories mainly for my own entertainment. At first I was a science fiction and fantasy fan. My stories were a blend of mystery and fantasy always with twist endings. I enjoyed reading because it would take me to places and times I’d never experienced—or never would.
In high school, as everyone does, I took English composition and was inspired and encouraged by two talented teachers. I also took journalism. The more I wrote, the more I could see that writing was the most challenging work that I could accomplish reasonably well. That’s been part of my motivation throughout my writing career that’s included work for newspapers, writing for broadcast media and becoming the author of books.
The second part of the question is why pen this book. Looking for another challenge for my Nostalgia City protagonists I discovered a somewhat sneaky practice of some car dealers. They sometimes install GPS trackers and kill switches in the cars they sell to people they consider high-risk borrowers. Miss your payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—and your car is dead.
Is this your first book?
No. Number eight.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
I’m published by a traditional publisher. I choose them because they published my first mystery and wanted more.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
I sold my first book to a big New York publisher after writing only three query letters. I then had to write a few sample chapters and an outline and that was it. I got an advance (for this business book) and started writing.
Of course, that was too easy. But I had done my homework about the market and about the kind of books this publisher produces. And I had what turned out to be a unique angle on my topic. Subsequent books were not as easy.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
First, you have to do your homework. Which companies publish books like the one you are writing? Talk to them only. It’s a waste of time to send a query letter about your fantasy novel to a company that publishes only nonfiction.
Second, be prepared to tell a publisher how you’re going to launch a professional marketing campaign for the book. Yes, you will have to market your own book. If you don’t have a website/blog and a presence on several social media outlets, do that before you send in a query. Your publisher will require it.
Agents can be of great help—one was for me—but they’re business people. Find one who is genuinely excited about your book. If you can’t, pitch the book on your own.
Hundreds of thousands of new book titles are released every year. Even though the majority of titles are nonfiction, that can be an easier market to break into than writing novels. Nonfiction titles are more easily sold to a niche market. It’s easier to sell a nonfiction book to a small, but specialized market (quilters, photographers, pet owners, etc.) than it is to sell a novel to everyone who reads.
Many people who want to be writers think writing books is the path to success. I used to teach journalism and I’d tell my students that there are a multitude of successful writers in the world—copywriters, business writers, public relations writers, sports writers, speech writers, tech writers and many others—who have never written a book. Making a living solely through book writing is rare.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Of course. Landing a publisher—finding someone who likes your work enough to print it—is a great ego boost and a possible stepping stone to future books. But you need to know exactly what your publisher will do and what they will expect you to do.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Starting a career hoping to survive on book royalties is more than daunting. I suggest aspiring authors consider a less demanding, less stressful and more financially rewarding career. Crop dusting pilot, alligator wrestler, and bomb diffuser come to mind.