On Horror Book Series’ With Michael Clark

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Joe Sullivan: I think most writers have heard that doing a series is an excellent way to develop a readership, especially as a newer author. Did you intend for The Patience of a Dead Man to be a series/trilogy from the start?

Michael Clark: Yes, and I think SERIES is the keyword. I took that advice from the Facebook group “20Booksto$50k” except I knew I didn’t have an idea that could keep going to a full-blown series, so I decided to try to keep it to a trilogy. After that, I heard Ken McKinley of Silver Shamrock on a podcast wondering why authors write trilogies because “the third one never sells as many copies as the first”–and he’s right. That’s why I released all three in one volume “TPOADM: COMPLETE.”

I believe each volume has 100-400 ratings on Goodreads, 50-200 ratings on Amazon, both places you’re 4+ stars, which are all excellent numbers in indie publishing. What would you say worked best for you in generating reviews for your books?

Thank you. This first part might not be helpful, but I believed (and still believe) in my story, the setting, etc.100%. I lived on that piece of property and the only thing that isn’t factual is that the house didn’t have a turret. I know that property like the back of my hand and have a strong connection to it. I’ve got a novella in the works with the same setting and I’m even tempted to turn what has already been published into a graphic novel. I guess you’d call it stubbornness; I was really disappointed when I found out a new book has about ninety days of honeymoon before it gets rolled under by the everlasting sea of new books from other authors. I’m trying to think my way around that. If I make money in writing it will have to be a home run rather than becoming a human word factory. 

Now I’ll tell you something that might be useful: I paid for four Goodreads Giveaways for TPOADM (at $119 apiece) and that’s a good way to generate reviews. I also did three (or was it five? I can’t remember) “blog tours” at approximately $80 apiece and I liked those too. Twelve people read your book and you probably get ten reviews out of each one. I was fortunate to be invited to a NightWorms Book Party too, so there’s another dozen or so. Oh, and I gave away a lot of books. I used Laurie Bark’s list of bloggers too–THIS WAS HUGE. I also noticed that Laurel Hightower came out just before I did and was killing it so I reached out to her for advice and as I’m sure you know, she’s as awesome a person as her writing is. In short, she told me to keep good records on when and how many times you ask each blogger to read your book, and I danced around all those guidelines as best as possible. I don’t think I burned any bridges.

I did a lot of giveaways too. I have a plug-in on my website called “KingSumo Giveaways” and it basically runs the whole giveaway for you, all you have to do is advertise it, which I did primarily on Facebook. I’m not sure how pleased I am with the results, however; I think it got me a lot of attention in the Twitter horror community but I also think there is a large internet community that LIVES for giveaways, whether it be books or toilet brushes. I’ll never know how many people joined my mailing list because they were only in it for something free.

I also like “swag.” I’ve always liked logos, and when I was a teenager I’d spend a month at a time re-drawing album covers on 4’X4′ posterboard. Now that I’ve created something of my own, I’m in heaven. I have bookmarks and t-shirts and coasters and bookbags and magnets and pins…etc. I paid $400 for 72 20oz mugs and people LOVED THEM (unexpectedly). For my next release, I’m going to have moisture-wicking t-shirts printed up because I hate traditional cotton ones. I wait for a sale and buy a bunch. When the time comes I’ll have them printed. So “swag” has gotten me some attention. And I also have to give a shout-out to Karlee at “A Stranger Dream.” I have “Mildred” bookmarks and since the horror community already knows her work, I bought a slice of legitimacy.  

I should mention that I’m not rich, but I did go over the top with my spending. I live in a condo, I drive a 2015 Honda CRV…and I probably delayed my retirement…or perhaps invested in an eventual career transition, depending on how things go and how you look at it. I used to play guitar and was always buying, selling, trading them; for sure an expensive hobby and I traded that for writing. Now that my first few years are over, I’m sure I’ll be more discerning from here on out.  

You released each volume about 6-8 months apart. Would you say that was a good release schedule? If you did another series would you release your books within the same time frame?

I would if I could; that schedule was not by design. I write when I can, and since I’ve learned that writing is not the money maker I thought it would be (let’s face it, books sold way more before smartphones) I treat it like a hobby and don’t see the need to rush. Maybe someday if this becomes a more traditional writing career I’ll have an editor, etc. and it won’t be as hard to put out a book.

You released all three books in one volume after the trilogy was completed. I assume it was to attract readers looking for a deal. Has it performed to your expectations? Have you noticed any additional benefits from offering a compilation book?

My ultimate goal is to see my book(s) in a high-quality movie, and I know that’s a long shot. As I said, I’m probably not going to be a writer like Brian Keene who has several streams of income through dozens of books built up over a forty-year career (I’m older than Brian :)). If I make any money it will probably have to be like Andy Weir (“The Martian”) where somebody famous notices and I sign an agent, a book deal, and a movie deal in the same day (a big “IF,” I realize and it will most likely never happen). Releasing all three books in one volume was just me trying to get people to read the whole thing. I didn’t have any expectations, I’m making this up as I go! As far as “additional benefits,” I like that big fatty on my bookshelf and I got to do another cover photoshoot in my basement with my wife in the Mildred dress. I’m having fun creating things. 

Your books are on Kindle Unlimited. What has been your experience using the program? Do you believe it has helped you attract new readers?

Well, in all honesty, HALF of my money comes from those page reads, but on the other hand, I bear all the costs of putting out the book so it probably balances out. I haven’t been traditionally published as yet so I have nothing to compare it to. And pretty much all of my readers are new!

As you released the trilogy did you notice any trends in where your revenue came from i.e. shifting percentages between paperback/eBook/KU/audio/hardback?

I have definitely been more “artist” than “businessman” in this writing venture. The businessman should fire the artist but he won’t go away! There are so many hats to wear I haven’t had the time nor do I have a system where I can take the time to notice trends. TPOADM came out in April 2019, two and a half years give or take, and balancing this with a wife, dog, and a full-time job has been a TRIP.

Series authors tend to discount/or make free the first book in a series. Have you ever utilized a discount price strategy for The Patience of a Dead Man?

I did a bunch of free giveaways (various websites by design) so that I could see my book make a mark on the free charts. I think I made it to #3 in “Paranormal Suspense” but I had to give away three thousand books. Again, this is DAY ONE of my writing career, NOBODY other than “mom” knew I was writing, and three thousand freebie-folks snapped it up. I won’t do that again. As for giving away book one of a trilogy: I think it works better for a longer series. If people BUY Book One and don’t buy the other two (see the Ken McKinley answer above) then I doubt giving away the first will help my sales. As for discount price strategies, my books ARE slightly cheaper than some of the small press books right now, but I may be changing that soon. I doubt that the choice between my book and someone else’s book ever comes down to the matter of a dollar or two.

Would you recommend releasing a series to a new author in the horror genre?

If you’re blessed with an idea you think is that good, then yes. I think we’re most successful doing what we love, and everyone starts out slow. If you want to write a series, do it, but only because you know you can make it good. If you want to open a restaurant, you have to invest in a whole host of things before you sell the first meal. Look at Josh Malerman. I love his inspirational tweets talking about when he was broke. Have you seen the movie ‘Social Network?” They held off making money (running ads) on Facebook until people were hooked. I guess what I’m trying to say is the path to being successful is nearly always different and there is no proven path. I’m still searching! LOL.

Click here to find out more about Michael Clark’s books and socials.

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