Today it is my honor to introduce you to a 5 -Star Mystery Author, R.S. Guthrie, who I really enjoy working with. He grew up in Iowa and Wyoming. R.S. Guthrie has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college. Readers can catch up with what's new with R.S. Guthrie at his official site or discussions related to writing at his blog, Rob on Writing.
Rob, welcome to the blog. Let’s start off with a couple of easy questions. What inspires you to write?
That's actually not as easy to answer as you might think. The reason is that my writing comes more from a place of NEED than inspiration. I need to let out the creative creature inside, so to speak. I mean, certain projects are definitely inspired, and those usually come from seeing a story on the news or perhaps a movie or documentary that depicts a certain element that reaches me and makes me want to write about it. Sometimes (more often than I'd like to admit), ideas come from out of nowhere; my mind will be wandering and BAM, a story idea will hit!
What is the general theme of your books and what do you enjoy writing most?
Well, I do write mostly Fiction, but I've got several Non-fiction ideas, too. I published a book for writers; how to make their books better reads.
My main stream of books is about a recurring character, Sheriff James Pruett, and he is the law enforcement over a small community very much like the one in which I grew up (in fact I recently moved back there). When I was growing up, so many crazy things happened here—considering it is such a small, remote place—that I always knew I would write about it. And now I do!
Tell us a little bit about your books.
The series I mentioned above has three books in it: Blood Land, Money Land, and Honor Land (in that order). I'm working on the fourth book, Aryan Land, and I have to say you should run a picture of the cover, because while you've done them all for me, I really do think Aryan Land is the best!
I have another series with a recurring character named Detective Bobby Mac. It's another Mystery/Thriller series but also has a bit of a supernatural, Good versus Evil, kind of spin to it. The three current books are Black Beast, LOST, and Reckoning.
I'm dreaming up a third main character for a story that is already half-written in my head (and for which you've already completed another excellent cover): The Target. My hope is to finish Aryan Land by the first week or two of next month and then have The Target ready 2-3 weeks after that.
My book for writers is INK: Eight Rules To A Better Book.
How do you promote your books? Are social media an effective place for promoting your books?
I have mixed feelings about social media as far as promotions go. Of course having a presence on social media is an absolute must. You want to be in touch with your readers and I find that is such an excellent way for readers to actually be able to talk with the writers they read. What a world we live in now! Some of the platforms—Facebook in specific—are becoming stronger in the promotional value aspect. Most definitely promotion and exposure are the author’s biggest challenges. Well, that and writing a good read!
How important is marketing yourself as a self-published author?
It is, by far, the most time-consuming and critical element of any author, self-published or not. That’s one of the misnomers: if you work with a publisher, all your marketing is taken care of. Not at all. Oh, you do receive some extra exposure (minimal), but 99% of authors—self-published or not—are expected to do their own promotion!
Marketing is the most crucial element because you can write great books, but if you cannot connect with the readers who would love your books, it is a loss for both the reader and the writer! Books aren’t like cars, or houses, or even furniture—a person reads a book (and then wants another) in anywhere from a day to a week to a month. And there are millions of readers. But when only a small portion of the good writers receive prime placement on, say, Amazon, well those are the only writers of which the readers become aware. A writer’s biggest challenge is getting his or her name in the hands of readers. Then the readers can decide if they like the books or not!
How important is the cover design for sales?
HUGE! And I’m not just saying that because you are a (great) cover designer. Remember the old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover? Well that may be logically true—in other words, the worst cover in the world could contain the best book ever written, but what is the first thing the reader sees in their question to find that next great read?
And I guarantee you, if the cover doesn’t pop—if their eye is not immediately drawn to your book, they will move along. There are just too many other choices out there.
Honestly I feel bad for the reader sometimes. They see this great, amazing, promising cover, buy the book, and the writing is terrible. That’s why I always read the samples. Always. But, as an avid reader, it’s still the cover that grabs me first!
What do you think is the most important thing while choosing your cover designer and editor?
Talent. I hate to put it that bluntly, but if your designer doesn’t have great skills, how are they going to create that magical cover that gets readers to SEE your book first? Now, there are a lot of talented cover designers, just as there are a lot of talented writers, so right there with talent (and truly) the most critical thing as long as you concede you must have someone great, is the relationship between you (the writer) and the cover designer. You need someone with whom you connect, and who can therefore understand what your book needs. As writers, we don’t always know what we want—or worse, we might think we know what we want and be wrong, wrong, wrong!
If you have that cover designer who listens, takes the time, finds out what the book is about, who you are as a writer, and I’ll say it again: listens, well, you’ve found your designer! As much as listening, however, a great cover designer is unafraid to come back to the author with (if necessary) a change or different direction. After all, it is the cover designer who is the expert at design, and what pops off the page.
The challenge is finding the middle ground; that place where the author’s vision and the cover designer’s experience and talent meet. That’s where the best covers are created!
Can you shortly describe your self-publishing journey?
Not enough time.
That would be the best summation I could give. When you begin you think it’s all about writing a book—finishing a book. Hey, finishing a book is hard and it’s a huge accomplishment! So you put it out there and wait. And nothing happens. That’s because of what we talked about above: marketing, finding the readers, getting them to give your book(s) a chance.
For me that part is by far the hardest. It doesn’t mean writing is easy. But at least I know how to write. You have to learn, by fire, by trial and error, by bonding with other writers and sharing what works and what doesn’t. And THAT is the long journey—one that promises no writer an end. It’s up to the author, tenacity, learning marketing, and yes, a good amount of luck.
Are there any tips you would like to give to future self-publishers?
Yes: read the answer above!
Rob, thank you so much for dropping by - it has been a pleasure!
Always a pleasure, Tanja. Well, except for that long trip to Croatia. :)