An ILMK interview with The Behrg, author of the Kindle Scout winner Housebroken
When I recently wrote about the first books being selected in Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, I was pleased when one of those authors, The Behrg (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), commented on it. I arranged through The Behrg’s blog to do an e-mail interview, which is below. The Behrg’s Kindle Scout winning title, Housebroken, has not yet been released: I will update this with a link when it becomes available.
Bufo: Congratulations on your novel, Housebroken, being selected in the first round of the Kindle Scout program! I also want to thank you for sharing with my readers your experience as an author in the program. What was it like when you found out your novel was chosen?
The Behrg: Thanks so much! It was a bit surreal, especially as this was the first round with Kindle Scout so no one knew how many books they would be selecting or what criteria they were looking for. I’m humbled to have been chosen alongside many other authors I respect and admire.
Bufo: Tell us about your past publication history. I believe this is your first novel in the Kindle store: what else have you had published?
The Behrg: You’re correct, this is my debut novel. I’ve had various short stories published in online magazines and print anthologies. Most of my writing time over the past decade was spent on screenplays. The difficult thing with screenwriting is compacting your ideas into such a tight framework. As I moved over to prose I felt immediately liberated — there was so much I could explore! While I strive to keep pacing tight I love roaming through people’s heads and getting those inner thoughts that make someone who they are. I still love the art of screenwriting but will be sticking with novels for awhile.
Bufo: Have you felt like you’ve been pretty much in control of how things have gone with your works, or have there been goals you’ve struggled to reach?
The Behrg: I’m a very cautious individual when it comes to putting my work out there, something I learned from screenwriting. You don’t want to submit a work until it’s 110% ready. Being the perfectionist I am, this means umpteen drafts and a slower writing process than many other authors I know. I look at authorship as a journey not a destination, so each little step and success along the way isn’t something to check off on a list of goals but rather a part of the experience. Viewed in this light I think authors have complete control over their works and what they want to do with them.
Bufo: How did you hear about Kindle Scout? What was it about the program that convinced you to try it? What concerns did you have?
The Behrg: It’s interesting because I had been sitting on my novel for over six months, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it — submit it to publishers? Self-publish? Bury it in my backyard? Then I heard about the Kindle Scout program on Twitter through a few fellow writers. One of the things that convinced me to submit my novel was the backing of Amazon’s marketing behind the selected books. Let’s face it, Amazon is a beast when it comes to marketing. Very few companies do it better and to have the #1 seller of ebooks backing and promoting your product? It’d be hard to lose. I’ve been in the entertainment industry for years and don’t mind giving a piece of the cut to someone (or some company) for a larger percentage of the pie. With this being my debut novel, it made the decision even easier.
Bufo: How have other people supported you in this effort? Friends, family, fans?
The Behrg: That’s a great question because to have a successful campaign with Kindle Scout you have to rely on others. I’m a big believer in not spamming people with my own promotions. There’s nothing worse than seeing your Twitter or Facebook feeds clogged up with the same message being delivered from the same person twelve times a day asking you to buy their book. So I asked my family and a few close friends if they would help in promoting my novel once the campaign began. They responded better than I ever could have imagined and were an integral part of my book remaining on the Hot and Trending list for so long.
Bufo: Did you have a strategy for Kindle Scout? Was it your primary goal to actually get published in it, or would you have considered it worthwhile to have participated? Were there other efforts that you had to put aside or de-emphasize to do Kindle Scout?
The Behrg: Great questions. I didn’t come into the program with a built-in audience or fanbase seeing as this was my first real novel. In fact I was surprised when my novel hit the Hot list and stayed there for so long. There were, however, some things I put in place which I feel helped tremendously in the process. I actually put together a post on my blog for authors who are looking to submit to Kindle Scout, offering some tips. (Not to toot my own horn, but you can find it here: http://thebehrg.com/2014/12/10/how-to-create-a-successful-kindlescout-campaign/). One of the key things is to remember your campaign is a marathon not a sprint. Be sure to spread out your promos to your fanbase or marketing or whatever means you’re utilizing to promote your work and get those nominations. If they all come in at once, that’s great but where will your book be weeks 2-4? As far as the efforts that went into promoting the campaign, I purposely chose not to allow it to interfere with my writing time. I really didn’t do much other than blog about my experience and do the occasional post on Facebook or Twitter. Luckily fans, friends and family did the grunt work for me and kept that thing humming along.
Bufo: How has participation in the program been? Have things gone smoothly? What was the best surprise you got about it?
The Behrg: I don’t think the program is for everyone, and that’s okay — it’s not meant to be. But I would highly recommend anyone who has a completed novel that is ready to go to give it a try. Even if you don’t win, there’s so much you learn from the process … plus you’re picking up fans and new readers who wouldn’t have known about you any other way. One of the best surprises to me came from comments on my blog and people sending congratulatory emails about my book’s acceptance, all from readers I don’t personally know. I’ve also made some great contacts with other authors who were in the program, some who were chosen and some who weren’t, who I’m now speaking with about future projects or helping as a beta-reader with their new works and vice versa. None of these contacts would have been made had I not given the program a chance.
Bufo: What else would you like to tell my readers about Kindle Scout?
The Behrg: I think Kindle Scout is very much in its infancy and we’ll probably see a lot of changes to it as it continues. Many authors are waiting to see how it works out for those who were selected in the first go-around. I’m happy to say, from the contact I’ve had with the Kindle Scout team, they’re taking it very seriously and are providing even more than I had hoped for. For readers, I think it’s a fantastic program. You’re able to discover new authors and talent you might not have heard of and also help support those authors in reaching their dreams. Plus you have a chance of receiving free copies of the books that are chosen if you nominate them. There’s really no downside. A few of the books I nominated were not chosen, but I’ve taken the opportunity to reach out to those authors to let them know I’d be interested in purchasing their book once they are released (whether self or traditionally published).
Bufo: Would you put another book into Kindle Scout? How would you change the program if you could?
The Behrg: I’m not sure if I would put a second book into the Kindle Scout program. I’m wanting to try several different methods of publishing to see what works the best. I don’t think there’s one magic bullet that will put an author on a fast-track to notoriety, it’s just a constant stream of activity and work and eventually all of those parts add together to hopefully an impressive sum. As far as changes I would make to the program? I think it would be in everyone’s interest for the authors to be given a way to communicate with those who nominated their works. For instance, the books I nominated that weren’t chosen, I would love to hear an update from the author on when they might be publishing them. Amazon would win as it would lead to more sales, the authors win as whether or not they’re chosen they’re picking up a wider audience, and the readers win by finding great new books.
Bufo: One more question about Kindle Scout: did you participate in it as a reader?
The Behrg: Absolutely! It would be a shame to only be in a program like this for myself and not support other authors. In truth, I’ve discovered new authors and have gone on to purchase some of their backlists. Most of the promoting I did during my campaign was for the program itself, telling people about Kindle Scout and sending them to the home page rather than my own link for a nomination. We need programs like this to succeed, ways to sift through a lot of the noise and help great books rise to the top.
Bufo: Finally, tell us about the book. How would you describe the genre, and your writing style? What type of person would find Housebroken especially appealing?
The Behrg: Housebroken is a dark psychological thriller, a home invasion story with a twist. The basic premise is about a family that is taken hostage in their own home yet their kidnappers have no demands — all they want is to observe the family for a week, following their every day activity. As you can imagine, that’s a recipe for disaster. Add to it that the kidnappers create rules for the family that when broken, cause the kidnappers to break their own rules — rules that include no one getting hurt, the family’s son staying with them, and the observation lasting only a week. There are a lot of twists and turns and surprises along the way. Anyone who enjoys Dean Koontz, Gregg Hurwitz, or Stephen King novels would enjoy this.
Bufo: Thanks again for doing this interview! Books are at the heart of it all, and they don’t exist without authors like you. Time may be the most valuable resource for a writer, and I appreciate you sharing yours with us.
The Behrg: I appreciate the opportunity to share a piece of my journey with you and your readers! I myself am an avid reader and to me there’s nothing more exciting than discovering a new author whose voice just speaks to you. Some of my favorite authors today are writers I hadn’t heard about a year or two ago! Gregg Hurwitz, Michael Sears, Ted Dekker, Joe Hart, Blake Crouch, Douglass Clegg; there really is so much talent out there. It’s a great time to be a reader! Ten or twenty pages in, when you’re reading with a smile, already lost in the world that’s been created — partly in print but mostly in your own imagination — that’s an amazing experience. My aim with my own writing is to facilitate that journey and join you on the ride.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.