Monday, October 17, 2011

Questions Are More Important To Writers Than Praise--At Least To This Writer

**FIRST, A NEWS FLASH**: I’ve now made it possible for you to buy my novel, THE CITY OF LOST SECRETS, directly from me. Simply click on the "Buy Now" button and use your credit card. The transaction will take place through PayPal, which is completely safe and secure, and you don't even need a PayPal account to make the purchase. In the long run it’s cheaper than buying it through Amazon, because Amazon charges shipping and I won't. The book will come directly from me--no taxes charged, no shipping costs tacked on, no strings attached. Plus, you'll have the option of receiving an autographed copy. If you’re interested, simply click on the link to the right. **END OF NEWS FLASH**

Second, a thank you. I’ve gotten some awesomely positive reviews of the book, and I can’t thank you enough. I’m so fortunate to have such dedicated readers, who’ve taken time away from their busy schedules to read my novel. And I’d also like to give a shout out to my personal “team” of salesman who’ve worked tirelessly to get the word out about the book. You know who you are… Thank you all so very much!

You know, upon the release of the novel, I hoped that readers would be engaged enough to not just say “great job” or “nice book” or “I liked it” and truly give me feedback that I could use for future installments and to make me a better writer. I was fortunate enough to get it, and then some. I received positive reinforcement and critical analysis and even suggestions for the next book in the series. How awesome is that?

And I also got something else that a writer sometimes can only dream of: questions.

You see, all writers want to hear that readers liked their book, thought it was well researched, kept them up all night, yadda yadda yadda. Those kinds of comments give us goose bumps. It means we’re doing our jobs well. Don’t get us wrong—writers love those types of comments! In fact, keep ‘em coming! But you know what’s even better than praise to a writer? Questions.

If a writer asks a reader if they liked their book, and the reader starts asking questions, then the writer knows they’re on to something. They’ve struck a nerve. They’ve connected with that reader somehow. They’ve engaged the reader enough that they’re past the “I liked your book” pleasantries and on to wanting to know more—what inspired the book, who did you interview, what type of research did you do, etc.

I wasn’t so bold as to expect to get questions from readers, but of course I hoped I would. And the top three questions I hoped I’d get asked were:

1. Is the book autobiographical?
2. Who did the artwork?
3. When’s the sequel coming out?

I wanted these three questions most of all because it meant readers were paying attention to the characters as well as the plot, they appreciate a quality book cover when they see it, and they enjoyed the book enough to want to read more. As I see it, those are the three most important qualities in a book. Did you like the cover enough to pick it up, were you invested in the character’s lives and draw possible connections to their creator (the writer), and did you love the book enough to immediately want to find out what happens next? Answers to these questions are like a litmus test for a writer to determine if we’ve done our job. A yes to all three questions is like a goldmine. A no means we have some work to do.

Luckily, those were the top three questions I was asked. Whew! That meant I’d felt I succeeded in giving readers the complete package, a totally-immersive reading experience. What a relief! You liked it! You really liked it!

There are flaws of course, and the book is by no means perfect, but it was as close to perfect as I could make it at the time.

So, was the book autobiographical? Partly. I’ll let you figure out what parts....

Who did the artwork? An awesome dude named Stan Tremblay with

When’s the sequel coming out? Summer 2012 (fingers crossed).

So while those were the most commonly asked questions, there were three others that were asked frequently enough to be printed here. They were:

Did you travel to Jerusalem for research? 
I wish, but no. But I will get there some day.

Did you interview professors or biblical scholars? 
No, I didn’t interview anyone. I could have spent time tracking down experts, but honestly, I didn’t think they’d take me seriously enough as a writer to want to talk with me. So I did the next best thing: I read every book by key experts in the fields of biblical archeology, the New Testament, first-century Roman occupied Jerusalem, and the life of Jesus.

What inspired you to tackle a controversial subject for your debut novel?
Stupidity? No, seriously. I’ve been fascinated by biblical history since I was a teenager. Don’t ask me why—it’s a long story. I knew tackling a sensitive subject involving perhaps the most controversial figure ever could end my career before it even began. Most writers start off with more commercial fare and build their name to the point where they can publish whatever the hell they want. Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code always comes to mind. That novel was actually his third published book. I did it ass-backwards. I started and stopped three novels—ones I was sure could catapult my career--before starting to write The City of Lost Secrets. The decision quite possibly cost me an agent and a fine career as a traditionally published author, but I got to the point where I didn’t care. The City of Lost Secrets was too deep-seated in my brain to let it go and I believed in it too much. We’ll see if the decision to self-publish pays off. Based on the positive feedback I’ve gotten, I’d say it has.

There ya go, the six most common questions I’ve been getting about the book. Got any other burning questions about the book you’re dying to have answered? What? Whaddya mean you haven’t read the book yet? Shame shame. Hop on over to Amazon, B& or right here on my website and buy yourself a copy. Read it and email me what you think. Better yet, post a review on Amazon.

Got a Kindle e-book version you want me to autograph? Surf on over to and send an KindleGraph request. It’s easy and free!
This post is dedicated to James Neary, who would’ve turned 101 today. He was a hell of a guy who had a dream to live to be 100 years old. He did, then quietly passed away four months later. You are missed, dear Pop-Pop.