Interview with author, Dan Chamberlain

I'm pleased to welcome Daniel C. Chamberlain to Beyond Words. Dan is among the top sellers for Solstice Publishing. I've invited him here to share a few marketing tips as well as to get to know him and his work better. Welcome Dan!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’ve been a police officer, Chief of Police and Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations where among my “few” notable achievements; I broke the largest black market ring in post World War II Europe. I sort of stumbled into that one. After retiring from the Air Force, I became Director of Security for a multi-national corporation. I’ve also been a successful “Feature” contributor for national circulation firearms magazines.

I’ve combined a love of history and the old west, with my investigative skills, to  craft a frontier murder mystery: “THE LONG SHOOTERS,” that will satisfy lovers of traditional westerns, and detective fiction. 

My second novel: “BATTLE OF FORTUNE WELLS” pits a small group of settlers, army and desert travelers against relentless attacks by Comanche and dwindling water supplies.  It’s more of an action/adventure, but it’s loosely based on an actual event in the 1877/78 time frame. 

I live in Illinois with my wife Noreen and three daughters, Lesley, Ashley and Rachel.  Ashley is the graphic artist who created my book covers.

Now, I’ve embarked on another career as an oncology nurse. 

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

I’ve decided to leave the “West” behind for a while.  My newest effort will be a contemporary “Action/Adventure” where I draw on my experience in counter espionage and my weakness for wise-cracking protagonists.  If you like Robert B. Parker, you’ll like this.

How long have you been writing? What influenced you to start?

I haven’t always wanted to be a writer.  First, there was potty training.  I didn’t really start seriously writing until I was living in Germany.  There I crafted a few short stories that I never attempted to market. 

It wasn’t until I was living in Illinois and newly married that I decided to try and market a piece.  It was a western short story entitled: “High Country Gold” that was picked up by a regional magazine called “Wordsmith” in Colorado.  Suddenly I realized, “Hey, I can do this stuff.”  What followed were several magazine articles and the manuscripts that would eventually become my first two books.

My influence was the love of the written word.  I’m not into flowery prose, but believe sentences and phrases can be crafted to read eloquently, without resorting to purple prose.  I count a book as worth reading, if I find myself re-reading certain passages out loud, just to feel the words roll off my tongue.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I’m a terrible sales person. I’ve always believed a good book would generate its own sales, but of course I’ve discovered it might not happen in my lifetime!  So, I took to the Twitterverse and promoted the hell out of my first book, but I refused to Tweet things like: “Hey, check out my new book”.  I didn’t want to be one of two million starving writers using the same old lines.  I figured, hell, I’m a writer!  I should be able to craft tweets that intrigue people.  So, that’s what I did. 

Another thing I do, is I refuse to tweet quotes, inspirational or otherwise.  My feeling is, writers should focus more on crafting the things other people will one day quote and less on the words of others.  One of my favorite tweets which gets retweeted a lot is:

“It may be there are no original thoughts left to express.  So it’s my job to find original ways to express them.”

After each tweet, if there’s room, I put a link to my book and blog, or just the book if space is limited.

Another thing I’ve found ls very helpful, is every time someone mentions to me they loved my book, I ask them to do a review.  The more reviews, the greater the visibility.  Ask for reviews and not just from friends.  I’ve found creative ways to let people on the internet forums I frequent know that I’ve got books out there.  Many of them send me private messages that they read and love the books.  I reply with a lot of thanks and ask them to post a review if they have the time or inclination.  It works.

How much of the marketing do you do?

All of it.  I’m published by Solstice Publishing, but their marketing is minimal beyond their website.  I don’t mind. It’s my book and I’ll get the word out.  I tried Facebook, but discovered what a lot of people have probably discovered, we join Facebook to reconnect with old friends, only to “rediscover” why many of them were ‘old’ friends in the first place.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while marketing your books?

How darned hard it is to sell yourself.  After all, you’re not selling a book, you’re selling yourself.  You’re saying, “take a chance” on me.  It requires a significant ego to be able to convince others your work is worth their money, while at the same time, it takes enough humility to know that you can’t over value your merchandise when you aren’t proven or have a reputation.  I’m not technically ‘self published’, but I’m not ‘mainstream’ either.  There is the attitude among the reading public that if a major house picks up an author, it’s because that person writes a good story.  That’s not necessarily the case.  I’ve read absolute trash coming out of mainstream houses. 

What was the hardest part of marketing your books?

See the previous answer.  While it’s not impossible, it’s not a case of “If you build it they will come.”  I’m here to tell you it takes more than an idea and a manuscript to make a book.  It takes professional editing – something Solstice gave me that I found to be invaluable!  Too many “Indies” believe they can write a book and edit it themselves, or have their spouse or best friend do a proof read.  I’ve read enough Indie books to know that’s what the authors resorted to.  It won’t work.  Another tweet I like to use is: “Good selling will sell poor writing one time. Good writing will sell the next one in advance.”

I’m not trying to be a jerk or dissuade people from Indie publishing.  But for goodness sake, find someone who doesn’t owe you a favor to do the editing and make sure they know what it takes to edit.  If this means saving up your pocket change and putting off publication for a year, then do it!  Poor writing and craftsmanship by Indies, hurts everyone in the business. 

Where can readers find you?

Or at Solstice Publishing:

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes.  If you want to write, then write.  Tell your story, even if it is one no one else will ever know, or something your grand kids will discover in an old trunk after you’re gone.  Don’t let your life’s story include the book you never wrote. 


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