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[00:00:01] Hello and welcome to the Bestseller Experiment where we discover what makes a bestselling novel whilst trying to write publish a market one in just one year.
[00:00:14] I Mark Desvaux and I Mark Stay. Thank you very much for joining us today and welcome to episode three where we're going to look at what the work ethic of the writer has right. So if
[00:00:24] You're joining us for the first time let me quickly introduce my co presenter Mark Stay. He's a co-writer of robot overlords which became a movie with being Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson. And Mike you've also worked with her own books which is part Hachette for the last 15 years. That's right.
[00:00:42] That's right. I've been selling books in one form or another for about 20 years now and I started doing Christmas at water stones and never looked back.
[00:00:51] And you know my job is to try and convince you the official cynic if this podcast and pessimist are this crazy idea can actually work isn't it.
[00:00:59] It is [00:01:00] indeed. Yes and my friend is the insane optimist. Mr. Mark Desvaux is a dream coach recording artist and wannabe author. His career in a music music industry has landed you a couple of bestselling albums which I was grooving out to the other day is very good work music. Yeah. Very good. And you've played Glastonbury which I and I know that you casually toss into conversation every now and you have a publishing deal with Warner Bros. No. So not too shabby not too shabby.
[00:01:27] I've also never finished a book.
[00:01:28] So I think you know I'm a slow reader myself. I'm talking about writing it until about right.
[00:01:35] I had this thing and I think I think you know maybe out there you'll fill a scene but I I get really inspired for ideas and I sit down and I get through the first two three chapters and then the kind of characters get a bit bored and leave the page or maybe I just get too too excited about other projects and maybe one of these squirrel merchants who just kind of was a shiny monkey mind shiny new objects sass me I think well you know Mark this episode is [00:02:00] tailor made for you and writers just like you because we'll be talking about the work ethic now in the first two episodes we've spoken to industry experts people who worked in publishing for major publishers for considerable years.
[00:02:14] And we've we've got some amazing insights from them. But for Episode 3 we're finally talking to an author and an independent author as well. I mean the odds are our listeners and ourselves won't be picked up by a publisher. We're much more likely to go down the independent publishing route by publishing an e-book and we're going to be talking to someone today who's done that and has done a pretty good job of it.
[00:02:37] When you say well yes we did we did promise in episode one that we were gonna bring in some multi-million selling authors and that's what we've managed to do today so I'm incredibly excited about this. But before we dive into the interview I just want to tell you something Marc. Probably aren't aware of it all next. No no it's all good. So good on that. Our interview today is almost as crazy about Star [00:03:00] Wars as you are.
[00:03:01] Well there's that there is a lot of us about that. This is one of the films do so well they're clearly tapped into some primal need to go into space and fight each other with laser swords. But good Oh that's good. Well I mean I'm a fan anyway so she's already gone into my top ten so just does all it takes.
[00:03:23] So we're welcoming to the show today. Shannon Mayo. Welcome Shannon. Thank you for having me. It's great to have you on the show.
[00:03:31] And I first met Shannon about 2 7 8 months ago. That's right Shannon.
[00:03:39] Shannon lives in the same area of the world as I do on the west coast of Canada. And when I first met Shannon something blew me away big time and that she'd spent most of her life up until becoming an author changing horse shoes right and correct farrier.
[00:03:54] I was a farrier farrier and today Shannon is sitting here as a USA Times [00:04:00] bestselling author.
[00:04:02] She's published between 35 and 40 books. And I love the fact that it's somewhere around that amount.
[00:04:09] She's written so many nice come over has recently signed a deal with Amazon Publishing amongst other things. So Shannon tell us a bit about your story today. Because obviously I think changing all those horse shoes has brought you some serious good luck.
[00:04:29] Well I started out as a lot of girls just loving horses and fell into horse shoeing but I had always loved reading and always enjoyed writing but I've been told by you know very well-meaning people in my family and friends that you know you didn't make money or a living writing books that was something you did as a hobby or something you know the only people who made money and it was you know Stephen King or and race you know the big names. And so I never took it seriously until [00:05:00] I was a few years into my horse shoeing and my husband and I were discussing families and having children and how very difficult it would be to be nine months pregnant and trying to crawl underneath a horse in chains or shoes. So you know we discussed possible options in terms of another form of income being a typical family we couldn't survive on on a single income so he really encouraged me said You know I've always loved writing so why not try because he said the worst thing that's going to happen is you don't make any money at it but the possibility is there that you could have you know a small source of income that would cover what you are already making. So that was a few years ago I was 25 and I started then to write with the thought that I'm going to try and get something published and get my toes into that industry. So probably without his encouragement I might not have ever taken that step.
[00:05:56] So really I owe a huge shout [00:06:00] out to him for that because you know a lot of authors don't ever take that step because too fearful too fearful to put yourself out there without someone that you really trust backing you. And then I spent a lot of time in the traditional world trying to get agents I've had a couple of agents and I've fired them both for various reasons and I've had lots of interest recently from the traditional world but it's because they've seen my success.
[00:06:29] And so I can be a little pickier now but you know I spent a lot of time learning about the industry and learning about agents and publishing houses and editors and the process and writing pitches and queries and this sort of thing and it was all a really great education and long story short it's been about three and a half years now that I've been writing full time. And it's been a really fantastic journey hard and definitely has its ups and downs but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
[00:06:58] I mean I think one of the things that [00:07:00] amazes me about you Shannon is just the work ethic you've got and I joke about poor shoes and good luck. You know the harder you are lucky you get. Absolutely absolutely.
[00:07:10] And you know I think Shannon kind of just kind of just sort of. Can I just ask because some you know you've done some writing as a child you'd been put off by people who kind of felt it was you know another world a world away only Steven Keen makes money from it that kind of thing. And then years later encouraged by your husband you decide to write Had you done any writing in between. Was there something that made you think you can still do this. Or was it the first time you sort of picked up a pen and angry.
[00:07:38] No I'd spent my quiet time when I was you know had a little you know an hour here or there to myself.
[00:07:45] I was always writing down ideas so I would think oh the list is a great idea and I would start I'd have probably like a lot of authors and writers out there. I had probably 10 or 15 books that I'd started you know two or three chapters of each just writing [00:08:00] off of kind of inspiration I had had in that moment but I'd never gone forward with it and completed any of them. You know I think the most I'd have done in maybe 30 35 40000 words of a single book and then I Another idea would crop up and because I didn't have a goal specifically to publish an idea would crop up that caught my attention and I'd wander off to that. I think it's a common issue with writers is that we have all these creative juices flowing that as we get into a story and a new idea crops up then we wander off like I say and end this.
[00:08:35] It's a good thing and a bad thing right. Sure.
[00:08:40] I mean it's fascinating because you said you didn't have a goal but suddenly necessity comes along. You need to earn some money. You can't carry on with the farrier raised so you suddenly have to set.
[00:08:51] Why. I've done a couple of boot camps and lessons with my local writers group and I describe it as having a push [00:09:00] and pull. So with an author if there's not a push away from something negative and in my case the negative was shoeing horses for the rest of my life as much as I love the animals and my clients is a crippling career. Like I've met fair peers in their early 40s who have enormous back issues blown out elbows you know crunched up knees and hips because of the damage of doing a very physically demanding job. So that was my push you know towards something else and the pull for me was having a child care for a woman that's an incredibly powerful pull and for me that was my goal. My goal actually wasn't the financial end of things. It was I want won't have a child I cannot do that if I stay shoeing horses. So I have to make this work. There was no other option for me.
[00:09:53] Yeah and what was and when when you were writing when you were going to boot camps and stuff like that were you showing people your writing the [00:10:00] unfinished books the first chapters which were you handing them out to people was anyone else at the boot camps that I actually was running in the boot camps.
[00:10:07] And so I was teaching those lessons. But in terms of my own training what I did was I started attending conferences writers conferences where I could learn from the Masters as it were you know different authors who were already published and successful and taking various courses I took a couple of university grade editing classes that ran over six to eight weeks depending on the specific one. And so I learned the back end of things to understanding why people edit the way they edit actually helped me become a stronger writer because I could avoid the mistakes that a lot of writers make that the editors then have to fix. So I just basically looked for anything that I could do to improve my craft and improve my understanding of the industry and improve my ability to potentially market down the line because even though at the beginning of course I didn't have [00:11:00] anything to market yet I knew that there would come a point where I would have to do that.
[00:11:05] And I think as well one of the things that is worth mentioning as well is that when I first met Shannon I think you just it was the beginning of the year and you just finished a year of writing and unlike a lot of authors I know including myself who was you know like 50 he's written a lot of books never finished on what I was amazed. As you'd written and published as I write twelve around twelve novels and a couple of novellas in a 12 month period yeah I think it was I don't want to over estimate it.
[00:11:38] I think it was 10 I think 10 10 books 10 books and a couple of others.
[00:11:44] Yes you see this is the other thing that I find really fascinating is that when we you know the changes in the industry right now are obviously affecting everyone. And you've really struck on a way of [00:12:00] of writing and writing prolifically in fact Shannon element. We did a writing retreat together recently with a group of us.
[00:12:09] And when I first saw Shannon's Mac laptop I thought it was like some specially designed author laptop because it didn't have any letters on the keys only realized when I saw and so I think it was like ninja at work is like steam coming off her fingers.
[00:12:28] So what would you say Shannon as some of the keys to your success I mean you've you've actually coming close to selling as an indie author. One point five million books which is absolutely incredible. And really there are probably some things that you could attribute to that PolitiFact success. What would you say they would be.
[00:12:49] So one of the first things I learned was that you write what you love. So I write in the urban fantasy genre which you know for people who aren't familiar [00:13:00] with it I would say it's kind of like Harry Potter for grown ups. And it's not a huge market. So you have to look at it as a niche market. So I wrote in it even though I knew that I would never have 100 million or 200 million readers to pull from. But in doing that in writing what I love that I feel like that comes through what I am putting on paper. And so the readers that I do have are incredibly loyal and they come back time and time and time again. You know if I write a series that has 20 books in it they follow through the entire series. So that would be the first thing I would say is to write what you love. Don't try and write to market you know when 50 Shades of Grey came out. I mean it was this phenomenal worldwide hit for a variety of reasons and very quickly the books followed that were exactly the same.
[00:13:52] And and for a while they did OK but a lot of those authors now have no following because they wrote to [00:14:00] a market that had a limited run to it. And that can be really hard for an author to have that kind of high peak of selling you know 100000 copies a month and then a year later they're not even selling 5000 copies a month because they don't know what to write. They wrote to market. What else do I write. So write what you love and your readers will show up. They may not show up in droves but they will show up and they'll be loyal to you because they will love what you're writing. The other thing is too I would say develop a work ethic that is that this is not just a hobby. Unfortunately because as my experience has been a lot of people say all real writing the hobby it's something you do when you have time or when you're bored. I've heard that before I just write when I'm bored.
[00:14:46] Really inspiring.
[00:14:51] I when I was still shoeing horses I would take my laptop with me and it was an old beat up laptop. It wasn't my nice little Mac that hadn't worn out my ninja laptop [00:15:00] it was an old clunky I mean I think it was probably 25 pounds it was just huge. But I would take it with me and then when I had a break between clients and if I finished up early or whatever I'd had half hour I'd pull over to the side road I'd pull up my laptop and I'd work for 20 minutes and then I'd drive to my next stop and my lunch breaks I'd just I'd wolf down my lunch and I would take my additional 40 minutes and I would write and I would get up in the morning at five o'clock in the morning knowing I had to leave by 7:00 and I would write I took every opportunity I had to create a writing habit to the point where now if I don't write on a daily basis I stress I stressed that I haven't got my word count in or I haven't worked enough to deserve success anywhere. It's a very strange thing how that swings from being something that you're driven to do that all of a sudden now it's driving you.
[00:15:53] But that work ethic is something that unfortunately is a hard thing to develop and it's a hard thing to explain [00:16:00] to a lot of authors because because it's such a creative job. There is this feeling that I can't write unless my creative juices are flowing. I can't write unless my muse is speaking to me. And the reality is I'm going to say a bad word here. Your muse is your bitch not the other way around. And you have to train it to show up to the party and the only way to do that is to sit down in front of the computer your laptop or your notebook or whatever you use and regularly encourage it to come forward. And you still will like I still do have moments of. I don't like to call it writer's block. It's more like burnout at this point it doesn't block anymore I just run out of juice and then I have to take a week or so off or a few days. But that work ethic that drive and that pushing your creativity forward is the only way to make it happen. If you wait for your creativity to show up you're gonna be waiting a long time.
[00:16:56] So you sometimes find that when you start a writing session if you're not feeling inspired [00:17:00] it's almost like the choke on the car side warming up the engine. When discipline does it start to kick in. I mean sometimes maybe it doesn't but does it typically kick in after a few minutes or sometimes can you be there.
[00:17:12] For now it just mind kicks in usually pretty quick if I allow myself to fall. It's very easy and other authorities is very easy to get sidetracked by you know Facebook and these sorts of things especially once you're published because you're doing all the marketing and you know you're saying to yourself while this is part of the business I have to do this to which is accurate but it's turning that stuff off. Basically once I have the manuscript that I'm working on up in front of me I usually use some sort of like classical or orchestra music in the backdrop because if I have something with words that quite often is too distracting and I can settle in within 10 or 15 minutes and and get after it obviously some days are easier than others but I still sit down. So even if one day I can only get three or four thousand words and the next day I can get seven [00:18:00] or eight thousand words you know at least there's word count on there.
[00:18:05] Well well well back up there. How many words.
[00:18:09] Well I consider like a low average for me like three to four thousand words a day.
[00:18:16] And I think I've seen Shannon by now ten thousand words in four hours.
[00:18:23] Yeah I can I can type as I can type close to two thousand words an hour right now. If I'm in like good flow.
[00:18:30] Doesn't happen all the time it sounds much better than it is because it's it's not everyday but it's still pretty phenomenal I mean one of the things that I've been doing for the last year is actually learning how to touch type because I never was taught that we didn't have typewriters at school and seeing how you write Shannon. You know obviously you're just your hands are kind of disconnected almost. Whereas I've always looked to the keyboard and I actually think it's a huge huge thing for authors even. I mean [00:19:00] there's somebody in our writing group who's quite a bit older and he's learning how to touch type at his age because he sees the value in it. How big do you think this is a skill the authors should have and how much does that help you in your writing.
[00:19:12] I mean it definitely helps with the output because you know if you can knock out even if you can knock out a thousand words an hour four or five hours you can get four or five thousand words right. Which is a huge word count for any author. But I would say the biggest thing is is to keep at it you know when I started I was lucky to get you know three four hundred words an hour I was very slow typist and that was you know a number of years ago and so over time I've gotten better at it and just kind of taught myself. But I think that it's like the writing is like sitting down and teaching your muse to pay attention to you. The typing is the same way you just keep at it. It will get better. You know I always tell people when they talk to me about writing and I say you can start now and work towards a goal and in a year you'll be you know halfway there. But if you don't [00:20:00] do anything now and a year from now that time still passes that time still passes regardless of what you do with it. So you can either move forward or you can sit where you are like a bump on a log. And so the same goes for your taking rate you know typing and you're writing. You know I just as young as you're continually moving forward you're in the right direction.
[00:20:20] So Mark hearing all this is Janice.
[00:20:22] Yeah sorry. I was just gonna ask do you outline much before you jump into a novel or do you just go straight in page one and just start typing and when you do you know how much revision are you doing and going back and editing. What's your method.
[00:20:39] Well I used to I used to be a parents or I would tell people that I had timelines that I used because I didn't like the idea of being a plotter. I don't know what my hangup was about it but I learned very quickly if I was going to write at the capacity that I wanted to produce as much as I wanted to that I was going to have to learn to plot. And [00:21:00] I took a hold of the hero's journey in that book.
[00:21:05] Writes Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Vote yeah yeah yeah.
[00:21:11] Here I think it's I think he still calls it the hero's journey. I'm not sure yet. Anyways for Christopher that became kind of my Bible I use that to understand and then of course taken editing classes but so I sit down and I write my plots out as detailed as I can. And what I do actually is I then send them to my editor.
[00:21:30] She has a look at them and pulls out any spots that she sees in terms of like holes or questions she would have and want answered. And then I make adjustments and then I dive into their writing. That being said I still in the middle of books will find myself veering off as a character you know misbehaves or shot.
[00:21:50] I love that approach. Actually Mark Shannon actually sends the plot to her editor. We always think of editors and we've interviewed a few of them. We think of them as towards you know once the books written [00:22:00] riff it's events and re sharing all the massive holes but that's a great strategy because if something's blindingly obvious to someone else of that state I mean how many roughly if you know if you're doing say 12 10 books in a year how often do you hit the mark with the plot first time and the editors saying this looks great. Or is it more often than not that they're quite collaborative in early stages at this point.
[00:22:25] At this point in my career it's been pretty steady for them to come back with two or three points usually just questions wanted me to clarify that I understand I understand as the author where I'm going with this and they're kind of trusting me to do that. There's been a couple maybe maybe like one a year now where the editor will come back and say this maybe isn't up to snuff maybe you should revisit this and before you start writing the nice thing about doing it that way is it cuts down the time afterwards in terms of the editing and revisions cuts down their work because [00:23:00] hopefully I've covered some of the issues that they would otherwise be picking up in their first and second passes in terms of the developmental side of things.
[00:23:10] So yeah and at that stage if it was at the other end then there's a lot more. In theory there's little. Will work to do is now in terms of rewrites and trying to fix plot. Absolutely for them to read.
[00:23:21] Particularly if it's structural as well you know if someone says to you this whole chunk in the middle of the second act when I was completely wrong then that's a lot of heavy lifting to do.
[00:23:31] And it is. I mean you're giving them a plot in the beginning say that's maybe three or four pages long. It takes them you know 20 minutes to read through and take notes or you're giving them a book that's 75000 words long and it takes them a few days to read through and take notes. So you're saving yourself time and money by giving them that hour of precursor looking through that plot ahead of time. It's probably been one of the best things I could have done for me and I know [00:24:00] it wouldn't work for every author. But any time I've been insecure about my writing I've I've really leaned on my editors to help me find the holes in it. I mean that's their job and I expect them to tell me when I'm writing crap. And they do I've had to really encourage them to do that they're nervous to do it. Being freelance editors course. Their job is dependent on me coming back to them. And I pointed out that if they don't tell me when I'm writing garbage that I won't come back to them they're not helping me. You know as.
[00:24:29] That's very interesting to hear because you know having had feedback myself you go through the several stages of feedback. The first is kind of anger and then eventually some kind of calm acceptance. I know a lot of writers who would accept the easy edit notes Nichols that will end up in a book that's just not as strong. So for you to say actually hit me hard tell me you know tell me the bad news first. That's that's incredible. Not a lot of authors [00:25:00] who certainly who are starting out can do that.
[00:25:02] Well I mean it's definitely there's ego involved when it comes to your own writing and you never want. You always want to hear the editors say this is the most amazing book I've ever written. It's going to hit every prize out there. But the reality is they do you no favors by being kind. They do no favors. They don't help you be a better writer they don't help you write a better book. They don't help you get a better chance at a publishing deal if they are kind. You need them to be kind of brutal and the only way they're going to be that is if you kind of assure them that yes you know you're going to come back to them eventually after you stop crying in the corner and you will pay the bill and all these things. So yeah I I've just found that that I've had a few editors that just couldn't tell me the truth. And that's OK but I've gone to my current editor Tina is fantastic. She's told me to rewrite books before. Wow. She said this. This just isn't good right from the get go. You [00:26:00] need to rewrite it. And usually when she says that I already know it's just that confirmation that yeah she's she's right.
[00:26:06] Yeah you sometimes just need another voice. Where did she find us. Where did you find your first editor. Where if someone is coming with us on this journey and the thinking of a getting an editor is obviously not she you know you can be spending you know hundreds of dollars or pounds to get an editor Where did you find me.
[00:26:25] My very first editor I actually I actually met in that editing course that I mentioned at the beginning. I took a course for courses. I think it was six or seven weeks and one of the gals in there was at you know wanting to be an editor and I could tell that her style or what she was interested in would mesh really well with what I was doing. So I discussed with her and she worked with me for a few years and then I had another editor that you know kind of just met through here and there in the beginning you you don't really know where to look especially in my case I didn't have a lot of author friends who were published so [00:27:00] I didn't have the network to go to that I have now. Now if I was looking for an editor I have a great network of other well published successful authors that I could say Who do you use. Who would you recommend. And so that is how I do it now. But if someone was looking for an editor a great place there's a site called Predators and editors. And it actually has is kind of a good and bad of the industry. So you if you're if an agent approaches you you can look them up there and see if they've been recommended or been warned away from you. So that's a great site to start. And the other thing is just to start creating that network of other authors online and in and in conferences and attending conferences is a great place to meet both editors agents and other authors and and those that's going to be your support network. I mean your neighbor who is an English teacher and retired. It's great for them to have a [00:28:00] read but they are not an editor and editors looking for really specific things that an English teacher has not been trained to do. They've been you know is better than nothing. Don't get me wrong. And I think it's fantastic when you can use someone close by but don't think of them as the be all end all.
[00:28:15] I think it goes family from from reverse order right feedback on family friends neighbor neighbors your old English teacher your old English teacher and then then an editor or maybe before an editor people in your writing group. Depends how brave you are exactly. But then. So what I'm picking up here Shannon is is one of the crucial aspects to your success.
[00:28:40] And really if we're looking at it from a best palace spender best speller now the best speller you have to be best spelling that's good right. I guess for a best seller I guess I'm going to say that now Mark Stay and the whole mix of the it's the best speller project you can get the least number of bad [00:29:00] words.
[00:29:01] So from a best seller perspective it really sounds like it's not even an option to not think about getting an editor at the top of the list. Absolutely. So Mark we need to find an editor. I'm not an editor I'm from none of this back in that it's a stuff like coming at the end but to have somebody that can rip apart a plot upfront I think would be massive I think.
[00:29:27] Yeah no I agree. Did you think he was looking at my contact.
[00:29:35] Yeah I think anytime you can do that it's great. I mean the biggest hangup for most authors and writers is going to be that they have to put money out far in advance of ever seeing money come back in and that's a hard thing for people to swallow. They don't want to put money out you know and realistically we're all on budgets and so we have to decide are we going to eat this month or are we going to pay our editor. And most people choose to eat. That's [00:30:00] not a bad thing but it's definitely you know I've seen it in particular and in the industry in the independent author industry. You see authors who have talent they're good writers they have great storylines they have terrible editing and terrible cover art and so they they never break out because they don't have the help they need. They think that they're going to make money without some sort of industry help in helping them polish their jam right.
[00:30:31] And the thing I would say to that is that you can't.
[00:30:37] You can't camp on your editors and your cover art. It's a very bad idea because you don't get a chance at a first impression. More than once and there are agents and editors of big publishing houses they are watching best seller list. They are watching new books as they're released. They're looking for their next their next author you [00:31:00] know. So think about that when when you're looking for editors and cover art that sort of thing is that you are going to make an impression one way or the other. And it can be good. It can be bad.
[00:31:13] I think you're absolutely right. I think it's one of the most common mistakes authors make is sending stuff out before it's ready. You know especially you've been slogging over the thing for months and months and months you know you think well that's it. You know it must be ready. I bled and there's always a fresh pair of eyes that can can help. We were talking about this some a couple of weeks ago which is a big question is how do we know when it's ready to go out on I guess you need an editor I guess you need someone objective to stand back and say yeah this is ready for market.
[00:31:43] Yeah I think so I think in some ways. I found in the music industry particularly we're so close to the work we never get to experience it as a reader or a listener. Experience is music and books for the first time. And so in some [00:32:00] ways we were the least the best person at least objective. So I think that's fantastic now we're coming towards the end of this interview but we're just getting started. Call me Shannon would you be willing to come back just another weekend because we're going to get into some of the really big stuff about being an indie best seller which I think is very very sure. Absolutely. Thank you so much. But before we go we just gonna ask Shannon what do you what are you writing at the moment what you've you just released.
[00:32:27] Okay so I just released book six in my elemental series and I actually just found out last week that it hit the USA Today bestseller list. So that's great. That was my book to hit that list. So that's great.
[00:32:40] My my next book that I'm working on is actually it's actually a rewrite which sounds funny but I've taken my original series that I first started publishing with five years ago and as I called it the first book is called Thunder. The second book bound the third book dauntless and they were novellas that I wrote a post apocalyptic [00:33:00] and I decided that the story could not only do with a refresher but a new point of view. It's still a series that's really popular with a lot of my readers. And so I've come back in and I've more than doubled the length. So this is kind of an experiment on my part to see if a rerelease an additional word count will be something that my readers want. And I thought it was time it was. It's a five year anniversary of my writing and my publishing journey and also that particular series so I thought it'd be a fun thing to do. And then after that is the first book in my venom trilogy which is the one I've signed with Amazon's imprint 47 north and it will be out November 1st.
[00:33:41] Fantastic. So lots more to cover with Shannon. Thank you so much. If people want to kind of enter your world and never say never. From what I've heard this is this is the foundation and has Where can people find you websites you're very active on social media as well.
[00:33:59] My [00:34:00] Web site is the beat BW dot Shannon mirror dot com and you can find links to my books there you can find links to my fan page on Facebook. I try to stay in contact with everybody who e-mails me or sends me a message on Facebook whatever so if you have heard the podcast and want to reach out and tell me you've heard this I'd be great. I'll do my best to respond to everybody promptly and yeah I'd love to hear from you.
[00:34:25] That's great and we'll put all of those links.
[00:34:27] Shannon can I can ask just one last question which is if a writer is trapped in an elevator with you and they've only got time to ask you for one tip. What would your one single to leave for that runs a single tip.
[00:34:40] I think that it would have to be. To create that habit the best thing you can do as a writer is create the habit to write every day. You cannot improve your work. You cannot have a shot at improving your work. If you're not working at it.
[00:34:55] So keep at it every day. Even if you give yourself only half an hour 20 [00:35:00] minutes 15 minutes. Right. Right. Everyday.
[00:35:04] Brilliant Excellent. Thank you so much. So if you want to get links to Shannon's social media pages her Web site. We're going to put them all at the bottom of the show notes episode three on the website go to Bestseller Experiment dot com and we look forward to her carrying on this conversation Shannon. Sounds good. Thank you so much. Thank you.
[00:35:23] Wow. Wow. Your muse is your bitch. I'm getting that. Put on a T-shirt straight away and a bumper sticker and a little baseball cap as well. I love that. That's that's brilliant.
[00:35:37] Can be like one of those one of those t shirts like Frankie says being said to be Shannon.
[00:35:41] Exactly. News is your shades since your newsletter image. That's great. That's a brilliant turn of phrase. You can tell she's a writer. Absolutely.
[00:35:50] Yeah I think she made some really really important. I mean that talk about work ethic. I mean that word count. I mean that's that's [00:36:00] incredible. That's just. I mean I I work hard I write a lot and I don't I mean I do as much as I Canada Day and I've got a day job as well. But even if I didn't have a day job I don't think there's any way I get close to that.
[00:36:14] Yeah. And it makes me wonder how how normal that is. I mean normal in the sense of somebody writes every day and I don't think it is.
[00:36:25] I mean I you know I know a lot of authors and it varies wildly. You'll have authors who are happy with 500 words a day but they're good words. You know they will sweat over those words again and again and again. But that's maybe someone who's only delivering one book a year. You will have someone who maybe does two or three books a year who will do a couple of thousand a day and then some you know so it's. And it depends on the genre. It depends. I should have asked of the word the total word count of one of the books because you know you most publishers would consider a novel to be about 80000 [00:37:00] words plus 50 to 60 thousand is a children's book or a novella. I guess I think actually they're about 60 to 80. Yeah well that's it that's exactly for that kind of Kindle publishing where you've got a serious character and it's that's that feels about right I think. But what she's done is what she's achieved in that space of time is astonishing inspirational. It's got me here sitting thinking What the hell am I doing twiddling my thumbs to pull my finger out you know. Well yes it makes a kind of.
[00:37:33] You know when we took on this project the idea of doing this book within 52 weeks was we felt was a huge undertaking. But when I when I hear how Shannon works and how she her work ethic and how she writes I almost feel like a wimp.
[00:37:49] 52 weeks.
[00:37:50] You know the fact is is that maybe and I don't know if this is a perception that many people have is that maybe when when authors [00:38:00] come into the book writing project we see as such a huge achievement finish a book that we put the actual process of writing the book on its massive pedestal and we make it may be in our minds and maybe this is wrong but maybe in our minds when we put it too much as a a huge a huge mountain to climb whereas you know it's really like Shannon really kind of seems to get through you know books you know where she is she gets through her breakfast. So I wonder how much of that psychology is there as well I mean what do you think.
[00:38:31] Yeah I think you're right. I think there's this thing that you know people say I'm going to retire and I'm going to write the great American novel as if it's like waiting for you at the end of your life you know like the monolith in 2001. Whereas you know with Shannon it's a job it's a profession and it's something she does and she you know she keeps up with the demand for her books. And it's an incredible achievement and it's but it shouldn't be unusual. You know I guess if if [00:39:00] the muse is your bitch is then you should be able to. To write you know fairly prolifically. And as she says the more you do this the better you get at it. So if you become if you think the novel is this big monolithic thing you can become paralyzed by fear and you don't write anything or you get you know you get stuck in the mire and end up you know sweating over the same sentence again and again where she gets on with it. So yeah there's a lot to admire there. Much of what she said one very very interesting thing which is going to be pertinent to us which is write what you love. She clearly loves her genre and the joy that brings to her and it makes it easier. It will make it easier if you're writing something you're genuinely passionate about then it makes it. Now the problem with us is we've got to find something that we're both gonna be able to pick up the paint pen and paper and laptop everyday or whatever and write [00:40:00] with a big stupid grin on our faces. So that's what we need. Agree on. So that's that's the first bump in the road I guess but.
[00:40:09] So if you're thinking of writing a best seller one idea that maybe you want to come and you know maybe throw some ideas on our Facebook page at Bestseller Experiment is when you're starting with an idea. Deep do you start with writing a list of what you love and trying to pick something from that or you know when you sit down to write. Did does it come out as this is just a new idea that I've gotten you run with it because I think either way could work. But if you actually have kind of like a a list of the things you most love I'm not talking about actual ideas for books but just themes and even just subgenres within genres or even certain books that you've loved. Maybe there's a kind of a pull that you can dip into when you're thinking about starting to write. I don't know what you think about that.
[00:40:56] Yeah I think so. I mean we've heard this from Julia and Sam in [00:41:00] the previous episode which is you know if you can't really fake it it's if you try and chase the Zeit Geist or try and a someone else is writing. People will see through it. Whereas if you're passionate about it now the thing is you can if you're writing about something that's just not in the vogue or isn't fashionable then you will probably sell fewer copies. But you know and if you strike it I mean Shannon's writing in a kind of paranormal romance genre which is huge absolutely huge. I mean since Twilight and the the True Blood books the Charlene Harris books you know that's a massive massive genre that maybe peaked and has maybe settled down to a level but it's still absolutely massive. And she's lucked out in it's a genre a lot of people want to read. Now if you're into something that's less fashionable then you know maybe not but you know if you're writing as an independent author of you putting your stuff online and it's going to worldwide then the chances are you will find a readership who who loves [00:42:00] your work. So you know that's I think there's a lot in it. Write what you love.
[00:42:05] Absolutely. And it was interesting cause Shannon actually really you know talked about the The Passion of the readers and that goes back to our very first essay too wasn't that we're not discussion with Salman and I was she told me and Julia. Yeah she she mentioned. I remember they talked about the the find your passionate readers father. Oh no actually I'm just going to rewind actually was episode one wasn't it with Rebecca. She talked about that you've got to find your passionate readers and what I do think is that Shannon has found her passionate readers and and it does sound like you know when they read one of her books in this series they're then going to read every single book passionately.
[00:42:47] You just have to look at her reviews on Amazon and oh they're phenomenal. People love the books. Yeah the books. Yeah.
[00:42:54] Good. What else what else jumped out for you Mark as well because this is you know coming from a [00:43:00] publishing you know traditional publishing background it must be quite fascinating for you to tell us she's just she's just so so thorough the fact that she's she did the groundwork she didn't rush into it.
[00:43:10] She's done all sorts of courses she's learned her trade she's observed others she's hired editors which I think she's right.
[00:43:20] I think there's an awful lot of independent authors who you know dash off a few drafts maybe not even that then pop it up on line and just you know sit back and hope for the millions to come rolling in. But you know she she hired an editor and she's not afraid to get notes you know one phrase that jumped out was she said they do no favors by being kind. And so if you give your book to your mom and she says Oh that's lovely. That's that's helping. That's what my mom would say. She's not you know it's not gonna help but if you give it to someone who who is an editor who has some experience who can say this isn't working you [00:44:00] might want to think about this who tests and challenges it because it can only make it stronger.
[00:44:04] You know I've gone I've gone through this when we were developing the script for over overlords we have people at the BFI who would sit down and just test and prod and pride and prod and you know initially it's like a hug Oh why. But eventually you develop a thick skin and it becomes better and better and better and you so much happier for it at the end.
[00:44:25] Absolutely and I think you know it's quite interesting when we think about this the isolation of an author's life you know that that kind of classic stereotype of sitting there with with with a word processor or a blank sheet of paper and looking out the window waiting for inspiration to hit it what it really struck me is actually writing is about collaboration even if you're writing a book on your own.
[00:44:50] For us it's quite interesting because we're going to be collaborating on this novel together. So we're going to be being each other's editors to some extent. But [00:45:00] for single authors to think of them going on this journey by themselves is actually I think a wrong way to. Chip and the Ed is that collaborative and it's somebody who you know you need to find someone who you know is going to be honest because it's like I always say to my son always and me I love spy tennis. And whenever he plays a guy he's like you know why he way above him in in the in the kind of skill level. It's always a bit of a beating. And I say you know you bet much better. Playing against someone of that level because that's how you're going to improve. You keep playing people you're gonna beat her. And so you want an editor who's almost more experienced. Maybe they would have been an author they're more experienced there and they they're gonna they're going to take you on court and give you a beat.
[00:45:43] She's interesting. Most editors I know you know when I get to know them well enough I say so. You wanna write a novel Yeah. Yes or no. I think that they realize that. I think they realize how difficult it can be. I think they've seen the [00:46:00] scene seen it go wrong. Enough time to sort of back away from it.
[00:46:04] And I think they know where the skill set is. But that's it. I mean they. That's what they do and that's what they do best and I think you know if you ever look at the back of a published book In the acknowledgments there'll be a usually a very long list of names and all these people have made some kind of contribution to the book.
[00:46:19] Always ugly because you see this in comic books you buy comic book you'll have the credits of everyone who had anything to do with the book like a movie. Movies credits you know comic book it would tell you about the writer and the artist and the anchor and the colorist but also you know the editorial department sales department the marketing department. And these days in modern publishing you know they all do chip in in sales and marketing. If we think a cover isn't right or a customer you know if Amazon or Walt stones or w Smiths or whoever comes back and says we don't think that covers going to work we have to take that seriously. You know when is not the tail wagging the dog.
[00:46:57] But you know you have to if you start hearing that more [00:47:00] than once then then maybe you've got an issue of the title doesn't work or you know so it is a collaboration and we're always very aware that this is the author's passion project and it's something we work very hard on and we want it to work as well as it can. We want to sell as many books as possible but if it means changing the title then you know or even sometimes the author's name. I find you know quite a chilling prospect because I've got such an ego I want my name on everything I've worked on. But you know sometimes they've had to it's ridiculous. I mean J.K. Rowling Yeah absolutely changed because people didn't think they they didn't think boys would buy a book by a woman. Yeah you know she's clearly prove them wrong. But that's why she's J.K. Rowling.
[00:47:48] And it's a very very very unknown fact that J.R. told Kim was actually a grandmother in her 90s her.
[00:47:54] Yes but it's true though isn't it. I mean it's definitely something that we've got we've got a C.S. [00:48:00] Lewis was a taxidermist from Redding and Stephanie King well anyway let's let's get on to our question of the week this week which is from Rachel and Rachel and tell us where abouts you're from.
[00:48:13] Do you remember if you're going to leave us a message it's always nice to know where you're listening in from it always amazes us to think about will people around the world that listening to this podcast. And we thank you so much for spending time with us today on this episode. But Rachel's has asked a very intricate question which I really resonated with me because I want to ask this question to you as well Mark. Rachel has said is there a best place to write.
[00:48:36] Yeah. Anywhere.
[00:48:38] That's where absolutely anywhere. I think there's you know if you can find somewhere quiet with a desk and that's you know whatever works for you. I am kind of anti this fetishizing fascist fantasizing of rushing so had a little drink. You know you get this thing where and writers propagate this stuff you know they.
[00:49:00] The [00:49:00] stories of George Lucas you know he could only write on a yellow pad with a certain kind of pencil. And you know when he came to write the prequels he had to have the same pad and pencil you know and he was. It's becomes this kind of ritual and I don't think that's healthy. I think it's it becomes part of this monolithic process that we're talking about earlier that it has to be done this way in this way in this way. Otherwise you're not a writer you know having a MacBook Pro doesn't make you a writer having a quill doesn't make you a writer but putting pen to paper or typing some words That's writing. You know I like saying I have a day job so I write my commute. So it's 35 minutes into London an hour from my lunch break 35 minutes home so I can get just over two hours a day done. And that's on a hot stinky noisy train. And I have iPod playlists that are as Shannon was saying it's melodic music it's no [00:50:00] lyrics it's just and it's all kind of in the key of the book.
[00:50:03] So you know I'm writing a horror script then it's it tends to be quite spooky eerie music is something if it's something like I've been working on a kid's book idea then it's usually a Pixar soundtrack as a whole the whole topic in that that we could do like Oh yeah yes music to listen to when writing in Blige on or so if you do that you know share with that on the Facebook page as well if you've got a particular I'll give you one actually throw out there if you're writing epic novels if you're writing like an epic fantasy get onto YouTube and check out an incredible duo called Two Steps From Hell it does.
[00:50:40] Oh yes. Yes. Now I got all of this stuff. Yeah yeah yeah. And I bring you every fantasy author I know listens to two steps from me.
[00:50:47] Everyone's got well they know the fantastic story behind them is they're actually two guys that that write Trailer Music they never write. Yeah. A film. Yeah. Unbelievable.
[00:50:56] So if you want to get your novels ten times bigger than they are right now go [00:51:00] and check out two steps from how I got the other one because I have I have spent the last year and a half writing an epic fantasy novel and the as well as those guys I listen to Jeremy Saul's score for Skyrim. Now I've never played Skyrim so I've no associate well very often if you have a film soundtrack so you take aim is key today. Yeah. Yeah. A big big massive multiplayer game. Wow. His score is an incredible. It's epic. It's so well produced. Just for me now it's the soundtrack to my book. So if I ever hear anywhere else it's going well they play the soundtrack to my book. So it's it's so associated with what I've written. See that's Skyrim Jurassic World. So pretty sure you can. I mean I it's one of these things. It was really expensive on iTunes back in the day I think was like 20 pounds and iTunes. But you know I've listen to each track well over a thousand times I've really got my money's worth out of it but it's just fantastic fantastic.
[00:51:59] So Mark [00:52:00] pop that on the Facebook page and yes. If you listen to me if you have your own soundtrack that you love for your particular genre to kind of respond to Marc's post on the Facebook page at Bestseller Experiment I think that will be really an interesting feed maybe some inspiration for anyone out there who's who's joining us in a mad mad journey.
[00:52:19] So let's get on to the 1 minute motivation before you wrap up and they all you know I'm just comfortably alone in the lotus position and already I'm ready limbering up go for it.
[00:52:31] Well I've been inspired this week with Shannon I think you know that's part of the whole reason for us doing this is to inspire you to actually write in two different ways of doing it. But one thing that I've really picked up on today is this idea that it's not just a journey on your own. I think one of the most hardest things to do is to try to achieve something by yourself. And when you look at for example an album cover as Mark mentioned earlier you know it might be Adele who's on the front cover and is the name on the album but there [00:53:00] is a cast of thousands. So one exerciser wants to challenge everyone to do this week. I want to challenge you to create what I call your dream team diagram this is something I coach in all the time and it's this idea that you start to look at who's actually part of your support network to help you on this journey.
[00:53:16] And there's the inner circle and the outer circle the inner circle are the people you already know or the people who you know of that might be able to help you and the outer circle are all those people that you'd need need for example an editor you might not have that you might not have a publisher yet but put them on the outside and that idea of the game is to bring everyone on the outer circle into the. Circle and fill those vacant positions with a name. So this week create your dream team. And remember that when you see that diagram something very powerful happens. It's a visualization of all the support you have which will help you on your journey. You're not doing this alone is about collaboration. You are the name on the book but ultimately there's a group of people behind you who are going to help [00:54:00] you every step of the way.
[00:54:03] That was longer than a minute. Afterwards the town. Now you only get 15 seconds on the steps.
[00:54:11] But we're talking about dream team I mean that is something that we need to. I think that's an important exercise that we do as well Mark. We have.
[00:54:17] Yeah well that's it. I mean it's clear at some point we're gonna eat again Ed where you know there's there is gonna be a hole. I mean Shannon talks about her personal assistant you know and and just having people around you who understand what you're doing and and that you do have to write and you just did right with the door shut. And you know because it's that thing of one distraction can cost you minutes of time. So you know going back to the question for Rachel where's the best place to write.
[00:54:47] I mean yes you can write in public transport or in a park or you know in the back of a car or on a train or whatever it is. But you need to make it very clear you are uninterrupted all sometimes [00:55:00] at work. If I have to write at my desk when a big open plan office at work I sit there have my headphones on and tapping away but I put a little posted no on my headphones saying writing please do not disturb. And I see people in my peripheral vision walk up towards me. They stop. They read the note.
[00:55:18] They walk away. It works it doesn't work. They used to it I it. Excellent.
[00:55:24] So if you have your own question you can pop along to Bestseller Experiment dot com forward slash question mark and ask us your question and we will pick the best one of the bunch and we look forward to getting those. So mark last week I was trying to convince you to look at Scrivener do you get a chance to look at it.
[00:55:42] I did. I did.
[00:55:44] I had a little fiddle as they say.
[00:55:46] My goodness that reveal things like that on air ace is very interesting actually I can see why people like it because it's just the fact that you can have everything in one place the fact that you know [00:56:00] you've got character studies or just the thing I found really interesting were the ability to put places and photos in there. So if you ever need a visual reference because the thing I find if I'm ever writing anything landscapes in particular if I try and do it stuff to top my head it just does the same thing. If I a picture reference I can go to it makes all the difference. So having stuff like that in one place is actually quite handy. Well thank you very much.
[00:56:27] It's really good to he's there because you know the thing that kind of converted me over was the fact that I was using loads of different things like I was using words to write I was using Evernote to capture information I was had like you know folders with pictures of characters and ideas and scenes and imagery and the thing that I loved about Scrivener which really kind of made me kind of dive into it was having it all in one place from it from an organizational point of view I mean we know how complex writing a novel is from an organizational point of view to have that [00:57:00] kind of structure in place and know that you can always find everything. You know it does actually save you time because you can dive into the different folders where you are storing everything so would you be up for giving it a go. If we start maybe trying to work out. Because they have all kinds of character sheets in there like templates that you can use plotting things.
[00:57:20] Well the thing I liked just well for this project in particularly has it has all these different project templates for you know you can screenwriting people for poetry but they have one specifically for fiction. It gives you all the front matter and stuff that you need when you're doing a novel. It also has all the stuff you need for exporting it as an e-book. So if like us yourself publishing in a actually this could be really really cool. So yeah let's give it a go.
[00:57:42] All right good stuff. Thank you. So that's drawing to an end now for this episode. Mark I think it's been a fascinating one. Definitely definitely. This is a promise we'll definitely get Shannon back on the show for another episode. There is so much we want to cover with her and I think you know like us hopefully you've been inspired by that. So don't forget can get in contact with us at Bestseller [00:58:00] Experiment dot com where you can sign up to our main list get tips news exclusive content and updates on future shows.
[00:58:07] And join us on social media. We're on Facebook at Bestseller Experiment on Twitter at best seller x p and you and I are on Twitter too on we are at Mark Stay and you are at four thousand Saturdays 4 0 0 0 Saturdays.
[00:58:23] And if you're going to join us on this journey then come to the website sign up tell us that you're going to be doing this make the commitments. And don't forget as well to download your free copy of the Bestseller Experiment vault of gold which is our cult compilation of all of the best bits of this show which you can download and you can have beside you as your writing your best selling novel and you can get that.
[00:58:46] I know I'm biased but I've been putting this together and it is just fantastic. I listened to the show transcript again and it's like it's like writer college writer a university get it while you can folks.
[00:58:59] It's it's something [00:59:00] special that we're giving out there. So. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Until next week is goodbye from Mach 1. And goodbye from Mark 2. Goodbye.