Up Close & Personal is one of The Writer’s Life newest features. Here we feature authors who don't mind spilling the beans and telling what it's really like to write, get published and sell that book. Today's guest is Kevin Bohacz, author of the techno-thriller, Ghost of the Gods. To learn more about Kevin, visit www.kbohacz.com or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kevinbohacz.
I became a writer because it is my essence. It is who and what I am. When I first started writing it was an unquenchable thirst that came out of nowhere. It
was like turning a corner and finding myself face-to-face with love at first sight. I truly cannot explain how or why I began writing. I was in my early 30’s and living in Venice Beach California. I had just started a new company, which would become my primary source of income until my first bestseller many years later. I had all these ideas and emotions bubbling up inside me and trying to escape. One night after reading Interview with a Vampire and feeling the intense emotions Ann Rice conjured, I decided I needed to write as an emotional outlet. After that night I wrote constantly. I was as obsessed as if my novels were unrequited lovers. I woke early and wrote before the sun came up and in every spare moment I could squeeze from my day and night. More than one girlfriend from those years felt that writing was my mistress and one relationship actually broke up as a result. My wife Mazelle, who I married in 1995, did not feel this way. She supported and nurtured me on so many levels. She was my lover, my muse, my manager, my editor, my #1 fan, and my best friend.
My first novel, Dream Dancers was published in 1993. Ghost of the Gods, which was just released in February, was my 3rd published novel. Like Immortality, which is a #1 bestseller, Ghost of the Gods has become a bestseller and Amazon crowned it the #1 hottest new techno-thriller.
A lot has changed for me since that first novel in 1993. I have written several novels since then and I am currently working on two new novels; one of which will be out later this year and is titled Dream Signs. For the past four years, I have been working as a fulltime novelist but I really consider myself a storyteller more than a novelist. I like to think of myself as a dream-catcher because what I write are daydreams that I experience and then transcribe. My style has improved and is constantly evolving. All my prior novels were written in third person intimate past tense but my newest work title The Bridge is very personal and being written in first person past tense.
On Being Published…
When my first book was published in 1993 the offer from a publisher was totally unexpected. My agent had been shopping my first novel, Dream Dancers for years and had all but given up. I had an eclectic and burgeoning collection of rejections slips, but I was not about to give up and was working on a novel that would later radically morph and many years later become the bestseller that made me a fulltime writer. My emotions when that first deal came in were off the chart! It was everything from relief that I was not insane to the surreal feelings of a long sought dream becoming real. To say I was bouncing off the walls would have been an understatement. I was high on life for days and maybe weeks afterwards.
Now, far too many years later, I’m a fulltime author. I feel that I am very fortunate that I get to earn a living doing something that I would do for free… and in fact did for free for many years before I was published. Every day I get to spend luxuriously long periods of time doing nothing but working on my novels. It’s like getting to eat dessert first. For me writing and dreaming are one in the same. So I am literally getting paid to dream. How can you beat that?
Most people tell me that when they start reading Immortality and Ghost of the Gods they cannot put the books down. People have cursed at me for causing sleep deprivation! When Immortality was released in 2007 it quickly became a bestseller hitting the #1 spot on Amazon in techno-thriller and sci-fi genres for weeks at a time and it still hitting the #1 spots today. It has received glowing critical reviews including a STARRED review from Publisher’s Weekly. The sequel Ghost of the Gods was just released with similar glowing critical reviews including a STARRED review from Publisher’s Weekly and as I previously mentioned it is also a bestseller. So for the past month I have had two Amazon bestsellers at the same time. Talk about exciting!
Immortality and the sequel Ghost of the Gods were created to entertain. They are scientific but not to the same extent as a science fiction novel. The epic story contains a lot of action and suspense but at its essence the story is about people and so it is about love, triumph over terrible adversity, and the human spirit.
The combined story also has deep philosophical underpinnings or subthemes, but again, since I believe the essence of any novel is to be a thrilling read, the ideas remain an integral part of the mosaic and so do not detract from the entertainment as attested to in the professional reviews of both these novels. Example: Publisher’s Weekly STARRED review: “Bohacz provides mind-bending portrayals of factions vying for power and reflections on the essence and fragility of humanity. But philosophical concerns never obtrude on the fast-paced plot…”
On Publishing Industry…
I think there is too much chaos. As a result the publishing business seems to be relegating a lot of very talented people to oblivion, who decades ago would have been published in a heartbeat. I don’t pretend to know the reasons why the publishing business is the way it is… In my opinion a lot of it has to do with the changes that e-books brought and the rest has to do with consolidation. I think to some extend we are seeing a slow motion repeat of what happened to the music industry when the iPod showed up. Publishing was an old fashion business where they famously nurtured unknown talent because it was in their best interest to do so. Now it feels like a business that is chasing the blockbuster and ignoring almost everything else. To me personally it feels like that old saying about banks: They only want to loan you money when you don’t need it!
My career began before the e-book revolution. As I mentioned, my first novel was purchased by a publisher. My second and third novels were self-published. Deciding to self-publish my second novel, Immortality was filled with anxiety. Self-publishing was not the right decision, it was my only decision, even though Immortality did become a self-published bestseller. This publishing dilemma is a long story and one I’ve told many times before. I like to call it “The Three Bears” story – as in the fable.
My first novel, Dream Dancers was conventionally published in 1993 in a deal closed by the agent I had at that time. In 2003 when Immortality was finally completed I assumed I would be able to get it published since I was already a published author. I soon found myself waist deep in rejection notices from both agents and publishers. All the rejection notices basically said, “We are sure this is a wonderful book but we don’t have the time to read a long manuscript by an obscure author.” In other words, I wasn’t able to even get into the Three Bear’s house, let alone try the porridge or sleep in their bed.
I knew Immortality was a timely, entertaining, and marketable novel. Some extremely successful literary professionals including more than one famous writer had read it and told me they loved it. So here I was a published author unable to open a single door into the major publishing houses. Three years later I had reached the point where I either had to give up or publish it myself. Back in 2006 self-publishing carried the stigma of failure but I had no choice. I knew in my gut Immortality was a fantastic story. So I started a small publishing company, hired an offset-printer, and proceeded to manufacture and sell Immortality.
In 2007 Immortality took off becoming a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Using my bestseller success as bait, I was able to sign with an agent who had represented a smattering of NYTime’s bestsellers. My agent proceeded to shop Immortality to all the big publishing houses. My wife, Mazelle and I were deliriously thrilled. This time the responses from publishers were very different from when Immortality was unpublished and I was un-agented. Across the board the feedback was surprisingly similar, “We love the book but who are you?” What the publishers were really saying was I had no massive following. I did not have a million readers chanting in unison, “We want to buy more books by you…” In other words, the porridge was too cold.
Fast forward to 2010, Immortality was still selling almost as well as it was in 2008, constantly a bestseller in its genre and often hitting #1. In fact 2010 and half of 2011 was one of my best grossing periods ever. By now my agent had done all he could and given up six months prior in 2009. He loved Immortality and was very frustrated and baffled by his inability to close a deal. It was then that I was contacted out of nowhere by a veteran NYC agent who was a senior member in a super-agent firm. This agent told me they had read Immortality and loved it! This agent was convinced they could sell the book. Mazelle and I were wildly excited and told the agent to go for it. This new agent got the book read by a different group of more senior editors. This time the responses really threw me. The feedback I got was essentially, “We love the book but why should we buy it when you have already sold the heck out of it?” In other words, the porridge was too hot.
At this point I felt like I just could not win. Years ago I didn’t have a big enough following, and now that I had a following, it seemed the publishers wanted something more. They wanted an unpublished book. I explained that 95% of the copies of Immortality had been sold on Amazon, which meant that I had tapped less than 50% of the potential market for a book in this genre. So while it was a bestseller, the lion’s share of the meat was still on this bone yet no publisher was interested in the feast. With fractional market penetration I had made a pile of money but there was many times more to be made if a big publisher would get behind the book. Yet it now felt like with regard to attracting a publisher, success was my worst enemy.
Today, three years later I now have a new amazing NYC agent from a top firm, Inkwell Management. This agent has closed deals for other indie authors in exactly the same “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” predicament as me. In the last six months I have received glowing critical reviews, including Publisher’s Weekly who has awarded STARRED reviews to both Immortality and Ghost of the Gods. Both Immortality and Ghost of the Gods are on the bestseller’s lists at the same time. Immortality hit #1 again achieving it’s best ranking ever and Ghost of the Gods was crowned by Amazon as the #1 hottest new techno-thriller. Later this year my fourth novel titled Dream Signs will be complete and a fifth novel is in the works. There is even interest from Hollywood in making Immortality into a movie. I have confidence that this time we’ll succeed by getting a publishing deal for all three books. In other words, I am hoping the porridge is just right.
For me selling my books is one part inertia from the bestseller universe of Immortality and now Ghost of the Gods, and one part doing everything I can possibly imagine to get attention drawn to a new book. I am maniacal and I will try almost anything as long as it seems plausible. If it works I’ll keep doing it and if not then I’ll stop. I have great critical reviews of all my books including STARRED reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and high praise from Kirkus. I have some advertisements which are running in print and online but more to attract publishers than readers. I have not seen any real connection between the advertisements and sales. I have held the Kindle price of Immortality down to $0.99 and have a match book deal going where you get the Kindle for free if you buy the paperback. I will not keep the price this low for too much longer and plan to bring the Kindle price back up to $2.99 in the near future. The same is true for Ghost of the Gods. The initial low introductory price will go up in the near future. I have used social media and it definitely works. With some of the bookstores dropping access to paid merchandising for self-published books, social media is also rapidly becoming the only game in town.
You can spend as little as possible to promote a book until it proves that it will pay for itself. To me this is like tossing your book into the winds of chance to be discovered. I have two friends who are famous writers, one a NY Times bestseller, who did just this for their first foray into self-publishing and their excellent books went nowhere! So if you want to build a career you must be ready to spend a lot of time and money promoting your book. This means endlessly hawking your book. This means truly believing in your book enough so that you take the real risks... I guess it all boils down to determination. Determination is the critical ingredient, the spice that makes the meal. You must be dogged and unwavering. If you have a good book and are willing to stop at nothing, you can end up with a bestseller… I did.
On Goals and Dreams…
I am far more interested in obtaining as wide a readership as possible than making money. My interests lie in making small positive differences by getting interesting ideas out there to a broad audience while entertaining people.
I write because it is my passion. As I mentioned, if I had to pay people for the privilege of writing I would. So the best advice I can offer is write without a profit motive. Do not write because you want riches or fame or even a very modest income. The money will come if it comes but focusing on money will take your eye from what really matters which is first and foremost to write a book people will love.
About Ghost of the Gods:
About Ghost of the Gods:
Was it the accumulated wounds to the environment that had finally triggered the nanotech plague or was it simply one more step in a shrewdly crafted plan to replace us with humans 2.0? As I write this at least one pair of these transhumans breathe the same air as us, and there are likely many more. They may look like us, they may even be almost human, but they are also cybernetic and will live for an extraordinary length of time. Trust me, their goals are not the same as ours. It was not a natural plague that almost drove humankind to extinction but an attack from within, turning our own biology against us. Scientists discovered all too late an artificial entity, a sentient machine foolishly created in the image of god, had been studying us and genetically altering us for longer than we can imagine. Perhaps it is because of this god-machine that we evolved into creatures who can think and speak and know our own mortality? This silicon god is so different from us that we may never truly understand it, but what we do know is that it is terrifyingly intelligent and it hates us. What we do know is that it tried to eradicate us from the face of our planet and then stopped for no discernible reason. What we do know is that its work is not done.
Kirkus: “If you thought Immortality was powerful, just wait until you read the sequel…”
Publisher’s Weekly STARRED review: “Bohacz provides mind-bending portrayals of factions vying for power and reflections on the essence and fragility of humanity. But philosophical concerns never obtrude on the fast-paced plot. The question of who can be trusted impels the reader to keep turning the pages of this highly satisfying and dynamic techno-thriller.”
S.J. Higbee: “Bohacz manages to provide a gripping plot with plenty of twists and turns that kept up the tension right to the very end. I’m betting that you’ll still be thinking about it when some of your favorite authors have faded into the furniture.”