Behind Time and Again


My friend Brian Meeks released his newest novel Time and Again yesterday, a self published mystery. It’s been pretty cool reading Brian’s blog, wathcing his drafting process, and chatting about publishing books. So I thought I’d take a break from the usual blah-blah, and ask Brian some questions about how he self-publishes…

GL: You are self publishing your novel Henry Wood: Time and Again today. Before we ask about the business of publishing, why will my readers like Time and Again?

BM: It is a throwback to the days before CSI, when the Humphrey Bogarts (Sam Spades) of the world did the right thing no matter how hot the dame. Time and Again is the second book in the series and we continue to learn about the characters.

I’m a firm believer in gradations of good and evil. In fact, the guy who I was sure would be the main villain in the end, turned out to be much different than I had expected.

One of my reviews of the first book, Henry Wood Detective Agency, by a woman named Marianne Worley, wrote, “In his debut novel, Brian Meeks has hearkened back to the classic film noir detective mystery. Henry Wood is such an engaging and likeable character–with a sharp mind and sharp wit. The story is full of fun twists and turns, and left me desperate to read the next book in the series. Bravo!”

After 24 reviews the first book has an average of 4.7 stars.

GL: What’s it like to independently publish your books?

BM: The first Henry Wood was published by a small publisher who mostly did woodworking books. He was a reader of my blog, Extremely Average, which began as a look into the foibles of me teaching myself woodworking. I did handle the Kindle publishing, though.

My second book, a non-fiction piece that looked at the 30-5 Iowa Hawkeyes Men’s basketball team, was the first one that I self-published.

It was out of necessity. I had been working on it for eight or nine months with only 7,000 words that I found readable. Jan 1, 2012 rolled around and I told Roy Marble, the main subject of the book, that I would try to write 3,000 words and if it sucked, we were pulling the plug. We had a launch date of Feb 4, at the Iowa vs. Penn State game, in Iowa City.

That meant I needed to bang out 45,000 words, get it edited, cover designed, and published in five weeks. Over the next 21 days I got it written, though I was sick for three of them. Every 10,000 words I’d send it to my editor Meghan Ward. She would work on it while I wrote the next bit.

I had to have the book done and ready by the 28th to be able to order the print copies for the launch. I didn’t know how to buy an ISBN, format, or do anything relating to publishing, but you know what? The Internet does.

I figured it all out. The launch was great and we’ve sold around 1,300 copies (print and eBook). Once I learned how easy it was, I realized that earning 70% vs 7.5% that an author might get from a publisher, was a better deal.

One still needs to market, regardless of the route (traditional or self-publish). It will be hard work no matter what, and the success will come from the writer’s effort and not the publishing logo on the spine.

GL: Do you ever want to get published by the big six publishing companies?

BM: A good question. Well, the Big Six has shrunk in the last couple of weeks when Random House and Penguin merged. They missed a great opportunity to name the new company Random Penguin, but I digress.

There isn’t any circumstance where I would consider giving up the publishing of the eBook version. Hugh Howey signed a print only deal with Simon and Schuster for his NY Times best seller, Wool. He kept the eBook rights, his agent has inked 28 foreign rights deals, and Simon and Schuster used their skills in getting print into the hands of brick and mortar stores to maximize that sales channel. That would be the only sort of deal I would consider.

GL: What measures do you take to ensure quality?

BM: I have worked with three editors, Meghan Ward, Veronika Walker for Time and Again, and Erin Feldman who is currently working on the third book in the series, Perception. I’ve also hired Erin to re-edit Henry Wood Detective Agency because I had concerns about the quality.

My biggest weakness is the comma. I put up a fair amount of resistance to changes in how I used commas in the first book, to the detriment of the final product. The hope is that I’ll get book one in the hands of several thousand new readers with the Free Day promotion (Apr. 23 – 25). I felt it was important to polish things up a bit.

Editing is hard. I’ve been fortunate to work with three spectacular editors and when the day comes that I can afford it, I’d probably have two of them review each book.

In the world of Indie Publishing, quality is the first thing that sayers of “Nay” (mostly horses) will grab on to when they try to tear you down.

GL: How do you intend to market Time and Again?

BM: Time and Again is part of a six month plan. At present, my intention is to launch one title per month starting on April 23rd. Time and Again, will be followed by Perception on May 21st. From there, I will release one of the two stand alone novels I’ve written, Touched (A thriller) or Underwood Scotch and Wry (Satire). The fourth book in the Henry Wood series would follow in June and then the other stand alone. After that, I’ve got the first book in a YA/Children’s book series, Secret Doors: The Challenge, that is aimed at readers who enjoyed Harry Potter.

The idea is to build fan base and then offer them more to read. I’ve read that an author who can find 1,000 loyal readers, people who enjoy his or her style enough to read everything they write, will make a nice living.

The hardest part in finding a readership is getting people to give a new writer a chance. That is why Henry Wood Detective Agency will be free on Kindle from the April 23rd – 25th.

These free days allow a book to climb the charts (assuming lots and lots of people click “buy for $0.00”). The hope then is that after the promotion ends, the rankings will be high enough that there will be some sales. Free is nice, but it doesn’t really help me pay the bills.

My goal is this, if 10,000 people will download the free version of book one, I’d expect 10% might read it. There are lots of hoarders out there who just download but never read.

Of the 10% who read it, hopefully some will be inclined to buy book two. Also, there may be some who are willing to leave reviews. Reviews are huge in the book business. (Not so subtle hint)

The main thrust of my marketing is actually focused on the first book’s free days. I’ve submitted it to 17 sites who advertise Kindle Free days. I’ve built the blog tour, which you’ve so nicely agreed to be part of, and during that time, I’ll be tweeting and shouting to the world, “Hey, check out my books.”

The bottom line is that I need YOU (not Geoff, but the readers of this post) to give the free book a try. If you’d like to tell a friend on Twitter or FB, awesome, but the first step has to be click “buy” on Amazon.

If you do that, even if you don’t give it a read, you’ve helped.

GL: What’s the value of writing a series versus stand alone books?

BM: In almost every instance of Indie success, they’ve gotten there through series. If a reader discovers an author they like, they will often buy the next book. If it happens to already have characters they’ve grown fond of, the chances improve that they’ll continue reading.

That’s why I’m launching the next two Henry Woods, before delving into the stand alone titles. I hope to get the readers hooked.

GL: What tips do you have for aspiring writers?

BM: These tips are pretty common on blog posts, so I’ll just list a few, and then add one of my own.

1) Write every day.
2) Pay for professional editing and cover design. Admittedly, I design my own covers, but it’s because the covers I’ve paid for have been worse than what I can do. I still try to pay for cover art with each title.
3) Hook the reader early. With the masses of eBooks and all the free ones available, most people will read the first page or two before giving up.

Now, my own thoughts:

When starting to write, it’s natural to want the reader to see what you imagine. Every detail is so rich in your mind that it must be important. The color of the dress, the shape of the clouds, the emotions of the protagonist, you want it all to be as vivid as it is in your mind.

Information dumps are boring.

Katarina strode into the library with all its Victorian finery and sat down at the desk.

I didn’t say “Strode confidently”, because nobody can imagine a person striding timidly. The adverb wouldn’t have helped and it would have pissed off people who hate adverbs (Stephen King).

I can see the entire room, what’s on the desk, the types of books, the two levels of shelves and the spiral staircase in the corner that leads to the second floor. There is a desk lamp with a green shade and a Tiffany lamp next to the leather chair by the coffee table. Is that what you saw?

Nope, probably not. But I bet you saw books. The desk was probably wood as were the book shelves. There was likely leather on the chairs. Victorian finery does plenty of work in painting the scene. I didn’t need to do it.

Let the reader create their own world. The best part is… they’ll give you the credit.

Thanks for letting me ramble on, Geoff, I’ve really enjoyed myself.


  • Kudos to you Geoff for profiling our friend Brian and his latest book. Will share for sure! Cheers, and big congrats Brian:) Kaarina

    • THis is awesome. Thank you for giving Brian a big send off for his new book. It’s a great accomplishment, and we all watched him do it!

  • Nicely done. Thing I might hang out here for a while.

  • OK…so I’m trying to roust up a #TeamBlogJack. Let’s get this party going and show some luv #TeamBlogJack’ers!

  • Well, that was an Extremely Average analysis. Plus, I thought I was your editor; you didn’t like the way I edited? I don’t know what you are paying Erin, but I would have done it for a hamburger.

    I’ve read two of your books Brian and I like your style, they were very ‘readable.’ And of course, I will pimp you any way I can so when you become famous I can say “I know that guy.”

    Good luck sir and just point me in the right direction and I’ll help in any way I can.

    • I’m pointing you in the direction of letting your legions know to get their butts over here @twitter-34985693:disqus . We need to liven up the party here, and get people aware of and buying Brian’s book. I’m sending snowshoes in case you have to mush up north too:) Cheers! Snowshoes

    • You’re a good man, Charlie Brown!

    • Bill,

      You are a great beta reader and when I am famous, I’m driving down to FL and taking you golfing.


      • AFTER!! You come to Alaska, right? Hey, we had to hog-tie your boy yesterday, tip him over and hold him down to take his last shoe off. All is good, though, no injuries to boy or horse and spiked shoes have all been removed from the 9 we brought across the river. Just thought you’d like the update.

        • Yes, definitely AFTER the trip to Alaska. It’s on the way, from Iowa, right?

          Actually, I’m sort of hoping/planning on doing well enough by this winter, to be able to do some traveling. I’d visit FL in the winter and Alaska in the Summer, because I don’t think I can handle your winters.

    • Well, Bill…there’s an official review already!

  • Gulp. I’m so impressed and having a crisis of confidence that my measly peasly blog book I’m sending to publisher Friday (final deadline, no more procrastination) pales in spades.

    What a fabulous, fabulous look into an author’s mind; and guess what? I have a secret for Friday!!! Hurray!

    I couldn’t follow Henry Wood, but I do remember the first blogjack over at Brian’s house when Kaarina and I came over and I was like, who is Henry Wood? Is that your name? Why are you Extremely Average and on an on.

    Kaarina, remember that?

    Hi, Brian!

    Hi, Geoff!

    See, Guys? This is how a true #TeamBlogJack happens with lots o’ ramblin’ just like that guy Brian did upstairs in Geoff’s house.

    • Hahahahahahaha! It’s pretty cool. I think Brian should reprise the who is Henry Wood Q!

    • Kudos to Brian. And I’m excited to hear you’re sending your book off, Jayme! So cool!

    • Oh @twitter-22830278:disqus , I remember it well. Remember how Brian was at work and when he was able to get to the post we #TeamBlogJack’ed he thought the number of comments had to be incorrect. We did a fine job that day! Let’s all pitch in to create lots of momentum and book awareness/sales today too.

      And I’ll look forward to your book too. That will be cause for another celebration and #TeamBlogJack. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Jayme, every book finished is a success story in my world! I can’t wait to see what you’ve done.

    • You finished Jayme!!! Be proud. Journey of a thousand miles, single step, and all that jazz…

    • Best of luck with your new book Jayme. Might I suggest a title: “Understated Blogging with Jayme Soulati.”

  • Oh, dear…I’m a hoarder of downloaded eBooks. I think I’m up to 12 so far? But I will certainly download yours, Brian, READ it, and write a review, too. #TeamBlogJack is on it, thanks to Kaarina Dillabough’s call to rally!

    This wonderful interview will come in handy, too. What timing! (There are no coincidences, are there?) We’re nearly done launching a website for a pediatrician friend, Dr. Jim MacDonald, who has always dreamed of publishing his bedtime stories for kids. His dream came out over dinner one night, and after hearing a few of the stories (called “Poochie Stories”), we encouraged him to go for it. Our artist daughter illustrated Dr. Jim’s eBooks, so this is a labor of love for all of us.

    Your advice here, especially about publishing deals, will help him tremendously. Thank-you!

    • Poochie Stories is a great name. It is easy to remember and fun to say.

      I do really appreciate the offer of a review. They are really important and everyone new one is tremendously exciting to get.

    • Keep us posted on that @michellequillin:disqus , and I’ll rally the troops for a #TeamBlogJack then too:)

    • It really is very kind of Brian to share with folks how he did it. I’m sure many authors will benefit!

  • Excellent post, you two! This line here-“Let the reader create their own world. The best part is… they’ll give you the credit.”- gold! That’s what I love about reading- I get to imagine it my own way, and so do you, and no one is right or wrong.

    • That is actually one of my favorite things I’ve EVER written. I’m so glad you liked it.

      • Pretty amazing. What do you think about tension and characters, and how readers play off that?

        • I’ve found that creating tension is more difficult than I imagined. Not because creating the situations is hard, but out of a natural desire to protect the characters we love.

          There has to be tension and characters need to get into trouble or it just isn’t very exciting. So, I’m always asking myself how I can make things a little more uncomfortable for Henry, or Arthur (Underwood Scotch and Wry), or any of the others.

  • This is how you publish a book. I love the idea of a series of books – that gets the audience to buy in the characters and keep the storyline going. I was working on a children’s series with my son on leadership and character lessons for kids – we are still in the process with my son writing pieces every day. Seeing this process gives me hope that is possible to do it and be successful. Thanks Kaarina for putting out the #teamblogjack call – great way to get us involved!

    • I don’t know if you’ve tried Scrivener for your books, but give it a shot. It makes writing so much easier and then, when it is time to publish, publishing becomes a breeze.

      It was on sale over at Amazon, yesterday, for $20.00.

      The best money a writer can spend. They also have a Mac version for $22.00.

      Again, it will make your publishing life VASTLY easier.

      • Thank you so much, Brian. I will definitely check that out.

      • Scrivener is amazing. I think it works better for fiction and longer writing, but I’ve used it to organize a poetry manuscript.

    • Always happy to put out the rallying cry for a #TeamBlogJack, and so much fun and excitement to see everyone respond to the call. Now…we just need to figure out a way to always include our fab logo, right @gingerconsult:disqus ? Somehow I’m just not getting it right :(

  • It seems fitting to blog-jack Brian’s interview. It’s a nice sendoff. I know how hard he’s been working to get everything ready to go, and it’s been such fun to hear how excited he gets when he talks about his publishing plan.

  • Wow, Brian, I am truly impressed, would you like to become my ghostwriter?

    • I’m not sure I could do ghost writing. My one non-fiction about a basketball player Roy Marble, wasn’t exactly what I had expected.

      When Roy and I were doing signings he kept telling these awesome stories. Getting him to give me stuff for the book was like pulling teeth. I just had to shake my head.

      • Brian, I have just downloaded “Time And Again” and your free copy of Henry Wood Detective Agency (thanks btw – what a clever strategy)!

        • I appreciate it, Barbara. Maybe, if Geoff doesn’t mind, I can do another post later in the summer and give an update on how things are going.

          I’m pleased that I’ve already gotten one review, which means the person started reading and finished in two days. 4 of 5 stars. I’m very excited about it.

  • Whoo Hooo I say! I’ve been waiting for the 2nd book. Congrats Brian.
    Kaarina, Jamie..what a fun way to boost a great writer. I love shameless advertising.

    • And what better way to get the word out and gather all us fun lovin’ types together in one place, right @facebook-1057956438:disqus ?

    • I’m not sure I knew you had read the first book. Thanks! It is always nice to discover another reader.

  • WooHoo!! Yipee skippee doodaaas! Books! I LOVE Brian’s Books! (So does my son!) And now, the #RockHot Mistress?! Here we go!

  • Great article! Wish I could get all that going in the same way :) All the best Brian!
    I’ve spread the word in this neck of the woods too

  • I don’t know if people are interested, but I thought I’d share some of the results thus far…

    We are 37 hours (give or take) into a 72 hour promotion of giving the first book away for free to promote the launch of the second one, Time and Again.

    For Henry Wood Detective Agency we’ve had 1672 U.S. downloads, 65 U.K, 17 Germany, 3 Italy, 1 Japan, 8 Canada.

    This has moved my first book up to #147 on Kindle Free list, #6 on Crime and #9 on Mystery. Being ranked on these lists gets one extra exposure.

    We have had seven sales of my new book, two of them, today. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been mostly focusing on promoting the relaunch of book one in an attempt to find new readers.

    The question that remains unanswered is how many of those 1700+ new readers will buy book 2 and leave a review.

    Fingers crossed. :-)

  • OK I’m late to the party but I’m here! @facebook-566648968:disqus I totally want to read your book now. Also, how’s that Ode to Bacon coming?

    Very excited for you!

  • Congrats, Brian! Love the insight you’ve provided here and the hutzpah you’ve shown in getting your book out into the world. Cheers!

  • So late… must just say #teamBlogJack wuz here!

  • Brian, congrats on publication, and kudos to Geoff on an excellent interview! Wishing you much above “average” success!

  • Color me a Kindle hoarder. I have your book, Brian, bought and paid for, and on my Kindle. I even bought a copy for my father-in-law. This is a great incentive to move Henry Wood to the top of my Kindle content.

    Thanks for the writing instructions and giving examples. I am afraid of using adverbs now. How many adverb crimes have I committed in the past? Will Henry be on my case?

    So glad @Kaarina chose Geoff’s place for #TeamBlogJack!

  • Congrats Brian!

    Now to business.

    Where’s the hors d’oeuvres? Someone told me there was free food at this book launch? :P

  • Sorry I’m late, Brian! I didn’t see this! You’ve worked so hard. Congrats on your success and the team that you’ve built to elp. You did it right.

  • What helpful stuff here, Brian. As one who is starting to navigate the self-pub waters with my debut memoir, I found it useful to see how you developed your readership and “fan” base.

    “Editing is hard.” I say amen to that. Having a professional editor is making all the difference in the world for me.

    You are giving the rest of us the confidence that we can do this, too. Thanks for that.

    Congrats on your book launch. Looking forward to reading Time and Again. And thanks, Kaarina, for inviting me over here!

    • Thanks Judy. I’d be thrilled if you picked up a copy of Time and Again.

      Yes, finding a good editor is a process. It isn’t just about quality, there is also the way the editor and writer communicate and it is just as important. Like I said, I’ve used several and been happy, but now that I’ve found Erin Feldman, I’m thrilled!!! <Yes, 3 exclamation points.

    • Delighted you were able to drop by @facebook-1153025510:disqus . Expect a rousing #TeamBlogJack over at your place when your debut memoir is ready for launch:)

  • I just got my first review from someone who picked up a free copy. 4 of 5 stars! I’m pumped.

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    […] a remarkable job in self-publishing and has valuable marketing tips to share, read all about it in Geoff Livingston‘s interview with […]

  • I don’t believe Geoff Livingston’s blog has ever seen the likes of a #TeamBlogJack. This was a huge success, Peeps!!! Oh, Hi, Geoff! Oh, Hi, Brian!

    Just back this early Friday to get a link for my special guest for The Happy Friday Series…say, Geoff? Remember when you asked “What Can I do for you?” When I helped you with some promo?

    How’s about I call in that chit and ask you to write for The Happy Friday Series, please? No pressure…no rules…whatever you’re happy about goes. Eh?

    • My pleasure, just email me at geoffliving [at] Yeah, quite the hubub here! Amazing!

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    […] Did you enjoy my writing? If so, I’d love to have you as a reader. You can find me at Extremely Average!  I write novels as serials. […]

  • Oh God, it looks like there was a huge party here and I missed it. Did any servers crash? I was going to download one of those free copies but since I already bought one, Amazon said no deal!

  • BTW, please see Brian’s post “Luck Is A Four-Letter Word” on my humble little blog: It’s a patented Brian Meeks rant. You’ll enjoy.

  • I enjoyed the glimpse into the publishing process – including the number of words per day, and free eBook strategy…as well as the need to really churn out a series to get the readers hooked.

    It sounds like a daunting task, but if you love what you do…

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