Monday, May 23, 2011

Guest Post by David Lender

David Lender is the bestselling author of Trojan Horse and The Gravy Train, both of which are selling well on Amazon, with The Gravy Train currently at 75 and Trojan Horse at 108 in the Kindle Store.

His latest novel, Bull Street, should be out in the next couple weeks. I was privileged to do the copy editing for him and can tell you that if you enjoyed his last couple novels, you will enjoy this one as well.

What I like about the way David writes is that he does a great job of creating a mental picture in your mind and he understands the importance of showing instead of telling. He also offers great detail in his novels and understands how to put words together so they convey what they need to. He's expressive and not every writer can do that, which I find refreshing.

I've enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know him a little bit this year and of becoming familiar with his writing.


1. How long did it take you to achieve the success you are having with your books right now?

It’ been over fifteen years since I decided to start writing. That’s been an evolving process, including finding someone to teach me. I wrote my first novel—that’s all I’ve been interested in writing—fifteen years ago. I’ve had a career as an investment banker, which is a demanding profession that leaves little time for much else. But I made a commitment to writing, and just muscled it into my schedule. I started getting up at 5:00 a.m and then writing for about an hour before heading to the office. In my investment banking career I always wrote with a mini-cassette dictaphone. I was used to working that way, so I hired a typist in my neighborhood and bought a transcription machine. I’d leave the tapes in my mailbox and she’d pick them up and drop off the transcriptions in hard copy and on a floppy disk. I’d outline on the bus or train, in the car service, on airplanes, anyplace. I did rewriting and editing drafts wherever and whenever I could.

It took me about a year to finish my first thriller. I showed it to a friend’s brother, a successful commercial thriller writer. He said to consider it a Master of Fine Arts and move on. I did. I wrote the second novel over the next year the same way as the first.

Then I educated myself about the agency and traditional publishing businesses, targeted my queries and sent both novels around. In the course of that, a well-connected friend sent Trojan Horse to a prominent literary agent. Her reaction was, “Not bad for somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing.” She introduced me to some thriller editors. I started working with a seasoned publishing exec who’d edited Robert Ludlum’s first nine thrillers. Eighteen months later, after one of the most intense meat grinders I’ve ever experienced, a finished Trojan Horse emerged.

Around that time I got caught up in my career again, so I didn’t send Trojan Horse out to more than a dozen agents; nobody bit. And so it wasn’t until about three years ago that I got serious again. I signed up for Thrillerfest in New York and spent the Agentfest day of face-to-face pitching to agents. Some people in all walks of life are knuckleheads. Agents are no exception. I had some offers, but who wants a knucklehead working for you? I kept writing and querying. I did Thrillerfest again the next year. Nothing.

Then I got a Kindle for my birthday last year, and one of my brothers converted Trojan Horse to a .mobi file to read it on his Kindle. It started me thinking. I educated myself about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform and decided to try it. I started reading blogs about what was going on, observing the market. After about a month of screwing around with pricing at $9.99, $6.99, $4.99 against established authors I got real and changed my price to $0.99 and Trojan Horse took off. It’s now been in the Kindle Top 100 for over six weeks.

2. What was the best thing you did marketing wise that you believe helped you get where are you today?

I’ve done some Book of the Day sponsorships on Kindle Nation Daily,, eReader News Today, The Frugal eReader and Kindle Author. I seek out opportunities to guest blog and appreciate invitations to be interviewed on various blogs. I am in a writing group on Facebook and try to help out my colleagues and they help me out. I’ve sent out some review copies to local newspapers and reviewers. It’s all little bits and pieces, but I think it all helps to get the word out.

I can’t put my finger on any one thing as pivotal. Luck helps. Timing, too. This is a unique time in the life of the epublishing business. It’s like a rising market that lifts all stocks and makes people think they’re great stockpickers. I’m grateful for the reception of Trojan Horse, but I’m going to continue to work hard, write the best stuff I can, have it edited, proofed, properly formatted, etc. Now The Gravy Train is out and is doing well, also in the Kindle Top 100. I’m releasing Bull Street soon and am into my next novel in earnest. I believe it’s important for readers to know you will be there consistently writing the best quality books you can for them to read, that you’re in it for the long haul.

3. What tips/advice do you have for other writers?

First, if you’re going to epub, treat it like a business, because it is. Educate yourself about what’s happening out there. Look at what successful authors are doing with pricing, their platforms, their content. Read blogs and other tools to learn the business. Joe Konrath. Kindle Review. Kindle Nation Daily. Read Steve Windwalker’s book on pricing ebooks for Kindle. See what people are talking about on the KindleBoards.

Write the best material you can and find people to edit, proofread, format and produce professional covers for it. Buy a Kindle and a Nook and see what your books look like on them, and on the mac or pc versions of Kindle and Nook before you release them. Then spend at least a few hours of every day staying current with the blogs, maintaining your social network presence, corresponding with your readers and doing everything you can to expand your readership. Don’t spend all day writing. But do set goals for your writing; number of pages or words per day, or on average per day over a week. Keep grinding. That’s what I’m doing.

For more on David Lender, visit his WEBSITE. And thank you David for sharing your insight with your fellow writers!

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