An eclectic resume–he’s held jobs with the US Postal Service, international non-profit groups, a short stint with the Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska and time with the globe-spanning Semester at Sea program–has given him inspiration for short stories and novel ideas.
A post-graduate education in English Literature wasn’t necessary, but it helped define what he didn’t want to do with his life and let him read a great deal of good books.
Matthew Iden Interview
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Books by Matthew Iden
Matthew Iden Transcript
Tim Knox: Matthew Iden is my guest today. Matthew is a prolific author of crime fiction, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, horror, and contemporary literary fiction with a psychological twist.
He’s probably best known as the author of the Marty Singer series, about a hard boiled detective series that includes –A Reason to Live, Blueblood, One Right Thing, The Spike, and The Wicked Flee
Like most authors, Matthew has an eclectic resume, having held jobs with the US Postal Service, international non-profit groups, a short stint with the Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska and time with the globe-spanning Semester at Sea program– all of which has given him inspiration for his short stories and novels.
Matthew talks a lot about the process and how he faced many of the same obstacles all new writers face, including critical reviews, rejections from agents, and how he plowed throught to garner the sales and acclaim he enjoys today.
Here now is my interview with Matthew Iden, author of the highly popular Marty Singer series, on today’s Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Matt, welcome to the program.
Matt Iden: Hey Tim, great to be here.
Tim Knox: Great to have you here. We have a lot to talk about today. Before we get started though, if you will, give us a little background on you.
Matt Iden: Sure. I am a mystery and crime thriller writer. I live in Alexandria, Virginia. I write the Marty Singer series. It’s about a retired homicide detective from Washington D.C.’s detective force, the NPDC. He retires because he’s battling a life threatening disease but doesn’t keep him from kicking butt and taking out the bad guys.
Tim Knox: He would have to be in a wheelchair not to kick butt. Is that what you’re saying?
Matt Iden: I hope so.
Tim Knox: I was looking at your website and I’ve read some of your work, and you call Marty a hardboiled detective. Tell me exactly what is a hardboiled detective novel?
Matt Iden: Well sometimes I refer to him as medium boiled so people joke just don’t make him over easy or easy boiled. I wanted to write in the tradition of Raymond Chandler, Robert Parker, those kinds of guys where they’ve got a hardnosed looked at life. It’s not a cozy, a teacup mystery kind of thing. I wanted to show a real side of life.
I enjoy a little bit of humor and I enjoy a little bit of wry observation from time to time too. It’s between medium and hardboiled. It’s not fatalistic or gloomy but it’s got its real points.
Tim Knox: He’s not really a touchy feely kind of guy.
Matt Iden: Not very, although what I’m trying to do in some instances is soften him up a little bit because not everybody’s just a hardnosed, tough guy all the time and I don’t think that would appeal to a lot of the readers today. They want somebody who’s a little more realistic. So he doesn’t take any guff but he’s learning kind of how to communicate a little better.
Tim Knox: You can toss a puppy or kid in the story and that usually does it.
Matt Iden: Great ideas. You may see them in the next few books.
Tim Knox: There you go. Let’s go back in time a little bit. What did you do before you became a writer?
Matt Iden: Well my education undergrad and graduate education are in English literature, so the desire was always there but when I graduated from graduate school with an English degree there wasn’t a whole lot of work around and I didn’t feel like going to law school.
About the right time for me the internet exploded on the scene and so I was actually in IT for about 12 or 15 years doing web work, web design work, that kind of thing. I also held a lot of different odd jobs before that. I was a postman. I delivered things. I fixed things. It gave me kind of an interesting view of life.
The most interesting job I ever had was after my last fulltime job I was the IT manager for the semester at sea program, which is a floating college program that takes a semester to go around the world. I learned so much during that time and it provided me with a lot of fodder for future novels.
Tim Knox: You spent a decade or so, what do they call it, building life experiences you can use in fiction?
Matt Iden: Well they say write what you know. If you don’t know anything, and that described me very well coming out of school, then you’re not going to write very well I don’t think so I was very glad to get that life experience.
Tim Knox: Your story is not unusual. I talk to a lot of authors that did that, I mean everything from every odd job you can imagine to attorneys, college professors, but really all over the board before they finally came to become an author.
Were you always a writer though? Did you always have the ability to write, even when you were young?
Matt Iden: I hope so. I think so. I think I showed promise when I was in school but then I started to daydream too much and didn’t really apply myself. I read about some authors out there who published their first book or even just wrote their first book when they were 19 or 20. I shake my head because I was still just letting stories roll around in my head; I wasn’t getting them down.
It took several, many years to actually apply myself and stop dreaming about it and actually making it happen.
Tim Knox: Yeah I think at 19 I was trying to sober up. We’re authors, come on. We drink. When you did start writing do you remember the first thing that you wrote that you thought might actually be something?
Matt Iden: That is a good question. I had so many false starts. If you could look on my hard drive you’d see about 10 failed novel attempts and that’s just kind of the odd job thing – that’s not unusual for most writers.
I think I felt proudest of my first book even though it was my drawer novel. When you first complete a full novel of 70,000 or 75,000 words and you think it’s the hardest thing you ever did and then you find out that was the easiest part of the whole process. Before that point you cross a certain finish line that many people don’t.
That first book, which was a caper style mystery, I really felt good about. I only later realized how much work it actually needed, so much so that I moved on to the Marty Singer series. I was happy to have taken a whack at that.
Tim Knox: How long did you work on the first book?
Matt Iden: Oh boy, four years, five years. I really had to teach myself how to write. Even at the end of it, it was a lesson that was packaged in that same book and I put it away and I took all of that and moved onto the Marty books wiser for it.
I’ve actually gone back and worked on that book because I love the idea. It’s one of those things where you shake your head and you’re like, wow.
Tim Knox: It’s kind of funny. Everybody I interview kind of has that book in the drawer and I keep thinking I should do a book in the drawer anthology, and just like really crappy first books from really successful authors.
Matt Iden: That is great. I like that.
Tim Knox: I can tell by your voice that you do not want to take part.
Matt Iden: As long as there was disclaimer up front in 24 point type.
Tim Knox: I’m sure this is the case with you because I hear it from a lot of people – that first book, especially one that you put that much time and effort into, you learn a lot from that process that you can then put into the next book, which may be better and marketable.
Matt Iden: Absolutely. It’s a little bit of a tired cliché but they say you need to have one book down before you even begin to get serious. It’s so true because there’s really just nothing like trying to string together 75,000 words that makes sense. Anybody can type 70,000 words but to pull it together, have it make sense and then to even have it be passable as a story – you are learning like 20 things at once.
It’s not just writing a book. It’s point of view, it’s characterization, it’s plotting, it’s pace, it’s language. You need that experience. You’re welcome to work on it again and again and again but I feel almost as if you need to do that book, think very hard about it, put it away and move on. Maybe you’ll come back to it in the future but you learn so much. You may as well apply it to a new, clean slate.
Tim Knox: So after you got that book out of your system, is that when you started working on the Marty Singer series that you eventually published?
Matt Iden: Yes. I went through the process of reaching out to New York agents and trying the whole round that many, many authors are familiar with, with the first book. I received the kind of tough love, the brutal thanks but no thanks letters. That just combined with a couple of critical reviews from colleagues and friends that told me I should probably start over again, start with a clean slate and just take all those lessons and give it a whirl.
At that point too I knew I wanted to write a series and so my mind was reaching out not just for kind of the tactical work of creating a book but also the strategic work of what’s the series going to be about and what’s the arch of the series? That’s pretty important to have, at least a general idea before you start?
Tim Knox: It’s good to have that idea but let’s just kind of go back because you did take that first book and you did try to do something with it and you went the route of trying to find an agent. Talk a little about that process because I think that’s something that all writers, especially new writers – they have to face that rejection. You may have to go to 100 agents and still not get any takers. Talk a little about that.
Matt Iden: Well you have to educate yourself about the industry. I was unpleasantly surprised in writers group how few people do the necessary due diligence and the groundwork to find out even some of the basics about submitting your book and getting towards publication, even before and even if you didn’t think about self-publishing like I eventually did. You’ve got to read up and you’ve got to know what the industry’s about.
I’ve been surprised at how many people don’t know, for instance, that you even need an agent to try and get into the traditional publishing industry. It’s difficult, takes some time, takes some reading.
The most success that I had was forgoing the kind of cold letters because you normally just get dozens of rejections. What I found most helpful was going to conferences and actually meeting some of the people and proving to them that you’re human and proving to yourself that they’re human and real people, and making a personal connection.
It doesn’t always result in anything but at least you feel that you have done work when sometimes typing up that letter for the 29th time, throwing it in an envelope and just waiting for the rejection, that doesn’t feel like work. That doesn’t feel like progress.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Talk a little about… did you change anything or were there any shifts in the way that you wrote from the first book to the first Marty Singer book? Did you change your writing style at all?
Matt Iden: A little bit. The first book, my drawer novel, was a third person caper which was intentional choice on my part because I thought it’d be easy to write and in some cases it was. The Marty Singer series is primarily written from a first person so ‘I did this, I did that’ kind of stuff. That’s the traditional method, if you want to call it a hardboiled fiction. You have the ‘whodunit’ see as through the eyes of the detective who is your protagonist.
Because Marty’s struggles are personal as well throughout the books, I didn’t want the distance of third person so that was a stylistic difference that I chose right off the bat.
Tim Knox: I think you make a really good point there. Those detective novels, when they’re written in the first person, I think are much more effective. Did you ever read the old Mickey Spillane books?
Matt Iden: Oh yeah.
Tim Knox: I can remember reading those as a kid 40 years ago and I was always impressed by the first person aspect of those and how Mike Hammer talked and how he phrased and that sort of thing. When you do that you really have to get in the head of that character, don’t you?
Matt Iden: Oh absolutely. Sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes it’s tough. That is one of the things that you have to learn on the fly when you start to write. A really good example is when you’re writing from first person, you have a lot of internal monologues and that can be a real drag for the readers so you need a lot of dialogue, spoken dialogue with another character and then you fall into the trap of what’s called the maid and butler dialogue or the information dump where you’re like, “Bob, did you know there was a murder here in town?”
It’s a one two punch. It’s the first few mistakes that any beginning writer makes writing in first person. You get that awesome internal, emotional view from your character and the next thing you know you’re like how the heck am I going to tell the reader about… and pick your poison, because anything that happens in the world that doesn’t happen to the character has to be communicated somehow.
Tim Knox: Hey look, here’s a letter. Let’s read it.
Matt Iden: Yeah. Have you heard the news on the TV lately? Boy!
Tim Knox: That’s really a good point because when you’re writing from first person like that, your character doesn’t know everything that’s going on. It doesn’t know what’s happening with other characters. I think it makes for a better mystery because it’s a process of discovery for the main character.
Matt Iden: Yeah absolutely and I have found, especially with this series, that I believe my readers invest more and are more enthralled with Marty because of that first person connection, not only because they’re solving the murder with him as he does but for the obvious segues or duck tailing with emotional problems, his physical problems and just basic life decisions he’s making.
If I’d written that even from a close third person view, there’d be distance there. I’d be inserting some space between my reader and the character, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do.
Tim Knox: Right and I don’t think it’s a good idea to let the reader know things that your main character doesn’t. You know what I mean? Why doesn’t he get this? It’s so obvious because you told me.
Matt Iden: It works for thrillers. It works really well for thrilling and suspense novels because of course you’re either trying to creep the reader out or you’re trying to get their pulse up. When there’s a little bit of dramatic irony when the audience knows something the character doesn’t, it works in that situation.
For ‘whodunits’ you’re just letting air out of the tire at that point. If they know and he doesn’t, well why are you reading?
Tim Knox: Exactly. Let’s talk a little about character development because Marty is such a strong character. As you said earlier, you gave him certain issues that he has to deal with. Talk a little about those issues and why you inflicted them on him and how did they affect the story?
Matt Iden: Yeah I hope I never meet Marty because he’s not going to be very happy with me.
Tim Knox: He’s going to kick your ass.
Matt Iden: When I was trying to come up with essentially a flawed hero, I didn’t want somebody who fit the normal mold of a hardboiled detective, which is often someone who’s either got a drinking problem or a misogynist or has just a past full of problems that aren’t real attractive. I wanted something to happen to my character that he wasn’t necessarily responsible for but he still had to deal with it.
I afflicted him with cancer.
Tim Knox: Let’s just go all in.
Matt Iden: Yeah. I wanted a real trial and a real crisis for him that he could overcome but he didn’t bring it upon himself. He’s not a five pack a day smoker. He doesn’t do anything to “deserve it”. Well guess what? A lot of people don’t deserve it and they still have to work through it. They have to handle it.
It sounds a little heavy and I do emphasize in the first few books because I wanted to show him working through it but it’s also not the be all end all, just like it isn’t for most people or a lot of people who suffer from the disease. They get on with their lives as best they can and they make something of it. That was the message I wanted to tell.
Tim Knox: I think it really does humanize the character. For example, I’m a big Lee Child fan. I read all the Reacher books but Reacher really is a cartoon. He’s 6’7” who is almost impervious to anything. He’s not a real person, if you will, until Tom Cruise tries to play him of course.
Matt Iden: Well I don’t want to get into that argument. Yes, I absolutely agree. I love the Reacher books. At one point I thought that’s what I wanted to write. When I sat down and tried to sketch out what my Reacher kind of guy was going to be I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know where to go.
This is funny but I have more respect for writing the character who has no flaws than one who did because I don’t know where he comes up with credible threats to Reacher’s existence because the guy is bulletproof and women love him and dogs wag and babies coo. He has so very few problems. I think the only thing I can think of is he’s a bad driver.
I love those books but I just couldn’t find myself writing one. That’s when I thought why are you trying to write somebody who’s all that? Let’s reverse this situation and say what does it mean for somebody to have real world problems and they work through them anyhow in the face of danger.
Tim Knox: The character has to have some vulnerability. I know I’ve read interviews with Lee Child and basically he says, “Hey, I’m throwing everything at this guy. He’s not completely impervious but he’s damn near close.” I think if he gets in a situation where he’s tied to a railroad track with a stick of dynamite in his ear you know he’s going to be okay.
Matt Iden: Yeah. I went back and actually studied all of Lee’s books because I wanted to know what made the books tick. Of course I enjoy them as a reader but as a writer you’re like wait a second, I need to know how this thing works.
What I found is most often Lee puts Reacher’s friends or loved ones in danger and so the threat is actually external to him and he needs to bash his way through to help the one who is more vulnerable.
Tim Knox: I did the exact same thing and you’re right. He’s like Superman and everyone else is Lois Lane.
Matt Iden: Yeah, it’s a world of Lois Lanes.
Tim Knox: How many Marty Singer books are you in now?
Matt Iden: I have five out and I have the sixth outlined. I started and I know myself and I realized pretty quickly my outline was not complete enough so I went back to outlining.
Tim Knox: Let’s go back a little bit because I want to talk about when the first Marty Singer book came out, you self-published that book right?
Matt Iden: That’s right.
Tim Knox: Talk a little about that process and bringing that book out. How have you achieved the success of where you are today?
Matt Iden: Well when I finished the book, it took me about four years again I think to really feel comfortable with it. I had tried the traditional publishing route. This is maybe 2009 or so. Joe Conrath was thinking about self-publishing but very few other people had even considered it. The Kindle I think was barely a tinkle in Jeff Bezo’s eye.
So to me publishing meant going rich back into the grind, finding agents, trying for the big publishing contract, and so I did the rounds again. I got nibbles, I got bites but no one asked for a full read. Possibly because the character, as we just talked about and described, wasn’t all that thrilling because he wasn’t invulnerable.
So I was disappointed but not ready to shelf that one and start yet a third book. About that time I was very lucky and some friends of mine who were in a local writers club had been through the same grind and they’re like, “I’ve heard about this Kindle thing, I’m going to give it a shot, I’m so tired of the merry-go-round.”
I still had that stigma that so many people associate with it, the whole vanity publishing stigma. I watched their progress closely. I didn’t think it was for me and then I started talking more and more with them and they started telling me about not so much the money they were making but the fact that they were reaching people and readers were asking for the next book. They were emailing, were on social media and they wanted to know more and more and more.
By about late 2011 I was interested enough to start putting out some short stories and then early to mid-2012 I think that’s when I was all in. Let’s go for this.
Tim Knox: So you decided to self-publish and it was kind of a new thing back then. When you finally got the book out talk a little about the marketing side because as you well know, when you’re a self-published author you not only write but you have to do everything else. You really become the entrepreneur, the marketer, the PR person, the seller. Talk a little about that process. How did you get the book out there and how did it start to gain traction?
Matt Iden: You are very right. From very early on all the way through every day of your career, if you’re a self-published author you’re a promoter and CEO as well as a writer.
Just as an aside, a lot of people ask me how much time I spend and they’re a little shocked when I say I do 50/50 at least. In a six or seven or eight hour day it will be three, four, five hours of promotion with three or four hours of writing probably.
Early on I haunted Kindle board, which I think you’ll probably hear a lot from self-published authors, kboards.com is what it’s called now. It’s an amazing resource. I had those two colleagues, as I mentioned before, who had self-published so they laid the groundwork a little bit for me.
The message there is you cannot beat having friends or colleagues or communities when it comes to self-publishing. Writing’s a lonely sport anyway but when you have no support structure you really need advice, you need go-to people, you need help and communities are incredibly important in that regard. I lean heavily on those colleagues and internet personalities that I found on Kindle boards. They gave me a lot of great advice.
Tim Knox: When you brought the first book out did you take a break in writing or did you keep hammering the writing?
Matt Iden: Well it’s funny. I said earlier how once I’d written the first book I thought the hard word was over. It’s kind of a similar story here. Well I wrote the first book and the series is off to a start. Somebody said, “Yeah well when is number two coming out and have you outlined number three?” I was like what the hell.
Tim Knox: I just wrote this book.
Matt Iden: Yeah. Where are the flowers? Where’s the golden trophy? It became pretty clear pretty quickly that there are people out there that I’ve come to respect immensely – the Russell Blake’s of the world, Joe Conrath’s. They’re putting out four, six, eight, ten books a year and it doesn’t sound humanly possible but when you read about their level of dedication and what their work ethic is, you realize it’s time to stop slacking off. It’s time to start writing.
There’s another well-worn piece of advice, which is the best promotion of all is to write the next book. I dove back into it. Meanwhile I was trying to get some traction by just the time honored method. You need reviews, you need ratings, you need people to start telling their friends and family about your book.
My promotional work early on was just tyring to get first 10 reviews, then mid double digit reviews, then I wanted to break 100. Meanwhile I was writing constantly and I think I hit 100 reviews for the first book, A Reason to Live, as I was putting the finishing touches on my third book, if that gives you any kind of idea about the velocity.
Tim Knox: I know when I talked to Russell, I interviewed him early, early on and he said that he writes a new book every six to eight weeks and I’m like, “How do you do this?” “I sit in the chair and write.” He’s such a smartass about it but it really is true. He’s a machine and he just keeps writing and writing.
Did you find that once you were multiple books in, did you really start to pick up speed then and were people discovering the third or fourth or fifth book and then going after your backlist?
Matt Iden: Yes, very much so. A very good piece of advice that I was given that I pass along is if you want to be successful as a self-publisher, you must write a series. You must at least start with a series because it’s just too difficult to make readers pay attention to single standalone books.
I’m sure there’s somebody out there who hit a homerun with a single book or set of single books but if you want to play those odds that’s fine, if you want to play the lottery with your career. For me, this was going to be a career and the best piece of advice I had was write that series and continue to chug along. People will fall in love with your character if you’re smart and work at it.
When they do that, they come for the show but stay for the meal or I don’t know what the phrase is. They may like the book but they’re going to love your character. What that means is they’ll come back and buy… if they landed on book three they’ll go back and buy one and two. If they finish the series they’ll email you and ask you where the heck is book six. That’s the kind of fire that you want to light in people’s hearts. You don’t want them to just like what you did in the book itself.
Tim Knox: I think that’s such good advice. I think you’re right. When I look at the successful self-published authors I’ve had on this program, they either have a very strong character based series or they write in one specific genre, like historical romance or something like that. The reader hears that voice and they want to hear more.
Matt Iden: Yes, absolutely. It may also be a case in the genre I’m in, the crime fiction/mystery genre, that series are even more important than others. Romance for instance, I get the sense there are themes that are kind of a serial theme but not always a serial character and I don’t think that necessarily flies in either thriller or mystery genres. Generally speaking what you want is for people to fall in love and it’s difficult to fall in love with that single book.
Tim Knox: Yeah and I think just to continue that theme there, I think men are more prone to like a series with a strong male character, like what you’re doing. Do you think most of your readers are male or do you ever hear from females or you across the board?
Matt Iden: 50/50 I’d say. That’s hard to say. I was going to say if I’d written a Jack Reacher character… but of course we all know that he’s at least as popular with women as he is with men.
I feel that by making Marty more reachable, more sensitive because of his issues, I do reach across to a female audience. Somebody like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, I would be curious to know how much Harry appeals to women because he’s just kind of a cold fish.
Tim Knox: Yes he is.
Matt Iden: But I may be proven wrong. I don’t know.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about your fantasy books because you not only have written the Marty Singer books; you’ve also delved into writing some fantasy and sorcery type stuff. How’d you get into that?
Matt Iden: It’s actually my first love of reading, epic fantasy. As I said earlier, if you looked on my hard drive you’d see a lot of those. I spun out 10,000 and 20,000 word novel attempts and those are mostly epic fantasy.
What I found out really quickly, and I’ve commiserated with other authors about this, is you can make anything up. It is twice as difficult as when you have constraints. Someday I may tackle an entire trilogy or epic fantasy series. I would love to be part of that community. When you don’t have any limits it’s really, really daunting.
When I write my crime fiction I know what the rules are, the basic rules of the world, so I can concentrate on those elements that are so basic – characterization, plotting, pace, movement – and not have to worry about being consistent with my world or inventing new races and patterns of magic. I have a newfound respect for fantasy writers who are able to come up with that stuff and stick to it and not get bogged down.
Tim Knox: You wonder what they’re smoking and you wish you had some.
Matt Iden: Yeah, whatever it is.
Tim Knox: It’s a really interesting point you make. To make up a world or a species or anything, it takes computing power in the brain that I don’t have. I’m like you. When I write mine are based in reality. They’re in a place that is real. There are characters that could be real. To write in fantasy it really does take a lot.
Matt Iden: Yeah it does. I get lost in the weeds in my own stuff even when I know the character, the situation, the region, the city. I still find myself floundering sometimes. If I had to come up with the entire universe in which my characters would be playing, it would take me easily a year to write one book and years and years to write a trilogy.
Tim Knox: Your thoughts on what I call the episodic novels now. People are writing episodes. Rather than a full novel they’ll do 50 pages and they release one a month, that sort of thing. They’re almost like television episodes. Any thoughts on those?
Matt Iden: I like the concept from the writer’s perspective and not so much from the reader’s perspective. I understand why and where it’s going. If you make a good character or a situation a series, your readers are hungry and they’ll gobble up good writing from you even if it’s in small chunks. I would find it difficult to sustain interest if I were a reader on the other side.
From the writing perspective too, you’d want to be very careful that you were giving your readers full value and you weren’t just writing almost a… Oliver Twist was written in 300 chunks or something like that because Dickens was getting paid by the penny by the word. You don’t want it to be continued constantly often to the infinite universe. You’d want to see something wrap up.
Tim Knox: I talked to one author, Scott Silveri. His main character’s a sheriff and Scott has written… his plan is to write 13 episodes just like television but he said the hardest part, and you make this point also, is if you write 13 in a series you’ve got to have 12 really good cliffhangers and then you’ve got to have one really good resolution. It requires additional brainpower that I again do not have.
Matt Iden: I think it’s fascinating that one reason writers might want to do it is they think of the internet attention span as being kind of short and episodic so why not write to that? Ironically there are 400 and 500 page sagas that get just as much play from readers who read on eBooks or on the internet.
It’s funny how people have short attention spans thanks to today’s technology yet when they want to disappear into a story or novel, they don’t necessarily need to be fed that way. I think it can work like your guest has shown but at the same time I think it’s fascinating that a 400 or 500 page book provides the same amount of distraction.
Tim Knox: Exactly and there are some authors now that are even doing blog writing. Rather than publish a short story or novel they just send people to their blog every week. Okay, whatever.
Matt Iden: It is a form of writing.
Tim Knox: It is. So what are you working on now?
Matt Iden: I’ve got a couple irons in the fire. As I mentioned earlier I’m working on Marty Singer #6. I’ve got the outline percolating and cooking and I’ll be really buckling down as the weather turns south here in Virginia.
I’ve also got two items in the fire. One is actually that drawer novel I told you about before. It underwent some immense, heavy editing by two different professional editors that I use and they’ve given me tons to rewrite so I feel confident that the nugget of the idea is still there and still good but all of those early transgressions of an early writer will hopefully be ironed out. So that might be hitting the streets pretty soon.
Then the other thing I tried my hand at is a Kindle World’s novel, which is that licensed… it’s fan fiction but it’s licensed by the original rights holder. In this case I’m writing a novel in Barry Eisler’s John Rain universe, which is a thriller series that was very popular, is very popular since the early 2000s. I’m going to be submitting that probably in the next two months.
Tim Knox: Very good. One thing I wanted to talk to you about before we get off the phone here is you had mentioned you’re actually talking to a publisher about publishing some of your work. Tell us how that process is going and give us some advice on how to approach that.
Matt Iden: Sure, I was actually called by… I don’t want to name names because we haven’t signed any contracts yet but I’ve actually been approached by two different publishers at the same time, which was very flattering but has caused me no end of gray hairs. I’m comparing offers and talking to people.
I attribute their attention to the number of ratings and reviews I’ve gotten so I have to thank my readers for all of that. They would not be calling me. I’m ranked with some of my books but I am no means blowing away sales records or anything like that so I’ve got to give credit to the readers who have been giving me great reviews.
In one case one of the publishers is able to negotiate print rights only, which is a very odd thing to do. This is a fairly traditional publisher and usually they come walking through the door and they want everything and they want it forever. So that’s eBook rights, print rights, audiobook rights, film and TV, the whole kit and caboodle.
I said, “I’ve been doing really well with my eBooks. Why would I give those to you? My print books on the other hand make me enough money to grab a coffee at Starbucks every month.” “We can help you with that.” So we were able to negotiate to a particular point where I kept my audio rights because I actually go through Amazon’s ACX program and do my own audio so I didn’t want them taking that away either. They didn’t have any strengths in film or TV so they were willing to give those up. They have a lot of strength in print so that’s what we were able to negotiate on.
I did not sign a contract with them and they’ve been a little slow in getting the paperwork to me and in the meantime a second publisher came calling. They did want everything but their deal was quite a bit better and so I’m leaning towards those guys and I’m glad I’ve got the services of a publishing attorney on my side.
Unlike a traditional publishing deal, I did not go with an agent simply because I essentially created the deal myself and that’s at least half the reason you would get an agent. But boy, I’m glad she’s on my side because the language and the tradition of some of the ways you negotiate these deals is well over and away from my skillset. If anybody’s in my position or thinks they might be, absolutely hire an attorney to help you out with it.
Tim Knox: Yeah. Congratulations, by the way. That is quite an accomplishment. You’ve got 750 reviews for Marty Singer, the first book. There has to be something there.
I’ve heard Hugh Howey is actually getting a publisher to do his paperback and he’s retaining everything else digitally. It seems to be the wave of the coming but they would not have called you if they didn’t think they could sell books.
Matt Iden: Yeah and thanks, Tim, I appreciate that. I feel the same way. I was doing passingly well before but it’s a nice feather in your cap, just for your sense of pride but also when you buckle down to the business aspect you realize I’m a fairly good self-publisher and I know how to promote. There’s nothing like the corporation to kind of back you up and give you boosters. I’m pretty happy and I’m really looking forward to the future with this thing.
Tim Knox: Good deal. I predict good things for you – a pretty safe prediction at this point. Matthew Iden, tell folks where they can find out more about you and your work.
Matt Iden: Sure, my website is Matthew-Iden.com. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, all the normal social media stuff. I’m bad at Twitter so I suggest Facebook but generally speaking you can find me through my website and I respond to every email and every comment I get.
Tim Knox: The last question that I usually ask is your advice to the audience. You’ve actually written a book on how to write that first novel. The audience primarily for this show are authors who want to do what you’ve done. They want to sell books, get noticed. Give us your best advice.
Matt Iden: Best advice is I would say is if you want to be a writer you’ve got to write. I spent way too many years thinking I’ll get to that or I’ll write later or I will be a writer. The fact of the matter is the words just don’t write themselves. I’ve kicked myself for many years for just not buckling down and doing it, even if doing it poorly is all that that meant. You have to actually sit down. It’s called the butt in chair method. You’ve got to sit down and write. The more you do it the better you get at it and the better you get at it, the more people will listen and read your work.
Tim Knox: Very good. Matthew Iden, author of the Marty Singer series and also some fantasy. I did want to mention the book, Telling Your Tale: A Beginner’s Guide to Novel Writing. Quickly plug that book for us.
Matt Iden: It is really for the absolute beginners. It’s more of an ePamphlet. It’s probably 60, 70 pages and just covers some of the basics that I couldn’t believe. I had to dig up six or seven writing guides to find things like some basic definitions of writing styles, formats, points of view, how long are your average books, what are some examples of good books.
I just wanted to pull it all together into a single place and put it out there for people who are just starting out.
Tim Knox: Very good. Matt, this has been a pleasure. Will you come back?
Matt Iden: I would love to, Tim.
Tim Knox: Maybe we’ll do the next one in Florida. Matthew Iden, great having you on the show. We’ll put links to your website as well as your Facebook, Twitter feeds. Hope to hear from you soon.
Matt Iden: Thanks, Tim. It’s been a pleasure.
Matthew Iden’s website: Matthew-Iden.com