If Nick Thacker were to describe his work, he would say it’s a mashup between Jurassic Park, National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code, all of James Rollins’ stuff, some of Clive Cussler’s stuff, a little of Michael Crichton’s stuff, with a side of adrenaline, testosterone, and the good parts of the Michael Bay movies (but only the GOOD PARTS). You may know him from the Self Publishing Answers podcast or his amazing book, The Enigma Strain.
He would love for you to hang out with him on Twitter or on his website, www.nickthacker.com.
Justin Sloan: I first came across you through the Self Publishing Answers podcast, and thought you and Kevin had a great dynamic. How did the podcast come about, and how did you decide to bring Kevin on board?
Nick Thacker: I had the idea to get better at public speaking, but I wasn’t quite ready to just “jump into it,” so I decided I’d start podcasting first. I wanted a podcast that was practical, immediately useful, and not bloated with a bunch of “me time.” After I did a bunch of interviews and “self-publishing lessons,” it felt like the right time to change the dynamic again. Kevin and I were already working and writing together, and he pitched the idea of coming on the SPA show, then proceeded to steal the hearts and minds of listeners everywhere…
JS: And now I’m on there too! Do you find it definitely helps to work with others in this way, or was there some level of ease in doing it by yourself at first?
NT: It definitely helps, and I don’t think it was difficult at all to bring someone else in. That’s probably because you (Justin) are easy to work with, have a sense of humor, and are a great guy — I’m sure things would have been different otherwise…
Also, I’ve never had much desire for the “prima donna” style — I like to share this sort of thing, and I’ve never (hopefully) taken myself so seriously that I think I should be doing it all alone.
JS: Let’s back up a step and look at you as a writer. For those readers who haven’t yet heard your story on the podcast, what made you decide to become a writer?
NT: Quite honestly, I’m still struggling with the “I’m a writer” statement — I hated writing as a kid, and The Golden Crystal (2011) was my first writing experience, for the most part. I wrote that because I kept feeling let down by books I was reading and thought I could do a better job.
…I was wrong. Turns out, writing is hard. BUT I did it: I told myself I would finish it no matter what, then I told myself I’d make it look great, feel great, etc., and pretty soon I had a completed manuscript in front of me. I loved the process of producing a book so much that I jumped right into my next book (The Depths). When I started researching writing and really began studying the art and craft of it, I was able to challenge myself more specifically and set goals for myself. Each of my books has mostly achieved a “goal” of some sort (e.g. “have better character development,” “design stronger plots,” etc.), and in a way they’re a good example of my progression as a writer.
At the end of the day, though, when it comes to writing fiction, I just want to entertain people. No hidden messages, themes, or any “lessons” to be found within!
JS: What helped you in those early days of becoming a writer? Other podcasts on writing? Books?
NT: Books, mostly. I’ve always been a reader, so that was the first place I went — Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer was a gamechanger for me. It taught me how to view a story form, from the large plot down to individual sentences, and it’s one I continue to revisit at least once a year.
JS: And then Kevin appeared in your life, and you two co-wrote Lucid. Did you find this to be a 50-50 work effort, or what should writers expect when trying to write with someone else?
NT: Kevin would probably say I did more of the work, and I’d probably say he’s a liar. It’s got to be close to 50/50, and was a far easier experience than I thought it would be (it helps when your writing partner has consistently better ideas and writing habits than you). I don’t, however, think that people should expect that — Kevin’s a copywriter by trade, which means he can fully detach himself from his writing and allow it to be critiqued, criticized, changed, and revised. I’ve never been too attached to my writing in the first place, so ditto for me.
Other writers might not be like that — if they’re the type of person who might feel hurt at having someone color with red pen all over their baby, they might have a hard time subjecting themselves to a co-writing environment. My rule in professional endeavors, and most other areas of life: if I have about the same sense of humor as someone else, we’ll work well together.
JS: I love your book WELCOME HOME: The Author’s Guide to Building a Marketing Home Base. What inspired you to write this, and why should authors read it?
NT: Thanks! I’m actually in the process of updating and re-releasing it. The concept is simple: you have your “outposts,” like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon author profile, etc., that you don’t really “own,” then you have your “Home Base,” a place online you have full control over (a blog, website, etc.). Building that “home base” is crucial for authors, as we always want to be pointing people back to it, so they’ll subscribe to our email lists, buy our books, and connect with us.
Welcome Home is a guidebook for how to do that. It’s mostly practical, giving readers the actual resources and services I used (at the time), and how to set them up. For that reason, it got outdated quickly — it’s still useful, but you’ll need to read it with a more strategic eye than tactical.
JS: Have you seen one main effort work above the rest in your effort to drive sales?
NT: Build the email list! It’s a direct connection with every reader and potential buyer, and there are countless ways to grow the list: Facebook ads, guest posting, calls-to-action at the beginning/end of the books, and more.
JS: How about your other fiction – you seem to be doing quite well for yourself! Did you have a kind of business plan in place (such as focus on a genre, a mailing list, etc.)?
NT: I do, mainly because I love business and always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My business plan is more in-depth, but the gist of it is simple:
I want to write stories and create content that engages and entertains people.
The long-term plan is to build brand that generates enough book sales and ancillary revenue to support me and my family. The primary structure for that is producing fiction and derivative and complementary works (books in all mediums, languages, formats, etc.). The primary method for growing the brand is through building a mailing list and continuing to establish my image as a writer of “action-packed thrillers.”
I’m targeting a genre that includes traditionally-published authors such as Dan Brown, James Rollins, Matthew Reilly, Clive Cussler, and Andy McDermott, and by pricing well below their thresholds, capture a reader base that wants the same quality and style at a lower price.
I could go on, but it gets really “business-y” from there. It’s all numbers and charts and graphs… kidding. It’s mostly just a list of tactics that I like/have worked before, and an estimated timeline of releases.
JS: Where should readers start when they want to get into your books? Do you have a favorite?
NT: I’m really keen on my Relics series right now, but my best writing overall is probably The Atlantis Deception. That said, The Enigma Strain has 331 reviews (4.3 stars overall) right now, so the readers seem to have chosen their favorite!
JS: What’s next for you, Nick? Do you have any awesome projects or promotions in the works?
NT: Always! As mentioned, I’m working on a rewrite/reworking of Welcome Home, a book with Justin and Kevin, and the third Relics book. A lot of readers have been clamoring (emailing me and politely asking, anyway) for the next Harvey Bennett thriller (The Enigma Strain was the first), and I have a really exciting premise for the next two books, so I’ll probably be jumping into that whenever I have downtime.
Oh, and Kevin and I are supposed to be working on the next The Lucid thriller, and about a thousand business/nonfiction projects…
JS: Thank you again for sharing your story! Before we sign off, do you have one last bit of advice you’d like to leave us with?
NT: As cliche, trite, obvious, tired, and beat-a-dead-horse as this is going to sound, write. Just write. Don’t worry about marketing your stuff, finding a great editor, designing a perfect book cover, building an awesome website, until you’ve written a book. Then, when you have a book, start working on the next one and fill in the gaps in your time with the other stuff.
Always be writing, always add value.
If you enjoyed this interview you may enjoy more like it in Justin’s book, Creative Writing Career 2, featuring interviews with Kevin Tumlinson, Sean Platt, John August, and many more amazing writers.