To celebrate the release of Alan Baxter’s trilogy (the Alex Caine Series), I asked him a few questions about this funny old game called writing…
How does your background in martial arts affect your writing?
It’s taught me discipline and focus. I’m slowly making notes for a book on the subject, in fact, as the parallels are legion. But being good at anything requires dedication – that’s focus and discipline above all else.
Over the course of your writing career, you have experimented with numerous media, from game writing to podcasting, and different distribution models, from self publishing to big name publishing. What are some of the differences you have noticed? How important is it for writers to be flexible and open to different methods?
There are so many differences, it would take an essay just to touch on them all. But in short, there are all kinds of pros and cons with all of them. No one way is perfect. I think, especially in this day and age, that it’s important for a writer to be open to different methods. We’re seeing more and more people achieve success with the hybrid model (which means some traditional publishing and some self-publishing). I definitely fit into that model and think it’s been valuable for me. It’s also important to consider a variety of different income streams to make a career. If you score a good deal with a big publisher, that’s fantastic, but if that publisher goes down they can take your career with them. At least if your career is diversified over various publishers, various media, you can always have protection if any one thing stops working. And stuff is slow in publishing, so a variety of things means hopefully always having something happening.
Are there some things that stay the same, or relevant, across the board?
Quality. Regardless of what methods you choose, the simple fact of the matter is that you must have a quality manuscript. You must put out your best work. Of course, we all know about the really successful utter shit that gets published and makes its author a squillionaire, but the simple fact is that while the thing may be subjectively (or even objectively!) terrible, there’s something about it that works for readers. There’s a reason it’s doing so well, and while it may not be quality the way we perceive it, it is perceived value for all those fans. So whatever you’re doing, don’t worry about anyone else’s stuff, just make yours as good as it can possibly be.
How important is social media, or has been, to your success?
It’s very important these days. You can make a career without it, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that. And even if an author isn’t very active on social media, the activity of that author’s fans and readers is essential to continued growth. People are paying more attention to recommendations via social media than pretty much any other source now, so it’s important to be in it in some way. BUT! If you don’t like it, if you don’t enjoy it and can’t act like yourself, don’t do it. There’s no point in forcing yourself and faking it, because people see through that in an instant and you’re wasting your time. I really enjoy the engagement of social media, so for me it’s fun and it definitely helps.
What’s one mistake you’ve made as a writer that you would warn new or upcoming writers against?
Only one? Man, that’s a tough question. I don’t want to admit to any mistakes! I’m sure I’ve made plenty, but thankfully nothing so far that’s been devastating for me. I think it’s just important to always work hard, to always learn and try to get better, to always be a decent person to work with. If you constantly strive for those things, everything else should slowly fall into place.
Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter andFacebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.