Christopher Lynch is the author of One Eyed Jack, a very highly regarded crime novel and its follow up, Russian Roulette. His books feature a professional black mailer named John Sharp. Don’t cross him or your secrets may just wind up in the hands of the highest bidder. People who’ve read One Eyed Jack love it and its sequel. Not only do people love One Eyed Jack, the “right people” love it and a production company has recently purchased the rights to the book and have begun developing a movie around the One Eyed Jack character. Bravo to Christopher Lynch for his success. The following interview deals with the whys and hows of self-publishing a book and how a self-published author can actually sell the rights to his book for a movie deal. This is a truly amazing feat. Enjoy the interview everyone! And don’t forget to check out Christopher’s website after reading the interview.
Christopher, congratulations on selling the rights to One Eyed Jack. I am impressed. But before I ask about that process and how that came about, I first want to go back to before the book was written and published. Was John Sharp a.k.a. One Eyed Jack the first fiction character you created?
Good morning Brian, One Eyed Jack wasn’t the first character I created, but he was definitely the most unusual. I had always wondered about blackmailers, and I wanted to create one that was more than just a secondary character in a story. That said, I also knew that it might be a bit of an uphill push trying to get people to warm up to the idea of a blackmailer as a protagonist.
After completing the first One Eyed Jack novel, did you try subbing it to traditional publishers or to literary agents? If so, how did that go? If not, why did you prefer to go the self-publishing route?
I started querying traditional publishers and literary agents before I completed the first novel, but I either received no response whatsoever, or an outright rejection. At the time, self-publishing was starting to emerge out of the shadows of the literary world and shed some of its stigma. I knew that I was a hard worker and a self-starter, so I took a chance on going that route – and I haven’t regretted my decision.
There are different avenues self-published authors can travel, why did you choose CreateSpace instead of one of the other self-publishing companies?
Very simple, Create Space is directly linked to Amazon, which is the world’s largest retailer. It’s also free to publish there, as well as incredibly easy. And their support is the best I’ve ever seen.
Self-publishing is easier today than ever. It seems like anyone and their dog (or cat, monkey or ferret) can put something up on Kindle or Amazon. How does an author distinguish their good writing with what less disciplined writers will publish?
You have to realize that your book is a product, not just an extension of your ego, and consumers expect quality in products they are going to spend their money on. You need to have your book as well written as possible, an eye-catching cover, plus it must be professionally edited by a reputable company (I use http://www.ebookeditingservices.com).I remind people all the time, at the free self-publishing seminars I give that, as a writer – especially a new one – you are competing with 8 million other books on Amazon, and you have to set yourself apart from the pack.
Are there any risks or pitfalls for self-published authors?
You really have to be a self-starter. Believe it or not, the easiest part of writing a book is writing it. Your work really begins after you publish your work, and now you have to promote it. This requires personal appearances, blog interviews, hustling reviews, social media, etc. Too many writers think that they just need to get their book uploaded to Amazon and the rest will take care of itself. This is why most self-published books only sell about a hundred copies – or none at all.
After you became a self-published author with a few short stories and then your first novel, was there anything you wish you had known before you began the process?
I made a couple of mistakes – and these both apply only to POD. First, your book has to be completely edited and formatted before you have your back cover and spine created. This is because the page count has to be exact for your cover designer to accurately size the spine.
The other mistake I made was by taking the free ISBN offered by Create Space. This effectively locks them in as the “publisher of record.” If I was to get an offer from a major publisher and if I wanted to jump into the mainstream world, I could not assign the rights for One Eyed Jack to them without creating a second edition by substantially changing the first book. For the $125.00 it cost for an ISBN through bowker.com, it is well worth it to retain all of your rights. P.S. I purchased all of the ISBNs for Russian Roulette and Eddie.
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When was the first One Eyed Jack novel released (paperback and Kindle)?
In June of 2012.
So, in those two years plus, you’ve garnered numerous 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, became a finalist for the 2013 Shamus Award and received a Writer’s Digest honorable mention for genre fiction and sold the rights to your book to a production company associated with Lions Gate Films. Can you walk our readers through this amazing success one step at a time? Usually, this type of success is reserved for authors from traditional publishers, not self-published authors, right?
That’s correct Brian,
The secret to my success is well, really no secret, and it’s what I’ve been saying all along; you have to work extremely hard if you want to be successful. That said, I’ll admit that I fell prey to the very same apathy that befalls many a first time author – whether self or traditionally published; I thought my book was going to fly off the virtual shelves with hardly any effort from myself.
When it didn’t take off as I expected it to, I could have very easily buried my head and bemoaned the fact that great books and characters weren’t recognized or appreciated in today’s world, or even that the traditional publishing industry had conspired against me as an indie author. Instead, I doubled down on my promotional efforts and began soliciting personal appearances, on-line reviews, author interviews, and blogging. I also began giving back to the writing community by offering free self-publishing seminars at local libraries. These seminars have been very popular, and I’ve sold even more books as well as garnered a growing fan base.
Before long, all of these efforts began to pay off with more visibility for my work and as a result, more great reviews. In late 2012, I entered the Shamus Award contest for best self-published detective novel. What was so special about this, was that the announcement that I was a finalist came at the 2013 California Crime Writers Conference. I was serving on a panel and the moderator made the announcement at the conclusion of our discussion. The crowd went wild with the news, and I was given a standing ovation.
Although I didn’t win the Shamus, it none-the-less got me even more publicity and again, I sold even more books. It also emboldened me to enter the Writer’s Digest self-published book awards in 2014. Here, I was given an honorable mention.
All of this work and hustling of course must be set against the backdrop of me busily writing my second OEJ book, Russian Roulette, and of course the celebrity biography, Eddie, in the meantime. You see what I mean about this being lots of work.
My career reached its crescendo however when a friend of mine contacted me. She’s an actress and had recently partnered up with a movie producer. The actress had read One Eyed Jack and she loved it. She told me to get her a copy of the book to give to the producer. Needless to say, I had one in her hands in short order, and when the producer had read about 20 pages – and had watched the trailer I had done for the book as a vehicle to sell it as a movie – that was all it took. Before long, the three of us were meeting for lunch at a restaurant in Beverly Hills and discussing who we think should play the lead role of Jack in the film.
A few weeks later we had signed a contract, and the adaptation/script is in development now. The plan is to begin production of the film in the fall of 2015.
Have you ever written a screenplay and have you been asked to write one for the One Eyed Jack screen adaptation?
I have done a couple of scripts before, but I’m not typically a screenplay writer and would rather work on writing novels and have them adapted. Novels are more fun because they aren’t so rigidly structured like a screenplay. I like to say it’s the difference between free painting and paint-by-the-numbers. Still, I do a have a movie “in me” and will put together a script after I finish the next installment in the Jack series, Sin Tax. BTW: The movie I’m going to write is a spoof comedy, not a crime drama.
Just one movie in you, or would you like to do more, possibly even write further One Eyed Jack stories as screenplays instead of novels?
Other than the aforementioned spoof comedy, I have no plans to write any Jack scripts.
How far along are you in the writing of Sin Tax? I think that’s going to be a great read, am I correct in that assumption?
I’m about 2/3 done with Sin Tax. It’s been a lot of fun so far and a friend of mine did a quick test read and thought it was my best so far. So yes, I’m thinking it’s going to be very exciting, especially since Jack has a new girlfriend who works with him.
How far out have you planned your One Eyed Jack series? Also, do you have plans for any other character driven crime novels or novels of a different genre altogether?
I’ve got at least four more Jack novels in the back of my mind. I don’t have any plans for a new character driven crime novel, but I am going to do a stand-alone terrorist thriller novel concurrent with the next Jack novel after Sin Tax. This will be a first for me, as I typically don’t have more than one writing project going on at one time. Like I said before, busy, busy, busy.
Thanks Chris for taking time to answer some questions for our readers. It is so fun to read about your success, almost as fun as reading a One Eyed Jack novel.