Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sean Sweeney...no holds barred.

When did you decide to get serious about writing?

I was 16 ½ when I first started covering games for my local newspaper, the Sentinel & Enterprise. At that time, it was fun for me (still is, actually), but at 16 ½-21 years old, I wasn’t thinking that this would be a career for me. It was in the fall of 1999, when the sports department went through a radical change and leaving it with a sports editor and freelancer (read: me) that I really thought of writing as my future occupation. I wrote every day, sometimes covering two games a day just to fill the pages we had. As time went on, I switched jobs to radio news, then to cell phone sales, until 2004 when I was missing sports writing. I got back into it and haven’t looked back. It was also around this time that was five chapters into my first novel, and I really wanted to finish it. I ended up finishing it a year later, and I ended up writing 15 others. The 16th other one is nearing completion.

Define “making it” as a writer.

Making it, to me, is when you have haters. You need to have a thick skin in this business. You can’t let the words of others—especially Internet trolls, and let’s face it, there are plenty of them around—get to you. There will always be haters; America is a jealous society now. People are looking to pull down anyone who succeeds, i.e. Tim Tebow, the New England Patriots, the New York Yankees, etc. The list grows by the day, the hour, the minute. In order to make it as a writer, you need to be able to get beyond the haters and assert yourself. Some people have difficulty with this; some people excel at this. Once you learn how to block out the haters and just do your job the best way you know how, you’ll make it.

Of course, selling a truckload of books helps, too.

The social media is…

…Probably the greatest tool today’s writer has at his/her disposal. If you don’t have a fan page on Facebook, get one. Update your fans on the fan page and occasionally post links about your books, but mainly update them on what you’re doing, writing-wise. Every day on facebook.com/seansweeneyauthor, I have a running tally of my word count, and I have fans who love to cheer me on. I do the same on Twitter. I use Twitter to sell books, but I also use it the same way I would use my regular Facebook; I post links to things I think are interesting, things that I think my readers (and potential readers) would enjoy to read that isn’t fiction-related. Remember that you are selling yourself along with your books. And the Internet is forever.

Share some information about your books with us:

I currently have 14 novels for sale over various genres and platforms; I like to call myself an every-genre author, because I’ve written fantasy, sci-fi, sports history, historical romance, thrillers, mystery, and I’ve dabbled in horror with a novella. When I started writing in 2003, I wanted to be a fantasy author. That’s all I wanted to write, but then the future changed me. I wanted to tell different types of stories. I wanted to reach as many readers as I could. And now I have repeat readers. And that’s what you want with every new book you write.

What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write and are published?

The dreaded “Can we buy your book in bookstores?” question. Yes, you can. Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore, and it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And no, it doesn’t close on holidays.

How do you deal with negative reviews?

That goes back to your second question, Todd. Negative reviews can be a bitch to deal with, but they are a necessary evil in publishing. I think there are two types of negative reviews: the reviews that are critical yet helpful (I had one on my baseball time travel novel, Turning Back The Clock, and the reviewer was kind enough to friend me on Facebook and explain what she meant about it; she is now one of my key beta readers and a great sounding board for my work), and the ones that simply bash for no reason at all. Thicken your skin and the negative reviews won’t hurt you. But if you really want to get rid of the thought of negative reviews, get a tub of ice cream (Cookies and Cream is the best) and a pint of vodka.

Can a writer really sell out?

Absolutely not. Last year, my dear friend Amanda Hocking signed a well-publicized deal with St. Martin’s Press for something like $2.6 or $2.7 million. All over Kindleboards.com, indie authors accused her of selling out independent publishing.  That’s bull shit. She didn’t sell out. She did what she felt was best for her work. Those indies would do the very same thing: if they saw numbers that she saw from St. Martin’s, they would have done the exact same thing. They’re lying if they said otherwise. I chose to write a 961-word rip job on those jerks that day, and let me stress this once again (pulling from my old blog): Put yourself in Amanda's shoes. Would YOU, in Amanda's place, with her already large readership that grows exponentially by the minute, turn down a four-book deal worth more money than you would ever see in your lifetime? Would you, in Amanda's place, turn down a deal that would put you in front of a whole new segment of READERS (remember, it's the readers that we do this for) that had, until this week, never heard of her/you?

If you answer no to any of these questions, you need to make an appointment with your psychiatrist. Tout suite. I don't care if this pisses people off. You're crazy if you think she shouldn't do this.

I repeat: Who wouldn't take that? I certainly would. Dangle in excess of $2 million -- and let me keep my merchandising and film rights (George Lucas taught me well) -- in front of my nose, with the opportunity to reach many more readers than I am reaching now, and yes, I would sign that deal, and then pull a Roger Clemens, misremembering anything I said in the past about self-publishing over traditional. For $2 million, definitely. For $1 million, definitely. For that number, I'd be a brainless buffoon to turn it down.

What do gain from reviews?

That goes back to an earlier question: You can earn some valuable advice, and you can earn more readers, even from negative reviews. Some of these reviewers who say “STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK!” are actually enticing people to pick up the book and read it themselves. Just because an anonymous face on the Internet says to stay away doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?

I try to read every day before bed, and sometimes I fail at this. An author needs to be reading constantly. Turn the TV off and read a book.

Define “Indie Writer” and defend or attack their position in the book market.

Now you’re making me think, Todd!

I would define indie writer as someone not beholden to New York or London, and yes, there is plenty of room for them in the market. The Internet is a large place, and the Internet is a market all its own.

What new projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently in the final third or thereabouts of my 17th novel (it’ll be my 15th or 16th that I release) and fourth in the Jaclyn Johnson AGENT series, Federal Agent. A little spoiler—Jaclyn’s taking on an escaped convict who just happens to be a member of the KKK. That’ll be out in November. In addition, the second Obloeron fantasy prequel will be out within a month or so; I’m just waiting on my cover art.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?

Hmmmm… I garden in my spare time.

How would your writing change if you were snatched up by one of the “Big Six”?

I don’t really know… I hear stories of how editors want to drastically change authors’ stories. I’d prefer if my stories stay the way they are.

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?

Have to give a shout-out to my writing clan. David Dalglish, David McAfee, Daniel Arenson, Mike Crane, Jason Letts, Robert DuPerre. A great bunch of guys you need to read.

Any last words for the readers?

Thanks for reading, folks. You guys are the reason I do this. God bless.


 A big thank you to Sean Sweeney for taking the time to stop in and chat. Tomorrow J.T. Sather shares some wisdom.

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