Chris Fox is a well-known entrepreneur and bestselling, American author of paranormal fantasy and science fiction. Among fellow authors he is better known for his non-fiction book series, Write Faster, Write Smarter, that includes, Write to Market and the equally popular publication: Six Figure Author; Using Data to Sell More Books. All of which I recommend serious authors to read! He went from a job as a debt collector, which he hated, to teaching himself how to develop software apps that eventually led him to a great job in the coveted Silicon Valley. Chris is not just a man of vision, but he is a great analyst who puts his money where his mouth is! One Stop Fiction is thrilled that he agreed to this interview.
Q: Who is the real Chris Fox?
A: I’m still working on that. Five years ago I would have said I was a mobile app developer. Five years before that I’d have been an aspiring author. Today, I’m an entrepreneur.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your first self-published novel, No Such Thing as Werewolves. What started you off on the writing path, and how did the idea for the book come about? What challenges did you face as a new author and how did you overcome these?
A: What if every myth was grounded in reality? What if werewolves, and vampires, and gods had really existed? I wanted to answer those questions, and I wanted to do it in as scientific a way as possible. In fantasy, if someone tells you there’s a werewolf, you just accept it.
I wanted to write the science fiction version, to explain how moonlight would cause them to change. Or why silver hurts them. I studied everything from anthropology to genetics to helioseismology, all trying to make the book as realistic as possible. This took about four years, and there were many times I’d give up for months at a time.
If not for my wife, I’d almost certainly have given up. She kept prodding me, urging me first to finish, and then to publish the book.
Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser, and why do you choose to write this way?
A: I am a heavy plotter, because I spent a decade being a pantser. Stories have structure, something Joseph Campbell and Dan Harmon have broken down into easily understandable systems. Story, myth, fulfills a primal need every human has.
When I pantsed my work, my stories were incomplete and disjointed. Once I started plotting them, and making sure I followed recognizable forms like the three act structure, the quality dramatically improved. I also became far more consistent, turning out six novels a year instead of one every four years.
Q: Authors often complain that they can never find the time to write, especially if they work full-time. You’ve come up with a solution to this dilemma in your book, 5000 Words Per Hour. Is this daily word target achievable? Many would be skeptical. I take it that was the catalyst for your 21 Day Novel Challenge?
A: Writing around a full time job is incredibly difficult. I worked sixty to eighty hours a week at a San Francisco startup when I wrote 5,000 Words Per Hour, and when I wrote my first several novels. It was absolutely brutal to crank out 5k words consistently, but in the end it freed me from the day job.
You’re right that the 21 Day Novel Challenge was an effort to prove that my methodology works. The actual writing only takes me two to three hours a day, less if I focus. It’s very, very achievable.
The thing is, it’s not achievable instantly. It takes time to build up your writing speed, and to understand what flow state is and how to enter it on command. I believe anyone can make that investment though, and we’re all better writers after we achieve it.
You are capable of far more than you assume. If I were a new writer today I’d set maybe a 500 words a day goal, something achievable. Hit that every day for a while, and then raise it. In six months (or sooner), I bet you’ll have no problem reaching 5,000 words every day.
Q: On the non-fiction side of the business, you’ve got a very successful writing series, Write Faster, Write Smarter. In addition, you have written paranormal fiction with the Deathless series and you have the Science fiction, Void Wraith Trilogy. Do you Write to Market or do you write from the heart?
A: Both. In Write to Market I explain that you are looking for the intersection between what you love to write, and what has a large audience.
My written to market series are very fun to write, and they sell an order of magnitude better than my Deathless series. I still put out Deathless books occasionally though, because at the end of the day I’m a storyteller. I love that story and want to finish it.
If I needed the money, I’d write everything to market. I get by just fine doing a mix, which keeps me from burning out.
Q: Do you see the benefit in launch teams or street teams, as they are sometimes called?
A: Absolutely. Build one as soon as possible, and treat those people like royalty. They can launch your career into the stratosphere, and are an amazing source of inspiration and support.
Q: You’re a strong proponent of authors running their writing careers as a business, something I wholeheartedly support. What is the main area you feel authors seem to struggle with and what solutions can you offer them?
A: Marketing is the toughest thing any author will face, because we are taught that marketing is the enemy of art. It isn’t. Find the people who like what you create. Find that tribe, wherever they are. Become a part of that tribe.
Find books like yours, and read them. Meet people who read those books too, easily done using the Internet. Because then your ideal reader, and marketing becomes a whole lot simpler. It will be very clear how you can reach that audience, because you’re a part of it.
Q: What has been the highlight of your writing career, so far?
A: Selling my 100,000th book. I had to sit down when I realized that. 35 year old Chris would have been thrilled to have sold 100 books. Or even a book. I still can’t believe how far I’ve come.
Q: Your next book release is your 6th book in your, Write Faster, Write Smarter Series; Relaunch Your Novel. Would you like to give us a run down on the book? How difficult is it to re-launch a book and what are the steps to make this a success?
A: It’s pretty tough to sum up a book in a paragraph. Relaunch will teach you to view your backlist as a money factory, and to make that factory produce as much as it can, automatically. It covers specific tactics on re-launching books, but part of that is how those books fit into your larger backlist.
If I had to distill it down into a few steps it would be— learn your audience, assess the quality of your existing book (cover, blurb, and writing), then formulate an action plan to repackage the book. This can mean an entirely different genre, or doing nothing but creating an omnibus for your series.
Q: In closing, what advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out? And where can you best be reached?
A: I wish someone had told me that my writing was supposed to suck for the first few years. We get so attached to our writing, like the words we produce today reflect on us as a writer. They don’t. Every word you write makes you a stronger writer, and they’re just bricks in the foundation of your writing career. It’s okay to suck. Keep writing, and just fix one thing at a time.
I can be reached at chrisfoxwrites.com, where you can find videos for writers, articles on marketing, and all my books.