GJ: Thank you Leo for joining me for this conversation. Can I start by asking you to give a short introduction to yourself and your writing?
LP: Hi, great to meet you! I’m a graduate out of Georgia Institute of Technology currently living in Jacksonville Florida with a love of the beach and traveling. I’ve been pursuing a career as an author since 2014 by joining the indie publishing movement. In the past, I’ve written Horror, Fantasy, and Science fiction, and am poised to release my fifth novel this December.
GJ: During my research into indie authors I found your novel The Bridge is currently ranked 25th on the list of top independently published novels on the website indieauthornews.com. Would you consider it to be your most successful novel to date?
LP: I had no clue! Very neat! Just looked it up. I certainly enjoyed writing The Bridge, and think that it’s one of my better novels out right now in terms of how it is written. I’d definitely consider Star Child to be my most successful novel at the moment though, as its sales far surpassed The Bridge. Both of these are series and appeal to similar readers- one is Science Fiction, and the other is Urban Fantasy, yet they are written in similar styles. What makes The Bridge unique is its combination of a world far in the future with allusions of the distant past.
GJ: You have a great number of reviews on Amazon and being able to maintain a 4½ star average is impressive. As with 99% of all authors, you have negative reviews, although very few. I’m publishing my first novel on 30th November and one of my biggest waking nightmares is that I will be inundated with an avalanche of bad comments. How do you rationalise the negative reviews and the cutting comments the small amount of reviewers have left?
LP: I have a pretty different strategy than most authors which helps minimise my negative reviews. I write my stories as serials, for free, online. This allows me to immediately see if there is interest in them, what people like, and to scrap the stories that people don’t enjoy or are not popular. This helps me do well inside my fanbase, but rest assured I have had some scathing reviews from others! Part of it is realising that you can never please everyone and there will always be those that hate your work.
The other part is knowing your audience and chasing them as opposed to chasing people who might not like your book. For instance, the work I do now is more like caricatures than paintings- it’s quick, enjoyable, and has some depth but is certainly no Picasso. If a caricature artist were to show up before an art museum, they’d get ripped apart! But on the street, where people enjoy caricatures, he might be extremely popular. The point is this- know your audience, write what they will enjoy, and seek out others like them if you want to be successful from a business sense. From an artistic sense, realise that the best artists were often heavily criticised, and if you want to go down that route you should expect to be heavily criticised too – so grow some thick skin! Both sides have their benefits, but I’d rather be earning a solid paycheque before I let my artistic side completely take over.
GJ: Some great advice I know will be easier to read than to take on board. Thank you. Are you a full time author? If not do you know what would need to happen to take that leap?
LP: Right now I could be, but I like the day job! So there’s not a huge reason for me to jump ship. I’ll likely reconsider in a few years but it’s just a hobby right now that I love. The way I explain it to people is that some people watch Netflix to unwind, and I write to unwind. In addition, sales are great now, but who is to say that tomorrow something doesn’t change and they get moved to zero? All it would take is a few small decisions by some major tech giants to pose a major threat to indie publishing. Or perhaps a recession occurs and people cut back on reading kindle books in favour of libraries. At this time I’m focusing on diversifying and preparing so if I want to take the leap, I can do so in full confidence and easily. I used to feel this huge “rush” to jump to full time authorship, but now that it’s attainable, it’s not as urgent.
GJ: That’s a great position to be in. Where do you get your inspiration for your novels from? Do you read a lot, or did your upbringing influence your writing themes?
LP: Agreed! But it certainly took a long time to get here. When people ask about time commitment, I’d say it took my the same amount of effort to get my degree as it took to get my author career rolling. Inspiration depends- I have original novels and I have reader requested novels. Most my stories right now are from Reddit – there’s a sub there called “WritingPrompts”, where people request an idea be written about.
Typically I take inspiration from something there and make it my own, as seen in The Bridge and Star Child. However, as I become more established I plan on using my more original works as opposed to reader requested ones. My first major fully original novel is planned in 2020, called Life Magic, and similar enough to Star Child that I think many readers will jump over. Really there’s no shortage of good ideas- I think there is a fallacy that good ideas make a work, and that’s not really true. It’s mainly execution. Every idea has already been done in one way or another, and you can take the absolute best ideas and make them awful with poor execution. So many great ideas fall flat! But with strong execution even the worst ideas can be something worth reading.
As a child I read a quite often, but these days I mainly listen to audiobooks and probably only have time for five to ten non-educational books a year. Reading is incredibly important to writing, as well as analysing plot lines and characters from tv shows, movies, and other stories. Mythology has a large influence on my work, and I actually think that the strongest part of my upbringing that influenced my themes was a Mythology class I took in high school.
GJ: What have you found to be the most effective tool in your promotional arsenal to attracting new readers to buy your books?
LP: For attracting customers, the best tools are advertising and visibility in the Amazon store. Many people who find a book on Amazon do so by scrolling through recommendations- your goal is to catch their eye. Facebook adverts can help a lot with this, but I also offer all my books unedited for free online which brings in organic traffic. It’s a lot easier to get someone to read something that is free! So many people think that a good story is all you need, and I’d say that the business aspect of marketing, talking to customers, etc is at least 50%.
GJ: Thank you Leo for joining me today. It was great to chat with you.
LP: Thank you Gareth for having me.
Leo’s new book, a Negative Film, releases this December and is a continuation of the Star Child series. For more information on Leo or contact him, head over to https://www.LeonardPetracci.com where you can read The Bridge for free. To learn more about Star Child, head over to https://www.StarChildSerial.com
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews and conversations soon. I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I publish my debut novel, In The End, an apocalyptic thriller that will leave you breathless, available to pre-order now.
If you’re an author, or work in the industry and you’ve got an interesting story to tell, drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org