Interview with Cliff Roberts

Cliff Roberts

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I am an author of four novels all four of which have been ranked #1 at one time. Actually all four have been ranked#1 at least twice.

Next book : Reprisal! The Eagle’s Sorrow 

The world is shaken to its foundations by a terror attack, so huge and destructive that it disrupts the entire world’s economy. Hamburg, Germany is a powerful economic engine for the European continent and the EU. It serves as the commercial and consumer goods distribution point for the majority of Europe. The attack on Hamburg, Germany is a key lynch pin in the Brotherhood of the Sword’s, plan to dominate the world and is the focus point of the second stage of that plan.

After the attack the western powers are crippled and are forced to struggle for their economic lives. When they choose to focus on economic recovery while providing only a token, tepid response to the attack, the Brotherhood views it as confirmation of the West’s lack of Political will to stop them and that the time is right to press their objective.

In the United States, Steven Howard and his team must battle Starks’ team in the press and behind the scenes once more when Senator Bains is accused of wrong doing and Bascome produces what appears to be the smoking gun. When the use of the purported proof of Senator Bains’ wrong doing is objected to by Jason Combs, the rift between him and President Starks expands as President Starks is now convinced that Combs has reached the end of his usefulness.

Scheduled for release March 15th 2014

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My best advice for aspiring authors – be persistant and don’t quit!

Tell us about your writing process – I don’t follow any particular process. I tend to write by the seat of my pants. I start with an idea of what a story might be. Then I just start writing. Rarely does the story go exactly where I had been thinking it might. I kind of let the characters and the story lead me in the direction that draws my attention strongest. I’ve tried to use outlines but they just didn’t work for me. I found myself stifled by the predetermined direction the outline required, so I rarely followed it more than a few steps. I just think the story is far more exciting if I don’t predetermine how the characters react to things or which direction the story goes. If I find it exciting while I’m writing it. Usually the reader is going to find the story exciting as well and that is what it is all about.

18104153What inspired you to become an author? I don’t know if it is any one thing in particular. I’ve always had a big imagination and like most teenagers of my generation, I found myself captivated by the Sci-Fi stories of Bradbury, Asimov, and H.G. Wells. I even took a few creative writing classes in high school and college but wasn’t able to utilize them until I was forced to retire due medical issues. Once retired, I quickly read through the authors I liked at the time and found myself needing more books to read that were filled with compelling stories. Some of the books offered by the authors available through the library were not very good.

So I decided to write one of my own. “Reprisal! The Eagle Rises” was the first book. It proved to be quite the challenge but I think I finally got it right and I have found my audience.

If you couldn’t be an author what would you like to be? I’d have to be just what I was. A salesman. I was very good at sales, having won major awards for my solid performance as the #1 roofing salesman and the #1 pre-owned manufactured home salesperson as well for five years running.

Do you write full time? I tell people that I am a full time writer, though I write when the mood strikes me. I have been known to write for weeks on end to the detriment of everything else. Writing eighty to a hundred hours a week. Other times, I write less but always something every day. When I’m not writing, I am usually promoting me and my books on the internet. I also spend time playing with me grandsons and traveling a bit.

How do you fit writing into your routine? Writing is my routine that I fit everything else into.

Where do you write? I have a den at home. The wife or grandkids are always wandering through, so I use ear plugs quite often to block all the noise.

Do you have daily word targets? I don’t worry about or bother with setting daily word writing goals. Far too often when you force the ideas to come, you’ve wasted your time, because your writing will be stilted from trying to reach some goal you set regarding the number of words or chapters. I write what I write which is generally two or three chapters, sometimes more but rarely less.

Do you belong to reading/writing groups (On or offline)? I belong to several writing groups though I rarely manage to get to the meetings. Most of the time the groups are spending their time talking about maybe writing or finding the time or inspiration to write and I just write. I’m a big believer in doing it and not talking about doing it.

Have you been on writing courses? I haven’t taken a writing class since college which is a long time ago now. I have found the best teachers of writing are the books by the major author’s. Having read thousands, close to five thousand actually, I think I self-taught myself how to write. Am I a perfect writer? No. I need to be edited before it is fit for the readers, but then very few writers can write and not need editing by an outside critical eye. But what I am extremely good at, is telling you a terrific story. If you’re going to be a writer, you had better learn how to tell a story because unless you have a story that just reaches out and grabs the reader and doesn’t let go, you will struggle to gain readership.

Do you write in one genre or prefer to change things from book to book? I write in several genre and am open to writing whatever comes to mind. Though I do like action adventure and thrillers the best.

What other authors inspire you? There are lots of them. HG Wells, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Patterson, Elmore Leonard, Dean Knootz, Steven Coontz, John Grisham, Harlen Coben. David Baldacci and several dozen more.

What do you, personally, gain from writing? (Apart from cash!) I get the thrill of having written a story that entertains the readers. I write from the prospective of entertaining the readers. I don’t worry about the money because if I write stories that truly entertain and the readers find enjoyable, the money will come. It is such a thrill to have people stop you in a store or at church and have them say, “I read the book and Wow! I loved it.” That makes it all worthwhile.

Do you know what your next book will be, even before you’ve finished the current one? Sometimes. Sometimes I haven’t a clue. I don’t suffer from a shortage of ideas just from the time needed to write it all down.

Define your writing style: My style of writing is basic, simple and straight forward. I don’t go into too much description just enough to make sure that you, the reader, will be sure of where you are in the story and what is going on around you. I do try to provide characters with real depth to them and not just cardboard cutouts that’s just one dimensional.

What themes do your books explore? The themes for my books are the tried and true, Good versus Evil. Only in most of my stories the exact cut off line between the good and evil maybe a bit blurred. There is right and wrong in the world and sometimes to do the right thing you have to do something wrong to achieve the goal. What you can’t do is nothing because evil wins if you do.

Do you research before writing, or as you go? Some stories require years of research, such as the Reprisal series. I’ve been studying the Muslim problem for more than forty years and to bailout on the subject as some authors have done because of Muslim violence, is wrong.

How do you get over the fear of a “blank page”? A blank page tells me that I can write some more and I like that, so I have no fear of a blank page. I may not always be able to instantly write something worth keeping on the blank page but I will soon so I like blank pages.

81rIGKtguYL._SL1500_How do you decide on your characters and what they will be like? I really only plan out one character when I start writing. That’s the main character. I try to have a good idea of what I want in the main character before I start writing. All of the other characters depend upon where the story takes me. In the ConchRepublic, the best friend of the main character, Nate, is Mason the ex-NFL superstar who turned to law enforcement to keep getting the adrenalin high he got from playing ball. Originally I was planning on Mason being the antagonist but once I got started writing, Mason convinced me that I needed to make him and Nate friends and it worked so much better that way.

How do you come up with the ideas for your books? I just think about what I’d like to read and that usually does it. Sometimes it is something I saw on the news or read about on the internet.

How do you promote yourself online? Promotion is by far the hardest aspect of becoming an author. If you are not actively promoting yourself, you are not an author you’re a hobbyist, in my opinion.  I use a combination of things to promote myself and my books. I’m on Face Book, Google, and Linkedin. I have a webpage, a blog page and a fan page as well as an Amazon Author page. I also use a PR person, Nick Wale of Novel Ideas to keep the internet straight and run the ads. I think he’s a good PR person because he views the business as collaborative effort. Every book and author are different and how they are promoted are different also. To set yourself apart from the other six million plus books written each year takes lots of time promoting and I for one didn’t become an author so I could do promotion. I want to write. The money I have spent with him is the best money I have ever spent on my books. Not only does he handle areas I haven’t a clue about, he has the time and energy to seek out the new and innovative ideas to get my books moving.

How do you make yourself stand out amongst the every growing swamp of authors? To stand out of the crowd that is over six million strong it takes lots of work and it takes a strong repetitive message. Selling your book isn’t like selling anything else. You need to be more than some guy who wrote a book. You need to have genuine opinions that are strong and honest. You need to defend them and not back down because you’re afraid it might hurt book sales. But at the same time it had better be an opinion that a large portion of the reading public supports and you’re simply not just attacking something no one cares about. And As I said before you need to hire a good PR to help gain exposure for you and your book.

Do you know who your target audience is and if so, how do you target them effectively? For me to know my target audience is easy. I write to please myself and so my audience is made up of middle aged males basically yet my books also appeal to woman because of the strong male characters, I think. Effectively targeting that audience is a major challenge. Effectively targeting any audience is difficult. You’ll need to research where on the net the audience goes for social interaction or for information. Which sites they utilize the most and the how you can reach them which in itself can be a daunting task. I leave most of it up top my PR man, Nick Wales at Novel Ideas. It’s nice to use a lot fancy terms you might see in Writer’s Digest to describe what might be the process of finding the prospective customers, but the reality is that you have get exposure which can only be achieved with continual messages to the public about you and your books. As far as where you search for them, that’s a call you’ll need to make through research or through your PR people.

What is your approach to developing relationships with fans in social media?  I try to just be myself and make comments that reflect me as best I can. The thing I think you have to remember is that you can’t please everyone and when you think you’re doing so, you end up pleasing no one not even yourself.

How much time do you spend promoting yourself in social media? Too much. If you’re not careful the self-promotion part of being author will eat up every second of everyday. Having an outside helper is critical I believe to achieving the goal of exposure.

What’s been your most effective way of promoting yourself? That’s not an easy to answer question. Every author needs to find or figure out or create his or her branding-what they want the public to believe is the real you. You can spend thousands of dollars trying to generate a public persona and still not be liked by the public. Again, I take the approach of just being myself in that regard. I share my opinions on a regular basis on Facebook and Google. The readers want to hear your opinion when you’re an author. I guess it’s because they want to know if the person who is writing the stories they like is like them or not. It provides a sense of connection, I guess.

What offline promotion do you take part in? Promotion and advertising are expensive. At the moment I don’t take part in any offline promotion other than seeking radio interviews. As an Amazon author utilizing Kindle there really isn’t an effective alternative to the internet for connecting with new readers that I have found.

71ZgUYx7DDL._SL1500_Do you think that Indie Authors are still looked down on by their traditionally published counterparts? I chose to publish independently after having some bad interaction with publishers. That’s a much bigger story than I can relate here so we’ll have to deal with it later. I certainly do believe though that the traditional’s look down on the indie authors as well as all authors in general. Much as the in click kids in high school looked down upon the other kids in school. A good deal of the non-major stars of the traditional publisher’s stable of authors, appear to be chosen by their education background or celebrity status or where they live, rather than the quality of their stories. There are many great writers who self-publish who can’t get anyone in the traditional world to look at them because they are non-college educated, not a celebrity or because they were unaware of or unable to follow some vague, arbitrary requirements set out by the publishers. Some of those arbitrary requirements are things like, accepting manuscripts from agents only or requiring a query letter in regards to proposing the writing of a book rather than simply sending in samples of the book. They make it appear as though you are lucky they would consider you. The reality is that they only pick those books that appeal to themselves or they think will appeal to the readers of the last hit book they had. They then take the lion’s share of the profit (Royalty) and yet still expect the new author to expend more of their money to advertise it. Once the author’s efforts have sold some arbitrary figure, say 5000 books, the publisher only then is willing to do a bit more to help promote the book. This practice reduces their loss if your book fails to sell and maximizes their profit if it continues to sell. You don’t see lots of books advertised outside the internet or news letters from the book sellers-not the publisher. I submit the majority books fail to sell because they are not properly promoted due to lack of funding supplied by the publisher.

The reality as far as I am concerned is that the publisher is lucky I sign with them. Because it is my effort in writing the book that is why the story is generating the money. It is not because they stuck their name on the cover and take the majority of the profit from its sale.

How can the quality of writing be maintained within the Indie Published world? I think the quality of the writing is going to be maintained by the readers themselves. The readers will quickly point out if a story has issues with grammar or punctuation. They stop buying it rather quickly. Same holds true for the subject matter. The reading public is very discerning as to type of material it wants to read. Of course, there are off shoots into the erotic and perhaps unsavory genres but there again they quickly reach the limited potential of readers and then stagnate which causes most would be authors to forego additional publishing.

The market place is a remarkable instrument of self-regulation as long as we the people stay out of its way.

What do you think the future of publishing will be? I believe the future of publishing will be through Independent authors with traditional’s remaining in business for the non-entertainment class of publications and for the celebrity tabloid books. The traditional’s really are of no value to an author who publishes their book in the EBook format. Why would an author give away the lion’s share to some company that doesn’t have to anything to do with placing the book on line. The publisher of EBooks has no carry costs for books that are preprinted and warehoused. The sites will do most if not all of the formatting for posting on the seller’s site.  So if they can’t come up with what value they can bring to the table of EBook publishing, they will fade away as the EBook writer gets more and more, savvy in the book business.

If a big 6 Publishing House approached you, would you sign?  I’d have to look long and hard at the proposal before accepting it. I do it all by myself right now and with the reading publics focus continuing to grow in favor of the Ebook, they may have nothing to offer me. I doubt I would be willing to accept 15% royalties when I make even after expense 65% as an indie author.

Is it necessary for Authors to have an agent these days? I doubt it. Yeah, sure, the big 6 want you to use an agent, because they will supposedly make sure the book is ready to print before they see it, which saves the publisher money. In reality, I don’t need another person wanting 15% of my efforts just because they know someone I don’t. It may have been true prior to the internet but not anymore. However, professional promotion is still going to be required. 

If you could start your writing career again, what would you do differently? I’d pay attention in my high school English classes.

Do you use Beta readers? Every chance I get, when they’re free. It is nice to have the prerelease opinion as to whether or not it has potential.

How do you deal with rejection or a less favorable review? I mostly ignore it. But if it has any reasonable criticism then I’ll read it carefully and maybe act upon the criticism. For the most part good or bad, I ignore them because they are extreme subjective. People will like what they like, so I write to please me and if by chance, yeah sure, people like it, great. I write based on trying to evoke emotion in the reader, not to garner good reviews though they are nice. What everyone needs to remember is the reviews are opinions and need to be taken with a grain of salt, whether good or bad. I think a truer test as to whether or not you’ll like a book or not, is to read the back cover and a half dozen pages in the beginning. Don’t skip to the end and ruin the story for yourself. If the writer didn’t draw you in by this point, then you probably won’t like the rest of the book regardless of what the reviewers say.

How do you keep yourself motivated? As a writer it’s all self-motivation. I set goals such as writing to entertain myself and writing to outsell the last book I wrote.

Thanks for a very honest and open interview Cliff and good luck with the next bestseller.

View all of Cliff’s books here:

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