Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ken Lozito: Each Book Is More Successful Than the Last!

--> Today I interview a fellow member of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group, novelist Ken Lozito. Ken is now a full-time author specializing in military science fiction. Ken is the author of several well-received and successful series. His latest release in his First Colony series is Discovery: First Colony, Book Five. This series continues the adventures of Colonel Connor Gates, which began in Genesis: First Colony, Book One.

1)  Let me start a little differently than usual. The recent death of short story writer and screenwriter Harlan Ellison brought this to mind.
Many of us were inspired to become a writer by someone. It might have been another writer, or a teacher, or even a parent. For me, it was discovering the work of Harlan Ellison as a teenager. I wanted to do what he did!
Was there one person in your life who inspired you to become a writer?
That's a tough question to answer. My first thought was, not really, for me being a writer was something of a pie-in-the-sky idea that people much smarter and more talented than me achieved. A friend of mine introduced me to Piers Anthony, which got me hooked on reading stories in middle school. I started writing in high school. I always had ideas for stories churning along in the back of my mind, but I never made a serious effort at it until much later in life.

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is one of my favorites, and when he died, it was heartbreaking. This massive series was going to be left unfinished. Most fans of the series know this, but a new and up and coming writer at the time, Brandon Sanderson, was brought in to finish the series based on Robert Jordan's notes. I was a bit skeptical at first but when I read, The Gathering Storm, I was pleasantly surprised. I googled Brandon Sanderson and read and watched videos of his interviews particularly his journey to becoming a published author. We're pretty close in age, and I kept thinking that if I'd made different choices or took my desire to be an author more seriously, then I could have achieved the dream of becoming an author. All this was going on around 2010. I'd just finished my master's degree in Business Intelligence while working full-time and raising kids. While I was putting in all this extra work, I kept thinking that I could be putting this effort into writing. I'd even considered applying to Ph.D. programs with the intention of becoming a college professor because I thought it would afford me more time to write fiction on the side. Those plans didn't work out and thankfully so. Toward the end of 2012, I'd decided to make a change. I was going to finish the story I'd been tinkering with for nearly twenty years. This isn't the part where I say I finished it and that story became a massive bestseller and champagne fell from the heavens. But I did finish that story and then wrote another one. One of the driving forces for me to finish that first book was my kids. I'd been telling them the story, and I needed to finish it. Plus I also wanted to show them that you can pursue your dreams.

Back to your question of who inspired me to become a writer. I guess you can say it was a couple of people and experiences that inspired me. What started as something to show my kids what was possible blossomed and grew to what I've accomplished today.

2)  Ken, tell us about your First Colony series, which began with Genesis: Book One.

The First Colony series is about our first interstellar colony. The story is set over two hundred years in the future. There is no FTL or wormholes.

Genesis is a military science fiction story about Connor Gates who wakes up to find that he's been smuggled into a stasis pod aboard a colony ship that is now sixty light-years from Earth. Unable to return home, Connor must find his place on this new world, but he soon learns that this world wasn't the original destination of the colony ship.

3)  You like to write books in series. How many series do you have out now?

I have four series out now. Two of them are complete (Safanarion Order and Ascension series are complete.) First Colony series is ongoing.

4)  Unlike a lot of authors, you have created a business plan for yourself. Would you like to tell us what’s in your plan?

I've found that most successful authors have a plan that is clearly defined so I chose to emulate that.

At the top of my plan are the words "Pay Mortgage". When I discussed changing careers to become a full-time author with my wife I knew I needed a plan. I'd been writing and publishing for four years at this point and had a record of increasingly successful series.

My business plan has things that you'd find in any plan I would think:
·      Mission - Provide literary entertainment through writing fiction & Pay Mortgage
·      Description of the business - Similar to the mission but more clearly defined.
·      Products (Current and Future) - Books I'd written and future series I'm planning.
·      Pricing strategy - Based partially on the models created by successful self-published authors.
·      Financial plan - Income and expenses are tracked monthly. Monthly metrics will show individual books and series incomes to help align marketing strategies within budget, determine series solvency, and planning for new series.
·      Production schedule - Books I will write and the publication of those books. This one is actually a challenge to put together and I didn't really do this until I'd transitioned to become a full-time author.
·      Target Audience - I write in different genres and each of those have a specific audience I'm writing for.
·      Marketing - This can be a complex one to explain, but at its core it's how I get my work in front of readers. Everything from advertising to my release schedule can be tied to this.
·      Long Term Goals & Solvency Determination - Each of these things have their own level of importance, but I added the last one (Solvency Determination) on my own. I need to earn a living so I thought it was important to include in my plan, actions that I would take if I wasn't earning enough money to make a living. This will vary from person to person, but for me this is what I measure against. If my income falls below a certain point then something needs to change so I can do things like pay my mortgage and buy food.

I think it's important to be able to define what success is so you can strive to achieve it. Most people have their own definition of success so it's important to define what success means for you.

5)  I downloaded the ebook version of Genesis: First Colony, Book One, and I notice it’s priced differently from the others in the series. Have you experimented with different prices for your books?

Yes I have. Genesis is currently priced at $0.99 cents for the ebook and the other books in the series are priced at $4.99. Most ebook prices range from $2.99-$5.99 depending on genre. Genesis is discounted as part of a promotion to help bring new readers into the series. Not much risk for a potential reader at that price point and they might find that they enjoy the series.

6)  The majority of your sales are as ebooks, although hard copies of your books are also available. Since most of your readers buy the ebook version, do you hold a book release party for each new book?

No I don't. I announce new releases to my newsletter and on Facebook. I mostly celebrate when I finish the first draft of a story with a Guinness or bourbon. By the time I release a new book I'm already writing the next book.

7)  Anything else you’d like to add?

Bottom line, you have to put in a lot of work to get your writing to a professional level and even then you'll still have a lot to learn. Read a lot of books especially those from authors in your chosen genre whose success you'd like to emulate, but also read outside your genre. You might find that your writing is better suited to a genre you hadn't expected. Keep writing and don't just tinker with the same story for years. If it's a series, write the next book. You will improve. This is the best time to be a writer and the barrier to become an author has never been lower.

Thank you for your time, Ken.  You can follow Ken on social media here:

Facebook Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/645833775795441/

Facebook Author page - https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKenLozito/

Website - https://www.kenlozito.com

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