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Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews


Author Bio

Daniel C. McWhorter (“Dan” to everyone who knows him) is an avid reader and life-long science fiction and fantasy fan who has long dreamed about writing for a living. As is the case for many of us, the realities of life took him in a different direction and his dream was put on hold while he worked to achieve successful careers in telecom, software engineering and talent development. In 2017, Dan decided to leave corporate America and start writing. His first book, Restoration, was the result.

Dan lives in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia with his wife and three dogs. When he's not writing, he likes to hike, boat, fish and experience the exceptional beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If the weather is bad, you may find him online playing the current MMO flavor of the month or banging away on his Xbox controller. For more information about Dan and previews of his upcoming works, please visit www.danmcwhorter.com.

How would you describe the current state of the tradional bricks-and-mortar bookseller market?

I think it's making a comeback, at least when it comes to small, independent bookstores. I like being able to walk into a book store and browse the shelves, and I still love the smell of paper! I've read several articles lately that seem to indicate there are still lots of people out there like me, so I'm hopeful that we'll have brick-and-mortar bookstores for many more years to come.

Would you say that the bulk of your book sales come from traditional print editions or ebooks?

Ebooks, but I am getting good traction with the audiobook edition as well. I think that ebooks will continue to dominate, and I think that audio is really taking off.

Please explain to aspiring authors and booksellers just how much work is required to maintain your level of success.

Writing a book is the easy part! To achieve success over the long-term you have to dedicate as much (if not more) time building your brand as you do writing. My typical week consists of 25-30 hours of writing and 15-20 hours of marketing...at a minimum. Some weeks it's double that! Maintaining your social media presence is almost a full-time job by itself if you want to do it well. I think it gets a little easier for well-established, bestselling authors because they are likely to have a team (even if only a small one) to help with some of the marketing and branding work. As an aspiring indie author, you have to do everything yourself. The hardest part for me is prioritizing marketing time since I'd rather be writing.

Is there any one marketing idea that you've seen bookstores do that stands out as particularly successful?

I think that having a "What's Hot" section is a great idea. The stores I've seen do it well put their top-sellers together in one area so that customers can easily see what other people are buying. The key is to choose titles that are selling well in that particular store, not just the ones that are selling well nationally.

What's the biggest mistake you've seen bookstores make? And how would you suggest fixing it?

Crowded aisles and cluttered shelves. I like to be able to walk an aisle, quickly scan it and pick out titles I'm interested in without having to dig in piles or shuffle books to be able to see everything. My favorite bookstores are those that have wide aisles, so that I am not elbowing the person next to or behind me, and that take pride in keeping everything clean and organized. It's very unlikely I will buy if the shelves and books are covered in an inch of dust and/or I have to search everywhere because there is no organization. The fix is simple...make time every day to clean your store and return misplaced books to the right sections!

Do you believe there is still a bright future for independent bookstores?

I do. I think that people like to socialize with like-minded people, and bookstores are a great place to do that. It's the same reason we still have restaurants even though you can order almost any kind of food you can imagine online. People are inherently social creatures and reading together (or talking about what we're reading) is a great way to create and maintain those connections. That said, booksellers are going to have to continue to adapt and reconfigure their stores to best meet the needs of their customers. In today's world, you're at a big disadvantage if you use every bit of real estate for inventory. A good bookseller will set square footage aside as social space. Of course, good coffee and light snacks at reasonable prices never hurts either!

If you could say just one thing to a struggling bookstore, it would be?

Take a walk down the block. Get out and meet your potential customers. Ask them questions and listen attentively. When was the last time you were in a bookstore? Did you know there is a store just down the street? What's your favorite bookstore and why? Do you prefer print or audio books?

More than likely you'll learn a few things and get some ideas about how you can make your store more attractive to passers-by.

For the aspiring authors reading this who have dreams of making writing their career, how long did it take you before you started earning enough money from writing to pay your bills?

I'm not there yet. I just published my first book in August of 2018 and I am hard at work on my second. From everything I've read, and from other author's I've met, it seems to take somewhere between 3-5 books and 2-4 years to start getting some real traction. You have to have a readership base and it takes time to
build one. Of course, lightning will strike on occasion, but most of us have to endure at least some number of years where we're basically working for free.

Do you write an outline before you start a novel? If yes, how detailed is your outline?

I create a rough outline and sketch out the main characters. The outline for Restoration consists of a time frame with key events highlighted and a few bullet points about each event. Once that was done, I just started writing. And I kept writing until I felt like I've told the story and achieved a satisfactory ending.

What are your feelings on authors giving away thousands of copies of their eBooks, hoping it will raise their rank on Amazon? Is this a viable strategy? Or are these authos making a terrible mistake? And why?

I'm a proponent of giveaways. You've got to do something to get your book in people's hands, and most people are willing to try just about anything if it's free. I don't do it to raise my rank so much as to start a buzz--I need people to write reviews and tell their friends about my book. That said, you don't want to overly devalue your work. If your book is always free then people will assume its that price for a reason (eg. poor quality). I spread my giveaways out so that people that got my book in a giveaway will feel like they got a deal. The same thing goes for books that are perpetually 99 cents. I priced my e-book at $2.99 because 1) I feel it's a fair price for a quality product from a new author and 2) I want my promotions to mean something. So, to summarize, I don't think giving away your book is a mistake, you just need to be thoughtful about when and why you do it!

So many libraries are stuggling to keep their doors open. Either a lack of funding or lack of public interest. Do you have any advice that could help struggling libraries?

Just online. I enjoy talking to other writers and, yes, overall I would say it's helpful. I just ignore the ones asking ridiculous questions and focus my time on people who are serious about their craft. I think that focus is the thing that makes a group successful. Writing is such a huge world and it's hard to participate when there are too many different conversations happening at one time. I like groups that focus on a genre or some aspect of writing or the writing process
(like editing tips, finding beta-readers and reviewers, etc).

What is the most difficult part by far about your craft? What's the one thing about being an author you wish you did not have to do?

Marketing and marketing! I touched on it a little in a previous question, but marketing is hard work and takes a lot of time. Doing this interview is a great example. It's taken me a couple of hours to come up with thoughtful answers to these questions, but I am investing the time because I believe that people like to know about the authors they follow. If I could figure out how to pump out best-seller after best-seller without ever doing a bit of marketing you can believe that I would do it!

On the flip side, what is the best part of what you do? That one thing that makes the answer to the last question worth every minute of it?

I love story-telling. I love being able to create a world, fill it with interesting, believable characters and send them on amazing journeys through their fictional lives. But what I love most of all, and the reason why I aspire to be a successful author, is that moment when someone tells me that they read my book and they enjoyed it. I like bringing people joy, and writing is the means I've chosen to reach the greatest number of people possible.

How do you feel about self-publishing in today's market? Is it a good idea? Or should authors still be trying to find an agent and get tradionally published?

I think it's awesome. I am not averse to traditional publishing, but I think that it's entirely possible to achieve breakout success without being signed by one of the "Big Five". The advantages that any publisher (indie or traditional) brings to the table are: experience, reach (ie. distribution and audience size) and resources. It's almost a certainty that you are going to need a publisher at some point in your writing career, but many indie authors are doing just fine acting as their own publisher and/or partnering with other indie publishers for certain services (like editing, reviews, promo/marketing, etc).

In a bookstore or library what do you think makes a patron pick up a book and want to take a closer look? Is it the cover, the display, the lighting?

Cover and placement. The book cover has to grab the reader's attention, and the book has to be placed somewhere that's easy to see and that shows the cover off in all its glory. Good lighting never hurts either.

What can a bookstore or library do to encourage patrons to pick up a specific book and check it out?

Ask questions. Find out what your customers are interested in and then make meaningful recommendations. Think in terms of Amazon's "Customers who bought this also bought..." feature. Your recommendation means more if you've taken time to get to know me, even a little. And I am more likely to buy the book you suggest if it is, in fact, interesting and relevant to me!

How do you work with an editior without pride making a guest appearence like Jack Nicholson in The Shining?

All feedback is a gift. I appreciate the harshest criticism as much as I do the most effusive praise, and I learned a long time ago that I learn far more from the criticism! A good editor's job is to point out opportunities for improvement. It's up to you to decide if you are going to take their advice and make the changes they are suggesting. Never ever take it personally. They aren't trying to offend you, they are trying to help you!

How should an author divide their time between writing and marketing?

I aim for 60 percent writing and 40 percent marketing, but some weeks marketing gets 60%. I don't know what the right number is, but this ratio seems to work for me. I make good progress on my new book, and I continue to drive sales of my existing book and grow my readership.

What steps should an author take to build their platform?

Know yourself and know your brand. The most successful authors find a niche and then build on their strength in that space. It's rare to find an author who is successful in multiple genres, at least at the beginning of their career, so I suggest pick one and stick with it. You can always try out other genres later, after you've achieved success in one of them. Don't try to be all things to all people. Know your audience, know what they like and give it to them!

Do you edit and proofread your own work at all or do you just write it and hand it off to an editor?

I edit and proofread extensively because I don't want my editor wasting time finding and marking up the obvious stuff. Editing is expensive, but its money well spent and you have to do it. Even still, I don't want to pay someone to spend their time finding all the really obvious typos and grammatical errors that I can (and should) catch myself with a re-read or two (or twenty, as the case may be).

Did you ever feel like giving up as an author? How did you fight through it?

Not yet. Ask me again in five years.