James Bruen

Indie author James Bruen has written in both the mystery and humor genres.  He recently shared his thoughts on marketing and discussed his books.

1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?

I began writing as a link to reality – a means to maintain sanity in the midst of the insanity that often infects society.  The Academic Exercise is four cozy short mystery stories, one of which won the 1991 Stiller Writing Competition Award.  While my older son recuperated from a broken leg, he challenged me to write a mystery story.  The result is the first of these collected stories, in which a priest is confronted by a tale of a murder that occurs during a class at Catholic University of America’s law school.  I then found other mysteries for that priest, Fr. Paul Petersen, to solve from the rectory at St. Patrick’s in downtown Washington, DC, leading to this collection.  Even today, Fr. Petersen still solves mysteries occasionally in the pages of the American Chesterton Society’s Gilbert Magazine.

Impossible Possibilities is five brief interlocking stories of people who accomplish the proverbially impossible, originally published serially in Gilbert Magazine.  The characters and stories deserved renewed life, so I combined these flash fiction stories into the e-book.  Each story stands alone; together they also constitute a single narrative.  Humor and paradox, yet serious.  I am a great fan of G. K. Chesterton, whose Tales of the Long Bow inspired Impossible Possibilities.  The structure of Chesterton’s book and of this collection defies genre.

2. How have your sales been?

Better than poor but less than spectacular.  The Academic Exercise spent a while in Amazon’s Top 100 mystery anthologies.

3. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your e-book, and which ones have been most successful?

Marketing seems to be the daunting challenge for self-published e-books.  Because each of the stories in my books was published previously in a magazine, I have had most success from e-mails, Facebook, and blogs informing groups already familiar with my writing.

4. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?

I’ve avoided the “I’ll review your book if you’ll review mine” approach to marketing because there seems an implicit commercial understanding that the reviews will be favorable.

5. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers.  What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?

Think before you write.  Think as you write.  After you write, revisit what you wrote, think some more, then edit.  Don’t rush listing your e-book for sale, polish it instead.  Though the consensus on the Kindle Direct Publishing forum is that readers do judge an e-book by its cover, concentrate on your writing not on your graphic design skills.  If you concentrate on marketing, your writing probably will suffer, and from what I have read, you may exhaust yourself but not see much of an increase in sales.  Everyone seems to be searching for the marketing approach that “works” for e-books but, like the Fountain of Youth, it doesn’t seem to exist.  Don’t expect to become rich from your writing (especially if like me you price your e-books at $0.99 from which you receive less than 35 cents per sale), or even to receive a reasonable hourly rate for your time.  If lightning strikes, be thankful.

6. What projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing flash fiction stories for Gilbert Magazine and also collecting several other stories for a humorous but serious e-book about ordinary people struggling to maintain their neighborhoods in the face of government hostility.

7. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – very briefly, what would it be?

Style, humor, meaning, and insight without a large word-count.

8. How can readers learn more about your books?

Click on the links to the books’ pages on Amazon, then click the Buy Now with 1-Click buttons, then read the books.

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