Chris Fox is the bestselling author of several books including No Such Thing As Werewolves. He works as an engineer writing and creating iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch apps.
Chris started out as an Executive Vice President at a major mortgage bank until the Financial Crisis hit. He decided to switch to a customer service job, and in his spare time in between answering customer service calls began to write his first novel.
The one problem with his customer service job was after earning a six-figure income for several years, $12 an hour didn’t go very far. Chris realized he needed to find another way to make an income that could keep him afloat.
In 2010, after Apple came out with the iPad, Chris realized that in a very short time millions of people were going to have iPads and iPhones as well as other tablet devices. So he decided to teach himself app development and make another career move.
Writing is still Chris’s passion so he writes novels when he’s not working at his day job.
Chris published his first novel in October 2015 and has since self-published several very successful novels.
How to Write a Novel in Micro Sprints
Chris wrote his first novel in 2 years while working as a customer service rep at a credit union. He did this in between phone calls at that customer service job.
Chris’s goal was to write 100 words per micro Sprint at his job. On average he had 3 minutes in between phone calls. So he would try to type 100 words or about 3 paragraphs between each two customer service phone calls.
The value of this kind of fast writing is that it doesn’t allow your critical voice to stop you from getting your words on the screen. When you only have 3 minutes to write 100 words, you can’t worry about editing or polishing those words. You just have to write legible something down as fast as you can.
Chris was the top employee at his job. The credit union had these things called cross sells. Customer service reps had to offer these services to people calling into the credit union if the customers were a good fit for them. Chris was really good at selling these cross promoted services. He was left alone to type on a word document in between phone calls because he was the credit union’s top performer at cross-selling.
The key to being successful with this type of writing is to set up micro goals for your micro sprints. That’s why 100 words for Chris Fox was so important.
“The smaller period of time you give yourself to get things done the more productive you’re going to be.” – Tom Corson Knowles
The real secret behind the success of micro sprints is that you have a deadline hanging over your head that doesn’t allow you to get bogged down in the details of writing.
Don’t let writer’s block stop you from writing your book. Set small deadlines and avoid the trap of too much self-conscious reflection and thinking.
Tips for a Better Writing Process
Chris is a software engineer and app developer as well as an author, so he brings the same approach to his writing as he does to coding.
When you want to build an application it’s much better to come up with a plan for the application before you build it. If you begin to code without a plan, very often your application will never be finished.
Chris likes to come up with the scene at the end of the book first, and then plot his way backwards to the beginning of the book.
Think of your favorite movie. Now think of the climactic scene of that movie. For example, the climactic scene of Star Wars is where the death Star is destroyed.
Chris comes up with what he thinks might be a good climactic scene, then he asks questions about how that scene came about. He writes down his answers. He will continue to ask questions about the story until the plot is fully fleshed out for him.
After he has a good idea of the plot and all of its twists, he’ll write the story from the beginning to the end in a quick first draft.
Once he finishes that quick first draft, he’ll begin the editing process.
He doesn’t spend as much time on plotting as he used too. Chris used to spend hour upon hour writing out detailed plots. Now he writes down plot ideas as they occur to him throughout the day. Twice a week or so he’ll compile all of his plot ideas and organize them.
When it’s time for him to start working on the project he’ll look at his plot ideas file and hammer out a cohesive outline.
Chris’s plotting system is something he is constantly refining. His first novel took him 2 years to write. He wrote the first draft of his novel Project Solaris in 2 weeks.
How to Write 5,000 Words Per Hour
Chris drafts his novels one hour at a time. He can write 5,000 words in one hour. He’s able to do that because of the training that he went through at his customer service job.
Chris wakes up at 5 AM every morning and goes to the gym. While he’s at the gym he thinks about what he’s going to write for that day.
His daily goal is to write 5,000 new words, or if he’s editing he wants to edit 10,000 words of his work.
The key to writing 5,000 words in an hour is to simply get words out on the screen. Don’t worry about making them perfect just get things written down. Editing is for future drafts.
Chris is always working on 2 projects at once. He writes a draft of one novel while he’s plotting the next.
He loves to research his novels by watching TV shows.
Chris uses a program called Freedom to shut off the Internet while he is writing so that he has no distractions. When he writes the first draft of a novel quickly, he knows he’s going to go through multiple revisions of that first draft.
It’s important to realize that each story and novel you write is going to make you a better writer. When you write you train your brain to be better at writing.
Self Publishing Marketing Strategies
All you have to do is figure out who your target audience is, and then figure out how to get your product in front of them.
Use Google Adwords to promote your novel
Chris uses Google ad words to promote his books.
His most recent book is No Such Thing As Werewolves. He has a Google ad campaign with about 36 keywords that he bids on in Google. When somebody searches for one of those keywords and add for his book will show up at the top of Google.
He estimates that right now he is earning a 150% profit on the money that he invests in that Google adwords campaign.
The key to maximizing profit in a Google ad words campaign is that you have to give it daily attention. Chris is constantly tweaking his ad words campaign. He removes words that are not performing well, and tries new words on a daily basis.
If you’re going to use a Google ad words campaign to sell your novel it’s best to have the Google ad words link go to a landing page on your website. This is especially useful if you publish your book on multiple platforms.
Use Keywords on Amazon
Amazon is the world’s second-largest search engine. They allow you to use 7 keyword phrases when you put your book on Amazon.com
Chris optimizes those keyword phrases like he optimizes for Google ad words keyword phrases.
When people find his book on Amazon Chris uses passive marketing techniques to drive readers into his story.
An example of a passive marketing technique is cover design. You want to make sure your cover looks like a cover in the genre of the type of story you’re telling.
Proper marketing is doing a series of small steps all in a row that work together to sell your book.
Using forums to Promote Your Books
When you interact with communities of people who like the type of books you write, people will naturally figure out that you’re an author. Once they figure it out on their own they might become fans of your work.
The key to this strategy is to go to forums where your ideal customer is. The next thing you want to do is sign up for an account on those forums. Then you want to put links to your books in your signature.
Finally, what you want to do is share valuable content on the forum. You don’t want to spam a forum by asking people to buy your book. By providing valuable content and adding links to your books in your signature, people will eventually notice that you write books on your topic. They’ll naturally click on the books to see what those books are all about and you’ll get some sales.
The key is to provide valuable or entertaining content. You should treat these forums as if you’re at a cookout or party. Don’t be the guy at the party yelling at people to buy your book. Just have conversations and people will naturally figure out that you’re an author.
The next step you might want to take is to advertise on these forums. Chris hired himself an author assistant. They found all the forums that had to do with werewolves and zombies on the Internet. After they had their list, they went through and decided on the forums they would target.
Next Chris emailed these forums and asked if they’d be willing to sell a banner ad on their site.
Because many of these forums aren’t used to selling advertising you can buy banner ads inexpensively.
Use Your Amazon Affiliate Link to Track Results
Every Amazon author should become an Amazon affiliate because you can earn extra money for driving people to Amazon’s website.
An added benefit is that you can use your Amazon affiliate links to track the results of your advertising efforts.
Chris created an individual Amazon affiliate link for each banner ad that he sold to different websites. Amazon allows you to create as many unique affiliate links as you want so you can track the results of your advertising efforts.
To do this:
- Log into your Amazon affiliate account.
- Create a unique Amazon affiliate link to attach to each of your individual ads for your books.
Using Reddit to Promote Your Books
Reddit is a wonderful place to promote your work. It’s a website where conversations take place.
After you go to Reddit.com and sign up for a profile, the next thing you want to do is look for Reddit threads on the topics you write about in your books.
For instance, when Chris started looking on Reddit.com for Reddit subthreads he could have conversations in, he found several threads about werewolves.
He began taking part in conversations on those threads, and eventually people realized that he was the author of No Such Thing As Werewolves. A Reddit user figured this out themselves and brought it up to Chris. Chris responded and that began a conversation about his book in a natural, organic, and nonsalesy way.
Marketing Books Through Public Speaking
Chris used to go to Toastmasters. He recommends Toastmasters for anyone who wants to be an author or sell anything.
Toastmasters is an organization that teaches people how to be successful at public speaking. Toastmasters accomplishes this by hosting speaking events where small groups of people can practice their public speaking skills.
They have planned speeches, and then they also do extemporaneous speaking on a regular basis. Toastmasters have events where they do what they call table topics and you have to speak extemporaneously about the topic at hand.
Speaking extemporaneously forces you to think differently about how you express yourself. Learning that skill teaches you to communicate more clearly, and the more clearly you communicate the better writer you will be.
For example, they might ask you to talk about the last time you got a speeding ticket.
Toastmasters is designed primarily for people who don’t like public speaking and are afraid of it. When you go to a Toastmasters event you don’t have to necessarily talk a lot about yourself. You can just introduce yourself and begin speaking on your topic.
It’s very simple to go to a Toastmasters event and see if what they’re offering works for you as a person.
“If you’re eloquent enough to explain what your product is, it’s much easier to sell it.” – Chris Fox
Speaking at conferences and workshops is a great way to sell books, especially if you’re a nonfiction author.
Public speaking is the number one fear of many people. Overcoming your fear of public speaking is a powerful self-esteem building exercise. It makes you more confident in everything you do, it gives you an added skill set, and that makes it easier to sell any product you want to sell.
Writing iPhone Apps
Chris took a job with a startup 2 years ago called Cellscope. They created a microscope that can be attached to your iPhone. That microscope can be used for a variety of purposes. One of the most common purposes is to track certain health outcomes.
You can use it for:
- Ear exams.
- Imaging on skin.
- Imaging of your eyes.
These devices allow you to turn your phone into a health management device.
A typical use case of Chris’s application:
You could use the cell scope microscope to take a picture of your child’s ear, send that picture to a doctor and get an opinion as to whether or not you need to go to the emergency room because of an ear infection.
Beat shuffle is a fitness app Chris’s is developing himself. It syncs with the iPhone watch. It allows you to automatically control the tempo of the music you listen to as you work out.
You tell the app what your target heart rate is for a workout session. If your heart rate gets to be too fast the app will slow down the tempo of the music you’re listening to during your session. If your heart rate is too slow the app will speed up the tempo of the music you’re listening to.
Chris is currently using this app himself in his own workout sessions and he’s eager to get it out on the market for the mass audience.
Evil Dice, Chris’s First App
The first app Chris Fox ever developed was an app called evil dice. This was an app for Dungeons & Dragons players. You downloaded the app onto your phone and you could roll by pushing a button. If you got a low score on your role the app would mock you.
Chris had several friends record insults for the app.
Find what you’re passionate about. If you’re working on something you’re passionate about you put in 12 to 14 hours a day at work because you love what you’re doing.
The Market for Werewolves and Zombies
The market for books that deal with werewolves, zombies, and other paranormal phenomena is much wider than Chris initially expected. He credits shows like the walking dead for making these types of stories acceptable to a wide audience.
Chris has fans from age 14 to people in their seventies who really love reading his books.
He wanted to write a different kind of werewolf book. Where a lot of urban fantasy novels make werewolves, vampires and zombies a paranormal phenomenon, Chris wanted to come up with a scientific explanation for all those things.
That’s what he did in his book, No Such Thing as Werewolves. He also explored the idea of an ancient civilization that we know nothing about.
Chris is fascinated by Egyptology and he came up with an origin for the Sphinx that involves a civilization thousands of years older than the Egypt that we know.
Build an Online Community
The time Chris spends on Reddit to promote his book is time he would spend on Reddit if he weren’t an author promoting a book. When you find communities of people to connect with they should be communities that you would want to connect with regardless of whether or not you are an author.
Most people in online communities read content without contributing. If you want to start selling books the best thing you can do is become a contributor in the communities where your ideal audience members are. Let those people find out about your books naturally. Never bring up your novels yourself.
The thing that sets apart successful online marketers is that their content is valuable to their audience. That content is either informative, entertaining or adds value to their life in some other way.
Resources Mentioned in This Interview
http://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/ – Chris’s website.
KBoards – the number 1 publishing form for Kindle authors.
Freedom – the Internet blocker Chris Fox uses so that he doesn’t have any distractions while writing.
Outliers: The Story of Success – by Malcolm Gladwell
Toastmasters – learn how to communicate effectively so you can sell your work better.
https://www.cellscope.com/ – the startup that Chris works for. They created a microscope that attaches to your iPhone. The microscope can be used in a number of different ways to track different data.
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