SPS 220: The Story Blender: How I Sold 1 Million Copies Of My Novels with Steven James

Posted on Aug 1, 2023

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Written by Chandler Bolt

Home > Blog > Podcast > SPS 220: The Story Blender: How I Sold 1 Million Copies Of My Novels with Steven James


Chandler Bolt (Host) 00:02

Hey, Chandler Bolt here and joining me today is Steven James. Steven is a critically-claimed author of 18 novels and numerous nonfiction books that have sold more than a million copies. He’s the host of a podcast called the Story Blender podcast, and his latest book is called the Broker of Lies. Comes out April 11th 2023. There’s a decent chance. By the time you’re listening to this or watching this, it’s come out.


So we’ll talk about that book, how you can get it and all that stuff. But then we’re also going to dive into. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack, but 18 novels, million copies sold, storytelling, all that good stuff. How do you do it? We’re going to learn from the man. So, steven, welcome, great to have you here. Hey, thanks so much for having me. It’s good to be here, thank you. So I guess at the start, why books and why predominantly fiction? Like, obviously you’ve dedicated a lot of your life to this. Why books?

Steven James (Guest) 01:04

When I was a kid I actually grew up. My uncle would tell us stories whenever I was a kid, so we would get together at Christmas, new Year’s and things like that, and he would take the kids into a corner of the room and he would kind of get this look in his eye and he said I’m going to tell you a story. And we were transported. We were no longer in the living room, we were swashbuckling with pirates, we were sailing over the desert on a flying carpet or staring down a dinosaur somewhere in time travel, and so, anyway, I fell in love with stories and just imagination. And then, of course, I started reading my own. Whenever I started to read and I just fell in love with it. And so I remember when I became a camp counselor, when I was like 18 years old, coming out of high school, going to college, I was looking for a way to get my kids to settle down at the end of the day, because they’re jumping off the bunks and everything. So I was like one night I was like I’ll tell you a story. And so they’re like all right, they sat down and listened and I told them one of my uncle’s stories, right, and they went to bed and I was like I’m good, I like put them all to sleep, that’s amazing. And then I thought, wait, no, they actually all went to sleep. That’s not amazing. And then I started to basically tell stories to the kids at night and I finally ran out of my uncle’s stories to start my own.


And maybe a year later I remember I was sitting at a laundromat in between camp sessions, I was writing in a journal and I wrote I want to be a storyteller. Like I didn’t know what it would look like if it would be writing stories, telling stories, but I just knew that my life needed to revolve around this idea of telling and sharing stories. And so, yeah, long story short. When I got a master’s degree in storytelling and then started to travel and tell but I had three little daughters at the time and I didn’t want to be gone a hundred or 200 days a year, you know. So I basically started to write stories. At that time I’d still travel and tell stories, but started to write. That was in 2001,. I guess, now that I think it’s a long time ago I started writing novels in about 2007. And so, yeah, I still love to travel and tell, and now my kids are all grown, of course, but that was kind of the move from telling stories to actually writing had to do with my little daughters at home.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 03:29

Yeah, that’s so fun, that’s a fun story. So talk to me about your telling stories. And then, in 2001, you start writing stories. And then I think you said 2007, 2008, you actually, you know, finally write and publish your first book. What was the spark? Or was there a spark to say, all right, I’m actually going to put this into a novel and then publish that novel.

Steven James (Guest) 03:53

The spark was actually anger. So I was reading a novel. I remember I don’t remember what year day or anything like that, but I was reading this novel that everyone had been talking about. And I got to the end and I was like so mad because it wasn’t amazing, I’ll just say that. And I actually threw it against the wall and I was like, if that’s the best that’s out there, I can do better than that. And then I had this little voice in my head say, oh yeah, prove it. And I was like crap, now I can prove it. So that was kind of the motivation to write my first novel.


I tell people rage against mediocrity. Like if you’re going to go this route, if you’re going to tell stories, you’re going to write books, write novels or whatever. It’s like it’s not super hard to write a really mediocre or terrible novel or whatever. But I want people to totally strive for excellence. And so I, anyway, I started to write.


I had been doing some nonfiction books with a publisher and I went to them and I said, you know, I kind of want to do a novel. I feel like I want to tell this big story. And I was like, do I have to write the whole thing first before you look at it. And they said, well, send us 50 pages and we’ll look at it. And so then I sent 50 pages of the pawn, my first novel, and then they gave me a three-book deal. So that was kind of the start of me writing novels at that time, and that was back in, yeah, about 2000,. I guess seven or so. And so mainly since then I’ve been doing novels, although I still do some books on the craft of writing. I’ve done a few other nonfiction books, but I would say for the last 15 years it’s been mostly focused on fiction.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 05:37

Cool, and so I think something I’m hearing because I feel like this comes up all the time is if you’re reading a book and you’re thinking, gosh, I could write a better book than this, then that might be a spark that you can channel into actually finally writing your first book and, like you said, prove it. Yeah, prove it.

Steven James (Guest) 06:00

That’s the thing, and it takes a lot of work. Like I don’t want to make it seem like I, you know it wasn’t a lot of work. You know, before my first novel came out, I’d written 24 nonfiction books, and then I’d also written for about 80 different journals, publications and other books. So it wasn’t like my first rodeo to write a book or to tell a story, but it was the first novel, it was the first big story that I was telling, you know, 500 pages or whatever. And so I just want to encourage people that you know, whatever route they take, whether it’s writing from well, magazines aren’t around as much as they were back in the late 90s but whether it’s, you know, being a journalist or writer or whatever, it’s like don’t totally, like I don’t know how to say it like don’t rush into it in the sense of like, rush to publish, rush into it as far as like for excellence. And you know, realize that your first, your first shot, or your first few shots, might not be as good as you’d like. So work on it and like totally polish, polish your craft.


I remember us talking with a friend of my name, t Davis Bunn. He’s a novelist as well, and so he was telling me the story of his first book signing. So his first book had come out, he was so excited about it. And he’s sitting there and next to him was the famous author, and so there’s this huge line of people over here and there’s like literally no one in Davis’s line. He’s like, come on, man, I wrote a book too, like I’ll sign it for you, you know, he’s just, he’s dying, you know, and so. But then this lady starts walking toward him very reverently, carrying his, his novel, and I think she was maybe Mennonite or Brethren or something had like a prayer, like a prayer thing on over her head or what. She’s very reverent, as she came up Right and he could, you know, tell that she’s very serious. And she goes sir, is this a worthy book? And he goes yeah, it’s a worthy book. And so she said would you kindly sign it for me? So he did, he signed it for her and she bought. That was the first book he sold in person and I still remember that story and I thought to myself when he told me that story I thought if I ever write a novel I wanna be able to do that.


I wanna be able to look someone in the eye and say this is a worthy book. Yeah, I mean, it might not be your cup of tea, I write thrillers. Maybe you like rom-coms, whatever it is, that’s fine. But to be able to actually say you know what this is worthy, this is worth your time, and so that was before I’d ever written a novel.


And so every time that I sit down to write a novel today, or any book really, I’m asked myself could I do that with this story? Could I look at someone and say this is worthy of your time and your attention? And so, again, it’s just really trying to strive for excellence. That’s been my kind of take on it ever since the beginning. So I’m not as fast as other people, like I’m not as fast of a writer, I can’t like spin out books super fast, but I do feel like the books that I do are very much the best that I have to offer kind of the world at that moment. And so that’s kind of the driving force for me is to be able to say this is a worthy book.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 09:24

That’s great. I love that You’re such a great storyteller. I mean, I can tell why you write such great books, because you tell great stories. Talk to me about you kind of gloss over this. You’re like oh yeah, I’ve wrote 24 nonfiction books and then I got into fiction. Were you writing, like, were these books that you wrote for yourself? Were you ghost writing books for others? Like what was that experience and how did writing those 24 nonfiction books help you write better fiction?

Steven James (Guest) 09:54

Quite. A number of them were educational books. Like I mentioned earlier, my master’s degree was in storytelling, so I did a series of books on telling stories to children, educational storytelling. I did some inspirational books over that course of time, some collections of short stories, I would say some collections of short script, so quite a variety of kind of different types of stories. I didn’t do any ghost writing at the time, I don’t think, or maybe I did one or two projects.


But really for me, even from the very start, when I sent my very first story into a magazine this is back in probably before you were born, but it’s back in the 90s, I’ll just say that, okay, so anyway, I sent it in and everyone told me you’re gonna get rejected, you’re gonna get rejection letters, you know, and all this. I was like I’m just gonna send it in, like I don’t know, maybe I will. So this magazine bought this story and I was like that’s amazing. Like I heard I was gonna get rejected a million times. And so over the years I have gotten rejected a million times.


But I’ve found that the pathway to publishing and the pathway to success is really telling an amazing story.


Like if you can tell a great story, people will wanna read what you write, people will want to publish what you write and all of this kind of stuff and so, anyway. So my perspective has always been focus on the craft, focus on the story, like the very best that I can do. And so really, those years from 96 to 2005 or so, we’re really training to be a storyteller, a writer, a novelist and so on. And so, yeah, I think a lot of people rush into it, you know, like they hear about oh, I could write, you know a story, and so they pick up a book or two on writing and then they rush into it and write something and it might not be at the quality that they want to send out into the world yet. So in that regard, I like to tell people just press, pause for a moment, you know, make sure that the story really rocks and then, you know, kind of send it out there into the world.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 12:08

You know that makes sense and so do you have. You know, for people who kind of wanna write both, do you have a. I know this probably varies based on the person, but do you recommend one or the other, like would you say, hey, write a nonfiction book first, then write fiction and kind of develop your writing chops, or what do you think is the best path there?

Steven James (Guest) 12:30

I mean, I don’t necessarily think I would tell someone to go where their passion isn’t leading them. And so, if your passion is, I think of it this way. You know, if you want to tell a story, if you have a story that’s burning inside of you, share that story, tell that story, write that story. If you have a message you’re trying to get across, write nonfiction. That’s what nonfiction is there for. It’s there to, you know, spread a message. But I think what some people do is they start with an agenda I want to convince people to, whatever it is, whatever social, political, religious agenda it might be. They’re like I wanna write this story to convince people to agree with me. Well, what happens when you do that? Is you actually? It becomes agenda-driven and almost when people read it, they’re like oh, come on, I get it. You want me to, you know, agree with you about whatever topic it is. And so I always tell people to write. Start with not a message but a dilemma. So a question you’re asking if you’re writing a novel, let’s say so. Like a really interesting dilemma. You know, like what’s more important telling the truth or protecting the innocent? So like that was the dilemma that drove me to write one of my novels Instead of writing a book about how important it is to protect the innocent or how important it is to tell the truth, which everyone would agree with, like, yeah, obviously we should do that.


But what if you have to choose, like, where do you go? And so I think that stories rely on drama and drama relies on tension. So if you have no tension, you your story will have no drama. So so, really, you know, but but if you’re burning to get a message out into the world, fantastic, that’s great. You know, it’s probably fits better into nonfiction.


I was speaking with the writer and I think he mentioned that the Arapahoe Nation has a saying that all stories exist out there in the world and sometimes a story will find you, and when the story finds you, it’s your job then to share it with with the world. And I kind of like that. I think that’s sort of cool and that’s been that way for me sometimes, where, sort of like, this story finds me and I’m like I don’t know where it came from, I don’t really need to question, it’s just like it feels desperate to be told. So if you have those stories, I feel like those that you feel like are desperate to be told, then I would definitely pursue that direction instead. Yeah.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 15:03

I like that. I like that a lot, Cause a lot of times you know, people come to us thinking about doing both and you know there’s no one side fits all, but a lot of times we’ll say, hey, if you have kind of this nonfiction pool, write that book first and that’s going to teach you the process, Cause, as you know, learning how to ride a book is kind of like learning how to ride a bike Once you know how to do it, you can just keep doing it. And so you know we’ve got the fiction side of the company and we’ve got the nonfiction side of the company, and Rami or Ari Vance runs the fiction side, and so we always joke that real authors write fiction.

Steven James (Guest) 15:36

Ah, it’s just cause it’s way harder right?

Chandler Bolt (Host) 15:39

It’s. You’ve got to be good at a lot of different things Storytelling, like you said, conflict, character development, like all of these things to create a compelling fiction book, whereas I mean and I’m saying this as a nonfiction author, the nonfiction side of things, I think it’s just, you know a lot more straightforward and you can get away with, you know, maybe not as good of writing if your content is really good or if I’m teaching really good stuff. Well, I can still create a raving fan in that book, even if I’m not as advanced in my writing career as maybe I’d want to be. So I’m the. What are your thoughts on that?

Steven James (Guest) 16:20

I don’t know if I would say writing nonfiction is much easier than writing fiction. I guess for me they’re both a challenge. Just to be honest, you know, over the years I’ve written a number of books, quite a book, number of books, and there’s different challenges about each, I would say. Interestingly enough, when I was doing my master’s degree on storytelling, I was doing research on this idea of the difference between fiction and nonfiction, right, and a lot of people would say fiction is made up, nonfiction is true, that’s kind of the bent out there. And so then I would ask people well, why is poetry considered nonfiction? I mean, it’s probably made up and it might be true, but it’s made up. And also graphic novels are considered nonfiction. So if you write a novel with no pictures in it, it’s fiction. If you include pictures now, it’s nonfiction. Comic books are nonfiction. So the comic book about Spider-Man, let’s say, would be nonfiction. But if you wrote a novel about it, that would be fiction.


Screenplays are considered nonfiction, as our plays. So the play. If you were to write your story as a play, it would be considered nonfiction. If you write it as a novel, it would be considered fiction. And so how would it be that screenplays, plays, comics, graphic novels, poetry, jokes, joke books are nonfiction, even though they’re made up.


So how could it be that fiction is what’s made up? Nonfiction, true? And so I was confused by that. But then I did some research on where the word fiction comes from, and it’s from a Latin word which means to shape or craft. And so that you would talk like a potter, would fictionalize a pot, you would shape it. So really, at least at the beginning, to fictionalize something wasn’t to make it not true, it was to make it excellent. It’s like they would fixelize or try to shape it in a wonderful way.


And so I feel like, no matter which direction you end up going, telling an amazing story let’s say that you have a nonfiction book is a how-to book. Let’s say how to be successful in 5G steps or whatever it might be. Well, odds are, you’re probably going to be including what within your book? Probably stories, like you’ll have your tips and tricks and techniques, all of that, but you’ll probably tell stories, maybe about people who have failed or who have succeeded, whatever it might be. So for me, I always drive back, I always default back to this idea of can I tell this as a great story and then think, ok, where does it fit? Is it a script, how-to book, a novel?

Chandler Bolt (Host) 19:14

So it starts a story and then figuring out the format from there. I like that. So obviously you’ve done a lot of work on storytelling and research and you’ve got the podcast, all that stuff. Do you think storytellers are born or made Nature?

Steven James (Guest) 19:31

or nurture. I think that people have a bent in one direction or the other, toward wordsmithing or storytelling. So some people are just amazing with words. So you know, like you’ll read a sentence or paragraph, you’re like that sounds, you know so, so cool or entertaining, it’s hilarious or whatever. But maybe you read the book and it doesn’t really go anywhere. I feel like other people sort of have this bent. They naturally kind of feel like they know where a story might go, but they have to actually work on maybe all of the craft of the words and so on, like that. And so I think it’s helpful to know in your heart sort of which direction where you have natural talent in one of those areas and then you know, lean into that but also Study what you’re maybe not as naturally good at. And so for me, naturally I feel like I’m a storyteller, like that feels right to me, like I can tell a story. But then when it comes to actually all of all of the words, like to shape every sentence, that always takes me a little bit longer, but I do feel like anyone.


Let’s say, let’s say that you have some children out on the playground. One of them gets hurt, they fall down, they skid their knee or whatever. They go home and what happened? Mom says what happened. They don’t have to rehearse what they say, they don’t have to write down what they say. They tell the story. I was running along and all of a sudden Joe tripped me and I flew, whatever.


And then so we are naturally have this bent toward Towards understanding life through stories and so some people like maybe are better entertaining and sharing that story. But but we kind of have this, and a lot of research has sort of supported this idea that we we understand life through struggle and discovery, through struggling, tension and resolution. Even down to 18 month old kids can understand struggle and discovery. And it’s fascinating that they’ve done studies where they have like animated I don’t know hill, let’s say, and there’s a, there’s a ball rolling up the hill and like there’s a ball rolling down the hill and they hit and then this one rolls back down the hill or something like that, and then they’ll ask people what happened and they’ll be like, well, the ball was trying to get up the hill but the other one knocked it back and we just attribute the desire to the ball, like you know what I mean, as if it’s really trying to get up the hill. But it’s like naturally we do that and there’s different studies like that and people are always like, yeah, the poor ball, like it got knocked back down the hill or something and it’s just a dot and it’s just a shape, but we attribute.


So anyway, I would say that we have a bent in one direction or the other. We’re all kind of naturally storytellers. But to understand, to really study the craft, I feel like you can, all of us can improve, you know, once we kind of study what’s at the heart of a story and what’s at the heart of great stories. And actually it’s interesting enough because my perspective on this has changed over the last two years. Like, I studied storytelling, I’ve written two books on writing, I’ve taught storytelling around the world, but two years ago I was working on a new book, the Art of the Tail, and I changed my view of what a story is. So it was pretty fascinating and so, yeah, so I’ve been kind of leaning into a different direction than I ever did for the previous couple of decades of my writing.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 23:17

And you changed your definition from what to what, would you say?

Steven James (Guest) 23:22

Well, I don’t know if I would specifically state definition previous, but here’s what I would say All stories have four elements, every story has four elements and all great stories have two additional elements.


So like, if you can tell a story with the first four, you can get by probably, but it’s not gonna be an amazing story. But if you include the second two, you will actually elevate your stories remarkably. So, kind of ever since Aristotle wrote Poetics, people have been looking at story through a temporal lens, like beginning, middle and first act, second act, third act, which is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t necessarily help us when we are telling a story, because it looks at story as a progression of events instead of a collision of desires. So stories at their heart are not about what occurs. That’s a report this happened and this happened and this happened. Stories are more about desire pursued and something happens to get in the way and they have to make decisions that move us past that. So anyway, we can talk more about those six elements, if you want we can go in another direction.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 24:30

Now it’s totally up to you, and then I wanna kind of let’s talk on that and then I wanna bring us home with some marketing and sales stuff around your book. So yeah, what are those four components and what are the extra two?

Steven James (Guest) 24:44

Yeah. So I mean you’ll probably say, like Steve, this first one is not that rocket sciencey, how did it take you three decades to come up with it? But obviously we need a character. So that is, do we need a character? Hopefully it’s vulnerable, admirable and unforgettable, those characteristics. And then, second, is you need a setting that is in time and place, so it’s geospatial or geotemporal, I would say, because it’s time and place, so we can see it. So that makes sense.


A lot of people would say the third thing you need is plot, but I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think the third thing you need is struggle. So something has to go wrong. You don’t have a story If you just have a character existing in a setting doing stuff. Something has to go wrong. And then the fourth is that you need pursuit. So you need a character to pursue their desire around after this struggle occurs. So can you tell a story with just those four things? Yes, some stories are told with just a character in a setting who’s pursuing something, struggling, and then either resolves it or doesn’t.


But your story, I don’t feel like it’s going to be that memorable or powerful If it only has those sort of base elements. So the first one that you need if you really want to elevate your story is what I call the pivot. So a pivot is a moment where something is unexpected, yet inevitable both. So if it’s only one or the other, it’s not satisfying. So, in other words, let’s say you’re telling a story and everything is super predictable. We’re going to be like I saw that ending coming like a hundred pages ago, so it’s going to be boring. On the other hand, let’s say yes, though that’s unbelievable, people are going to say, come on, I don’t buy it, that would never happen, so it’s too outlandish.


So without a pivot, you’re either going to write a boring story or an outlandish story that people don’t believe. So you have to have a pivot. And then the last is payoff, and payoff is really is this story worthy? I mean, is this story, does it resonate? And so you can have a pivot and people are like okay, that’s unforgettable. Or you could have a pivot where people are like the ending comes and they’re like I will never forget this story because of the moment of poignancy at the very end. So, anyway. So I encourage people to write about an incredible character who’s unforgettable in an evocative setting, who has an intimate struggle, pursues his resolution in a way that ends up being something we don’t expect but do appreciate, and it resonates with us long after we’ve read the story. So that’s really, to me, what lies at the heart of a great story.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 27:25

Mm, that’s great. And you said the bonus elements were pivot was the number one and what was the second one? Sorry, what was that?

Steven James (Guest) 27:31

Well, payoff. Maybe I didn’t say it right, but payoff. Payoff is really where the story if it’s funny, we laugh. If it’s horrific, we’re chilled. If it’s a romance, we cry, whatever, so that it actually has an impact. It isn’t just a bunch of words and a progression of things, but when it ends it has resonance for us, and sometimes the pivot and payoff can come at the very same moment. Let’s say you write a short story and at the end the last line is they’re all robots. What? No wait, they were robots. I didn’t know they were robots. How were they robots? And then, but then you’re like oh yeah, no, literally, I should have seen that they were robots and we remember that ending. So it has those two elements in the same sentence. It’s possible to do that.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 28:19

That’s good. So I wanna talk marketing for a bit before we wrap. So you know million copies sold of your books, both fiction and nonfiction, which I think you have a unique perspective where you can speak on both of those things. How’d you do it? And is there anything kind of big picture that’s worked well.

Steven James (Guest) 28:39

I am literally not the best expert on marketing. Like my publishers always want us to do lots of marketing, and I understand that. So here’s my perspective Like I have someone that I work with who’s an expert on social media and that sort of thing, so I work with this person and I try to provide content to them, like it’s my content, but it’s like I don’t have necessarily the skills or the ability to put together a meme that is cool or whatever like that, and so I feel like lean into experts. If you can find people obviously learn. You want a web presence that’s positive and integrated across different platforms. Don’t spend time on platforms that drain your soul. Like a social media platform, you’re just like I can’t do this. Don’t do that. It’s not worth the couple extra books you might sell.


So and look at marketing not so much as like promoting yourself as really valuing your readers. So like if you really believe in your books, like if you really believe these are worthy books and so on. Like that when you’re sharing it, you’re not just promoting yourself. Like by my book, you’re really saying I really feel like this would benefit my readers. Like if it’s nonfiction, it’ll help them. If it’s fiction, it’ll entertain them, it’ll be worth their time. So I think to move the perspective away from elevating yourself toward serving your readers, I think is helpful.


But you are much more the expert in marketing than I am, but so of course I do interviews, I’ll do podcasts, I’ll do blog posts I’ll. I think being comfortable with those things is important to be able to spread the word. Yeah, so if I provide content for people, I want it to either be entertaining to them or educational for them. So, like if I do a newsletter, I wanted to either have something funny, maybe a story in a powerful story, or some tips on writing that sort of thing, instead of every newsletter is like by my book, by my book, by my book. And so I like to have those two things either entertains them or it informs them. And of course, we want to let people know if we have a. That’s a whole idea, let them know. But it’s, yeah, it’s as a storyteller and not really as a marketer. I always have to lean into the expertise of other people to figure out what to do in that area.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 31:23

I like changing your. I like what you said in changing your perspective as an author on marketing. If you believe in the books that you’re writing and what you’re working on, can you talk to me about? I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle. You know it’s. We get 80% of our results from 20% of our efforts. Right, the 80, 20 principle, or the Pareto principle. Have you seen, have you found that to be true with your fiction? Like, are there a handful of books that just sell disproportionately more than other books? Or how have you seen that kind of work out?

Steven James (Guest) 31:59

Yeah, I mean some of my books have sold well, some not so well. I always just look at it as like I’m just going to dive into the next project and, of course, promote stuff as much as this seems reasonable, you know, and but I would say that’s probably true. You know, some of the books that you do might, for whatever reason, and I don’t know the reason exactly. This is kind of interesting, I think. What sells a book? There’s one thing that sells a book Buzz.


If there’s buzz about the book, people are talking about it, everyone’s. Have you read this book? Like this, you know word of mouth and everyone’s sharing the word like have you heard about this? Have you read this book? But what creates buzz? Buzz like no one knows exactly how it gets started.


Like if publishers knew they would publish five books a year and they would all sell 10 million copies and that everyone would be, you know, if other people knew they would like publish one book a year and it would sell, you know, self publish it or whatever and it would sell a million copies. So no one really, I think, knows. And so what might work for one person at one time might not work next year, I don’t know. I mean so, you know, keep your finger on the pulse of where things are moving and you know, like five years ago, who would have thought TikTok would be, you know, selling any books? And so, yeah, keep your eye out, keep your finger on it, focus on excellence, focus on the great story and, you know, try to serve your readers in what you do. I think I guess that would be sort of the philosophy or principles that I try to do when it comes to spreading the word.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 33:45

Well, I like that and it seems like you’ve done a great job with Ceres and I’m looking at the up on Amazon right now, the Bowers Files books obviously tied those together in a series and you got a bunch of reviews on pretty much every book in that series. And that’s where Rami, who runs our fiction, the fiction side of the business, talks about read through, rate and how in a series. It’s one of the most important things, because what percentage of people who buy book one are buying book two or buying book three or continuing to kind of read through the series, and so I think that’s something that we talk about with a lot of our fiction authors. But then I’m curious because I would assume that writing or marketing another book in the series is different from, say, you know your books, that’s coming up Broker of Lies, which, as far as I can tell, isn’t part of any of the other series. So do you approach marketing those types of books differently and is there anything that you’re doing differently or testing out with a launch of Broker of Lies?

Steven James (Guest) 34:50

I’m trying a lot of things with Broker of Lies. It’s the first of the new series, as you mentioned. You know I did 11 books in the Bowers files over the years and so sometimes once you get people who are fans of a series, obviously letting them know about, you know, new books in the series is huge. It’s definitely huge. I think that a lot of times the first book in a series sells the most, just because that’s the way it is. I mean, not always, but very often people will read the first book and, oh, I hope to read the second someday or whatever, and they don’t get to it or something comes up in their lives and stuff like that. So with Broker of Lies, we are doing quite a bit, I think, of trying to actually spread the word, because it is a brand new series. People don’t know the characters yet, so and hopefully launch the series in a positive way.


As far as differences, that’s actually an interesting question. Like, I don’t know specifically the differences. Well, one of the things we’ve found that’s interesting is to give people insights into the characters. So, like, when you have a series, you might do a blog post, like for a while I had a page that was run by one of the characters in my novel. That was kind of interesting. People could see that with this new novel there’s a character who’s ex-military. He wrote tough as nails but he’s also writing a romance novel and he’s very bad at the romance novel, like it’s very cringy. So like Donovan reached out his hand and touched Susie’s arm the largest and most visible organ on her body he was like this is so horrible, like this is so bad. And so sharing snippets of some of Gunner’s writing like his romance writing is interesting People are like I want to read more, you know, like what is that about? Like who is this character and stuff. So that’s been kind of fun and interesting to try to give them insights into some of these characters lives.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 36:50

That’s cool. I can talk about this all day, but we’ll go rapid fire with two final questions before we wrap. So first question would be what’s your parting piece of advice for the Stephen from you know 20 or so years ago before you wrote that first book, and maybe the other Stevens who were out there thinking about writing their first book?

Steven James (Guest) 37:12

So what was my advice? 20 years, or what would I whisper back to myself, so knowing?

Chandler Bolt (Host) 37:16

what you know now what? Would be your advice to you from before you wrote your first book and maybe the other people out there who were thinking about writing their first book.

Steven James (Guest) 37:27

I would say never fall in love with the first draft. It’s so tempting to. You’ve written, it’s your baby, you’ve your passion, you wrote it, you spent a year, whatever you spent on it. And then you’re like this is ready to go Press pause, take a day or a week, whatever it is you need to do, take a breath, go out, print it out, take a cup of coffee, go out somewhere you don’t normally go and read through it with fresh eyes and be willing to change stuff if you need to. So don’t fall in love with the first draft. Yeah, that would be one.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 37:59

Cool. That’s great, Stephen. This has been awesome. Where can people go to get your new book, Broker of Lies, and anywhere else people can go to find out more about you, your books or wherever would be most helpful.

Steven James (Guest) 38:12

Yeah, I appreciate it. Stevenjamesnet is kind of all things Stephen James and you can get Broker of Lies wherever you might order books or buy them online or at local bookstores. It should be available everywhere April 11th. So, yeah, I hope people will enjoy it and check it out and people can email me through my website. I always love hearing from folks and I always do my best to respond as promptly as possible.

Chandler Bolt (Host) 38:39

Cool. Well, check it out, guys, the new book Broker of Lies. Grab a copy, stephen. This has been awesome. Thank you so much Thanks. I really appreciate it.

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