Chandler Bolt [00:00:04] Hey, Chandler Bolt here and joining me today is Tim Waggoner. Tim’s first novel came out in 2001, and he’s probably as close to get this 50 novels and seven collections of short stories since he writes original fantasy and horror as well as media tie ins. His novels include Like Death, which is considered a modern classic in the genre, and the popular Necropolis series of urban fantasy novels. He’s also written tie in fiction, which we’re going to talk a little bit of about that for Supernatural, Alien Grimm, The X-Files, Doctor Who and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Transfer Formers, among others. Today we’re going to be talking, I mean, obviously all things fiction. So a lot of things about writing habits, writing practice. What? Writing in the dark. What is it? What does it mean when you talk about fiction? Marketing, tie ends, tie in books? What are they? There’s a lot of things for us to cover, said Tim. Welcome. Great to have you here.
Tim Waggoner [00:01:07] I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Chandler Bolt [00:01:09] Yeah. So I guess let’s start with this. Why books? Why are you so passionate about writing great fiction?
Tim Waggoner [00:01:16] Probably because I just grew up as a reader. Nothing really stimulates my imagination more. You know, there was a time when TV kind of took over, and I didn’t read for a little while, like around junior high or so. But my dad was a big reader, and he’d always have books lying around. And sometimes he’d say, You might like this one, Tim, try this out. So, you know, in a way, it was kind of like the way to kind of get to know him and be a little closer to him. But, you know, I found that there was just a lot more depth. He got into the characters heads you could do, especially that when I was a kid, not a lot of budget for special effects, and the special effects were not special then back then compared to now. So you could have like all kinds of amazing things going on in a book that you couldn’t do in a movie or TV show. And so that just kind of pulled me into it and been there ever since.
Chandler Bolt [00:02:07] Why do you why did you decide to write your first book? Was there anything that kind of sparked that?
Tim Waggoner [00:02:15] I was like a lot of creative people. If you love something, you just want to be a part of it so much that you want to like kind of get inside it and, you know, creating. It’s a way to do that. And so when I was in junior high, I did start to do like my own little homemade comic book that I featured my friends and myself as superheroes, because I figured at least they would read it if it was about them. But some people do. And, you know, I just enjoyed that so much that over time I started writing stories. I wanted to be an artist for a little while till I realized I could say more faster with words than I could drawing. And it just kept going from there. I just fell in love with it. Started reading Writer’s Digest magazine and interviews with writers and articles on the craft of it, and I just fell in love with the whole thing. So I finished my first novel at 19 and wasn’t that great. But but I did do it, so I accomplished it. And yeah, I just even though I like writing short stories, I really like the complexity of books. I like the way that you have these different elements and you can time together as you go. I like the fact that you can show things through different characters perspectives when you can’t quite do that in a short story because there’s not a lot of room. So I just really enjoy the novel form for Nice.
Chandler Bolt [00:03:31] So first you said you wrote the first book at 19. Did that book get published?
Tim Waggoner [00:03:36] No, no, no. There was no self-publishing like there is now. Yeah. You know, I was born in 1964, so 19 was probably 1983, I think. And, you know, I would have uploaded that in 19. I would have been like, uploaded that thing immediately. So I’ve been so enthusiastic about it. Yeah. You know, I’m not not unhappy that those Trump novels didn’t get published because I wrote a few others that didn’t. But they were really great experiences. You know, I learned a lot from them. I still think of those stories fondly. But yeah, it’s not something I’d ever really want to share with anybody at this point.
Chandler Bolt [00:04:11] So where were you when you ended up publishing your your first book and what sparked getting the first one published?
Tim Waggoner [00:04:19] I probably. Oh 36 Maybe I had published a whole lot of short fiction at that point. I’d written novels and, you know, I had agents sending them around and just none of them had landed yet. The first one was It’s just a weird situation. I had collaborated with a writer on a short story for an anthology about Xena, the Warrior Princess. He was having trouble coming up with a story, and the editor recommended me as a co-writer with, and we wrote it together. It was fun. And when it was done, things like, You know, I’m an editor too, so if anything ever comes up, I’ll get in touch with you. And I’m like, Oh, that’s nice. I didn’t know if anything would come of it. And then he he somehow ended up in this company called Foggy Windows, which was erotica for married couples. So it was very, very niche audience. And he’s like, Do you want to write all these books for me? And I was like, It’s not the kind of thing I ever thought about doing, but okay. And, you know, plus I kind of have a style. Exactly. A rule. But if I ever feel like I’m above a certain kind of writing, I always make sure to say, no, don’t, don’t think that way. You’re not too good for anything. At least explore it. So he wanted me to pitch him an erotic mystery. And it was about a husband and wife private investigator team that had trouble keeping their hands off each other during cases, and I couldn’t take it seriously. So I also made it a comedy, and I called it dying for It because there was like a death in the, you know, the mystery. And I tried my best. You know, I wrote a good story and I wrote good characters. You know, they mandated so many sex scenes, but I made sure every single one either showed something about character advance the plot. And then the company published five books. You know, mine was one of them and then went under. So when my book came out. But I’ve never done anything since, like it. But so that was the very first, not the first one I wrote by any means, but it’s the first one that got published.
Chandler Bolt [00:06:15] Yeah. So I guess two part question, How do you just it kind of explained how you how you finally got published. Any lessons learned from that kind of window? And obviously, you know, it just strikes me as, okay, 19 to 36, 18 years. And then similarly, there’s been another batch of your life of, you know, I guess 20 something years where you’ve written and published 50 books. Like knowing what you know now, would there be any advice that you’d give to that 19 year old self or kind of like that in between before you got the first one published?
Tim Waggoner [00:06:48] Yeah. Couple different ways I could have gone. You know, one thing that I learned from this is that if a weird opportunity presents itself, give it a shot, or at least explore it. I’ve talked to a lot of writers over the years, and many of them were like, Oh yeah, I never thought about writing mysteries, but I just kind of fell into it. Now I’m rich and famous mystery writer, and, you know, if people were willing to at least, you know, look outside what they thought was their specialty, that wouldn’t happen. I’ve known people that have gotten published in nonfiction in their great careers when they thought they would be fiction writers and vice versa. People that have reinvented themselves as the years go by. So being just open to all kinds of things and trying them just to see what happens and the other thing and it’s kind of opposite. But the other thing was that I did try a lot of different things, and it might have worked better if I had focused more on one type of fiction early on. Back one back then when I started was the the eighties. Horror room was in full swing and I liked horror fiction just fine. I loved it. But at the time, you know, reading articles and stuff were like, Oh, you know, pick something long lasting, whatever. And I’m like, Well, I write fantasy. That’s what I’m into now. And so I completely missed that horror boom, which since there was such a demand, I probably would have been able to publish novels that and get started publishing a little bit sooner. So there’s kind of like two different opposite things, but you can also do all of it. You know, I could have focused on horror, but then doing this weird things going on later with erotic mysteries, I could say, Sure, I’ll give it a shot and see what happens. Yeah. So, you know, I think it’s not literally movement, but it’s like, like movement that you keep moving and keep trying. Different things don’t necessarily pigeonhole yourself. And if there’s something you’re afraid to try, try it. Anyway. I loved her so much that I was kind of afraid I’d mess it up, so I was sort of afraid to try it until eventually it just yeah, that’s where most of my success came from. So I just kept following falling away because I tell people, keep moving, keep trying different things.
Chandler Bolt [00:08:52] Mm hmm. And so you are so having the first the very first experience writing that erotica book, that was kind of it sounds like, hey, right. This was very, I guess, dictated in a way. And there’s there’s mandates on certain stuff. Anything that you learned from that experience, like doing that kind of it sounds like all you’re writing now is just wildly different. So was there anything that you learned that carried over?
Tim Waggoner [00:09:16] Well, you know, when you have a certain set of circumstances, I mean, you can already have sort of, you know, very fuzzy and kind of soft guidelines within a genre. And you get a lot of room for creativity. But like with a romance category, romance novel, if you don’t have a happy ending, the fans are going to revolt because that’s like the thing that they’re looking for in that. But because there were specific things they had to do, it primed me for doing more media time and stuff where you do have certain things you can and can’t do. Then, especially if you’re working with established characters, you know, like Sam and Dean and Supernatural, there’s only so much you can do with them. And so it kind of shows you how to to work with, with limitations in a way. Long time ago I saw an interview with k.d. lang back when she was still a country singer before she moved on to be a pop star. And somebody asked her, Why country? You don’t seem like, you know, the stereotypical country. You know what people imagine a country singer is. And she said that she liked seeing what she could do with those limitations. Here’s what a country song is supposed to be. And then you can play off that. It’s almost like having resistance in an exercise or having a wall to bounce a ball off of. Sometimes you need something to work with and it can really be in its own way. It sounds very constricting, but can also be very freeing because it gives you a chance to try different like, you know, creative muscles you might not have tried before. And it forces you to think in different ways, which I find pretty valuable.
Chandler Bolt [00:10:52] Mm hmm. That makes sense. And so let’s maybe zoom out just a little bit on, you know, the last 20 years or so. You’ve written 50 books.
Tim Waggoner [00:11:02] Well, some of those were written beforehand and then got published eventually. But yeah, I’ve written a lot of books and waste a lot of years. Yeah. Yeah.
Chandler Bolt [00:11:09] So. So how have you done that? I mean, let’s call it 20 years in some change. 50 books. How did you do it? And what are some of the biggest lessons learned?
Tim Waggoner [00:11:21] Well, you know, sometimes it depends on the length of the book, too. So some books would be, you know, 70,000 words, some might be 120. So that helps. And they’re still called separate books, but the length can make a difference. Sometimes it’s just because, especially with tie ins, you know, you might get an opportunity to pitch for a project, you pitch for it, they like it, and then they’re like, it’s due in three months, so you just do it. And if you can’t write those kind of. You just don’t take those kind of gigs. But luckily, I’m a fast rider. I spend a lot of time kind of visualizing my stories and thinking about them before I sit down to write. So when I write, it looks like I write really fast, but the overall process could take a while. I can also like kind of think about different projects at the same time before I sit down to write maybe one, I might be thinking of another one in some level. So all that, all that helps. But some people, you know, they need to go slower and there’s nothing wrong with that. You should do whatever produces your best work or lean into your strengths. You know, if you can find out that, you know, I may not be the world’s greatest prose stylist, but I can write pretty fast. And then you’re like, okay, that’s a strength I’ll lean into. Or, you know, I can’t write bass, but man, I write really beautiful sentences. Then you lean into that and don’t let other people tell you that, you know, real writers do this, that or the other thing because there are no one real writers.
Chandler Bolt [00:12:45] Who.
Tim Waggoner [00:12:45] Are all real writers, you know, in any way that we approach it that works for us is fine.
Chandler Bolt [00:12:50] Hmm. Got it. How do you how do you feel like you’re writing processes evolved over the books?
Tim Waggoner [00:12:58] Yeah. You know, I used to to to be more of a stripped out liner, and I wouldn’t have, like, every single beat written down or anything like that. But I have an outline that I mostly follow it with tie in books. You still need to do that because it’s approved by the studio or whoever owns the IP. And so they are expecting a story that’s pretty much the outline you turn to. But for my own stuff, you know, I may have an outline or, you know, sell the book on the outline and it’s time to sit down and write it. And I may not look at the outline again. You know, I have the story in my head, but I’m not worried about whether it matches the outline 100%. And that works pretty well for me. But often, I don’t know what’s going to happen until the next book because it’s like each time it’s you almost have to reinvent the process because you’ve never written that book before. So you got to find a process for a particular one. But I find myself either outlining less or not referring to the outlines as much as I used to.
Chandler Bolt [00:13:51] Oh, interesting. And why do you think that is? Is that just the muscle that’s been built? Is it easy to style change something else?
Tim Waggoner [00:14:01] No, I think it really is. The fact that you get used to the the idea of how to construct the scene, how to end the scene. One’s a good idea to switch to somebody else’s point of view, how to build suspense, how to do that. It’s like, you know, if you learn how to play tennis eventually, you’re not thinking about all the separate moves you’re doing. You’re thinking at a higher level because they’re all in your muscle memory. So I think it’s more like a, you know, to my creative memory.
Chandler Bolt [00:14:25] Yeah. So I guess with that in mind, I mean, and I know there’s no one size fits all, but do you recommend that early writers start start more as plotters and then kind of earn your way into the ability to be a panther? Or is that more just what worked for you?
Tim Waggoner [00:14:43] It’s more the work for me because all my early novels know my first three. They were shorter. I mean, they were all like over 200 pages. But I just finished those. But then I started becoming aware of this thing called revising. I was like, okay, I want to make my books the best they could be. And what I would find is I would make different choices along the way and figure, Oh, I’ll go back and fix and make everything work later. Then it became a huge mess for me to deal with. And those books I never finished or if I finished them, they were a mess that needed revision that I just didn’t do. It seemed overwhelming to me. And so eventually I got to a point where I was able to kind of learn to revise as I went, which helped a lot. I think that for beginning writers try all of it and see, you know, I tell people what gives you creative energy. Some people, they loathe writing a first draft, but they cannot wait to rewrite it. I don’t understand people that think revision is fun because it’s not my mindset. I love to create something. So but I know that I had to. I had to learn, you know, at least how to revise well enough or how to how to revise in a way that actually kind of works with my strength in creating. So, you know, my my story files are a book file, one file I can sweep back and forth at any time if I suddenly realize I need to make a change or just zip back and then I can zip forward. And it’s still part of the creative process. And by the time I’m done, there’s still maybe some revision to do, but I’ve done a lot of it. So what looks like my first draft isn’t. But it also is a draft that’s pretty ready to go. So I just found my way to do it. So I would say just try as many different things as you can, but don’t ever listen to anybody tells you you have to do something a certain way because it’s not true. Hmm. There is a there’s a million ways to do stuff. And you may do that a different way each time you sit down to work.
Chandler Bolt [00:16:34] Mm hmm. Got it. Now, you keep talking about this or you keep mentioning this concept of the media tie in books. I have no experience with this. I don’t even know what they are. And I hadn’t even heard of in charge the research for this interview. So can you tell me and us what’s a media time book?
Tim Waggoner [00:16:53] Sure. You know what they are because you’ve seen them. It’s like if you’ve seen ever seen Star Wars books or Star Trek books, those are media tie ins. So it is the different kind of media. So it’s not going to be like a book. It’ll be a TV show, a comic book, movie, video game, board game, whatever, some kind of a toy. It’ll be some kind of other property. And then sometimes the owner of that property will go look for a publisher because they think a book will be cool or help sell the product. A lot of times publishers are like, Oh, you know, supernatural’s an awesome TV show. Let’s see if we can get a license to produce the books. And then they approach the IP holder. IP holder says, Sure, you’re a good company, pay us X amount of dollars and you can have the license to do three books. And then the editor looks for a writer who will be able to not just one, probably several, you know, one for each book. And, you know, we pitch ideas. They pick a few. They send them to the studio. The studio approves them. We do an outline studio cruise that we do, a book studio approves that, and then you’re done. But it’s their original adventures, you know, set in the world of like Star Trek or Star Wars sometimes with characters straight out of the movies and TV shows. Other times they might be original characters. You invent that set in that world. And then there are novelizations where you take a movie script and you expand it into a story. Those are tie ins as well, but it’s kind of special because it’s almost like a collaboration with someone you’ll never meet because you got to use their script as part of your story. Yeah. And there are a lot of fun. You know, I’ve written, like, action adventure novels, spy novels, things I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own baby, except it was a time project that came along. And it’s also it it does flex a certain different muscles. It’s almost like being an actor where you have a script, kind of where being a director, where you have a script and some actors things to work with. You’re still creating, but you’re creating within an environment. I guess the closest thing would be like if you were part of a writing staff on a TV show. So, you know, there’s a certain here’s what you have to work with and you are going to write an episode, but you don’t create, you know, maybe some of the smaller characters for that episode, but everything’s been created by the series creators. But you’re hired to write a just a just one adventure, whatever. So many times are like that.
Chandler Bolt [00:19:11] Got it. That makes sense. So how do you how do you even get into that? And what’s your advice for for people who are listening to this or watching this and saying, Hey, that sounds interesting. Like, I’d love to give a go with that.
Tim Waggoner [00:19:23] Yeah. You know, it’s something that’s become a lot more respected over the years and so many people. There’s so many interesting media properties out there and people do so much fanfiction, which is like, you know, unofficial science fiction because you’re not licensed to do it, but it’s the same kind of thing. The most important thing is to be able to show that you can write novels first, you know, write novels at a professional level, so you do your own stuff. It helps that it doesn’t have to be, but it helps if it’s traditional publishing only because you have to work with an editor, which is like what you have to do with science. It’s always through some an editor and then you have to also have to work with the IP holder. So if you can already show that you can work as a team in partnership with people, it’s easier if you traditionally publish because it’s you see, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it if you just the most important thing is you finish books and they’re good books, then you can either go ahead and start networking with people who already do tie ins, you know, like on social media, get in on the little bit and just ask, you know, how did they get their gigs in? Once you published a few things, people say, Oh, you know, you’re professional, so here’s my editor’s email and you email them and you say, I would love to write a volume. Do you have any available? And they’ll say, No, but they’ll say, We’ll keep you in mind. And that’s often how you end up with them. They’re like, Oh my God, we need somebody. I remember Tim said, Tim. Tim said he’d do one for us. Let’s go say check with Tim. Sometimes if you have an agent, they go to your agent, or your agent can put feelers out to the different publishers and see. So there’s like a variety of ways. Sometimes they fall on your lap, sometimes you go out and look for them. But it all begins with you being able to demonstrate, maybe over the course of at least a couple books that you can, you know, write a novel from beginning to end, to be a good novel, bring it to completion.
Chandler Bolt [00:21:14] Mm hmm. Got it. Now, how did you get your first one?
Tim Waggoner [00:21:19] That’s a really good question. It was my first one. I think my first one is for a video game roleplaying game called a Vampire Dark Ages. The White Wolf put out probably in the early 2000s. I had seen some open anthology calls for like White Wolf anthologies. And so you work in their world. Their world is like, you know, their game for vampires and werewolves and all that. So it’s like a horror scenario overall. And so I saw that. So I submitted some stories to them and got published that that means I’d already had a little bit of background in that. And then like they saw on their web page, they were they were calling for writers. If there are, you know, calling for writers, you can find like there’s the contact forum where on websites where you can just send in like, hey, you know, I’m a novelist, there’s a link to my website. I’d love to do one of these things. It’s not easy, but sometimes you can call in maybe somebody. I did that once just to find out about submission processes for Wizards of the Coast because they had an open submission policy. But your submissions kind of disappear. And so when I called, they were like, Oh, well, let me go. Sorry about that. And they hooked me up with an editor and I was like, Huh? And he’s like, You know, we’re thinking about doing this young adult version of Dragon. Lance, would you like to do that? I’m like, Sure. So a lot of it is just kind of probing, putting out feelers, talking to people, and then once you start doing it, people might well start coming to you. And that helps a lot too, because you get known for doing that. Mm hmm. Some people get pigeonholed, like there are some people who only end up doing Star Trek books, and they might find it a little stifling because they like to do their own stuff, too. But overall, most people who do it, they really enjoy it anyway.
Chandler Bolt [00:23:11] Yeah, because who’s the who’s the main decision makers? Is it the editors? Do you have like you have an agent that’s shopping around, like once that, once that ball gets rolling, Like, how do you do those just laying on your desk and who’s kind of making the calls and that sort of thing.
Tim Waggoner [00:23:28] The Times projects it’s the IP holder because they’re the one that has the final say on everything. Most of the time, at least for me, you know, if you’re already using your common sense and you’re like, okay, I can’t make Captain Kirk a superhero with a cape, you suddenly get superpowers and flies around in Star Trek. It just doesn’t you know, it doesn’t feel right. It’s kind of silly if you don’t do anything that kind of breaks, you know, the property, they’re pretty open for you to do everything. But the good thing is that, you know, they see an outline first and then they can work with you to get the outline the way they want it. And long as you stick to that for the most part, then you’re gold. But yeah, it is. They are the bosses in a way that does not happen with your own work. If you’re doing traditional publishing, you are collaborating with an editor. They are not your boss. You know, it is a partnership between Ty and stuff. You’re a higher regard. And even though they may value your creative input in everything, ultimately they decide.
Chandler Bolt [00:24:29] Got it. And you talked about this earlier, the difference between kind of unlicensed and license work. And obviously, I would assume that license is working directly with the IP holder. And that is is that, you know, that’s kind of the process. Unlicensed. Tell me about that. Like, is that legal? What what is it like? Is that just people who are chasing a trend like how does that work?
Tim Waggoner [00:24:52] Unlicensed stuff or people like fanfiction that people write? Technically, it’s illegal because they don’t own the rights to those characters. Nobody really cares because it’s just not worth chasing people down. One of the things that if you find out, like you write an original property created and if you find that people are writing fanfiction about it, you have to tell them you don’t approve of this and you must stop, because if not legally, you’re abandoning your copyright. And so writers, most of whom do not care in the slightest and probably are very flattered that people want to do fanfiction, have to at least publicly say, you know, I don’t approve of it, I’d like to try to get rid of it or stop it. But it’s just a weird legal thing. So, you know, in public, I’m all about, you know, if anybody asks me, no, but real life, I don’t care. You know, I think it’s fun for people to do. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. It’s kind of how we start off when we play. You know, we like, act out our favorite scenes from movies or heroes that we know. We start writing our own stuff, but it’s also, you know, sort of like. Images are reflections of stuff that we’ve read and enjoyed. Yes. You know, And eventually stuff does become public property. Yeah. Like. Like Winnie the Pooh. That’s why there’s that Winnie the Pooh slasher movie now, because Winnie the Pooh is. And finally, the world owns Winnie the Pooh. We can do whatever we want. But yeah, in general, the unlicensed off, you know, drive it and have fun with it. But don’t ever do one on your own and try to get it published. I’ve had a couple people email me and say, I’ve written a supernatural novel. I’ve written an alien novel. Now I want to get it published and I have to tell them it doesn’t work that way. You know, if you’re not hired to do it, it’s never going to get published. The best thing to do is change alien to another name and, you know, change a few things and then publish it as an original work. It can be very close to Alien and still not violate the copyright.
Chandler Bolt [00:26:48] Mm hmm. Got it. That makes sense. And the last question on the media, Italian stuff, because this is really fascinating, is that we haven’t talked a lot about on the show. What is that like? What is the finances of that look like? Are they. I mean, I’m assuming they buy the rights, it sounds like, to the media tion book and then they’re shopping with writers. They probably got a royalty back to the IP holder. Who is the author or is it a contract fee? And okay, we’re going to pay you once and deliver this. Where do you get a royalty on the long on the long tail of that? What does that look like now?
Tim Waggoner [00:27:24] It’s just straight work for hire. Know they pay you X amount of dollars to do this job and they’re done. And anything that you put in that book, the IP over owns, anything that you may have created in there doesn’t matter is created within their IP. So, yeah, so you kind of have to be aware that that’s why if you ever watch the Marvel movies they have, like at the end, thanks to all these different artists and writers, but Marvel owns it so they don’t get any money. You know, I know the writer that the lot of the last Black Panther movie came from his run on the comics, and he was loved to see it. But anybody who does works with an IP, you know, going in that, you know, you own nothing. And that’s just the nature of the beast and that’s okay.
Chandler Bolt [00:28:05] Got it. Okay. That makes sense. Well, thanks for breaking down all that stuff on this. It’s really, really interesting. Let’s talk about I’ve got a few more things I want to touch on. So you’ve got this book Writing in the Dark. What’s you know, can you give us an like, what is that process I’m intrigued about? It’s like, what does the book talk about? And kind of what are some of the principles that that people can apply for their writing?
Tim Waggoner [00:28:33] Yeah, it’s a book on writing horror. So everything I’ve learned about writing horror over decades, so it talks. It goes into real specifics about how to do it, different ways to think about it. It also I mean, people could use it for writing anything that might be dark or suspenseful or a thriller, or if you want to have like any kind of dark or suspenseful scenes like in fantasy novels or whatever. And then there are, of course, things that in general apply to any kind of fiction in terms of, you know, how to how to write with an immersive point of view or, you know, how do you construct a scene. So it’s suspenseful and that kind of stuff. But yeah, writing in the Dark was just a it’s the name of my blog. And I figured, you know, writing in the dark, just dark like horror. And then when it came time for this book, the editors were like, Yeah, we’ll just name it after your blog. And I’m like, Okay, that sounds good. So it’s not like a special meaning to the title other than just, you know. Just over writing.
Chandler Bolt [00:29:29] Yeah. And is this your is this your only work in nonfiction? And then everything else has been fiction? Or have you written other nonfiction books as well?
Tim Waggoner [00:29:37] And some other ones. I’ve done a follow up to Writing In the Dark. It’s a workbook, so it has more exercises than writing in the Dark. Did I got to do a sort of nonfiction book for Supernatural? Since Supernatural is all pretend it was not, but it’s supposed to be a manual like of the various monsters that the Winchesters encounter. And there’s notes from Sam and Dean about it as they’re compiling it. So that part was fun, but it’s technically nonfiction. And then I have got another nonfiction writing book coming out where I put in a number of short stories from the like when I was 18 all the way up to now. And then I talk about what the inspiration was, and then I critique them afterwards, like, what would I do differently now? So it’s kind of like using my own work as an example to talk about writing principles. I don’t know what that one’s eventually going to be called or when it’s going to be out, but it’s in the works. Just did a handful of nonfiction. My blog has been going on for ten years and I’ve written articles about writing for a long time. But in terms of books, yes, just a few.
Chandler Bolt [00:30:46] Got it. Now, have all of your books been traditionally published or haven’t even been self-published?
Tim Waggoner [00:30:52] I’ve self-published a couple of self-published a short story during one, the first, like months ago that I got really bored. And so I’m like, you know, a lot of times they people will try writing these short, shorter erotica pieces for self-published. So I picked a pseudonym and I wrote one little vampire in it. My wife’s an artist. She did the cover. We put it on up and it was fun to do, and it gave me a chance to see the whole process because I teach creative writing and I want to be able to at least tell my students enough about what that was like. And then one of my small press books. The for some reason, when the publisher tried to put up the e-book, they wouldn’t let him think he kept rejecting it. So he says, I’ll just give it to you, and you put it up and then they accepted it. Yeah. So, I mean, it hardly counts as self-publishing in terms of a process. I just was like pushing the buttons my publisher couldn’t push for some reason. So that’s about all I think sometimes about, you know, I do have books like couple Necropolis series you mentioned people still email me and say, you’re going to write some more. I think, you know, I can do that with self-publishing if I wanted to. And it’s something I’m thinking about moving forward a little bit. I I’ve noticed a lot of veterans or writers have been writing for 20 or 30 years and are moving toward that more, you know, taking control of their own work, publishing their backlist continuing series on. So it’s something I’m thinking I’ve got a few years before I retire from my teaching job, so I may may move full course into that once I’m done.
Chandler Bolt [00:32:18] Yeah. Now, do you have a publisher that you work with with a lot of your books or how does that how does that kind of process work, especially for publishing so many books?
Tim Waggoner [00:32:29] Yeah, I work with different ones for different types of books. Just depends. If you are like you get published by a big enough publisher in traditional publishing, they’ll have like a clause that basically says, you know, you don’t publish with anybody, but then they say it like they get first look at whatever you’re going to do next or whatever. And or they your agent may say only one book a year because that’s the way that, you know, you don’t oversaturate the market and whatever. And so you’re encouraged at that level not to be as prolific as you could be. But when you’re publishing a smaller press or even if it’s, you know, mass market, it’s not gigantic, you know, super famous publisher, they don’t seem to care as much. And it can sometimes get this weird situation where you have like three books come out a month apart. It’s really hard to decide. And you didn’t know that was going to happen because nobody told you early on when the dates were going to be. And then you had to figure out, how do I promote three books at once? Do I just pick one? You know, what do I do? So it’s just different publishers. So right now I may be working with half a dozen, maybe four different things, stuff coming out that I haven’t written yet. Right now, I think it’s only one or two at this point. I’ve got a backlog of things to come out still. So.
Chandler Bolt [00:33:47] Got it. When you look at kind of your catalog, are there any attributes or things that you could point to that are commonalities of your bestselling books?
Tim Waggoner [00:34:00] It’s hard to predict what they’re going to be. You know, if you catch a wave and write it, you know, or if it’s a wave that goes on long enough, like for a long time, you know, serial killer thrillers like Silence of the Lambs were really you know, they just stayed strong and you’d have enough time to catch that wave and probably write one. But a lot of times the wave comes and goes before you can jump on it. But it seems like the bestselling things usually are stuff that people can in general relate to on Broadway, a broad range of people. So it there’s going to be like any kind of supernatural element or science fictional element. It’s smaller so it doesn’t require so much suspension of disbelief. The writing style tends to be, I think, easier to read. I think the pace is a little faster because that is the way to grab as many people as you can. I mean, that’s why newspapers write what they do. There’s stuff on like a sixth grade reading level, not because they think people are smarter than sixth grade, but that’s because you can read it fast. So I think you can do that. Series works really well. People really like characters that they can get into. It’s something editors like, too, the stereotype of New York editors as they walk character more than anything else, and agents do. So if you’re writing like an action story with very thin characters, it might be a hard sell for them.
Chandler Bolt [00:35:23] Got it. Are you you talked about series working really well. One of the big things that Ronnie Dance or Ari Vance, he runs the fiction, kind of a fiction side of some dot com. He always talks about the read through rate and how that read through rate is so important. What percentage of people who buy Book one are going to buy book two and buy book three and four and so on. Is there anything that you do intentionally around that in that you feel like maximizes that read through rate? No, not.
Tim Waggoner [00:35:54] Really. A lot of my books are standalone, even though they take place in the same general universe. So having some connections between them, at least for people who have read the other books and making it clear that it’s that way. Like on my blog, I have here’s all the different books and how they kind of connect so that thing can work pretty well. One series I’m doing now, I’ve done the first one years ago and it’s time for me to do the second one. But that publisher is going to wait to release them all pretty much about the same time. So I think the biggest thing is just you have your next book ready to go when they finish the first one because they can just click and get that next one. And that’s something traditional publishers, they’ll do eventually with a series, but they won’t do, you know, starting out traditional publishing. They treat it like a lottery. Yeah, They don’t know if you’re going to be successful or not. They’ll give you some, you know, publicity money a little bit. But once they find out your book is selling, they pour more publicity money into it because it’s a more sure return on investment. So even though you’re supposed to be like a full partner with them, it doesn’t always work out that way. So that’s one of the things publishers can really control. You know, they can control what they release. They control like trying to maximize people going through their series. You can write smaller books, especially if they’re e-books, because nobody or larger ones, whatever, nobody cares the physical dimensions because it doesn’t matter anymore. So, I mean, just all of that’s been a real game changer in the ways that, you know, people can try to maximize how want readers go through one of their books to the second one. To the third one?
Chandler Bolt [00:37:23] Yeah, absolutely. I see a lot of that with. So Rami’s created a fundamental fiction, the fundamentals of fiction in story, and then our full time fiction kind of two core programs and, and he talks a lot about that staggered launch. So exactly. And that’s the beauty of self-publishing is you can stagger it. Let me let me sit on some of these and go to book one month, one book to month to book three. Mark three. All right, promote, promote, promote. Then maybe at the one year mark, let’s put together a box set like and just like a lot of a lot of kind of tie ins and things that you can do to then, you know, use use that so that people can, like you said they might the first one they want to read the next one. And if the next one is not available, then they can’t buy it. Right. And so it’s just like some of those things too, to tie the books together.
Tim Waggoner [00:38:15] Yeah. And publishers, they won’t take a chance on your original fiction that way. Traditional publishers. But they will do tie in fiction that way because they know there’s already a market. So, you know, like, so like a publisher may get to do that license to do five alien books. They do, exactly. You know, each month a different one comes out. Year later, they’re all put together to do an omnibus. So, I mean, that works well. But for publishers, they want more of a sure thing to do, that it is a risk in, you know, if you’re self-published and you write your three books and they don’t take off, it’s like, well, that was a year of my life or whatever. But, you know, you have a much greater chance, I think, a success in doing that with a series.
Chandler Bolt [00:38:53] Now, do you have any any tips for marketing fiction or fiction marketing, any tips or anything that you do that you feel like works well?
Tim Waggoner [00:39:02] Well, you need to find, like the people that actually like the thing you’re writing. I think a lot of mistakes that writers make is that they try to go broad and they’ll take like a weird, extreme horror novel full of blood and sex and everything and try to sell it to a general audience. And it’s like that’s already a niche audience, Even in the horror community, that’s a niche audience. So the more that you can find those people, whoever your audience is, the better. And, you know, social media allows you to do that. You can do it on Amazon with the way you do your tags and everything and your keywords, and you can still refine those as you go. I think cross-promotion can work really well. I think that if like several writers who write kind of the same thing, sort of cross-promote each other’s work. So if you have any friends who make connections, I think that works really good. But there’s this movie I was showing in my novel writing class last night and some. It’s about a writers group. The cameraman title, I thought, My God. Now, of course, I just saw it last night, but. But any rate. So one of the characters he’s written like a terrible Tom Clancy knockoff and his signing he’s going to do is in a hardware store because that’s where his girlfriend works. And, you know, one of my students is like, he should have just taken it for like a military surplus story was sold a ton of those. And I’m like, yeah, I had a student who would write humorous stories about hunting dogs because those were his interests, you know, humor and hunting dogs he would go to like these hunting conventions is where he would sell those books because he tried to sell that in a bookstore. How many people are going to be going? I want humorous stories about hunting dogs. So, you know, I think finding, you know, finding your people who would be interested in this, I think you’re much better served to do that and try to go super broad and try to get everybody to read what you write.
Chandler Bolt [00:40:49] That’s great. Tim, this has been awesome. What would be your party in a piece of advice for the Tim from a couple of decades ago and maybe the other teams out there who are thinking about writing their first fiction.
Tim Waggoner [00:41:02] I would say the thing I tell my students all the time that writing is nothing more than psychological endurance. If you want to build a career, you just have to keep going. And it’s okay to take a break if you need to. It’s okay to scale back a little bit or whatever, but it’s all up to you to keep going. No harm if you want to quit and you decide that’s not for you, that’s not a problem. But the other thing I tell people, too, is that writing is a series of decisions. It’s all here’s this story, not that story, this character, not that character, this event, not that or that this word, Not that word. And the better you get at making decisions and not second guessing yourself as you’re making them, these are against. Because if you spend all your time sitting there going, Oh my God, what’s the next best word to use? You end up getting stuck. Especially if the generation that went through No Child Left Behind, where everything was teach to the test and there is a right answer for everything, you must know it. I find those students have a terrible time making choices because they taught. They were taught that there was only one, right one. And you need to identify it. So I think the more you just. Make as many choices as you can and then worry about dealing with it later. I think that’ll serve you a lot better than worrying about what’s the perfect thing to do at each step.
Chandler Bolt [00:42:21] That’s so great. That’s awesome. Well, Tim, where can people go to buy your books? To find out more about you and what you’re up to.
Tim Waggoner [00:42:30] Well, my Web site, like everybody else, is the best place. It’s just Tim Waggoner dot com. And Waggoner, you know, I assume you’ll have my name somewhere, but you know, it’s got to exist or no. So it’s not a common spelling of it. But you go there and it’s like it has links to everything, all my social media, my blog. I have a YouTube channel just where I give all kinds of writing advice. You know, I’ve got like everybody else, my own page on Amazon you can find. So really my website’s the best place. It’s it’s like the Wal-Mart for me. It’s one stop shopping. You go straight to my website.
Chandler Bolt [00:43:01] To https://timwaggoner.com. Tim, thank you so much.
Tim Waggoner [00:43:06] Well, thanks so much for having me. I had a great time.
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