Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#1 Smashwords Best Selling Author Jason McIntyre

If you've checked out the Bestseller List at, you've seen On The Gathering Storm by Jason McIntyre there at the top, the bestselling eBook at the site for the Last 90 Days. It is also the Most Downloaded eBook that is not free. To me, this is an incredible accomplishment. I wrote to Jason, and he agreed to share his success story with SBR. Have you read his book? I've seen it compared to Dean Koontz and to John Connolly, authors well known for suspense, using ordinary characters trying to overcome brutal circumstance. In the reviews of Jason's books, what you see repeated over and over is praise for his craftsmanship and sentence structure. He builds a voice the reader wants to listen to, then tells his amazing tales. And his characters, like Hannah Garretty, are people we seem to know.

Watch the video book trailer Jason made, one of the best I've ever seen.

Q&A with Jason McIntyre:

Jason, your book has been a #1 bestseller at Smashwords for several weeks. How did you build up your readership? To reach Number 1, you must have worked very hard.

For better or worse, I tried a couple of strategies out of the gate that seemed to help me gain some traction.  My intent was to have a plan and stick to it, but not so hard that I wouldn’t adjust my approach if a challenge cropped up. A few pieces of my original plan were:

1. I first strove for solid local coverage. My local and regional media, plus many of the people I work with and know in my life, were kind enough to get on board and give early support. Some blogs covered my book and I gave out a boatload of free copies to folks who showed even the slightest inkling of interest in reading my book.

2. I tried to release my stories on Smashwords when new content was staying on SW’s most hit pages the longest. Among the myriad of jobs I’ve held, I'm a web manager so I have a bit of background in this.

3. Surrounding the novel, I created an ecosystem of free stories and a novella which I am happy to let readers enjoy without cost hoping they enjoy them and would perhaps pay a couple bucks for "On The Gathering Storm", my feature-length novel. Also, inside this ecosystem, I tied the cover designs for all the books together with a consistent look and feel -- instantly creating a brand that readers have told me they recognize from website to website. I've been a graphic designer for years and years so this is something I have some knowledge about as well. I tied the look to my website, Twitter page and blogger profile and started hitting everywhere on the web with regulars who didn’t tell me to suck lemons. A few did. Most did not.

4. I gave my novel away for free early -- long enough to get traction and move it up the lists in terms of gross downloads.  This also got lots of eyeballs on pages, then bouncing over to my blog and website. A few solid reviews helped immensely.

On The Gathering Storm has enjoyed some great reviews. I see on your website, you write about building suspense. Could you share some tips for other Indie writers?

There are so many talented writers out there so for me to play expert here is nothing short of hilarious.  I will say that, as a reader, I like to be so engrossed in a scene and the flow of a book that any point askew may threaten to drag me up to the surface of reality. Don’t let a silly type-o slip past you in the editing stages. Don’t give five details when one or two better ones will do. Don’t forget to pay attention to language: how long is your sentence? Should it be shorter and choppier if this is supposed to be a tense moment? Or do I need to lengthen it to slow down my reader’s heartbeat a bit. Just as a comedy can’t have solid laughs for forty-five minutes without some heart attacks in the aisles, a suspenseful narrative needs to take a break from the chills.

How did your background prepare you for writing this novel?
Every character in On The Gathering Storm is based on someone I know or have known and our heroine, Hannah, is a composite of some powerful, yet damaged women. I lived and worked in Victoria, BC and wished to set the novel here for two reasons: One, I was intimately familiar with the pace, way of life and geography of my story so I didn’t have to think about that too much and could concentrate on the guts of the tale. And two, nothing beats the metaphor of an island surrounded by churning waters and roiling cloud banks to conjure up the notion of being alone in a battle against the whole world.

Do you think some genres are better suited for eBooks than others?
Nope! I’m discovering that eBooks have such a ridiculous ease and versatility that I don’t imagine I will ever buy another paperback or hardcover. At least not in this lifetime. I make no promises about any of my future, reincarnated selves.

How will you follow up this novel?
I love and hate this question because I don’t want to come off as mysterious but I also don’t want to give too much away too early. I also want readers who’ve enjoyed my stories to know that I have quite a number of things at various stages of completion.

Next up is THALO BLUE, a suspense/paranormal trilogy that is in the final editing stages. Artwork and proofing is coming along and I hope to release it soon.  It has more overt weirdness than On The Gathering Storm and I would liken it mostly to a Dean Koontz book in terms of pacing and style. I’m very pleased with it and excited to share it.

What are your writing habits? How do you get time to work?
I’m both blessed and cursed to have a loving family who all sleep hard and long while I get up and roam the house in the dark to stir my creative milk and hit a few letters on the keyboard.  I say cursed because I have a day job which has challenges of its own and I simply do not get enough sleep, nor do I particularly like the taste of coffee. What? A writer who doesn’t drink coffee?

Where are your books available?
E-only at the moment. I just haven’t seen a strong enough demand to warrant a print run. I may consider some kind of print-on-demand option for those hold outs who are ten thousand miles away and want a hard copy. You can find my current catalogue (plus the upcoming trilogy, THALO BLUE, when it arrives) at all the major outlets: Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, B&N, Sony, Diesel, Kobo...the five and dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

Your website design is terrific. Did you do that?
Am I blushing a little? Kind of you to say.  I feel it’s important to have a strong visual identity in all author materials. The big publishers spend loads on great covers and websites for their leading authors. We indie kids should strive for the same end of the swimming pool.  It’s much harder for us because good creative is expensive. And it should be if it’s good quality. I find it a shame when a good book has a lousy cover or a captivating author has an ugly website and a cheeseball polaroid glam shot of himself in a Bart Simpson t-shirt.  Quite frankly, I feel it makes it less likely that an author’s book will get a fair chance at capturing the reader’s attention.

Indie authorship is so different now. We have to be everything. Not just writers, but graphic designers, marketers, website coders, and shameless self-promoters no matter how distinct the bad taste of tweeting and talking about yourself.

How do your other books relate to On The Gathering Storm? Are they in the same vein?
I get asked a lot about “The Night Walk Men” because, on the surface, it seems so different from the others, a very Neil Gaiman-esque little tale with a holier-than-thou narrator. It’s a novelette billed as a short story and is really the prologue to a longer novel series about these mythic-laden, ages-old figures who walk the earth and dole out their own brand of justice. This series is ongoing and has its foundation in a certain realm of otherworldly-ness but it will be telling stories about people in everyday life, just as Hannah is living what I would call a real life in “On The Gathering Storm”. “Shed is my novella which is getting stellar feedback from folks who seem to adore the two young boys striving for normalcy in its pages. They come up against evil in two forms: earthly, their evil step-dad, and otherworldly, some middle-of-the-night visitors who give readers the absolute creepie-crawlies.

That’s where my writing seems to dwell: halfway or three-quarters focused on sharing the lives of real people and the rest, in how those real folks come crashing into something unimaginable.

What advice would you give other Smashwords authors?
Don’t wait. I won’t get rich with my books, won’t be able to quit my day job and earn a living at it. But, one day I decided that if even five or ten people that aren’t my parents or siblings --or the fella I run into at the water cooler-- read my books and got something out of them, then they were worth the blood of writing them.  I’ve met such kind and generous folks, writers, readers, critics, bloggers, web administrators who have helped and inspired me to keep going. You will too.

Is it cold where you are? I’m in Miami, so we can only tell the season has changed by what sports are on TV. How does your locale influence your writing?
It’s cold in this room. Two A.M.  Furnace won’t be switched on until at least November and the eco-friendly monitor doesn’t throw enough heat to catch my bare feet on the hardwood. I will wrap this up shortly before y’all get bored...and before I catch cold.

And, speaking of boredom.  I get bored reading an author who only writes about authors. Or a writer who has all of his stories set in the same place. There are some who do this well, but my goal is to have my stories take place in all kinds of locales. I have travelled and lived all over, and am not the sort to take a cruise line or a bus trip when I leave home, so I get to know the local people, hangouts and ways of life. I think so much good literature is about the humanity of all of us and the setting is usually window dressing with little consequence on the meat of it. I have a cracking little novelette in the works that takes place in the dead of winter in a suburb that gets several feet of snow. But “On The Gathering Storm” takes place during an unseasonable heat wave on Vancouver island so, clearly, I’m all over the place in terms of setting.

Whatever the setting or weather, I believe an author needs to take charge of it. I don’t like when reviewers say that the weather or setting in a particular book behaves like another character. Well, no, that’s hyperbole to fill copy. Character is character. But expert setting and environmental detail can definitely add to or subtract from a story. I think my first exposures of this came with King’s Delores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game tandem books. It was genius how he tacked the two books together with a solar eclipse in nineteen-sixty-whatever, despite the fact that the leads were so different and the style of the books was so different.

Anything else to add?
For me, writing is the thing. It’s the main event. Sharing my books with people and learning that they’ve mined something from my strange and often bewildering imagination is at once gratifying and so humbling. I would like to sincerely thank any and all of you who have read my work, whether you paid a couple bucks or took one of the free stories. Please, mi casa es su casa. I would love for you to stop by my website and pull up a chair for a virtual cup of tea. I would thank you in person if I could, and for those of you who have enjoyed my words, I will keep them flowing for as long as I can. All my thanks, Neil, for this opportunity to speak with you and your readers.

Jason also offers his book Road Markers as a free download.


  1. Great job Jason! To any of you who haven't downloaded one of Jason's books-- what the hell are you waiting for?

  2. Jason- Great interview. Full of great information and very inspiratonal. Best of luck.

  3. Thanks, Mark and Sean! Always great to hear feedback for one of these spotlight interviews. It feels a little awkward for me to be the centre of attention--even for a moment--so hopefully, other folks can get some value out of my words.

    All my best,
    Jason McIntyre

  4. By the way...Kick-ass trailer man!



  5. Wow, thanks Sean!

    Jason McIntyre