We welcome today Kevin Bohacz, author of the bestselling book, Ghost of the Gods. Kevin is here to talk about how he reached bestselling status and some tips on how you can do it too.
Hi Kevin, I am honored to have you at Virginia Beach Publishing Examiner, especially since your first book, Immortality, hit #1 at Amazon recently. Can we begin by having you tell us about your second book, Ghost of the Gods (which is riding on the bestselling coattails of Immortality I'm happy to say)? Can you tell us what happens in Ghost of the Gods?
Kevin: It was really exciting to see Immortality stage a comeback. When it was first published it was a #1 bestseller on and off from 2007 to 2012 when it started to drift off the bestseller lists. To see it stage a comeback to #1 and hit the best ranking ever was very gratifying. Ghost of the Gods immediately hit the bestseller’s lists as well when it was released and became the #1 hottest new techno-thriller on Amazon in March.
Immortality and the sequel Ghost of the Gods were created to entertain but there is a philosophical side to them as well. They are scientific but not to the same extent as a science fiction novel. The epic story contains a lot of action and suspense but at their essence these two novels are about people and so they are about love, triumph over terrible adversity, and the human spirit.
The combined story also has deep philosophical underpinnings or subthemes which are messages, but again, since I believe the essence of any novel is to be a thrilling read, the ideas remain an integral part of the mosaic and so do not detract from the entertainment as attested to in the professional reviews of both these novels. Example: Publisher’s Weekly STARRED review: “Bohacz provides mind-bending portrayals of factions vying for power and reflections on the essence and fragility of humanity. But philosophical concerns never obtrude on the fast-paced plot…”
In these philosophical subthemes I grapple with the big questions: what are we, where did we come from, and is there a purpose behind existence. I also grapple with the fallout from these themes and the great contradictions such as why society as a whole displays this self-destructive seeming disregard for life, our fragile environment, love, and sprit—while if you ask any individual in the same society they will tell you they regard all these things as important and in fact try to act accordingly in their own lives.
What was your first reaction when you saw Immortality hitting #1 in techno-thrillers?
Kevin: Wow, that first time was a long time ago… In 2007 the paperback edition hit bestseller status on Amazon then a kindle edition was released in 2008. By the summer of 2008 Immortality was constantly ranking #1 in several of the bestselling genre categories under Amazon Kindle including sci-fi categories as well as techno-thriller. It also had a consistent overall ranking across all books and genres of better than #500, and many times hit #255 or better for weeks at a time. At the same time, the print edition continued to sell briskly and was constantly ranked in the top 25 in several genres.
Reaching the #1 spot was exciting but what it meant did not hit me right away. This tangible confirmation of my writing took quite awhile to fully sink in. My wife, Mazelle, was proud of me and constantly kept telling me so but it really took a couple of years for me to realize that I had done it and that I could make a living as a writer. Immortality stayed on the bestseller lists from 2007 through late 2012, which was a very long run. It then staged a comeback in early 2014 hitting the highest ranking ever and again topping the charts.
We all would love to know how you made that happen for you. First, we all know that book covers are book buyers' first impressions. Who made your covers and did you have any input on design?
Kevin: I am both a literary artist and a visual artist. I designed the cover though I did not do all the artwork myself. The cover symbolically represents the evolution of humankind into a genetically altered biological-machine hybrid, which is one of the basic ideas behind transhumanism, and an aspect of the story. That’s not to say that I think transhumanism is a good thing… you will just have to read the story to find out.
The second thing I always tell authors is make sure that book blurb is a show stopper. Was it easy for you to write the blurb?
Kevin: I write novel length stories… writing a short blurb was painful! It is not my forte at all. I got lucky with Ghost of the Gods since Publisher’s Weekly had given it a STARRED review before publication. Kirkus and other professional critics also gave the novel high praise prior to publication. I knew from past experience that what the professional critics say has a bigger impact than a blurb written by the author because readers trust that independent source. So I simply used what the critics had to say about the book and the results were better than any blurb I had struggled with in the past. I knew from prior experience that this would be the case. Years after publication, Immortality was given a STARRED review by Publisher’s Weekly, I removed my blurb and replaced it with what Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and others had to say. The results were better than great.
Do you believe the price has anything to do with both books being on Amazon bestseller lists?
Kevin: Immortality was originally priced at $9.99 for the Kindle and $14.95 for the soft cover. At this price it was on the bestseller lists from 2007 to 2012. It was in 2013 at the suggestion of my agent that I lower the price of the Kindle edition to $0.99 to stoke the fire for Ghost of the Gods. Lowering the price had little effect on sales. In 2014 when I released Ghost of the Gods both books took off. So it’s actually hard to stay whether Ghost of the Gods is riding on Immortality’s coat tails or the reverse. Ghost of the Gods is competitively priced for its genre at $3.99 for the Kindle and $14.95 soft cover. I looked at the price that all the successful techno-thrillers and sci-fi novels were selling at and priced Ghost of the Gods in the same range. So in the final analysis I’d have to say I do not think price is a critical factor unless it is wildly out of step with the other successful books in its genre. In the very near future I plan on raising the price of Immortality to the same price as Ghost of the Gods.
How about promotion? Do you think promotions had anything to do with it?
Kevin: I think promotion definitely did have a very important role. There is no other logical explanation. That said, I cannot find any one article that had a huge effect. Publisher’s Weekly did a full page interview with me including photos. Some of the articles written by bloggers were picked up by major newspapers. Publisher’s Weekly awarded a STARRED review to Ghost of the Gods and published the review. Kirkus and other professional reviewers gave the book glowing reviews that were also published. So we had a lot of things going on both long before and after the books took off in sales. I was left scratching my head because nothing promotional happened on the day the books took off at the same time! I think what I owe this success to is: (a) writing a story people love, (b) great reviews by the critics (c) promotional stories about the books, and (d) Amazon merchandising.
What's the bottom line? What would you say to authors who would love to be wearing your Amazon bestselling author's shoes?
Kevin: I write because it is my passion, my essence. If I had to pay people for the privilege of writing I would. So my advice is write without a profit motive. Do not write because you want riches or fame or even a very modest income. The money will come if it comes but focusing on money will take your eye from what really matters which is first and foremost to write a book people will love. Once you have your book you have two options as I see it whether self-published or a publisher buys your book. You can spend as little as possible to promote until it proves that it will pay for itself. To me this is like tossing your book into the winds of chance to be discovered. I have two friends who are famous writers who did just this for their first foray into self-publishing and their excellent books went nowhere! So if you want to build a career you must be ready to spend a lot of time and money promoting your book. This means real advertising with broad reach not book signings. This means endlessly hawking your book. This means truly believing in your book enough so that you take the real risks... I guess it all boils down to determination as the critical ingredient, the spice that makes the meal. You must be dogged and unwavering. If you have a good book and are willing to stop at nothing, you can end up with bestsellers… I did.
What's next for you, Kevin? More books I hope!
Kevin: I have two books underway. One is titled Dream Signs and it should be on sale before the end of this year. Dream Signs while not a sequel is a continuation of the themes and cosmology begun in my first novel, Dream Dancers, which was about the unexpected power of lucid dreams. The second novel I am working on is The Bridge and it is unlike all the other novels I have written, because it will draw on some events from my life. It will be a highly emotional ride and also unlike all my prior novels it is written in first person past tense instead of third person intimate past tense.
Pick up your copy of Ghost of the Gods at Amazon.