Eat that frog and other advice for prospective full-time authors – An interview with full-time author Chris Fox

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shutterstock_11641861Five years ago Chris worked a crappy collections job and was 90 pounds heavier with no dating prospects in sight. Life was a pretty grim place, and he decided that it was time to turn it around. He thought enough was enough. He taught himself how to develop software apps for the iphone and worked his way up to a San Francisco startup company. In the first three months the company managed to get his app onto the Colbert Report. But, he realized that software wasn’t enough so he started writing. Writing was always a passion of his ever since he was six years old, and he began working more and more into that direction. Early on he thought that software was where it was at, but when he saw that he could make money from writing he quickly abandoned the corporate ship. As of Monday, February 1, 2016 Chris has been a full time author. Here’s my interview with Chris Fox:

  1. How have these past few days been for you as a full time author?
    • Beyond amazing. It’s just surreal. The difference in mindset is insane. When I was working my full time job it was always catch-as-catch-can. I would get in as much writing each day as I could. And I would try to deal with all the marketing related stuff that goes along with writing. But with having that 10-12 hour a day startup job it was always frantic. It was always running around in circles. Now I can spend as much time as I want just thinking about what I’m going to do: scheduling writing sprints, brainstorming or watching things like Star Wars for inspiration and taking notes. Anything that I can think will help me write a better story or a better non-fiction book I just do it. Granted it’s week one so there’s still that “new car smell”, but so far, everything is going pretty awesome.
  2.  People that will be reading this will be really interested in becoming full time authors just like you. In order to do that you need to generate revenue. So how are you currently generating revenue?
    • Ebooks: 60% of revenue – mostly from Amazon, but I do have a good chunk that I make from Apple.
    • Audio Books: 40% of revenue – Audio has been extremely beneficial. Part of my success with audio is that my books are typically very long. I tested this hypothesis out recently and released a box set that has all of the books in it [from the Deathless Series] so it’s about 41 hours long. People on Audible are all over that because of the way the credit system works. I’m selling almost a 100 copies a day.
  3.  What got you into audio?
    • I showed up on Kboards, and a few people mentioned audio. I didn’t think much of it. Simon Whistler at Rocking Self Publishing was writing an ebook called “Audiobooks for Indies”, which is phenomenal. He needed beta readers for it so I volunteered. I read it, and it seemed really easy to make an audio book. So I basically did what Simon said in the book, went to ACX, got my narrator all set up. The next thing I knew “No Such Thing as Werewolves” was on Audible. From start to finish that took about 5 weeks. It goes much faster now because I know what I’m doing. I made every mistake I could make. So you could probably get it done in a month if you’re doing the right kind of work. One big step that I didn’t know about is that you have to proof the audio. So your narrator finishes it (and my book is 14 hours long) – so I sat there listening to my book for 14 hours with a pen and a pad of paper writing down the errors for the narrator to go fix. Overall, it’s fascinating, and it’s not nearly as daunting as I thought. I definitely recommend audio as a good channel.
  4.  Things are going great for you now that you’re a full time author. However, there was a time when things weren’t so great. Can you share a story with one of your worst moments as an aspiring author?
    • In 2010, I had one of those moments where you look at your life and you say to yourself “Oh my god, how could I let it come to this?” I was 90 pounds heavier, no dating, living with a bunch of stoner gamers, and we were playing World of Warcraft every day after we got off of our minimum wage jobs. Mind you we were in our late thirties at this point – there’s a time and a place for that and that’s your twenties. We’re a decade past that. So I looked around, and I realized that I didn’t have any real job skills. I didn’t have anything that was going to allow me to escape that, but I was desperate to get out of there. So there was this kind of pain that I hate my life – I can do better than this. I know I’ve got potential. That gave me the fuel necessary to start effecting change. When I first started I realized that there are probably other people that have gone through what I’m going through. I bet they’ve written books about it. So I got out there searching for self help books, and sure enough, a bunch of people had been through what I’ve been through and documented the experience with what to do to get out of it. So I started doing those things.
  5. Were there any specific steps for you that worked well that you’d like to share?
    • I recommend starting incrementally. So you are going to change one thing at a time. I started with my ability to speak. I had become somehow gone from going fairly outgoing to becoming ultra shy. A good day for me was: go to work, don’t talk to anyone, keep my head down, do my job, stand up, leave without saying anything to anybody, and go home. That was a good day. Then I realized – this isn’t good for me socially. So I joined a Toastmasters group with a friend of mine whom also wanted to become a little less timid. What they do is they have you give speeches, and you can choose the topic for your speech or you can do something they call “table topics”. They ask you to get up in front of a crowd and talk about a subject for three minutes that you don’t know you’re going to talk about. At first, it sounded terrifying, but after a few weeks I realized, especially the planned speeches, I’m not too bad at this. I started improving and I won about 40 out of 43 speeches over the course of a year. These ribbons behind me are the awards I got. Also known as the “Wall of Toast”. But I felt really good. There was something I was good at. So I proved to myself that I could make changes.
      • My biggest take away from this story is to get a win as soon possible. It could be: I lost four pounds, I went jogging for the first time, or I showed up to a toastmasters meeting. Then build on that momentum. The next day try to have another win. And the next day have another win. It could be super tiny – like “I did the dishes” is fine. Just something that you feel is good for you, and make sure you do that every day. Then just keep trying to push yourself a little bit at a time. Years will go by and all of a sudden your life will transform.
      • I also recommend Tony Robbins. He talks about the hierarchy of human needs. He discusses six things, and the first four are all about you and your primary desires and needs. But five and six, the most important ones, are growth and contribution.
      • So you’re growing, and then after that you have a responsibility to contribute to the world around you. It’s amazing when you start doing that you realize: “Oh, yea humans are really meant to be doing this stuff.”
  6. At what point did you start taking your writing seriously? When did you realize you could become a full time author?
    • Not until very recently. It was basically the checks showing up that convinced me. January of 2015 was the first month I broke four figures – not just a little over but like $4,500 for that month. Just from writing and audio book sales! This was off the back of one book (“No Such Thing As Werewolves”). I just stood there floored, staring at this money going into my account and realizing that if that’s one book what if I had like 10 books? So that year I was like – “Well, I’ll put out 10 books!” So I wrote seven more and published them to total eight books for 2015. I learned some harsh lessons along the way. That first book (where I was making $4,500) represented the first curve right after release. Then all books will fall into a long tail so you have to kind of keep releasing hits if you want to sustain your income. But there’s always a long tail from every book. You can keep running promotions to prop them back up. So your income is more like a slow, steady rise. It didn’t go up as fast as I had hoped, but it does go up pretty constantly. As long as I keep writing.
  7. Do you recommend writing series for that reason to maintain a consistent income?
    • Know your genre. For the most part I think that is true. I write in series. If you’re writing in sci-fi, fantasy, and thrillers then you’re writing series. If you’re writing romance on the other hand, you may not. A lot of people do, but I know a guy by the name of Rich Amooi, and he writes really cute and funny romantic comedies. Each one is a different cast. So they’re standalone books and they can be read in any order. He doesn’t actually do a series, and he sells really well.
    • Although there is a lot of advice out there to write in a series it’s not necessary. The thing is that people believe things dogmatically. “It worked for me in this instance; therefore, it must work for everyone in all instances.” Even though we all rank in different genres and write for different audiences every one of us is going to have a different experience and result.
  8. So you’ve been pumping out books like a machine this past year. How were you able to juggle writing, a full time job, and your relationship?
    • Mark Twain had a quote about eating frogs. He said (paraphrased): “If you have to eat a frog everyday then make sure it’s the first thing you do.” The point is to always start with the hardest thing that must get done. So when I wake up at 5am I go to the gym, and I work out. After I finish working out I write for an hour. I guarantee that I’m going to hit an X number of words (whatever my words per hour is) in that timeframe. No matter what else happens that day I have that done. So the writing I would do while I was working my full time job would happen on the bus. I would come home from the gym, get ready for work, get onto the bus, and write on the commute until I got into the city. Then I would go work a full time job. At the end of the day if I had any energy left I would write some more. If I didn’t have any energy I would go listen to a podcast or an audio book. I did that every day.
  9. What motivated you through all this?
    • At first I think it was really to impress a girl that I was finishing my first book. But once I finished the first book, and I started looking around to figure out: “What can I do with this thing?” Then I saw that all these indie authors were getting all their books cranked out at record speed. I figured if they can do it then why can’t I? I taught myself to be a software engineer and that worked then surely I could become an author. So I tried it. I followed the recipes laid down by people before me that have been doing it a lot longer. And there are a lot of wise people that can teach you how to do this really well and very quickly if you’re willing to listen. I happened to be willing to listen.
  10. Was there any one that stands out during this time of learning?
    • Yes. He is anonymous. My latest book “Write to Market” is dedicated to him. His name is Mr. Market. I know his first name, but I can’t share it. I don’t even know his last name. His first name could be made up for all I know. But he was very giving and sharing with this information. What he would do is ask really hard questions that would force you to go out and answer yourself. One of the topics he talked about was writing fast. He maintained that if you need to get out a minimum of four books a year if you want to be relevant as an indie author. At the time I told myself that there’s no way I could do that! The best that I could do was two, and that would be an amazing year. Then he asked why? Why is the best you can do is two? Then you start asking yourself that question, and that’s where part of “5,000 Words Per Hour” came from. Then I realized I could do four books a year if I was writing about 5,000 words per hour an hour a day.
  11. How did you keep yourself accountable with all these goals and actions?
    • Discipline begets discipline. If you start working towards a goal and accomplish something it becomes a need. There’s a chemical (endorphins) released in your brain when you accomplish something. You can literally get addicted to achieving things. That’s exactly what happened to me. If had been a little while until I had achieved something then I started feeling bad about myself. So I would go out there and achieve something.
  12. If you could do this all over again is there anything that you would do differently?
    • I would start by learning both craft and marketing simultaneously. Because both of them are going to be equally important to an indie author. When I say craft I mean things like characters, setting, and point of view. Get some really hardcore craft books that will teach you. Then also start looking at how other people are marketing their stuff and emulate it. If you see somebody that has the success you want then study it, and you’ll figure out how to do it.
  13. Are there any resources you can recommend for craft and/or marketing?
    • I would start with Libby Hawker’s “Take off Your Pants” for a general overview of plotting.
    • I would recommend my book “Write to Market” if you want to pick a novel that you know is almost certainly going to sell before you write it. Also check out “5,000 Words Per Hour” and “Lifelong Writing Habit” for ways on how to get your butt into that chair and start cranking out words.
    • For the nuts and bolts of how do to a story well – I would recommend James Scott Bell, anything by him.
    • Character, Emotion & Viewpoint” by Nancy Crest taught me a lot. Sort of the beginnings, middles, and ends.
    • But what you can really do if you’re a new writer is just go to Amazon and do a search for writing books. People will tell what’s good out there. There’s so many good books out there that there’s never been a better time to become a writer.
  14. What is one habit that’s contributed to your success?
    • Write every day. More specifically – do something towards the attainment of your specific goal every single day. I wanted to get in really good shape so I worked out every single day. If you want to be a writer then you need to write every single day. Even if that’s just a blog post. Find a spot in your schedule you can clear and write in that same spot every day.
  15. What are you most excited about right now?
    • Everything!? Just kidding that’s not really a fair answer. Seeing what the next 10 months are going to bring. Now that I have the runway, the time, and the skill to write books that other people will want to read – I want to write a lot of books. I would just love to get another 10 books out by then end of this year and see what that does for my career.
  16. What are your plans for the next few months?
    • I’ll start by publishing “Write to Market”, which I expect will be extremely controversial but also very useful for those willing to read it with an open mind. Then I will finish the experiment that I bring up in “Write to Market”, which is publish my military science fiction. It’s something that I’m writing to market, and if I write and follow everything in “Write to Market” should do pretty well upon release. So I’m going to focus on those two things.
  17. What advice do you have for those of us trying to make it as full time authors?
    • You will want to give up many, many times. You get to a point where you start listening to this voice in your head that says: “I can’t do this”, “I’m going to fail”, “No one around me has ever done anything like this”, or “It’s just not possible.” If you give into that then years are going to pass – let’s say five years. “What could I have done if I actually tried during those five years and had not given up?” Since the time is going to pass anyway don’t listen to the voices that say you can’t accomplish it. Try. Everyday do one thing towards the attainment of whatever crazy goal you have. Whether it’s writing a novel, wanting to lose 100 pounds, or meeting the person of your dreams. Whatever it is, work towards it until you have it, and then once you have it work towards something else.
  18. When does “Write to Market” launch?
    • At this point I just need to finish polishing it a little bit and getting it to my proofreader. Then I’m done. Total time to write and edit – 5 hours.
  19. What’s the best way to reach you?
    • Chris@Chrisfoxwrites.com
  20. A parting piece of advice?
    • Do something fun every day. When you start really getting into this author thing it will consume your life. You’ll live, eat, breathe, and sleep that one thing. It’s OK to a point, but make sure you do something not related now and again. Especially with your significant other.

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4 thoughts on “Eat that frog and other advice for prospective full-time authors – An interview with full-time author Chris Fox”

  1. I am beginning to think that Chris Fox is becoming the Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, or Brian Tracy of the writing world. While I don’t agree with much of what the motivational speaker superstars say I greatly admire Mr Fox’s ability to convey complex production, motivational, and self awareness concepts with the clarity that the big names have mastered.

    One thing that the interview didn’t touch on to any large extent is Mr Fox’s approach to life attitude. In his book, “5,000 Words Per Hour” he has a section near the end that is worth the price of the book along. Here is an excerpt of the Amazon review I made about the book:

    “Right at the back of the book Chris Fox talks about attitude. He uses the term mindset, others use goal visualization; it really doesn’t matter what you call it. To me this is probably the most powerful tool in the book but one that is hard to master unless one is constantly aware of how you are perceiving reality. There has been a vast amount of scientific work done to show that one’s attitude about internal thoughts and feelings, as well as what one might think they are seeing in the external world, has a tremendous effect on life. Change you attitude and your emotions and thoughts change along with it. Changed attitude=changed life.”

    Thank you for doing the interview.

    But may I suggest that you change “perspective” to “prospective” in the headline?

    1. I know, right? Chris is such a wonderful person that’s full of goodness and can really hit home those concepts of mindfulness and motivation. Thank you for your addition as well Rick! His book “5,000 Words Per Hour” is so good – I can’t recommend it enough. Also, noted the edit – thank you!

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