In this episode, Adam Lane Smith, whose first book just became a CLFA finalist for Book of the Year, has had a Number 1 Bestseller on Amazon and two Number 1 New Releases shares his secrets to creating both fiction and non-fiction books quickly while working as a psychotherapist and raising a young family. He also funds his books with Kickstarter and in this episode he shares his secrets to how he does it!
Books by Adam Lane Smith
Amazon Search “Adam Lane Smith” or www.adamlanesmith.com
Video of Adam’s Kickstarter Campaign that paid more than he asked for
For more help writing your own book
(Free Bestseller Book-Writing Blueprint, How to Create a Fast & Easy Roadmap to Success
3 Key Points
You have enough time to write a book, you just have to maximize your time and be efficient with it.
When you take two things that people love and put them together to create a story, people will not only buy it but they will help you fund it.
Create a 1-2 minutes video that talks about the problem and how your book or books fix it and that is how to get people to help fund your project.
[0:51] Adam Lane Smith, whose first book just became a CLFA finalist for Book of the Year, has had a Number 1 Bestseller on Amazon and two Number 1 New Releases. He writes both fiction and non-fiction and is currently completing a trilogy he ran on Kickstarter.
[1:18] Adam is a practicing psychotherapist so he doesn’t use his actual name much online, so no one can explicitly search him out.
Ellen said, he did a good job of hiding because she didn’t know.
[2:10] What caught Ellen’s attention was how productive Adam is as an author.
How much do you write and what are you writing?
[2:27] For the past 3 years, he’s been able to write one day a week, Saturday’s from 6 am to 2 or 3 in the afternoon. He works two jobs: one as a therapist, he commutes, he has two small children, and in the middle of that he tries to write his book.
He has created several books that way in a year. He has written 3 or 4 a year that way and it was slow and painful.
Recently he’s been able to jump up to 3 or 4 days a week, in his spare time, in breaks and lunch hours. He writes about 20,000 words a week, and he edits about 18-20,000 words a week.
To anybody saying they don’t have the time to write, this should be inspirational.
[3:33] His son is three, and his daughter is 1 ½-really young kids.
He started when his son was born, trying to learn the craft of writing when he had no idea what he was doing and learning to change diapers was challenging.
[4:03] What works best for you?
The reason he is able to write more now is that he has dictation software called Dragon Anywhere that allows him to dictate. If he’s sitting in his office for twenty minutes he can whip out his phone and dictate for that time.
The human brain can process 150 words per minute but it’s much harder if you’re writing. And dialogue is actually much faster when you’re speaking it out loud because you can hear when it sounds too formal or inappropriate. It’s a lot easier to clean up the dialogue.
Being able to utilize his phone instead of the mentality that he has to carry his laptop with him to work, and he can only write on his laptop and being willing to put down 500 words only at a time three or four times a day has made a big difference.
[5:21] How do you keep your thinking straight so you can do it in such a short amount of time?
He has a very organized outlining process, and it’s not to the obsessive levels some might think. They take about two hours per outline. He starts out with a couple of questions:
What’s going to happen?
How do I want the story to progress?
Who are some of the main players?
The antagonist and their goals first to determine what will drive ¾ of the book, and then build the protagonist goals and how they are going to conflict with the antagonist’s goals.
Then he goes through point by point, and he writes a short three or four paragraphs for each scene on what’s going to happen setting details, the cast of characters there, some action points on what’s going to happen. And if he’s feeling inspired, a snippet of dialogue that sounds kind of cool.
He throws all that into Evernote, and he runs with it through the week. And he looks at it every once in a while. When he’s got a scene coming up, he pops open Evernote, he looks at his upcoming scene chart, and he asks, “What’ would be fun to throw into that scene?”
If he only has a few minutes, he may not have time to write, but he can start daydreaming about it and what the scene is going to look like. He does that two or three times and when he’s ready to start writing, he’s got the daydreaming locked in, he’s got a couple of cool pieces that he can connect, and it goes great.
[7:08] What about for non-fiction?
It’s almost the same. He daydreams. He asks himself, “What would I like to say in this chapter?”
What are 2,3 or 4 main sentences he wants to throw in there?
And then, how do they weave together. It makes a lot of sense when you do it, it sounds kind of weird when you say it. You have to maximize your spare minutes in the day.
A lot of people think they don’t have time but you have plenty of time to get on Facebook and watch Netflix and zone out. We have time vampires, but if you can learn to maximize your efficiency in your day, you’ll get so much more done.
[8:11] How do you come up with such weird ideas for your stories?
His latest book is Maxwell Cain: Burrito Avenger about a cop who gets fired for doing his job so he goes on a killing spree and kills a whole group of criminals out of revenge for his burrito, which is as weird as you can get.
He just takes a couple of things that other people find fun, and he smashes them together and finds ways that they might fit. He had just watched John Wick (a 2014 American neo-noir action thriller)- a cool revenge story where a guy gets hurt or upset and decides to take down the entire Mafia out of revenge. In John Wick, it’s a dog, in Adam’s story, it’s a burrito. People love burritos. People love revenge stories and there you have it.
Ellen added, creativity is taking two ideas and putting them together in a new way.
Adam continued, if you find something that appeals to a wide enough audience and find a second thing that that audience also enjoys, maybe something that is audience adjacent, so you can mesh them together and overdo the hype when you talk about it, people will eat it up.
If you don’t know what the fun parts are, ask your market, “What are your two or three favorite things about X?” whatever your topic is.
[10:21] Do you ever get into perfectionism like so many authors do?
His first book took three years to write. And he wrote one of his most recent books in ten consecutive days start to finish, and the next one after that was even fewer days to complete.
He thinks it’s a problem for most first-time authors. When he gets questions from authors, they usually ask, “How do I finish? I can’t get through my first draft… it’s such awful wording, “Why can’t I do this?” The problem is that they are not trusting their process. They think if they edit as they go….
Ellen said, “Ugh”
Adam replied “Exactly!” If you edit as you go, you will NEVER finish! You’ll spend all your time redoing what you have already done.
It’s a craft. He likens it to pottery. A potter throws a big lump of clay onto the wheel. And then they begin molding and shaping it. There are the big chunks they take off and the smaller ones. They refine it. They have a process they follow-same with writing. But authors can’t go buy the clay, they have to create it. That’s the first draft. You are not shaping your first draft. The editing is where you make it into a book.
Adam and Ellen know that because that is what they do. But first-time authors get stuck in the trap of thinking they have to have a book by the end of their first draft. But all you really have to do is have a mass of usable material. And you can then rewrite, sentence by sentence, at least you finished it.
Ellen added that when you do an outline first, that makes it a lot easier too because you can organize it in some way where it’s more manageable.
[13:37] How do you finish a draft?
By trusting the process. He writes the entire first draft. Then he takes a day or two off and starts editing, and he cleans up the absolute mess first. He cleans the sentences, piece by piece.
He varies the sentence structure. He doesn’t worry about typos. He shaves off the big chunks of clay.
Then, he does a second pass, and he adds bigger words, more polishing, and cleans up the dialogue.
Then, on the third draft, he proofreads it and makes sure it’s beautiful. He might proof it twice.
Then he sends it to beta readers, and he disregards everything they said.
He and Ellen laugh because she has done that too. But, on occasion, she has also had some people do a fabulous editing job on it.
Then he does a fourth edit and takes some of their suggestions under advisement, and he’ll do targeted rewrites.
If every beta reader made the same negative comment, he’ll make a change about that.
If everybody loved a character, he might add another scene for that character.
Then he ships it to a professional editor. They send it back and he does a fifth editing draft.
Then he does two or three more proofreading passes
So, it’s done to the best of his ability at the time. That’s why he doesn’t worry about his first draft; he reads it at least eight times. He’s got to get that first draft done, and then go through his process or he would never publish anything.
[16:27] Ellen added she learned early on. That everyone has an opinion, and you have to understand that’s all it is an opinion. You need a screening process in your own mind.
When Ellen was in the music business, she had one song and there was one word every Artist and Repertoire (A & R) personal hated. So, they changed it, but unless it’s pretty unanimous, you have to let it go. You can’t appeal to everyone.
A professional author told Adam one of his books was worthless and he needed to remove his main character and rewrite it. But, he liked it so he kept it and it turned out to be a finalist for book for the year! You’ll never appeal to everybody. Don’t let one or two opinions derail you.
That’ why you need at least 5 or 6 beta readers.
[18:11] How did you become a finalist?
Someone loved his book and nominated it. It kept going through and he was flabbergasted he made it with some great authors.
It was a great honor.
[19:03] The first book for a lot of authors is their best book. They had years to think of the first one and then the second one, people say “it’s not as deep as the first one.”
Everyone is different’ creativity is an interesting thing.
First books usually do quite well if you know how to market them.
Adam said, we have so much time with our first one, so that makes a lot of sense.
Ellen added, if you are feeling depressed by that, don’t worry, because her first book was not her best!
[21:17] How did you fund your books on Kickstarter?
On the first one, he got $2,500 and it covered his costs, which was great. He put up another series. He had an artist make a little sketch of the characters, some concept art and did a video. He only asked for $1500 but made three times that so it ended up funding all 3 books with some extra. When you take two things that people love, they can’t take the money out of their pockets fast enough!
Adam suggests writing the first draft before doing a Kickstarter campaign. It doesn’t have to be edited, but you want to be able to say “The book is already written.” That makes a huge difference to people.
And it’s to your benefit as well, because you don’t want to be stressed out having to get it written. It kills your inspiration. He asked for the money for cover art, formatting, editing, proofreading for ending up getting it for all three books.
But he made a mistake on his first book, setting the delivery date too early-three months, this one he gave himself six months.
[23:07] How did you market the Kickstarter campaign?
It’s all who you know. As long as you can get people to talk about it online, get people to post it on their blogs, it can work.
He started the campaign; He recorded a two-minute video on his phone in his basement. He focused on why his books would be different. He focused on a problem in the genre, and how his book solved it. Then he talked about how his books were going to be awesome and that seemed to do it.
He had a 75% conversion rate from people who watched the video to people who backed the project.
[23:48] How did you record the video?
He recorded the video in his basement; it does not have to be a huge production, it wasn’t even edited. He talked for a minute and a half or two minutes.
Go on Kickstarter and search for Knight of the Blood Cross to find it.
(It’s at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burritoavenger/gideon-ira-knight-of-the-blood-cross)
He’s also there under “Adam Lane Smith”
The first one he did didn’t take off. He talked the blurb on the back of the book and how cool it was going to be. The difference in the second one was talking about the problem in the genre and how his books made it better.
Ellen added there’s no excuse because the #1 issue for authors is that they don’t have the money to publish.
[25:44] Have you used Kickstarter for non-fiction?
Adam said, “Not yet” but it seems easier because you don’t need to worry as much about the flow of a story. You just need a good proofreader. Cover art is also not as hard to get for non-fiction; you don’t need some awesome character on the cover with huge guns and explosions.
But it’s easier to get people’s attention when it’s something you can really hype. So, if you can hype your non-fiction in some way. It can work.
Recap Kickstart Step:
List the problem.
Describe how your book fixes the problem.
Describe how awesome your book is going to be.
Let people know why people should want it.
[26:50] Closing thoughts:
Finish your first draft. So many people tell Adam they are going to be an author, and they never finish their first draft. He watches them struggle for years-even when he gives them the process. But, when you finish the first draft, the urgency takes over because you have a first draft sitting there, and you think “I could be publishing this!” Then urgency and motivation n skyrocket.
And Ellen suggested that if they need help she has plenty of ways to help them. (www.BooksBusinessAbundance.com)
[27:36] How can people find your books?
On Amazon, but look up Adam Lane Smith, not Adam Smith or you’ll get a dead guy who wrote about capitalism.
You can search for Burrito Avenger.
Or, on his website, www.AdamLaneSmith.com all his books are listed there.
After listening to the podcast, I wondered what the problems would be with a genre in fiction and Adam was nice enough to answer it for me. You can find his answer to that question in our Facebook Group at:
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