Science fiction and fantasy author Michael La Ronn published his first book in 2014. Just a scant two years into his writing career, Michael has published over a dozen novels in five different series, including a collaboration, along with non-fiction, poetry, and an Italian translation! This week, I chat with Michael about his Decision Select books (Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories for adult readers), how he learned to dictate clean first drafts of his books, and his YouTube Channel, “Author Level Up with Michael La Ronn.”
“All roads lead to John L. Monk.”
Dictate Your Book: How to Write Faster, Better, and Smarter by Monica Leonelle
Michael’s career was kick-started in 2012 by a vicious bout of food poisoning that landed him in the hospital for a month. Stuck in bed staring at the wall and watching terrible television made him realize what he most wanted to do with his life.
“I swore on that hospital bed that I would become an author and that nothing would stop me and that I would be successful at it. And when I got out, when I recovered — you know, everything was fine — I devoted myself to it and I started studying. And right around that time is when I found Joanna Penn, and I just never looked back.”
After he got out of the hospital, Michael spent two years studying up on indie publishing and craft, and released his first book, How to Be Bad, in January of 2014, a Decision Select book that allows readers to make the decisions and choose the path the story takes. Writing that book, Michael says, was a crash course in writing three books in one.
Since then, he’s added a second book to the Decision Select brand, Festival of Shadows, starring a teddy bear protagonist; the Eatenseries, featuring vegetable protagonists; the Android X series; The Last Dragon Lord series; and the Modern Necromancy series that he’s co-authored with Justin Sloan.
Michael’s also the man in front of the camera in his YouTube channel Author Level Up with Michael La Ronn, for which he’s produced over 100 videos for authors covering writing craft, business, marketing, interviews, and author product/services demos and reviews.
In April of 2016, four years after Michael’s hospital bed oath, he was interviewed by Joanna Penn on The Creative Penn podcast. 🙂
Modern Necromancy: A Collaboration
“I think the way forward is working together.”
Michael has always felt drawn to fringe characters, nontraditional underdogs like dragons, necromancers, androids, and even teddy bears.
Shortly after the publication of his Decision Select teddy bear story Festival of Shadows, he was alerted by fellow writer John L. Monk to check out this other author, Justin Sloan, who had put out a similar book called Teddy Bears in Monsterland.
They reached out to each other and had a good chuckle over the unexpected coincidence, and soon started throwing together ideas for merging their teddy bear universes. While that idea didn’t pan out, another one did: Modern Necromancy, an urban fantasy about an adventurer set on bringing his fiance back from the dead.
Overall, Michael says the collaboration process was pretty smooth and easy. He and Justin worked well together, hashing out a story that suited both their careers and portfolios before beginning the actual drafting process. They had a few technical issues in the beginning, but once they switched the first-draft process to Google Docs, it was smooth sailing from then on.
Death Marked and Death Bound were published October and November of this year, and the third book, Death Crowned, available for pre-order now, will go on sale February 2017.
Author Level Up
Michael La Ronn’s decision to start the Author Level Up channel on YouTube came from a desire to give back to a community that he says has been so generous to him as a new author. He’s very appreciative of the help he’s received in his career, and wants to share his experience and knowledge to help the authors coming up behind him.
It was a bit of a challenge getting started. Michael admits he’s very shy and introverted and that social events make him nervous, but he wanted to break out of his comfort zone by diving into the deep end.
“That’s where I live. I live in the deep end. You know, if I’m not doing something that’s walking the edge of either being awesome or being a train wreck, then I’m not doing my life’s work. So I always rise to challenges.”
He says it took him a lot of time and practice to get comfortable with the video medium. He spent a lot of time tweaking the process and scrapped plenty of videos until he got the quality he wanted, but he feels it was well worth the time spent.
There’s an advantage to connecting with your audience in an audio-visual medium versus plain text, Michael says. The audience gets to hear you, see you, pick up on your personality quirks and nuances, become your friend.
The best part, he says, is announcing book releases to your YouTube channel can be as effective as announcing a new book to an email list. The notifications delivered by YouTube are more dynamic and attention-grabbing than a text-based email.
A few tips for fiction authors on YouTube:
- Be clear about who you want to attract, then create content they’re going to enjoy.
- Regular and consistent content is crucial. If you can’t deliver regularly, don’t do it at all.
- Announce your new book releases!
- Use a video from your channel to personalize your email sign-up page.
Advice to New Authors
Don’t look at what other people are doing and think that it’s the right way or the only way to do something. You’ve got to follow your gut instinct to discover what works best for you. Make sure you’re having fun. If you’re not having fun, there’s no point.
Michael stepped out of his comfort zone to learn how to dictate clean first drafts of his books, create a YouTube channel with over 100 videos, and collaborated on a three-book series with an author he met over the internet! Are any of those things new or scary to you? Walk the edge between awesome and train wreck and give yourself a good scare. Here are some Step Ones to get started:
- DICTATION: Pick up Monica Leonelle’s book Dictate Your Book or check out Michael La Ronn’s videos on Author Level Up to learn about the process.
- YOUTUBE: Record little practice videos using your web cams for your eyes and ears only, just to get the hang of talking on camera.
- COLLABORATE: Email that pal you’ve talked about collaborating with forever and say, “Hi, is this the year we do this?”
What do you like best about your favorite YouTube channels and why?
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