Episode # 71 – Big Writing Projects with J Thorn

In Uncategorized by Julius S9 Comments

JthorncoverJ Thorn takes on big projects. His first novel was 160,000 words, he’s just finished a 10 author collaborative project, he podcast, blogs, and still managed to write a million words. This episode focuses on what it takes to put together a complex co-authored project, as well as touches on box sets, being an entrepreneur, and experimenting in the self-publishing space.

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The Black Fang Betrayal

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Black Fang Betrayal

Great post about the collaborative writing experience by J


Titanic with Zombies

Horror Writers Podcast

Sell More Books Show

Show notes:

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2009 J was reading a lot of fantasy, and just was finding that while the work was great it was never quite what he wanted to read. So he thought, “I’m going to write exactly what I want to read.” He read On Writing, wrote 160,000 words of an epic fantasy and uploaded it. It was terrible. He made many mistakes, and learned a lot. He later took it down when he had learned a lot more about writing.

J had a background in technical writing so wasn’t starting from scratch. He found that things really started taking off in March 2012, while this was the time of the “Kindle Gold Rush.” When that first book did really well (35,000 in a month) he decided to really go into writing hard and wrote a huge amount over the next year.


After that very productive first year, he decided to step things back a little and start connecting with other authors. He wrote less but created some fantastic opportunities for himself, such as the 10 author book collaboration.

J admits that he is wired differently, and he didn’t have a doubt that if he put in the work he could make such a novel happen.

He started by thinking “I want to ask the writers I have read to work on the book.” He wrote to 60 people asking them to take part, writing a custom email to each person, personally asking them to join and why they would be a good part of the project. He got 10 of them to join up, which seems like an amazing conversion rate – he’s not asking for a guest post or something simple, he’s asking them to attach their name to a book!

Mark One Attempt – J started the work by having one author write something, and then have the next read what was written and continue the story. This was problematic because the people further down the chain would have a much harder job of things, having to read more of the already written words, and deal with the complexities created. Each author had to write 5-10k. Another problem was that everything had to be written consecutively, so it would have taken a huge amount of time to get off the ground.

Mark Two Attempt – With Mark One, not really working, J decided to take a different tact, and gave each author their own characters perspective, and told them to write a chapter. They chapters do standalone in a way, but all of the character’s come together at the end as they all had a common goal (they were on a quest). The consecutive writing also sped up the whole process. J himself wrote the introduction, the end, and several interludes, in order to keep the story coherent. J told the author some basic informational about what had to happen, but gave the author of a lot of creative license.

Technical Side

They never talked face to face together, but instead everything was planned and executed through a private Facebook group. As well as writing, this was also vital for organizing the launch plan of the book. On the business side, J had a simple contract from Doracy.com, and distributes the royalties before each authors platforms.

Putting it all Together

There were a few problems with the final compiled book, logical inconsistencies that needed to be fixed. Most of this was discussed beforehand so there wasn’t a lot of work, just a few things that were forgotten. J also asked the authors to make sure that everything was already edited and ready to go. He had the work copy edited and was delighted when the copy editor asked “who was your co-author” – not realizing that it was written with nine authors.

Being an Entrepreneur

J is an entrepreneur as much as he is an author. He says that if you are “creating art and you want to make money from it, you have to be a business person.”

Horror Writers Podcast

J started out doing a solo show talking about his journey into self-publishing. He quickly ran out of interesting topics, so brought on a co-host, Richard Brown. Now they have a much more laid back format. Worth checking out!



Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Julius SEpisode # 71 – Big Writing Projects with J Thorn
  • Kate M. Colby

    This was a fantastic interview! I think my favorite take away line was when J compared self-publishing to working a 40 hour work week and traditional publishing to winning the lottery. That really hit home with me, and that has been my mentality as well ever since I began listening to podcasts like these and reading business books. Thanks for the great show, guys!

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for listening Kate! Glad that you enjoyed the show. Yep, the “put in the work” is a mentality I see time and time again with those who are successfully self-publishing. I’m glad it resonates 🙂

    • Thanks for listening, Kate. Keep writing 😉

  • Thanks Simon! Great talking with you…

    • SimonRSP

      Likewise J! Thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing 🙂

  • Great episode! Some very valuable insights on managing a big collaborative project, I found this really useful. Thanks!

    (Note: missing link to blog post in show notes: http://jthorn.net/7-tips-for-a-successful-collaboration-for-introverts-or-for-people-who-hate-meetings/ )

    • SimonRSP

      Hey Chris, glad to hear, and thanks for providing that link 🙂

  • I think the goal for a lot of writers is to switch the normal 9 to 5 (or in my case dreaded shift work) and work from home. Writing is incredibly taxing mentally and physically. I’m now starting to feel the pinch of the emotional side too… editing and being critiqued (o; I love the frankness of writers like J. and yourself who advocate for the hard work that writing, publishing and working in this field entails as it gives people a realistic view of what they are in for (o:

    • SimonRSP

      It’s hard work, sure, but I’d choose sitting at my desk when I choose over shift work. I guess like many self-employed people, sometimes I have the “oh, I wish I just clocked in and clocked out” thoughts, but really, I wouldn’t trade it.