Episode # 88 – From Podcaster to Fiction Author with Tom Reynolds

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell15 Comments

carlcovernewTom Reynolds is proof that there is no conventional path to becoming a bestselling author. He started out in the tech world, co-created the ongoing hit podcast show, “The Complete Guide to Everything,” and then, after getting laid off from his day job, took six months to write a bestselling novel. This week I chat with Tom to find out how he got from There to Here, and what it takes to be a professional author. Show notes rspcast.com/tomr


Links:

Author Website

Amazon Author Profile Page

Wattpad Author Profile Page

The Complete Guide to Everything Podcast

Twitter

Meta

Mentions:

Wattpad

Audible

How I Wrote Meta

Show notes:

In the Beginning…

…Tom worked as the studio manager for his college television station, directing music videos and commercials for a time, and eventually working for Blip (now defunct), a video website for serialized web content.

Working in an environment surrounded by great creative people stoked Tom’s own creative fires. He had a lot of project ideas — everything from TV shows, web series, books, you name it — but nothing was happening. Out of frustration, he and his friend Tim Daniels decided to just commit to something and get it out into the world. It didn’t have to be a masterpiece, he says. It just needed to be something with a low enough barrier of entry, and something they could actually commit to doing every week. Thus, “The Complete Guide to Everything” weekly podcast show launched in 2009.

As it turned out, the podcast took off, but Blip didn’t…and Tom was laid off in early 2013. It was a big shake-up for him. He loved the people he worked with. He spent a few months interviewing in the tech start-up space in New York with no luck. Out of frustration, he decided to spend the next six months writing a novel.

Meta

Tom didn’t tell anyone he was writing a novel. He didn’t want to be “that guy,” always talking about his book, never finishing it. He decided “come hell or high water” that he would finish. It wasn’t until the second draft was completed and he felt comfortable that it wasn’t “complete garbage,” that Tom told anyone. He didn’t even share the news with his podcast audience until a week before his publication date of “Meta,” his debut YA science fiction novel.

Tom gave himself the goal of selling 10,000 books in one year to decide if he would continue writing. It took him six weeks to hit that number. That’s when he realized he needed to get serious about his writing career.

The Second Wave

Tom started writing “The Second Wave” almost immediately after the release of “Meta,” but it took him a little longer to finish it, a lot of that due, he says, to not really having had a plan to write full-time. He had to take a step back and rethink his story in terms of a series. And at the same time, he was recording the audio book and things were getting busy with his podcast.

The success of the first book meant expectations were high. He started getting a lot of email from “Meta” fans, enthusiastically discussing their theories of plot or characters, and he knew he had to make sure the second book delivered.

It was during this time, Tom says, that he was still learning about his habits as a writer, what he needed as far as deadlines and schedules in order to get things out into the world.

But get it out, he did. “The Second Wave” was released in October of 2014, and is, as of this writing, in the top 3,000 paid in the Kindle Store, the top 100 in three subcategories, with over 120 reviews averaging 4.4 stars.

Wattpad

While Tom attributes the initial push in sales to his loyal podcast audience, he found an unexpected ally in Wattpad, a social reading platform of over 35 million readers. He posted his first book “Meta,” chapter by chapter, catching the attention of a Wattpad staffer, who promoted it. From there, it took off, eventually hitting #1 in Science Fiction on Wattpad. Since then, it’s received over 230,000 reads.

Tom notes that Wattpad is a “fantastic place for getting feedback.” He’s found it to be a very positive environment where comments are both helpful and friendly, and he plans on sharing future work for feedback.

Audible

Tom narrated his own book, an easy decision to make, but not an easy thing to do, he admits.

With an already large existing fan base from his podcast show, his audience expected Tom to narrate his own book…and given that Audible had been such a great sponsor to the show for years, he felt he should record his own audiobook.

The final product ended up being just under six hours of recording, but it took him weeks. As he began narrating, he was horrified to find little mistakes. As a result, recording “Meta” took much longer than he anticipated as he kept having to stop and make notes and corrections.

When asked if he would recommend authors narrate their own books, the short of his long answer is, “Not so much.”

Tom points out that he himself has the knowledge, the equipment, and the experience with audio, and it was still a long and tedious process for him…so much so that he still has yet to begin recording the sequel. There’s a reason professional narrators aren’t cheap, he says. Authors really have to ask themselves where their time is best spent.

The Next Big Thing

Tom plans to write and release the third book in his bestselling YA series sometime this year, but in the meantime, he’s written a science fiction detective story for full-grown adults that, once he whips into shape, will be coming to a Wattpad near you….

 Action Steps:

  • Got ideas? Just start. Like Tom says, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It just has to be made and be shared. Who knows? It might just be a future bestseller.
  • Write everywhere. Tom uses Evernote to pin down ideas and bits of story. It doesn’t matter what software or bubblegum wrapper you use. Just get it down.
  • Write in short bursts. Tom tries to write in 500-word sessions. Such a small word count goal is easy enough to get him into his writing chair, and he usually ends up writing more.
  • Give yourself the gift of weekends. Tom has a daily word count goal of 1,500-2,000 words a day, but he gives himself a break on the weekends. Knowing he has Saturday and Sunday off helps keep him on track during the rest of the week.
  • Frustrated? Good. Harness the power of frustration to make great stuff. Tom did. He ended up with a top podcast show and a bestselling series.

Simon Asks:

What is the most unexpected twist in your own journey as an author, and how do you think it’s shaped your career?

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

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 88 – From Podcaster to Fiction Author with Tom Reynolds
  • DB Daglish

    Having an existing audience will always produce sales for a new author. The message here isn’t for existing authors with no audience from other fields but for those who have yet to write or publish. If you haven’t published yet but have existing blogs, podcasts, or YouTube followers and then launch your book. Or if you are a ways off from publishing start a following with a good idea in podcasts etc. Am I right?

    For example… those that do the serial pranks or repair videos. If they wrote a book and mentioned it in a YouTube release with their 2 million viewers… that would give instant coverage.

    A question for Tom. If you didn’t have an existing audience, do you think you’d have sold 10000 books in 6 weeks. If you were just an unknown unknown would your book have sold more than say 2000? I’m just trying to ascertain how important existing audiences or those yet to write.

    • SimonRSP

      >>Or if you are a ways off from publishing start a following with a good idea in podcasts etc. Am I right?

      I’ll play devils advocate here ;). I can’t speak for Tom, but I think that starting a targeted following is the better way to go. Yes, in a large group of people, there will be people who follow you from one place to another, but that might not be a big number. Starting a targeted following would be better. For example, if I put out a book related to self-publishing, a large number of people who follow me because of RSP will go get that book, but if I write some fiction, I’ll get a few curious people, but it won’t be close to the number of people who bought the self-pub related book. If I started a juggling school, I’d probably not get any converts. (I’m not starting a juggling school, although I did recently learn how to juggle!).

      I agree that if someone who had 2 million viewers mentioned they had a book out, they’d be some people that bought… but I really don’t think it would be that many ;).

    • Definitely not, but at the same time the number of purchases from podcast listeners was just a fraction of those initial 10,000 sales. To give you an idea, I think that first week was maybe 200 sales when at the time the podcast had maybe 15,000 – 20,000 weekly listeners. That was disappointing at the time, but the biggest thing having that following did was just getting Amazon and iTunes’ algorithms to see the book and start recommending it to people. Also since podcasting is a somewhat “intimate” medium, a lot of my initial reviews came from longtime listeners. So while the overall number of listeners who purchased was small compared to the total audience, they were hugely important in that first week.

      Ultimately I think the book would have eventually done well since it seems to have found a completely different audience from the podcast, but it likely would have taken waaaay longer, if it ever happened. Also @mtramg:disqus hit the nail on the head re: “the euphoria of finishing”. The podcast provided a way to get something out consistently, which got me over the fiddling with a book for 10 years until it’s “perfect”. Knowing that there were people who would read the book immediately outside of my friends and family was also a great motivator.

      • SimonRSP

        Thanks for chiming in Tom. I like how David Gaughran puts it, saying that a platform will launch your book, but not sell it consistently :).

      • robertscanlon

        Hi Tom – it was great to hear you interviewed! We recently reviewed your book (the first Indie Published) on our YA book review podcast “The Split” (I was the more critical of the two hosts – but don’t worry, I still loved it! I’m always cranky like that). Both Bryan Cohen (my co-host) and I have been interviewed on Simon’s show as well, so I hope Simon doesn’t mind me commenting like this. Your interview story was brilliant to listen to, and your book was actually suggested to us by one of our listeners … and then Simon told us he was interviewing you. Small world 🙂

        http://thesplitbookreviews.com/meta-tom-reynolds-book-review/

        Almost all of the rest of the YA books we’ve reviewed are also movies … and yours should be too.

        In my view, your show would have gotten you early traction, but after that, it’s down to a great cover, and a great story with plenty of action. It clearly captured the imagination of a lot of readers. (Loved the ending btw!) Nice work!

        • Hey Robert,

          Thanks for reviewing it. All the critiques were very fair, so no worries there and thanks for the additional praise. Fingers crossed that Hollywood comes knocking any day now.

          Tom

          • robertscanlon

            Ah, thanks, Tom! It was a pleasure to read, and we’ll be reading and reviewing the next in series of course – no doubt we’ll have to, because the movie will be out 🙂

  • Really interesting podcast! I don’t know how much I can use (although Simon, I’ll be happy to ba a test subject for your book :p), but after listening, I went to The Complete Guide to Everything and downloaded a couple of episodes(:

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Eustacia, I’ll be sending out beta invites to the mailing list shortly 🙂

  • mtr amg

    oooh… that project sounds interesting, Simon. The wonder of ebooks (that I still sometimes can’t get my head around) is the idea that *everything* can be changed. Earn some money and then update the cover. Find an error? Fix it and upload a new version…
    fanfiction – and wattpad kind of comes from there – has an atmosphere where people will be encouraging or helpfully critical; people know that it’s a learning ground for writers. You do get the occasional nasty comment. Fanfic writers were horrified this week when a college put fan works on a compulsory reading list. I can’t find the link now but most knew their works were available on the internet and thus anyone can read it, but to have people who are not part of your fandom reading them and commenting when they don’t know the (unwritten) rules freaked people out.
    I think Tom’s podcast helped him get the euphoria of finishing; that’s a drug we all need to be addicted to.
    Thanks, guys!

    • SimonRSP

      Yep, that’s going to be something that I’ll be covering in the book. A lot of it is devoted to the idea of “continuous improvement.” It also mentions Watpad as a testing ground… It seems I could be on the right track with this one 😉

  • Michael Coorlim

    I’m in the process of taking the opposite route, going from moderately successful author to podcasting.

    • SimonRSP

      Interesting :). We heard how Tom moved his audience from podcast to book. How do you plan to move your readers to the podcast?

      • Michael Coorlim

        The podcast is directly related to my writing, so I feel perfectly well justified in mentioning it from time to time in my mailing list and giving it a prominent link on my author page. I’ll also be sending traffic the other way by using a link to books of mine related to the podcasting topic in my show notes.

        • SimonRSP

          Yep, agreed (even if it wasn’t really related, it’s your list after all 😉 ).