G. Michael Hopf experienced the enviable thrill of seeing his first book The End race up the Amazon sales charts two weeks after its release and realized he had a rare opportunity he couldn’t afford to miss out on. So he quit his job to write the sequel full-time with incredible results. This week, I sit down with G. Michael to find out how he went from commercial diving to bestselling end-of-days fiction, and why a super-EMP would be a really bad thing.
G. Michael always wanted to do action/adventure stuff as a kid, and once out of school, signed up for six years with the U.S. Marine Corps. After he got out of the service, G. Michael went to a commercial diving school in Houston, then started working as a diver doing mostly underwater construction in the oil industry. After almost getting sucked into a pipeline, he decided a change in vocation was called for and became a bodyguard — an executive protection agent — working primarily with government officials and corporate executives.
Throughout his adventures, G. Michael always tinkered with writing. Inspired by a great book he was reading at the time, One Second Afterby William R. Forstchen, he sat down and wrote out a few chapters of a novel idea he had. It was important to him that he have something to show before broaching the topic with his wife. Having already invested diligent effort made it clear he was serious about becoming a writer…and after reading his beginning chapters, his wife took him very seriously, encouraging him to continue.
The New World Series
G. Michael did continue writing, eventually producing the first book of his post-apocalyptic The New World series titled The End. The premise of his series concerns a super-EMP weapon that wipes out the power grid and all support systems in North America, Europe, and the Far East, and the story of one man determined to keep his family safe amid the chaos that ensues.
While researching his book, G. Michael went directly to the source, spending two hours with a municipal water worker to find out what would happen to the water supply if all power were lost. He even talked to someone on the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to find out what happens to the power supply when disaster strikes. G. Michael recommends authors reach out and talk to people who are experts in their field. They are people who have spent time really thinking about all aspects of their field, he says, and will have better answers to your questions than just Googling it.
G. Michael’s diligent efforts soon paid off when The End found interest with an agent, and he worked with her to get the book in shape for submitting to publishers. While the initial feedback was helpful, he says, they eventually reached a point with the manuscript where his agent wanted more structural changes while G. Michael was getting enthusiastic thumbs-up from his beta readers. He asked himself, “Who better represents his reader, the customer?” In the end, he had to part ways with his agent because he wanted to get the book to market and couldn’t see the value in waiting another several months to go through the traditional submission process.
So he published The End on Amazon/KDP, and for 10 days the book “languished” at 10 to 20 sales a day. Then one morning, he woke up to 200 sales, and it never stopped.
He waited two weeks for the sales to drop back down, but they didn’t. So G. Michael showed his wife the numbers. Knowing that he had a limited window of opportunity to maximize the success he was having, he felt it was crucial to get a sequel out as quickly as possible. By this time, G. Michael had gone back into diving…and with his wife’s support, he quit to write full-time, getting the second book The Long Road published just four months later.
By now, the sales of G. Michael’s first book had attracted the attention of Amazon, and its reps put him in the beta pre-order program as well as featured him on Kindle Select 25 for two weeks, a promotional boon that will multiply an author’s sales by 10, he says. The effect of Amazon’s put his sales “on nitro,” which attracted the attention of Penguin.
Penguin made G. Michael an attractive four-book deal that he took, in part, he admits, for the validation. And while he’s glad for the opportunity to work within the traditional publishing world, he notes he soon became disenchanted by traditional publishing’s slow process. Penguin wanted to wait 13 months before releasing his fourth book, a decision that made no sense to him and became a bone of contention. G. Michael says he had a great experience working with the people at Penguin, but in the end, it just made more sense for him to publish his work himself and make his readers happy with more frequent releases.
We look forward to checking in with G. Michael in a year or so and following up on his career. In the meantime, fans of The New Worldseries will be happy to know, Book 5, Blood, Sweat and Tears will be available for sale on October 30, 2015, on Amazon.
- Be a writer. G. Michael stresses the importance of doing the writing first and making it a priority. Too many beginning authors, he says, get caught up in learning all the other stuff, formatting, marketing, and forget that you need a completed manuscript before you start formatting and marketing. “If you want to be a writer, then be a writer. And that requires the heavy lifting of sitting down and writing.”
- Talk to real people when researching. G. Michael recommends authors “find people that are in these spaces that you’re doing research on and just contact them. The worst thing they can say is no, but you’ll be surprised how many people want to talk.”
- Work with an editor. One thing G. Michael wishes he did differently at the beginning of his publishing career is having the first book edited better. “I cannot stress enough the value an editor brings to a book,” he says. “It’s like a marriage in some way. You’re partners in this. You’re working together. You cannot have a book unless you have an editor.”
What’s one thing you wish you did differently in your publishing career?
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