One of my favorite reads of 2016 was a Kindle book called Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors by Benjamin Wallace. The ad I saw for the book on Facebook promised “Max Max Meets Monty Python.” It was that, and it was much more. It was a truly funny book that gave today’s post-apocalyptic science fiction the long overdue parody treatment it deserved.
I recently contacted Benjamin Wallace on Facebook, and he was kind enough to answer some questions about himself and his writing journey. If you’re a writer like me who aspires to turn your hobby into a full-time gig, this will inspire you.
What inspired you to start writing?
I never really liked the idea of working. I figured writing would be a good way to avoid that. And people.
How did the idea for the Duck and Cover series come about?
The idea of today’s society trying to get by without today’s conveniences made me laugh. We wouldn’t stand a chance, but I don’t think we’d give up either. I saw a lot of potential humor in that. Also the post-apocalyptic genre has been begging for a lampooning since it first came about.
What writers inspired your style?
Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes taught me that writing didn’t have to be serious.
Joseph Heller taught me that funny could still be respected. E. L. James taught me that you can write like s*** and still find an audience.
My writing style was probably more influenced by movies and comedians than any author. Harold Ramis, Pat Proft, SNL in the eighties, the Simpsons, Buck Henry and the list of legends would just kind of go on.
How did you approach the marketing of your books?
With a great deal of frustration. I spent a lot of years in advertising and expected that traditional approach to work. But books are different. Funny books are different still. What works for the thriller genre or romance doesn’t plug a play with humor. It’s taken a great deal of experimentation and twice that in swearing to start seeing some real results.
Did you use more social media or traditional ads to spread the word?
Traditional ads (print, TV, radio, etc..) are cost prohibitive to most indie authors. And, in my opinion, not as effective as they once were. I don’t pretend to understand my kids, but they don’t watch TV. They watch youtube. I can’t say they’ve ever held a magazine or newspaper. They stream their music. They don’t listen to the radio.
Twitter worked great the first year or so. Facebook is the flavor of the month now. But, any small change can upset a strategy based on purely on social media. Algorithms, trends, terms of service. Things change. And they change quickly.
The only sure strategy is to build an audience through consistent quality work stay engaged, be appreciative.
How did you know it was time to leave the day job and live your dream job?
Once I realized a few things:
I could get by with a combination of books and freelance ad work.
It costs more than you think to go to work each day.
Job security doesn’t really exist anywhere.
There was more earning potential in my books than there ever would be working for someone else.
Also, they laid me off.
The real trick was getting them to lay me off. That took some doing.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned that you could share with other writers?
Writing the book is the easy part. But it’s a business and running the business is where the work is.
Put in the time and money it takes to market it to your audience. It’s frustrating. And it can feel expensive. Okay, it is expensive. But it’s an investment that will pay off if you write decent books. Or 50 Shades of Grey. There’s a market for everything. If you start thinking in terms of ROI instead of pure sales that will help ease the sting a bit.
Read Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors and the rest of the Duck and Cover series on Amazon Kindle.