Scott Nicholson has done a lot of things in his professional life: journalist, musician, poet, author. That last one seems to have stuck, as he’s now got 12 thrillers (and counting) under his belt, not to mention more than 60 short stories and a handful of comics and screenplays. He’s a rising force in the world of digital/indie publishing with a wide range of material ranging from straight horror to children’s books available now or coming soon.
Scott was kind enough to take a few moments to talk to October Country about his newest release, Liquid Fear, and his take on these tumultuous times in the publishing industry.
OC: Tell us a little about your latest release, Liquid Fear.
SN: Ten years after a tragic clinical trial testing a new fear-response drug, the subjects realize the experiment never ended. It’s a mystery with romantic, political, and medical elements—but I guess you’d consider it foremost a “psychological thriller” if you are into labels.
What inspired the story?
I’d been doing research on new classes of pharmaceuticals that altered mood, sort of post-Xanax designer drugs, and discovered there was a presidential council that advised on the ethical implications of changing people’s minds. I was more concerned over the system’s abuse of the drugs than the individual’s right to wipe out their own minds.
You continue to work the social media circuit hard in promoting your work – for this book, you have the blog tour where people earn points by tweeting and posting about the various stops on Facebook. Do you find social media is more effective than, say, a traditional print ad in a magazine, because of the immediacy and interactive opportunities it offers fans?
Well, I don’t really have a huge print audience these days—certainly not compared to my electronic audience. I love paper books, but my core audience is one click away. Plus I really love all the new friendships and conversations, as well as the immediacy of the digital era. People can click and tell you what a hack you are from right inside the book! How cool is that? I am kind of a reclusive homebody, so this gets me out into the world.
You’ve really embraced the self-publishing and the digital format as of late. How has this benefitted you as a writer?
Well, the most startling is that I was able to quit my day job and focus on this full time, which is good, because I’ve always been a writer, but now I have time for other things, too. I love every part of my cottage industry.
Are there drawbacks?
There are risks in everything, but the greatest risk is in not taking any risks. I’d rather be a spectacular failure than a mundane success. My first novel The Red Church was left for dead for five years by the publisher, but when I got my rights back, it hit #1 in a couple of Kindle categories. That was about all the persuasion I needed. Realistically, I could have killed my New York career for good, but I suspect by taking initiative I’ve made my ideas more valuable, and at any rate, I’m happier, and that’s far more important.
Something I see changing (slowly but surely) is the stigma associated with self-publishing. I think we’re beginning to move away from the idea that it’s just for writers who aren’t good enough to get a traditional publishing contract. Do you sense the same change in attitude?
Well, depends on where you sit. The people I hang out with look at something like the Leisure situation and are glad they either got away or were never accepted in the first place. They could care less about stigma, because they’re not listening to people who make those judgments—primarily because those people are acting from a deeply entrenched but quite outdated belief system. Under that belief system, you “get accepted” and therefore seek external validation instead of taking responsibility for your own creative happiness.
The biggest worry of most published authors, those below the bestseller list, is just how much money they are going to lose over the course of their careers by having given up control of their properties in a rapidly changing environment. The future is uncertain, but all things being equal, I’d rather have the choice of jumping ship if the iceberg loomed.
Do you have editors or first readers that look at your self-published work?
Oh, absolutely. I get better editing now than I did in New York, because I have to make it happen, and I believe indie is not a cop-out, it’s a professional small business. You should meet or exceed anything coming out of New York if you expect people to spend money on you, or spend their time with your work. I feel like I am producing better stuff than I ever have, and I don’t have to worry about “the pitch,” just writing good stories.
You’ve got a steady stream of new material available – take some space here and plug away.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed is the children’s books we’re doing, which I could never get an agent or publisher to even look at. While the e-book audience is limited for graphics, especially on the black-and-white Kindle, I think it’s a market waiting to explode. Our books If I Were Your Monster and Duncan the Punkin are doing well because of the color Nook, so I expect a broader audience when we publish Too Many Witches soon. I’m also doing some pen-name stuff that no one will ever know about. The next Scotty book is probably going to be a standalone zombie book I’ve been mulling, but I have about six compelling ideas, plus I am co-writing a couple of series with bestseller J.R. Rain.