Episode 70A – 2nd Interview Kevin J Fellows

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Overview

Kevin is back to give us an update on how his writing life is doing – and his health.

Kevin has been working under another pen name and has worked in the new Kindle Vella. He also has written a short story collection:

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Transcript

[00:00:50] Stephen: Hey, welcome to discovered wordsmith episode 70. And I wanted to say real quick, last week’s episode with Jim Irving was the [00:01:00] first, second interview I’ve given. So if you haven’t listened to that one, it’s worth going back to listen to, he has a great book to help a business to business leaders. Last time it was business to business sales.

It’s nice to hear from Jim. And he was from Spain instead of Ireland this time. So it’s a good little talk. Today I’ve got another second interview with Kevin J fellows talking about his book and of the world and the new books coming out. And following this episode, we have a chapter read from that book.

Give that a listen. And just a quick update. It is the week that I am going to new Orleans to join some other writers in a world-building event. This is one of Jade thorns mastermind, world-building events, Jay thorn, and Zack Hannah, I should say. And we are going to. Go right into new Orleans, right into the French quarter dive into the culture the fuel, the smells, everything, and [00:02:00] we’re going to recreate a world to write vampire stories and all the authors there are going to have.

Vampire stories. We’re going to collect into an anthology and then any money will go to charity. It’s something I’ll tell everybody about, you should check out when we’re done. So I’m very excited that we are doing that this week. It was supposed to be last week or sorry, last year, but because of COVID had got pushed off to this year.

So luckily we are doing. Before I ramble on too long I will turn it over to Kevin and stay tuned for the next episode for his reach. I have to read Kevin, welcome to discover the wordsmith podcast again. And I see you this time. This is great. I love the technological improvements. COVID has bestowed upon us.

So how are you doing. I’m good.

[00:02:48] Kevin: Actually today it’s a, it’s a weird day, a day after a holiday. It feels like a Monday, but it’s not so

[00:02:54] Stephen: Yeah. I feel like I’ve got a million things I got to get done and get caught up with, I know when we [00:03:00] talked clear back, oh, a year ago, About your book.

You had said you got into writing because you had heart attack. How’s that going? How’s your health then? Oh,

[00:03:09] Kevin: my health has actually been really good. I’ve I was doing some work last year. That was extremely stressful and that wasn’t so good for my health and my heart and I could feel it. So I stopped doing that work.

Really? Just focus more on the writing. I did have I had a checkup. And it was the best since the heart attack. So it was good. Everything is actually going in the right door. W we’ll

[00:03:33] Stephen: attribute some of that to writing that writing helps you. We’ll say that’s what did it, we can pass that along.

It’s official. I’m glad my father had his first open heart. When I was still in high school. My personal health is always an issue that I’ve got to keep in the forefront. No, I would hate to have all these great story ideas and not be able to write them.

[00:03:55] Kevin: Yep. Same thing here. I look at the list of stories and things that [00:04:00] I feel are.

You have a lot of ideas and they don’t all work out, but I still have a list of things that I think are going to work out. And yeah. I want to be around to tell those stories.

[00:04:11] Stephen: Agreed. Speaking of your, the book we talked about last time, the end of the world you’ve written more since then.

Tell us about how your writing has been going. What you’ve got out there.

[00:04:20] Kevin: It started writing under a pen name for awhile. I’m still doing that, but a lot of the writing I did earlier this year has been under a pen name that I’m not ready to announce to the world yet. That’s the, as to what all that is, but it is in epic fantasy.

And I did release a serial under that name on Kindle Vela. So a lot of my time went through. Quickly towards developing that because, Amazon made that announcement that it was coming to existing authors trying to drum up, stories and stuff for it. So I dove into that [00:05:00] said, I’ll give it a shot.

We’ll try it. We’ll see. That’s still an open question as to whether it’s worth doing. I did that and I did it under the pen name. So I’ll a lot of writing time went to that under my own name. I continue to write a lot of short stories. And I’ve been working on trying to send them off to professional markets and all of that, but also just writing them for my own collections.

And I was working on a longer collection and it, something that I think might be out next. I had these stories though, that didn’t fit. They didn’t fit that particular collection. Many of them had been out in the markets and, I’ve had some editorial feedback and everything on them. And I just felt like these stories all fit together in that, or most of them fit together in that they were, they sounded a little bit like fairy tales.

They’re not based on any real fairytales, but they’re, they have that sensibility about them. [00:06:00] And then the other thing that I noticed, and I think we talked a little bit about this last time, is that one of the things I’ve learned about what I write is that I write a, what I call speculative fantasy. So it’s speculative like speculative fiction and it’s based on a real big, what if question, what if this happened, but rather than using science or engineering and technology to, to tell the story.

I put it in a, a fantasy setting it’s magic or it’s a secondary world. It’s something like that. So these stories that I put together in a collection that’s now out, it are just the first ones where I realized that’s what was happening. That’s what I was writing. And they all felt like they had this fairy tale feel to them.

So I thought they went together as a nice short collection. To tide people over until I actually get something written. I am still working on the [00:07:00] first book in my arcane depository series that I had hoped would be out this year. But based on the publishing, the distribution delays that I’m seeing probably won’t be out till next year at this point.

[00:07:12] Stephen: Okay. What’s the short story collection

[00:07:15] Kevin: called. So the collection is called the enduring MEJ and other tapes. The enduring major was a short story that actually some of my newsletter readers will have seen although I’ve revised it a little bit, but it was something that I had circulated earlier and I just really liked it.

And I thought it deserved a wider audience and it just became a good title for this.

[00:07:37] Stephen: So do any of the stories tie into your previous books or your upcoming? The very

[00:07:41] Kevin: last story in the collection actually is the prelude to at the end of the world. So that story literally leaves off right? Where at the end of the world begins, there’s a character viewpoint shift, and [00:08:00] you can drop that story and pick up the book and just pick up the thread.

Good.

[00:08:05] Stephen: So that’s a great way to tie everything together with people how’s that been going? Are people enjoying the short story?

[00:08:12] Kevin: I think so. It’s only been out a week now about last week, but I see there are downloads there. It’s ebook only there, there are downloads and across at least a couple of different stores it’s available in all the stores apple Kobo Barnes.

All of them,

[00:08:29] Stephen: Amazon is because personally I love short stories. I’ve got tons of short story books. And my favorite seems to be like older fifties, sixties era. Sci-fi I’m not sure why I glommed on to that, but I read, in fact, I just got where is it right here? The legends over the weekend, book three with Jordan and Terry Pratchett, short stories.

I personally love short stories, but I know a lot of people say, oh, short stories. Don’t do well. So I’m just curious. Hopefully [00:09:00] that’ll help you with your past books and your future books. That’d be great.

[00:09:03] Kevin: Yeah. I do it just because the same reason I like short stories. In fact, during COVID reading fiction has been challenging for me.

I just can’t seem to focus on it very well. And so I’ve struggled getting through longer books, but between. Poetry and nonfiction and short stories. I’ve succeeded in continuing to read those. And plus, as a writer, they’re great because you don’t get stuck on a long time trying to finish a project, shiny new idea, and you can follow it up fairly quickly.

[00:09:38] Stephen: So you don’t have to reveal anything, but you’re writing it with a different pen name. Why did you choose a different pen name? Are the stories vastly different or do you just experiment?

[00:09:47] Kevin: It’s partly an experiment, but also one thing I discovered is that the people who seem to really like what I write under my own name are not [00:10:00] big fans of a traditional kind of epic.

Yet epic fantasy is a big successful genre. One that’s hard to ignore, but also those readers also aren’t the type of readers that are going to flip over and really like the things that I do under my name. So they’re like what they call the whale readers, the ones that read a lot in those genres don’t really stray too much from it.

So I just thought it would be better to probably. Do something separate, but I have a lot of ideas for epic fantasy. And there was some tropes and things I’d like to challenge a little bit in subtle ways. I felt like that was something I wanted to do. I still wanted to write those stories, but I just felt like it didn’t fit to my name.

[00:10:54] Stephen: Okay. Under that pen name, you’re writing some stuff with Vela, which I know I have a lot of author friends who are [00:11:00] doing things with that, and I’ve heard ups downs good and bad. You seem to, it’s been a little of a struggle for you. Not like

[00:11:07] Kevin: it’s partly a struggle to get a lot of episodes written.

And I also found that for some reason, my natural length for the episodes actually went longer than my natural length. For short stories. Go. In order to be able to really tell a mini story that has a beginning mini middle and end, and then leave enough hanging for the next episode seemed to take more words.

So I, my Vela episodes are about 4,500 words long 5,000 is the max. I can’t seem to write shorter than that. So it’s been. Five episodes now done there and the six one will be ready soon. It’s, it took a while to get that much written them out. So a bit of a struggle [00:12:00] just for that also to learn, to write in the stereo serial style, what kind of a cliffhanger to leave?

What kind of cliffhanger doesn’t really work? Those kinds of things. And so that was, it’s an interesting challenge and I enjoy that process, but it is it is work and then there’s the marketing side. So one of the things is that Amazon has not yet done anything significant in terms of marketing Vela to readers.

They’re right there. It’s if you have the iOS app, it’ll show up. Okay. But they don’t really push it. If you’re on Android, you get nothing in the app, you, if you visit the store on the web, you’ll see you’ll see it there. So neither of those things are really pushing a lot of readers towards Vela at all.

The other thing they did that’s I think a bit of a struggle is that they allow, at least currently they allow [00:13:00] every reader to read three episodes. Of an unlimited number of stories for free. And so I’ve seen on Facebook and other places where writers are saying, readers are just story hopping, that they read three episodes and they move on.

They don’t really feel a need to push on to that fourth episode because there’s another new one sitting out there somewhere that they can just, you know, which kind of tells you that the readers who are currently consuming. Are not really invested in the stories so much as they’re just passing time by reading and as long as they can do it for free, that’s great.

[00:13:40] Stephen: It’s probably the same. Mentality alone. My kids have that. They don’t want to buy a whole album of music. They just want to buy an individual song. They’re like, and it’s killed that whole album thing. This, hopefully won’t kill for them reading a whole book. It’s short stories, a couple episodes.

I’m [00:14:00] good. But I, I wonder if a lot of them, if you had, okay, this is. 20 episodes in my cereal. That’s it. It’s done. I wonder if they would continue because they also have that binge mindset. Oh, here’s the complete

[00:14:13] Kevin: everything. I wonder about that too. Although from the people that I have seen who have completed series, 15, 20 episodes up and the series is complete, they’re not seeing much difference in behavior at this point.

Yeah. I don’t know. I think at some point. Amazon needs to just tap that somehow, it’s you can get five, you can read five different stories when they get the first three episodes for you or something like that. Some sort of limitation there would, I think, change people to say, okay, now I need to figure out which one I actually want to write.

All

[00:14:48] Stephen: the way through. Yeah. This is the same company that had the audio book thing where you could return an audio book pretty much at any time and get another one. So not necessarily saying they’re always [00:15:00] making the best choices for

[00:15:01] Kevin: writers. The other thing though, is this isn’t helping them generate any income either.

So I think that’s the one difference that. Help in this situation is that if they want this to be successful and pay for itself, at least they need to do something different. But anyway, like I said it’s just an experiment. And I thought I would try that under the other name and just see how that went.

And it went actually reasonably well. At first, the first few weeks it was out there, it was in the top 20 whatever category it was for tags. I was looking at, we talked about tags last. And Vela is really all about the tax.

[00:15:40] Stephen: So that’s cool. See, there you go. Yeah, there you go. How are things going with end of the world since you’re, we’re always working on something new I know traditionally a lot of times, oh, that book’s been out a month, it’s dead, we’re done with it.

But in these sometimes find that things get better as time [00:16:00] goes on. How are things

[00:16:00] Kevin: with that? That’s true. And I have found that to be the case, in fact, July, which is the most recent month that I actually had data. July was the best month that’s ever had. Things dropped off a little bit in April, not April in may and June.

And then really just all of a sudden picked up in, in July. And I’m not sure quite what to attributed that to. I, cause I did run I ran a promotion on the ebook on 4th of July. I made it, I forget a dollar 99 or 2 99 something. And I ran a BookBub ad and I didn’t sell a single ebook that weekend,

but the rest of the month, like I said, I sold more than any other month. And I there’s a couple of theories I have about that. So one was, I think we talked last time about, BookBub sending me the email saying your campaign’s not working very well. You haven’t sold any [00:17:00] ebook. And it was true, but I had sold I had didn’t in that promotion.

I have included links to to traditional indie stores indie bound and bookshop.org and people were clicking on those links. And later I discovered that I, yeah, I got some sales through that, so it wasn’t like it was ineffective at all. And on this 4th of July sale, Thanks. Some of what happened is that people use BookBub in different ways.

And one of the ways that I know I use it is I don’t, I rarely actually buy any of the e-books in the emails that I get from them. I write them down. I put them on my list for things that I want to read in the future. And then when I go to read that book, when I get to that. I’m like, I don’t know, remember where I heard about it.

I just [00:18:00] go and get it through whatever channel I prefer to get it from. I wonder if some of that wasn’t maybe that’s the way people use it. They talk about, they have 25 million readers, but I wonder, if maybe one or 2 million of them use it like I do, and they’ll never see that data

[00:18:19] Stephen: or I’d love to see.

Data from past 4th of July, weekends, do people just maybe not read and buy a lot of books, Memorial day, labor day, maybe they do maybe 4th of July. They don’t. I really don’t know.

[00:18:31] Kevin: I haven’t done been able to like, do a sale each weekend to test that maybe next year. I can

[00:18:38] Stephen: have you found with your fantasy that like when a new movie or TV show comes on?

That’s fantasy based. You find that you get an increase in sales just naturally or not really any correlation.

[00:18:52] Kevin: I haven’t seen any kind of correlation because I’m trying to think one of the, the last real fantasy thing.[00:19:00]

[00:19:00] Stephen: I know Witcher came out, but then end of the world is, or a wheel of time is coming out.

[00:19:06] Kevin: Yeah, again, yeah. Wheel of time. And the dune is coming out too, which even though it’s, Saifai actually has a pretty strong fantasy vibe to it. I don’t know. And they’re so different. Wheel of time is very much that epic fantasy. So I don’t know how that necessarily would work for a book like at the end of the world.

The other thing that happened is book clubs, pickup. At the end of the world, which is nice. And one of the things that I have offered to do, and I know some other authors do this too, is I will do a Q and a session after the book club has read the book and if they have questions and things of that nature, and I did that for a few different ones and I really enjoy that, but I think that’s one of the.

Better ways to get out and meet your readers is to do a virtual QA session with people who have just heard [00:20:00] it and they have questions. Yeah.

[00:20:02] Stephen: That’s great. So they all read your book and contact you. That’s pretty cool. You weren’t pushing that for anything. I

[00:20:09] Kevin: wasn’t, I do now.

I mentioned with times on Twitter that, Hey, if you are in a book club, I’ll come talk to you.

[00:20:17] Stephen: So where was the book club located?

[00:20:19] Kevin: One was, they’re all virtual. The ones that I’ve done, so there you’ve done more than one. Yeah, I did a couple of them. Yeah. I did two, two of them and yeah, they’re all virtual.

And so people there was one other, the reason I get confused, cause there was one other I heard about, but they know they didn’t invite me on to talk about it. But I’ve done a couple where yeah, I’ve gone on and I’ve answered questions about it. And it’s interesting to see what people’s questions are and see their reactions to the book.

And that was good then. And one of the big things that came out of it, and I will also say that my sister is a big [00:21:00] pusher of this is that they have convinced me that I need to do a SQL. There you go. I had not planned to do one because I couldn’t actually figure out how to do it based on the way I left it, the way I left it.

No spoilers, but I just, there was really only a couple of characters I could figure out how to pick up and move forward with and about, that’s okay. But then I’m doing these book club things and people are like, wow, but I love this character. I love that character. And I want more of this. And I’m like so I did find a way to bring everybody back together.

So got the

[00:21:43] Stephen: band back together.

[00:21:45] Kevin: So I have started making some notes and things on how that’s going to work out. And once I’m done with the. A book of the arcane depository series, then I will jump back in and do the SQL to at the end of [00:22:00] the world.

[00:22:01] Stephen: Wow. So you got a lot going on. I do a couple different books and Vela and everything.

And along with book clubs and some of your best months hopefully you’ll get the data for August and just as good or better than July. Yeah.

[00:22:15] Kevin: We’ll see. We’ll see how that goes. Oh, and the other thing that I did, I would recommend this for anybody, especially any independent author that really feels like you’re missing out on seeing your book on a bookshelf contact, at least one bookstore, and find a reason to convince them, to put your book in there and then go see it.

It just, it just satisfies scratches that.

[00:22:46] Stephen: And I think I talked to you about the bookstore project a little bit that I’m trying to get going to get some books and not to earn money necessarily, but to say, Hey, look, I’ve got my book in these bookstores.

[00:22:58] Kevin: Yeah. I have to say [00:23:00] it’s a, it’s really good.

So yeah, there was one because part of at the end of the world takes place in New Hampshire and there’s a character from New Hampshire. I convinced a New Hampshire bookstore to. By a couple of copies and they put it on the shelf. And I went in and I signed them. I know at least one of them sold.

So it was yeah, it was good just to go in and see it there. And they even took a picture of it and put it on Instagram or Twitter. I can’t remember which, but, and it was like, okay, this is great. Like I said, it just scratches that itch and you can feel like you’re a real writer.

[00:23:37] Stephen: Yes. I agree. I love that.

And you can mark it down, yeah. And you can get me in some bookstore, select books

[00:23:43] Kevin: towards you can do more if you want to put the effort into it. But again, it’s not really, it’s more of a discoverability thing and you have to look at it that way. You can’t look at it as an investment in sales.

It’s not

[00:23:58] Stephen: going to work right. [00:24:00] Yeah. They go in usually looking for a certain book or tills. I

[00:24:04] Kevin: did find that some readers had asked their local bookstores about the title and obviously they can order it and it’s print on demand. They get it. There were a couple who actually picked up the Ingram catalog.

And looked it up and I did actually pay to put it in there and I thought, oh, so they weren’t going to order it if they didn’t see it in the catalog. That seems strange to me because, you just order it. But for some reason for that bookstore, it just legitimized it in a way. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been, I don’t know. I, you can’t explain bookselling

[00:24:48] Stephen: yeah, that’s interesting. That’s a good tip to pass along. It might be worth the time if you’re, if you’ve got a lot of fans on your newsletter, tell them to go to the bookstores at this month. Cause that’s when you’ll be in the [00:25:00] catalog,

[00:25:00] Kevin: right? Yeah. Or the I think it’s seasonal actually is quarterly or something like that.

So you’re there for awhile. Yeah. But. And I saw somebody on Facebook asking if it was worth doing and I related this, but, I don’t know if it’s really worth doing. It’s just, like I said, it’s a discoverability investment. If you want to try it at that, the same as, making your books available in libraries.

[00:25:24] Stephen: And that’s another thing my son wrote a book when he was 16, 17, and the local library. But his book in it, he gave a talk there. I haven’t been able to do a talk and get anything in the library yet. So I’m like what’d you do other than being a cute kid at the time. Kevin we’re going to. I have another episode here of you reading a chapter a what are I’m reading from?

[00:25:47] Kevin: So I’m reading from the new book of short stories. And I was going to read, I think the title story, I don’t know if you want me to read the whole story or just to a natural break.

[00:25:59] Stephen: [00:26:00] It’s totally up to you. Whatever feels right and comfortable for you.

[00:26:03] Kevin: Okay. I’ll probably just go to a natural break and I may actually start one of the things I did with this collection. Matched a poem with each story. Because again, I wanted to give people a sense of who I was as a writer.

I do write a lot of poetry. I’ve one short collection out and working on. So each poem is the magically or somehow related to the story that follows.

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