Tag Archives: traditional publishing

#31ZombieAuthors – Day 17 Interview – Jeremy Laszlo – The E-Mail That Launched a Self-Publishing Career



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Today’s guest is Jeremy Laszlo, the best-selling author of over thirty novels, including the Left Alive series, which chronicles the journey of Charles as he strives to make good on a promise to his dying wife to deliver their children to safety in the midst of a zombie infested nightmare of a world.

Jeremy’s works have broken the top ten of over ninety Amazon lists by genre, at times reaching the top ten of all books on Amazon.

Our noble scribe resides in Louisiana, where threats to his well-being include alligators, oversized mosquitos, and scorching temperatures.  Luckily, he avoids all that by chilling out in his air conditioned workspace, where he spends most of his time either writing or being boxed by children wearing cartoonishly large Hulk hands.

A pleasure to speak with you, Jeremy.


Q.  When it comes to a good zombie apocalypse novel, how much do the zombies actually matter?  Is it the zombies themselves that attract readers or the threat of a lawless, no holds barred post-society world that said zombies represent?  Would it be possible to replace the zombies with hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues, or locusts and achieve the same result?

A.  First, thanks for having me. I think the notion of zombies really pulls from a deeper, darker, cruder portion of the human psyche. There is a part of everyone that craves chaos, especially in a world such as ours where there are rules and limitations enforced on every aspect of our lives. Zombies simply play into that less evolved portion of who we are. In a story, they don’t need to be the driving force, they certainly aren’t in my LEFT ALIVE series. But that element of devolved, cannibalistic people adds a dark edge to any story that readers can really associate with.

Q.  You’ve written so many novels.  Where do you get the ideas from?  For those of us who whine about writer’s block or a lack of inspiration, do you have any advice?

A.  I do write a lot. I’m actually shooting for 4 more releases before the end of the year, including another zombie trilogy. Ideas come from everywhere. My family and life experiences are a great source of inspiration. Truthfully though, most of my books start with a ‘What if’ scenario. It is really the building block for all of my novels, and a concept I explain in detail in my ‘Kindle Fiction Mastery’ book aimed to help struggling writers. For the LEFT ALIVE series, I simply asked myself what would happen if a strain of genetically modified fertilizer had unintended mutations and ruined the world’s ecosystem killing all plants on Earth. You can see how that alone could be an entire series of apocalyptic books (Coming soon), but what if coming into contact with the infected soil had consequences as well? What if it deteriorated neurons and brain tissue? That is how my zombies were born.

Q.  I read an interview on “The Bearded Scribe” in which you discuss how an errant email convinced you to go the self-publishing route.  Specifically, you submitted your work to a traditional publishing house only to receive an e-mail from a pair of interns joking about how one of them had just batch rejected 600 authors.  (Note to readers – watch out for that ‘Reply All’ button!)

Could you explain how this experience convinced you to take control of your own destiny as a writer?

A.  Ah yes… the intern. He will end up a character in one of my novels, eventually. I simply haven’t decided how to kill him yet.

What can I say? It was not only a direct blow to my own confidence as a writer, but also an eye-opening moment about the REAL state of the publishing industry.

The old model of publishing doesn’t care an ounce about writers. They actually artificially control supply and demand by doing precisely what was done to me, and batch rejecting the vast majority of writers without so much as reading the first word of their work. By limiting the number of books published, they can create a false sense of limited choices, and herd readers like cattle to purchase what they produce, simply because it was all that was available. They controlled trends in genres. They controlled the prices of books. They controlled who and what got published, and in many cases it was more about who you knew, rather than how well you wrote.

The intern laughing about rejecting my work without even reading it, along with nearly 600 others, was just the final straw. There was really no reason to wait around while agent after agent and publisher after publisher form rejected my work (even though some showed interest).

There was another option, and I went all in. Since then, I’ve met a ton of wonderful authors and a great community of people built around those authors. I’ve self-taught myself in graphic design to create the majority of my covers. I’ve spent countless hours learning the secrets of writing, publishing, marketing and promotion. There really isn’t anything writers can’t do for themselves. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t entertain a publishing contract from a large publishing house. I certainly would. But they’d better have some respect, and understand that I can do it on my own.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: Yes! Viva la revolucion!

Q.  One of my 3.5 readers is a big orc fan and I noticed you’re also the author of the Orc Destiny series which follows the adventures of Orc warrior Gnak.

For me, this begs a question for the ages.  Orcs vs. zombies – who wins in that scenario?

A.  That is a tough question, but one that is sort of answered in the Orc Destiny trilogy. Orcs actually fight the undead in the series! That said, Orcs win. Hands down. Every time. Why? Because Orcs, that’s why. They’re big, hulking warriors. They fear nothing and kill everything. I’m a big fan myself.

Q.  You’re a marine.  Thank you for your service.  How does that experience come into play with your writing?

A.  You’re welcome…? That’s always been awkward for me. I appreciate your appreciation, truly.

Being a Marine is hard to explain. It isn’t just a way of life, it becomes a part of who and what you are. I suppose the obvious would be to say that my battle and fight scenes are probably a tad more graphic than many writers. I don’t shy away from the gore and the real emotion of the battlefield. But it goes further than that. Marines are known around the world for being determined and focused. We don’t surrender. Ever. The same goes with my writing. I knew I could do it, and I refused to let a few rejections deter me. I have the focus and stamina of a Marine, which allows me to sit and write until a story is finished. The third novel of my Blood and Brotherhood Saga, The Changing, is 87,000 words long and I wrote it in three days. I don’t intend to quit. Not even when my name is known in every household around the world.

Q.  Your books have topped various Amazon charts.  What’s your secret?

A.  Determination. Experimentation. Research. Commitment. That’s what it really boils down to. If you want to be a writer, first and foremost you have to write and keep writing. No matter what. Then you have to learn the business side of being an Author. It isn’t a part time job. If you write as a hobby, it will always be a hobby. If you want success, you have to earn it toiling away countless hours learning the ins and outs of the industry. Or, of course, you could read my Fiction Masters series, which details much of what I’ve learned these past years and how to employ my secrets and strategies.

Q.  Jeremy, thanks for your help.  Before I go, do you have any last minute advice that might help my friends and I survive the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

A.  If the media tells us anything, it’s be a redneck with a crossbow. Not only will you be a badass, but troves of women will follow you anywhere. If you’re going to survive the apocalypse, if might be nice to have a lot of… um… company.

If you can’t be a redneck, use bait. Use your brain, and be evil… it’s an advantage. I suggest driving an iron rod deep into the ground in the middle of your yard. Place a ring of cars around the rod, leaving a clearing between them about twenty feet wide. Then, go find a young guy. A healthy one. One that acts like he was probably an asshat before the apocalypse. Befriend him. Team up with him. When he’s sleeping, tie him up and cut off one of his feet. Don’t forget a tourniquet just above the ankle so he doesn’t bleed out. Then chain him to the stake in the middle of the cars. Now you have your bait.

He’ll scream, which will attract the zombies, but that’s ok, because you’re going to move off a safe distance and pick off the zombies as they struggle to get over the ring of cars. It’s not only entertainment, but it will also help to clean up the neighborhood. And don’t worry about whether or not it is humane. It is a kill or be killed world, and you’ll certainly be thought of as a hero, which leads us back to having lots of company.

Oh, and food… nah, never mind the food. Just put a sign up that says “Cellphones work here” with an arrow pointing towards the ring of cars. The idiots will likely have food. Let the zombies handle the idiots, you can collect their food later. After all, you have company to entertain.

Aside from that, if you have any questions about the apocalypse or zombies you can get in touch through my website at www.jeremylaszlo.com

Or Facebook at www.facebook.com/bloodandbrotherhood

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Well, I’ve got to hand it to you, Jeremy.  You sure put a lot of thought into that last question.  Thanks for stopping by!

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#31ZombieAuthors – The Lineup – October 11-20

It’s a cornucopia of zombie fiction all stars here on the Bookshelf Battle Blog in October.

Here’s who will take BQB’s space phone call Oct 11-20.

Links will take you to authors’ Amazon pages.

DAY 11 – Rachel Aukes 

RachelAukes_tightheadshot(large) copy

Rachel has introduced a new generation of literary nerds to a classic by zombie-fying Dante’s Inferno (as well as Alighieri’s other works) in her Deadland Saga.  Coincidentally, I end up feeling like I’m stuck in hell when I’m trapped in a small room with Blandie, my perpetually angry ex-girlfriend amidst the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse.  Luckily, this USA Today bestselling author will offer me some words of wisdom.

DAY 12 – Joe McKinney


The man.  The myth.  The legend.  One of the biggest names in the zombie fiction game will humble this book nerd with an interview October 12.  Joe got in on the ground floor of the mid-2000’s zombie renaissance with Dead City, the first book in his highly popular Dead World series, and has been going on stronger than a zombie who just caught a brain whiff ever since.  (Watch out, Joe, those dudes behind you look a tad peckish.)

Joe’s a longtime Texas police officer, a dad, and yet somehow amidst these important commitments, he managed to win the Horror Writer Association’s Bram Stoker Award.  Meanwhile, one time I tried to write a novel, got distracted, and ended up watching a Steven Seagal action movie marathon instead.

Needless to say, I bet Joe will be able to dispense a pep talk that will inspire me to get my act together.

DAY 13 – Michael Cairns

Michael Cairns headshot High Res copy

This year, Michael’s a man on a mission.  The Thirteen Roses author began 2015 with a challenge to publish 15 books (including works he’s written previously.)  He’s been keeping a daily video log of his progress and will talk to yours truly about how its going.  Also, we’ll trade follicle stimulation tips.  However, note that I’m not asking for me but for a friend.

DAY 14 – Kate L. Mary 


A busy mother of four and U.S. Air Force wife, Kate will tell my 3.5 readers all about her Broken World books. Her claim that she prefers “nerds over hunks” intrigues me, causing me to grill her over this claim extensively.  Here’s hoping this interview is the victory over hunks that nerds have long waited for.

DAY 15 – Peter Meredith


As my 3.5 readers are aware, I was once so wrapped up in finding the meaning of life, that I actually went on an epic adventure to find it.  Thus, I can relate to Peter Meredith, who worked in real estate, as an emergency room nurse, and finally as a lighting company CEO before embracing his true passion, writing.  The Apocalypse Crusade author will advise us on finding the calling that brings joy to your life.

DAY 16 – Saul Tanpepper


Zombies. Video games.  Sure, we all love hits like Resident Evil and Dead Rising, but Saul “upped his game” by combing zombies and video games in his Gameland series, in which players actually control the undead and a group of hackers get trapped in the middle of the mayhem.  Seen above in Peanuts form, Saul will also give me the 411 on how to improve my book blog.

Yeah, I know 3.5 readers, I should probably start by reviewing a book once in awhile.

DAY 17 – Jeremy Laszlo


Jeremy Lazlo once attempted the traditional publishing approach, but when a publishing industry intern accidentally hit the “reply all” button and Jeremy received a snarky email in which said intern was joking about how he’d just batch rejected 600 authors, the fruitful self-publishing career of the Left Alive author was born.  This marine will give me the lowdown on how to balance writing with everything else that happens in life (motivation that I sorely need) and will answer that age old question – Orcs vs. zombies?  Who wins?

DAY 18 – Deirdre Gould 


 Most zombie apocalypse stories feature characters in a never ending battle for survival.  Deirdre, on the other hand, asks us to consider what would happen After the Cure.  In her series, a cure for a zombie-fying virus has been found.  The Infected have returned back to humans again, but now have to live with the grim realization of what they’ve done.

Personally, I feel bad when I eat too many peanut M and M’s so I have to assume I’d be pretty down in the dumps if I were to ever eat a human.

DAY 19 – Eric A. Shelman


We’re all aspiring writers around here, aren’t we, 3.5 readers?  Thus, we can learn a lot from Eric Shelman.

In 1999, after co-authoring and publishing a non-fiction book about Mary Ellen Wilson, the first case of a child rescued from abuse in in 1874, Eric turned his attention toward fiction.  He wrote about a serial killer, then shelved it.  Then he wrote about witches, and shelved that attempt too.

In 2011, he was inspired by seeing a number of zombie fiction writers gain popularity on Facebook, so much so that he gave it another go and has been successfully publishing the Dead Hunger series ever since.

It’s never too late to try again, 3.5 readers.

Also, is it me or does he look like an awesome dude in that cowboy hat?  Kind of has a Raylynn Givens from Justified vibe going.

DAY 20 – Rachel Higginson


I have a bad habit of being one of those “glass half empty kind of guys,” especially when it comes to love.  It’s hard enough to find that special someone in civilized times that I’m skeptical as to whether or not romance can bloom amidst zombie mayhem.  The author of Love and Decay will set me straight and explain how she’s applied a serialized television style format to her writing that has led to success.

It all starts Oct. 1, right here on bookshelfbattle.com!

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Pop Culture Mysteries: Informant Zero (Part 6)


Part 1


“Ms. Donnelly,”  Informant Zero said.  “I have been so very intrigued by Mr. Battler’s blog since its inception that I decided I must get involved.  And Mr. Hatcher, your reports have especially inspired me.”

“So you’re the one who read them.”

“What a life you have lived, Mr. Hatcher.  From 1920 until present day, you have seen this world grow, shutterstock_13743706change, go to war on a massive scale, taken on the criminal underworld of LA’s yesteryear and survived.  Regrettably, you missed quite a bit during your extended nap, but that you’re in good enough condition to share your stories with the world now is amazing.”

“Thanks,”  I said.  “But if I wanted wind blown up my chassis I’d of skipped the trip and stood on an air vent.”

“This is not an enterprise I want to engage in for the rest of my life, Mr. Hatcher.  One day, I’d like to see a Los Angeles where the rich and powerful do what is right because it is the right thing to do, and not because they’re afraid I’ll expose them if they don’t.  Thus, this city needs a hero like you to clean it up and I’d like to do what I can to help.”

“I don’t do much cleaning these days, bub.”

“Then you are truly wasting your talents.  Surely that will change as you get adjusted.  But more importantly, Mr. Hatcher, I can’t help but wonder what this world would be like today had a man of your integrity not fallen asleep in 1955, but rather, had been allowed to continue performing feats of daring do.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying the world would be a better place today had you been allowed to keep kicking criminal ass until you became an elderly man during the 1980’s, perhaps even the 90’s.”

“I think about that all the time,”  I said.

“But as an tech expert, I know the mind of a blogger and I know it well,”  Informant Zero said.  “If Battler doesn’t eventually see an increase in readership, he will decide that his time would be better spent playing video games and allowing his ass to expand.  He’ll abandon his blog, you, and your stories will never be shared, because good luck getting through the traditional publishing door.”

“Now just one  moment,”  Delilah said.  “I doubt very much that Mr. Battler will abandon Mr. Hatcher and leave him without the answers he is searching for.”

“He probably won’t, at least not intentionally,”  Informant Zero explained.  “But what if I could help provide a new feature for the upcoming Pop Culture Mysteries spin-off blog, one that would drive up the World Renowned’ Poindexter’s readership?”

I shot Delilah an incredulous look.

“Spin-off blog?  Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Mr. Battler’s mentioned it on his blog a number of times.  Do try to keep up.”

“Do I get any more money for this?”

“No,”  Delilah said.  “At least not according to your contract.”

“Mother of God,”  I said.  “It’s like the damn pinko commies won.”

“Mr. Hatcher,”  Informant Zero said.  “You write very long, detailed reports.  Those are great for individuals who read as a pleasurable past time.  But what about people on the go?  Mr. Battler’s 3.5 readers who only have 3.5 seconds to spare?”

“I don’t know,”  I said.  “Tell them to screw?”

“No.  That’s where I will come in.  You continue to write your long reports.  I’ll write short bursts, quick mini-mysteries, a pop culture question of the week with a short answer.  Together, we’ll inspire Hollywood to plug up their plot holes and put out a better product.  It’ll bring more hits, Battler’s writing career takes off and who knows, maybe if he gets to the point where he actually starts making money off of his Internet ventures, he’ll release you early from your 100 mystery commitment.”

“Now you’re starting to make sense,”  I said.

Delilah was back to reading her note paper again.

“Mr. Zero,”  she said.  “To that end, Mr. Battler has expressed concern that your Pop Culture Mystery expertise may be lacking and has requested that I kick your tires, as it were, with three questions.”

More of that maniacal, ear crushing electric laughter.


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Why “Self or Traditionally Publish?” is a Dumb Question

Bookshelf Q. Battler here.

BQB sounds off.

BQB sounds off.

Self vs. Traditional Publishing – Which route should I take?

For awhile now, I’ve read posts that begin with this very question from a number of bloggers.

Apparently, there’s a lot of folks who feel this is an either/or proposition.

Allow me to provide my take on the issue by posing these questions:

  • Should I continue working a day job or should I put all my time and money into buying and scratching lotto tickets?
  • If a nice woman comes up to me tomorrow and expresses an interest in going out on a date with me, should I take her up on the offer or should I tell her to hit the bricks because Scarlett Johannson might (I repeat “might”) knock on my door and demand my sweet, sweet lovin?
  • If I enjoy telling jokes to people, should I continue telling them or should I wait until I’m cast on Saturday Night Live?
  • If I get a part in a local community theater production, should I take it or should I wait to see if George Clooney calls me to ask me if I’ll take a part in his next film?

What?  You get the point now?  No.  No I don’t think you do.  I think we need some reinforcement here:

  • If I like the way the sun feels on my skin on a nice summer day, should I take a nice stroll on the beach or should I wait to see if the sun will come into my house?
  • If I’m hungry, should I make a sandwich or should I wait and see if Emeril will show up at my door and cook me a three course meal?
  • If, by some God inspired miracle, Scarlett does knock on my door, should I go on a date with her or should I wait and see if Charlize Theron and Katee Sackhoff show up and propose some type of triple arrangement?
  • If the Constitution is somehow altered to make me Supreme Ruler of the United States, should I take the position or wait to see if I’m crowned Emperor of the World?

All right, you get the point.

Yes.  If you’re a new writer and a traditional publisher offers you a legit deal, you should go for it.  But here’s the problem:

  • I’d like to be an astronaut.
  • I’d like to be the leading man in a Hollywood blockbuster movie.
  • I’d like to look like Channing Tatum while having George Clooney’s sophisticated style.
  • I’d like to have a bajillion dollars.
  • I’d like to be King of a Small Island (because to go any bigger is too much of a headache)
  • I’d like to be a pro-athlete.  Football, basketball, hockey, doesn’t matter.
  • I’d like to be date a famous actress.
  • I’d like my face on currency.
  • I’d like to rename the Moon “Bookshelf Q. Battle Orb.”

I’d like to do and/or be all of those things.

The odds of accomplishing them?

About the same as getting your book selected for a big time publishing deal.

OK.  You got me.  There might be some slight exaggeration here.

The Moon will be renamed Bookshelf Q. Battle Orb before I get a publishing deal.

The tech isn’t here that will turn me into an astronaut, football player or a Hollywood leading man.

The tech is here to help me put my writing out into the world.

Here’s my question:  Why does self or traditional publishing have to be an either/or proposition?

Honestly.  It’s like Traditional is my Mom and Self is my Dad and they’re a divorced couple competing for my affection:

ME:  Mom, can I have a book deal?

TRADITIONAL/MOM: Do you think you’re ready, dear?  I don’t really think you’re ready.  By the way, your father is spoiling you and you should hate him as much as I do!

ME:  Dad, can I have a book deal?

SELF/DAD:  Sure!  It’s our special weekend, buddy!  Publish all you want!  Eat cookies for breakfast too!  I don’t care!  It’s up to you! Control your own destiny!  Oh and don’t forget, your mother is a contemptible shrew whose sole purpose in life is to crush your hopes and dreams so stick with me kid!

ME:  ARGH!  Can’t you guys just get along?  Don’t make me choose!  I love you both!

Does self publishing guarantee success?

Well, first off let’s define success.

What’s your goal?

  • Make nothing but be happy just knowing your writing was put out into the universe? (Even if only 3.5 people read it?)
  • Make a little beer money?
  • Make a nice second income?
  • Make enough to support yourself?
  • Make enough to support yourself comfortably?

With little to no effort, you can accomplish the first and second with self publishing.

The rest require work.

Should you get your hopes up?  Should you assume that self publishing will make all your wildest dreams come true?  That it will fill your pockets and turn you into a Hollywood insider?

Of course not.

However, I’m happy that blogging has provided me with 3.5 readers.  If I ever make a few bucks that’d make me happier.  If I earn a second income, that’d be great too.

I’d dance the Texas two-step if, God-willing, this leads me to become a millionaire, but I don’t expect that and you shouldn’t either.

So I guess I don’t understand the argument of “Well, there’s only been a few major self publishing success stories so don’t bother.”

Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey have some fabulous stories, but people who make a few extra bucks and get to enjoy doing what they love?  That’s certainly a form of success too.  It might be a low level success, but if it makes you happy, then it makes you happy.

I don’t understand this all or nothing “if you don’t get a guarantee that your book will become a blockbuster then why bother” attitude.

Self-publishing isn’t a free ride, but it offers you something that the traditional world doesn’t:

A shot.

You’ll still need to work hard.  You’ll need to build your platform, reach out and obtain an audience, build a mailing list, and, above all else, write and publish a quality product.

And even then, you might and/or most likely won’t become a household name but a) hopefully you’re happy with the above discussed lesser forms of success and if you aren’t then b) at least you gave it a shot.

The traditional publishing world, more likely than not, will be closed to you.  The self-publishing door is open.  The readers inside that world may or may not be interested, but why not give it a go?

Meanwhile, if you get a traditional contract that’s great.  You should always explore your options.  Polish your work. Query agents.  Seek that traditional deal.

I’m not here to knock traditional publishing.  “Famous writer” is a highly sought after job.  Many people want it.  Traditional publishers and agents are bombarded with author queries all day long.  They only have so much time to take on so many projects.  They can’t please everyone.

Agents and publishers have to go with the projects they think will work best for them.  They’re in a business. That’s all there is to it.  Don’t take it personally.  Don’t hate on others who’ve “won the publishing lottery.”  Other people doing well does not make you do poorly.

Wait a minute, BQB.  What if I start self-publishing my work and then traditional publishing knocks on my door with a better deal?  What then?  Bet you didn’t think of that smart guy.

I did.  Let me ask you:

  • If I make that baloney sandwich and then Emeril DOES knock on my door with a fresh snappy lobster to cook for me, should I slam the door in his face or just put the sandwich in a ziplock bag and save it for later?
  • If that nice woman from before turns out to be a weirdo who wants to bedazzle all my shirts with cat designs and lock me in her crawlspace, should I keep seeing her if Scarlett DOES ask me out?
  • If I do scratch that winning lottery ticket, am I required to keep working a day job and therefore must never spend my newfound millions on world travel and chalices to eat my cereal out of?

In short, if that traditional publishing miracle deal does happen, you can always shift gears to embrace it.

But BQB, if the traditional publishing world isn’t interested in my work, what do I do?”

Well, let me answer that question with these questions:

  • If that non-famous woman who was interested in me (see above) dumps me after a few dates, should I lock myself in my bedroom and listen to James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful on a continuous loop or should I get back on the proverbial horse and ask another woman out?
  • If I can’t find the ingredients to make a sandwich in my kitchen, should I just go hungry or should I go buy some bread and baloney?
  • If I scratch two cherries on my lotto ticket and a lousy lemon on my third square scratch, should I go to work tomorrow?
  • If my car breaks down, should I buy another one I can afford or should I just walk everywhere in the hopes that one day I’ll win one on a game show?

I think you get the point.

Let’s come together and be friends, traditional and self publishing worlds.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing.

To rename the Moon the “Bookshelf Q. Battle Orb.”

Oh and success.  Lots of success.

Don’t make me choose.  There’s plenty of Bookshelf Q. Battler to go around.

Nerd with a bullhorn image courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.

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