Interview with Frank Coles author of Dark Market, Secret Skin and How to Drive a Tank.
Frank Coles is an author, journalist, adventurer and good dad who is always up for a challenge.
He has his own NatGeoAdventure channel and the BBC even says nice things about him, such as: “There is something refreshingly Hemingway-esque about Coles’s Philosophy that deserves to be heard.”
How cool is that?
Frank has lived and worked all over the Middle East, SE Asia, Europe, and as far north as the pole.
How long have you been writing for?
Nearly two decades across TV, web, books, journalism, advertising and branding.
What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?
I love writing books the whole process can be difficult depending on the complexity of research, time available, deadlines and so on. But if it makes you think and you stick to a work ethic the words will flow and it is always enjoyable. It’s not that difficult.
What genre do you generally write?
I’m a writer and I like to write in all genres. Most recently book wise I’ve written thrillers, non-fiction (popular male), biographies (ghost). I was once asked what my specialty was by a PR many years ago regarding PR writing. I still can’t answer that question. I write in all genres, I love the challenge of a blank page and a difficult brief and often the most rewarding writing I’ve done is the uncool, undesirable, style of job. I made a reasonable living as a travel writer by asking editors “Where don’t you want to go this year, but where do you have to go?” And then taking the job for them.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
Terry Pratchett. He’s a genius. He plays with language and the book format in a wondrous way, writes prolifically – probs against his publishers wishes – and writes fantasy novels that are actually pastiche. He also makes me laugh more than any other writer. If it’s particularly good, my Mrs. kicks me out of bed to go read in the spare room.
What is your book called and how did you choose this title?
I have three books currently available.
Kill anyone, anywhere, anytime, and get away with it.
A Deliverance for the Middle East.
How to Drive a Tank…and Other Everyday Tips for the Modern Gentleman.
A gentleman’s guide for the Fight Club generation that has been ripped off by a Top Gear presenter. It’s currently in print and will be coming out in ebook and POD in the next week in the US – where I still own the rights.
Has your book been published and how did you go about this?
Tank was trad published, the other two are indie, and the US Tank will be indie too.
Approximately how long did it take you to finish your book?
The writing time for each one was roughly three months. Editing time for indie books is much shorter and more efficient – just me and the editor in a one-on-one dialogue. Tank took something like eight months to edit, even though it didn’t need it, I had to re-edit quite a bit of it back as there were far too many cooks spoiling the broth and I’ll finally be putting it back to how it should have been edited for the US release.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
a. Have a day job or limit your outgoings.
b. Do not try and be perfect in what you write, just make the end product good enough – that is perfect.
c. Have a work ethic, set yourself a goal for when you sit down at your keyboard. 500 words, 1000 words, 2000, whatever. And then finish them.
Do you use social media to promote your book, if yes then which social networks do you like the most?
I use them all. But Twitter for book promo mainly. I also use Facebook and Google+ but I already have a lot of friends and colleagues from around the world on FB so try to keep them a little separate. Also a few forums. Goodreads I like as it’s all about the reader. I try and keep my time on these networks down to a minimum. Either a half day storming it every so often or 15 mins a day. I’m also just about to launch Dark Market on Wattpad and do some cool targeted promo with them for six months.
Have you enrolled your book onto Amazon’s KDP Select and how have you found it?
No, I’m experimenting with pricing and social media first. Tank in the US will be going on KDP select in the US indefinitely and given away free via my YouTube channel every Friday.
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
Keep my other writing gigs going. Fire my agent earlier.
What books do you like to read in your spare time?
Ooh, toughie. Anything good from any genre. I just read The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven – a Goodreads reading group recommendation. Not my usual style of thing at all but was a hilarious five star read – highly recommend it. I’m always re-reading at least one Pratchett at any time, I’m also reading Emotions Revealed by Dr Paul Ekman (the man behind the science of Lie to Me -I’m also training in this science which I’m updating on my blog), Grip of Death a financial book and the literal translation of mortgage, a history of the Samurai and a joke book. You did ask!
What do you feel is the most important stage of writing a book?
Planning. See Lisa Gardner’s writer’s toolkit for inspiration.
How did you go about designing the cover for your book?
Dark Market was designed by Richard Green – I put up a job request on elance.com to find him.
Secret Skin I designed myself.
How to Drive a Tank was designed by the very talented Jamie Keenan.
Are you writing or considering writing a follow-up to your book?
Always. This is the disconnect for me with trad publishers. So much time is wasted with the pitching and editing process. Most writers could comfortably put out at least four books a year but these behemoths insist on endless, pointless, meetings where nothing happens. My magazine editor friends shake their hands in despair and they also work for behemoths which only makes the disconnect more stark. A typical magazine editor can put out a 100k words a month 12 times a year with quick turnaround print runs and barely break a sweat. I’ve got several non-fiction books in development and four novels. With a second baby on the way it’s just a matter of finding the time.
Do you have a day job (if so, what do you do?) or do you write full-time?
I write full time. But recently I’ve spent a lot of time disconnecting from bad publishing business partners, had a foray into TV in front of the camera, had a child, moved and renovated house and so on and I’m looking at ways of spreading my writing back in to areas additional to publishing. I think it’s unhealthy to just have publishing as the cash cow. It’s a cash poor business at the mo. I’m already developing various blogs with sales angles, as well as reconnecting with my old copywriting partners, TV development people and journalism.
Where is your book available to buy?
You can find them all with country specific links at www.frankcoles.com/books.