SPS-366: Why 2 Authors are Better Than 1 – with Kerrie Flanagan & Chuck Harrelson
Working with co-authors can be a superpower, but it’s also challenging. Kerrie Flanagan and Chuck Harrelson dispel their secrets on how they co-write sci-fi and fantasy books while co-running a publishing business.
- Finding the right writer to collaborate with
- Kerrie and Chuck’s process for co-authoring their books
- How to market as a team and play to your strengths
- Branding your books for the right readers
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self Publishing Show.
Kerrie Flanagan: We trust each other completely. And I think that's what really makes this work.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh right. No ego, no ego.
Kerrie Flanagan: Right, it's not like, "Oh, I did this part and Chuck did this part." It's like, "No, this is our project. These are our books." And it just works out really well.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self publishing success. This is the Self Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome to the Self Publishing Show, the very first episode of 2023. I suppose we could have a quick look back at 2022, Mark Dawson.
Mark Dawson: Shit. I'll be honest, it's been a bit shit.
James Blatch: Yes. Keep it light, mate.
Mark Dawson: Well, I know. I'd-
James Blatch: Yeah, no. I know it has been hard for you this last month.
Mark Dawson: It's been very difficult, so obviously with some bright spots, it was a difficult end of the year, but it had lots of positive moments as well. So it's just life, isn't it? It's one of those things as you get a little older, there's the challenges that we have to deal with and that's what we've done. But generally, and I have, by the time this goes out, in fact several weeks before this goes out, because we are recording this early. I will have posted, well, I think it could be quite a good little Facebook post about the things I've learned from the first... Remember the article I had with the Forbes article back in the day where Forbes interviewed me at London Book Fair and caused, I certainly wouldn't say it went viral. Because that would be over egging the pudding a bit, but it certainly was before people knew me.
It was one of the things that introduced me to other authors in what we were doing back in 20, I think it was 2014 or 15 or so. It was a long while ago. Anyway, and then comparing that with the article I had in Business Insider this year, towards the end of this year, which looks at some changes between the two. And I started writing this post last night and I was going to do 10 things I've learned, or 10 lessons that I would suggest are important that I've learned over the course of the 10 years I've been doing this.
And by the time I've finished, I've just got in the zone, I've finished at midnight and I've written about 40 points. So there's tonnes. I think some people will think some of them are wrong. Others might think some of them are a bit controversial. But it's useful as a, I think it'll be a nice kind of debate stuff. So anyway, this is probably moot because this would've been posted by now, but if in the event that you haven't seen it, go to the Facebook community and you can check that out.
James Blatch: Yes, okay. Well, I look forward to reading your pearls of wisdom. And you've had an article about yourself and Business Insider. Again, that's happened mid-December when we're recording this. Business Insider, is that its own magazine or is it part of the WSJ or something, or do you know?
Mark Dawson: I think it's its own magazine. So it's behind a paywall, the article and this was something that Amazon asked me to do, so they interviewed me in December. It's one of those kind of weird ones. I've got no approval on it, so I'm not important enough to say I want to approve or amend things before publications.
James Blatch: Oh, it's called Editorial Freedom, Mark.
Mark Dawson: It is, and it also is written, but the thing is, it was written in my voice, it was written in the first person. So I'm like, "Well, this has to be right because if it sounds like I'm saying, Facebook ads have never been successful for me." And I thought, well, that's complete BS. So anyway, that that's, turns out it was fine. It is worth noting, and it is noted at the start of the article that it was written by the journalist after speaking to me. But I didn't write it, if you know what I mean.
James Blatch: Yes, yes. That's how they did those things. Anyhow, that was good for you. Or good for Indie Publishing is what I always think. The more people realise what's going on, the better. Our interview is today. There are two of them, are going to be a collaborative team writing sci-fi and fantasy, talk a bit about the genre, but a lot about writing together, writing with a partner. Before then Mark, our last shout out, last chance to get into the Facebook group, to join our Facebook ads challenge for 2023.
The location to go, the URL is self-publishingformula.com/facebookchallenge, all one word. And there you can join us. You can thousands of other people already in the group to go through a day by day set of challenges that will get you up and running with Facebook ads. Get your foot in the door with a very, very important platform and a platform, frankly, all of these ones, Mark, where it's easy to lose money if you don't do things properly. And that is an off-putting experience, I think for lots of indie authors when they first have a go. But hopefully we are, in fact, the whole of SPF really is built to rank, getting that right and optimising so that these platforms work for you.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly. So you will need a little bit of a small budget, very small budget. In fact, it could be as small as $5 for the expedition, but with that you should, touch wood, I'm quite confident that you should get some subscribers for your mailing list. So if you are caught in that intractable problem of how do I find readers to enjoy my stuff, this is a very good way to do that. And the aim is everyone leaves a challenge or the expedition at the end of the week with some subscribers on their mailing list.
James Blatch: So that URL again, selfpublishingformula.com/facebookchallenge. Just go along there, join the Facebook group and join us as we go through the challenge together. We are onto our interviewees then, as I say, it's a couple. I met them in Las Vegas at 20 Bucks Vegas back in November of 2022 and got chatting to them. They looked for all, I have to say, I did say this again in interview, because they do, the way they talk to each other and the way they present themselves. They look for all the world like a married couple, but they're not. They're just friends who've been working together for a long time now. I think they were working together for 10 years before they thought, let's start writing together. And you'll hear their story. They are successful with their writing, which is fantastic. They've got a really good partnership and talk a lot about how to make that work. It might be something that works for you or could work for you in the future. So this is them. It's Kerrie Flanagan and Chuck Harrelson and Mark, and I'll be back for a quick chat at the end.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Kerrie Flanagan, Chuck Harrelson, thank you very much indeed for coming to the Self-Publishing Show. We're going to be talking about sci-fi, which we love talking about. I love talking about. And we're going to be talking about collaboration and writing together. We had a conversation in Vegas actually, which sparked my interest in this. I think you have a really good working relationship, I think you really do. So let's get into that and see how that works.
But why don't you individually, perhaps tell me a bit about your background first. Want to start with you, Kerrie.
Kerrie Flanagan: All right, well thank you so much for having us and it was fun chatting with you in Vegas. So I have been in the writing industry for, gosh, over 20 years now. Started with freelance writing and doing lots of work in magazines, and then ended up starting my own writing organisation in Colorado where I live, and ran that for 10 years. And now working with Chuck on our sci-fi and fantasy books. And I also work with writers on the side with consulting and teaching.
James Blatch: What's a writing organisation?
Kerrie Flanagan: So at the time I founded it because there was nothing in my area to bring writers together. So I started Northern Colorado Writers and offered classes and an annual conference, retreats and just an organisation to bring writers together.
James Blatch: Great.
Kerrie Flanagan: And it's still going on, which I love.
James Blatch: Wow, superb. Chuck, about you.
Chuck Harrelson: Let's see, I've been writing for about 10 years, maybe 12, something like that. And started off, I was a firefighter and I was writing on my days off and in the evenings. And now I'm retired of course. So I could write full-time, which is, that's an incredible, something a lot of people don't get to do. But just like Kerrie said, we started writing together and started our sci-fi series. And about five years ago, that's where that started.
James Blatch: And did you get to the point where you were writing and earning money from your writing whilst you're doing your firefighting and then sort of quit the firefighting? Or did you just naturally come to the end of your firefighting career and...
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, it was the end of my firefighting career, so it all worked out really well.
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Good, okay. Well look, you both write together, sci-fi, but I don't think it started out like that, did it Kerrie? You didn't write, what did you write before?
Kerrie Flanagan: I was doing magazine writing, so magazine writing and non fiction so that's where my background is. And then working with writers.
James Blatch: And then tell me, sorry, go on.
Kerrie Flanagan: I was just going to say, and that's how Chuck and I met. So through my writing organisation, he joined the organisation and had a manuscript that he wanted some help with, so a fantasy manuscript. So we started working together there and I helped him with his manuscript and then some writing projects came up for me. So he started helping me with mine and pretty soon we were just going back and forth with writing projects and found that we work really well together.
James Blatch: And the sort of help you're giving each other developmental storyline, character arc, that sort of thing?
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes, yes. And Chuck is a great accountability partner. So I was working on a non-fiction book for Writer's Digest, it's the Writer's Digest Guide to Magazine article writing. And he helped keep me on track. I don't know if I ever would've gotten it done without him holding me to the fire saying, "Where's your next chapter?" So it was super helpful.
James Blatch: Now I will say this, that when I was chatting to you, I assumed you were a couple and I'm going to say that. And you laugh now and you laughed then. But I think you've probably had that before because you do have a very natural way of working with each other that looks a bit like you've been, you got married 20 years ago.
That's what it looks like from the outside, it seems to be, Chuck, does it feel like that from the inside? People talk about work wife, don't they? But I guess that's that sort of thing.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, actually that's, oh, I hear that all the time. Whenever we're together, we're constantly telling people, "No, no, no, we're not married." But we work together so well. It's just supernatural and I think that's why the partnership works out so well. It's one of the most important things, is finding the right person, of course, to work with. And like I said, whenever we're together, everything is supernatural. We get along really well. And it's the same when we're working together, when we're writing together, everything just kind of jives. Everything works out great.
James Blatch: And just to clarify, when you say it's supernatural, when you're together, you mean it's very natural, not it's supernatural.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, very natural.
James Blatch: It's something I'm missing here.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yeah, I was missing something too. Like, "What? It's natural, that's all. Got along really well.
James Blatch: That organic start you had where you just started working with each other. I can imagine, Chuck, at that point with your writing, you probably didn't imagine that you would be sending notes to another writer. But that seemed to be a natural progression for the way that you helped each other.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, that was actually my very first manuscript and I was looking for somebody to help me with it. And of course I met Kerrie and thank goodness that Kerrie was the very first person I ever met in the writing world. Which coincidentally, now it's the person that we write together all the time. But she helped me with that. And it's-
James Blatch: You helped her as well?
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, yeah. We went back and forth and it was kind of a natural progression. She was a huge help on that first manuscript, which we went around with that for quite a while. And of course now it's in a drawer and never went anywhere, as first manuscripts go, but I learned so much. And with that first manuscript, we just learned that we worked together really well. And she had some things she needed read over, just needed a new set of eyes on, so she sent it to me. And that's where we learned our partnership worked out really well together. And so we traded stuff. It was kind of an even trade back and forth, back and forth.
James Blatch: The best kind of traits, even one.
Chuck Harrelson: Yes.
James Blatch: So Kerrie, when did you decide to write a book together?
Kerrie Flanagan: I was looking, it was like 2017, so however many years ago that is, I had been encouraging Chuck to seek, to start self-publishing. Because he had been going the traditional route and was getting frustrated. And I said, "Look, there's this other world out there that you should explore." But as you know, that could be a little scary on your own. So we talked about it and said, "Well, what if we did it together?" So I said, "If you're going to self-publish," because he had had it with the rejections from agents. And I said, "Well, let's do it together, so it's not quite so scary." And then we researched the market to see what was working and of course romance was working. So we did venture into that a little bit, wrote a couple novelles, but realised that was not quite our thing. So those will just remain as they are, we'll pretend they aren't there. They were good to get us going and writing together, but now our focus is on the sci-fi and fantasy.
James Blatch: I guess they were useful for getting used to writing together and ironing out some of that stuff. But Chuck, have you ever written romance before?
Chuck Harrelson: No, actually.
James Blatch: No, and you probably won't again?
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah. And that's probably part of the problem. We were kind of looking, we wanted a right to market and we thought, "Well romance of course is one of the biggest genres."
James Blatch: That the biggest without question, yeah.
Chuck Harrelson: Absolutely. And we just jumped in with both feet and didn't really, didn't know what we were getting into. We didn't do a lot of research, we didn't find out the formulations, we didn't really dig into what we needed to, how we needed to write romance. And I think the books came out pretty good. They were good books, but after we wrote, we were both just like, "This is just not our genre."
James Blatch: So then you decided on sci-fi?
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, yeah.
Kerrie Flanagan: Fantasy, actually.
Chuck Harrelson: Well, fantasy first.
James Blatch: Okay. And what was that series and Kerrie, do you want to take that?
Kerrie Flanagan: Sure. So the first series we published was the Judas Files. So The Nine is the first book in that series. So it's a contemporary fantasy. So we did a book, I think one book in there. And then also was doing The Racks, the sci-fi series. So that's a young adult, like a near future apocalyptic sci-fi series. And actually got through all of, so there's five books in the Judas Files series. So that's a complete series now. And The Racks Trilogy is done. And then now we have the new one and Chuck can talk about the new series.
James Blatch: Tell us about the new series. This is the Space Pirate, is it?
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, this is our new kind of look at writing to the market. We looked at sci-fi and space exploration and we both liked the idea of Pirates and Firefly. So that's how we came to The Hometown Space Pirates, our first book in that series. And so we've got three books in that series so far. And that one's still open. I don't know how big that one's going to be.
James Blatch: You started with fantasy, you did YA sci-fi and now, I guess adult sci-fi, would you say Space Pirate is?
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes.
Chuck Harrelson: Yes.
James Blatch: I guess they're close enough related and we should say that you published under a single pen name, right?
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes, we published under C.G Harris.
James Blatch: Do your readers know who you are?
Kerrie Flanagan: A few do. And I know I mentioned this to you at the conference, it's on our website, so if you dig into the, about C.G Harris, it's at the bottom somewhere. But it's not something that we tell them. Yeah, we don't, most of them do not know, somehow.
James Blatch:C.G Harris is a brand. Well this is the writer's world, probably more than readers and how ones have been more successful, the most successful out of the three series you've done?
Kerrie Flanagan: I would say that Judas Files series, because there's five books in that and it did everything it was supposed to. So it wasn't until about book three or four that we finally started seeing that read through. And once we completed the series then I feel like people are willing to give it a chance because they know it's done. So that was doing well.
James Blatch: You found marketing it easier with the series complete. Was it episodic in the sense that you knew that there was more to come, that stories weren't wrapped up at the end of one of the books?
Kerrie Flanagan: Right, the first three I feel like could stand on their own. We try to give some recap at the beginning of each one and weave it in. By four and five, you'll be lost if you haven't read the first three. But we knew initially we had high hopes, thought that this would be a, I swear, 15 book series. Well that didn't happen.
James Blatch: Okay.
Kerrie Flanagan: We wrote five.
James Blatch: Yeah, five. Well that's a neat five. Let's talk about the process then. Chuck, can you describe how you go about the writing process with Kerrie?
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, so actually we get asked that a lot. How does it work? How do you guys write together? And I think a lot of people assume it's a, "You write one chapter and then another person writes another chapter." And we don't really work that way. And I think at least the people that I've talked to, the most successful writing partnerships don't really work that way. For us, we played each other's strengths. What we do is we come up with an idea together, what the next book's going to be about, the general premise, how the story's going to go. And then I will write out a really super detailed outline. I use Microsoft Excel, it's with colours and everything. It's super, it's ridiculous.
Kerrie Flanagan: It's over the top details. But it works, it works.
Chuck Harrelson: And then I send it over to Kerrie and she goes through the outline and adds anything that she thinks might be missing or needs to be added in. And then once that's done, I write the first draught. And once the first draught is done, then we start the editing process. It goes over to Kerrie and she adds in, I am not great at adding a motion into a manuscript. Kerrie's great at that part of it. So she picks it up and finds all those areas where, "Oh well this is kind of flat here." And she'll add that part in to the manuscript. And then we kind of go back and forth with the editing process until it's finished. And then we wind up sending it out to the editor at the end.
James Blatch: That obviously has to be a male female thing here. Because I remember very early days in the podcast, I can't remember who it was, but it was a married couple who wrote very similarly. That he would write a book, it would be 35 or 40,000 words and then she would add the humanity to it, the emotion. And it would end up at 80,000 words. But he would literally, his sentence was, and then he walked out and then he went to Denver, whatever. But she would turn the emotional side of that. Obviously there's some sort of falling into stereotype there, but is a real thing. So the first draught is not everyone's cup of tea, you, but some people love it. And I guess that works quite well because editing is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Some people absolutely hate the editing. But you are the editor, are you Kerrie, effectively.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes. Not the final proof reader and all of that final stuff. But I love developmental editing and I've worked with many writers in doing that. It's my favourite part of the process. Chuck is a really fast writer so he can crank out a first draught in a few weeks and then I take it from there and I love doing it. So I will go in, I like this new term, add the humanity to it. I'm going to start using that. So I will fill it out and add those parts where I think some things are missing and just fix any sentences, words, plot, anything like that.
James Blatch: And I suppose the difference between a hard in developmental editors, they're going to give you a document of notes back. Are you going into the manuscript and actually writing, which is what you wouldn't expect?
Kerrie Flanagan: I am.
James Blatch: Yeah. So that's the difference here, isn't it?
Kerrie Flanagan: Exactly. When I work with clients I don't, I just highlight areas they need to fix. But because we work so well together, have an incredible amount of trust, I just go in and I write and I fix. I just go ahead and put what I think should be there.
James Blatch: And then does it go back to Chuck?
Kerrie Flanagan: Uh huh. Goes back to him and then we usually go back and forth at least one more time after that.
James Blatch: And Chuck, you read it through. I'm only on my third books, it's still fairly new to me and I'm at the revision stage now. And one thing I find really difficult to do is to read the book without constantly intervening in it. But I think it's a good thing to do is to put it on a Kindle and read it to get a whole sense of it. I've so far failed every attempt because I just start editing again, so start writing.
But can you read a book? Is that what you do, do you read it through?
Chuck Harrelson: Absolutely. It's funny you say that, just I think maybe the last two books that we've written, oh it might have been the, actually it was Hometown Space Pirate when we started it. That series, we realised that's the part that was missing in our editing process because we would go back and forth. Like she said, she would add in her edits, it would come back to me. I would go through it and we would go back and forth with our editing process. But just like you just said, it was almost piecemeal where you're looking at it, you're picking it apart. You're picking out the pieces that needed to be fixed and never going through, beginning to end just reading the manuscript. And we both realised that never happens. And it made a big difference. And that's our final stage now is when we're all done editing. We both start at the very beginning and we both hold each other accountable for this. There's no skimming, no skimming is allowed.
James Blatch: No skimming and no stopping and going into the Scrivener?
Chuck Harrelson: Right.
Chuck Harrelson: Read it from beginning to end and see how it flows. Of course if there's big problems or something like that, make a little note or something like that. But read it, just through and see. And it has made a really big difference, I think.
James Blatch: I'm going to try it again. I'm just finishing-
Chuck Harrelson: It's tough.
James Blatch: ... I'm just finishing my second pass so there's time to give that a go. Let's just talk about your writing for a second, Chuck. So obviously you're quite a fast writer. Tell me about your routine, what you write in, what time you write, et cetera.
Chuck Harrelson: I write a lot, actually. I just use Microsoft Word. I write chapter by chapter and whatever the chapter is, I go until that chapters, however long it is, I just go until it's done. And I usually get up in the morning real early and start writing and I don't know, probably from six to one or something like that. I will write until then and then the afternoon I'll spend doing other things. Maybe marketing or we do stuff with covers, whatever the other minutiae that you have to do when you're self publishing.
James Blatch: You have a fairly solid period of writing then, six till one.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh yeah.
James Blatch: But you have some breaks presumably?
Chuck Harrelson: Well I'm working on that.
James Blatch: Oh really. You're a writer acholic. My name is Chuck and I have not had a break for 14 days.
Kerrie Flanagan: Well, and when he's writing or doing anything, he has to finish it. He will not stop until it's done. Which is a superpower, but it's also a weakness at times. It's like, "Look, we got to move on, we got to keep going." He's like, "No, I got to get this done."
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, I'll sit there for six hours and not get up and realise, "Ooh, maybe I should get up."
James Blatch: So you'll do a few thousand words a day?
Chuck Harrelson: Oh yeah, for sure.
James Blatch: And writing in Word, which I can see is good for, editors always want a Word document. But I have to say from my writing point of view, as soon as I'd started writing in Scrivener, I don't know if you wrote in that before, Kerry, it's very difficult to go back to.
I find Word documents become cumbersome, they take a long time to load. Trying to find where you were working on, does that work for you? Obviously it does.
Kerrie Flanagan: It does work for us because we love the track changes and it works really well. We've never had any issues with that. And because of the detailed outline, that really helps at the beginning, even when we're looking for things, I can even go to the outline and go, "Oh yeah, where was that section?"
James Blatch: Oh yeah, of course you got the outline.
Kerrie Flanagan: I don't know how many pages it would be printed out, a lot.
James Blatch: Of course there is Atticus, Dave Chesson's thing which is-
Kerrie Flanagan: And I use-
James Blatch: ... it's been built for this process really, isn't it?
Kerrie Flanagan: And I haven't used Atticus, I use Vellum when I'm-
James Blatch: Yeah, for formatting.
Kerrie Flanagan: ... formatting because, yeah. So that part of the process is once we get it done, then I take over and do the formatting, the uploading, because I've self published, I think it was eight other books right before working with Chuck. And those are just under my name. So I know that process. So I take it from there and go to Vellum and then upload it. We are published wide, so I upload it everywhere.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay. Have you experimented with KU with these books at all? Or you don't want to or?
Kerrie Flanagan: I did. I went, I tried early on, I think. I know I did, but I'm trying to remember where in the process, we probably had two or three books and I tried it in there and I just like the idea of having it available on more platforms. And when I look at the scribe count each month, I feel like we'd be losing out on 30 or 40% of our income if I just did KU. We do well, I am taking part in any promotions I can on any of the sites. So I do draft to digital for some, but I go direct to Kobo, direct to Barnes and Noble, direct to Google Play. So I can take part in their promotions.
James Blatch: And also if you're happy to do it yourself, obviously there's a percentage skim and when you use the aggregators, but there's a lot more work to do. So sensing that you do most of the marketing, Kerrie or?
Kerrie Flanagan: I do take the lead on most of the marketing and there's some things we do together and we discuss everything that we're doing. So Chuck knows what's going on, but I take the lead on that.
James Blatch: And what does the marketing look like?
Kerrie Flanagan: So newsletter, we spent a couple years building our newsletter. We didn't at first. And I'm here to say everybody should have a newsletter from the beginning. We're like, "Oh, that seems like a lot of work. Why would we waste our time on that?" Well it helps because those readers are waiting for the next book. So it took about a year and a half, we went from 50 subscribers to over 3000 and now we're about 4,300 subscribers.
James Blatch: Wow, that's great.
Kerrie Flanagan: Which is good. So we put a newsletter out twice a month and special ones for launch days. But we get sales every time the newsletter goes out, so it's definitely helpful to do that.
James Blatch: Yeah, definitely. Well obviously I was alongside Mark, so my newsletter started a year and a half, two years before my book was published. So I'm actually writing my developer to do exactly that. To really focus on the newsletter and try and build it. Just coming up to my thousandth subscriber, I think, this week.
Kerrie Flanagan: Nice.
James Blatch: And Chuck, what do you do on the marketing front? You don't just sit there saying nothing, you must do something there.
Chuck Harrelson: No. It's like the writing process except for Kerrie's more, where I'm heavier in the writing part, she's heavier in the marketing part. So we discuss what we're going to do for marketing every month, what we're going to fund and stuff like that. And I do the Facebook ads. I do a lot of the images and stuff like that in Canva, put that stuff up. But most of it Kerrie does. And it's more of a collaboration as far as, "What are we going to do, like when we're writing the book, what are we going to do?"
Kerrie Flanagan: And what works with the marketing is once a book comes out, I can focus on moving that, selling that book and Chuck can start on the next book. So it works really well in that aspect, in terms of time. But Chuck, he does the Facebook ads, the newsletter, there's some parts that he's in charge of. And then we discuss what we're doing because we do newsletter promotions. So like Fussy Librarian, Crave Books, some of those. So it's a lot going on.
James Blatch: How often do you speak?
Kerrie Flanagan: A lot. We are on the phone at least, I would say, gosh, four, probably four times times a week.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh yeah, at least.
Kerrie Flanagan: Most days. There's certain times when we're brainstorming a book and then if we have a book launch, but we're on the phone most days.
James Blatch: You both would-
Kerrie Flanagan: What you say?
James Blatch:You both live in Colorado but you're not that close to each other are you, or?
Kerrie Flanagan: We're an hour apart. We're not that far. So we do get together sometimes.
James Blatch: Yeah. And obviously you were together in Vegas. Did you learn much in Vegas?
Kerrie Flanagan: Oh my, we learned a lot in Vegas. Now that Chuck feels better after getting sick, having COVID.
James Blatch: That's what chuck got in Vegas.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes. Looking at Kickstarter, Direct Marketing, we went to everything that we could on marketing. We just feel like it's ready, things are ready to go to the next level. We have 11 books out, this current, the Viraquin Voyage, The Space Pirate series. It's had a really strong start, which we're excited about. So we just need to keep moving forward with that and ramp that up a little bit and see what we can do to start bringing in a really, really good income from the books.
James Blatch: Of course there's lots of positive sides in the way that you work together, particularly splitting the marketing effort and being able to overlap with projects. The other side of it is you split the income, so you basically have to sell twice as many books to earn if you were doing it by yourself, if you could do this by yourself. So in your plans for the future, I guess more books is the obvious one, but you've had these three slightly different genres so far.
What are your next plans? Perhaps, Chuck, you can answer that.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes, I was just going to say, Chuck.
Chuck Harrelson: Right now we're focusing on the sci-fi series and expanding that. And as far as marketing, we're actually talking about stepping into TikTok and seeing how that goes. And like I said, Kickstarter, we might do Kickstarter and Direct Sales and just, sci-fi seems to be something that's our niche. And I think we're going to stick with that for a little while.
James Blatch:Because sci-fi itself is a fairly broad term, is there a sub genre that the sort of Space Pirate series is, it's not Space Opera is it, or?
Chuck Harrelson: No.
Kerrie Flanagan: Not Space Opera, Space Exploration.
Chuck Harrelson: Right.
James Blatch: It's a bit like a romance, you have to sort of work out what sub genre and sci-fi readers, I think are reasonably particular, aren't they, about what they read. Although presumably you have had overlap from your list on your books.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I always tell people when they ask about our books, I always tell them, "If you really, really love hard sci-fi, things like The Expanse, really technical sci-fi, don't touch our books because our books are, they're fun. They're all about humour and they're space pirates, obviously."
James Blatch: Yes, I was going to say the title does suggest it's the humorous element to it.
Chuck Harrelson: Yes, right.
James Blatch: Was that the same with your other books? Have you always had a similar tone to them?
Kerrie Flanagan: Yeah, except for the young adult series, that one was more, it's dystopian and aliens have come down and taken over. So that one has a little, there was not a lot of humour in that one.
James Blatch: Bit of an edge to it.
Kerrie Flanagan: It's more fun.
James Blatch: So you are going to continue writing this one series or are you going to, do you think you might do another series that's similarly adult sci-fi, Kerrie?
Kerrie Flanagan: That's a great question, James. We're focused on this one and we've left it where we can keep going on their exploration. So it could be another couple books while they're exploring. There is an overall quest that they have to, that eventually has to wrap up. So they're seeking to find the mother of the baby alien that they now have. So they're trying to find that alien. So we got to keep going and eventually wrap that up. But I don't know, we haven't really discussed yet exactly how many books that's going to be. We know what happened with the first series when we thought we knew how many. But we're just kind of taking it book by book to see what happens.
Chuck Harrelson: Right.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yeah.
James Blatch: Great. Well it's fun to meet people who do things slightly differently. And I think the two of you do, it is amazing how you've met and how well you get on how. And I don't mean your friends, what I mean is how well you work together. It seems a very smooth operation unless there's terrible tantrums and you're just covering all that up.
Kerrie Flanagan: No, there's no terrible tantrums. The only time that we have any discussions, it tends to be over one word that we like, "No, I want this word." And he wants, "No, I want this word." What really makes this whole thing work is we play to our strengths. We don't try to duplicate anything. We are each bringing our own strengths to it and we trust each other completely. And I think that's what really makes this work.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, right. No ego, no ego.
Kerrie Flanagan: Right. It's not like, "Oh I did this part and Chuck did this part." It's like, "No, this is our project, these are our books." And it just works out really well.
James Blatch: That's great. And Chuck, I feel that we're in your writing time, because that's nighttime for me, but it's nine o'clock in the morning for you.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh yeah, yeah.
James Blatch: The middle of your intensive session. Are you drafting at the moment?
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, we're getting ready for the next book. We're in the planning phase now.
James Blatch: So it's the spreadsheet phase at the moment.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes.
James Blatch: Ms Office does well from you, isn't it? Excel and Word seem to be the...
Kerrie Flanagan: Yep. Yep. That's-
Chuck Harrelson: That's what we started in and I've, it's just because I'm comfortable with those, it's what I've used. I've always been curious about Scrivener and even Atticus to see what they are. But it's hard to jump into different things when you're not used to them.
James Blatch: And also, it will take time, which you haven't, you don't want to disrupt everything by changing over. And the reason I mentioned Atticus, because I believe Dave has designed it for almost exactly this. That you would write on it, then you'd basically give permission to an editor and they're in the manuscript and you can see what progress they've made on it and then they just say you. But it's all in one place, it's all in the cloud.
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, it sounds interesting.
James Blatch: Yeah, it's interesting. But it's like all these things, if it's not broken, probably don't want to have to go, waste of time trying to fix it at the moment.
Kerrie Flanagan: It took us a while to get this system so we're just going to leave it as is right now.
James Blatch: Yeah. Ignore me, I don't, don't want to interrupt anything that's going really well for you, but it's brilliant. People can look you up C.G Harris and if they wanted to look up your own books, where would they find those?
Kerrie Flanagan: So it's at kerrieflanagan.com. That's where all mine are.
James Blatch: And Chuck, these are your books?
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh yeah, yeah. Both of our books.
James Blatch: Where does C.G Harris come from?
Chuck Harrelson: Man, I don't even remember now. I think we just came up with a name.
Kerrie Flanagan: You had it.
Chuck Harrelson: Oh.
Kerrie Flanagan: You had it. You had it on Twitter and you already had all these, a crazy amount of followers. It was like, "Well let's just stick with that."
Chuck Harrelson: I know, we just stuck with it. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I came up with a pen name but long time ago. I can't remember, just play off of my name, probably.
James Blatch: Yeah, there you go. All right, well look, thank you so much indeed for joining us all the way from Colorado. Maybe we'll meet each other in Vegas again one day.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yes, that's the plan.
Chuck Harrelson: That's great.
James Blatch: You'll go back, Chuck, even though you came away with COVID this time?
Chuck Harrelson: Yeah, I'll try to stay away from people a little more this time maybe.
Kerrie Flanagan: Yeah, I don't know how you can do that.
James Blatch: Well listen, it wasn't us, because we don't have it, unless we're those secret carriers who don't know. It's all those other people. All right, thanks very much indeed. It's been brilliant.
Kerrie Flanagan: Thanks for having us.
Chuck Harrelson: Thank you. Yeah, it's great.
Speaker 1: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Yeah, you do a little bit of collab, collab, collab. I know what you say don't you, on your children's books. And you did a bit, did you do something in the past with-
Mark Dawson: Yeah, Stephen Kavanaugh, Scott Mariani, and Michael Ridpath have all traditionally published author who wrote some Milton and Novellas and actually Stephen Kavanaugh was involved with The Vault as well, which is one of the group 15 books. But yes, I have some experience in working with others and its fun. It's interesting to bring different voices into writing about characters and worlds that you've created. It can be quite liberating experience to do that.
James Blatch: And lots of different ways of doing this. So we know from the way that they work together, Kerrie and Chuck work is that Chuck does a first draught and then Carrie takes it from there, more or less. But they work together on the outline. We know Suzanne and Caroline's sisters from Kent who write the Zodiac Academy series. They take a point of view each and so basically do a chapter each as they work through the books. Fuse Books, is hopefully this month publishing its first romance titles written by the Quinn Twins, Suzy and Cath.
They write a book each, but they help each other out as things go. So there's lots of different ways of collaborating on a series or an individual book. And at the same time we should say it's probably not for everyone. We talk about writers being solitary creatures as if it's a negative thing. I think for some writers that's a positive thing. They quite like working on their own and being creative and having total control over their own story. In fact, I think you are a bit like that as well, aren't you? You are very cautious about collaborating on your own creations.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I prefer to do it myself, but as I said, there is a time when it's fun to bring other people in and I've had some fun with those novelles and the Vault novel in the past. It was a good experience to do that, I would do it again.
James Blatch: Okay. All right. Right, we're off and running in 2023. Next time we record we will actually be in 2023. This is time recording because we're still in December 22, so I hope you had a nice Christmas, we should say. Right, that's it. Thank you very much indeed for listening. Take part in that challenge, that URL, a final time, selfpublishingformula.com/facebookchallenge. Get in the group even if it's just a soak up what everyone else is doing. We'll see you next time. All the remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye. Goodbye.
Speaker 1: Get show notes, the podcast archive and free resources to boost your writing career at selfpublishingshow.com. Join our thriving Facebook group at selfpublishingshow.com/facebook. Support the show at patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. And join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing so get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self Publishing Show.
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