Blog Archive

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Writing and Publishing: Author Interview with Michael Hicks Thompson

Let's start with some details about your current novel. You originally released it as a novella. Why the re-release as a full novel?
After publishing The Parchman Preacher (a novella), I realized I'd made a mistake. I should have written and finished the entire allegory of Christ's ministry. I'm encouraging people to NOT buy that book because a lot of it is in The Rector. So, I decided a full-length re-do of The Parchman Preacher needed a new title, hence, The Rector

How long did it take to write your first draft of the novella? Was the rewrite quicker?
It took 3 months to write the novella. (I'm a binge writer.) And, no, The Rector took longer. I made lots of changes to the novella and completed the story. It took another 3 months + new editor, + rewrites + +.

What made you choose the suspense genre? What type of research did you do for this book?
Why suspense? Well, what's a good mystery without suspense? Research? I've been involved in prison ministry, so I already knew about "men in prison." I also know a lot about the Delta, so that came natural for me--the people, the drinking, the small town life with quirky characters. Most of my research centered around finding the right theological questions Martha or Oneeda or Mary might ask the rector. What Biblical wisdom would fit in which scene? It had to be woven in undetected by my reader. i.e., not contrived.

Are you active with any writer’s critique groups? If so, how have they helped you?
Yes, once a month, I attend the Collierville Christian Writer's Group. There are about 30 of us. We have a great leader in Susan Reichert. She gives us writing exercises, presents topics that help make us better writers, and there's a small feedback group afterward. Susan won't let us use the term critique group. She prefers "feedback." 

I've also been in two Media Bistro Master Novel Writing online courses. There are usually eight writers, from all over the globe, and an awesome instructor, Caitlin Alexander, former editor with Random for eleven years.

You've also done two illustrated novels on the life of King David from the Old Testament. What drew
you to write his story?
Ahh, the DAVID novels. BTW, I call them novels because I added scenes that aren't in the Bible. However, those scenes don't interfere with Biblical teaching in any way. They're there to help the reader move from one scene to the next. As for what drew me to write the story, I was simply intrigued by the fact that David was the only man in the Bible whom God said was a man after His own heart. I first thought it'd be a 12-part TV mini-series. I wrote three episodes and outlined the other nine, took it to Hollywood in search of an agent or filmmaker. "We're not doing sand and sandals films right now," I was told. 

How did you go from a script to a graphic novel?  
On the flight back I decided to turn it into two graphic novels. I'd worked with artists my whole career (I owned an ad agency for 30+ years, as creative director and one of the copywriters). 

How did you go about replicating Goliath's armor and the Ark of the Covenant?
The Goliath suit of armor I had made by a metalworker here in Memphis. It's nine feet, six inches tall, not including his intimidator helmet--another eight inches. I then had another artist build a replica of the ark of the covenant, covered in faux gold leaf. I rented a U-Haul and traveled from bookstore to bookstore, signing books. To my surprise, the Goliath suit of armor made a bigger impression on people than the ark. 

Goliath stands next to me in my vaulted studio. I donated the Ark to Third Millenium Ministries in Orlando. Richard Pratt, Th.D., founder of IIIM, vetted my DAVID novels and even wrote the foreword to each.

Each of your books are under your own imprint. Did you first try the query route with agents and publishers?
In 2011, after publishing the novella through WestBow Press, I thought it would be better to have an agent for The Rector. Granted, I had published the DAVID novels under my own imprint, Shepherd King Publishing, knowing no publisher would ever spend the kind of money I spent on those two illustrated novels. But, for a full-blown murder mystery, I thought it would be good to have an agent and a publisher. I hired Mark Malatesta to help me find an agent. He doesn't actually query, but he helped spruce up my query letter and synopsis; and he provided a spreadsheet of all the potential agents handling my genre--Religious Fiction. 

A year later, I signed up with an agent and a year after that he secured a small publisher. The contract? I would receive twelve percent royalties, but do all the marketing myself. That didn't make sense, so I published The Rector under my Shepherd King Publishing imprint (and released the agent). This way, I'd receive seventy percent, not twelve. Made sense to me. I hired an editor and had six Beta readers provide me with straight and narrow suggestions. I published through CreateSpace for paperbacks, had a New Jersey printer handle the hardbacks, and went with Draft2Digital for all the e-Books, e-Pubs, etc.

Other than completing your novels, what was the most difficult aspect of publishing for you?
By far, the most difficult aspect was uploading all the different formats to CreateSpace, the hardback printer, and digital portals. Each had different requirements, some of them too complicated for a sixty-six-year-old man.

What has surprised you the most about getting published?
That I must compete with 300,000 new books a year--so many of them from CreateSpace by first-time writers who didn't spend the money to have them edited. These writers persuade their family and friends to read the novel, only to discover mistake after mistake. (Hire an editor!) What those books do is turn readers back to the celebrity novelists, leaving only a small window of new writers to break through. For me, that means I have to work harder to build a fan base.

What do you know now about publishing that you wish you knew sooner?
The cost to self-publish and do it professionally: cost of an editor, professional book cover design, purchasing the hardbacks and paperback books from CreateSpace for book signings, conferences to attend, etc. All in, about $7,000 per book, but a mere pittance compared to the two DAVID novels. Still, I keep doing it. Doing it because I love the writing, the re-writing, studying each and every word ("Is there another word that would work better?"), polishing and polishing ... about twenty-five read-throughs for each novel. I do it for the love of writing, and hopefully, if only a dozen readers are entertained and take away just one theological thought they'd never considered, I'll be happy.

What’s been your best promotion for selling books?
Traveling to book signing tours--bookstores. Second, building an opt-in list of subscribers for my monthly newsletter, "Stay Up With Mystery." It's on my site.

What advice would you give someone who wants to indie-publish? What is the best advice you’ve been given or learned?
Be prepared to spend $5,000 to $7,000 if you want to do it right. And, set up an LLC, for your own protection. Do not use as your email address. Use your author site's URL. Oh, and don't worry about getting into libraries until you've become famous. I spent far too much time, effort, and money to set up a wholesaler for library distribution.
Best advice I've been given? Hmm, hire a great editor!

What other works do you have in the process?
The Actress, sequel to The Rector, will release in January. Then, another in the series will follow. Plus, I'm negotiating with a Hollywood film company to option The Rector. And, I have a re-write of a sci-fi thriller I want to polish and find a major publisher for in 2017.

Any last words you’d like to add?
Yes, read The Rector. It's already won four major awards. It entertains and informs, but first and foremost, the characters are unforgettable. (At least that's what the reviewers say. And, "It's not preachy.")

That's it for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Michael's current and future books, here are some options.

Follow this link for his monthly mystery-lovers eNewsletter, "Stay Up With Mystery." If you don't like what you receive, you can unsubscribe in five seconds. 


  1. I love that cover-really love it. But am sorry to hear that so much money was spent-I hope it is paying off. I read sometime ago by a famous author-that even though she was with a well known Big publisher all the REAL marketing she did herself-and she herself was surprised to realize that THAT is how it is. Unless you are a celebrity. She added that ALL the effort t publishers did put int it came AFTER she had got the plates spinning-BUT all the money they put in is taken from any money she generated Before she saw a dime. The Upside of the Big publisher was not having to find money to print the books she needed when she went to places other than bookstores to promote her book-like colleges etc but again any money generated -the publisher gets paid first for ALL expenses-including the cost to print the books. At any rate I have just purchased the ebook. The cover intrigued me.

  2. Thank you! (Just now seeing this... for some reason, I wasn't notified of your email.) I hope you enjoyed The Rector and hope that you left a comment on Amazon next to the book. Thank you!

  3. Patricia, what did you think of The Rector? I've written number 2 in the series. The Actress.