My buddy Andrew Warren is back with more adventures of spy-on-the-run Thomas Caine, and he's trying a new concept with the series that you may find interesting--shorter novellas that exist along with his longer novels. Andrew has already proven himself as one of the great new voices is contemporary espionage fiction (I'm not easily impressed anymore, and Andrew's work impressed me indeed) so I am excited to see what he does next.
BD: What has been going on in the life of Thomas Caine since the series started?
AW: Well, since we last spoke, a lot has changed for betrayed assassin Thomas Caine. I released two full length novels, Red Phoenix, and Fire and Forget. I also rebranded the novella, Devil’s Due, into a new series called Caine: Rapid Fire. Rapid Fire book 2, Cold Kill, was released last week. I’m happy to say my readers seem to love the new book and series.
Caine also made the leap into audiobooks and print. Print versions of all the books are available on Amazon. Tantor Audio made me an audiobook deal for the first three novels, and I am producing the Rapid Fire series myself, through Amazon’s ACX program.
Finally, I am in the outlining phase of the next Caine novel, and I hope to have that ready in June.
BD: Have you been pleased with fan reaction?
AW: I have the say, the fans have been amazing… They really seem to love the Rapid Fire concept, and they gave me a ton of positive feedback. Novellas are typically a hard sell on Amazon, but I think that comes down to length, and value for the reader.
Many of the ‘novellas’ I see on Amazon are really just ‘longish’ short stories. A lot of them seem to be 10-12k words or so. Because of Amazon’s pricing structure, it’s really hard to make those a win / win for both authors and readers. If you price them at 99 cents, the author makes almost nothing., But if you price them at the 2.99 sweet spot, it feels like there’s not quite enough content there for readers to justify spending the money.
The Rapid Fire series book come in around 35-40k words, which is long enough to read in multiple sittings if you want. One reader emailed me and said the Rapid Fire books were the perfect length for a plane flight, or to read while riding the train to work. They really are fully developed stories, packed with action, interesting characters, and exotic locales. So if you get three reading sessions for about 99 cents each, I’d call that a bargain!
BD: Indeed. I once did a series of short crime stories under the name Dean Breckenridge that weren't more than 10k words, and they still bring in some nickels and dimes now and then, so the concept certainly is viable. What made you want to try novellas?
AW: Well, one big reason was flexibility… not every story needs to be a 100k word novel. Rather than padding them out, this shorter series lets me tackle a quick, action-packed scenario in between the longer works. It’s a nice break for me, and it gives my readers even more Caine action to enjoy.
Also, having a separate series gives me the ability to jump around in time. I originally planned to do that in the longer Caine novels… I wanted to tell some stories from Caine’s past, then jump ahead to his future when he’s retired, then back to the present. However, the background story that developed in the main books really took on a life of its own. It became more serialized, and grew more complex, adding characters and detail with each book. I didn’t think it would make sense for readers to suddenly jump back in time at that point.
And Cold Kill was an idea I had for years… As soon as I finished Devil’s Due, I knew the Russian Mafia would be coming after Caine for revenge, and the whole scenario flashed across my mind. I actually started writing it before Red Phoenix, but then I shifted gears, and finished that novel first. It did so well that I had to follow it up right away with Fire and Forget, and so I’m just now coming back to Caine’s Russian adventure. Since it’s a prequel, putting it in a separate series along with Devil’s Due just seemed to make sense.
BD: How else do the novellas fit into the framework of the novels?
AW: The first two Rapid Fire books are direct prequels to Tokyo Black. But Rapid Fire 3, which is in the works, goes even farther back, and explores a mission from Caine’s early days in the CIA’s Special Activities Division.
As I said, I want to use this series to jump around in time, or even tell stories featuring other characters. What did Mariko Murase do after Tokyo Black? How did Jack Tyler start working with Tom? Having this shorter series really opens the door to experiment and have some fun. But rest assured, I’ll always keep writing the longer books as well… I love getting lost in exotic locations with Caine, and I don’t plan to give that up any time soon!
BD: What else separates the novellas from the novels?
AW: One thing I tried to convey in the marketing for the Rapid Fire series is they’re not just “short”. They’re fast paced! Each Rapid Fire book is quick shot of literary adrenaline, packed with ‘rapid fire’ action. In Cold Kill, Caine is kidnapped by the Russian mafia, and must run for his life through the frozen mountains of Siberia, while a team of Russian commandos hunts him like an animal. It’s a simple story, but it’s filled with action, suspense, and memorable characters. It’s like an action movie… it doesn’t need to be three hours long to enjoy it.
I certainly hope my readers continue to enjoy these shorter books, because I really do love writing them in between the longer works.
BD: What are some steps you've taken to promote your books? Do you depend more on advertising or your newsletter list?
AW: The short answer is “Both!” Self-publishing has become more crowded, and it does get harder and harder to stand out. Most readers tell me my last novel, Fire and Forget, is the best in the series, but Red Phoenix outsold it by a large margin, I think because of the time it was released.
There are so many more authors now, putting out really great work with high quality covers, engrossing stories, and fun characters. But ultimately, I think that’s a good thing. It may be harder to stand out, but I also think from a reader’s perspective, self-published books are now seen as no different than traditionally published ones. That means anyone who puts out quality work on a regular basis has a chance to succeed.
I do advertise on Facebook, Amazon, and Bookbub. I also email my list about once a month, with news on upcoming releases, sneak peeks at new books, and special sales and contests. If any of your readers would like to check out the Thomas Caine series, they can get a complimentary book by joining my Reader’s Group, HERE.
BD: What are you working on next?
AW: I’m in the outline stages of the next Caine book, and I’m hoping to have that finished in time for a June release. I’m also working on my first collaboration with another author… it’s too early to talk about it right now, but anyone who joins my Readers Group will hear more about it very soon… Finally, the audiobook for Cold Kill is coming along well, and should be released early next month. I’m working with a new narrator, and this guy is just killing it! I can’t wait for audiobook fans to hear his work.
After all that, we’ll just have to see… I still really want to get to that Space Opera series I told you about years ago, but Caine seems to keep dragging me back!
Thank you again for featuring my on your site, Brian. I truly appreciate it. If your readers would like to learn more about me and my books, they can visit my Amazon page HERE, or my website HERE.
If anyone has any questions about me, my books, or self-publishing, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.