[Editor’s note: This post is part of a continuing series on how writers craft words to express their ideas and to connect with readers. The interview with Mr. Ward was conducted by Miriam Ruff on June 27, 2019, and is divided in two parts. You can read Part 1 here. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]
MR: What is your process for starting a new work? What keeps you motivated until you’ve completed it?
CW: These days I actually have a bit of a schedule. I used to go on inspiration, write 30,000 words and then give up as soon as it got difficult. While that still occasionally happens, I’m experienced enough now – I’ve written something like 35 books – that I know when it gets difficult to just keep writing and the plot will fix itself. Once I’m started, though, I like to get the first draft done as quickly as possible, no more than a couple of months. I work full and part time so I can’t devote my life to it, but I like to keep up an average of about 1500 words per day.
MR: Tell us a little about the different series you’ve worked on, including what you’re doing now. How are they similar, and how are they different? About how many books are in each? Which is your favorite, and why?
CW: I have multiple series in multiple genres. My big ones are Tube Riders – 4 books, a prequel fifth in progress – which is a dystopian series and by far my most successful. My next big series is Endinfinium – 4th book out by the end of the year – which is a kind of Harry Potter meets recycling. Sales have not taken off as I’d have liked, but I think the series is good so I’m still investing my time in it. Then I have another horror/dystopian called Tales of Crow – 5 books – and a space opera series, The Fire Planets, which is currently three books. In addition, there’s the Tokyo Lost mystery series – 3 books – and four books under my mystery pen name of Jack Benton, the Slim Hardy Mystery Series, which is currently my best seller, and the series that I focus most on these days.
MR: Why do you use the pseudonym?
CW: You have to keep genres separate. I learned that the hard way. Very few readers will jump from one series to another if it’s in a different genre, and Amazon, which is the big gun, works on algorithms. Basically, if you market a dystopian to space opera fans, you’ll get a bunch of unrelated books listed in the also-bought list underneath your book, and it’ll sink without a trace. It’s really important to have similar authors connected to your books. That’s why Jack Benton – my mystery pen name – will only ever write the Slim Hardy mysteries, and I won’t even advertise these to my science fiction fans. Same reason I will never put the books free. I’d clog my also-boughts with free junk, and it would make it really hard getting my books to sell again.
MR: To what do you attribute your current success?
CW: My success – what little there is – is definitely down to not giving up. Even now, I’ll get the odd no-sales day, but they’re few and far between. In 2012 I sold 416 books. There would be whole weeks without a single sale. Things have definitely improved, even if it’s still a minimal thing.
MR: What’s the biggest takeaway you want readers to have from your books?
CW: Enjoyment for the most part, and sometimes I’d like to teach them something. If I can, I like to add interesting snippets of information into my books which will make readers go “really? Is that so?” because I love it when I find things like that in other books.
MR: Where do you see yourself going with your writing in the short-term and the long-term?
CW: Short term I’m trying to finish up all the outstanding series and focus more on what sells. I published the last Tales of Crow book earlier this year, and I’m now focusing on finishing Endinfinium this year and the Fire Planets next year. From next year, I’ll probably be focusing more on the Jack Benton books, as they sell pretty well, as well as write a couple more Christmas books. I put one out last year under the name of CP Ward and it sold really well. I’ve just finished another one I plan to publish at the end of September. The best thing about Christmas books is that while they definitely have a peak season, they actually sell all year round.
MR: What advice would you give would-be writers?
CW: It’s a long-term game. I’ve been self-publishing for seven years and even with 23 (at best estimate!) novels out I’m nowhere near being a full time writer. However, at the speed I write – roughly five new books a year – I’m slowly building up a long backlist. The really successful writers are very vocal about it, but for the vast, vast majority, if you can make more than you spend, you’re doing good. It’s definitely a long-term game.
One other thing – if you try to write what you think is going to sell, you’d better enjoy writing it, otherwise you might as well just get a job in a bank. I write mysteries because I like writing mysteries. I write Christmas books because I love Christmas. And I write SF books because I like SF. I don’t write paranormal romance because I hate paranormal romance, even if it’s a huge market. Write to market if you really want, but you’ll probably hate it unless you’re really into that genre.
MR: Anything we haven’t mentioned that you’d like people to know?
CW: Writing, unless you’re lucky enough to get hired by some company to do it, is a hobby. Do it because you enjoy it, not because you think you’ll be able to make money. I like writing, playing the guitar, hiking, snowboarding, and going to theme parks, so I do all of those things. I don’t like horses, so I don’t ride them or watch horse racing on TV. Incidentally, though, my three-year-old daughter LOVES them ….!
MR: For people interested in finding and reading your work, where should they go?
CW: You can find most of my stuff on my occasionally updated website here:
Or check out my Amazon page:
Or follow me on Facebook: