It is my pleasure to sit down and natter with Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff (aka MYN). Mark is a prolific writer, podcaster, TV presenter, and all round good-egg. Mark has recently kicked up a storm in the Amazon charts with his recent book on the Osama Bin Laden operation. Prior to that, he has had a number of best-selling books (both fiction and non-fiction. See list with links below). I wanted to get to know more about Mark’s approach to publishing (he has his own publishing company), the changes that are going on in the industry, and his future plans.
So, on to the interview:
Being a proponent of indie-publishing, do you think we are in a bubble (of ebook popularity) or the beginnings of a long-term publishing paradigm?
This is no bubble. Thanks the staggering proliferation of devices that can access eBooks including smartphones, tablets and of course devices such as the Kindle or Nook, we are in a golden era of change in the publishing industry. Sure, it may not seem that way to major publishers struggling to understand how to survive in a world where their bloated and antiquated methods of business feel as archaic today as Edison’s hand-crank Gramophone, but the winds of change, they are a blowing.
eBooks offer a tremendous amount of opportunities for enterprising writers, mostly because by cutting out the cost of the middlemen (publisher, distributor, retailer), you can lower your price points in order to be competitive which helps level the playing field. Other than maybe specific genre writing, I don’t think there’s any kind of “brand loyalty” that book consumers have to a publisher. People just want to read good stuff and don’t want to pay too much for the privilege.
Obviously you can point to how mp3s changed the music industry, and how they quickly eroded the market for physical media as a parallel. I won’t argue with you that reading a printed page is in many ways a superior way to enjoy a book, but just because something offers a superior media experience doesn’t mean it will survive over a content delivery method that offers better access and massive proliferation. (see “Betamax, CDs, DVDs”).
Look at vinyl, I love the warm sound of music on vinyl, but since there’s no mass market for them anymore. It’s a collector/enthusiast/music fetishist/ thing now, mostly created by indie companies and sold at a premium. The same thing will happen to physical books within two generations. By the time my grandkids are ready to read, they’ll view the dead-tree book as quaint as we view a black and white TV set or a 78 RPM record. eBooks are here to stay.
Ultimately though, if you want a culprit to blame for the future demise of dead tree books, blame oil. The undeniable fact that petroleum supplies will continue to dwindle means the paper book is doomed. Every step of the process of book manufacture and transport relies on this non-renewable resource. As fuel costs continue to rise dramatically, which then drives up the cost of bringing physical media to market, thus lowering profit margins, shareholders of these publicly traded companies will demand the abandonment of physical media to meet the bottom line.
What inspires and/or informs the ideas for your fiction writing?
I go into my front yard and spin around until I’m dizzy, then fall down and whatever comes to mind is what I jot down. No, I actually don’t know how to answer this question other than to say I have always had a very active imagination. I have always consumed a lot of media, news especially, and my mind is always churning and coming up with stories I really want to tell. I have countless pages filled ideas and scenes and snippets of dialogue. At any given time I probably have half a dozen “serious” books I’m working on, all in different stages of completion. I may see, hear or read something that inspires me to go off and begin something else.
I think I have some kind of A.D.D., always chasing and developing crazy ideas, but sometimes plucking those crazy ideas from the maelstrom inside my brain turns into fully-formed properties. I have always watched a lot of television, much more as a kid than most “experts” would agree is healthy, but it all helped broaden my imagination. Consuming art, pop culture… consuming all kinds of content in general, as well as having real life experiences, are the most inspiring things for me.
Had you written much before your debut novel? Or was it a natural extension of your creative output?
I had written a lot as kid. I always dreamed of being a writer. Then, because it seemed like an easier way to meet girls, I became a musician. I went to a big music college and then made my living as a professional composer, which I realized was just a way for me to write stories using notes and tones instead of words. The first complete novel I wrote was “The Doomsday Club”, which was penned in 19 days of non-stop writing, morning to night.
As I was writing it, I realized how similar the mental process was to writing a symphony, but instead of notes and tones, I was using words–which I was still more fluent with than music–I realized there were a lot more opportunities out there as a writer so I made the tough decision to alter my lifetrack and pursue that as my primary focus. It was the right decision.
Given your success so far with indie-publishing, would you ever seek out a traditional book deal?
Of course. I have two main goals as an artist: advance the vision I have for my brand, and continue to put food in my family’s mouth. But it would have to be the right strategic partnership (and that’s exactly how I would have to see it). Mainstream media, while seeming in dire straights right now, still offers a level of marketing muscle and brand exposure that is difficult for any indie brand to reach. Opportunites come from anywhere and everywhere. Only a fool doesn’t consider all possibilites.
Your Osama Bin Laden book has stormed into the Amazon best selling charts. How did you approach the research aspect this project, given the short period of time in which you wrote it?
I credit a lot of the success I’ve had as a creative with being able to write and create very quickly, as well as having boundless enthusiasm for what I do. Some people shy away from research because they think its boring, but I love it and throw myself into it. When I started reading how the manhunt to finally locate Bin Laden and the mission to kill him all went down, the whole story felt like a Hollywood blockbuster story. I became obsessed with this amazing and historical event. Some crazy voice in my head told me I needed to be the first person to write a book about it. So, I began voraciously consuming everything about the way the mission came about from sources around the world. I made a few phone calls, I read everything I could get my hands on, all while writing like crazy. Four days later, I had a book, which has since turned into a bestseller and landed me a paying gig to write a brand new comic book series.
Of all your fiction works, which do you feel most represents your writing style and/or ethos?
I don’t feel like I’ve released the definitve MYN book yet. I think the entire body of my work represents who I am and what I do. I feel like I’ve had a lot of success and a lot of artistic satisfaction by constantly being a moving target.
Given that discoverability is the biggest hurdle for new indie writers, what tips can you give to writers to help their books be found amongst the ever increasing sea of releases? What techniques/methods have you found to be effective?
It’s guerilla warfare out there. Six years ago, I started a podcast in my car that became a full time job and a Sirus Satellite Radio show five nights a week and got me feature writeup in Playboy Magazine. A book I wrote called “Where’s My F*cking Latte” about the kind of shit that Hollywood assistants endure was featured on a TV show called “Access Hollywood”. A video podcast I was doing got me a hosting gig on a TV series. None of these opportunites were things I hunted out, they all found me. I always tell people that if you do really high-quality work, people will notice and doors will open. More importantly, people will remember your name and your brand will grow. These things take time. I don’t really have a lot of followers on Facebook or Twitter. I pimp my stuff endlessly, but I don’t really see much effect that I can track. I don’t keep a real mailing list. The only thing I focus on is trying to continually create stuff that I think people will find interesting in one way or another.
One of the most important things to remember you are no longer competing for shelf space like physical products do, and as such are forced to create massive sales immediately in order to justify being kept on that shelf, and in effect, in the public eye, that you have to focus on “long tail” thinking for your work. You don’t need to generate the level of hype to create a boffo opening day or weekend box office, all you have to do is create a reputation for doing interesting work and be patient. It is a long tail world now thanks to electronic media.
What projects can we look forward to in the future from the world of MYN?
SEAL TEAM X (SealTeamX.com), this comic book I wrote the story for is coming out in July, I think. It’s with a new company called Hype Comics based out of Los Angeles, London and Miami and the artwork is really unbelievably cool. I also have a book of short stories called “Killing My Boss” that I’m co-writing with an extremely talented, up and coming writer whose work I have been very impressed with (Can we guess who this might be? *Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink *).
I’ve agreed to terms to turn my former web video series “Things I Learned This Week” into a TV series and now we’re hoping to finalize all the details and close the deal in the next few weeks. My other TV series, a syndicated newsmagazine about smartphones called, “The MoShow” is apparently very close to getting picked up for a second season. A couple of months ago, I signed with a talent agency as a Voice Over artist, so I’ve been doing a good number of auditions for national commercials… and the beauty is I can do all these auditions at home!
I also have a few other books I’m working on that I’d like to get released as eBooks before the end of the summer including a couple of novellas, another self-help book for creatives that would pick up the thread where my last self-help book for creatives “Go Forth and Kick Some Ass” left off. There’s a short book of interesting anecdotes my late father wrote about his time working for the American Embassy in Dhaka during the early 1960s, including some time he spent showing Jackie O around when she took a trip there as First Lady. There’s also a couple of other things going on that I can’t talk about quite yet, so as you can see, it’s going to be a very busy summer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Thanks for taking the time Mark, it’s much appreciated. For more of Mark’s work, you can check out a any of the following books. I highly recommend ‘Go Fourth and Kick Some Ass’ if you are in need of some creative inspiration.
- The Killing of Osama Bin Laden
- Badlands (Shadow Falls)
- Number One with a Bullet
- Go Fourth and Kick Some Ass
- Diary of a Madman
- The Doomsday Club
- The Art of Surfacing
- Where’s my Fucking Latte
You can keep track of Mark’s output including his very helpful podcasts on his website. Wordsushi
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Fanatical About Fiction
Colin F. Barnes is a quill-wielder of vibrant, edgy fiction, mixing sci-fi, horror and thrillers.
You can learn more about him here.