Friday, November 18, 2016

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Ken McGorry, author of 'Ghost Hampton'



Ken McGorry has been writing since third grade. (He learned in first grade, but waited two years.) He started a school newspaper with friends in seventh grade, but he’s better known for his 23 years as an editor of Post Magazine, a monthly covering television and film production. This century, he took up novel-writing and Ghost Hampton and Smashed are examples. More are in the works, like the promised Ghost Hampton sequel, but he’s kinda slow.

Ken lives on Long Island with his wife and they have two strapping sons. There are dogs. Ken is also a chef (grilled cheese, and only for his sons) and he enjoys boating (if it’s someone else’s boat). He has a band, The Achievements, that plays his songs (try https://soundcloud.com/ken-mcgorry). Back at Manhattan College (English major!), he was a founding member of the venerable Meade Bros. Band. Ken really was an employee of Dan’s Papers in the Hamptons one college summer, and really did mow Dan’s lawn.

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About the Book:

Lyle Hall is a new man since his car accident and spinal injury. The notoriously insensitive Bridgehampton lawyer is now afflicted with an odd sensitivity to other people's pain. Especially that of a mysterious young girl he encounters outside a long-abandoned Victorian house late one October
night. “Jewel” looks about 12. But Lyle knows she’s been dead a hundred years. Jewel wants his help, but it’s unclear how. As if in return, she shows him an appalling vision—his own daughter's tombstone. If it’s to be believed, Georgie’s last day is four days away. Despite Lyle’s strained relations with his police detective daughter, he’s shocked out of complacent convalescence and back into action in the real world.

But the world now seems surreal to the formerly Scrooge-like real estate lawyer. Lyle’s motion in court enjoining the Town of Southampton from demolishing the old house goes viral because he leaked that it might be haunted. This unleashes a horde of ghost-loving demonstrators and triggers a national media frenzy. Through it all strides Lyle’s new nemesis in high heels: a beautiful, scheming TV reporter known as Silk.

Georgie Hall’s own troubles mount as a campaign of stationhouse pranks takes a disturbing sexual turn. Her very first case is underway and her main suspect is a wannabe drug lord. Meanwhile, Lyle must choose: Repair his relationship with Georgie or succumb to the devious Silk and her exclusive media contract. He tells himself seeing Georgie’s epitaph was just a hallucination. But a few miles away the would-be drug lord is loading his assault rifle. Berto needs to prove himself.

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Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?

My wife and I have a little summer place in Westhampton Beach, but my experiences working over college summers (at menial jobs) in various Hamptons locations gave me an indelible feel for the area. Regarding factual background, I had many conversations with a police detective friend and a Westhampton FD first responder about how various dangerous scenarios would play out (as well as workplace harassment). 

Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?

Both! Convinced that “Ghost Hampton” is a mass-market novel, I spent over a year trying to persuade traditional publishing people and literary agents that the book’s premise and its central character (a greedy lawyer in a wheelchair with women problems) were right for the reading audience in the age of “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad.” They weren’t hearing it. So I went on to self-publish and crossed my fingers. The miracle was that readers, especially women, gave my hero a chance, and so many got back to me with appreciation that I found overwhelming.

If self-published, did you hire someone to format the ebook version for you or did you do it yourself?  Can you tell us what that was like?

Both. The ebook and the print version were formatted professionally. And a professional designer, Phil at Price Digital, created the cover. He went on to help with internal formatting too. Then we started to find oddball typos in the finished, printed product. (“Breaks” instead of “brakes,” that sort of thing.) That could not stand, so I stopped production and launched into my own correction process – to do that, I had to scrap the internal page formatting and work in Word. I worked very long hours for a week or so to return the book – as a “revised edition” – to print. 

If self-published, how did you determine the price?

There’s a formula for a 6x9” trade paperback. A full-length book, say 300pp, would go typically for $15.99. Since “Ghost Hampton” is way more than that at 450pp, I took a guess and bumped it up to $16.99. Also, I understood I’d need a price level from which to drop down for special sales and promotions.

If published by a publisher, are you happy with the price they chose?

Well, there was one indie publisher I worked with who, after months of knowing my word count and page length, came up with a cover price of $29, almost 100 percent more than the norm, at the last minute. A highly respected traditional publisher I know agreed that having a price like that printed on my book was career suicide, so I actually fired that publisher and withdrew my book.

Did you purposefully choose a distinct month to release your book?  Why?

Yes, I wanted a “beach read” approach, starting in April, and also wanted to promote “Ghost Hampton” subsequently during the “spooky season.”

How did you choose your cover?

I worked with four publishing/design professionals! If you count me, who oversaw countless magazine covers for decades, I make five. The cover became very important to “Ghost Hampton’s” acceptance since most people didn’t know me (as a novelist), or my novel, from Adam. It was established early on that my initial “scary” Victorian house cover smacked of “Goosebumps.” One publishing pro urged that the cover image should “take you somewhere” you really wanted to go. We scoured reams of stock photography before finding one we loved, a photo by Andrea Hill.

Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?

Both. I’d write and revise a chapter a day. Then, when I was proudly finished with the first draft, I hired an editorial company and they told me what was really wrong with it! The revising/rewriting process took several months.

Did you come up with special swag for your book and how are you using it to help get the word out about your book?  

Yes! First thought was to print a beach bag to hold the beach read. I’m not made of money, but got a good deal at CustomInk on bags with my book title on the pocket. I added a little “.com” under the title so the curious would know where to go. These swag items were handed out at charity fundraisers (for free). In addition, I had my teenage son and his friends hand out the book on the streets of Southampton in a free promo effort. To get them to look like a “team,” I had tasteful beige baseball caps printed with the same “Ghost Hampton” logo. Pictures of the caps made it onto Facebook and people started trying to order them! (The caps were expensive, and there was no way I could charge readers $30 for a cap so I could just break even!) I also had color post cards made with additional “Ghost Hampton” info as a take-away on occasions when I’d run out of books.

Did you consider making or hiring someone to make a book trailer for your book?  If so, what’s the link?

Yes! Visit www.ghosthampton.com and there’s the 2.5-minute video! Phil, the man who created the book cover, is also a video professional and a web guru. We are very happy with our actor friend, Beau Allen, and his portrayal of Lyle Hall.

What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?

I can’t tell yet for sure how well that works but, of all the copies that are out there, about 50 percent were promotional giveaways. I was committed to getting the book into people’s hands, especially over the summer.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do before their book is released?

Take a step back and try to see what your book would or should mean to a stranger.

Have a plan to promote your book.

Work out. Promo work is exhausting, and you use a different part of your brain.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?

Oh, the website, a Facebook page, and my own personal FB page became a “Ghost Hampton” page by osmosis. We also had the video trailer ready before the book itself was ready. As an indie, I arranged to go with a traditional publicist, Smith Publicity, for straight (hoped for) coverage by mostly East Coast press. I signed up my book with Kirkus Reviews which reviews indie books for a reasonable fee. I’m on Twitter and Instagram. I also worked with a West Coast publicist, Jay Hopkins, who set me up with many fine radio and internet radio interviewers.

Do you have a long term plan with your book?

Well, there’s supposed to be a movie! (When? We shall see…) There are two sequels in the planning stages. There’s my earlier book, too. The plan was, if “Ghost Hampton” took off, a rising tide would float all boats.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?

Thank you, everyone, for giving “Ghost Hampton” and Lyle Hall a chance! Even though it’s not written by somebody you already know! This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I waited till now to do the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted in my career! I want everyone to know that I firmly believe books are really about readers—I’m just the messenger.

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