Randy Ingermanson on The Snowflake Method, Independent Publishing and ACFW

clip_image002What a thrill to host the inimitable Randy Ingermanson on IC today. It was learning Randy’s Snowflake Method of story development that made the process of novel creation a reality for me so many years ago. So when I found out Randy had decided to publish a “How To” book on writing using the Snowflake Method, I begged him to visit IC and tell us about the book as well as his other projects.

He relented.

Randy, so glad you could make it. First, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an Army brat and grew up in Kansas, Germany, and California. I wound up getting a PhD in theoretical physics at UC Berkeley and then decided that I really wanted to be a fiction writer. No, that probably doesn’t make sense, but I don’t really care. I like writing fiction. I’ve been pursuing that dream ever since.

I must say, I’m so glad you did, because it’s that unique combination of pondering the physical world and creative writing that produced the concept in your newest non-fiction release.

Tell us about the book How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method.

I wanted to write this book several years ago, but my agent convinced me it was just too weird. As he pointed out, it’s already hard to sell a book on how to write a novel. Writer’s Digest is the main publisher for that kind of book, so you either sell it or you don’t. If they say no, then you’re out of options. And the problem was that I wanted to write the book as a story. I have this crazy belief that story is the best way to teach things. By showing how it’s done, rather than telling how it’s done. But my agent told me that doing it that way would make it even less likely to sell, and the odds were already long. So I put it on hold until recently.

clip_image004Well, you’re in good company, Randy. I’ve heard that C.S. Lewis felt his fiction works were more important than his apologetics. He often said, “For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” Story deepens our understanding of the material.

You’ve written about The Snowflake Method and given classes on it for years. What made you finally decide to write the book?

I guess the real question is what took me so long? I’ve been an indie writer for almost three years, and this is the perfect book to publish as an indie, because it’s so risky to publish the traditional route. I just didn’t think about doing nonfiction as an indie until recently. But I noticed several months ago that a number of indie books were appearing in the “how to write fiction” category. And that’s when the light bulb went off in my head. I realized I don’t need a publisher. I can just do it myself. So I put it on my calendar.

As you mentioned above, you’ve been “indie” for three years now. What prompted you to make that jump?

The problem for me is that I tend to mix categories, and traditional publishing doesn’t know how to handle that. The bookstores don’t know what shelf to put it on. My City of God series is a mix of suspense, time-travel, and historical fiction, with a touch of romance thrown in. Because I’m a physicist, people want to put me in the science fiction category, but I always envisioned myself as a suspense guy who uses a science backdrop–kind of like Michael Crichton.

And the problem is that in the Christian market, any hint of science fiction is absolute death to sales. My publishers kept trying, but the sci-fi label somehow got stuck to me pretty tight, and nobody could get it off.

Ouch! Sounds painful.

Eventually, I just wore out with traditional publishing. It was obvious that my publishers and I couldn’t find a way to promote my work effectively. So I took a sabbatical from fiction writing, hoping that someday another way would open up. When e-books began selling well, I saw my chance and went indie.


What do you see as the pros of indie publishing for you?

For me, indie publishing is ideal for a whole fistful of reasons:

1) I can easily cross categories. So I gave my City of God series two categories: Christian suspense, and general market science fiction time-travel. The series fits both of these categories, and I wrote a product description to make it clear that there’s a very strong Christian element in the books. That’s important when you promote a book in any general market category. There are some anti-Christian readers who don’t want to be surprised with unwanted religious content. So I give them a warning label to prevent them from buying my books. You have to respect people’s rights by giving them an accurate product description.


And this cross-category strategy has done very well at finding readers who love my kind of fiction. Suspense is easy to promote among Christian readers, and time-travel novels are quite popular in the general market science fiction category. The numerous glowing reviews make it clear that there is an audience for my fiction, and they’re finding me.

2) I don’t have a publisher telling me what I can’t write. Publishers like to publish things they know how to sell. If they don’t know how to sell it, they try to get you to change things to be what they can sell. Which makes sense for them, but drives me nuts.

3) I don’t have a marketing committee making bad decisions on book covers or titles that doom the book from the get-go. If there are any bad decisions to be made, I want to be the person to make them. I’m the one with skin in the game. Those are my books. I’m the one who cares about them most.

4) I set the schedule. This is huge for me, because I’ve always felt like deadlines were a deathmarch.

5) I set the price. This is crucial. Publishers these days want to price e-books way too high. Some people say that publishers are trying to protect the price of paper books. I don’t really care why they’re doing it, but it’s clearly a bad idea.

I’ve had the first book in my City of God series, my Christy award winning novel Transgression, priced at $0.00 for the last couple of months and I’ve given away nearly 60,000 copies. A publisher sees that as 60,000 lost sales. I see it as 60,000transgression potential new readers who can try me at no risk. I’ve got the sequels priced at $2.99, which is far below what a publisher thinks is a fair price. But I think it’s a great price.

This series is selling wonderfully well. This is a series my publishers gave up on ten years ago, but it’s profitable for me, because my costs are low. I’m earning legions of new readers who never heard of me before. That’s a win-win situation that could not have happened with a traditional publisher.

6) Indie authors earn 70% royalties on e-books. This is 5 or 6 times the effective royalty rate of authors who work for traditional publishers. This means I can price my book at a nice low reader-friendly price and still earn enough money to cover my costs. Low-priced books sell a lot more copies than high-priced books, so everybody wins here. I love that.

P-shaw … Is that all???

What do you see as the cons of indie publishing for you?

You don’t get an advance when you’re an indie author. You have to pay for all the editing, proofreading, cover design, and formatting. You have to do all the marketing and other promotion. You have to do a lot of administrative stuff that authors don’t like doing.

Not every author can handle that. Authors like getting advances so they have something to live on while they write the book. And they like getting free editorial work, graphic design, proofreading, formatting, and admin stuff.

For me, the pros vastly outweigh the cons, but I completely understand that some authors feel exactly the opposite. It’s great that we have choices. We didn’t used to. Now we do. This is the best time in all human history to be an author.

Can I get another Amen, folks? Oh yes!

You and Brandilyn Collins have been instrumental with American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) in directing the board to make decisions that are more indie friendly. Can you tell us some of the changes which have occurred that will benefit indie authors?

Let me be clear that the Executive Board wants to make things better for indie authors, so it’s not like we had to crack any whips. Brandilyn and I are both fully indie right now, so we’ve suggested what changes will be most helpful to indie authors. But the board has been great about making changes to reflect the recent massive changes in publishing. A big ship turns slowly, and a big organization changes direction slowly, too. But ACFW is making great strides. Here are some of the things we’re moving toward:

* The first thing we did was to change the Mission Statement of ACFW so that it no longer was focused on traditional publishing. It was a matter of changing a couple of words, but the message is clear. Indie authoring is cool.

* Indies will be eligible for the Carol awards, beginning in 2015. To qualify, an indie author will have to meet certain criteria. (The intent was to make it roughly as difficult to qualify as it is to find a traditional publisher.)

* Indies will also be eligible for the various other promotional goodies on ACFW, such as Fiction Finder.

* Indies have their own e-mail loop right now, where they can discuss things that are of interest to indies but which would not interest traditionally published writers. (Such as where to get good editing, cover design, proofreading, and formatting. And all the myriad admin tasks that indies have to do, but trad-published authors don’t ever worry about.)

* Respect. I think this is the biggie, actually. Up until a few years ago, self-publishing just wasn’t a wise option. There were a lot of predatory vanity publishing houses out there taking advantage of authors who wanted to self-publish. As a result, there was a stigma associated with self-publishing. That stigma may still be around in the minds of some people, but I’d like to eliminate it completely among ACFW members. I don’t think we’re there yet. I know there are some writers who think that going indie is a second-best option. But as more and more writers decide that indie is the best option for them, I think the last shreds of that stigma will go away. Major authors like James Scott Bell, Athol Dickson, and Brandilyn Collins have gone indie, and that sends a powerful message. Other big guns, like Colleen Coble and Margaret Daley, have gone hybrid, and that also sends a strong message. Being indie is cool. Being hybrid is cool. Authors have choices, and that’s radically cool.

So glad to hear all that. ACFW is the other thing I credit with helping me start the writing journey. I am forever grateful!

Are there other changes you would like to see happen or any that you expect soon?

Just because of confidentiality, I can’t really talk about future changes, other than those that have been publicly announced.

Just whisper them to me. I won’t say anything …

<Crickets chirping>

Really, Randy, just one little tidbit????

<air conditioner noise>

If there are pressing issues that you’d like to see addressed, send me an email through the Contact page on my web site at http://www.Ingermanson.com

Okay, Randy, we’ll do that.

What should we expect from Randy Ingermanson in the future?

Several things:

1) I’ll continue working on my City of God series of time-travel suspense novels set in first-century Jerusalem.

2) I’m working on a series of novels about the life and death of Jesus. I wrote the first one years ago for a major Christian publisher, but it crashed and burned during the publishing process and all rights reverted to me. That first book in the series, tentatively titled Rabbi Yeshua, is in the revision stage right now, and will be out within a few months. (But I can’t give you a deadline, because I hate deadlines.)

3) I will be writing more books on “how to write fiction.” My most recent book, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, is the first in my Advanced Fiction Writing series. I’d like to write several books in this series.

Wow, Randy. Can’t wait to see even more Ingermanson books available. Thank you so much for joining us today. It was really a pleasure!

Readers, this is the place where I usually post one of those pesky (sorry I couldn’t resist) author bio thingies. But I forgot to ask Randy for one and it’s too late to catch him (he just flew out the door!). So I decided to check the “About” page on his website … and boy am I glad I did. If you’d like to know more about the man behind the curt—uh—I mean Snowflake Method, click here.

Other posts you might like:

Last Minute Christmas Ideas for Writers

Do You Need Me to Like Your Book?

Categories: Agent/Publisher Info, Author Interviews, Book Launch, Current Books, Fiction, General Writing Tips, Guest Blogs, Independent Publishing, Self Publising, Writing Resources, Writing Tips, Writing Tips | 7 Comments

Vanessa’s Character Picks August 28, 2014

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Vanessa’s Character Picks August 24, 2014

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Does Jesus Have Tattoos?

Does Jesus Have Tattoos

Hmm. Good question. Well, Isaiah 49: 16 says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”


All kidding aside. I’d like to talk about one of my favorite scriptures. Romans 8: 38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


That scripture contains a mountain of assurance and strength for a weary Christian. Paul is sure beyond any hesitation that nothing can remove him from God’s love. Nothing on earth, no created being, not time, absolutely nothing can sever us or remove us from our Savior.


Sometimes we need to stop and internalize the thought.


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What Do You See?

Julia skirted a mud puddle while a memory from her childhood danced through her mind. Outside the church, her older cousin, Sue, hurried across the country road to the church. Julia, at the age of seven, loved stomping in puddles after a rain, and the one beside her cousin looked far too inviting.

 “Julia Brown!” Sue yelled and jumped to the side. “You splashed me with mud!!


So many years later, Julia grinned as she remembered the speckles of brown on the lower skirt of Sue’s snow-white wedding dress. She’d felt bad at the time, but Sue had forgiven her then and laughed about it later.

“This weather is miserable.” Julia’s co-worker hurried to catch up.

“Oh, I don’t know, Marylin.” Julia lifted her face to the misty rain that had fallen off and on for most of the week. “Think of the flowers that will open up from this.”

“Ha! Think of the colds, maybe even flu we’ll be subjected to. And don’t forget all the mud tracked into the house. You don’t know how much mud a little boy can carry on the souls of his shoes.” Marylin gave an exaggerated shiver while a scowl burdened her face. “This is definitely miserable weather.”

Julia looked to the side as they reached the office building’s door. A beautiful bluebird swooped down to another puddle and proceeded to bath. His wings fluttered as he splashed the water. Did he find the weather miserable? Julia laughed. He probably enjoyed it as much as she did.1 -2- Learning to Lean 2

She followed Marylin into the building while her thoughts remained with the bird and the little seven-year-old girl she used to be. Was the weather miserable just because it rained? No, she didn’t think so. While she saw beauty and fun, Marylin saw dreary rain and mud. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is misery. We get what we see. Almost everything has two sides to it. Good and bad. If we look for the best in everything and everyone, chances are, the best is what we’ll see. If we look for faults and misery . . . well, I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “. . . for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . .”

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Vanessa’s Character Picks August 17, 2014

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Driftwood Tides, By Gina Holmes—A Review

If I had to describe my favorite kind of Christian fiction, I’d say it’s the kind that portrays Christians in all shapes and sizes, because that is how our Creator designed us—A mosaic of brokeDriftwood Tides Media Kitn fragments of color, pieced together to form a masterpiece of beauty. That is not only how one could describe the characters of Gina Holmes’ newest release, Driftwood Tides, it is to some degree the theme of the story.

Driftwood Tides is about a young woman who discovers, shortly before she is to get married, that she is adopted. She travels to Nags Head, North Carolina in an effort to find her birth mother, only to discover she is dead, and the women’s intensely alcoholic husband knew nothing of her birth. Together they embark on a journey to learn more about the woman who appeared a saint to those who knew her, but harbored secrets that may reveal her raw humanity.

As always, Gina Holmes paints vivid characters who are fraught with frailties, yet bear the hope of being something more. They are real, deeply felt, and unmistakably unique. In this novel there is a confused bride-to-be, an insecure groom, a haughty socialite, a drunken driftwood artist and an intensely loyal bathing-suit-top-wearing artist’s assistant. They are authentic, lovable and even aggravating at times—just like family. And yet they have the capability, with the help of a loving Father-God, to become more than the sum of their parts. They can be what God created them to be.

I love the metaphor of the driftwood artist. It is what God is to us. He can take old scraps of wood, beaten and worn, and turn them into something useful and beautiful. This story is about imperfection and brokenness, and how even the ugliest of elements can be repurposed for His Glory.

Other posts you might like:

Dry as Rain, By Gina Holmes—A Review

IC Welcomes Rachel Phifer, Author of “The Language of Sparrows”

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Vanessa’s Character Picks August 14, 2014

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Vanessa’s Character Picks August 12, 2014

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Vanessa’s Character Picks August 10, 2014

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