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You know I have the utmost respect for your time, right? That’s why I only publish a few posts a year and keep them short. I usually tell you about things I’ve learned or people I love. Sometimes I tell you odd things that happened to me.

This time I need your advice.

As an author, I’m a “push the envelope” type of person. I like to shake things up. I think the worst thing an author can be is boring or predictable, so I created a new series about a former kidnap victim. I wrote two books. The first is present day, where 24-year-old Dani Ripper is a private investigator who searches for missing kids. Nine years ago she was kidnapped by a serial killer/rapist who held her captive in his basement for a month. Obviously, bad things happened in the basement. By using her wits and courage, Dani eventually managed to escape.

I have an advisory council, people who read my books before publication. I send them my manuscripts, they give me valuable feedback. Their comments make my books better, so this is something I recommend to all authors.

Before you run out and get five friends to read your books and tell you how great you are, you need to know my group is hyper critical. They usually beat the crap out of me and force me to defend my reasons for what I’ve written.

I love them for it.

My group talked me into two rewrites for Call Me! The result? A much better book than I would have written on my own.

The second book. The Little Girl Who Got Away, is the story of Dani’s kidnapping, imprisonment, and escape. My advisory council said I shouldn’t publish the book because my heroine is 15 years old. One member wanted to toss the manuscript after five pages because the subject matter was so offensive and the events too creepy. She said, “Every time a kid goes missing the police will search your basement!”

I was told if I publish The Little Girl Who Got Away I’d lose my fan base overnight. It would shock and horrify people. It’s every parent’s nightmare. The dialogue will make people wonder about me!

I said, “Several best-selling books have been written by girls who escaped their kidnappers. I haven’t read them, but surely their books include the bad things that happened.”

I was told the public likes true stories about these situations, but not fictional accounts. My agent called it a taboo subject. My publisher doesn’t even want to read it!

I don’t want to lose my fan base, alienate people, or make them think something’s wrong with me. I wanted to write something edgy about a resourceful young lady forced into a horrible situation, who found a way to survive and escape. Yes, it was creepy and terrible, but I thought it was a compelling story that would hold my readers’ interest. I don’t want to ruin my reputation or the good will I’ve built as a writer, but I also don’t want to throw a book in the trash simply because it’s too controversial.

Is my advisory council right? Are some subjects so offensive they should never be published?

I decided to take a poll. Please click the yes or no button that asks if I should publish the fictional story of Dani’s captivity. I’m not trying to sell you on it. I want your honest opinion, and your vote is completely confidential.

Here’s the link to vote:

Thank you so much for your help.

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Kimberly Kinrade
If you hadn't already published Call Me, I'd suggest a pen name. But honestly, I think you should publish this book. It's great that you are getting reader feedback, but you could break open a whole new reader demographic. This is a series that I'm more inclined to read, and I know many others who would be interested. I'm a YA author and I've read some YA paranormal stuff that is very, very dark. Rape, murder, kidnapping, self-mutilation, etc. This sounds almost like a very dark YA novel, given the protagonists age, but you'd know better than I. At any rate, I really hope you publish it. And you can count me among one of your new readers. I just bought Call Me!
John Locke
John Locke says:
Hi Kimberly, and thanks for your feedback. If you go to the website, you'll see I used a pen name for the book, Dani Ripper. Unfortunately, I had to tell my OOU's that Dani was my pen name because they thought yet another author was trying to cash in by using my name and they were going to boycott and send out notices! The poll is currently showing about 64% yes and 36% no. At that rate, I won't publish because I don't want to polarize my reader base. The reason this became an issue, one of my advisors thought it was the best written of all my books, though she recommended I don't publish it. Not so much because of the content, but because of the subject matter. Again, thank you so much for your input, and a special thanks for trying Call Me! --I had a ball writing this novel from a woman's perspective!
Kimberly Kinrade
It's awesome how much you respect your readers! Any chance I could get on your advisory council and get a chance to read that book? :) I look forward to reading more of your books! Once I have a few more books out, I plan on implementing your strategies in How I Sold 1 Millions eBooks. I have 2 books out now, but only one in my target genre (YA fantasy). It's the first of a series and the rest will be out in the next several months, then 3 other series are coming out. That's how I first found you, through that book. So thanks for all you've done for authors!
D. Miles Martin
As a reader, I tend to lean toward the horror genre more than the thriller genre. Jack Ketchum writes some very graphic rape scenes (some involving teens) and he's quite successful in his niche. In Pet Sematary, Stephen King had a toddler become a killer who slaughters his family, and in Gerald's Game, a large portion of the book is devoted to flashbacks where a young girl feels that her father is being inappropriate toward her. Clive Barker is one of my favorites, and his works are filled with bizarre sexuality and torture. And, as Kimberly pointed out, the YA Paranormal Romance genre is riddled with the overtly sexual. The point is that there are writers out there tackling "taboo" subject matter, and they have developed a wide and devoted fan base. Those fans might not be the same people who'd eat up every Donovan Creed or Emmett Love novel, but they are out there and eager for new stories. When you decided to start a western series, you knew that there might be some crossover fans, but that you'd also need to find new fans to support that series. I don't see this as any different. Nor do I think that a single book that heads in a separate direction will completely alienate your existing fans. They might not jump to order the next Ripper, but they'll still be waiting for the next Creed or Love. I say, you definitely should publish The Little Girl Who Got Away.
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Joe T.
Joe T. says:
Weren't you also told that Saving Rachel was a bad idea that would never sell? You broke ground with that novel because you believed in it enough to publish it anyway. It seems to me that you want to go against your council's advice again. If you didn't, in your heart, truly want to publish the new novel you'd already be following the advice of your council. Having read How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, I ask y0u this: did you write a good book? If the answer is yes, then follow your own advice--follow your heart--and find an audience for the new book.
Kate Madison
Kate Madison says:
Publish the book, John! It seems like the issue is mainly one of changing genres--something you have done successfully already. I only read horror occasionally now whereas I inhaled it as a teen. My comfort level with it has changed. But that doesn't mean I begrudge anyone else who loves the genre. I don't think their tastes are any less than mine. Just make sure to label the book as 'very dark' and a 'departure' from your normal writing style on all of the marketing. Put an all caps warning at the top of the blurb. Communicate all over the place that this one is different, this one is a Dani Ripper book. If you think the book is good in the sense that it shows some truth about human nature and entertains at the same time, you should publish it. And besides, what about the portion of your rabid fans that will want read it? Now that you have put it out there that this book exists, would you consider it a disservice to those fans who DO want to read it, regardless of how 'taboo' the subject matter is considered? I look forward to reading 'Call Me' (bought it yesterday) and hopefully 'Little Girl..' as well. Happy writing, John. Kate
J S says:
Is the book less creepy if you change the protagonist's age to 18+? Can the content be toned down/changed? About a month ago I read a book that went through all of Steven King's books published up through the 1980's, and he made comments like yours about "Pet Semetary" and not really wanting to put it out there. Of course they then made a movie... As to making any conclusions from the poll; I had an auto executive tell me once that if a market test of a new car showed 'everyone agreed it was a nice car' he knew it would later fail when produced. He wanted to ensure that there was significant polarizing love-hate opinion before he would authorize a vehicle going to production.
John Locke
John Locke says:
Just to clear up any misunderstandings, my advisory council, headed by my brother, told me the book would be a best-seller! It was the professional publishers and authors who told me Saving Rachel wasn't any good!
Kimberly Kinrade
I know I've already posted on this, but I just love these comments. And I totally agree. (Obviously!) It seems that those who are your fans will still be fans of the books they love. They may not rush to buy these new books, but again, you have done that with the thriller and western series where the cross-over isn't 100%. Why not do it now? You have the pen name. Even if they know it's you, they'll also know that it's a whole new genre and they can decide if they want to read it. I really, really hope you publish the next book! :)
Lene says:
I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, as both a writer and a reader I appreciate a book that pushes the boundaries and abhor censorship. As well, there are enough books, TV shows and movies about horrible things happening to nice people who then come back and save themselves/get revenge/etc. that it can obviously be done. On the other hand... a couple of years ago, I decided it was finally time to read Lolita. it's a classic and all that. What got me there despite the subject matter was that the audio book was narrated by Jeremy Irons, who I love, who has a fantastic voice and who has portrayed the character in the movie and would therefore do it well. I started reading the book and it was fantastic - fantastic writing, fantastic narration and about four hours into it, I had to stop. It made me feel like I needed to take a shower. In bleach. I never went back to it. I think your book could be done and done well, but perhaps with some changes. Too much detail about a 15-year-old being kidnapped and the victim of all kinds of nasty things by a serial rapist may make it too hard to read for a lot of people.
Cheryl Hassing
Cheryl Hassing says:
Just wanted to say tho, at you are one of my FAVORITE authors. I have read every book you've written. I love the Donovan Creed novals. They are excellent. The Emmet books are good too. I just finished Call Me. I did vote for you to write the other book, but saw you decided against it. I understand your reasoning. I agree. (would have been a good book though, I'm sure. You write so well). So, since you didn't have any more books out yet (I REALLY hope you have one or more coming soon) I just went and purchased "How I sold a million books in 5 months" (not sure I got that title right....going to read it as soon as I'm done with this email. I am a HUGE fan. Don't ever stop writing. You are one of the best. And I am a voracious (sp?) reader. Probably read at least 7-10 books a week. I wish you had more to read.....good luck to you in your writing. Until I can get my hands on another of your books, I'll settle for the other authors out there :0)
Cheryl Hassing
Cheryl Hassing says:
I just realized that everyone here is leaving comments on the book Call Me...I apologize for going on about all your other books and you being such a great author (though you are). I totally loved Call Me. I think it was very well written. Very differnt from your other books, obviously, but none the less a very well written book. I liked that it was written from Dani's perspective. You got to see into her thoughts on many levels, dealing with many personal issues. We saw how she felt about living with a husband she really loved, but not as a lover, a friend she loved, but was unsure or scared to take it to the next step, the fear and anger she still felt over her past. I also wondered, due to the name on the book (author) if you had help writing it, as you really understood so much. You wrote it so well, as if you were really inside a woman's mind. Which again, makes you an excellent writer. As for the comment I read above about someone telling Saving Rachel wasn't any good......I completely disagree!!! I loved it. And I'm not sure of the sales of that particular book, but I would guess you sold many, many copies, and proved whomever said that, totally wrong. Just keep up the great writing. I, for one, look forward to your next book, and all that follow.
Donald Everetti
Donald Everetti says:
I vote to publish. Dani Ripper touched on what happened so I don't think many-if any fan would be offends as I think most would want the full back story. Besides just tuning onto the nightly news can be horrible.
sabrynne says:
Okay, I have an idea. How about you rework it so it isn't about Danni Ripper and use a pen name as well (or maybe not)? If it is a good book, it's a shame to waste it. But perhaps it's a standalone story without darkening the Danni series. Just a thought.
Carolina Courtland
Thank you so much for sharing how you became so successful! It's helped me tremendously.
Steve Holmes
Steve Holmes says:
I picked up "The Color of Law" a few years ago (2006/7) and noted that Mark Gimenez' second book is called "the Abduction". I bought it, but left it on the book-shelf for a while. I might even have read his third book The Perk before I "plucked up courage" (OK, I'm English!) to read the Abduction. And of course I wondered why I had waited. If an author has the courage to write about something that happens in real life (try I Chose to Life by Sebine Dardenne), then he or she will generally deal with it in an appropriate manner. On Chesil Beach is 150 pages on PE; and boy is it dull! e-publish and be damned!
Steve Holmes
Steve Holmes says:
I picked up "The Color of Law" a few years ago (2006/7) and noted that Mark Gimenez' second book is called "the Abduction". I bought it, but left it on the book-shelf for a while. I might even have read his third book The Perk before I "plucked up courage" (OK, I'm English!) to read the Abduction. And of course I wondered why I had waited. If an author has the courage to write about something that happens in real life (try I Chose to Life by Sebine Dardenne), then he or she will generally deal with it in an appropriate manner. On Chesil Beach is 150 pages on PE; and boy is it dull! e-publish and be damned!
Laurel OBrien
Laurel OBrien says:
So glad you didn't listen re: Saving Rachel! I am; however, a nay sayer re: graphic child rape. I say this after my own response to a Grissom novel that began with brutal child rape. It was so graphic, it disturbed my senses and I could not read any further and never did. The book, was made into a movie which I did watch but the words I read are still in the back of my mind. I wish they were not there. I'm one of your devoted fans that will stay with Creed and Love. I say ...MORE!