Hello – I’m Laura Martín. Do you remember “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Indie Author”? That’s me. Now, Babelsbook has given me an opportunity on which I just couldn’t miss out. I’m about to interview an author (yes, who actually makes a living off of his work) who is able to write any genre: self-help, fiction, poetry… Whatever may come. What’s more, it’s profitable. Do you want to know what it takes to succeed in writing? Me too. We are ready to soak up any experiences that you have to offer; we want to learn from your talents and successes (well, whatever successes we’re willing to conform to).
I’m not sure where to start, Enrique – I want to satisfy everyone’s curiosity. Many readers will ask if you’re single, others for the key to your success; I just want to know what you eat for breakfast…
Well, let’s get down to the first question. What was it that first lit the light bulb, so to say, that illuminated your path in giving life to your first book?
Well, I wrote it when I was only eight years old. It was called ROCA. A mix of my own experiences and a song by Simon and Garfunkel was what first lit the light bulb. I was a bit of a gifted kid – with some problems at adapting to things. This little book – 50 pages – told the story of a young child who had turned to stone.
I’ve heard that, besides being a writer, you’re also a runner (I assume a real one, since you hold a record and everything), you speak English (you consider yourself of an average level, like many Spaniards, if you’re serious with yourself), and it doesn’t take you seven years to write a novel – but you undertake several projects within a year. Does your day have more than twenty-four hours? No, seriously – how do you get to be so creative?
Hahaha! Everything you say is true, but you have constructed a paragraph that contains topics that have been spread out over time. I’m still a pretty high-level runner – for my age – but I no longer hold any records. I managed to secure one when I was fifteen, in an 800 meter race. Actually, that’s the same distance with which I train today, but three decades later, it’s a lot harder for me. Making it to the Spanish Championship Finals is reward enough.
My level of English used to be very high. Travelling the world and negotiating with people from over one-hundred countries gives no other choice. Now, I consider myself to have a middle-level English because I know what it means to have a high-level. Yes, most Spaniards exaggerate when it comes to their English-level, hahaha. But, I recommend that you don’t do so: the Human Resource staff will know the truth during your first interview.
With regards to the novels, there is also a trick. It took me no less than ten years to write EL RUMOR DE LOS MUERTOS because I was working at the same time. Now, it takes an average of six months for a novel and two weeks for a guidebook. But I have EVERYDAY to document and to write. I spend more time now on writing novels than I did ten years ago; I only take advantage of my free time.
You are an example that any self-publishing author should follow. However, you also have books published with editorials. That’s not within everyone’s reach. In your case, what advantages and disadvantages do you see for each option?
Nowadays, I see publishers as a vehicle with which to bring books ON PAPER to the readers. This is the only advantage that they bring to the author. With regards to digital formatting and the rights to adapt words to cinema or television…better to go for free. You’ll get a lot more readers, as well as more income.
A curse for some, a blessing for others. Do you think piracy can actually bring benefits for underdogs as it did for Melendi (sorry, I’m Asturian), or is it something harmful to every author?
I don’t believe that piracy will help. I am fortunate enough to sell my books in many languages and to have travelled half the world. In other cultures, people do not steal your work – especially when we, as indie authors, offer it at such ridiculously inexpensive prices. It’s like if I helped a bar steal some beers, but then in return, spoke well of the place. Many of my books aren’t available in Spanish. It’s understood that it’s not a profitable language in which to translate video games, series, movies, novels, etc. Piracy KILLS the culture and terminates the creators. In France or in Germany, to cite two relatable examples, they take care of their artists. They pamper their culture as a further element of their national heritage.
I understand that in social media, double profiles can be used as separate identities: to aggressively promote a work, or to provide links… There are strategies. But why do you publish via pseudonyms when Enrique Laos is a recognizable name for any reader?
By obligation. I began to do so because many readers were buying novels over many different subjects (for example, EL ABISMO DE CAMILLE, or DESDE EL INFIERNO): novels, poems, or guides. I realized that they were buying them because of my name – not because they had bothered to read the description. To avoid any confusion caused by this, and because I will continue to publish novels and manuals (what is “expected” of me), I created several pseudonyms. Since then, the problems have stopped. And above all, the sales in English soared; it is easier to sell in the USA with an American name than with a Spanish one.
Many of us say that we create what we would like to read. If the intention is to make a living off of our writing, should we cast off personal tastes and write about what is profitable in the hire-ability of writing?
I like everything that I write. But not everything that I write is profitable. For example, poetry or novels like EL TAXIDERMISTA have a very small audience. LOS CRÍMENES AZULES has been successful in Castilian, French, English, and Italian, and will soon be released in Portuguese and German. I wrote it based on a choice made by my readers – from a list of options – and I will never regret the step I took. I do not feel like a mercenary. I love writing detective novels, but I like them to be more literary. But it’s thanks to the horror stories, the guides, and the crime novels that I’ve been able to live off my writing for the past three and a half years. The psychological novels and the poems simply sell on and off. What I consider to be my best novel, EL ABISMO DE CAMILLE, has been a failure in many languages, except in English. In spite of all this, I will continue to write novels that I love.
You’ve advised me to translate my novel into several different languages. Tell me your experience in this area, and which languages have shown you the most success.
The language in which I sell the most is English. Then Castilian, then French, then Italian. And there are ten more languages which remain. The order has the world’s logic. These first four are some of the most widely spoken languages in the West. In Chinese and Japanese, into which I’ve translated some of my works, I haven’t been so successful. But everything will be. And I recommend it because it gives you prestige as an author; your “brand” will improve when your work is available in several languages. For example, I’ve been lucky enough to be #1 overall in books sold in French and Italian. I think that if Spanish readers didn’t know that I had sold so many books in different languages, they wouldn’t have dared to buy from an unknown Spanish author!
I imagine that entering a foreign market place and seeing a five-star comment from a reader on the other side of the world must be very rewarding. How does that feel?
Well, I try to downplay comments – both the positive and the negative. They can be confusing sometimes. Don’t get me wrong; I am thankful for them, but what I appreciate most is receiving an e-mail. When a reader makes the effort, not only to read your novel, but to also invest their valuable time into sending you their impressions, that’s a good feeling. A review is brief, while an e-mail gives an opportunity to discuss the details of the book. This is very exciting. In my case, I receive most of my e-mails in English, as my books sell the best in the Anglo-Saxon world. And, yes – receiving e-mails from Canada, Australia, and Korea, to give some examples, is really neat. I still haven’t been able to come to terms with the emotional effects. I’ve already mentioned that EL ABISMO DE CAMILLE isn’t my most sold work, but I’ve received the most wonderful e-mails from readers of this book (MIND OF STEEL AND CLAY in English) – from fascinated fans, renowned authors, and prestigious teachers. Priceless.
To add to that, for those who don’t know, your novel DESDE EL INFIERNO has been adapted into a film – and I’m sure it will not be the last. Soon, you’ll be that author – the one whose works no one reads because they’ve all “seen the movie.” Do they allow you to participate in the process in some fashion: selecting the actors, clacking the clapperboard…?
Hahaha… My problem with such works that have don’t yet have a Hollywood equivalent, or a Spanish television seriesHH, like EL RUMOR DE LOS MUERTES or LOS CRÍMENES is that they DON’T let me participate in anything. If you don’t let me participate, I don’t get any rights. Maybe someday I’ll regret that, but for now, money is a secondary issue in my life. I prefer to know that there will be something based off of a text of mine that millions of people will see – a reflection of what I wanted to communicate.
Give your readers a sneak-peak: what’s your next project and when can we expect it?
LA NIEVE MÁS OBSCURA. It is the 6th installment of the Ethan Bush Saga. This time, the FBI Agent moves to Montana to try and find a serial killer who has already taken the lives of five young people. It will be available very soon: the beginning of May.
Mmm… Good luck! Well, if you have anything more to add, like a master plan for success, you can do so now. Feel free!
Hahaha! I’ve been asked that many times… But I don’t know one! EL RUMOR DE LOS MUERTOS has sold more than 130 000 copies and LOS CRÍMENES AZULES more than 265 000 – counting all different platforms and languages, of course. That is to say, only two novels account for almost half of my total sales since I began to write. If I knew any master plan for success, all of my novels and guidebooks would sell tens of thousands of copies – but this isn’t the case. But I do know of another master plan – more important than that of stereotypical success – YOU MUST FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF. Success isn’t measured by sales or stars, but by you, as you lie down in bed when you go to sleep. For me, to have helped children in whichever way, or to have written a novel like EL ABISMO DE CAMILLE, is to achieve success – that is what allows me to fall asleep with a smile on my face.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS FANTASTIC INTERVIEW!
Thank you Enrique. It’s been made clear here that behind the best-seller, the athlete, and the child-prodigy, there is a kind, passionate, caring person – with a great sense of humour. I’m not jealous at all (why should I be?); from here on out, I’ll move on to translate my books into English, French, and Italian, and to buy your favourite brand of coffee for the kitchen. Then, I’ll take a pen and paper, put on some headphones, and listen to the entire discography of Simon and Garfunkel – patiently waiting for the light bulb to come on.
More than 800.000 copies sold worldwide in more than 14 different languages.