Words with Robert Kroese, Author of "Mercury Falls"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Mercury Falls?"

I’m going to cheat on this question, because the AmazonEncore people came up with a great summary that’s better than anything I’d been able to devise:

While on assignment in Nevada, Christine Temetri isn’t surprised when yet another prophesied Apocalypse fails to occur. After three years of reporting on End Times cults for a religious news magazine, Christine is seriously questioning her career choice. But then she meets Mercury, a cult leader whose knowledge of the impending Apocalypse is decidedly more solid than most: he is an angel, sent from heaven to prepare for the Second Coming but distracted by beer, ping pong, and other earthly delights. After Christine and Mercury inadvertently save Karl Grissom—a film-school dropout and the newly appointed Antichrist—from assassination, she realizes the three of them are all that stand in the way of mankind’s utter annihilation. They are a motley crew compared to the heavenly host bent on earth’s destruction, but Christine figures they’ll just have to do. Full of memorable characters, Mercury Falls is an absurdly funny tale about unlikely heroes on a quest to save the world.

I understand that "Mercury Falls" was originally self-published and then you were picked up by AmazonEncore. Who did you self-publish with and what were the results like?

I published the paperback version through CreateSpace, which is a self-publishing company owned by Amazon. The books are very professional-looking, and their prices are excellent. It’s very easy to make a self-published book available on Amazon. I also created a version for Kindle and a generic electronic version that I uploaded to Smashwords. Kindle was really the key to the success of Mercury Falls, though. The great thing about ebooks is that you can price the book as low as you want, because there are no printing or distribution costs. I sold a couple hundred paperbacks over the first few weeks, but sales really took off when I dropped the price of the Kindle version to $1.99. In conjunction with some great reviews and my promotional efforts, I ended up selling around 4,000 Kindle copies in the first four months.

It's fairly unusual for a self-published book to be picked up by a different publisher. How did that transpire with "Mercury Falls?"

About six months after first publishing Mercury Falls, I got an email from the senior acquisitions editor at AmazonEncore – which I have to admit I hadn’t heard of at that point. If you follow publishing industry news, I’m sure you’re aware that Amazon has had a rocky relationship with publishers lately. Part of Amazon’s solution to that problem is evidently to get into publishing themselves. They created AmazonEncore, which focuses on republishing successful self-published books. In their words, “AmazonEncore is a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats.” In other words, they cherry-pick the most promising self-published books and re-launch them in an effort to sell a lot more copies. Mercury Falls had sold well and gotten great reviews, so the acquisitions editor, Terry Goodman, checked it out. He loved the book and sent me an email asking if I’d like them to publish Mercury Falls as an AmazonEncore title. I said yes.
"The Force is Middling in this one" is a collection of blog entries published with CreateSpace. It currently seems to be doing pretty well on Amazon. To what do you attribute its success?

TFIMITO has actually sold quite a few more Kindle copies than paperbacks as well. It hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm, but collections of humorous essays are always a tough sell. Only a handful of authors – Sedaris, Hodgman, Dave Barry, and a few others – can actually make money on that sort of book. Still, TFIMITO peaked at #200 on the Kindle bestsellers list, which is pretty impressive for a self-published book. I attribute that success to the fact that (1) it’s a damn funny book, IMHO; (2) I marketed it heavily; and (3) I priced it very cheaply. That’s really all there is to it.

Do you have any good stories from book signings or other promotional events?

I had a book signing last week that went so well that I ended up staying an extra hour, until 7pm. By the time I left, I was starving, so I stopped at the California Pizza Kitchen next door. I ordered a pizza to go, figuring I’d eat it on the way home. At the bar was an attractive woman enjoying a drink and reading something on her Kindle. Flush with confidence from the signing, I walked up and said, “How do you like your Kindle?” She replied, “It’s the best thing ever.” I got out one of my promotional cards and handed it to her, saying “This is your next book.” She downloaded Mercury Falls right there at the bar and asked me to sign the back of the card. That was a pretty great moment. Plus, I got to eat pizza on the way home.

I get the impression that the catalyst for all of your writing is your blog mattresspolice.com. A name like that must have a good story behind it, can you tell us what it is?

You must be too young to remember the awesomeness that is the movie Fletch. “I don’t mean to pull rank on you, but I’m with the mattress police. There are no tags on these mattresses.”

What kind of writing can one expect to find on MattressPolice?

I’ve sort of lost the blogging bug, so I haven’t posted much of interest for a while, but Mattress Police served as an outlet for all the nutty ideas that occur to me on a daily basis. I’ve done posts on spam in the periodic table, testing shampoo on monkeys, my experience staying at the worst motel in the U.S., and lots of other stuff. It’s probably best if you just go there yourself and click on some of the stuff under MOST POPULAR POSTS. Depending on what you click, it may make you think or it may make you angry, but I hope it at least makes you laugh.

I see that you have a degree in philosophy? So tell me, am I even asking you this question?

The question clearly exists as a linguistic/logical construct, but I have no firm basis to believe that you are asking it, or even that you exist. The idea of “you” is a category in my mind into which I’ve inserted a hypothetical entity asking this question in order for my own epistemological convenience. Got it?

Ha ha!  What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing a sequel to Mercury Falls, predictably entitled Mercury Rises. I’m trying to pare down the number of projects I’m working on at any given moment, because I have a tendency to take on way too much. That’s another reason I’m not blogging much these days. I still have a day job (as a web developer), and my employer rather unreasonably insists that I occasionally do some work, despite my impending fame as an author.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

I ghost-wrote Justin Bieber’s book. And his hair.

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