Welcome! I am John Coon, a long-time sports journalist and new fiction author who published my debut novel this year. Ask me anything.

John Coon
Jul 8, 2018

Welcome to my AMA. My name is John Coon.

For the past 15 years, I've worked as a professional journalist covering sports and business. I've had a chance to do many exciting things in the sports world from riding in a race car at 160 miles per hour to covering March Madness. My byline has appeared nationwide in many notable publications and on major websites. I currently freelance for multiple media outlets, including the Associated Press, Utah Business Magazine, Athlon Sports, UtahValley360 and Winners Utah Magazine. 

I recently published Pandora Reborn, my debut novel.  Pandora Reborn follows Ron Olson, a teenager who is a reluctant newcomer to Deer Falls following his parents' divorce. Ron struggles to adapt to life in this small Colorado town after being torn away from his friends and his old soccer club. Deer Falls is no ordinary small town as Ron soon learns in a terrifying way, He becomes the target of a mysterious woman in black after she gets freed from a chest that once imprisoned her. Ron and his new friends must find a way to stop this malevolent witch before she destroys them and Deer Falls.

Copies of my novel are available at several major booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

Writing and publishing my first novel, Pandora Reborn, is the culmination of a dream I held since childhood of becoming a fiction author. It represents the first of many novels and stories I plan to write and publish in the years ahead. I'll do my best to answer any questions related to my new novel, future plans as an author, and other aspects my writing career.

You can interact with me on various social media channels and on my personal website as well. Connect with me at my author pages on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and Patreon.  Follow me on Twitter (especially if you're a sports fan). 

Let's get started! 

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What sports event are you looking forward to covering in the coming months?
Jul 15, 3:39AM EDT0
Where can people find all the news or sports event stories covered by you?
Jul 14, 4:11PM EDT0

My personal website has links to various pages where people can read my sports stories. I also post links on a frequent basis on my Twitter feed.

Last edited @ Jul 14, 6:32PM EDT.
Jul 14, 6:27PM EDT0
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Jul 14, 9:53AM EDT0

In an ideal world, I would have loved to have more time to build a stronger marketing platform for Pandora Reborn before I published it. I had such a tight window between the end of the NBA season and the start of the college football season that I had to compress everything into a couple of months. I've done well so far, but it really isn't an ideal scenario for getting maximum exposure on a new novel. 

Last edited @ Jul 14, 6:31PM EDT.
Jul 14, 6:30PM EDT0
What is your least favorite part of the publishing and writing process?
Jul 13, 3:36PM EDT0

Writing is the fun part in creating a novel. I love being able to turn an idea into a fully fleshed out story. Editing can be a bit painful and takes some thick skin. Things you thought sounded great in your head don't always translate well to your rough draft. You need to be willing to make changes as necessary to improve pacing, fill in plot holes, or flesh out characters and setting. That can mean altering dialogue, adding new scenes and characters, or cutting existing scenes and characters. It helps to have beta readers who can offer helpful and thoughtful suggestions. They give you a fresh set of eyes and help you get a better idea of how your target audience will perceive your book.

Jul 14, 1:12PM EDT0
What's the best launch strategy for a book? What are some of the best, most cost-effective ways to promote a new book?
Jul 13, 5:07AM EDT0

This is a wonderful question. Thank you. If you want to hit the ground running with any book, you need to select a release date and build a strong marketing in the weeks leading up to that point. I have a couple of suggestions for cost-effective promotion.

  • Create your own author website. Offer regular news and updates on the book. Create other pages on the site where you can post original articles or blog posts, so that people will have a reason to keep coming back. If you can drive traffic to a website you can control, that is much more effective than paying someone else to essentially do the same thing on their own websites or blogs.
  • Build an active social media presence. Much of your target audience, depending on the genre of your book, will have accounts on various social media channels they actively use. You need to have a presence there too. It offers a chance to start conversations and build a fanbase. If you haven't done so, create accounts on places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pintrest where you can connect with potential readers. These will become a natural avenue for your promotional efforts once your book is available to purchase.
Jul 14, 12:44PM EDT0
Who were you reading while writing? What authors were guided inspirations?
Jul 12, 11:22PM EDT0

As I mentioned earlier in the chat, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Edgar Allan Poe all served as influences while I crafted Pandora Reborn. I looked at how they structured their respective stories, developed characters, described settings and other pertinent details. I didn't dive in-depth into any particular book, beyond analyzing the elements I mentioned above, while writing my rough draft or editing  the final version. My busy sports writing schedule forced me to use whatever available time I had to concentrate on finishing my novel.

Jul 14, 12:24PM EDT0

What made you decide to publish through Amazon? What are the pros and cons? Aside from writing your book, was the process difficult to get published? 

Jul 12, 11:02PM EDT1

Great question, Melanie. Thank you. :-)

I originally planned to take the traditional publishing route. Hire an agent. Pitch my novel to a wide spectrum of publishing houses. But as I did the research, I soon realized that the returns for a first-time author from traditional publishers were not good. Thousands of manuscripts get pitched to them every month and only a tiny fraction escape the slush pile. If you do get published,you get a minuscule advance and even smaller royalties. Traditional publishers offer royalties in the 5 to 10% range for first time authors. That means if you sell 100 books at $9.99 apiece, for example, you will make between $50 to 100 for your efforts.

It's a different story with Amazon. The platform makes it relatively simple to create, design, and publish a book. An independent author can make 35 to 70% royalties on an ebook and 60% royalties on a print book. That means if you sell 100 copies of a $2.99 ebook, you can make $105 to $210 for your efforts. The best part is the book never goes out of print. It is still available in Amazon's catalog five or ten years down the road, which means you can make money on it indefinitely. That's not the case with a large percentage of books through traditional publishing houses.

Publishing through Amazon does have its drawbacks. You are entirely responsible for marketing and promoting your book. That can be a pain if you're a first-time author because getting your book where your audience can see it takes a ton of time and energy. Someone told me that 750,000 independent books were published last year alone. That number shines a light on how difficult it is to stand out from the crowd. Even with hard work and smart marketing, it takes a little bit of luck too.

Last edited @ Jul 13, 1:28PM EDT.
Jul 13, 1:26PM EDT1
Was there any certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
Jul 12, 9:03PM EDT0

Thanks for your question. It made me really think back to different scenes in my story and how I created them. I've learned that scenes featuring liberal amounts of dialogue are more difficult to write than other scenes within a story.

Writing good dialogue is a balancing act. You need to make whatever the characters are saying have purpose and be relevant to the story. At the same time, good dialogue doesn't veer off into endless exposition for the sake of spoon feeding information to your audience. It also needs to feel believable within the context of the situation at hand.

I remember a scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park where three characters are dangling off the edge of a cliff inside a vehicle and they crack jokes about ordering fast food when a rescuer asks them if they needed anything else besides a rope. It still stands out as a prime example of bad dialogue to me, because what those characters said didn't feel realistic to how people would actually react in that sort of life-or-death situation.

I always find myself spending more time on dialogue heavy scenes for that reason. What your characters say, how they say it and when they say it can make or break your story.

Jul 13, 1:06PM EDT1

Why did you decide to write a fantasy novel? Is fantasy something you've always been interested in? 

Jul 12, 6:52PM EDT0

Good question. Thank you, Kara. Pandora Reborn isn't a true fantasy novel as much as it is a horror novel with fantasy elements. Magic and witches play a central role in the narrative. But the setting is grounded in 21st century small town Colorado. And the pacing and plot are more in line with what is found within the horror genre.

Having said that, I do enjoy the fantasy genre depending on the author. The Chronicles of Narnia were my favorite book series growing up and I still enjoy those seven books quite a bit as an adult. I do have a series of four dystopian fantasy novels in the development stage. I created a chapter outline of the first book, made sketches of the main characters, and wrote down origin stories for each major protagonist and antagonist in the series.

Ultimately, I wrote Pandora Reborn because it told a story I really wanted to share with the world. I first developed the idea back in high school and it stuck with me for more than 20 years. As I fleshed out the characters and started visualizing scenes, I realized it would make a good novel and I finally threw myself into bringing it to life last year.

Last edited @ Jul 13, 12:47PM EDT.
Jul 13, 12:46PM EDT0
Do you have strategies or go-to approaches when you face a blank page of a book?
Jul 12, 4:11PM EDT0

Thanks for the great question. When I write a story, my approach is to sketch out characters and key scenes before I even start on the rough draft. These initial notes act as a compass in a way that guides the initial direction of the story. This helps me keep from getting overwhelmed by a blank page and thinking to myself, 'Oh no, what do I do now?' It also makes it easier to combat those times when you get stuck on a particular scene or moment in the story and develop a case of writer's block. 

Jul 13, 12:25AM EDT0
What's the best way for a new fiction author to build an Internet fan-base?
Jul 12, 9:22AM EDT0

Love the question. Thanks for asking! There are a few strategies you can use as a new fiction author to get your name out there and draw attention to your latest published work.

  • Be active on social media. I can't stress this enough. Build an active presence on multiple social media channels. Open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and any other social media channel where you can connect with potential readers. A large percentage of people have one or more social media account and being active on social media will open the door for you to get your book in front of their eyes so much quicker.
  • Create a blog and/or author website. Your blog or website is the perfect way for readers to connect with you. Engage in conversations in article and blog post comments. Post engaging, original and creative content on a frequent basis to give them a reason to keep coming back to visit you. If they already like what you post on a blog or website, buying a book you wrote is a natural next step.
  • Join reading groups. There are places like Facebook or Goodreads where you can connect with other authors and also other readers. This is a good avenue to build friendships, become part of a community and build positive word-or-mouth for your offerings as a fiction author.
Jul 12, 5:09PM EDT0
What's more engaging and interesting, covering sports or developing a fictional plot?
Jul 11, 7:23AM EDT0

For me, at this point in my life, I get more joy from creating a short story, novella or novel. Don't get me wrong. Covering sports can be fun and exciting. But I feel like fiction offers much more of a blank canvas for being creative.

What I love most about writing fiction is the endless possibilities. A writer can go any to time or place that his or her imagination can conjure up and open the door for a reader to explore a new world. Nothing is more thrilling than getting to know new characters and following them as the plot unfolds in an engaging story. I love to explore how they think and feel, what they say, what they do and see how it impacts the world around them.

Jul 11, 4:07PM EDT0
As a sports journalist, did you follow or cover the story on Fifa World Cup this time around? If so, where can one read it?
Jul 11, 7:04AM EDT0

I've watched FIFA World Cup matches on TV but, no, I didn't have an assignment to travel over to Russia to cover any of the tournament. You can be certain that Ron, my main protagonist in Pandora Reborn, would watch as much World Cup soccer as possible. Soccer is that boy's passion through and through. :-)

If you're interested, you can go to my personal website and click on the portfolio tab to see some of my other articles from various places.

Jul 11, 3:28PM EDT0
How your writing techniques and habits, and whether they’ve changed substantially since your debut novel. Do you have any major literary influences?
Jul 11, 4:02AM EDT0

Thanks for the question. My literary influences vary from genre to genre. With horror, for example, I've read Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Edgar Allan Poe to get a feel for how they craft their stories in terms of character development, setting, pacing and so forth. With science fiction, I've read authors like Phillip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and H.G. Wells to see how they approach specific sci-fi concepts and world build around those concepts.

I do my best to maintain my own distinct voice when writing. Some writing experts will tell you to copycat other authors until you find your own voice. I think differently on that front. Reading other authors is important to learn how they construct a story. But you should always work to develop a distinct storytelling style that plays to your individual strengths as a writer.

The primary thing that has evolved or changed with my writing habits since publishing Pandora Reborn is that I put even more focus into character development now before commencing on a rough draft. It makes it so much easier to write a story with a natural flow when you thoroughly understand the characters populating that fictional world.

Last edited @ Jul 11, 3:46PM EDT.
Jul 11, 3:24PM EDT0
Who's your favourite character from the book " Pandora Reborn" and why?
Jul 11, 2:05AM EDT0

Tough question, but a good one. I say it's tough because most of these characters have been inside my head for many years, so I am as familiar with each one of them as if they are close friends or relatives. If I'm forced to pick just one, though, I'd go with Christina.

The reason Christina is my favorite character is her emotional depth. She possesses a bit of a feisty temper on the surface, but reveals a caring side when she drops her guard. Christina is an outsider in Deer Falls, for reasons I won't spoil here, despite having good looks and a likeable personality. She wants nothing more than to lead a normal life and feel loved and accepted by her peers and is hurt by their rejection of her. I think many of us can relate to where she comes from.

Jul 11, 3:23PM EDT0
Now that your book is finally out, how are you feeling? Do you think the first publication will help you get in sync with nxt book too?
Jul 10, 10:50PM EDT0

Writing is the easy part. Marketing is a whole different animal. Once I can get my novel in front of a bunch more people, I'll feel a little more relaxed. :-) Overall, though, I do have a feeling of satisfaction and happiness in finally acheiving a goal I always wanted to achieve.

I'm definitely learning some valuable lessons on how to approach future books. I've learned which fonts and formats are eye pleasing, what cover designs work, how to better spot errors in the manuscript, which sales channels have the best reach, how to engage my target audience better in my promotional strategies. I'm hoping that it will make it easier to hit the ground running quicker with my next book and beyond.

Last edited @ Jul 11, 3:19PM EDT.
Jul 11, 3:18PM EDT0
How much of the story did you plot before writing, and how much was a surprise to you?
Jul 10, 5:11PM EDT0

Great question! I created a basic outline of each chapter and sketched out a handful of key scenes before I dove into writing my full rough draft of Pandora Reborn. Many  backstory details were also  present in these early notes. I already had a firm idea of what actions set the plot in motion and how the final act would play out.

One surprise for me while I wrote the story is how much certain characters evolved from how I envisioned them in the early stages. My main characters and secondary characters were all there in my early notes. But their roles and personalities went in unexpected directions as my rough draft progressed and again when I went back and made edits after the beta reading stage. Christina and Cassandra both experienced major changes from their original personalities within the story. Ron's backstory evolved to make him feel more sympathetic and better explain why he was at odds with his mother Emily. I found myself developing brand new scenes to underscore these changes.

One such scene was the high school soccer game. I did not have that sequence in my original outline, but the story demanded it when I reached that point in the narrative. It made sense in context of Ron's evolution. Soccer had been Ron's refuge up to that point. Having the woman in black orchestrate a violent attack on him during a game drove home the danger Ron faced and the eventual need to fight back against the main antagonist. He couldn't turn to soccer as an escape valve like he had with so many other tough situations in the past.

Jul 11, 1:13AM EDT0

Very interesting concept! How did you market your book?

Last edited @ Jul 10, 1:07PM EDT.
Jul 10, 1:06PM EDT0

Thanks, Levita! I worked hard to come up with a horror story that didn't feel like a retread of the endless vampire and zombie stories we've seen in the last few years. Zombie stories have been done to death. Vampire stories have gradually progressed from sucking me into the narrative to simply sucking. 

When it comes to marketing Pandora Reborn, I've tried to cast a wide net to reach my target audience. I've promoted it on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. I've bought ad space and run ads in places like Amazon, Facebook, Bing, Goodreads and Bookbub. I'm still working on getting reviews from various places. Of course, I've also relied on old-fashioned word-of-mouth as well. My brother, Joshua, has played a big role in assisting me in all of these efforts.

I've tried to think creatively in my marketing. Friday the 13th is this week. Since Pandora Reborn is a horror novel, I decided to capitalize and run an exclusive Friday the 13th sale. For the entire week, kindle and nook readers can download Pandora Reborn at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble for just $1.99 (USD). It is the perfect time for such a promotion. Who doesn't enjoy watching a scary movie or reading a scary novel on Friday the 13th?

When you're marketing as an independent author, the biggest challenge is just getting your name out there and getting people to care about your book. I'm learning that you have to be creative and also be tenacious to stand out from the crowd.

Jul 10, 6:27PM EDT3
Are you a fan of fictions yourself and if so which are your favourites and why?
Jul 10, 8:47AM EDT0

Honestly, I'd be concerned if I ever met a fiction author who didn't enjoy reading fiction themselves. I have read many books that I enjoyed as a kid and as an adult.

I covered this ground a little bit with an earlier question, but I've always loved stories by Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis. I'd have to say I really enjoy Edgar Allan Poe because he helped influence two distinct genres: mystery and horror. Poe is unmatched in his ability to create atmosphere and suspense within a narrative. I enjoy C.S. Lewis because I've always enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis is great at building a world full of fantastic characters without getting bogged down in the backstory.

Jul 10, 6:11PM EDT0
Who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters of all time?
Jul 10, 8:47AM EDT0

I'm going to veer off the page and onto the screen to answer this one. My favorite character is Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark still ranks as my all-time favorite movie. Indy is a classic rogue hero who you can't help root for. He has his flaws, to be sure, which makes him a good protagonist. I love his thirst for knowledge and his fearless efforts to protect powerful ancient artifacts from Nazis and other villains. Han Solo is a close second. (Must mean I'm a Harrison Ford fan).

I actually included a humorous reference to Indiana Jones in a conversation between two of my characters in Pandora Reborn. It serves as a little homage to my all-time favorite character. 

Jul 10, 5:43PM EDT0
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