Just in time for Halloween – I have the pleasure of introducing Dan Terry, ‘Spookstalker’. Dan has had a passion for ghost hunting since 1979. He wrote articles in Haunted Times Magazine and has since written four books on haunted places: Beyond the Shadows, Missouri Shadows, Hermann Shadows, and River Shadows.
If you are in the MO area, check out his two lectures – one in Pacific, Mo. at the library on the 23rd at 6:30, and one on the 30th in Owensville, Mo. also at 6:30. Only 2 more lectures of the season, don’t miss it!
Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?
Dan: I had a publisher for the first three books. The relationship was good, and the publisher treated me well. Over time, though, we had some creational differences. The publisher was a former small town newspaper editor, so we also disagreed on the subject of being offensive. She was against it, as someone may not buy the book. I, on the other hand, believed that The Da Vinci Code would not have been as big a hit if the Church had not argued against it. We even once discussed use of the word “Mandrake” because she was afraid the term would upset parents because the plant is shaped like a male sex organ. I had to convince her it was used liberally in the Harry Potter series!
When she developed cancer, she wanted out of publishing to concentrate on healing. At that time, she offered to help me find a new publisher, but having seen how much money we were missing out on, my wife and I decided to try it ourselves. The first book we did ourselves she worked for a flat fee to lay out and proofread. After that, I had a High School English teacher proofread them.
RARA: What titles have you published to date?
Dan: Spookstalker Press has three titles, one true crime “Nothing Ever Happens in New Haven”, is about small town police. The other two are ghost related, “River Shadows” about ghosts in river towns, and “Too Ornery To Die”, about ghosts of criminals.
RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?
Dan: I’ve used a lot of social media, along with word of mouth and ghost lectures all over the mid-west, which also included name recognition. Radio interviews also help. Getting the books distributed and strategically placed in the book stores during the October ghost season helps as well. All books but the last one is now available through Barnes and Noble. But the best sales come from the lecture circuit, which I attribute to my ability to talk well and share the excitement, including the use of a PowerPoint presentation.
RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?
Dan: I haven’t really used any books or websites, but instead go to professionals and ask their advice. And, most importantly, listen to them. In some of my first magazine articles, a good friend would read them and mark them up, splashing red ink on the paper like he had sacrificed a chicken over the desk! But when he explained where I was getting too wordy, or over explaining something that wasn’t really relevant to the story, I understood and complied.
RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?
Dan: Distribution is the biggest problem, as small book stores will not go with someone new very often. I have sent notes and copies explaining that I would personally deliver the books, but yet never heard anything back. Getting the idea of the layout from my mind to the graphic designer is also been a problem. I can say that the publishing company I use has the best designers for covers I’ve ever seen, and they always make an attractive, attention-getting cover for me. That also helps with sales.
RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?
Dan: READ! I have met authors who say they don’t read others work because they don’t want to be influenced or some nonsense. I say read anything, be critical, but learn from other folks styles. I have been lucky that other authors will speak with me, and give me advice. They’ve helped me turn a phrase, or write in a way that keeps people turning the pages. A new author in the next town, who I met at a “meet local authors” day at a local library, calls just to ask questions about police or ghost hunting for his second novel. I have asked his advice on other matters. I have read his book, and enjoy his style. I based my true crime book on a mix of styles from Mickey Spillane to James Ellroy. Their style caught my attention, and I used a similar style for my cop book. The ghost books are first person with a lot of history, but written in an action-adventure style over a documentary style. I have read newspapers from the mid-1800’s, when they had to use words and allegories because they didn’t have TV. Those men could WRITE! They capture your attention in a way today’s sanitized, homogenized, Formica styled “don’t offend anyone” newspapers can’t. You Were There! And that’s the style I use, where other ghost hunters write more like a documentary. Very “Just the Facts, Ma’am.” I want to place the reader at my elbow, seeing things, hearing things just as I did. So my advice to new writers is to Read and to Write. Find a style you like and make it your own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Terry is a native Missourian, a Coast Guard veteran, and he has been a police officer for 26 years.
He began ghost hunting shortly after getting his license to drive in 1979, inspired by the TV adventures of Carl Kolchack in the early 70s television show Kolchack: The Night Stalker. Once he joined the service, it became quickly apparent that he had to hide his interest in the paranormal and continued hiding it as he became a police officer in 1986. While he continued to read and even look into the subject, including taking tours of reportedly haunted places, Dan did not resume his own hunting until TV’s “Ghost Hunters” brought the subject into the mainstream.
After learning the new methods from Greg Myers of the Missouri Paranormal Task Force, then called Missouri Paranormal Research, he took the name “Spookstalker” and began investigating haunted places once again. After writing a newspaper article on the subject, he was convinced to write books on the topic. He wrote articles in Haunted Times Magazine and has since written four books on haunted places: Beyond the Shadows, Missouri Shadows, Hermann Shadows, and River Shadows. In addition, Dan has written one book in the true crime genre, Nothing Ever Happens in New Haven.
He is currently working on a novel about an incident involving the murder of soldiers which took place during the Civil War in the local area. He makes his home with his wife Sherri in New Haven, Missouri.