The Author’s Club | Part One | The Independent Author
Thanks for coming. This article is the first in what is going to be a long series. In it I’m going to talk about my mistakes as an independent author, the things that I am doing, and the things that I will be doing. These first two articles will be a foundation for when we begin to go deep into this industry. I hope that it will be at least mildly entertaining and hugely educational. There are so many resources out there for independent authors and it can be overwhelming and confusing at times.
This blog will take you through my own trip, as I work towards publication, and hopefully allow you to see the errors that I made (and that many first timers make) and let you steer clear of them. Hopefully, as you read, you will see the long path that I walked from the slums of utter ignorance to the high peak of enlightenment that I now sit upon…
If it is your intention to climb the steep path from ignorance to enlightenment there are a few things you’re going to need.
- An oxygen tank. I can tell you…it’s hard to breath up here. Without an oxygen tank the rarified atmosphere will more than likely kill you.
- A prescription with a fire station that refills oxygen bottles. Preferably one that has a helicopter…if they have to climb the mountain to refill your bottles they are going to charge you extra. (this is one of the mistakes I was talking about. Take it from me and find a bottle refiller company that has a helicopter).
- A mask that fits you well. There is nothing more irritating that having a mask that doesn’t fit you well. It will chafe and be distracting.
- A bottle of Vaseline. This will prevent the mask from freezing to your face. I wish someone had told me to bring some when I first climbed.
- A jacket! Its cold up here!
The Traditional Path
I started on the traditional path…the path that only leads to outer darkness, where there is wailing and the gnashing of teeth…
After a great deal of darkness, wailing, and gnashing of teeth I set myself onto the path of the independent author. Where, the road is even, the grass is green, and fairies bring you a beer when it’s time for a break…
Seriously though. The world has changed and with a little elbow grease the independent author can hope to make a living writing, and possibly even do better than a traditionally published author.
This isn’t an easy decision and it is a lot of work. The most important part of this article isn’t that you should self-publish, its that you have that option and that it is a viable option. Knowing that you can say no to the big publishers is liberating, you no longer have to accept the pennies that they offer.
This first article is an introduction to me, but as we move forward, I’ll show you how I arrived at this point, and I’ll prove that self-publishing is the better route and that you can make a living doing it. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of tradition publishing and why you should consider the independent route.
A great article, 6 Reasons You Should Self-Publish
In this series we will talk about:
- My journey
- What the Publisher wants from you and what they won’t give you
- Why you should self-publish
- The things you need to read to learn to self-publish and then market your book
- Building an email list and why it is so important
- Building a website from scratch and earning 10,000 views a month
- Building a following on social media
- Why you should launch your book on Kickstarter
- How to launch a Kickstarter and how much money to ask for
- How to market you book after the Kickstarter
- How to Launch your book
The Independent Author
I began this project last August, so about nine months ago, and it’s been quite a ride. I’m one of those people that never thought they would ever write their own book, and then…as if by magic…I had a book.
So…back in August of 2015 my little brother was about to deploy and we wanted a way to stay in touch (more an excuse to stay in touch) and we decided that we would play some PC games together and talk via ventrillo. My own computer had just broken and his was a piece of shit so we decided to buy new ones. Long story short, I bought mine, he didn’t buy his, we didn’t play any games, and I wrote a book instead lol. That’s the short version, if you want the long version scroll down…
So there I was, sitting on my couch, looking at my brand new computer. What should I do? I opened a word document and started typing…
There was this story you see, about a group of Americans who went back in time and became a bunch of badassess. It was more of a day dream, a product of an over eager imagination, but I started typing…and three weeks later I had 136,000 words.
I was SO excited. I had a book, a bestselling book! A book that everyone would LOVE! Lol if you’ve written a book then you know that exact feeling I just described.
When I finished writing I started reading.
I couldn’t believe that the inane drivel that I was reading could possibly be my future bestselling book…
Let’s back up. I’m a marine pipefitter. That means that I work long hours putting pipes into ships so the ships can move (the ships we build don’t have sails). I have one year of college, read lots of other people’s books, occasionally wear shorts and cowboy boots to the gas station, have a beautiful wife, and HAD absolutely no idea how to properly write a book.
At that point my ignorance almost crushed me. For anyone who cares…I weigh about two hundred pounds and those who know this will agree…two thousand pounds of ignorance will almost always crush two hundred pounds of man. The solution? Eat a lot of donuts and gain 1800 pounds so the ignorance doesn’t crush you. OR. Keep reading.
So I stopped reading the crap I had written and bought “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card.
Oh the wisdom. The enlightenment. The pure bliss of knowing that there was hope. I read the book in two days and set back to work on my own project.
Three weeks later I had re-written my manuscript and was once again hopeful of having a best seller. Then I started reading it…
This time I realized what was wrong. The story itself was good, I knew this because my mom and dad told me so…
It was the presentation. I needed an editor! Someone to take the glorious story I had written and make it fit for the entertainment of the masses.
So I made a list of what I needed:
- An editor
- An agent
- A publisher
The first step, I was shocked at how outrageously expensive editors were. Most of them charge by the word, .025-.04 per word for copyediting and .04-.07 for content editing. 136,000 X .025 = 3,400 dollars.
First: I cursed having so many damn words.
Second: I recognized that having so many damn words is the price one pays when writing Epic Fantasy.
Third: I should have written a western, or a romance, or a romantic western…lol
Fourth: I shopped around.
I read blogs, spent a great deal of time on google, and then thought about Craigslist. (Remember earlier when I said we would talk about the mistakes I made? Pay attention to this next part).
I went onto craigslist…and hired an editor. She appeared to be professional, had a website, published multiple fiction novels, and only charged 2,000 dollars. I hired her.
That happened October 1st. We signed a non-disclosure agreement and a contract that specified six weeks to completion. I won’t bore you with all the details, but basically, the six-week period turned into five months. Every excuse in the book was hurled at me. By mid-December we were about a quarter through the material and I was getting VERY frustrated. The editing itself wasn’t bad…it wasn’t good enough…but it served two good purposes.
- I learned a great deal about the English language and many of its ridiculous rules.
- It opened a flood gate of inspiration.
I remember someone telling me in High School, “You’re going to wish that you had paid attention to the teachers…”
Well they were right…being an independent author means that you have to learn it all.
I had the foundation, good schools, lots of reading. I just needed a refresher course. I learned A LOT.
Mid-December, I realized that my story was incomplete. That the 136,000 words was more an outline than an actual story. Lots and lots of info-dumping (despite what you may have been told, not all info-dumping is bad, sometimes you have to weigh between one paragraph of info-dumping or two pages of showing), and I realized that writing a multiple POV story in first person might not have been such a good idea…
(If you haven’t written your book yet, definitely consider the point of view. Many amateur authors, like myself, choose to write in first person because they don’t know any better. Joe Abercrombie has a great article about writing in limited third person.
My editor had decided to take the entire month of December and the first two weeks of January off (without telling me) and I used three of those weeks to do a re-write. I Showed vs told and I changed from first person to a limited third person.
(If you have already written your book in first person and want to change it, shoot me a message. I have some tips on how to make it a lot less painful).
The biggest thing that changing from first to third did for me, was that it opened the flood gates of inspiration. My manuscript doubled to almost 270,000 words, and this time I was very pleased with the work. When I finished that re-write I finally had a book that I could be proud of.
I ended up firing the editor.
So why have I decided to walk this path? To tread where so many others have fallen? I’ll tell you.
The publishing houses receive tens of thousands of submissions each month. That’s a lot of competition…chances are, your manuscript will not even be read. If you are so lucky as to receive the attentions of one of the semi-divine manuscript readers, and if it is passed on, this is what they are going to offer you…
- 15% Royalty
- Loss of editorial control, meaning that some editor you’ve never met is going to cut your book into pieces and put it back together how they see fit. (It’s not always this way, but your contract with the house is going stipulate that they reserve the right to change things). We can all get on google and read the horror stories.
- They are going to want all of your rights, rights you didn’t even know that you had! This list is brief, if you want to read about your rights in detail check out this article that I haven’t written yet lol. If you want to read that article, click here, and I’ll send it to you once its written.
- Your primary rights of course, the right to publish your book in paper.
- Audio Book
- “Electronic”, they add this right in there in case someone develops a new technology that doesn’t exist yet.
- Your Foreign rights. (These rights are intricate and can make you a lot of money if you use them properly).
- Motion Picture
- Tie In (Believe it or not…they can actually license someone else with rights to tie your story into whatever rubbish they want to right about, be aware of the Tie In).
- Etc…I’m not going to list them all. I’ll do a separate article about your rights and how to use them.
So…you’ve given them your left arm, your first born child, and the deed to your house. What do you get in return? What…the 15% royalty wasn’t enough?
The traditional publishing industry is dying. The Big Six—Random House, Penguin, Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins—only make a profit on 40% of the books they publish. The publishing houses stay afloat only because the megahits pay for the duds. Every time they pick up a new title and pay out an advance they gamble, and with the odds that 60% of the books they publish will not even pay out the advance…
So why do 60% of the books flop? Marketing. Marketing is expensive. If you have written a book, and are thinking about self-publishing said book, then you have probably looked into how much it will cost you to market it. It’s expensive!
Publicity on the other hand is free…
Let’s see a raise of hands. How many of you know a person who wrote an absolutely phenomenal book only to see it flop? How many of you have read a really good book and then gone to check that authors sales rank on Amazon only to find that they sit at 2,000,000?
I know my hand is raised. Has anyone read “Dawn of Empire” by Sam Barone? It sits right around 400,000 on the Amazon sales rank. I know that’s not as dramatic as the 2,000,000…but it will serve my purpose. I highly recommend the series. It’s well written, well researched, and good entertainment. I’ve read all of them more than once and you can read my review of it (here).
Now…I won’t pretend that I fully understand Amazon’s ranking…but I think it’s safe to assume that it is not selling enough books to live off of.
There are countless examples of books that are well written, highly entertaining, and fail to become bestsellers.
So you give up most of your royalty and all of your rights to the Publishing House, it takes a year for the publisher to publish your book, you don’t get paid during the first year (that’s just how the industry works), and then they are two months late paying you the fifteen percent of the six hundred dollars that your book made that year…
Self-Publishing: you’ve finished your book, you decide to just publish it on Amazon, they pay you monthly, and you get to keep 70% of the six hundred dollars that your book made that year…
What happens so often among authors is that we write a book, self-publish it, and just pray that it sells. It does not work that way. I’m going to harp on this throughout the series. Start Marketing NOW.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to self-publish. There are a lot of self-help book out there about publishing but in my opinion this is the one that every independent author should own. How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book by Dan Poynter.
Read the next article, The Myth of Social Media to Market Your Book.
This article was written by Jake Parrick.