I started writing when I was young, but then again, I was a busy body who was into programming, drawing, writing, reading, sports, video games, and of course martial arts … all around the time I hit puberty. Right now I have old binders and folders with stories that I wrote back then, most heavily influenced by the video games I played, others were just things I made up to read to my little brother at night.
I hold no romantic feelings towards writing, at least not beyond that of your average reader. Books are magical, and they have a way to provoke you into thinking, whereas other media is easy to ignore, especially now where everything is quick, simple, and lite.
Throughout my life I thought about writing something to go through the gauntlet of getting published. It is a gamble after all, and I do love a good game of odds, but work life in a bad career forced me to have a moment akin to Neo in The Matrix. No, no, a badass cyberpunk fashioned Laurence Fishburne didn’t appear offering me pills, but I did go outside my fancy sweatshop one day and realized that I was being played by, “the man.”
What followed that epiphany was a year of replacing fiction novels with books on finances, and in a year’s time I not only knew how money worked, but why it was working against me. I quit a year after, even with three raises to keep me in my chains, and I started my own business which did well for a few years until the housing market ruined a lot of my clients.
Going back into the workforce, I no longer had the bitterness of someone asleep, I had the entrepreneur’s curse, and those who know will tell you that there is no cure. My choices were to gamble again on a start-up, or continue to be a cog in the machine with my passion reserved for the personal. I chose the latter. It was an easy choice. I was in a committed relationship and people were now relying on me, so my gun belt had to remain buried for a more mundane solution to my discomfort (it’s a curse … remember?)
Around this time, Amazon’s Kindle opened an avenue for writers to get books directly to readers. I bought one of these self-published products, and was upset when I found that it hadn’t been edited. “I could do better than this,” I thought, and that was the beginning.
I had worked for myself for a long time, so the fear of failure was nonexistent (entrepreneur’s poison snuffs fear out), and I had the background to package things the way the professionals do, so the only thing left was the craft… I had been writing since I was a child, remember? So I figured the craft was ready (WRONG), so I got my coat pulled from a successful self-publisher and learned how to get started in this world.
“I had worked for myself for a long time, so the fear of failure was nonexistent.”
I wrote and published the first edition of Anstractor making all the mistakes we veterans warn new publishers not to do:
- Self-made book cover – I am a professionally trained designer, so this mistake didn’t burn like it should have.
- Family member edits – Editing fiction is an art. Having a degree in literature is not enough to pass the bar.
- 1960’s Sci-Fi tropes – I grew up watching Kirk stick himself into every warm body available, and wouldn’t you believe it made itself into my work.
- Listening to unproven loudmouths on the internet – This by far was the absolute worst. On every forum or writerly space there is some strong personalities that couldn’t sell water to the thirsty. They have their hardcore set of rules, like to dole out advice, yet have no skin in the game outside of being a star on a forum. I absorbed everything I could, thinking it would shorten my trip to getting tons of readers. All it did was increase my mistakes and money wasted.
Pro-tip: If you’re thinking of self-publishing and are reading this for advice, vet the hell out of me, scan my books, their reviews, their sales, and their content. Don’t just listen to me because I have a blog, make sure I am someone to follow … do this for anyone who says something to you about writing. People like to argue that not all masters are proven practitioners, but I beg to differ. There are tons of marketers winging the writing to earn a buck, and you don’t want to learn craft from a shark, just like you don’t want to learn marketing from a starving artist.
- Smelling myself – (Cue Keak Da Sneak). I am a good storyteller, you can’t tell me differently, if I’m anything, I’m self-aware. My craft was extremely lacking… I didn’t go to school for this, and I don’t belong to any writing clubs dedicated to improving prose and all that. People who read my early stories looked past the delivery to embrace the tale, and it gave me a false sense of self that made me crank out a few books without working on my craft first.
I started this self-publishing journey in 2014, and we’re now in 2019. I write a very different kind of book than what I was writing when I started in full cowboy fashion, shooting from the hip. My mantra has become, “feelings over everything,” which means that I try my best to put you the reader in the shoes of my characters. When they hurt, I want you to hurt, and when they make a decision, I want you to know why.
I have developed a small following. Gracious people who write me, read for me, and inquire from me about their chosen series. To me, this is success for a self-publisher, beyond my books being in the black, and whether or not my royalties can buy me a cup of coffee, or cover the mortgage for the month.
I didn’t start this as a hustle, or some sort of race to six-figures like many of my peers seem to be about. But I won’t lie and say that it doesn’t feel good to see the sales numbers climb … not only because it pays for the editing, and this author’s lust for amazing cover art, but because it’s confirmation, that there are people out there that actually love what I write. It’s what keeps me going, and I have yet to have a day where I regret pulling the self-publishing trigger over chasing down agents to, “WITNESS ME!”
If you’re thinking about going this route, just remember that there are no shortcuts that won’t bleed you, and no shortage of vipers posing as peers, who will rob you blind and steal your work since you have no publishing house to back you. But if you’ve got a strong jaw, and are willing to accept that this is a difficult path with no real way to copy another’s success, then come on in and wade out to the deep end, you’ll find that it’s not so bad.