Launching an Indie Publishing Career

September 2016. I took my first clumsy steps in indie publishing. A few falls and head bumps later, I ended up directly publishing to Amazon and using Draft2Digital for distribution to iBooks, Kobo, Nook, and other distributors.

My first series was The Rimes Trilogy. It's now available, as individual books or a boxed set. The first book, Momentary Stasis, has over 80 reviews on Amazon and nearly as many ratings on Goodreads. Turning Point, the first book of the follow-on ERF (Elite Response Force) series was published in December. Book two, Valley of Death, comes out Spring 2017.

I launched The Chain, a contemporary fantasy/magical realism/urban fantasy/horror series in late December 2016 exclusively on Amazon (Kindle Select). Ever Shining, the fourth book in the series, should be out by March 2017. I should start Lake of Fire, the fifth book, in March/April 2017.

I’m still learning as I go, both as a writer and as a publisher. I hope folks will hang in there until I get it right.

One of the people who really helped me up my game was fellow author DeAnna Knippling, who did significant developmental and content editing (and basic coaching) on Momentary Stasis. She is currently editing Beneath Burning Sands, the first book in my post-apocalypse series.

I'm taking chances not sticking to one sub-genre and one series at a time, but I've been working on these books for years, preparing for launch. I’m still learning as I go, both as a writer and as a publisher. I hope folks will hang in there until I get it right.

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Genre Balkanization

I was exposed to fantasy, science fiction, and horror as a kid. In 1970s Tampa, Florida, local television programming offered up awesome giant monster movies ("Them!"), science fiction movies ("It Came From Outer Space!"), and the occasional sword and sandal film ("Jason and the Argonauts") on late Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. Over time, Hammer horror and other European films made it on, but early on it was mostly black-and-white American cinema. I was already a big comic book reader at the time (Marvel and Warren Publishing magazines), and I saw Star Trek on reruns, but the only fantasy or SF I read was the occasional collected Star Trek shorts. Honors English changed all that. We moved to a tiny town in the mid-1970s, and one of the required readings was something called "The Hobbit." I met some nerds while discussing the book, and everything went straight to hell. Lord of the Rings came next, then I discovered Conan at a flea market. Next thing I knew, I was rolling dice and killing orcs in a D&D group, and before long I was mainlining Star Wars--not just the movie, but comic books and novels! It all became a blur, buying coverless paperbacks in back alleys, filling notebooks with sketches and notes for my future multi-genre epic. I crashed and fell off the face of the planet. They found me in a seedy Tijuana hotel, surrounded by polyhedrals, sketchbooks, and a tattered copy of Dorsai! I'd hit rock bottom. I've done pretty well since then. Sure, I've had the occasional relapse, but in general I can walk away from genre works whenever I want to. For a while. What I've noticed today, though, is there are people who wouldn't dream of stepping out of their comfort zones to try other genres. The divide has always been there, with science fiction snobs looking down their noses as fantasy readers for several years or the other way around. But by and large, if you read one genre, you read at least a little of the other. Reading Dune without at least sniffing at Earthsea or Elric or Kane seemed unthinkable. Today? People don't even seem willing to sneak a peek outside their sub-sub-genre. They make a catlike hiss if you talk about BBW Shifter Billionaire Science Fiction instead of BBW Shifter Navy SEAL Science Fiction. Holy crap! Although I consider this balkanization dangerous, I also acknowledge it's probably a logical evolution from things like the Star Wars and Star Trek/Marvel and DC divides, a strange us-vs.-them mentality probably rooted in human tribalism. But I think Amazon's categorization and our own cultural balkanization also play a role. Where this matters to me is I'm not a joiner or fan. I'm not drawn to a genre or writer or property to the point of exclusion or identification. I have no problem walking away from something I follow when it goes off the rails. I won't get onboard when the next awesome thing smells like a turd. As a creator, my interests aren't locked in to just science fiction or fantasy or horror. I went a couple decades reading thrillers at a far greater rate than F/SF/H. But there's a big problem with that: Writing outside a specific genre or sub-genre costs you readers, today more than ever. There's no doubt I preferred Howard's Conan work to his Solomon Kane or Kull or horror or Westerns or planetary romance, but he was such an entertaining writer that I read and enjoyed them all. I could create pen names, but I can barely manage my own name. So I watch my urban fantasy series (or is it magical realism? contemporary fantasy? folklore? horror?) and my military SF/cyberpunk/transhumanist series and wonder how much damage I'm doing to my sales. When my post-apocalypse series comes out, what does that do? My sword and sorcery works? Hopefully, I'll find a core readership unconcerned with the specific genre and drawn in by the characters, stories, and worlds.
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I Don’t Understand The Title

I've seen some comments in reviews and heard questions from beta readers that boil down to: "I don't understand the title." When I started outlining the Rimes trilogy, I had the source material (comic book scripts, short stories, the setting bible). I thought three books was the sweet spot for the story, but I didn't have three titles. The original comic book concept was originally going to have the title The Doll House (later changed to Machine & Soul). Neither seemed appropriate for the trilogy, which tells the tale of a man who is truly too good for his time. So I broke the stories down to what they represented in the overall human story for the setting. Book one covers a sequence of events that pushes society right up to the brink of a total disaster then ends with things frozen. It's a moment in time where things are obviously going to change and probably in a very bad way. Looking at the book as a whole, that's actually the point of it. To an outside observer, it should be that "oh" that comes just before everything falls to pieces. Since it was ultimately societal change that was happening, the idea that hit me seemed perfect--Momentary Stasis is used to describe that stable point just before things start to come into conflict to produce change. Book two was about the start and acceleration of the change that was hinted at in book one. Foolish decisions lead to violence. The exploited turn the tables. War begins. The old order fails. And our hero leads the charge to make things change. He tries to bring a new order to the chaos, so I went with Transition of Order. Finally, book three was about paying the price, reaping what you sow, etc. And not just as a society but for our hero. The little nugget that was there throughout the series--the dreams, the in media res book opening, the constant references to sleep/illusion/mirage/nightmare--made the first part of the title obvious: Awakening. And what were we all awakening to? Judgment. After years of letting things spiral out of control and not standing up to the excesses of the metacorporations and the resultant greed and abuse, we were on the brink of destruction, complete loss of free will. So Awakening to Judgment. For The Chain, the title choices were based off the series concept. Beyond the horror and suspense underpinnings and the magical realism, the story is a deconstruction of mythologies, folklore, and religions. It uses the language and structure of the subject matter to explore it. For instance, in book four, the telling of a visit to the spirit world is handled through a Native American folklore styling. I wanted to use the language of religion to communicate the subject of each book, so I turned to something I knew from my younger years: gospel music lyrics and song titles. The first book tells the tale of wayward children gone astray and returning home. Home in the sense of a physical place, a spiritual place, and a state of mind. Originally, I chose By and By for the title, but I was convinced to go with something else. So, The Journey Home. Book two's tale deals with foundations--Harrison Mansion's foundation brought up out of the Ozark Mountains and the stone segment used for binding in Izucar de Matamoros. And also the much shakier foundation of the family that Elliot and Tammy represent now. Rock of Salvation became an easy choice for that. Book three deals with things being in the deepest, darkest depths and rising up. It's about despair and hopelessness and failure. De Profundis. Out of the Depths. Or in this case, From the Depths. Book four deals with light in darkness, determination and drive to persevere, and the beacon of love that anchors and calls a loved one home when lost. Ever Shining seemed perfect to me. Sometimes, though, a rose is just a rose. With the Elite Response Force books, the titles are meant to be a little more reflective of the stories, which are pretty straightforward. So while Turning Point also refers to story structure, here it mostly refers to the city at the heart of the story. And Valley of Death? Well, in a few weeks that will be apparent.
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