I have had a lot of interesting conversations over the last few months with friends and co-workers.
Most people find me quiet, innocuous, and somewhat boring until they find out that I wrote a book. Then I'm interesting all of a sudden, and people want to ask me lots of questions. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. I like talking about writing, I just wish I had some other personality trait to make me a more engaging person. Maybe I should watch more sports, or take dance lessons or something.
Anyway, I thought I'd write a post about some of the more common questions I get. I've probably touched on some of these subjects in previous posts, so if some of this stuff seems repetitive, that's because it is.
Let's dive right in:
Q: How do you do it? Like, how do you just sit down and write a long story like that? Do you use an outline?
A: I do it because I enjoy it. I like writing. It's my stress relief after a long day at work, or after an especially patience-testing evening with my two-year old. Writing has kind of a flywheel effect with me. It takes me a few minutes to get rolling, but when I do, I'm off to the races. I can't remember how many times I have sat down with my laptop at nine pm, pecked away for a while, and then looked up to realize that it was one o'clock in the morning. Probably why I feel like crap when I wake up at seven to go to work. As for outlines, unless scribbling a few ideas on a scrap of paper between phone calls and meetings at work counts, then no, I don't use them.
Q: Why did you write a book about zombies, of all things? Isn't that kind of...dorky? Isn't there something better you could write about?
A: My actual response to this question was, "Tell you what, when you get off your ass and write the great American novel, or any book at all for that matter, then you can criticize my choice of literary subject. Until then, go back to reading about the Kardashians on your stupid gossip website. And seriously, why do you care about that bunch of talentless fame-addicts anyway? Isn't that kind of...dumb? Isn't there something better you could waste your time with?"
It should come as no surprise that the individual I said this to hasn't spoken with me since. Sometimes I forget that I'm not in the military anymore, and people who have spent their entire lives within a one hundred square-mile area of the central Carolinas may not be as thick skinned as my compatriots from the Armed Services.
My point is, if you don't like zombie books, or if you think they're dorky, then don't read them. There are plenty of other genres out there. I really don't have patience for ignorant, judgemental comments like that from people who have no literary work whatsoever to their credit. I will never understand why people with no accomplishments of their own constantly strive to tear down the people who do.
Harsh? Yes. True? Absolutely.
I wrote a zombie novel for three reasons: I like the genre, there were not a lot a good zombie books to choose from at the time, and because I felt that fans of zombie apocalypse horror novels were a grossly underserved niche market. Furthermore, just because the book is about zombies doesn't mean it isn't still an engaging, thought provoking read. Judging by the fact that it has sold well over nine-thousand copies, and received 97 four and five star reviews between Amazon.com and B&N, I feel confident in saying that NEH is at the very least entertaining. Some people may disagree, and that is fine. Zombies aren't for everybody.
Q: Are you going to write another one?
A: Hell to the yes. I'm about three-quarters of the way through This Shattered Land, and have plans for at least two more in the series. That's not even counting my plans for the Jeremiah Cain series. Writing is my opiate of choice, I'm slapping my arm with a feverish gleam in my eyes, and I'm looking for something to steal. Unless somebody invents a methadone equivalent for people who are hopelessly addicted to creativity, then I will continue churning out novels for the forseeable future.
Q: How hard is it to self-publish? Can anybody do it?
A: Easy, and yes.
Q: How did you get so many people to buy No Easy Hope?
A: I didn't. All I did was write it, hire a cover designer, format and convert it, then post it to market. Amazon's amazing meta-data driven marketing technology did the rest for me. Hell, it was three months before I ever created a blog or a Facebook page. Couldn't have been easier. No wonder the Big Six are crapping their pants over e-readers. If a small-timer like me can build a following and sell books with little up-front investment, then those guys are in big trouble. I don't understand why any new author would even bother with the traditional publishing route at this point. If you don't know how to edit, format, convert, or do cover art, there are so many resources out there for you it is ridiculous. Look into it.
Q: How much did it cost you to bring the book to market?
A: Ninety bucks, and ten months of my life. The ninety bucks was for cover art. (Thanks Keary!)
Q: How do you get paid?
A: I publish through B&N and Amazon, and they both work the same way. I get a royalty payment sixty days after the last day of a month in which I earned the minimum sales required (ten bucks for EFT, I think).
To illustrate: I first published the book in early November. I got the payment for that month's sales at the end of January. The December check came at the end of February, and so on and so forth. After the initial sixty days, you get a check every month on the first. Comes in handy when the mortgage is due.
Q: Do you know any other writers?
A: Yes, I do. Indie writers tend to be fairly approachable people with minimal egos. The community forums on KDP are a great resource for information, tips, and getting questions answered.
Q: What does Amazon do to help? How much do they charge to publish on their site?
A: Not to be overly critical, but the support Amazon provides is minimal to moderate. Pretty much everything you need to know is on the help section of the KDP site, but it is up to you to dig around and find what you need. It can be a time consuming and frustrating process, especially if you are new to self-publishing. Again, the community forums are your friend. Use them.
B&N's Pubit site is, in my opinion, much more user friendly than KDP. Too bad B&N has such a small market share.
As for what they charge, it is free to post a book on both sites. For books priced between 2.99 and 9.99 on Amazon, the royalty is 70%, less a small delivery charge. (Usually 8 cents for me.) B&N pays 65%. Both are way better than the 10-20% maximum that authors see on traditionally published work, although you do not get an advance.
Q: Have you been approached by a publisher or an agent to buy your book from you?
A: No, I haven't. This does not bother me in the least. Unless a publisher is willing to pay me a six-figure advance, I would most likely turn them down. I prefer to retain control over my work, especially the content, cover art, and all-important publishing rights. To learn more about the horrible way that authors are treated by traditional publishers, check out JA Konrath's blog.
Q: How do you find time to write with a wife, son, and a full-time job? Have you ever thought about quitting your job to focus on writing?
A: It is definitely a challenge to find time to write. The obligations of work and family can take a toll on my literary aspirations at times. My goal is to one day make enough money as an author to change careers and focus on writing full-time. When will that happen? Hell, I don't know. A couple of years? Five? Never? I have no idea. Until then, I put one foot in front of the other, finish one thing and start on the next, and eat the elephant one bite at a time. I'm not in a hurry. I know if I work hard enough, someday I'll get there.
Q: Aren't you worried, with it being so easy to self publish, that the market will be flooded with books making it hard to sell yours?
A: No, I'm not. First of all, it takes a lot of time and effort to write a good book. Time and effort that most people are not willing to expend. Second, the ranking and review system on Amazon and B&N are pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff. If a book is bad, it gets bad reviews, no one buys it, it goes down in the rankings, and you most likely never see it. The ones that sell, or have good reviews, get shuffled to the top of the list. It's not a perfect system, but it works pretty well most of the time.
Q: If your book is in e-format, aren't you concerned about piracy?
A: Not really. If you price your work reasonably, most people will buy it rather than pirate it. It's the books that are going for more than ten bucks that usually get stolen. I don't condone online piracy, but I am pragmatic enough to see it as a fact of life, much the same way that a car accident is the potential outcome of driving to the grocery store. I firmly believe that if I keep my prices down around 3-5 dollars, piracy will be a minor issue.
Q: Where do you get your story ideas from?
A: I have a fertile imagination. I grew up watching cartoons, reading comic books, playing video games, and reading about four or five novels a week. Stephen King, Louis La'mour, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Robert A. Heinlein are a few of my old favorites. I still have a voracious reading appetite. There are a few genres out there that I especially like, and I want at least my first few books to be contributions to those genres. Zombie Apocalypse, Urban Fantasy, and Military Sci-Fi are my starting points. We'll see where things go from here.
All these questions aside, the most common response I get from people when they find out that I self-published a book is, "Dude, that's awesome."
And you know what? It is. I was very apprehensive about this whole thing when NEH was first published, but I'm glad I did it. Self-publishing has been an incredibly interesting and overwhelmingly positive experience.
If you're thinking about writing a book, do it, and self-publish the hell out of it. It's worth the effort.