15 tips for Indie Authors

1. Generally speaking, indie authors benefit most from networking. This is something that I’ve taken to heart and it’s great to make friends with other authors and promote their books because they’ll be inclined to promote yours. Authors who worry about their own success alone generally fail in this business. Authorship is not competing for readers because when someone finishes Anne Rice, they’re more inclined to pick up another vampire novel in the same “vein.”

2. Diversity is the key when attempting to get your books to the largest audience possible. The Rules of Supervillainy is my biggest success so far and it’s a huge success for a mainstream publication instead of just an indie press. Part of that was the fact it managed to hit a niche in genre fiction but also because it reached a huge audience of audiobook listeners versus the somewhat overloaded ebook market. Try to make sure your books are available in multiple formats of audiobook, ebook, and paperback.

3. A lengthy portfolio is pretty much a necessity in the modern ebook marketing world. You probably won’t make your fortune on one or two books but will benefit most from having a robust series of novels with multiple complete series. The fact Amazon and the internet means books “stay” in print means that you probably will get a trickle from each of your series as long as you’ve promoted them enough for people to want to check them out in the first place. In short, don’t expect to be a full time writer after your first book, expect it after your thirtieth.

4. Contradicting number 3# to an extent is the fact you need to manage your release schedule. Releasing a bunch of stuff at the same time or in rapid succession means the people you actually have managed to win over with your writing may be overwhelmed. After a release, you should spend time promoting your new release and make sure that people know about it.

5. Methods of promotion include Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Reddit, and other social media presence. Generally, no one cares about spam and if you show up to mention your work is now available for 5.99 on a group then don’t be surprised if the reaction is a resounding “meh.” Engaging with fans and making yourself interesting enough they actually check out your work is a big deal. Basically, making yourself a presence in your genre’s community is an important part of success.

6. Managing expectations is something that a lot of authors have difficulty with. Gone are the days of which you can just depend on a big publisher to release your books to all the bookstores in America and assume you’ll release in the 10s of thousands (and lose 99% of each sale to your publishers). Instead, a 1000 copies is an extremely good lifetime sale for an indie title and sometimes takes a while to take off. Success also breeds success as you can expect sales to pick up when one book succeeds and develops a fandom who buys your others.

7. Beware of scams. I feel like this is something that is unfortunately endemic to the indie scene but there’s no end of people who want to charge you $100 to publish your book on their mailing list of people who don’t actually read the books. There’s also plenty of scam publishers who will take every dollar you have and then go bankrupt. Beware, too, of editors who give it a spellcheck and charge $400. Check out sites like Writer Water Cooler and get help from your fellow authors to avoid this.

8. Understand that financial success in writing is an ongoing process, which is a polite way of reiterating the earlier point that becoming a full-time writer is a long process. You’ll probably not be able to quit your day job for a good long time if ever. Do it for the art first and the supplementary income second unless you’re one of those people who knows how to write porn for $10,000 a month. No, I don’t know how they do it.

9. Engage with the community projects of fans like the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, ABR awards, interviews, blogging, and guest posts. It’s not going to be an automatic boost to your book and plenty of blogs, like mine, have like 20 people who follow them but every bit counts.

10. Reviews provide the illusion of success, which can sometimes lead to real success. Lots of people don’t trust independent books with 5 reviews or less. Instead, they tend to view books with 60-200 as things which are successful or worth reading. This requires the equivalent of MMORPG grinding to get people to check them out. Amazon, Audible, Goodreads, and blogs all help.

11. Try and have multiple installments of a series in order to get people who like the original work to pick up the next. If you can develop a fanbase then it’s good to have people who want to buy the next novel. This is something of a risk because there were always be diminishing returns. The first book will always have more books sold than the second and the third with some people dropping the series. It’s best to keep a 3-5 book series and any subsequent novels in your world to be spin-offs.

12. Don’t go chasing trends. There’s always someone seeking the “next big thing” and that’s just a recipe for disaster because yes, sometimes the market will be over-saturated and sometimes you’ll luck out by being at the ground floor of something awesome. Superhero fiction was niche enough for me to be one of the people someone looking for “superhero fiction” found when they entered it into a search engine but it also was a massive genre to begin with. Write, instead, the books you’re inspired to write because a wide pool often is deep in its fanbase.

13. Remember a book is and always will be judged by its cover. Something eye-catching and memorable will always be more likely to get you picked up than something which isn’t. Commissioning art is an expensive investment but something that is worth investing in if you can afford it. Pre-rendered art are a good investment if you look around but beware you’ll probably see someone else using it. I’ve encountered 3 series that use my Agent G model after all and that’s just people who have brought him up.

14. To directly contradict my earlier point about trends, there’s something to be said for the power of public domain. The Cthulhu Mythos, Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, fairy tales, various Pulp heroes, Alice in Wonderland, and more come with their own fanbases. If you are already a fan of something, you can potentially jump on the bandwagon. Don’t expect your dark and sexy interpretation of the Wizard of Oz to be an automatic best seller but it’s not like there isn’t a market for it.

15. I cannot stress this enough but make sure you have a proper editor and don’t be surprised when mistakes slip through. Being an independent author means that you can probably fix every single one of your problems before your next book sale goes out but there’s no getting back your first impressions. Make sure you identify your flaws grammatically and work to correct them, follow the standard editing format, and always incorporate corrections you’ve identified. Mind you, no one actually cares if you have a few commas off, but readers (as well as fellow authors) can make mountains from molehills. Also, don’t panic about the mistakes either as many readers don’t care as long as it’s legible–don’t panic but do fix.

And some bonus advice:

Remember that you’re not actually competing with your fellow authors. When someone finishes reading your book, you’re not losing a reader when they pick up another one. Review other author’s works and promote them. The good will you get from directing readers to work you like will reflect back on you and fellow authors will often return the favor.

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Lucifer’s Nebula is now available on audiobook

LUCIFER’S NEBULA, sequel to LUCIFER’S STAR, is now available on audiobook from Crossroad Press.

From the best-selling author of The Rules of Supervillainy:

Captain Cassius Mass can only run so far from his problems and the galaxy isn’t big enough to hide from those pursuing him. Cassius soon finds himself blackmailed into a mission that will clear him of all charges as well as protect him from future persecution: bring an end to the civil war currently racking the galaxy. Accompanied by a new set of untrustworthy allies, the crew of the Melampus, and the A.I duplicate of his dead wife – Cassius needs to figure out how to not only deal with his target but also his employers. 

Because the entire universe is at stake.

Buy at Audible.com

Eldrtich Ops is now available on Kindle

 Finally, the sequel to ESOTERRORISM is now available!

Derek Hawthorne has ascended to become a member of the all-powerful Committee, which rules the world through the nebulous House. The House, officially, exists to protect humanity from the vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness that imperil humanity. Unofficially, it exists to protect its own power.

When his old partner, Christopher Hang, turns up as one of the undead–Derek is nonplussed to say the least. Christopher also has a message that troubles the tiny remains of Derek’s conscience: the House is running a secret project to not only control supernaturals but eliminate them. Now, Derek has to figure out if he’s to side with the supernatural or humanity or neither. Oh and did we mention Dracula, pirates, and werewolves were involved too?

Buy at Amazon.com

Lucifer’s Star on sale for $2.99

Hey folks,

Good news from the wonderful folks at CROSSROAD PRESS. Lucifer’s Star is the first of my dark space opera trilogy and is on sale for $2.99 this month.

From the bestselling author of The Rules of Supervillainy:

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he’d been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

LUCIFER’S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer’s Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

Buy at Amazon.com

Excerpt of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER

Here’s an excerpt from I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats. The sequel is already out but I figured people would love a sample of what both books are about.

CHAPTER ONE

I was a teenage weredeer. Specifically, I ceased to be a teenager as of eight o’clock that morning. I was an adult, eighteen years of age. I couldn’t legally drink but I could vote and… Hmm, actually, that was pretty much it. I graduated from Bright Falls High School a year ago due to skipping my freshman year and started taking community college courses a month before. So my birthday was less of a rite of passage than it might have been.

Mind you, I was glad none of my family was making a big deal out of my birthday. Being a shifter meant you went through a lot of rites of passage, especially in my family. Your first change, your first antlers (thankfully, I didn’t get those), when your Gift comes (mine was reading objects), and that thing that involved a sweat lodge I’m not looking forward to. I was Jane, Jane Doe.

Which, yes, was probably the least imaginative name you could come up for a girl you expected to be a weredeer. Then again, my father’s name was John, and my mother’s name was Judy. I had a sister named Jeanine and a brother named Jeremy. So, really, I should be grateful I lucked out and got the name most identified with anonymous female murder victims.

Yes, could you tell I was bitter? I was busing tables at my mother’s diner, the Deerlightful. It was a groan-worthy pun but far from the only one I’d had to deal with from my family. Most weredeer seemed to find them fascinating.

My cousins owned the Deerly Beloved wedding supply, my uncle the Stag Party strip club, and my brother planned on opening a funeral home called the Deerly Departed. He was just dumb enough to believe this would fly. The Deerlightful was a 1950s-style diner that fits in well with the fact Bright Falls was stuck in said decade.

Well, aside from most of the townsfolk moving out and drugs replacing lumber as the primary source of employment. It was two in the afternoon, so the lunch crowd had left. It meant I had a chance to think in between busing tables. Jeanine was cheerfully taking the order of two flannel-wearing lumberjacks at the end of the room as the song “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival played in the background.

My dad had thought it clever to make just about everything moon-related in our music selection. Other shifters in the town— and there were a lot— seemed to find it cute, so maybe there was something to it, but aside from this song and “Blue Moon” by Elvis, I wasn’t a fan. Jeanine was pretty much my opposite in appearance, being a tall and curvaceous curly-auburn-haired girl who resembled the weredeer ideal of beauty.

I was thin, an A cup, and had flat black hair that I kept in a bowl cut. The fact that the Deerlightful’s yellow uniforms were made for women quite a bit more, uh, well, ample didn’t help my job. I’d said my mother shouldn’t try to make her own daughters into Hooters waitresses, but she’d said I’d fill in. Not what you wanted to hear when you were seventeen.

Oh well, it was money for college and getting out of this one-Starbucks town. My dad pronounced it Star Bucks. Ugh. Hefting a bus box full of plates, I grumbled about the fact I could be writing my great American novel instead. It was a mystery-romance about my heroine caught between two handsome suitors in the unsettled seventeenth-century frontier.

Alas, it was presently more Twilight than Catcher in the Rye. You could take the teenage weredeer out of the forest, but you couldn’t take the forest out of the teenage weredeer. “If at first you don’t succeed, give up and decide to sell real estate,” I grumbled aloud.

Jeanine called over to me. “Oh, Jane, would you do me a solid and take the rest of my shift? Brad and I are going on a date and I need to get ready.” I stared over at her and wondered if my older sister was actually just going to dump all of her work on me. Oh, right, of course she was. “Do I get your share of the tips?”

Jeanine frowned. “You know it is hard living away from Mom and Dad.” No, I didn’t, because I couldn’t afford to.

“Sure, Sis, I will gleefully do even more work so you can mack with your incredibly rich boyfriend.”

“Super!” Jeanine said, waving at me, then walked through the doors to the kitchen. I stared at her then followed.

“Clearly, sarcasm is not my strong point.” The Deerlightful kitchen was a single large room with a walk-in fridge, bathroom on the other side of the room, office for my mother, and a series of fridges as well as stoves.

There was a calendar and bulletin board to my right, listing all the various messages my mother tended to get for her other job as the town shaman. Jeanine was already skipping out the backdoor and I didn’t have a chance to correct her misassumption about my volunteering to cover for her. I guess I was stuck with it.

I looked for my mother, but didn’t see anyone but Dad and Jeremy. Judy ran the Deerlightful while my father cooked. They were also weredeer or Cervid (I thought was a secret name for our kind until discovering it just meant “deer” in Latin) who’d married at eighteen in an arranged union. Both seemed cool with it and genuinely seemed to love each other.

Thankfully, John didn’t seem too eager to follow in late Grandpa Jacob’s plan to keep the bloodline pure and hadn’t talked to me about any of that. John, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a brown mullet, was presently grilling three burgers while singing “Achy Breaky Heart”. I swear, I could hear him call it ‘Hart’ in his inflection.

“And yet you do sarcasm so well,” my brother, Jeremy, said from my side. He was currently doing a fresh load of plates in the sink.

Jeremy was more like me than my sister in that he was thin with short, dark hair. Jeremy was wearing a white apron over blue jeans and a House Baratheon t-shirt. He had a pained look on his face that never seemed to go away which had started when he hadn’t made the Change by eighteen.

That was two years ago, and given that I’d made it by fourteen, it was pretty clear he was never going to be a weredeer and was just an ordinary human. Personally, I didn’t see the big deal, as it meant he didn’t have to do the family runs every full moon, but I could tell it bothered the hell out of him.

“Yeah, you know me,” I said, putting the bus box by the sink. “I’m always trying to bring a little dry hipster sarcasm to our lives.”

Jeremy half smiled. “You realize being a hipster is a bad thing, right?”

“It is?” I asked.

“Yes.” Jeremy nodded, sharing his sage wisdom of being two years older. Putting his arm over my shoulder, he said, “I’m afraid you have yet to realize you are not a sage source of post-modern ironic wisdom.”

“I’m pretty sure those words don’t actually mean anything when strung together,” I said, smiling and hugging him back.

“It means that I, too, am studying Mr. Jameson’s philosophy course,” Jeremy said, referencing our shared desire to go to college and escape Bright Falls. The chances of either of us escaping my small Michigan hometown were pretty slim, though. In 2008, the vampires had done all the world’s supernaturals a “favor” by coming out and revealing themselves to the world, which had resulted in all the others getting revealed in short order.

While there were plenty of people who hated the undead for being blood-drinking parasites and almost, to the man, sociopaths, shifters actually got the worst of it. Of forty-eight states— Michigan and Vermont exempted— if you were shot by someone then all they had to do was prove you were a shifter for it to be justified as self-defense.

Also, it was entirely legal to discriminate against shifters in the marketplace, so if I ever were to leave town then my options were to go to Vermont or Canada, and that felt like a lateral move at best. My cousin, Jill (God, what was it with the J names?), had moved to the newly revitalized Detroit, but that meant she was in the power of the vampires.

Plus, she was a stripper and while that was her choice, it wasn’t a career path I wanted or was equipped for. I was going to try to find somewhere other than the shifter capital of Michigan to live, but that was going to take more than the education provided by Bright Falls Community and Technical.

“Well, I suppose I should be grateful for the work,” I said, muttering under my breath. “It nicely avoids my parents having to pay for my college. Keep it all in the family. Specifically the money.”

“Hey, maybe she’ll marry Brad and then his family will eat her and we’ll collect a big insurance payout,” Jeremy said cheerfully. I chuckled.

“Yeah, I don’t think so. We can’t afford the insurance and the O’Henry family owns the insurance company.”

The O’Henry family was one of the twelve shifter clans in the town, and by far the most powerful. They were actually powerful on a national level, with lobbyists in Washington working on shapeshifter rights (badly) and rich enough to own a senator or two. The fact that they chose to live in Bright Falls to lord over the few thousand shifters here rather than someplace nice told me everything I needed to know about them.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world with them,” Jeremy said.

“Hey, some of them are nice,” I said, thinking about my friend Emma. “I mean, there’s Sheriff Clara, who hates me, and… uh, nope, can’t think of any others.”

“Victoria is hot,” Jeremy said.

“Ugh,” I said, thinking about her and trying not to let my blood boil. “Talk about a woman needing a silver bullet.”

Victoria O’Henry was my own personal Mean Girl archnemesis and one of the chief reasons I was glad to have graduated from high school. She was a year older than me and one of the worst people I’d ever met. Werewolves were pack hunters and she’d assembled a little gang of her cousins around her to rule the school.

The fact that her Gift had turned out to be able to learn people’s deepest, darkest secrets had made her the terror of Bright Falls as a whole. The fact I’d been best friends with her sister Emma growing up made her desire to ruin my life doubly strange, but I guess Victoria didn’t want her sister crossing the predator/ prey divide. Now Brad and Jeanine were seeing each other, which meant we might become sisters-in-law. Yikes.

“You shouldn’t say that sort of thing,” John said, turning his head to look at us. “The O’Henrys are like royalty.”

I rolled my eyes. “Dad, it’s the twenty-first century. No one actually takes the whole royalty thing seriously anymore.”

“We do in this house,” John said, his voice low. “If they’re not royals then we’re not shamans.”

That was another thing about shifter culture that annoyed the hell out of me. Every one of the twelve clans had a specific role assigned to them. The werewolves were the rulers, the weredeer were the shamans, the werebears were the guards, and so on. It was like any other caste system in that the modern world had left it behind, but there were shifters, like my dad, who took it way too seriously.

“Mom’s a shaman, you’re a short-order cook,” Jeremy said, saying more than he probably should have.

Dad stood still for a second and I thought he was going to blow up. “You just keep doing your job, son, and focus on what making a connection with your true self.”

That was even worse because John was the only member of the family who still thought Jeremy had a chance of changing. I understood why Dad wanted it to be so: he was the one who believed most in the Old Ways, the old religion, and it was a stinging cut to know he didn’t have enough of a Gift to be a priest. But to sire a human? Someone without any Gift at all? That was bad. Made worse because I knew Dad loved Jeremy best. It sucked, but it was true.

“That’s it,” Jeremy said, pulling off his apron. “I’m gone. You can find someone else to do your damn dishes.”

“Jeremy—” Dad started to say before noticing the hamburgers were burning.

“Dammit!” I sighed and watched Jeremy walk away before looking to Dad. “Please tell me you don’t expect me to do the dishes.”

“I’ll do them,” John said, sighing as he started over the burgers again, tossing the burned ones into the trash. “I mean what I said about talking smack about the royals, though. They’re dangerous.”

I blinked and sighed. “What, is Victoria going to have my head cut off?”

John turned around and crossed his arms. “That’s not so farfetched an idea. You’ve grown up in a time when the supernatural was public. In my day, though, they had the power of life and death over their subjects.”

“Which is creepy,” I said, looking out to the restaurant beyond and seeing if we had any new customers. Thankfully, we didn’t. It was a slow Thursday.

“In any case, I’ve hated on Victoria for years and she hasn’t had my head cut off yet.”

“Yet,” John said. “The royals still have all their old authority. They don’t use it often, but most of the other clans respect it.”

“Dad…”

“Just cut it out with the silver-bullet threats. Please.”

Seeing my dad was serious, I sighed and nodded my head before going to get a pad to take orders. That was when I heard thunder outside and my ears perked up. There was something in the air that made me uncomfortable and I couldn’t quite put it into words.

Closing my eyes, I saw a storm coming and felt a terrible thing was coming. I’d only had that kind of impression of the future a few times, one of which had been right before the vampires had revealed themselves and the subsequent violence.

All weredeer had the Sight, just varying degrees of it, with Dad having the ability to sense absolutely nothing more than his next dinner while my mother was able to see things years in the future as well as talk to the animals like Doctor Doolittle.

I was somewhere in the middle and could pick up impressions from objects as well as get visions of the future on occasion. Knowing something bad was going to happen didn’t give me a way to stop it, though, and my stomach turned a bit. Should I tell my father? Tell him what— I have a bad feeling about this? My mother? Maybe.

“Dad, where’s Mom?”

“Off,” John said.

“Off?” I asked.

“Off,” He repeated. “Shaman things.”

“Oh joy,” I said, knowing that meant she could be anywhere from the middle of the woods to selling scented candles at a party. I went back to work instead.

As Jeanine’s and my shift finally came to an end, I was pretty tired on my feet and debated going out back to change so I could regain my energy. A rainstorm had already been going for the better part of an hour, though, so I didn’t want to.

You’d think being part-wild animal I wouldn’t mind getting wet, but it turned out weredeer really resented thunderstorms. Heading to punch my time card— weird with a mostly family business— I watched the backdoor open up and my soaked best friend run through the door.

Emma O’Henry was about six inches taller than me and gorgeous in the same way my sister was, except with bright-crimson-red hair. Emma was wearing a pair of cut-off jean shorts and an open flannel shirt over a House Stark shirt my brother had given her.

A little silver locket was hanging around her neck in the shape of a wolf. I, personally, had never seen the need to advertise my animal type to the world. I was about to greet her warmly when I noticed she looked horrified. Her makeup was smeared and her eyes teary. I blinked.

“What’s wrong?” My father looked over at us.

“Are you okay, Emma?” Emma grabbed me in a hug. “It’s terrible. I came here right away.”

“Eh?” I said, wondering why I was the crisis person all of a sudden before remembering my earlier bad feeling. “What’s happened?”

“My sister has been murdered. They’re looking at your brother.”

Okay.

Crap.

Available on Amazon.com

A great podcast interview with me on SCI FI SATURDAY NIGHT

A great interview where I discuss the Supervillainy Saga, Agent G, Trump, and Weredeer all at once.

http://scifisaturdaynight.com/?p=8994

Continuing with our on again off again theme, what’s so funny about science fiction, on this episode our guest is C.T. Phipps, author of, among many other things, The Rules of Supervillainy series that features the unlikely anti-hero Gary Karkofsky. The discussion is a typical author interview, talking about bizarre pop culture references, the use of Bill and Ted Go to Hell, why Gary’s wife is killed multiple times and where in the hell does all this cone from. The bottom line is, TC is a very interesting guy who puts those interests into his books, and for that matter is a rather prolific writes currently working in 3 different series: