You know nothing, Jon Snow.
As a debut author, (who still finds it difficult to accept the title), I've certainly felt like a bastard during my journey toward self-publishing. Yet even then, I am no Jon Snow. He at least enjoyed the comforts his lord father provided.
I am a wildling.
A savage living North of a great Wall erected to keep my kind out. Watcher crows guard it; those given authority over who is permitted to live in the perceived comforts our opposites enjoy versus who must live in the wastelands of endless winter.
In the event some of you have lived in a hole the past four years, I refer to one of my fantasy icons, George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series, more commonly known as HBO's Game of Thrones.
My fellow indies will recognize my words for something different.
For many years, literary agents have played gatekeepers to the publishing world. More recently, their ranks have thinned. Many of those gatekeepers have cried out for more support from the lords of Westeros (i.e.-traditional publishers of NYC) and, as on the show, received none. You see, the gatekeepers realize a growing horde of wildlings unites to force our way through, even while the lords and ladies of up on high refuse to acknowledge such claims.
Unlike HBO's fantastic show, however, it's not fear that drives we indie authors.
One could also argue it's necessity. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.
Who to lead us our march to take down the Wall, (or at least fairer terms)? Perhaps one who has been there and back. On the show, he is named Mance Rayder, the King Beyond The Wall. He once lived on the other side until he turned his cloak for the freedom wildlings enjoy. Now, he leads the charge.
I first heard of Mr. Joe Konrath when beginning my self-publishing research. It seemed everywhere I went his name came up. Read his archives. Indie authors wrote. All the information you want is on his site and freely given.
So there I ventured and there I learned truth.
Those on the opposite side, the authors picked up by traditional publishers, did not necessarily enjoy better comforts than I could as an indie. Sure, traditional publishers might have the ability to put my book in brick-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, but how much longer will B&N survive? And for how long would they allow my debut to survive on shelves before taking it away and many of my rights with it? Mr. Konrath had answers. Even pointed me to others like Barry Eisler and Passive Guy.
I read their opinions too. Like Jon Snow, I came to learn gatekeepers frequently err. It's not their fault, you understand, only that there are so many who'd like to venture through. Far easier to deny passage.
My understanding grew. Indies were just as talented and capable, if not more so, as our traditionally published cousins. The same resources-editors, formatters, graphic designers-are provided us. Indies also adhere to nature's rule: Adapt or die. We can put our work to market faster. Play with pricing, even give our works away for free as a loss-leader strategy. All in the pursuit to better our own lives, not fill the pockets of those seeking to benefit from our labors.
Researching agency after agency, trying to discern what each required, the genres that interested them, waiting on replies....what had I been waiting for? Why did I need their approval?
The indie sites I read promised what Mance Rayder says the first time Jon Snow meets him. "Stand, boy." Mance helps Jon up. "We don't kneel for anyone beyond the Wall."
Such words give purpose. Inspire passion. For what person would rather bend the knee than be lord or lady unto themselves?
I'd also be remiss not to mention other wildlings who've guided me. A feisty shield-maiden I call friend and editor, Annetta Ribken. Others include Patti Larsen, Jennifer Wingard, and Valerie Bellamy. Each of them opening my eyes to understand those five little words that contain so much power...
You know nothing, Jon Snow.
I don't say that as a slight to my intelligence. Only to bring home the point we are all students in an ever-changing landscape. That's another thing I've loved about these wildling teachers and friends. All professed I should not just accept their words as truth, but seek out more answers. Learn from others around far longer than I and add their experiences to the mix.
So I looked elsewhere and found more of the same: open hands in welcome, knowledge freely given to one who could never hope to repay the debt, and, best yet, common cause.
I remain floored and awestruck by this. I who hail from the film world. With limited jobs, an actor and filmmaker is ever at war with competitors. The writing community has shown me a different path. Sometimes I still feel like a dog fresh from the pound, constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the hammer to fall. Then, the gentle reminder I'm not in that place anymore.
Many I've spoken with believe a win for one of us is a win for all. I venture to say the most famous, (and deserving, I might add), is Mr. Hugh Howey. Any who have read his blog will notice mine is like a kid brother vainly attempting to follow in his elder's footsteps. Not only is Mr. Howey a far more gifted author than I, he's taught me much and more about the importance of engaging readers. Encouraging reader/author relationships where some authors shirk it aside.
I share a bond with all these individuals, yet I have never met any in person. In truth, I've only had a Skype conversation with one of them. It doesn't matter. Some day, hopefully, I will. Shake their hand and offer to buy them a drink. I only hope not to stumble over myself in doing so.
The Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister rebuked Jon Snow in the first season for naming himself part of the Night's Watch before he'd even ventured there. I've struggled throughout this post writing we and us for fear of the same. Many would likely give me a similar rebuke, but I don't fear it from the writing community and the rest don't matter. As Michael J. Fox recently said, "What people think of me is none of my business."
Those of you who have read the blogs I mentioned know both Mr. Konrath and Mr. Howey have requested a call to action. The necessity to share information amongst one another that we indies might grow stronger together.
Today, fellow wildlings, I mean to add my voice to yours, small and insignificant as it is at this time. My release week ended this morning. Here are my numbers that they might benefit any of you reading this:
# of review, interview, guest post, book promo, etc. requests sent out - 200+
# of positive responses received - 36
Production investment: $3,000 - (*omitting specifics out of respect for individuals who worked on the book and their confidential rates).
Monetary amount spent on marketing: $25 for an indie promo on release day in the hope it would swell my sales numbers. (I'll likely do this again once sales die down to better determine overall effectiveness/ROI).
**Salted released on April 22, 2014
#36 on Amazon's 100 Hot New & Future Releases for Urban Fantasy
(Inside the Top 50 from 4/22/14 - 4/27/14)
#8,912 in overall Kindle paid store
#2,659 in Books
Sales thus far
Amazon (kindle) - 61 = $167.16
Createspace (print) - 119 = $317.73
Smashwords - 0 = $0.00
GRAND TOTAL: $484.89
I'm proud of that result, (even if I did miss $500 by only 6-7 more books sold). Sales have dipped, but I'm optimistic they will return once you readers finish Salted and spread the word. I'm also hard at work on the sequel, (just over 10k words in), and have another novel (unrelated to my Salt series, sorry folks) waiting in the wings for a bit more ROI before putting it through the production grinder. I'm hopeful to release that one by the end of summer so I too can play around with pricing strategies I've read about.
A final word to any fellow wildlings, you aren't alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of brothers and sisters waiting to offer what advice we can. Until then, if you remember nothing of what I've written here, hold these words true no matter your endeavor.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
Author. Actor. Rascal.