Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Guest Post by Kevin Blackmore

Joe sez: I'm going to be taking a blogging break during August, but I've got twelve guest posts scheduled this month, so they'll appear as slotted.

Today it's Kevin Blackmore...

First, thanks for Tess for starting the fundraiser––I lost a grandfather to the disease, and like many, know firsthand how cruel Alzheimer’s is.

And thanks to Joe for allowing me to post.

I’m another one of the silent readers who’ve pondered over Joe’s escapades into digital publishing, and made notes accordingly as he’d gone along. If it wasn’t for finding “A Newbie’s Guide…” well, I know I wouldn’t be posting today.

I’d still be overseas. Working the day job, writing in the evenings (and on the weekends, sometimes to my friends’ and girlfriend’s ire) and submitting what I could to publishers who wanted submissions in paper and, if I hadn’t heard from them within 4-8 months, I could assume my book didn’t meet their requirements. But try again. Sometime.

Because of Joe’s blog, I finally made the jump from day job to dream job in early 2011, and after twenty years of trying to get published, I started publishing on my own.

Looking back, the whole experience was as exhilarating as it was frightening. I was living off my life savings, writing full time, before finances or readers bitch slapped me with the reality mallet. If my books didn’t sell, if they sucked, well… truthfully, there was no Plan B.

My torpedo was, for all intentional purposes, in the water.

Started out with 4 titles back then. My main genres are fantasy and horror, so I released one for each, as well as a children’s story and a non-fiction “How-to” book. Nothing really sold well, and monthly tallies were usually in low double digits. Released a SF novella (the Bear that fell from the stars) and a short collection of horror short stories (Cauldron Gristle). The short story collection didn’t do much—though the SF book, about a ninja who gets abducted by a bunch of anal probing aliens, did managed to sell around 5,000 units. However, at only .99 cents, it wasn’t anything to scream about, and it was SF… a little outside of what I usually write. Crossover readers were few.

However, in the horror collection, there was one story with potential for something more. A little number called “The Hospital.” My first PA zombie story.

Yeah. Zombies.

Got to work on my first full blown zombie story late in 2011. Finances were low then, and even though I didn’t want to, I came up with an exit strategy, just in case. But there was a chance. The zombie genre was just exploding back then, and I wanted to release something to take advantage of a hot genre and the upcoming holiday market. So I released the first half of my undead novel and hoped that it sold, and sold enough. Enough to keep me at the keyboard for another little while.

Well, that book was Mountain Man.

And that 200+ page story, about a PA Robinson Crusoe type alcoholic scrounging about and evading dead things, kept me alive. It was Christmas and I got my second wind.

The “sequel” (in my mind it’s still one book chopped in half) did even better business, and the third book, well, I’m still here… and we’re halfway through 2013. Even more newsworthy, MM recently became optioned for film (and not the first work of mine to be eyeballed by Hollywood). Now, I’m not placing my hopes on the book ever becoming a movie (my writer colleagues set me straight on that), but it is a professional pat on the back.

And none of this would have happened if I hadn’t stumbled upon Joe’s blog about self-publishing. That it could be done.

I’d still be working the day job, slowly self-immolating, spending my free time punching out stories for a very cold, very indifferent industry apparatus, hoping that one day it’d would notice.


Now I don’t give a shit what it does J. I’ve got work to do.

These days, I’m concentrating on a new fantasy series. The cash from MM will keep me alive just a little longer, just to see if readers take to the fantasy line. I hope they do as I have more stories in that genre than the horror. I’m not out of the woods yet, and certainly not financially stable. I’ve made mistakes over the last two years (not starting on a series right away is the main one), but I’ve got an extension on my dream career, and I’m going to do what I can with the time remaining. Things are good.

So thanks, Joe. ‘Appreciate it.

Joe sez: I've said time and again it isn't name recognition or marketing that makes a book successful. It's luck. The right book released at the right time with the right cover and rights description and right price. If it catches on with readers, it will stay on the bestseller lists, remaining visible, for a long time. 

My first published novel, Whiskey Sour, was available for nine years through my former publisher, and it sold modestly. I got the rights back in February, changed the cover, the description, and lowered the price, and it and my other five Jack Daniels novels have sold over 150,000 copies in six months.

If you aren't selling well, try something different. If changing covers and prices and descriptions don't work, write in a different genre.

No one knows what is going to succeed. But I'm pretty sure you won't succeed if you don't keep trying new things.

This is a business. Treat it like the hard work it is. Then keep at it until the world can't ignore you anymore.