Discover Fantasy: The Best Thing About Going Indie
I’m delighted to be a stop on the Discover Fantasy Tour schedule today, welcoming three special authors who have all visited the blog previously: Jonathan Gould, Jeremy Rodden, and David M. Brown! I’ve asked them all to share their highlights from their indie experiences so far…
What’s been the best thing about going Indie?
That’s a question that’s been posed to me quite a number of times since I first made the big leap and published Magnus Opum back in January last year.
I guess, when I think about it, the answer is pretty obvious. Just look at me. Ok, you probably can’t see me, but believe me, I look just like I sound – kind of goofy. What sort of publisher is going to take on somebody like me?
If you can’t look at me, look at my books. They’re full of crazy, mixed up words like Kertoobis and Pharseeth and Plergle-Brots. Honestly, what publisher in their right mind is going to take on something like that? Or they have characters walking around in space, at complete odds with all the laws of physics, biology, and basic logic combined. Do you really think any kind of publisher with even a couple of marbles would green-light something like that.
I tell you, at times I even try my own patience. As my ideas get sillier and sillier, I’ve had to set up a much stricter vetting system with myself. Now, with anything that I’ve written, I force myself to submit a proper proposal, complete with a professional cover letter. And I don’t reply straight away. Nohow, I don’t like to make it easy for myself. I make myself sweat. And when I do finally reply, I’ll make sure to pick holes in the manuscript and make all kinds of absurd suggestions. I’ll force myself to redraft and redraft, often at the most pernickety level.
But do you know what. In the end, I won’t reject myself. I’ll end up giving myself the thumbs up, and from then on in, it’s full speed ahead.
And that’s definitely the best thing about going Indie!
Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn’t. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children’s books for the educational market.
He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don’t easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn’t follow the crowd – but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).
Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver’s Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.
Magnus Mandalora never thought he would leave the safe confines of the small homely village of Lower Kertoob. He certainly never expected to end up in the middle of a long-running war between the saintly Cherines and the beastly Glurgs. But when circumstance places him in such a dubious position, he finds himself on a rollicking adventure where nothing is quite as it seems.
Magnus Opum is an epic fantasy that’s slightly skewed – Tolkien with a twist.
For me, the sense of community in being an indie author is what makes this venture worthwhile. I assumed that self-publishing would be such a lonely business but head onto social networks and it’s so easy to find not only fellow indie authors but book bloggers as well.
Indie authors can be that extra breath needed to get you over the finishing line. Many are not only happy to discuss and read your work but offer guidance as well. From the forums I read, indie authors are now exploring new ways to prepare and promote their work but they are sharing their experiences with others. Many indie authors take as much satisfaction in the success of their peers as they do in their own work. Having those extra writers on board, pushing you to finish your WIP and feeding back to you is always overwhelming.
Then there are the book bloggers, the ebony to the ivory, the yin to the yang, and the Bill to the Ted! The prospect of promoting your novel is daunting to say the least. There are thousands upon thousands of rival authors out there and in the indie world it’s even more challenging standing out against your peers.
Step forward the book bloggers. These tireless and creative readers offer many a haven to indie authors in the form of guest posts, interviews and reviews. The latter in particular are pivotal to drawing readers. It’s hard for some readers to take a chance on a book without reviews! Book bloggers have the unenviable task of receiving dozens of review requests a day, yet despite the huge TBR piles they continue to churn out quality blogs on a daily basis. They are an indie author’s best friend and in many ways the key part of the overall community.
David Brown could be considered a fantasy fanatic, especially since he has spent the last 10 years developing a 47,000-year history for his fictional world of Elenchera. When converting his obsession into literary form, David commits himself to a rigorous writing and editing process before his work can meet his approval. Combined with the critical eye of his wife and a BA Honors in History and English, David’s dedication leads him to his goal of inspiring readers through heartfelt stories and characters.
Although David is inspired primarily by fantasy fiction, he also finds his muse in the form of anime, world cinema, history, and biographies. His own books, Fezariu’s Epiphany and A World Apart, combine aspects from worlds both old and new into compelling tales of a world not soon forgotten. David himself certainly does not lack a spirit of adventure; in fact, he left his job in 2007 in order to spend a month traveling. Second only to meeting and marrying his wife, David counts this as one of the most amazing experiences of his life.
12-year-old Fezariu thought his mother died when he was little, but when his beloved stepfather dies the boy discovers she is alive and well – and working at the most famous brothel in all of Elenchera. When she cruelly rejects him it’s more than he can bear, and he runs away to join a band of ruthless soldiers for hire. The Merelax Mercenaries will fight for anyone who can pay them, no matter the justice of the cause.
Fezariu grows up among the soldiers and becomes one of them. He thinks his time with the mercenaries has hardened him. But a campaign in his old home town pushes him too far, and he discovers what really happened to his mother. Maybe there are some things money shouldn’t buy: and maybe it’s time Fezariu took his revenge.
Demetrius makes his first mistake when he lets his best friend Halcyon marry Eleyna, the love of his life, without saying a word. On the day of the wedding, he walks away from the Elencheran town of Dove’s Meadow and joins the army.
He makes his second mistake when the pirate Black Iris tricks him into letting dozens of men, women and children die in a fire. Demetrius is imprisoned in grief and disgrace.
But he can atone. The Black Iris is dead. The Ivory Rose has risen to the top of the pirates and is leading brutal raids on the coast. If Demetrius can capture and kill her, he’ll win his pardon.
And then Demetrius discovers the Ivory Rose is Eleyna. He must decide which will be his third mistake: Losing his last chance at apardon, or destroying the one woman he’s ever loved.
When I first completed the manuscript of Toonopolis: Gemini in 2010 (the ‘final’ draft prior to professional editing), I started the process of querying agents and publishing houses. At the time, I knew the self-publishing market was opening quickly but I told myself I would try to go through the traditional route. After all, I had a very unique idea (a novel set in a cartoon universe) that, still to my knowledge, is the only story of its kind. Why wouldn’t someone want to jump on this concept?
I got a response from nearly every agent I queried. This, to me, was a good sign that the initial concept at least intrigued people to read my queries. However, every response came back with the same responses: ‘I don’t see a market for it’, ‘I don’t think I’m the agent for you’, and various speak which I have come to learn is very common in responses. I had an exchange with one New York agent that was promising but ultimately led to a polite rejection.
While I waited for this process to happen, I began researching self-publishing options. After reading JA Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide for Publishing, I knew that self-publishing would be my path. At this point, I had spent 3 months querying (not long at all by most standards). I decided to wait 3 more months for my last ‘if we don’t reply in 90 days’ queries to expire and I started the process. By now, it was March of 2011.
Toonopolis: Gemini did not publish until May 30th, 2011. Why? Because I wasn’t going to let my debut novel be another greasy patch hurting the reputation of self-published authors. I paid for a professional editor (http://www.alphaediting.com/). I hired an illustrator to do custom cover art and internal chapter header illustrations. I researched like mad to understand formatting, printing, distribution, social marketing, and anything else I needed to understand. I formed a publishing company (http://portmanteaupress.com/). Then I published.
I understand that many people get leery of self-published books. I mean, any yahoo can upload a .doc file to Amazon now-a-days, but I didn’t want to be that yahoo. I have met a very large number of fellow indie/self-published authors who have put in just as much energy, if not more, than I have to being as professional as possible throughout this process.
It frustrates me and pains me that people lump all indie authors together based on a few bad experiences. I understand why, especially when traditional authors like Jodi Picoult are going out of their way to badmouth us lowly upstarts, but it still pains me nonetheless.
Almost a year after Gemini first published, I have a much better understanding as to why it wouldn’t get picked up by an agent or a traditional publisher. It is far too unique of a concept. It can’t be pigeonholed into a marketing platform that already exists in traditional houses. I have had to create a platform for the Toonopolisbooks over the last year, including trying to create viral images to explain my world. It has been a lot of work. I have spent a lot of time creating this market, but it is very rewarding.
But in the end, I’ve sold over 300 copies of the book so far (not to mention about 5000 free downloads through KDP Select free days). Am I breaking records and making the NYT bestseller list? Absolutely not. But have hundreds and thousands of readers been exposed to a genuinely original concept thanks to the doors opened by self-publishers? Yeah.
And I’m proud to be one of them.
Jeremy says: “I spent the first ten years of my professional life in retail sales, working my way up to store management positions in two different Fortune 500 retailers. Along the way, I managed to earn a BA in Religion and English Writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA and an MA in Secondary Education from Holy Family University, also in Philadelphia.
After completing my Masters, I began teaching high school English. When my second son was born in May, 2010, however, my wife and I decided that it would be more prudent for me to be a stay-at-home dad, taking care of the new baby along with my first son, who was born in June, 2005. I have since had the challenge and pleasure of being a homemaker.
It was at this time that I finally grasped the stories that had been in my head since I was a teenager and wrangled them to paper. Toonopolis began as a silly interactive fiction game played with some real life and virtual friends. The game only lasted a few years but the world I had created and my characters never escaped my thoughts.
As a writer, I consider C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll to be my strongest influences. They were able to create magical worlds that readers of all ages enjoy, which is exactly what I want to achieve with Toonopolis. It is a lofty goal, indeed, but the only goals that will invariably be unachievable are the ones that are not set.
Welcome to my world. I hope you have as much fun as I do.”
Toonopolis is a cartoon city that is home to the thoughts and ideas of all sentient beings in the universe. As the center of the Tooniverse, it acts as an other-worldly rest stop for these creations.Gemini is a teenage human boy who is thrust into Toonopolis through his father’s scientific research program. He loses part of himself in the process and immediately begins a quest to regain his lost memories with the help of his Tooniverse guide named Jimbob the Talking Eggplant.After an altercation with a mysterious Shadowy Figure, Gemini’s mission is changed, and he begins a new quest to defeat Shadowy Figure and protect Toonopolis from his nefarious destruction. Along the way, he meets new friends, discovers just how diverse and strange Toonopolis is, and learns lessons about compassion, forgiveness, redemption, and being true to oneself.
In Toonopolis: Gemini, Anchihiiroo (aka Han’Eiyuu) is the former hero of Animetown who turns Rogue after meeting the devious Shadowy Figure, forcing his creator to change him into a villain instead of the anti-hero he once was. Yuki, the albino inventor of Wan-Wan, described Anchihiiroo’s background:
‘He had a terrible childhood. He was orphaned at an early age when his parents were killed in a war. Then his orphanage burned down, and then a flood wiped out the town his orphanage was in. He was the only survivor.’
Learn the full origin of Anchihiiroo, from his tragic childhood as Yoshi of Higeki to the warrior training that allowed him to put a stop to the Ninja-Pirate War that plagued Animetown. Witness his relationship with the phoenix Suzaku and his inevitable Rogue turn after meeting the mysterious Shadowy Figure. It is a story about destiny and a young man’s desire to make his own path in the world.