How I Started
Hot damn, you came back! Does that mean you didn't get bored with my intro post? Neat. And what's this? Did you bring a friend AND alcohol? I knew I liked you. Come on it and sit down. Just move all those red capes… why do I have a bunch of red capes… well, that is an excellent question… and I have a very…very good answer… I um… well I… I stole them from bullfighters… yes… yes, that sounds believable. Right, I was in Pamplona, Spain, the other day, just zipped right over and stole them from the bullfighting ring. So that's enough questions about that. Let's just forget it entirely.
Before I get too carried away in different writing, publishing, and marketing topics, I figure that I should give a little background info on who I am as an author. Where I started and how far I have come from that starting point. Because many people see only the present of where I am sitting now, which is fair and honest, a lot of what I am about to talk about, not many people know about me. I haven't told a lot of people the whole story from start to finish. A lot of what I did at the beginning was foolish and often shameful.
When I first started in this, I made mistakes… lots of mistakes… many mistakes… like needing a couple of big trucks to carry all these mistakes around. Slowly over the months, I will show you what mistakes I made and how I overcame them and got here to now. The Author James Fuller, you all know and hate… erm love. Or, in the very least, mildly tolerate.
Let me just finish sewing on this S to this blue spandex suit. No, no, it's not my suit *shifty eyes* I am just holding it…for a friend… it's for cosplay… really.
Anyways, moving on.
Okay, so it is 2021! But let me take you back in time. I could just fly around the earth really fast and reverse… erm… you know what, it's just more comfortable if you close your eyes and imagine. Imagine it is now 2007 when I technically published my first book.
As you all know, my first book is Fall of a King: The False Prince, but once upon a time, in a time long, long ago, it was called War of the Wizards: The Beginning. And like so many authors before and current, I thought it would be the next big thing. I thought I was king of turd author island with this book. I wrote a book; it's excellent; it's going to be hugely successful. Publishers will line up around the block to pick it up ad hand me piles of cash.
(cue hysterical laughter and some depressed crying)
First off, let me say, publishing today is not the same as publishing back in 2007. Back then, you still had to print off your manuscripts and snail-mail them to 90% of publishers. Also, there were only a handful of publishers for specific genres, and they were all pretty much in the big-name family, with very few small press like we have today. Many of them only had small windows each year to accept new works in specific genres. So, you really had to be on the ball and ready to go. Also, it could take two years before you ever heard back from them. And getting an agent??? Hahaha, getting an agent. Close to the same odds that you will come out rich from going to a casino.
It was also a horrible time when some people got together and created and pushed an appalling thing called vanity publishing. (it has been around for a while, but this was when it triggers big as a lot of new indie authors were popping up) A young, foolish… stupid… moronic… idiot… James, along with thousands of other early on writers, were fooled by such deceptive promises and the lure of fame and money, and oh how very simple they would make it for you.
I foolish fell trap to one such company called Authorhouse after growing tired of waiting to hear back from Tor (I know, right… go big or go home). And what lies vanity publishers will tell you.
"It's okay if a big-name publisher picks you up after publishing with us. You can cancel at any time, and it won't hurt your chances with them at all. (false, if you do get lucky enough an picked up, you will have to change your cover and title and often character names and more) It will help you build up your name now and help convince publishers to pick you up. (partly false, a lot of publishers want fresh, others want someone with a bit of name behind them already, author resume of sorts) And you could make it huge with us and never need Tor. You'll make more of a percentage of royalties with us. It'll just cost you $2000 to do it with us. But it's okay, that is a small amount for editing and putting it all together for you, and we will promote you like crazy."
The fucking lies they tell.
So young naïve… stupid… moronic… idiot... James said, sure. What is two grand to the hundreds of thousands of dollars I will be rolling in soon enough, right? Cause, you know, I wrote a book, and it is the best book ever. *rolling my eyes so far back right now I can almost see my past self… so close I could slap him. How I want to slap him…*
So, I signed with Authorhouse. I paid them a painful amount of money at the time. Cause let's face it, two grand isn't something most of us just have laying around the house that we can just throw away on a whim.
They took my manuscript and cover (that I already had made up because I had something specific I wanted… it was awful… you can see it… it's bad… please don't judge me) and put it together in paperback format. (Kindle and ebooks weren't a big thing yet, they were just starting)
Aaaaaaand Authorhouse did nothing with my book. They don't market shit for you, though they say they will. The places they "market" are just places other idiots like you who fell for vanity publishing look for their own book.
But, not one to be deterred, I pushed on. Fuck it. I wrote a book. It is a great book, and it is going to be huge. I just need to do a little groundwork and get it moving. How hard could marketing a book be? Is it the best book ever, right? A little push and it will build up momentum in a hurry, and BAM, I will doing book signings around the world and interviews on talk shows.
As we all know, marketing a book is hard.
It was actually less challenging back then than it is now. Back then, people didn't know as much, so when you told them you published a book and showed them a paperback, they assumed you were picked up by someone big and were basically famous. I abused that a few times, not going to lie.
So, I went around my city and convinced several bookstores to carry my book, several grocery stores to carry my book. Basically, anyone I could convince to order my books from my "publisher." I use that term with the most disrespect I can.
I set up a website, author pages and pushed my book online. I sold a few hundred books in about three months.
Then the real kicker came to me. One that has kicked and will always kick many of us… and hard... so very, very hard, with steel-toed boots on.
The first few reviews started trickling in.
"What is this, a rough draft?"
"Who edited this thing?"
I think you get the picture.
So, shocked and bewildered, I looked again, and yes, I found mistakes. I found an editor online just to glance at it. They were hundreds of errors still (keep in mind it is a 170k word book) SHIT!
On the phone with Authorhouse, WTF!
"Oh, we are sorry, our editor must have done a bad job. We will have him or another look at it again if you'd like."
I was pissed, crushed, and pulled the plug. I told them to get fucked, and canceled my contract. I tried to get a lawyer to help me get my money back… not a chance. It would have cost just as much to win my money back as I would have to pay my lawyer.
I was in a bad way about this. Really bad.
I abandoned writing.
I took my author dreams out to the trash and gave up.
How can I be the next big thing if I can fall for something so foolish as vanity publishing? How can I expect to be a real author if I get so easily duped that my book was "edited" when it clearly was not?
I am not a writer.
I am not an author.
I tried and failed.
The wounds were deep, and before I embarrassed myself further, I walked away and destroyed most evidence that I ever tried.
That's the way it went for years.
But you are a writer, and you know how our brains work. Can we really just 'walk away'?
Flash forward to 2012.
I pulled my head out of my butt. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Licked my wounds (not the only ones I would give myself from foolishness in this publishing game, mind you. I carry many scars.)
I completely re-worked, re-wrote, and re-created War of the Wizards, and of course, I didn't want to be remembered as "that dumb author guy" or have any connection with that first failed attempt. So, I had a new cover created and gave it a new title.
I didn't want editing to come and bite me in the ass again, so I searched online and from a professional editing company. They were expensive; it cost me $1800 USD to edit my 170,000-word book. Whatever. It has to be edited correctly. I will spend this money, it will be done correctly, and then I can just forget about it and focus on marketing and writing more books. I will make this money back and the other two thousand back in no time.
At this time, Indie Authors were still being shit on by a lot of readers, traditional authors, and well anyone with something to lose in indie authors gaining ground. But it was getting easier to publish your books on your own with Amazon stepping up and setting up KDP and Createspace.
So, I leaped into self-publishing again and released book one to my epic fantasy series, Fall of a King: The False Prince, for the very first time… again.
(better cover, right? Not even its final form!)
Once more, I pushed marketing and pushed the book, and within a few months was selling well again as I worked on another series called Unforgivable.
And once more, bad editing came to bite me in the ass. I forget the name of the company as they went out of business after a few years. But I argued with them for months about it. I slandered their name all over the internet to the point they even threatened to sue me for Libel. I called them up and laughed over the phone at that after showing my lawyer my book and how it was, in fact, not edited to the standard they promised in their contract. I got a bit vindictive with it. I created new accounts on their website daily to leave nasty, bad reviews, over and over. I was angry. Very angry and didn't want anyone else to fall into this trap.
Needless to say, I fired them and found another, then another.
I will stop right there for a moment and explain something to give a little more clarity to what a HUGE problem that was back then and is even just as much now a problem for many indie authors.
There are a million and one people out there that will claim to be "editors." I have found most of them have no higher education than you or I in this regard. They think they know a few things about spelling, grammar, and punctuation because they can spot a few mistakes that they should be able to charge authors hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to "edit" their work. When in truth, they have no claim to that title and no business taking people's money when a lot of them do more damage than good.
Thousands of other authors and I have wasted money on "editors" and been made the fools of, not only because we thought our work was being correctly edited but also because we have hurt our reputation in the readers' eyes. And the start of the indie movement was horribly wounded because of this, and it still rings through the air of "Indie author… no thanks, they suck and never edit their work." You've all heard someone say that at some point.
I, myself, have gone through six editors over the years. And though I doubt my books will ever be "perfect" (I have never read a book that was), they are well edited, with minimal errors in them now. And yes, as I find the errors, I do try to correct them.
But back over a decade ago up no one foresaw this "editor" problem. This was fresh grounds authors were breaking into. Truthfully, I don't think anyone expected the indie publishing game to come as far as it has.
So, the takeaway here is to be careful with editors. Please do your research on them. Talk to other authors that have used them. Check out those books to see for yourself. Check out the reviews on those books to see if "editing" comes up. And make sure if you are deciding to use someone that they give you a sample of your work for you to see and compare. A proper editor will be more than willing to edit the first 5 to 10 pages of your novel to show you what they will be doing and how they will be doing it. If they aren't, then I would move on. (Just my advice to you.)
Alright, so, after a few more editor bumps in the road with book one. I figured I had a good one found (they were alright, and it was enough to get me on the right path), and it was time to get serious. Time to write more books and time to make it BIG! Cause I wrote a book, remember? And my book is better than every other book, right? That's how this works, isn't it?
I published two more books in 2012—Unforgivable 1 and 2.
I was on a roll. Facebook book promoting groups and pages were just starting to be created. Dropping your link on those put you in front of thousands of new eyes. And this was before seeing book links was annoying. This was back when someone saw a book link with a cover they liked; they bought it. In the early days, selling books was easier on social media. So, I didn't have a hard time building up a fast name for myself and selling very well.
Book review pages and blogs started popping up all over the place, and that was a great place to get seen. I was doing 2 or 3 of those a week for months. And selling the three books I had out at this time was going great.
My Facebook author pages had thousands of fans, the interaction was high, and I was on the right track and feeling great.
What could possibly go wrong at this point? I was on the right track to make it big. My dreams were like right there for the taking.
Que the big Six traditional publishers getting pissed at Amazon for giving indie authors an even playing field…
I am going to stop right there. Because the next part is a whole new world to jump into on my journey to where I am now so, I will save it for another post. Most of you don't know about this as Amazon, and the big six tried to keep it as hush-hush as possible. But those of us who were around back then saw what happened, and it was a blow in which indies have never truly been able to recover in the sense of an even playing field.
Alright, alright, get up and get out. I got to get to The Daily Planet, where I work.
Hey, come look out the window, it's a bird… it's a plane… it's…
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