Self-Taught Self-Publishing: Genesis and Recommended Reading

Genesis (or why I do what I do)

A few weeks back at Desert Nights, Rising Stars at ASU, the inevitable question that arose whenever I mentioned that I had taken the self-publishing/indie publishing route for my work was “How did you do it?” or “Where did you learn to do that?”

The answer is pretty simple: the Internet.

My road started comparatively late for a lot of people who have been doing this for a long time–I didn’t really start down the indie pub route until 2011, so by that time there was a wealth of resources for me to draw from.  Why is that?  Because there were a lot of blogs out there from some fairly big names (well, okay, I had heard of several of them, at least, but I’m a huge nerd) that were talking about it.

Back in early 2011, I was screwing my head back on straight after the long, arduous and abruptly truncated work of writing and defending my Master’s thesis (I suffered every graduate student’s nightmare–my advisor passed away in the middle of my project and then all of a sudden I realized I did not have very much time to finish under my new team–six weeks from very rough draft to finished 200-page historical study isn’t something I’d wish on anyone).  A friend from my fan fiction days asked me if I’d been following Michael Stackpole’s blog lately and I admitted that I hadn’t.

So in a lot of ways, it’s all Trevor’s fault that I’m doing this now.

At the time, in March 2011, Stackpole wrote the first of his “House Slaves” series on the changing publishing industry (he’d later catch some heat for this, but I still think that analogy is good and works pretty well if you read all of it in the context and spirit in which it was written).  My road began right there, as I started to realize how much I didn’t know about the publishing industry that I thought I had and how much the world was changing.

Now, a second thing happened in March of 2011–I got my first e-reader, so the whole ebook publishing world had suddenly become very, very interesting.  If you’re thinking about getting into the world of self/indie publishing and digital publishing and you’ve never played with an e-reader or e-reading software, I’d suggest very strongly that you at the very least borrow one from a friend or relative so you can play with it and learn how reading on one of these devices changes the reading experience (this is especially important later, when you get ready to format your work for publication–you have to beat least vaguely aware of how your text will behave on an e-reader or smartphone screen, since it’s not static as it would be on a sheet of paper).

For me, getting my first e-reader (which I still have, use, and love) and my sudden realization of how quickly the publishing world was changing was a double-whammy and heavily influenced my decision to investigate independent options.

The best advice before I get into the how instead of the why:

Self/Independent publishing is not for everyone.  Do your homework before you make your choices and make the choice that’s right for you.

End of disclaimer.  Here’s the first part of how I learned to do what I do now.

Recommended Reading

As I said above, the main place I learned how to independently publish my work was from the internet.  When people say that you can find pretty much anything you want to (or really, really don’t want to) on the internet, they’re not lying.  There are a ton of websites out there that talk about the publishing industry in general and indie publishing in specific.

You may notice that I’m using self and indie publishing pretty much interchangeably.  That’s because in some ways, to me, they are.  Some folks would disagree with this assessment, but that’s their opinion.  There are some people who define indie publishing as small-press publishing (rather than traditional “big” publishing with folks like Random House, Simon and Schuster, etc.), and that’s fine.  For my purposes, however, independent and self publishing are individually based or based in very, very small houses (talking only a few authors here–WMG Publishing is a good example of what I’d consider an “indie publishing” house).

In order to learn a lot of what I’ve learned, I did a lot of research and read  lot of blogs.  Below is a list of what I recommend anyone thinking about going the indie pub route should start reading and start reading fast.

In no particular order…

  • The Passive Voice – Passive Guy (a lawyer by training whose wife is the writer) blogs about publishing in all forms with a focus largely on the indie end of things and how publishing is changing and changing fast.
  • Kris Writes: Business Rusch and Freelancer’s Survival Guide – Two different sections of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog.  I have learned quite a bit from her guides.
  • Dean Wesley Smith: Think Like a Publisher and Killing the Sacred Cows of PublishingTwo different sections of Dean Wesley Smith’s blog.  I have learned quite a bit from his work in conjunction with his wife’s.
  • (Michael Stackpole)’s essays on publishingThe link is to the category where he talks the most about publishing independently and the changes and challenges facing the publishing industry at large.
  • A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing – JA Konrath’s blog is not for everyone, but I’ve learned a ton just by reading this.
  • The Book DesignerThis blog will teach you a lot about the more technical and aesthetic ends of book design, both ebooks and print editions.
  • The Smashwords Blog and Smashwords Style Guide (ebook) – If you want to do anything on Smashwords, I would highly recommend reading the second because it will help you from the outset to make sure that you’ve got a neatly formatted ebook.  The blog often has information about ebook sales figures and trends.
  • Be the Monkey (ebook) – This ebook was written a while back as a series of blog posts by JA Konrath and Barry Eisler that they later published as an ebook.  It’s a must-read if you want to begin to understand the shift in publishing and why the ebook revolution is such a boon to new (and old!) writers.
  • Galley Cat – Pretty cool newsfeed on publishing.

I am sure that there are several others that I’m missing at this time, but these are the sites that I go back to time and again and the books that I go back to time and again while I continue to move forward with my writing career.

Next week, I’ll go into more depth on ebooks–why they’re important and where and how to publish them.

Obligatory indie author sales post

Call me a joiner, but a lot of indies post these and it’s about time I decided to not be any different in that.

I started to e-publish my work back in August, starting with a lightly revised version of my Master’s thesis, Intersection with the Once and Future King.  Since then, I’ve published a few shorter works and two full-length novels, Awakenings Book One and Epsilon: Broken StarsEpsilon: Redeemer and When All’s Said and Done are forthcoming, hopefully by the end of the year.  Print versions of some of my work will be available in the coming months, starting with What Angels Fear, which is in the final review process on the print edition.

I’ll be breaking my analysis down by book, but omitting the copies given away of Epsilon: Broken Stars in November 2011.

Intersection with the Once and Future King ($2.99-$4.99)

  • Amazon:
    • September: 0
    • October: 2
    • November: 1
    • December: 5
    • January: 1
    • February: 2
  • Barnes and Noble:
    • September: 0
    • October: 0
    • November: 1
    • December: 1
    • January: 0
    • February: 1

Falling Stars ($0.99-FREE)
most of these copies were free except for those on Amazon, where the price is still $0.99.

  • Amazon: 9
  • Barnes and Noble: 781
  • Smashwords: 212

What Angels Fear ($0.99)

  • Amazon:
    • October: 3
    • November: 0
    • December: 0
    • January: 2
    • February: 1
  • Barnes and Noble:
    • October: 0
    • November: 1
    • December: 1
    • January: 0
    • February: 0
  • Smashwords: 4

Epsilon: Broken Stars ($1.99-$2.99)

  • Amazon:
    • October: 1
    • November: 0
    • December: 1
    • January: 0
    • February: 1
  • Barnes and Noble:
    • October: 1
    • November: 2
    • December: 0
    • January: 1
    • February: 0
  • Smashwords: 8

Awakenings: Book One ($2.99-$0.99)

  • Amazon:
    • January: 2
    • February: 5
  • Barnes and Noble:
    • January: 1
    • February: 1
  • Smashwords: 3

Amazon recently cut me my first e-check–for $18.97.  Hopefully, it will be the first of many, many more.

Doc’s Writercraft: Why webfiction?

Webfiction (noun): combination of “Fiction” and “web.”

Fiction (noun): (1) the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form. (2) works of this class, as novels or short stories (ie, “detective fiction”)

Web (noun): synonymous with or referring to “Internet.”

Webfiction isn’t exactly a new phenomena, though it seems to be on the rise and on the wane all at once in this rapidly changing, tech-savvy writing world.  For some writers and readers alike, webfiction bears the same stigma as “fan fiction,” which is loosely defined as fiction set in worlds not of the writer’s creation.  Webfiction, however, is markedly different in that it is original fiction published first on the internet, often for free consumption.(1)  For some authors, it’s a method of alpha/beta testing their work before editing and releasing it in self-published formats.  For others, it is the end-all, be-all of their work, simply another medium they work in.

So why do it at all?

For me, it’s a way of getting my work out there and vetting it before a live audience.  A lot of people write in a vacuum and often their work never sees the light of day–it’s the same for many artists, some of whom turn to writing and drawing webcomics to force themselves to hone and share their craft with others.  For some writers of webfiction, the reason they turn to the internet as a medium for their work is twofold:

  1. To force themselves to write to a deadline every day (every week, every month, etc. depending upon update schedules).
  2. To expose their work to the world in the most easily accessible way.

A corollary to this last point deals with self-publishing.  Up until very recently, self-publishing books (prose, comic, or otherwise) was incredibly cost-prohibitive.  While the ebook revolution has caused a paradigm shift in the self-publishing universe(2), webfiction remains one medium that is entirely in the hands of an author.  Anyone can set up a blog through Blogger or WordPress and get to writing–and quickly.  That means your work is out there for anyone to find.(3)

The internet is an almost inherently social medium.  It is this social aspect of the web that is attractive to many authors of webfiction.  It enables writers to glean insights and get opinions from readers–on a work that’s still in progress.  Here’s an example from my own webfiction serial, Awakenings.

I had a reader make the following observations in a comment on Chapter 9, entry 7:

As for Thom’s broken ribs, they’re gonna take at least six weeks to heal. Don’t ask me how I know this, OK? Coughing is a challenge and despite the five plus years since I broke a couple of my ribs, I still wince at the memory of sneezing.  Agony hardly begins to describe it.

I’m a gun owner, BTW, and if you need any technical advice about pistols and/or rifles, feel free to email me. I’m also into flint- and caplock rifles, i.e., muzzleloaders, and making black powder and flintlock rifles are well within the means of someone with access to hand tools and abandoned train rails.

This was incredibly helpful advice (and I’m still indebted to the reader who shared it).  It’s this kind of thing that makes readers for webfiction invaluable, especially if you wouldn’t be able to get test readers for an independant project with that kind of knowledge (I know that odds are for me, I wouldn’t have been able to). Through tapping into the social aspect of the web, I got some really interesting information that will help me not only with Awakenings, but with other projects down the road.

Another useful aspect of putting work out on the internet–if you’re planning to either just leave it online or self-publish, that is–is that you’re able to have folks catch little tics in your work that you wouldn’t ordinary catch (Chris George, who writes the webfiction serial Shadow has been good about this for me).  Readers aren’t always shy.  They’ll tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and they’ll tell you all of this before it ends up in a book review.  In essence, it’s crowdsourcing part of your editorial process (in many cases, the developmental stage of your editing process, though occassionally it’ll be the proofreading segement, too).

Of course, there’s a caveat to all of this: if you’re planning on traditionally publishing your  work at some point, you should be leary of putting any piece you’re planning on shopping to agents or publishers on the web.  Heck, based on this post shared on The Passive Voice blog, you’ll need to be careful about putting anything out there.

So why write webfiction?  For me, it was about getting work out there, writing to a deadline, and getting some feedback on a piece that was in a very difficult to define genre.

You can find Erin on GoodReads these days @
And on Smashwords @


1. Some webfiction authors (such as MCA Hogarth) have experimented with paid models, but I don’t have data to show whether or not the model works well or not.
2. For more information on the self-pub revolution, see J.A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and Michael A. Stackpole, as well as the ebook Be The Monkey by Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath.
3.  Of course, this assumes you know some basic SEO or aren’t afraid to market yourself a little bit.  I’ve had pretty good luck with advertising through Project Wonderful for Awakenings.

Broken Stars is now complete, heading into final reads and revisions.

[progpress title=”Epsilon: Broken Stars” goal=”70000″ current=”79949″ label=”words”]

A novel roughly thirteen years in the making is finally complete and should hopefully be released by the end of the month.  I’ve shot it off to a few test readers for their commentary (one of whom I’m certain is a bit annoyed with me thanks to the wall of text spam he was getting all day yesterday).  I’ll be doing edits and tweaks based on their readings/proofs.

Epsilon: Broken Stars came in at a higher word count than I anticipated, and will shrink/grow with the forthcoming edits.  I finished writing at around 2am last night, emailed it off, then crashed for five and a half hours (up by 8–yup, there’s something wrong with me).  I need to let it set for a few days before I go back to start any edits of my own I might decide to do, but as of this writing, it’s complete but for proofreading and minor edits.

That is to say I don’t think I’m going to be adding any more chapters, fight scenes, or any other such thing.  I might do some Epilogue tweaking, but that’s for another day, after I let it sit and rest.

Of course, I still need to write the dedication and the acknowledgements, as well as format copies for several different e-publication venues.  That’s a task for another day.

Between yesterday and early this morning, I wrote more than 7000 words.  That was a huge day for me (I also managed to somehow buy tickets to the Red Wings game in there, go figure).

Writing yesterday was mostly action sequences, which I have a great deal of difficulty writing.  Erik says it’s because I’ve never actually been in a fight before, and he’s probably right about that.

Here’s a sample of what I came up with, though, for two action-packed chapters.

            Desantis only hesitated a second before he triggered the detonator.  A series of quiet pops echoed off the buildings, followed by the larger, explosive roars of the charges going up in a secondary blast and taking the back end of the lander with it.  The craft’s pilot was knocked sprawling into the light of one of the streetlamps.

He scrambled to his feet a few stunned seconds later, yelling.  I grasped Sam with one hand and Desantis with the other.

“Time to go,” I hissed, then ducked down the alleyway, trusting them to follow.

Sam looked positively gleeful by the time we got back to the car.

“We did it!  We actually did it.”

“Celebrate later,” I said, giving her a stern look as I jerked the passenger side door open.  “It’s not over yet.”

She sobered as she caught sight of my expression and went quiet, nodding.  She ducked into the car without another word.

Desantis looked at me across the roof and I just shook my head.  He shrugged and got in, and I joined them a second later.

“Biesterfield and Twelfth,” he said as Sam got the vehicle moving.

She nodded.  “Thanks.”

We wended our way up a few side streets before we turned onto one of the north-south streets a couple over from Biesterfield and headed north toward city center.  I was doing math on the way and realized something.

“Mac, how many did you say were landing here?”

He blinked at me.  “Six, Cap.”

“And five on the other continent.”  Maybe I heard him wrong.  Maybe he said six and I misheard him.


Damn.  “Compliment on a cruiser like the Tallahassee is twelve.”  So where’s that last lander?

The car swerved a little as Sam caught up to my line of thinking.  “Five and six is eleven.  Where’s the last lander?”

“That’s what I want to know,” I said grimly as Desantis scrambled for his palmtop.  Three klicks out from the Scarlet meant there was significant lag between sensors and the palmtop, and Desantis cursed his way through trying to figure out where that last lander was coming down.

Sam whipped the car around a corner, headed toward Biesterfield on one of the east-west streets, then whipped around another corner onto our target street.

She plowed right into a roadblock and a subsequent hail of weaponsfire.


Epsilon: Broken Stars by Erin M. Klitzke

Turned out pretty decent, I’d say.  That’s actually toward the beginning of the action, believe it or not!

Only time and readers, however, will tell me exactly how well I’ve done.  We shall see!

Look for Epsilon: Broken Stars in your favorite ebook store coming soon.

It’s good to have goals…


[progpress title=”The Last Colony” goal=”80000″ current=”57678″]
[progpress title=”Epsilon” goal=”90000″ current=”39567″]
[progpress title=”Ashes to Ashes” goal=”80000″ current=”14094″]


I’ve already posted it on Facebook and I might as well make it official by posting it here, too. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit the past month or two, and I’ve decided.

Goal-setting is good. Hopefully, I’ll manage to meet this goal (and if I don’t, it’s mostly me that gets hurt, which kind of means it’s the best kind of goal).

A while back, I was posting a lot about The Last Colony and the E-557 universe, which comprised my 2009 and 2010 Nanowrimo projects. The Last Colony is actually fairly close to being done, I just have to finish up another few chapters and polish it up (I probably underestimate how much work I’ve got to do) and then it’s done, I’m going to hand it over to some volunteer editors (probably two, one for spelling proofs and such, the other for continuity errors–I have two people in mind already, it’s mostly a matter of talking them into it). The reason for that is because I’m planning to release it as an ebook at some point in the near future.

Of course, this also means I’ll have to finish the second E-557 book, Ashes to Ashes (tentative title, honestly), and plot the third.

Plus finish at least the first book of the Epsilon saga, since I think that’s going to be more than one book (otherwise, it’d be one really, really long book that I’m not sure anyone would take the time to read), and manage three updates for Awakenings a week.

But it’s a goal, and it’s good to have goals. In reading about the future of publishing, it seems like Smashwords and e-publishing just might be a good direction to go in.


Wish me luck.

A new webfiction podcast goes live!

So right now I’m listening to the first episode of the Webfiction podcast put out by the folks at Webcast Beacon, who’re the same people that brought us the Webcomic Beacon podcast.  I’ve read some stuff by one of the hosts, A.M. Harte (specifically, I’ve read her serial DarkSight and I’m awaiting the next installment), but not anything by MCM, who’s the other host.

I’m listening to it right now as I’m writing this post, and it’s pretty good.  I don’t listen to many podcasts (this, Made of Fail, and a couple on medieval and British history) but I think this one is addressing something in publishing that’s kind of important to address.  They make a very good point of stressing the fact that just because the entry level for webfiction is pretty low, that doesn’t mean the quality of work is low.  There’s some very good fiction out there–one of my current favorites is A Traveller’s Guide to Jovan by Ellipsis (it’s the one that I currently load up every weekend, eagerly awaiting the next entry into the story–I think it’s also the only story I’ve given five stars on the Webfiction guide, and I think I gave it a 9 or a 10 on Muse-Success).  Part of what’s neat about web fiction is that people are able to take risks.  There’s a lot of stuff out there that traditional publishing houses might not take a chance on, but is no less good than any book I’ve read from Tor or Orbit (and better than some that I’ve read from the even bigger houses, like DelRey, Random House, St. Martin’s, et cetera).

Some of what’s coming up in the webfiction circles I’m exploring actually dovetails a bit with what I’ve been reading at, which is Michael Stackpole’s website.  He’s been advocating electronic publishing, electronic self-publishing at that, for a while now.  The industry is clearly changing, and much faster than a lot of outlets seem to be able to keep up with.

It’s a glimmer of hope, though.  I no longer have to stress out about an agent wanting to buy my work or that my work fits into traditional niches.  The world of publishing is a lot different now, and it’s kind of interesting.

On this note, the trilogy that begins with The Last Colony may be released in ebook format when I get finished with the first book and get deeper into Ashes to Ashes, which is the second book of the series.  That’s still a little ways off, though.  Stay tuned for updates!

Work on Awakenings is going in fits and starts, better now than it was a few days ago.  Chapters will be getting longer from here on out.  As always, the link for the Awakenings site is

Happy reading (and listening)!