Adventures in Self-Publishing: There’s Gonna Be A New Marshall Conrad Novel

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It’s been in the back of my mind for a while now but since self-publishing MARSHALL CONRAD – A SUPERHERO TALE I’ve been fairly blown away by the fact that it’s been selling.

(Like I said back in August … I  have no idea why it’s selling. And it’s still selling!)

So far, it’s been in and out of the top 100 in superhero fiction since June and in the top 100 for Dark Fantasy at least once or twice a month. I’ve been getting emails from folks wanting a second book and I already started one four years ago but poor sales made me shelve it.

Here’s the cover for DARK BARGAINS – the second in the Marshall Conrad series.

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He’s just saved Greenfield USA from all hell breaking loose during the summer solstice … you’d think a middle-aged superhero might get a well-earned rest. Something has been hunting Greenfield’s children and it’s not entirely human. It plans on killing them too unless Marshall Conrad carries out five dirty deeds that will guarantee he winds up on the hit list for superheroes all over America. 

Look for it in July 2015.

And here’s a small excerpt:

I grabbed Walter by the scruff of his flabby neck and ran like hell as he let out a wail in protest.
“Stupid freaking cat,” I growled as I glanced over my left shoulder only to see the pair of
smoldering red eyes cutting through the blackness of the pine forest. Walter wasn’t helping any as he dug his claws into my chest as I cursed the day I bought my overweight feline at a garage sale for ten dollars.
The psychic visual I’d received that led me to the abandoned cabin nestled snugly amid decades of new woodland growth was supposed to be where I’d find eight-year-old Victoria Jenkins after she was reported missing by her parents four days ago. The Greenfield Sheriff’s Department was treating her disappearance by following standard protocol, first issuing an Amber Alert within two hours of the time she was supposed to arrive at her after school program. Her mother issued a tearful plea for her safe return at a news conference the following morning and me? I’d spent two straight nights combing the streets from up on high, keeping a vigilant eye out for a red Chevrolet Venture minivan that she was reported to have climbed into by a substitute teacher who assumed it was one of Victoria’s parents picking her up from school.
The migraine, like all the migraines that are a tell-tale sign of a Vanguard’s ability to foresee a crime before it is perpetrated hit me just as Marnie Brindle and I were settling down to watch a chick flick on Netflix. (So sue me, I’m expanding my horizons.) It offered two clues: One was the abandoned cabin and the other was that Victoria would be locked up inside an old refrigerator and left to suffocate. It didn’t tell me about a largely hairless monster with claws that tore could tear through the magical shield I’d invoked to protect Walter and me, and it sure as hell didn’t say the refrigerator inside the cabin would be empty or that I’d be rescuing my cat.
Walter hissed loudly as he dug his claws deeper into my chest, naturally, this only acted to piss off the four-legged demon thing that was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Instead of barking at my stupid cat as it chased us up a winding path that lead to where I parked my new old car, a 1995 Chevy Cavalier no less, it belched a jet of corrosive dog vomit which nearly took my head off as I dove behind a fallen log.
Evil? You bet! Bent on tearing out my throat? Why not? Such is the life of Greenfield’s only resident meta-human and part-time destroyer supernatural beasties.
Like demonic dogs, for example.
The creature crashed through the log sending splinters of dried wood in every direction and throwing me about thirty feet in the air. Walter the stupid cat landed against the trunk of a giant blue spruce and skirted straight up out of harm’s way. Did I mention he’s a treacherous bastard?
“Damn it, I’m a cat person!” I snarled as I landed flat on my back.
The demon thing gave its head a shake and bared its teeth as it readied to pounce. Shiny threads of saliva dribbled down from its three-inch fangs as a deep throaty growl sliced through the relative silence of the woods and straight into my bowels. I scrambled behind a large boulder and spotted an opening in the forest canopy where I could take to the skies. The dog-monster let out a mind-numbing howl that I could feel in my fillings as it charged.
Of course I was going to cut and run, I might look like an idiot most days, but I have the good enough sense not to duke it out with giant hairless K-9’s on their own turf. I’d have a better shot at taking the beast down from the sky. The creature leaped into the air and snapped at my boot heels just as I pushed off the ground.
“Not so tough now, huh, Fido?” I snapped as I floated to a safe distance. The creature blinked a couple of times and then it let out a loud sneeze. Its crimson eyes narrowed as the monster coiled back on a pair of hairless rear legs that glistened in the moonlight.
And that’s when the unexpected happened.
Fido launched its body off the ground like a missile aimed straight at me. I pushed higher to avoid having one of my legs ripped off, and that’s when gravity decided to play a trick on me. Instead of falling back to the earth, the creature continued its ascent. The damned thing could fly.

“Walter!” I shrieked, as the fat fur ball dove into my arms. I clenched my teeth and shot into the clear black sky like a rocket. I didn’t even bother to look behind me this time-I didn’t have to because I could hear the demon cutting through the wind current behind me.
Oh, and he let out another corrosive hork of dog vomit.
I grated my teeth together as I climbed higher and higher into the air. Walter dug his claws into my neck as I held onto him for dear life.
No sign of Greenfield’s third missing kid in as many weeks. Only a demonic dog from some weird ass region of the Unseen World bent on tearing out my throat and probably picking its teeth with my cat’s bones. I wasn’t stupid enough to think the demon dog was responsible for whatever happened to Victoria Jenkins; if anything, its presence at a location where my psychic radar told me I might find the little girl was evidence enough of a much larger plot because whoever had taken her obviously knew about me.
Walter hissed and spat as the creature slammed into my midsection sending me spinning wildly out of control. It was clear I wasn’t going to out fly the damned thing so I decided to think outside the box. I broke into a quick dive as wind currents buffeted my body. Below me was a carpet of pine forest as far as the eye could see so I tossed Walter into the nearest tree and headed skyward once more. I glanced over my shoulder to see the creature gaining on me, the wind flapping its lips back to reveal a set of razor sharp teeth that were only moments away from digging into my forty-something frame. But there was something else, too, a throbbing hum of willful intent pouring off the monster.
I reached out through the darkness in order to tap into it – what I had planned was probably going to be my only shot at taking it down. I gathered the energy together into a tight bind and instantly I could feel my own powers charging, as a jolt of energy surged through my veins. My eyes blazed furiously as I gazed quickly at my hands to see them glowing with emerald energy and that’s when I struck out at the monster.
I flew straight into its path; my fingers digging into its rubbery cold flesh. It yelped as I pummeled it with my free hand; my fist connecting with its giant maw over and over again. All the while, we spun around in a tangled jumble of limbs and I could see the ground coming fast. I pivoted my body enough so the creature would crash land first, absorbing the shock of our fall to the earth.
We struck the ground like a meteor; the impact sending me careening into a pine-tree with enough force to split its trunk in two. And it hurt like a bastard. My entire body screamed with pain as I slid into a heap at the base of the enormous tree. I gazed out through the darkness to see if there was any movement from the crater and I got back to my feet with a loud groan; my glowing eyes lighting up the gloom of the forest. I hobbled over to the crater and peered over, half-ready for the monster to leap at me and tear my throat out. And imagine my surprise to see only a German Shepherd whimpering like a puppy like it had just lost its mother. Its neck had been shaved clean down to the skin and there was fresh blood seeping through a strange symbol that looked almost like an ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph that had been carved into the poor dog’s skin.
“Shit … a proxy,” I said quietly as I climbed into the hole. The dog wagged its tail as it caught a glimpse of me and whimpered again.
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I’m 47 – Holy @#$!

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(Me & the Better 1/2 outside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London Last Year)

 

My thoughts on turning 47 yesterday:

My wife and son and I went for supper last night. Then we bought a cake. Then I put air in the better 1/2’s tire. And that’s how you do a 47th birthday.
I find, now that I’m nearing my 50’s that the little things don’t bother me as much as they used to. I also find that I tend to notice the passage of time now with a clarity that I surely didn’t when I was in my 20’s or even my 30’s. I can contextualize that, for all intents and purposes, I have now lived more years than I will continue to live and it’s a little bit hilarious while at the same time, a little bit terrifying. Because I can mark the passage of time now with the lines around my eyes, the white that appears in my beard when I haven’t shaved for a couple of days, that my son no longer looks like a kid anymore – that he too is aging. We are all growing older, and hopefully wiser.

There’s comedy in growing older. I make fun of myself a lot now in reference to aging. I often say “it ends badly for everyone” which of course, it does. So, I am continuing my journey. I have decided to complete a project for this year’s NaNoWriMo – it’s a coming of age story – big departure from the bubblegum that I usually write.

Onward.

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Traditionally published authors, self-published authors and being yelly

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Hiya – my name is Sean Cummings and I’m a traditionally published author who has, at times, said some unkind things about self-published books, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and basically that Amazon might possibly be SkyNet.

Hiya – my name is Sean Cummings and I’m a self-published author who has, at times, had really bad experiences with traditional publishing houses and who sometimes thinks that traditional publishing doesn’t have a freaking clue what the hell is going on.

There’s a lot of yelly stuff right now online when it comes to traditionally pubbed authors and those who are self-published. I think, probably, the number one self-publishing website on Planet Earth is The Passive Voice. Here’s where I got called out because of comments I’ve made on my website about self-published stuff.

And here’s where they featured a blog post of mine about my book MARSHALL CONRAD where I suggested that I had no idea why the damned book was, and still is, selling so well.

I’m thinking there’s still a lot of stigma out for self-published books. I think that a lot of people in traditional publishing look down their noses at self-pubbed stuff, and in many cases they are right do do it because metric tons of self-published stuff is crap with bad cover art and terrible editing.

And then there are some amazingly wonderful self-published books. There are authors who have hit paydirt doing it. There are established authors leaving traditional publishing behind to go it alone. There are people like me who are tinkering with self-publishing while still hoping to make it in traditional publishing.

And there’s still a lot of vitriol out there. From both sides.

I think it’s because maybe a lot of us on the traditional side of things thinks that self-published authors don’t deserve to have a book published with the click of a mouse, you know? They didn’t…

a) Earn their way to a traditional publishing deal

b) Experience years of rejection from agents and publishers

c) Experience piss-poor sales once their book got published

That and the market is flooded with self-published stuff which makes it harder and harder to get noticed.

On the other hand, self-published authors often feel that publishers are out to screw authors. That there is nothing a publishing house can do that a self-published author cannot do. That gatekeepers such as agents and editors are part of the problem and there are tons of traditionally published books that are crap with bad story lines and equally bad editing.

So there’s a lot of polarization here. I think it might be due to the fact that nobody has a clue what the hell publishing is going to look like five years from now. We are all experiencing seismic change. Christ, a well respected publisher can start up a young adult imprint and in less than three years shut it down due to poor sales!

The thing is … are we all a bunch of complete assholes? There is vitriol coming from both sides (I’ve actually participated in it, so my bad – that won’t be happening again) and at the heart of things is that whether your a Passive Voice Patriot or you’re “Self-Published Books aren’t Real Books”, you have to wonder if there is any middle ground?

I do a lot of writer’s workshops here in Saskatoon where I live. Every wannabe author I meet gets the same question from me, “why do you want to get published?”

Most of the time the response has to do with holding that book in your hands for the first time or seeing it on the shelf of a local book store. So, you know, maybe there’s some validation things going on there. Let’s face it, it’s good for your self esteem to actually be offered a publishing contract because the odds are so very heavily stacked against you ever getting published in the first place.

Self-publishing advocates see things differently in that technology has democratized the process of getting published. That authors can now be in control. That gatekeepers are no longer a factor.

Is there middle ground here? Why is everyone being so yelly? Why was I being yelly?

Well, I can tell you one reason .. I was a bit smug. There, I said it. I was smug because I had achieved something that most writers won’t. But the funny thing is, I self-pubbed my newest work in spite of the fact that I could have tried traditional. I still often have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing a self-published author doing extremely well when I am not. It’s weird … because I never experience that feeling when one of my traditionally published peers is kicking ass.

Maybe I’m an asshole. Maybe we’re all assholes … who knows?

All that I know is that books matter. Stories matter. Writing is a craft and it’s perhaps there where the smugness comes from. Perhaps those who look down on self-published authors believe that the very act of putting your book through the process of finding an agent, getting a publishing deal and then editing, editing, editing … all that is craft. All that craft is missing when you self-publish.

Beats me. All the yelly stuff is white noise to me at this point. It matters nothing to the book buying public because they really don’t give a shit whether the book was self pubbed or not. Consumers buy books based on a number of factors that are identical whether you are self pubbed or traditionally pubbed: how does the cover art look? What does it say on the back cover? Is the price right? Will I like this book?

I think that traditionally published books AND self-published books can answer those questions. And I think the books that answer the right way will sell. The other ones won’t.

And the market will decide.

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Read the first 6 Chapters of THE NORTH!

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Wondering what my book is about? Want to sample a smidge? Here you go – enjoy!

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So I Self-Published THE NORTH – Release Day Thoughts

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menorthI have no idea whether this book is going to sell. I hope it does because its sales will determine whether I start writing the second in a planned trilogy.

I had offers on the table from a couple of small publishers but as mentioned in an earlier blog post, I didn’t see there was anything they could offer that I couldn’t already do myself.  I came very VERY close with a publisher I could only dream of being published by, but they felt the market was flooded with zombie books and would have difficulty getting sales in an over-crowded market.  And maybe they were right, who knows?

So, this is a brand new work and it’s 100% self-published. I did hire an editor to clean up the manuscript and it went through a series of reads via beta readers, so thank you beta readers. Will I self-publish again? Beats me … it’s a hell of a lot of work and I’d really rather be writing than formatting and dinking around with Adobe Illustrator for the cover art. I honestly don’t know where authors who have been successful at self-publishing find the damned time to write new stuff, there’s just so much to do. At any rate, here are some things I’ve learned since deciding to self-pub this project:

1) It’s a lot harder to get retweets promoting the book. Could be due to the fact that people don’t want to get spammed. I try to limit my promotional tweeting.

2) It’s been hard to get likes on Facebook – possibly the same reasons.

3) This one surprised me: it was really hard to give away e-arcs! I only managed to giveaway twenty-three of them in total!

4) There were a total of 8 pre-orders on Amazon.

5) It was up for pre-order over at Smashwords and I didn’t sell any. Actually, all of my books save for POLTERGEEKS and STUDENT BODIES are available at Smashwords and I have sold precisely none. All of my sales have come from Amazon – draw your own conclusions from that.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I shall give it the old college try and see if I can make something resembling a success out of this book. I’ve learned that outside of hiring a publicist or spending a boatload of money I don’t have, my marketing efforts will be limited to social media. This is nothing new for me – I didn’t have any real marketing support for my two Strange Chemistry Books titles so I got the word out the best I could. The sales were abysmal. I suspect the sales for all the Strange Chemistry Books authors were/are abysmal, hence the reason they shut their doors less than two years after opening.

I think that experience also had a lot to do with my decision to self-publish THE NORTH. I’ve had bad luck with two publishers in a row now – it tends to wear a person down.

Anyway, I do hope you buy my book. I think it’s a great read. It’s pretty bleak. It’s pretty dark. It’s pretty hard to find hope when the world burns … but hope can happen.

Enjoy THE NORTH! If I sell enough, I will write the second one. You can get it at Amazon in print and Kindle format and over at Smashwords for epub! (The ebook is on sale this week only for $1,99 at Smash and Amazonistan!)

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