Convergence and the Path to Publication IV: In the Wild

[Previous Path to Publication articles for Convergence: Part I, Part II, Part III] A few months have passed since I last checked in here with the status of CONVERGENCE and its path to publication. The reason is simple - I published it!

Now that my novel is out in the wild, I thought I'd use this post to explore some of what's happened since the novel went live on all major platforms toward the end of February. Some of this information has been scattered in previous posts and interviews, so this is a small attempt to collate a lot of that stuff into a single post.

First, though, a little bit of background. In October 2012, I submitted my book to Harper Voyager during their very rare, very brief open door digital submissions period. A few months later, I tossed my hat in the ring for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013, where I placed in the quarter finals and wound up with a glowing Publisher's Weekly review.

I attempted to use this achievement to land an agent, initially intent on pursuing a more traditional path toward publication. Unfortunately, after many a query I only collected a small handful of rejections and was entirely ignored by the rest. As summer approached and Harper Voyager was still reviewing submissions, mine among them, I decided to begin exploring self-publishing options. I hired an editor and cover designer and polished the manuscript, giving it a pretty swift kick in the ass with lots of revisions.

December 2013 rolled around, and Harper Voyager promised to respond to all remaining authors regarding the status of their manuscript by the end of January 2014. I'd been patiently waiting for some word from them, and when their self-imposed deadline passed I decided to take full control and responsibility of my work and go all-in as an independent author-publisher.

CONVERGENCE released Feb. 21, 2014. For what it's worth, I left my manuscript with Harper Voyager until late April, hoping to hear something -- anything! -- from them, but saw little point in continuing to wait. They've gone radio silent, near as I can tell, but it's no longer of any matter to me and I formally withdrew my manuscript from the running (although I haven't even received confirmation or acknowledgement that they actually did).

In the three months since it's release, my book has earned a few solid reviews on Amazon, as well a very positive A+ review from Melissa The Book Lady over at Must Read Faster. It's even built up a minor bit of traction on Goodreads and is making its way onto people's to-read radar. I did a giveaway on LibraryThing and had over 50 people sign-up for an eBook copy (for the record, this is 50 more people than I had anticipated).

CONVERGENCE was also chosen as a Kobo Next featured title for Science Fiction & Fantasy reads, and was displayed in their weekly newsletter at the start of May. It rocketed up the charts pretty quickly in Canada, and netted me my first sales outside North America.

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I've also hit some best-seller ranks in the cyberpunk and techno-thriller categories in Amazon's UK and Australia stores, as well their US store multiple times.

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All of this, however, is not to say that CONVERGENCE is a raging blockbuster success. It isn't. If it ever is, it likely won't be for quite a while. These are minor, albeit wonderful, milestones that I hope will continue to accrue and grow over time.

Selling my own work has provided a modest bit of income and my writing is allowing me buy a tank of gas here and there. I think that for a first-time self-published author, that's about the best you can expect. And the key to being a happy first-time self-published author is to have zero expectations.

Every month since CONVERGENCE released, I have fully expected to have zero sales. Then, when I do earn a sale, it's a victory. And when those sales build into double-digits, well, it's a freaking giant rush! Every single sale counts and means something. I've reached a new reader; I've given somebody new material to enjoy, and hopefully they'll like it enough to post a positive review, visit this site often, join my mailing list, and check out my next book when it releases (more on that bit of news soon!).

My only regret is that I didn't embark down this path sooner. It's a common complaint among the indie author crowd, but only because it speaks to a larger truth. All that time spent querying for agents and waiting for replies, or letting so much time lapse that I flat-out gave up on receiving any reply whatsoever, feel like wasted months. My book wasn't selling while it was sitting on my hard-drive, going nowhere. I was too busy waiting on others, and that's never a good place to be.

Would an agent have been a validation? Yeah, sure. But being a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest was a validation. And the glowing Publisher's Weekly review was a HUGE validation. Those two things combined were enough to get me thinking of self-publishing. The more I tried to go the traditional route, the further I was lured into going indie. Now that I've heard back from several readers and reviewers, I've gotten all the validation I really need.

That's the second key component for me. I misinterpreted where on the spectrum, exactly, that my work needed to be validated. It turns out, I did not need validation from New York agents or executives in publishing houses. Those folks are just middle-men, a means to an end. By controlling my work and being able to deliver it directly to my customers, I'm hitting the truly necessary people in a quicker, more straight-forward manner, and that's you, the reader. Readers are the number one priority. Writer's don't always need agents (with some exceptions, like negotiating film rights or foreign rights), but they do need readers. I don't need validation from a bunch of suits in nice offices who weigh my work against their bottom line. I do need validation from my readers. And, right now, I have it, and that is beyond awesome. As I said during my IndieView interview, the ABNA, PW review, and, now, my readers are a much stronger endorsement of my authenticity as a writer than some New York power-broker would be. Conversely, how much validation would there be in having an agent and waiting a year or two or three for your book to release, or even having an agent but not a publishing house? It's important, in that traditional path, not to put the cart before the horse and presume that the former automatically gets you the latter. By selling my work directly and having heard back from several readers directly, I feel like I've arrived as an author. I write, I make money from it, and, ergo, I am a writer. As the great Stan Lee once said, "'Nuff said."

Except for the matter of producing more work. I'll be letting out some news later about what comes after CONVERGENCE, but I do recognize the importance of building up a body of work. That's one of those things that can only happen with time, and each writer has a different pace and workload or lifeload to grapple with in order to produce. CONVERGENCE is selling, but it's not breaking any records. And that is OK!

My advice to any other potential or current newbie indie authors out there - don't focus too heavily on the now when it comes to your sales. Better authors than me have noted time and again that this writing gig is a long con. Build up your catalog of books and the sales will follow. CONVERGENCE is doing all right, but I bet it'll be doing even better when I have three or four other books out there to draw in more readers, simply because I'll be casting a wider net. I'm just one guy with one book. But when I'm one guy with ten books? Well, by then I'll be ready to smack any fool in the face for calling me an 'overnight success!'

(Not really.)

I haven't sold millions or even thousands of books. But, I have sold - which a year ago seemed unfathomable. Even more unfathomable was selling my work to readers in foreign lands, and yet now I can say I've sold in Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the UK. I've even gotten highlighted on a few other blogs and Facebook groups, and did a couple interviews (check out the Press & Accolades here). And I did it independently of the traditional model; no agents or publishing houses needed.

To go back to that issue of validation for a moment - readers aside, there is no greater validation as a writer than producing a professional product and being able to control it whole-cloth from start to finish. Keep in mind that writing, ultimately, is a business. By hiring your editors, cover designers, and book formatter, you are in direct control of your book and have the final say on the end product. You are assembling your team with the end goal of achieving success and putting out material on par with the Big 5 publishers. But as an indie author, you have more control and more flexibility over how that end product is presented. Going the traditional route, you likely have zero say in how your book is designed and distributed. As an indie, you control distribution, you control art work and design, you control pricing. You decide your final sale price and control promotional efforts. If it sounds like a lot of work, well, yeah, it is. Like I said, it's a business. And it is completely worth it. Do it properly and avoid cheaping out where you can, and indie publishing becomes one of those scenarios where the rewards outweigh the risks.

I knew all my life that I wanted to be a writer. While I got to dabble in journalism for a few years, I always wanted to be an author for as far back as I can remember. I had a goal of being published by the time I hit 35. Well, I did that.

My very first attempt at becoming a published author was in my twenties, and there was no other method beyond the query process. Whatever infantile form of self-publishing existed at the time was a joke and a non-starter. If anything, it was a brilliant way to ensure your work never got read by anybody. Thankfully, times and technology have changed drastically, and those changes have given creators and content producers greater control over their work.

Now, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that by the time I'm 36, I will have two novels to my name with more on the way. And to top it all off, to borrow from The Chairman of the Board, I did it my way.


[Keep reading: Part V]

CONVERGENCE is available for purchase as an eBook on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other retailers, or as a print copy here.

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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