Tag Archives: editing

A Well-Paved Road to an Indie Author’s Success: Part 1

By Ralph Kern

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One hung-over New Year’s Day 2013, I decided to knock something off the bucket list and started to write a novel. Seven or eight months later, I had a sparkly first draft. In my isolation from other writers, I thought it was the bees knees. I self-published it on Draft 2 Digital, which at that point put it out across all major e-book sellers. It did okay, but not brilliantly, and I got a fair few sales and a few reviews. All of them said pretty much “loved the story, but he soooooo needs an editor.”

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So I decided to pull it, and spent the best part of six months picking through it, again in isolation, although at that point, I think I had joined the SF/F Chronicles, an online science fiction and fantasy community, where I picked up some stuff that certainly helped. What I came out with at the end of that period was a draft someone would feel comfortable putting before a publisher. My decision not to seek a publisher was pure pragmatism, and one that proved correct financially. I then rereleased it.

This time, it didn’t just do okay, it rocketed, no pun intended considering the novel’s subject matter. At the height, I was hovering around eighteenth in SF on Amazon’s Top 100 List and that was in the company of traditional publishers, self-published authors, and everything between. I was full of beans. I was selling better than many of my heroes of literature. Sales were at over one hundred a day. For a while, I was earning far more than I was from my job. I paid off a car loan and had money to spare.

The reviews were pouring in at a rate of several a day. (I have only “come out” to a couple of people who know me in person as an author, so those reviews were genuine ones.) The general theme was still the same, people loved the story, they loved the subject matter but hated the editing. So after a few months, I thought, fine, I’ll use some of this cash and get an edit done.

I got it done, updated the file, and let it roll for a bit longer. I was still getting overwhelmingly positive reviews, yet still had comments of typos and grammar mistakes. This frustrated me. How could I still be getting these when I’d had it tidied up? Turned out, the majority of my readers are in the States. There are a surprising number of subtle differences between UK English and US, which is also the international standard.

My thought process at the time was screw em, I AM English, I’ve got it on my author page that I am, so they know it and should accept it. In other words, they can put up with it.

At around this time I got approached by two publishers, Tantor, who wanted to publish my book as an audio book, and Tickety Boo Press.

So I negotiated with Tantor and got a reasonable advance and royalty rate from them. I didn’t feel particularly disadvantaged by not having an agent to do it.

Then I responded to Tickety Boo Press. Two things about them perked my interest. One was that my edit would be done by Ian Sales, who would bring some SF pedigree to proceedings, then it would get Americanized with a US editor, all on Tickety Boo’s tick.

Fine, let’s do it.

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Endeavor, book one of the Sleeping Gods series, has been compared to A.C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and has been on 7 Amazon Top 100 Lists.

Since we first looked at the stars, there has been a silence, no signs of alien life, no one who has tried to speak to us, a mystery that a long dead scientist called the Fermi Paradox.
“Where are they?”
In 2118, the first daring mission to another star, Tau Ceti, twelve light years away is launched. Tom Hites and Harry Cosgrove command the Starship Endeavour on an epic journey to solve the Fermi Paradox. From the first, nearly disastrous steps on a distant world, their quest takes them further than they ever imagined. Out amidst the mysterious long abandoned worlds and ancient relics they discover, some strange, some wonderful and some deadly, that question they seek to answer becomes:
“Where are they now?”


The Writer’s Toolbox

I was adrift, alone.  After college, my life had somehow turned into a blur of wake, work, eat, and sleep.  Sometimes I wondered if I might be stuck in the movie Groundhog Day.  I hadn’t yet found the community that I have often written of as so important.  Even though I was working editorial for Addison Wesley/Benjamin Cummings, I had no connection to the fiction-writing community—not for fantasy and SF where my heart lay.  I didn’t even know a genre community existed.

My favorite place to break the parade of endless days was a little hole-in-the wall mom-and-pop SF/F bookstore on El Camino in Palo Alto.  I used to drop in and talk to the owner.  It gave me a tenuous but much treasured connection into the genre world.  One day, the subject of writers groups came up.  Turned out, she knew a customer…  I was so excited to have hope of getting involved in anything writing. It had been years since I’d had that at college.  In those pre-Internet days, I left her my phone number and prayed that her customer would use it.

She did.

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That call was one of those moments that your life changes, and you don’t even know it. She not only brought me into a writers group that boasted professional  genre writers (oh, the thrill of it!), she introduced me to my first SF/F con.  The seed of friendship sprouted fast and rooted deep.  We spent hours talking about writing, the mechanics of it, the people, the cons, the books.  She talked most about her Clarion West experience and one of the instructors that changed her life, Algis Budrys.  She was always on the look out to hone her skills or discover new ones to, as she put it, put in her writer’s toolbox.  Algis and Clarion evidently put some pretty nice tools in there.

Looking back, I now see that moment was the linchpin in my genre life. Without her I wouldn’t have met the friends who fill my life and make up my community almost entirely.  Had she not chosen to dial the phone number of a young woman loitering in bookstore and bugging the hapless proprietor, I would not be posting this here today.

Her name was Tina, and she opened her heart, her world, and her toolbox to me. I am sad to say, she only graced my life a few short years before she died, but I’ve never forgotten.  So today, I honor her by opening up my toolbox to you.  I have a lot I want to share after 35 years of editing and writing, so in Tina’s honor, I have put together this series, The Writer’s Toolbox. In each of these blogs, I will take out one tool and share it with you.  I will tell you why I like this tool and how I use it.  Maybe you will be able to find a use for it, too, and tuck it into your writer’s toolbox.

Here’s to you,Tina.

Next in The Writer’s Toolbox: There’s Got to Be a Better Way