If you’ve followed my journey over the last few years, you know that I’ve grappled with where I go next. I’ve had my moments of frustration where I’ve said never again, I’ve had my moments where I said Andlios book two would be coming soon and everything else in between. There’s a reason for a lot of indecisiveness, a lot of it is complicated, while some of it is pretty simple.
The simplest explanation is this.
In 2015, I had a plan to release three books within the span of a year. Terminus Cycle was going to be a ground level type of book, split into two parts. The first part gives some background on the main characters, while the second part saw them in action while introducing both themselves and everyone else to the world of Andlios. By the time I released Terminus Cycle I was well under way on book two, Cydonia Rising. The idea behind book two (and every other book moving forward) was to follow the next generation and their quest to make things right. Cydonia Rising saw many revisions, rewrites and times when I put it aside. It’s a much more dense book than Terminus Cycle was, featuring more characters, settings and concepts. A lot of that was because it was always my plan from the start.
I was excited about this but also weary. Choosing the path of an independent author is complicated and costly. Truthfully, I never queried for Terminus Cycle. I never even considered traditional publishing for it or the Andlios series. Why? Because it was clear that there were authors having success independently publishing, far beyond what most advances look like for first-time authors on the traditional lane. With my background in graphic design, editing and marketing, it made sense, especially knowing that being traditionally published meant I’d have to do all of these things, anyway. Still, it was expensive. By the time Cydonia Rising was complete I had another ominous task ahead of me: my wife and I were having twin boys.
This was the time where I dashed all hopes for publishing Cydonia Rising. Series are what work in the independent scene; it’s how we authors are able to turn a profit. Otherwise, we lose money promoting the first and second books. Suddenly that extra money disappeared, and it felt reckless to take a further gamble on my career knowing that there were two children to care for.
In the three years that followed, I struggled. I tried to keep writing but didn’t know where to look, what to work on or how to manage whatever time I had at my disposal. We were all mentally and physically exhausted almost all the time. I wrote a book beginning another series that is still science fiction but more in line with post-apocalyptic stories than space opera during this time. I did it for fun, mostly, something to keep my occupied and sharp. The problem was when I was finished I had nowhere for it to go. Around this time, I renamed Terminus Cycle on Amazon to be Terminus Cycle (Andlios Origins) and decided to query Cydonia Rising to agents. I really wanted to get this book out there and keep telling these stories.
To this day, I believe that you can jump into Cydonia Rising without needing to read Terminus Cycle. There are returning characters, themes and everything else, but Terminus Cycle was the story of Jonah Freeman and Peter O’Neil, who had their stories told inside that framework. O’Neil continues to be an important figure in the series moving forward and Freeman’s new republic is of course at its core, but if you wanted to jump in here, you could. Needless to say, agents don’t like the idea of trying to sell a second book, even if you say the first book was “book zero.” As for my other book? Post-apocalyptic without zombies or survivalism as a focus was a tough sell.
I felt stuck.
I was stuck.
I was a stay-at-home dad with the intention of writing and managing the house and the kids but there didn’t seem to be a way to get my writing into the world without spending money we didn’t have. My writing kept getting better and better, but not feeling like there was an outlet made it difficult to stick to any other projects for too long. I have at least four or five books that have around 20,000 words written (about 75 pages or so) that I abandoned because life got in the way and I couldn’t sit down and write every day, so when I did return, that spark was gone. I jumped genres often, from contemporary fiction to surrealist satire to horror and fantasy. I just wanted to write.
At the beginning of this year, I set a goal to write, no matter what. The only thing that fit my schedule was short stories, so I wrote dozens of them, experimenting with style, form and genre. It was a lot of fun and helped to get me back into shape, so-to-speak, but still didn’t quite make everything feel right. Then, in an answer on Quora, of all places, I saw someone mention the Facebook group 20Booksto50k. It was name-dropped as a resource for independent authors working together to strategize what works and what doesn’t in selling books without a traditional publisher. While everyone else on Quora was telling the person desperate to publish their book to query agents or just scrap the book and move on, one person showed there was a way and there were people making a living off of this.
I checked out the group and didn’t expect much. At first it was kinda strange to me. I’m reading about people having success, for sure, but their successes were within genres that I’d never read, never mind write in. I’m not a romance author, I’m not into paranormal stuff, I’m not gonna write stories about sexy billionaires, etc. That’s great that people found a way to make money with this stuff, but it’s not for me. The more I looked through the group I noticed a lot of the advice, resources and other stuff and it dawned on me: I was doing everything right with my series at the time, I just ran into circumstances. In fact, a few of the folks that founded and maintain the group are accomplished science fiction authors.
Things started to click. I had made some dumb mistakes, spent some money carelessly and should have waited to release the books in a cluster. Having a back catalog was vital, especially of books like the ones you’re trying to sell. I’m good at learning quickly by reading and am able to make practical use of such information pretty quickly, so I just kept studying, reading the success stories and looking for the patterns.
There were things that I could do right at that very moment to set myself up for success. I re-read Cydonia Rising and could confirm that yes, it was a kick-ass book. My wife and I talked about allocating some money to get a few books edited and ready to go, so I found a new editor and off we were. For the first time in years, I sat down and wrote with purpose and out came Ganymede’s Gate. I wrote every day during the kids’ nap time, sometimes having to force myself, other times I was itching to get back to it. What resulted was easily my favorite book to date that was more scaled-back from Cydonia Rising but delivered just the same. I got to do my favorite thing: take characters that I had built and explore how they react to the ever-changing universe around them.
Now I’m here, writing this, and staring at the series page on Amazon with three shiny new covers, a release strategy in place and a plan for more books moving forward. Thank you to everyone that stuck with me through the years, who waited patiently for these next books and to those that would occasionally ask me about them. Thanks to the authors out there willing to share their success and information on how they did it. Thanks to my kids for being crazy and rewarding and my wife for sticking with me on this and never letting me forget about it.
So let’s do this, then.
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