Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Liquid Fear, Chronic Fear, and the rebirth of a writing career

By Scott Nicholson

Today, Dec. 21, marks both the solstice and the two-year anniversary of my indie publishing experiment. On a gray day as the sun reached its nadir across my northern sky, I clicked a button that sent Burial to Follow into the digital world.

I had no idea what I was doing, only that I had nothing to lose. Part of me was afraid, as those old whispers came. You know, the ones drummed into writers since the dawn of time: (“Only hacks self-publish! You can’t do anything without an agent! Just keep sending out query letters and focus on writing the next book! Self-publishing will kill your career.”)

In truth, the original act was a mix of desperation and inspiration. Despite six books in traditional publishing, I was basically dead in the water, haunted by midlist numbers. New York thought it knew what I was and had the data to prove it. I knew better in my heart, but I was unsuccessful in convincing my potential partners, and the world of publishing had grown harsher and colder, to the point of “Only responds if interested.” All I could think was “Maybe you’re not interested, but I sure am.”

The Burial to Follow novella was respectably published in a hardcover by Cemetery Dance, so it had provenance. I figured I’d hedge my bets against what my peers thought (not that peers were paying any attention at all to me in 2009) by self-publishing backlist so I would have a built-in defense. I created a terrible but sincere cover with art from my DIRT comic book and hit the Amazon button.

I believe I got one sale through the final nine days of the year, but it was fun to wonder about that one stranger who had clicked and purchased. So I prepped The Red Church, a novel that had been successful in its short life but had fallen out of print for five years. Again, I had the self-defense of prior publication. “See? I’m a REAL writer and I am just making these ‘legitimate’ books available again.” And then sales started trickling in, and the book steadily rose up the charts. People liked it! But the most immense satisfaction was in being able to reach readers years after New York was done with it. The story was still fresh, maybe even timeless. At least timeless enough for now.

Cool things happened. My daughter was most impressed when I hit #1 in “Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy” (boy, the categories were wild in those days), not because I was above Stephen King but above C.S. Lewis. I think that was the first time she ever viewed me as a “real writer,” despite the stack of my dusty paperbacks in the closet.

I was still sending stuff to publishers and agents during this time, because I was a “real writer” and that indie stuff was just a sideline until I got a “real deal.” My goal at the time was to earn enough to pay my power bill. So I clumped together some stories that had also been professionally published, and the nickels turned into dimes. There was also an exciting and growing indie community, writers either frustrated by the traditional system or new to the entire game and having no pre-conceptions. That was matched by the enthusiasm of readers who saw a whole new world of choice open up to them. The universe was opening to possibility in odd and thrilling ways.

By mid-2010, I stopped sending stuff out to agents and publishers because the power structure had shifted. Readers now ran the industry, although none of us really understood the concept, or maybe it was too large and simple for us to grasp. Readers created bestsellers, they created careers for writers, they created new genres and cross-genres and niches and book blogs. The whole job for a writer shifted from finding the intermediaries who would deliver an audience to removing as many obstacles as possible between you and your readers. I uploaded original novels that I had been sending around, and I wrote new ones with the sole intention of self-publishing.

By the dawn of 2011, I was able to leave my day job and fulfill the only personal goal I’d ever had as a writer. I had some luck with a couple of bestsellers, and Amazon picked up Liquid Fear for re-release, and the sequel Chronic Fear. Amazon is awesome to work with and has been the most enthusiastic partner of my entire publishing career.

I don’t know if there is a “next level.” I certainly don’t need any more to be happy, and I am incredibly grateful and humbled. All I did was do what I love and click a few buttons, and I happened to be doing the right thing when the right time came along. I wish I could make ego claims of genius and talent, but it’s simply the blessings of good fortune, simply doing what God made Scott to do that no other person can do.

Today, Amazon launches Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear. Two years after the sun hit its lowest point and started ascension. Two years to the day after I first hit a button and said “Yes.”

I still say it today. Thank you, God and the universe. Thank you, readers and friends. Thank you, my wonderful, beautiful family. Yes.

Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear are $2.99 for Kindle, also available in paperback and audio. Current freebie  through 12/25 is Transparent Lovers for Kindle. Thanks for your support and friendship, and tell your friends about the freebies. My pledge is always: The more I get, the more I give away.


Neal Hock said...

I, for one, am glad you clicked that button.


KindleObsessed said...

I agree with Neal...despite my evenings of no sleep because one of your books creeped me out...I wouldn't want it any other way. Congrats on all of your success Scott! You deserve it :)

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Congratulations, Scott! You certainly deserve every success after all of your hard work and because of your generosity. You certainly have been a pleasure to work with. Wishing you much more success in the future.

Happy Holidays!

R.E. McDermott said...

Congratulations on your well-deserved success. It might be luck, but I'll vote for talent, with a big helping of karma on the side. You've always been willing to take newbies by the hand and lead them through the wilderness with great advice, and this recipient will be forever grateful.

Merry Christmas to you and yours,


Douglas Dorow said...

Congratulations and thanks for sharing this summary of your journey.

Best of luck in 2012 as these next two books and your partnership with Amazon takes off to whatever that next level is!

author Scott Nicholson said...

thanks, Neal, Misty, Michelle, Bob, and Doug, I am glad to share the journey with you guys. Crazy times indeed.

D.D. Scott said...

Congrats, my friend!!!

I'm having a ball sharing the Indie Epub Journey with you!!!

And Happy Holidays to all of u from my home to each of yours!!!

author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Hard work, the right attitude, and, yes, a little bit of luck - it still seems to work!
Congratulations and Merry Christmas.

Suzanne Tyrpak said...

Congratulations, Scott. You deserve your success!

Charlotte Rains Dixon said...

Oh wow, this is a great story! Really inspiring and encouraging for those of us still struggling with the old system. Huge congrats.

author Scott Nicholson said...

DD, we all are learning a lot!

Christa, we've been at this a while, huh?

Suzanne, I don't know about "deserve." I just aim for goodness.

Charlotte, thanks and good luck with the struggle!

Merrill Heath said...

Congrats, Scott. It's always inspiring to hear about someone who has found success by following their dreams. Hope you have continued success.

Merry Christmas!


Cyn said...

Congratulations to you! As a writer myself, it's always inspirational to read about the success of others in this field. When my book is ready for publishing, I've decided to go the self-pub route. I'm looking forward to reading your books.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Great move, Cyn! You will find a lot of satisfaction, I believe.