For those who may not already have been aware, Aethersmith came out on “June 1”. I put that in quotes, because, as an independent author, that whole book release date business is a crapshoot. The ebook version for Kindle came out on May 30th, the paperback June 3. I suppose, the +2 and -2 cancel out, and on average we released as planned.

The Labyrinth

It’s easy to get a book lost in Amazon’s labyrinth.

Why would I compare the process to a maze? It certainly isn’t from the perspective of Theseus, who goes in minotaur-hunting, but rather from the perspective of his nerve-addled father, Aegeus, who sent him. We march our manuscripts off to to their fates with a box lunch and some spit-polished ebook files, without even a ball of twine to find their way back.

Along the way, unknownable to us, the manuscript likely has a host of ballad-worthy adventures. It battles mighty data checking algorithms, hacks its way through an army of plagiarism and copyright verification drones, sails across the roiling depths of the Sea of Queue, to finally arrive at its final foe: a bored cubicle-dweller, who challenges it to a battle of wits!

Once your manuscript has conquered Mount Amazon, it will sail off victorious, bound for the isle of New Releases. You keep a watch for it, hoping that it has raised the white sails. Do not throw yourself in the ocean if you see the black sails – it probably isn’t actually dead, there’s just been a hangup, and you’ll have to send it back into the labyrinth.

Does Experience Matter

This is the second novel my wife and I have self-published. The role of Aegeus fits me all the better because she does all the nuts and bolts work of the thing. Once I’ve exported pristine versions of the map and sent her the final, final, final manuscript, my part is done. What’s left is a lot of jittery energy, repeated refreshes of various amazon searches and KDP reports, and waiting.

The key difference this time around is that I have a better sense of what I’m waiting for. It’s also a good thing to understand that there is a significant lag to most of those reports. None of them are real-time. You are going to see your book available for sale and think to yourself: “Nobody is buying it”. You’ll get messages from this friend or that beta reader saying that they picked up their copy, but nothing shows up (“Those dirty, lying bastards!”, and you can’t be sure if it’s your friend of KDP you’re railing against). I imagine that somewhere in California, there is a farm sectioned off into a grid, and whenever a cowflop falls into your grid, your reports get updated. It might possibly be the most vexing random wait time algorithm ever.

The Call to Arms

Paul Revere had nothing on the modern independent author. He just had once quick ride around the colonial countryside, then popped home to pick up his musket. Also, a large number of people already knew who he was, and responded quickly to his call.

As an independent author, the biggest hurdle is establishing yourself in the marketplace. This means banging drums in the street, climbing onto rooftops with a bullhorn, and wearing a sandwich board with your cover art everywhere you go (at least in the figurative sense). When you publish a book, the first place you turn is your own personal support network: family, friends, acquaintances who read your genre, and the people you met during the process of researching, writing, and editing your book. That’s the first time around, at least.

If you laid a good groundwork for your first (or any previous) novel, you ought to be able to add in: a mailing list, Facebook/Google+/Twitter followers, Goodreaders, and hopefully anyone who bought the first book and has been on the lookout for the next. Just be prepared for the realization that the world was not waiting for the opportunity to drop everything to run out (or over to the computer/phone) and buy it. Some will (and the blessings of a thousand spirits on their households), but mostly people are going to say “oh yeah, thanks for the reminder” and go back about their business. The ones who want to read it still will, but maybe just not right this minute.

Back to Work

Books may not sell themselves, but unless you’re out in the back of your mini-van dealing books from a streetcorner, you’ve still got more books to write. Despite a launch over the weekend, I’m already back at work on the manuscript for the series finale, Sourcethief.

You can’t sell books you haven’t written yet (until you are a celebrity, at least).