A Year in Self Publishing

I first dipped my toe into the self-publishing water in September 2011, with a collection of short stories and a humorous travel book.  This helped me uncover and understand the sweet spot in my writing.

Inspired by a photograph, I conceived a novella series in March 2012 that suited my emerging style and the time I had available to write. Advanced Smash Repairs was born.

It’s taken nine months longer than planned, but the series is finally complete.  It’s a quirky six-part series about a smash repair business that “knows too much.”  Craig runs the workshop, and with the help of his staff – lead mechanic Pavel, apprentice Clint, enigmatic test driver Boris and mysterious newcomer Isobel – he fixes cars in unconventional ways, solving a few mysteries along the way.

Each of the six “episodes” is a stand-alone story of about 12,000 words. Just like a TV series, there are common characters and themes that also work their way through the whole series. This approach to writing and publishing fiction has been championed by Sean Platt and David Wright with their popular Yesterday’s Gone post-apocalyptic horror series and the other series they have published.

That’s all sounds good, but there have been a few hiccups along the way.

In theory, it’s best to write the series, then edit it as a whole, before publishing the episodes.  Platt and Wright’s current thinking on best practice is to publish Episode 1 and the whole season compendium at the same time, then publish the remaining episodes week by week for their readership that prefers that. Back in 2012, I couldn’t wait – I thought I’d be able to keep up with a monthly schedule, so I published Episodes 1 and 2 in April and May of 2012.

Then . . .

I got distracted by the demands of finishing The Queensberry Rule, a novel I had been co-authoring with a friend for several years.  I got through the completed first draft just in time to deal with some serious health issues, which laid me low for months. At first I thought I’d be able to make some real progress with the writing while convalescing and then partially returning to paid work, but it was four months before I could concentrate when sitting alone at the keyboard.  This was no ordinary “writer’s block”.

New Year was a turning point.  I was able to think clearly again and get stuck into finishing the series, inspired to at least attempt to “write fast” as Platt, Wright and Johnny B Truant talk about on The Self Publishing Podcast. There are similar ideas in this article by Rachel Aaron.

A good measure of my recovered confidence was starting a new project in March, The Diary of the 17th Man.  This is a fictitious and (hopefully) humorous daily blog, again co-authored, which follows the Australian Cricket Team – in this case on their Tour of India.  After 40 days of non-stop production, including recording the material for a daily podcast, we bundled up the content into an ebook, “From Dust to Dust“, published the day after the Tour ended.  This speed to market was followed just a couple of weeks later by the paperback.  No other books about the Tour have been published yet as far as we know.

With Advanced Smash Repairs now out of the way, preparation is underway for a micro-fiction marathon – 500 words a day for 100 days straight, starting mid-June, following the Australian Team’s quest to win back the coveted trophy, The Ashes.

Reflecting on the last year, a few things come to mind.

  • Be patient!  I feel a bit dumb launching a series that has had Episode 1 out for a year, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Apart from that, I’ve had to let the trauma of an unexpected illness work itself out, emerging from a difficult period as a more confident writer.
  • You can write fast. For those who hold down jobs and write in their “spare time”, finding out what works for you in this regard is essential to getting more work out in the world.
  • You can collaborate.  I never imagined writing with someone else, but both The Queensberry Rule and The Diary of the 17th Man are far better for being collaborative projects. Check out this episode of SPP for more on collaboration.
  • You can spend a lot of time doing stuff that isn’t writing. Constrain the time you spend on “stuff”, and value writing time highly.

The rough tally for the year is one novel, six novellas and a compendium, and a sport-based humour book.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a cracker of idea for a new short fiction project. It’s fresh, unique and hopefully salable. I just need to get my collaborators organised and we’ll be off.

Dave C


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