Joe Siple is a television sports reporter turned novelist. Learn more about him at www.joesiple.com
The last ten months have been quite an adventure for me. In that time, I’ve gone from “unpublished author” to “Amazon Bestseller” and “Award-Winning Author.” But the road has hardly been smooth and my path led to an unexpected place. So for any struggling authors out there wondering what the road to “Bestseller” and “Award-Winning” looks like, here’s one view…
I started writing fiction in 2001. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was terrible. Fortunately, no one offered to represent me or publish my books (other than vanity presses and scams) so I don’t have to live with the knowledge that my worst writing is out there for people to see. It’s shut tightly away on a floppy disk that can’t even be accessed without specialized, “old school” equipment. Thank God.
But I realized I liked writing, so I kept at it. I wrote one manuscript a year, on average, and each had the same abject failure as the prior one for several years running. It wasn’t until 2013 that I finally landed an agent. Oh, happy day!!! All my dreams were about to come true!!!
Except they didn’t.
After roller-coaster ups and downs, near-misses and deals that fell through, I found four more years had gone by and I still didn’t even have a published book. At that point, I realized something had to change. So I broke things off with my agent to query independent publishers…only to find out most independent publishers these days often don’t accept un-agented submissions. That was a disappointing change from when I’d started writing over a decade earlier. So that left only three options: self-publish, go with a vanity press, or find a “micro-publisher” who would take me on.
For those of you not familiar with the term, micro-publishers are usually a small team of people (and often just one person) who agrees to basically pay the costs of self-publishing in exchange for about 75% of the royalties, with the author getting roughly 25%. They make money if the book does even reasonably well, and the writer gets to feel special because he has a publisher.
They use Print on Demand technology (which makes it really hard to place in bookstores) and usually don’t have much of a marketing budget. The Big Boys they are not. But I was desperate, so I queried.
I was able to get a couple offers from micro-publishers, picked the one that would put the most into promotions, and signed on the dotted line.
My expectations were, appropriately, low. And early in the process, they were met right where I set them. I ordered 25 books, and the box arrived looking every bit the part of a rushed, self-published novel. I choked back the tears, disposed of the box in my basement storage area, and forgot about them. I decided this writing thing just wasn’t going to work out.
So I moved on with my life. I put the dream of writing behind me and began searching for other things that could replace it. And that’s the path my life would have taken, if it hadn’t been for the Maxy Awards.
Let me be clear: the Maxy Awards are not going to be confused with the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s a tiny contest whose winners were primarily from my micro-publisher. Still, my book was named “2018 Book of the Year.” And that changed everything.
We were able to put a gold medal seal on the cover. We got blurbs. The reviews started piling up on Amazon and Goodreads. Somehow, the book began to gain momentum. So I entered it into the American Fiction Awards, and it won first place. Then it was named Finalist in two additional awards and is currently in the semi-final round of two more. Now I had a list of awards won and began approaching bookstores, some of which bought copies. My publisher noticed, put more money into Amazon ads (I pitched in, too) and before we knew it, the book was landing on Amazon’s bestseller list for two different categories of fiction.
And yet, there’s still so far to go. The book has won awards, but very small awards. It has landed on bestseller lists, but only for very specific genres. What hasn’t happened yet is sufficient financial success to make writing feel less like a productive hobby and more like an actual career.
Will that ever happen? I have no idea. But I do know that I’m closer now than ever before. And that, surprisingly enough, is thanks to my decision to sign with a micro-publisher. It certainly isn’t the only way to go—and it’s not for everyone. But if you find yourself in a similar place as I was in, it’s definitely worth considering.
The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride
With all his family and friends gone, one-hundred-year-old Murray McBride is looking for a reason to live. He finds it in Jason Cashman, a ten-year-old boy with a terminal heart defect and a list of five things he wants to do before he dies. Together, they race against the limited time each has left, ticking off wishes one by one. But when tragedy strikes, their worlds are turned upside-down, and an unexpected gift is the only thing that can make Jason's final wish come true.
Where to Buy The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.