By Brian Guthrie
Picture this: you’ve spent two decades working on your Magnum Opus. You’ve slaved, tuned, refined, threw out, began again, fretted, and worried over every word of the Prologue (we won’t discuss what you did with the rest of your massive tome that would make a librarian cringe at the thought of picking it up). It’s your pride and joy, the bane of your family’s existence. Well, it was, because you discovered the joys of online communities like JukePop that give you unlimited access to Alpha/Beta readers. Now, no one who knows you personally ever has to read a word you’ve written until it’s in printed form.
Then, the novel finishes its run. It’s done online, through the Alpha/Beta phases. You’ve smoothed out as much as you can, reread it a dozen times to catch all those annoying typos that somehow everyone misses (seriously, how could 200 people all miss that ‘your’ when it was supposed to be ‘you’re?’), and now you’ve reached a crossroads: How to get it published.
Let’s be frank. The answer to that question is a daunting one—even in today’s age wherein anyone can publish, well, anything. Don’t believe me? Check this out and keep this in mind: that’s a fake book. It’s a prank being pulled by some podcasters all to raise money for charity. That book will never be released, yet look at its rank (as of now, #2997 all books, #42 Self-Help, #67, Health and fitness). We’ll come back to Chet Paige and how he’s doing so well in part two. For now, take this away: anyone can publish anything.
So, how do you decide what to do? You need so much (an editor, an artist, means of distribution, a website, etc). The list goes on and on. Sure, we all dream of a publishing house offering us an advance to write that exciting sequel you keep hinting at—if only you could get this first one out the door. But let’s face it: that’s not happening. So, we’ve got to do this on our own. And choosing how to do that is neither simple or cheap. Just ask any author that’s tried to do it.
That was me, several months ago. My premiere novel on JukePop, Rise, had just finished its run, my sequel already loomed ahead of me, and I knew I stood at a crossroads. I’d explored many self-publishing options, and they all cost a lot of money with very little in terms of guarantees I’d make that investment back. Frankly, I didn’t have the money to invest it in the first place. Sure, I could go to places like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Go Fund Me, or Patreon and try to convince a world of strangers (or every friend I have on Facebook) to take a chance on me, with the slim chance I could make a quick turn-around on getting Rise out in the eager hands of readers the world over. But that left me swamped in a sea of things I would still have to do just to get one manuscript hosted on one publisher/distributor’s website. To say that looked like an unassailable fort to me would be putting it mildly.
Then, Jerry Fan walked in the door (well, sent me an email) with an idea. It was brilliant in its simplicity. I still remember what I was thinking when I read the email. I felt like George in It’s a Wonderful Life, when his old friend Sam called and offered him a chance to get in on the ground floor of plastics. We all know how that turned out. What exactly was the idea? Well, you can read all about it here. For those that don’t want to go read that (or are just too busy to go read another article), I’ll give you the short version: You write it, you convince people to invest in you, we’ll do the distribution work, and everyone (you, us, your investors) will split the profits. There it was. So simple, only George Bailey would walk away from it.
As you probably guessed, I jumped headlong in. I figured, what did I have to lose? If it didn’t work, I didn’t have to go that route. If it did, well, you read the rundown. So, I took a chance and started messaging specific people on Facebook. Family, close friends, people I knew had money and were looking to invest. The result was stunning, to JukePop and myself. I funded my first goal in 24 hours. We decided to take a chance, rework the profit sharing, and add a push goal. That funded in another 24 hours, and I was turning investors away. Jerry, his crew, and I quickly worked up another campaign for Fall (the sequel novel currently appearing in JukePop) and that funded in about 5 days. Clearly, the model Jerry and his genius crew came up with had what the other possible ways I could have raised that money didn’t: a very obvious benefit to the investor and motivation for them to work to spread the word on the novel. When one of those investors asked me why I decided to take a chance on this project, I couldn’t answer it right away. I used the George Bailey analogy but that investor wasn’t satisfied. “Why do it this way? Why not just remove them and do it yourself? Split the profits up how you want to?”
The answer involves doing one of those things all good authors must do at some point: self-introspection. Taking a long hard look at what I was capable of, what piqued my interest, what I was willing and able to do. Knowing how I am on projects, having a good understanding of my personality type (ENTP for those curious), I knew from the get-go there was going to be a mountain of work involved that I might not be able to do, even if always willing. So, I looked at my investor and said “Basically, I’m paying a small percentage of my profits to have someone else do the nitty gritty distribution work. I’m paying for their reach.”
That gamble worked. Rise’s funding project closed just before Christmas. Within two weeks, I had received most of those funds and immediately got Rise off to the editor. Meanwhile, Jerry and his minions worked diligently behind the scenes doing things I’m still not entirely sure aren’t wizardry and magic to get channels open to more distributors than I would have thought impossible (I thought 3, 4, maybe 10; let’s just say it’s in a few more than 10. Just a few). With a goal of getting the first part out to readers by 1Q2015, they had their work cut out for them. On the evening of April 2, Jerry sent me a message that shot me clear to the moon. Rise: Tears was available on Amazon! Officially, it released on March 30 (two days before the end of that quarter). Parts two and three are already edited and on their way toward release dates later this year, and the first part of Fall is in the hands of the editor right now. Jerry’s genius idea had paved the way for my first two novellas to be published and distributed.
One unassailable fort beaten? Check!
Stay tuned for part two: You’re Not an Author, You’re a Brand