Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below (Hell Holes, #1) by Donald G. Firesmith

"The premise is unique and the action scenes are well done. That keeps the book moving at a good, steady pace. There are elements such as the hell holes, the demons, and one of the main characters that are a nice change from the typical action stories out there." - Dave R, Goodreads


When hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, they threaten financial and environmental catastrophe should any more open up under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline or any of the many oil wells and smaller pipelines that feed it. An oil company sends a scientific team to investigate. But when the geologist, his climatologist wife, two of their graduate students, a local newspaper reporter, an oil company representative, and a field biologist arrive at one of the holes, they discover a far worse danger lurks below, one that threatens to destroy all of humanity when it emerges, forcing the survivors to flee south towards Fairbanks.

My Long Road to Becoming an Indie Author

When I first started writing science fiction short stories nearly fifty years ago, the concept of an indie author didn’t exist. My only option was to sell my stories to one of the relatively small number of science fiction magazines. Had I been writing novels instead of short stories, I would have had to (1) convince an acquisition editor at one of the big publishing companies to read and select the book (very difficult for a brand new author), (2) find and convince a literary agent to represent me to one of the publishing companies (nearly as difficult), or (3) use a vanity press publishing house to print up sufficient books to fill my garage and empty my wallet. After failing with the first two approaches and having too much pride and too little money to follow the third, I eventually stopped writing fiction and concentrated on my career as a software engineer. Over time as my expertise grew, I began speaking at software conferences and writing journal articles on all manner of software-related topics. One thing led to another and as my reputation grew, so did the practicality of my writing technical books. My first such book was published in 1993 by Addison Wesley, and over the following dozen years, major technical publishing companies published six more of my technical books. I found that once the first book was published and reasonably successful, I became a known quantity to the publishers, and they offered me a contract on just about every book I proposed. 

However in spite of this success, I still had several major problems with the big publishers. Although technology rapidly evolves and technical books therefore rapidly grow obsolete, the traditional publishers were naturally highly resistant to publishing second editions until they sold their large backlog of books from their initial print runs. I also had almost no control of many important issues such as the book’s cover, its interior design, its often-exorbitant price, and whether the book would be published as a hardback, paperback, or both. Finally, the amount of marketing by the publishers seemed to be directly proportionally to the book’s popularity. In other words, extremely popular technical best sellers seemed to receive almost all of the marketing dollars; if your book didn’t immediately take off, it was starved of marketing, thereby nearly guaranteeing it would never become popular. All of these issues could make or break a book, and they eventually convinced me to publish all of my future technical book-length content in the form of informational websites. At least then, I would have complete control including the ability to make updates on an ongoing basis.

This brings us nearly up to the present time. I started writing fiction again a few years back, just about when ebooks and on-demand printing became widely available and popular. Now, small numbers of the paperback versions of my three fiction books are printed on-demand by CreateSpace (an Amazon company), while IngramSpark, which is popular with bookstores and libraries, supplies larger print runs, also on demand. Kindle Direct Publishing (or KDP, another Amazon company) and Smashwords (all formats) supply my ebooks. By using these companies as my printers and distributers, my books are available in all major outlets such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Overdrive, and Kobo. I retain all rights and have complete control over all aspects of my books including the cover, interior design, price (within reason – production costs must still be covered for paperbacks). I also have the ability to make changes anytime I wish, with a wait of just a few days before the new version becomes available. What’s more, the companies involved (especially Smashwords) provide a cornucopia of easy to follow guidelines about how to prepare manuscripts for publication, and the best part is that there are almost no significant costs involved, unlike traditional vanity press publishers, which have been known to charge authors several thousand dollars for publishing their manuscripts.

That being said, there are typically only a few things that will cost money and time. Every book needs at the very least to be professionally copy edited, although that can often be had for at most just a few hundred dollars. And if I can’t convince you to hire an editor, there are always informal writers workshops and beta readers, which are typically free. Unless you are or are friends with an artist, commissioning the book cover from a freelance cover artist is the second significant cost. However, depending on the type of cover, that is also only a very modest cost and I have seen perfectly adequate covers for $50. Other charges such as ISBN, copyright protection, sitting up accounts, etc. are dirt-cheap. The last significant cost is marketing, and this is typically far more a matter of investing a significant amount of effort than of money. There are many forums where you can find people who will review your book for free. And book tours and advertising can often be found for less than $100 dollars. And remember that marketing is no different, whether one is an indie author or is published by a traditional publisher. If you are a relatively new author and want your book(s) to become sufficiently successful to take off, you will need to market them yourself.

Finally, a word about the difference between being an indie author and a vanity press author. Historically, self-publishing via a vanity press was associated with authors whose work was of such poor quality that they could not be published any other way. That bad reputation is no longer linked with being an indie author, and some relatively famous authors have made the switch to self-publication. However, with great power comes great responsibility. The indie author is responsible for all aspects of his or her book, especially its quality. This is another reason why spending on editing and cover design is crucial. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you will likely have to invest a few hundred dollars to obtain a book you will be proud of.

So to summarize, I see no real disadvantages and many important advantages to being an indie author. If you have a manuscript and have been trying unsuccessfully to interest a publisher or agent, I strongly recommend you seriously consider joining the indie author revolution.
About the author:
A geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He's also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat by his fear that the term "distinguished" makes him sound like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still slightly more red than gray.

By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, and his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.

His magical wands and autographed copies of his books are available from the Firesmith’s Wand Shoppe.

1 comment:

M.A.D. said...

Oooh, Hell Holes sounds fantastic!!! - going on my list :)