March 14, 2016

What I learned after two years of indie publishing

Rage against the manuscript, Steff, Tr00 Metal Life, Writing Runes

the sunken steampunk novel

the sunken steampunk novel

I posted this on my private Facebook yesterday. I was actually just going to say, “Yay, 2 years since I published my first novel!” but it ended up being a bit more involved. A lot of friends messaged or commented to say it really helped or inspired them, so I thought you might enjoy it.

The image above is a picture of my book The Sunken on the shelf of Clockwork Steampunk Emporium in Wellington. I was down in the windy city over the weekend marrying some lovely people in a cemetery, and so I popped in to see my books in the wild for the first time ever. It’s a pretty incredible feeling, actually.

Anyway, read this little thing I wrote, if you want. And maybe share it with others if you think it might be inspiring or useful.


On this day two years ago I self-published my first ever novel: a silly satire horror tale about metalheads fighting in the apocalypse. It features some bizarrely absurd situations, terrible editing, and a lot of bad drummer jokes. To date, At War With Satan has sold less than 100 copies, and cost me more to produce than I’ll probably ever make back from its paltry royalties.

AWWS Ebook Cover

But publishing this book wasn’t about the money. It was an attempt to claim back some kind of confidence in my own work after years of constant rejections by publishers. It taught me that I didn’t have to ask permission to put something creative out in the world. It taught me that art is not made in publishing houses or writing workshops, it’s made by people like me, one word or stroke or movement at a time. I didn’t have to be Hemingway or Pratchett or Bradbury to find an audience. It taught me that I am good enough, just the way I am.

Two years, ten novels, 20k books sold and one USA-Today placing later, I am still not perfect. I am still not the writer I want to be, but I’m a hell of a lot closer. Every book is a step toward that goal, and along the way I’m picking up wonderful, amazing readers and meeting incredible writers and growing a thicker skin and learning so much and having the most fun ever. I am so INSANELY grateful to everyone who brought a copy of this book, or any of my books, or who shared stuff with their friends or who cheered me on – you gave me confidence that maybe I could really do this. Maybe I am not an imposter.

If you have a song to write, a story to tell, or some awesome idea you love, but you’re afraid of the next step, of not being good enough – then I reckon you should get it out there anyway. It’s as easy and as difficult as hitting PUBLISH. (Or the equivalent in your discipline). You can crash and burn, and that sucks, but it sucks even worse to hide behind fear.

Art doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to change the world. Maybe the only person it will change is you.

One of my favourite not-really-Van Gogh quotes is “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint’. Then by all means paint, and the voice will be silenced.”

Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”

And, in the immortal words of Chuck Wendig, “Art harder, motherfucker.”

Note: Please don’t go and buy At War With Satan. I’m releasing an updated version this year to fix some of the editing issues. Then I’m going to give it away for free, so you can grab a copy then, especially if you love drummer jokes. If you want to know when that gets released, then sign up for my newsletter (you get a couple of free books, too!).

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One Comment on “What I learned after two years of indie publishing

March 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Thank you. Just what I need to hear on a day of another rejection. I know my books are worth reading – even if only by a few people.

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