Picking Their Brains: Best Self-Publishing Advice to Help Authors Succeed

One of the perks of my obsession with fantasy books is stalking—I mean, getting to know—the authors themselves. You might not realize most of them are super friendly, helpful people who want their fellow authors to succeed as well. I asked a group of them the following question, and with almost no “persuading,” I was able to collect self-publishing advice from these experienced authors. 

What is something about self-publishing that is different than what you expected, or something about it you wish you’d figured out sooner?

The marketing can take as much or more time than the writing, if you’re not careful.” —Allan Batchelder, author of Steel, Blood & Fire

Ego is not a dirty word. If you dont believe that out of all the books in the world, yours is worth the time spent reading it then why put it out there at all?” —Sean E. Britten, author of Kill Switch

Never assume you’re alone in this market. Writing is almost always a solitary affair, and even more so as a self-published author, where you’re responsible for all the facets of publishing and marketing. No matter how easy other authors make it look, no matter what success you perceive in others, remember that they too have down days, doubts, fears, and that they too have stared for hours at somebody else’s progress and thought, “why isn’t that me?”. We authors may write solitarily, but we are all in the same boat, dealing with the same issues. Remembering that will keep you going and give you solace and encouragement when it’s most needed.” —Ben Galley, Fantasy Author & Self-Publishing Consultant, bengalley.com 

Write for you, first. Financial success is not assured, and self-doubt will cripple you quicker than a train-wreck if you let it. If you have a plan for something grand and sweeping, resolve from the outset that no matter what, it will get finished to the best of your ability.” —Matt Gilbert, author of The Dead God's Due

Abandon hope all who enter here. Expect nothing. While your family and friends are probably useless for practical editing and advice, they are essential for the emotional support you will need. And keep writing!” —David Hambling, author of The Elder Ice

Community is important. At any level of publishing and writing.” —Matthew Johnson, Professor Grimdark

Don’t rely on family and friends to promote your work. You’ll only be disappointed. Be prepared to spend resources: money, time, or both. Believe in yourself. Your family and friends may not provide any support at all (dare I say...especially if you’re a woman), but you have to follow your gut and MAKE time to make art.” —AM Justice, author of A Wizard’s Forge

If your publisher doesn’t want to do an audiobook, try to get the audiobook rights back and self-publish it!” —Christopher Keene, author of Gods of the Mountain

Don’t rely on family and friends for honest advice. They are biased and don’t want to hurt your feelings. GET AN EDITOR!!!” —Paul Lavender, author of The Eighth God

Get words on the page. Don’t worry about the right words, or the exact words, get the words down. Tell the story, push through, force your way to the end, don’t worry about whether it makes sense or has holes, that’s what revisions and development editors are for. Complete the first draft. GET THE WORDS ON THE PAGE.” —Megan Mackie, author of The Finder of the Lucky Devil 

Remember you are a writer first, and a marketer second. Also...maybe don’t make your first book a 600 page epic.” —Richard Nell, author of Kings of Paradise
Getting reviews is d#mn difficult, maybe 1 in 15 of the reviewers you contact will result in you getting a review.” —Martin Owton, author of Exile

Don’t expect to make a fortune on your fourth book or even fortieth. Write because you love to and succeed because your audience finds you.” —CT Phipps, author of Lucifer’s Star

“Force yourself to stand up every hour and do something active. Take good care of your hands. And—above all else—hire an editor, whether you need one or not.” —ML Spencer, author of The Rhenwars Saga

Write more. Write all the time. The idea is that people will read your work if they can see your name and keep up with your career. We get more attached to writers when we can read more than one book they have written. So keep typing, put out good work often. Keep your name out front with new releases. And when you are done writing, take a shot of whisky and get back to writing. And find friends. Help them, they will help you. Be proud of other people’s successes. No great art is created in a vacuum. Artists need to feed off of each other, to rub up against other people’s ideas and hear what other people have to say about the job they are doing. Talk to writers about writing. You will find that most of the time writers want to talk about this stuff all the time. And write more.” —Jesse Teller, author of The Manhunters

Review: Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer

Braden and Quin Reis share a tragic past, but it’s now up to them to save the future. When a secret conspiracy resorts to harnessing the powers of the Netherworld to save their legacy, Braden and Quin are the only mages capable of stopping them. But these two would-be heroes are compromised, harboring terrible secrets.

Can Braden and Quin put aside their differences long enough to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they relent and join the conspiracy?

Darkstorm is the prequel to the epic grimdark fantasy series The Rhenwars Saga. If you like morally gray antiheroes, page-turning action, and mind-boggling plot twists, then you’ll love Spencer’s award-winning series.

5 of 5 stars!  

Betrayal and failure infest this story, with scant moments of triumph. Spencer teases the reader with glimpses of success and hope, making for an experience that compels you to keep reading, to keep hoping the next plot will work out. It's unsettling, mesmerizing, and addictive.

I devoured this book. I read until my eyes were soupy. I had some vague understanding of where things would end up, and I desperately needed to see how it unfolded. I had started with Darkmage, the first book in The Rhenwars Saga, then backed up and read this prequel. There were some things I liked about doing it this way. Darkstorm takes place a thousand years earlier, and thus shows the origins of some of the artifacts and traditions you find in Darkmage. It was cool, knowing where these circumstances would lead, but if you want a truly spoiler-free experience with this series, then start with Darkstorm

Those Reis brothers! What can I say about them? They have some issues for sure. I am impressed they still talk to each other after finding out the history that went down between them. Their relationship is fraught with conspiracy and tragedy. 

While Braden is more of an optimist and one to take action, Quin has a tendency to be consumed with cynicism, but he keeps going despite all the odds, because he does love his brother deep down and wishes he could feel more like his equal. 

Darkstorm really explores extreme choices made with good intentions, how small actions conceived in self-preservation can lead to dire consequences. It's an excellent exploration in moral ambiguity. It teases that line of when and how to defy the rules, that point where justice lives more within revolution than institution. While the sympathetic characters are generally from one side of this conflict, it's clear that both sides are desperately trying to do what they think is right, and the fate of their entire existence is at stake.  

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads

Review: Melokai by Rosalyn Kelly

Legendary warrior Ramya has successfully ruled as Melokai for longer than most. Prosperous, peaceful, and happy, her people love her. Or so she thinks.

Ramya’s time is up. Bracing herself for the gruesome sentence imposed on all Melokais who have served their purpose, she hears instead a shocking prophecy.

Is the abrupt appearance of a mysterious, eastern cave creature the prophesied danger? Or is it something darker, more evil? And what of the wolves? Will the ferocious war with their kind oust her from power?

Suddenly Ramya must fight threats from all sides to save her mountain realm. But while her back is turned, a conspiracy within her inner circle is festering. Ramya and her female warriors must crush an epic rebellion before it can destroy her and devastate her beloved nation.

She thinks it’s the end, but it’s just the beginning...

4 of 5 stars

Melokai introduces us to a brutal world of tribal nations with unique races and strange customs. The Melokai is the ruler of the Peqkya society. Their tendencies are very bestial, although their appearance is human. It's a misandrous society, where men are second-class citizens and vulnerable to extreme punishments for slight mistakes. Cats are a big part of their lives, including cats that can speak. The Peqkya culture is very detailed, complex, and violent. It's an excellent display of a culture that combines human instincts, rash consequences, and animalistic survival traits.

This is a violent world, even in sexual arenas. To me it felt like an indication of the state of the societies, or the shortness of tempers, rather than being gratuitous.

The different races in this world are humanoid-animal blends, some leaning more toward humans and others leaning more toward the animal. The wolf tribes operate much like wolves, living in small packs with an alpha male and female. They are territorial and very protective of their land and their pack members. Beyond that, we don't see much detail about their customs and traditions, which lent to an off-balanced feeling.

And that's really my only criticism of this work, it lacks a consistency of richness. The Peqkya culture comes alive, while some of the other cultures feel a bit flat or seem to be based mostly on stereotypes. So, there's a kind of unevenness in the immersion.

There's a desert society based around camels, which has it's own religion and conniving royal politics. There's a distant tribe of pygmies. And one society is a kingdom of humans, complete with king & queen, knights and princesses.

There are a lot of POV characters and a few plotlines left open. Only one climax really comes to fruition in this book, which leaves the author several threads to develop further in the series, and left this reader really wishing to see more of where things are going.

I absolutely loved Melokai Ramya. I can understand there's some debate about whether she brings on herself the plots that scheme against her, but I thought she was a very relatable character who wants the best for her people.

I very much enjoyed Rosalyn Kelly's writing style and look forward to the sequel!

You can find Melokai here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.