The official blog of Michael J. Bode, author of the Kindle Top 10 novel, The Queen of Lies. Includes writing advice, commentary, reviews, and news about upcoming releases.
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After almost two years of being a starving artist and contractor, I finally landed a full-time job at a wonderful organization and I couldn’t be happier. Now that writing is officially back to being a hobby, I can safely unload about it as a career. There is a certain mystique to being an author. It ...continue reading "Hard Truths No Indie Author Will Admit to His...
After almost two years of being a starving artist and contractor, I finally landed a full-time job at a wonderful organization and I couldn’t be happier. Now that writing is officially back to being a hobby, I can safely unload about it as a career.
There is a certain mystique to being an author. It felt strange telling people that's what I did at first but it was true. I had written a book and had no other source of gainful income. I was a real author, if not a famous one.
I’ve had friends proudly tell their friends that they’re in the presence of a “published author” as if that were a big deal. As someone who’s lived it I have more sympathy than awe for my fellow writers.
Invariably the conversation turns, as all things do, toward money. “How are book sales?” is a common question. You don’t get in other professions as it is basically the equivalent of asking “How much do you make?”
As an author, you’re in a difficult spot. If you say the real number, you come off looking like a failure. So, I defaulted to some version of positive spin like, “I had my best sales month ever.” Without any mention of how low the bar is.
First, it is Actually Kind of a Big Deal
Anyone can self-publish, true. And trad-publishing is no guaranteed seal of quality. But even your worst hack author, actually finished something and took the leap of putting it out there. That alone deserves respect for the level of discipline, courage, and dedication it takes to write a book.
If your definition of “good sales” is a sustainable income and widespread readership, then they were... awful.
In 2016 I made around $392. I sold 223 books plus roughly half that in other revenue (KDP). My top seller remains my first book, which outsells the second and third book combined. At this rate, if I don’t smoke and exercise regularly, I may earn back the money I invested in cover and editing before I die. I’ll be cutting it close.
If your definition of “good sales” is selling more than most people, then my first book was a modest success, at least in the Kindle store.
My book has been a near permanent fixture in the top 10% of Amazon’s LGBT Fantasy category which includes Anne Rice and Richard K. Morgan in addition to a bunch of books about Alpha werewolves. I’ve made it as high as the top 10 in the category. I’ve never dipped below a million in Amazon sales rank… which is the limit of how many titles Amazon counts (officially anyway).
Book one is currently selling better than some of Tor.com’s new fantasy releases… as eBooks, anyway. That's not nothing.
Was it Rewarding?
A few people really got the books and that feels amazing when they share their experiences. But mostly there were crickets.
I was more worried about negative reviews but no one ever said a harsh word. Someone who hated the book had ample fodder to take it down. I mean aside from typos, there was a scene where a woman masturbated in front of her prison guards. Still, it got good critical reviews and a 4.26 rating on Goodreads which is much harsher than Amazon.
But interaction with my readers was minimal.
That was probably the hardest thing to deal with. Being alone all day, living on a shoestring budget and writing into the evening… it stopped being fun especially through the second book. Every writer secretly, or not so secretly, loves to talk about their work.
But you don't want to be that person who's always blabbing about their book to people who don't want to read it. And it's poor form to discuss your writing with other authors, where there can be claims of intellectual property infringement. It also seems needy and self-promotional so it's forbidden in online communities. So, I really had no other human being to discuss my work with besides the editor that I paid.
Around the middle of book two I broke my knee and my life sort of spiraled into depression.
If My First Book Was a Bestseller I Would Have Been Insufferable
You know how everything happens for a reason and all you have to do is want something badly enough? Yeah, right.
Looking back, I probably would have pulled a complete Hugh Howey and rubbed my success in all of your faces as I wrote about travelling the world in my boat and encouraging others to follow in my non-repeatable path to fortune and success.
Being broke and unsuccessful is a humbling experience for someone used to easy success. It’s not just that I didn’t hit the bestsellers lists (… yet) but also, I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had a job.
I was reckless with money in way that I would never be again. Hand-tailored shirts hung like museum pieces in my closet as I shambled around my apartment in sweatpants, living on a diet of boxed wine and TV dinners.
It was a reality check, and one I badly needed.
The depression, the unhappiness… that was all there before. Stripping away the dual distractions of a medium-powered career and a never-ending stream of shiny new possessions put me face-to-face with my demons.
Would I Do It All Over?
I came out of the last two years remarkably unscathed and in a better place than when I started. Given distance and perspective it would be hard to call “following my dreams” a mistake even though they didn’t end up taking me where I thought they would. It absolutely could have ended worse if not for some good luck.
I wrote and published three more books than the average American; two more than the average novelist. Nothing will ever take that away from me.
Is there any upside to all of this?
Your business losses are tax deductible so if you’re frugal, which I wasn’t, your first book is basically free. I got a way bigger tax return when I cut my salary in half.
Also, putting “independent author” on my LinkedIn profile landed me my first independent consulting gig which eventually landed me a job. The manager needed someone with my unused technical skills and sent me an email with the headline “How are book sales?”
Will You Still Write?
Yes... I'm just not sure what.
As it stands my next series, Age of Wonders, is on hold. The books are set in partly in this universe in 2020 at the earliest. It's not a world where I can just give everyone better smartphones and allude to a female president. I need to see where this goes because I think the events will prove stranger than fiction.
So... Maybe a short story?
For a limited time all three books in the Architects series are on sale for $0.99! The series is a blend of Epic Fantasy, political intrigue, mystery, and sharp humor (and a pinch of sci fi) that follows the stories of deeply flawed heroes as they struggle to save humanity. You'll meet a gay alcoholic ...continue reading "Special Offer: Architects of The Grand...
For a limited time all three books in the Architects series are on sale for $0.99!
The series is a blend of Epic Fantasy, political intrigue, mystery, and sharp humor (and a pinch of sci fi) that follows the stories of deeply flawed heroes as they struggle to save humanity. You'll meet a gay alcoholic wizard, a fallen priest turned assassin, and a sentient sword... to name a few.
As any indie author knows it can be hard to tout the strengths of your own work when you're also your own worst critic. It's one thing for a marketing team to call you a "fresh voice in fantasy"... it's quite another to say that to another human being with a straight face. I've struggled ...continue reading "Writing Product Descriptions for Fake...
As any indie author knows it can be hard to tout the strengths of your own work when you're also your own worst critic. It's one thing for a marketing team to call you a "fresh voice in fantasy"... it's quite another to say that to another human being with a straight face.
I've struggled with this heavily in my own work since the Architects series relies so much on misdirection. The books start out like one thing (an unsolved murder and a political agenda) but rapidly evolve into another story all together.
So I decided to practice writing compelling blurbs (technically they're called "product descriptions", not blurbs) by writing hard sell descriptions for fake terrible books. This was inspired by one of my all time favorite tumblrs, Liar Town USA.
I designed the covers with canva.
Why bring a gun when you can bring a cannon?
Lou Shepherd is porn-star turned cop who plays by his own rules, using his street smarts and massive penis to solve some of Los Angeles’s toughest murder cases.
Unfortunately using a penis to solve crimes isn’t very efficient (and is actually a conduct violation in nearly all cases). Lou’s boss, a grizzled police chief, immediately takes him off the Ripper case and orders him into mandatory sexual harassment sensitivity classes and a twelve step program.
There, Lou meets a colorful cast of sex addicts who have destroyed their lives with poor choices, leaving them incapable of forming meaningful intimate relationships. Lou will have to control his urges when he meets his elderly sponsor, a former nun with a checkered past… that she discloses candidly in group discussion.
Will Lou be able to keep it in his pants long enough to complete the mandated number of hours of counseling? Will he find absolution on his thoughtful journey to recovery? Will he be able to find… love?
Meanwhile a mastermind serial killer is chopping up hookers and leaving cryptic clues to his next victim. But the other police are handling that during Lou’s suspension.
You’re an author. You have the vision, but you need the audience and you don’t know how to make it to the next level.
Don’t worry, the field of publishing is highly competitive and many authors struggle with visibility. This book will teach you how to break through those barriers of obscurity and become a top-selling author. The secret? Become a celebrity.
Many authors seek to become famous from writing but consider this. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are more people earning living wages as hand models and subway buskers than there are people making a living at publishing novels.
It took J.K Rowling years and hundreds of rejections before she was finally published. But just imagine if she had been a controversial talk show host, prominent cat blogger, or the first female CEO of a Fortune 100 company before she wrote Harry Potter. Literary agents would have beaten down her door!
You don’t have to be professional athlete or musical genius. There are tons of ways to become a celebrity: actors, politicians, and YouTube vloggers can all leverage the secret power of fame.
You may already be famous and not even know it. Did you have a child acting career you struggle every day to repress through drug abuse? Did you know that there are over twenty officially recognized monarchies that you may be well be in line for? You can even use your relatives’ fame.
What’s more, this book is 100% guaranteed to boost book sales or your money back. Just mail us an US Weekly or People magazine cover featuring you and we will refund you the full $2.99… NO QUESTIONS ASKED!
The seventh edition of Terrible Places Tallahassee is your personal key to the gate of existential hell that is Florida’s capital. Terrible Place’s most cynical and jaded team of local insiders thoroughly eviscerate the shitty restaurants, awful nightlife, and depressing sightseeing of one of Florida’s least notable major cities.
In this guide you’ll all the cheapest and least offensive places to conduct perfunctory social business before your rapid departure. Whether you’re visiting your least favorite son at Florida State University or picking up a gently used recreational vehicle, we will make your visit as painless as possible while pointing out all the things to make fun of to your civilized friends in respectable urban areas.
At Terrible Places we understand that travel isn’t a luxury… it’s mostly an inconvenient necessity.
So I'm a flash fiction anthology. I struggle with short form stories but for some odd reason I love writing flash fiction. Three hundred words to build a world, introduce a character and tell some kind of story with a beginning middle and an end. My profanity-laden entry, Mile High, deals asks the question: What ...continue reading "Flight – A Queer Sci Fi Anthology of Flash Fiction out...
So I'm a flash fiction anthology. I struggle with short form stories but for some odd reason I love writing flash fiction. Three hundred words to build a world, introduce a character and tell some kind of story with a beginning middle and an end.
My profanity-laden entry, Mile High, deals asks the question: What would happen if Skynet was actually a self aware porn server with dreams of world domination. 300 words is the perfect length to explore a fun throwaway idea. Warning: It's really NSFW. (Mom, dad... you may want to sit this one out)
It was also a departure from my usual fantasy fare. Check it out if you want to sample work by LGBTQ writers. You're certain to find something you like... possibly even a new author to follow. If you don't it's only 300 words.
Check it out:
The 2016 Queer Sci Fi Flash Fiction anthology, "Flight", is here, and I have a story in it! It's a really cool concept:
A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.
Queer Sci Fi's Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. "Flight" leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.
Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.
The book us available in eBook form (4.99), and will soon be available in paperback with b/w illustrations inside (12.99) and in a special collector's edition with color illustrations (24.99).
The third and final book in my trilogy will be released on ...October 12th. Mark your calendars or add the launch to Facebook. Over the course of the series the characters have grown from hapless pawns in the schemes of others into players in their own right. Set fifteen years later, the book introduces us ...continue reading "Book Release: The Blade of...
The third and final book in my trilogy will be released on ...October 12th. Mark your calendars or add the launch to Facebook.
Over the course of the series the characters have grown from hapless pawns in the schemes of others into players in their own right. Set fifteen years later, the book introduces us to a new generation, most notably, Jessa's son.
For the last fifteen years, the once despotic Empire of Thrycea has flourished under the rule of its benevolent empress. The people are free and life-giving magic promises prosperity for all. When she’s murdered at sea, the fledgling democracy falls into chaos and its enemies close in from every direction.
Her estranged son and sole heir, Torin, is forced to flee as his mother’s hidden enemies come after him as well. High above the seas, the floating city of Archea has encased itself in a magical barrier with no explanation. Old grudges return and their enemy could make anyone betray their allies.
The champions are outmatched at every turn and find themselves bit players in a long running battle for absolute world domination.
Who are the Architects and what is their Grand Design?
I know it's been a while since I updated the blog so I'm going to get in what I can while I type. I've been hard at work on book three and it is headed to the Amazon store immanently. This is the third and final book for this series, but there may be another ...continue reading "Cover Reveal for Architects Of The Grand Design...
I know it's been a while since I updated the blog so I'm going to get in what I can while I type. I've been hard at work on book three and it is headed to the Amazon store immanently. This is the third and final book for this series, but there may be another in the same universe on the horizon.
I'm toying with a lot of other ideas as I go into the Fall including a screenplay and a graphic novel. I am taking this time to explore creative possibilities as well as look for a day job. (Long story short: Full time writing wasn't for me but I still like writing.)
In honor of the third book I've worked with the incredible Inkspiral Design to re-design the covers and give the books a little more genre specific branding. The books aren't about just one character-- they are about diverse, damaged people coming together to fight against tyranny, oppression and the darker side of themselves.
I've learned a lot about my craft working through these books. When I wrote The Queen of Lies I wanted to tell a intricate story that defied the common tropes in writing. It was ambitious for a first novel... and based on the reviews, it worked. I'm glad I kept the stories self-contained because I don't think I could keep up with a saga that sprawled over multiple books (G.R.R. Martin is apparently struggling with this)
After I quit my day job I started on the Mirrored City. This book was a departure from the first: it was much darker and the cast nearly doubled. It's a little overwhelming in the beginning but for readers who stuck it out to the end were delighted. Sales were weak and reviews were not as strong. At the time I had broken my knee and fell into a depression. I did very little to promote it because of general disillusionment and also because I wanted a third book before I invested in marketing.
The Blade of Betrayal, like the Queen of Lies began its existence as another book entirely first (The Lord of Storms). 60k words into the book I scrapped it entirely. LoS was out there-- time travel, alternate realities... I ultimately had to scrap it totally. The next draft was my first time using an outline. I kept the writing brief and the stories simpler. I couldn't be more pleased with how the character arcs mirrored and intertwined each other almost seamlessly. From now on, no more writing by the seat of my pants.
Which brings me to my first Trilogy complete. So, most likely before Halloween I will have four books in the Amazon store.
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