I may have mentioned before that my peaceful oak-shaded street in St. Petersburg has a simmering rivalry, threatening to upset the neatly laid Augusta Block separating two modest homes. You see, a few months after my family moved onto the avenue, another writer moved in directly across the street. Nathan Van Coops is a time travel adventure author, newly married with no kids, a cool motorcycle (as opposed to an uncool motorcycle) and a garage full of toy swords, Nerf guns, punching bags and boomerangs. When that door swings up, my six year old son can sense it from a mile away.
When I met Nate, he had two books out, In Times Like These and The Chronothon. Being one book ahead of me, he was the perfect study in all the theories I’ve been reading about and implementing (and preaching in this blog) when it came to self-publishing. With that second book, he had the proverbial “sales funnel” with the first book in the series “free” leading readers to purchase his second book. Nathan had done all the right things: meeting other authors in his genre, getting on podcasts, promoting his book on social media, and even landing a coveted BookBub advertising slot (a topic for another day). He also sets up a tent at indie markets and festivals, hawking not only his books, but related compasses, hats, and other paraphernalia. When he isn't fixing airplanes and cruising the streets on a vintage Honda, the man hustles. He makes an actual income with his books, worthy of reporting to the IRS (at least I hope he's reporting it because I just outed him). He’s proof that good writing combined with hard work does indeed pay off.
Last week Nathan released the third book in his series, The Day After Never, completing his trilogy which follows the adventures of Ben Travers, an unlikely and likable time traveler. And like a good neighbor, Nathan invited me to be a part of his book launch party. Only this party wasn’t held in a bookstore or restaurant banquet room. It took place on Facebook. Some of you may have attended a Facebook party before, but this was my first and I had no idea what to expect.
I mentioned that Nathan is a hard worker, so for his online soiree he lined up a who’s who of indie science fiction writers and self publishing gurus, and then threw in contests for free Kindles, gift cards, and, of course, free books. I was honored to be part of his lineup of author-chats, giving readers and writers and chance to ask questions. On top of all this, Nathan used Facebook Live to make the updates more interesting. It was very hard for me to resist sending my two small children over to bang on his door during his live updates. For about 10 hours he held this online shindig together. The man must have a bladder of steel and I’m not sure he ate.
Why do all this work on your release day? Once you’ve published a book, don’t you pour yourself a bourbon and watch as your brilliance is discovered?
Over the course of the day hundreds of people cruised the party, many of whom were authors and bloggers with their own audiences. Nathan’s new book was getting shared with the exact audience that is the market for self-published books. And the end of the day, he’d reached #3 in Science Fiction/Time Travel, ahead of some guy named Stephen King, and behind Rysa Walker, a formerly self published author who has two books camped out at the top the chart. He reached the top 500 of all Amazon books, which may not sound like much, but is really impressive when you consider the sheer volume of books out there.
Why is this important? Why is it exciting? Because success in self publishing isn’t some theoretical idea that only happens to EL James and Andy Weir. This isn’t a lottery but also success isn’t guaranteed. But I do guarantee that if you have a good story, good writing and you work hard, you will be successful. In self-publishing there is no gatekeeper to stop you. You’re it. You’re writer, typesetter, head of marketing, final editor and lead publicist.
To see what this looks like in action, I encourage you to look at Nathan Van Coops on Amazon. Check out his author page, and the pages for each book. Buy them and see what a properly self-published book looks like. He’s also got one book’s audio version on Audible, with the other two coming along soon. Download In Times Like These for free and see what happens when Ben Travers and his buddies are accidentally sent to 1980s St. Petersburg. Check out The Chronothon where Ben finds himself in a Hunger Games-esque time travel race, and then get the dimension bending The Day After Never, in which Ben Travers is missing… and Ben Travers must find Ben Travers. These are meaty books, executed perfectly from writing, to editing, to cover design, to publishing and marketing.