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Hindsight is 20/20: My First Year in Self-Publishing

Homer Simpson on Publishing

You said it, Homer.

“What’s it like to be a self-published author?”

Boy, that’s a loaded question if I ever saw one. Someone on KBoards asked a similar question, “What was your first year of publication like?” and I answered with the following .gif:

Whiny Kuzco

I’d say that’s probably the most accurate account for most self-published authors who went into the publishing and writing industry as blindly as I did. They say that life is a rat race. Self-publishing is a rat race where every wrong turn means you get electrocuted and when you do find a scrap of cheese, you have to fight all the other rats in a switch blade match to the death. Okay, maybe not that bad, but close enough.

I suppose most of these types of posts always begin with the author bragging about the number of books they’ve sold. I can’t really do that. There’s not much to brag about. I’m not making it rain on hookers and blow. I’ve only actually been making a profit off my work since April, and even then, it’s only been enough to buy me dinner every once in a while. But for the sake of advice, let me give you some estimated numbers via BookTrackr for all three of my books, which includes two novels and a short story collection.

Copies Sold: 653

Free Copies Sold: 4,978

Reviews: 58

Books Borrowed/Lent: 25

Money Earned Since 1st Publication Date: $383

See? Nothing to brag about here. I hate seeing blog posts where the author goes on and on about the thousands of readers they have and all the money they’ve made like it’s the most boring, regular thing in the world. Millionaire bestselling Richard Castle-esque authors are NOT the norm. Most of us struggle and struggle hard with getting anywhere within a year of publication. But that’s not what the mass media wants to tell you. That’s not what Writer’s Digest wants to tell you. That’s not what millions of authors on Twitter want to tell you. They want you to believe we’re all J.K. Rowling and it’s easy as pie to poop out a bestselling series and walk on water with your fancy hair blowing in the wind because you are an author in the modern world.



I’ve had to claw and scratch for literally every single copy I’ve sold of any of my three books. I’ve invested what a very unimpressed H&R Block accountant estimated to be nearly $800 in creating, writing, marketing, and advertising my novels, all for a paltry $383, some of which has yet to be paid to me since Amazon only pays you at the end of every month.  I’ve asked every available source I could get for help, and I’m still failing to make sales and gain readers. This is the ugly, seedy part of the business that no one wants to talk about because it sucks. Being a self-published author sucks. Don’t let anyone convince you of otherwise. You are a lone wolf, zipping through the forest trying to find your next meal because them rabbit suckers are fast and you have more than enough competition. Actually, now that I think about it, self-publishing is basically the equivalent of being Wile E. Coyote.

That being said, it’s also pretty great sometimes.

For example, one of the things they don’t tell you is that it actually doesn’t take a hell of a lot to be able to use the title “Amazon Bestselling Author.” If you choose your category carefully, market to just the right people, and get a little support on your various social media, you can actually make it to the Top 100 Amazon in only a couple hundred free sales. It’s a permanent status bump. You can advertise it on anything you wish. Make a coffee mug. Rent a giant billboard and plaster it on there. Run out into the streets and spin your arms like Maria and shout it to random strangers until the cops come. I fully admit that I have a couple dozen screenshots of my books in the Top 10 Amazon Bestselling Novel categories because it is one of those rewards that has nothing to do with money and is just for me. Because, for me, it’s not about that. It’s about something that I care deeply about being put into the hands of readers. That’s my only goal. I want to connect with people.

If you’ve read this far into the blog post, you can gather that I’m pretty awkward. I don’t know how to talk to people or explain things without using nerdy references or weird comparisons. But the one thing I can do—the one thing I was put on this earth to do correctly—is write stories. Even though this career path sucks, I am still doing what I love every day: telling stories. Sure, not everyone cares, and not everyone will like my stories, but I am still moving inch by crawling inch towards that end goal of being discovered by the many readers of the world. I squealed like a little girl when I saw that a handful of people in the UK have bought my books.  I still bounce up and down on my bed when I get the very rare kind, detailed review. I take a shameful selfie with the paperback copies of my novel when they finally arrive, fresh off the printing press. I dollop copious amounts of affection on anyone kind enough to talk to me on Twitter about anything even vaguely related to writing.

Overall, I’d have to say self-publishing is the best worst thing I’ve ever done.

And so, with that in mind, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

-Don’t bother with Facebook ads. They are a money pit and a waste of time.

-KBoards is the kingdom of heaven in terms of advice on self-published marketing.

-Social media is a time-suck and should be used sparingly.

-Goodreads is a great place to meet readers and help build, organize, and grow your own library as well as helping you slip into other people’s libraries.

-Bookbub is just as much a gatekeeper as literary agents in the traditional publishing world.

-There is no answer to the “self-publishing vs. traditional publishing” debate. We’re in this together. Don’t fight. Just discuss your differences and try not to step on each other’s toes.

-Amazon is awesome, but it’s like a giant Great Dane in a field of puppies. Snuggle up against it for warmth, but make sure you have an evacuation plan in case it goes rogue.

-Go with your instincts, but also realize that you’re going to be wrong a lot. Listen to other people who know more than you, and obey whenever possible if you think they’re right. Chances are, it’ll help you more than you will ever know.

-Always be gracious to anyone who takes the time out to speak to you, offer perspective, or shows interest in your work. Word may spread and benefit you in the future.

-Blog tours are useful for SEO links to your book, and not much else.

-Mailing lists apparently only work if you are Jesus.

-Book covers are hard to find and expensive to get, but the right ones are worth their weight in gold.

-Editing is the Britta of the writing process, but you have to deal with it anyway.

-Readers are fickle and unpredictable and there is nothing you can do about it. You can write shit or a masterpiece and they will never agree as to which one your book actually is.

-Your extended family is never going to care about your work like you do. They can’t, unless they are writers themselves. Don’t be offended. Just accept it and move on.

-Chuck Wendig was right. It takes as long as it takes to make it. Don’t compare your lack of success to other authors’ success, even though it’s tempting.

-Write your butt off. And then keep writing.

I leave you with the ever-inspiring words of Yoko Kanno. Here’s to another year of self-publishing. I’m going to make it if it kills me. Just gotta knock a little harder next time.

-Kyoko M.

Why I Quit Supernatural

Supernatural poster

A handful of you follow me on Twitter, so you might be aware that tonight, after the ninth season finale, I quit Supernatural–a show I became aware of two years ago and then promptly became so disappointed in that I threw in the towel before the show even got canceled. Well, if only for my own sanity, I’m going to tell you why.

Because when I started this show, it was about two brothers fighting evil, not two brothers fighting each other over the same issue over and over again.

Because when I started this show, it was about both Dean and Sam, not just Dean and how “awesome” the writers and the fandom think he is.

Because it used to make me think, make me feel, make me laugh, make me cry, make me hope, make me wonder.

Because Dean Winchester used to be a complicated, sympathetic big brother with Daddy issues, not a selfish, cowardly, arrogant prick who constantly thinks he knows better than his “little brother.”

Because Sam Winchester used to be an angry boy trying to step out of his brother’s shadow, and now he’s an angry man who keeps a holding pattern in a destructive, abusive relationship with someone incapable of letting him go.

Because it used to stretch up into the stars and pluck out ideas and spread them out on a map and make us chase after them to find the answers they left for us.

Because it used to have memorable, important, vibrant characters from all walks of life.

Because it used to respect the female gender and wrote women with purpose, great backstories, fantastic delivery, and colorful personalities instead of the same boring women copy/pasted and killed off just to make the Winchesters guilty.

Because it used to be able to keep up with its own continuity and wove in threads between seasons like a great tapestry should.

Because it used to have one-liners that made me laugh so hard, I had to pause the video and tweet about it.

Because it used to creep me out so badly that I couldn’t look in a mirror for weeks after watching “Bloody Mary.”

Because it used to know how to break the fourth wall, or paint it, or lean on it, without having to rely on memes or outdated pop culture references.

Because it used to have monsters I never heard of from all kinds of cultures and (except for those lame-ass vampires) made them bold and intriguing.

Because Sam left his own brother in Purgatory for a year just to hook up with some bland girl and a dog.

Because Dean chose a stupid, uninteresting, stereotypical Cajun vampire over his brother because “Benny never betrayed me” despite the fact that Dean has only lived this long thanks to his real brother.

Because Dean constantly chooses to “die alone” instead of trusting the one person on this earth who has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has the strength and intelligence to fight and save the world.

Because the writers are so busy trying to wink at the camera with Meta-Metatron that they don’t see what a pathetic, badly-paced, horribly written, sickeningly sexist script they wrote for season nine.

Because I used to look up to this show and proudly wear the t-shirts my brother bought me for my birthday with Dean, Cas, and Sam on them, and now I shove them to the back of my closet in shame.

Because Sam and Dean were once two normal guys with a bad home life trying to make things right, and now they are just hollow zombies of what they once were because the CW doesn’t want to lose 12 million viewers rather than ending a show that shouldn’t have made it past season seven.

Because I would rather quit now, when I hate everything this show has become, than force myself to see how much more terrible it can become before the end.

Because as much as I love Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, and Mark Sheppard, I’d rather put the series to rest than risk losing respect for them as actors for continuing to work on such a rancid show.

Because I loved this show when I started it, now I couldn’t care less about it.

Because I just watched a psychotic angel stab Dean Winchester in the chest, and I felt absolutely nothing.

Because there is no more wonder for the Winchesters to explore.

Because it is the only show on network television in 2014 that does not have a main female cast member (and I don’t care if it’s the studio being cheap, the fandom being a bunch of nasty bitches, or the writers being sexist, that is fucking unacceptable).

Because I’d rather not see if the writers sink low enough to make “Destiel” canon just because majority the fandom says that’s the way it should be.

Because it hurts to see a show I once respected in the highest regard for its originality, zest for the occult, and unapologetic tinkering with well-known tropes fall so far and continue to crawl through the mud like a mongrel.

It is for these reasons, and so many more, that I say goodbye to Supernatural tonight. You were great, once upon a time. But I can’t do this anymore. I can’t pretend that you aren’t a ghost. So I will burn your bones and salt the earth to let you go.

After all, you’ve been dead for years.

You just didn’t know it.



Kyoko M.


On Bat-Affleck

In the midst of the news that Man of Steel 2: Electric Bugaloo or Spotlight Stealing Squad or whatever the hell they’re calling the Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman movie is getting pushed back to 2016 (which I called a year ago and am smugly prancing around my apartment like a ponce since it was announced), I feel it’s necessary to give my thoughts on the matter. This is just my opinion and no more. It has nothing to do with the rest of my blog. I’m going to break my usual form and give my personal take on the manner, considering the fact that I’ve been a fan of Batman since I was about six years old and I have personally modeled myself after him.

I’m livid.

Beyond livid, if we’re being honest.

However, I’ve had enough time to calm down and rationally explain why I believe Ben Affleck is a horrible choice for the Caped Crusader.

First off, I mean no disrespect to him or any of his fans. If you’re excited about it, hooray for you. In fact, I don’t even think Affleck is that bad an actor. I think he’s alright.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think they chose Affleck because he’d be a good Batman. DC/Warner Bros announced at San Diego Comic Con that the World’s Finest movie would be out in 2015. So, think about it: they announced the release of a movie almost exactly two years before it would come out…and it’s not even in pre-production. Hell, I don’t even recall hearing the rumor of there being a script yet. All they had at the time was Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill. Then, at the press release for Bat-Affleck’s reveal, they claimed production would start in 2014. That means they are attempting to make a high budget superhero film in less than the standard two years it takes to make a summer blockbuster.

It is my personal opinion that DC/WB panicked. Just…flat out panicked because they’re so focused on making money and “competing” with The Avengers/Marvel that they made a hasty, stupid decision. I’m in the geek circuit. I did not hear anything about auditions for the new Batman. NOTHING. I don’t even think they bothered looking. They just put the word out and the first big star to say yes (notably, AFTER Christian Bale said no) is who they chose.

This infuriates me to my absolute core.

What DC/WB doesn’t seem to understand is two things: (1) why the Avengers is so profitable and (2) that the DC fanboys and fangirls don’t want a World’s Finest movie if it’s rushed and slapped together.

The Avengers became the third highest grossing domestic film in the United States for dozens of reasons–great casting, great directing, a fantastic script, gorgeous effects, and a general sense of fun and camaraderie between the actors, production team, and the fans. But here’s the main reason: Marvel actually seems to give a crap about the fans. They listen. They took their time and they picked the actors who fit the characters, and who would do the characters we love justice. Do you know why they could afford to do this? Well, that’s part two. Marvel knows that we will wait for it. Marvel understands that fans WANT to see the Avengers represented as awesomely as they appear in the comics, and that they don’t need to slap together a title and some actors and shove it out on the silver screen just to make money. Marvel knows that if they make a quality film, we WILL go see it. So they made one. They got one of the best writers/directors around and they did the damn thing, and they didn’t care what DC decided to do in retaliation.

Whereas DC sat with its thumb up its ass, snootily believing that the Batman franchise would carry them through the next decade. The Nolan Batman trilogy was nothing short of brilliant, but guess what? That’s the only good thing on DC’s recent hero track record, until Man of Steel came along. They seemed to not realize this fact until Iron Man 3 came out and kicked the 2013 box office in the face with a big smile. So they panicked and they said to themselves, “Oh my gosh, guys, if we don’t do something quick, Avengers II is going to win 2015 and since we literally have not even tried to make films for any other members of the Justice League, we’d better do something about it! Uh, yes, we’re totally going to make a Batman/Superman movie a mere three years after the Nolan film! No need to actually take our time like we did with Henry Cavill and narrow down our choices so that we pick someone who looks, sounds like, and can embody one of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. Just slap a mask on anyone with a square chin and we’ll be golden!”

I mean it. It is 2014. We have no Flash, no Wonder Woman (independently, anyway), no Hawkman, no Martian Manhunter, no Aquaman, no Green Arrow, no Black Canary, and Green Lantern’s been in the freaking Phantom Zone because everyone hated the movie so much that they can’t decide if that universe even exists anymore. There was no attempt in the Man of Steel movie to create any sense of continuity. Why? Because DC doesn’t have faith in its own damn work, and it has even less faith in us fans. That is unacceptable. They believe in the “wait and see” approach, and that is what is killing their brand and their profits. They waited to see how all of the Avengers’ solo films would do, and then they waited to see how the Avengers would do, and then they waited to see the response to the Avengers II plot and character reveals, and now all of the sudden they want to act because they want their piece of the pie. No. That is not how you should be treating a franchise and characters that have been beloved since the 1930’s.

You hire people who are right for the job. You read the damn comics. You talk to the fans. You listen to the criticism that you have received from your previous films. You sit down and you do your damn homework and you make a great film. It’s that damned simple. If you do all of that, THEN you get to make a billion dollars globally. I’m not saying DC needs to copy Marvel’s exact methods. They need to understand what Marvel is doing correctly and emulate that if they want any of the other heroes aside from Batman to make money and do well.

Having said all of that, I’ll now address my problem with Ben Affleck.

He’s not Batman.

Just…he’s really not.

Now, this isn’t to say all the men who have played Batman in the past via the silver screen have been Batman. However, each of them brought some aspect of Bruce Wayne to the table that you can at least argue is true to the character. For instance, Michael Keaton brought the intensity to Batman, but he was a pretty lousy Bruce. Val Kilmer brought the quiet intelligence and tortured soul of Bruce, but he was a lousy Batman. George Clooney brought the playboy aspect, but he sucked as both Bruce and Batman. Christian Bale perfected Bruce Wayne and played an excellent Batman, but he did miss a few beats here and there with his voice problems.

What in the hell is Ben Affleck going to bring to the table?

That’s what made me so angry when I heard the news. I’ve watched some Affleck films. The guy is a good comedic actor and a decent dramatic actor. But he looks and sounds nothing like any incarnation of Bruce Wayne that I can even try to picture in my head. I’m not talking about physicality alone. I’m talking about presence. Ben Affleck could walk up to me in my room right now and wrap his hands around my neck and threaten me, and honestly? I really don’t think I’d be all that intimidated. It’s not just the buttchin and the big blue eyes. The way he walks, the way he carries himself, the way I’ve seen him act in other roles, is why I’m against him as Batman. I simply cannot see him putting on the mask and actually scaring superstitious cowardly lots of criminals.

It is here that I have to bring up a tiring discussion that will no doubt make some fanboys hate me: Daredevil.

I hated that movie.

Granted, not with a passion. More like disdain. I just thought it was badly written, poorly shot, dreadfully cast (with the exception of Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, rest in peace, sir), and all around awful. And I know all the little fanboys and girls insist, “Watch the director’s cut! It’s much better!” but guess what? They didn’t release that version in the theater. You can’t undo that. You can’t fix all your mistakes after the movie screwed a dead horse. If they wanted to make a better movie, they’d have released a better movie. And honestly, I’ve never seen the director’s cut, but I sincerely doubt it fixed the nine billion problems with that movie anyway. It was just not well done.

My point is that Daredevil is also supposed to be an intimidating comic book hero. He’s not as dark as Batman, but he’s intense and driven. And I saw Ben Affleck trying to pull that off and he failed miserably. I understand that he was still young in his career, but I truly don’t believe that he has the presence to be Batman.

I don’t believe that I can see him with his hair slicked back wearing a million dollar suit running a billion dollar corporation. I don’t believe that I can see him training with Ra’s al Ghul, or Lady Shiva, or Zatara. I don’t believe that I can see him out-thinking the Riddler, or flirting with Catwoman, or battling the Joker to save someone’s life. I. DON’T. BELIEVE. IT. It’s not because he’s a bad actor. He’s not. It’s the character that doesn’t fit.

Bruce Wayne is a dichotomy of concepts. He’s brooding and hurting, but he’s also got this wondrous sly sense of humor. He’s constantly insisting that his mission is solo, but he naturally attracts people to him because he has a noble heart and despite all the darkness in him, he loves people. He is a wide spectrum of emotions and beliefs and ideas. He’s got a depth to him that has kept him as one of the most popular heroes since his creation in 1939.

And all of that I am supposed to see in the star of Gigli?


I cannot accept that.

So, there you have it. If that makes me a close-minded, awful person, then so be it. I’m keeping my $10.50 in my pocket where it belongs. I hope the movie doesn’t suck. I hope that people who want to see Bat-Affleck enjoy it.

I will just not be one of them.


The Problem with Being Batman


What I look like when customers try to return outdated products.

Disclaimer: this post is not a response in regards to Ben Affleck being cast as the Caped Crusader. Believe me, I am getting to that soon enough. Boy, am I.

So tonight I had a particularly horrific experience at my day job. I work retail. If you’ve ever worked retail, I know your feels, bro. I work retail because I’m still a self-published indie author and my net gross selling books has only been enough to buy me dinner and a movie. Depressing, but them’s the breaks when you go into this thing on your own. Not my point.

I won’t go into detail, but I ended up spending over half an hour being screamed at by a couple who were returning over a thousand dollars’ worth of technology for undisclosed reasons and my store’s register wouldn’t work properly, and so it ended with them accusing me of stealing and calling the cops. Yeah. Fun times were had.

At some point during their tirade, I caught myself thinking what I’ve thought for a long time while working this job: this is not who I am. As angry as this couple made me—and believe me, I had to walk away from them three times in order to keep my temper in check—I almost got a case of the giggles when I stepped back and looked at my life. I just turned twenty-five. I’ve got one toe in the grave. I haven’t done much worth repeating in my years, sadly, but one thing is that I have a relatively firm grasp of who I am as a person.

For instance, for my birthday, I accomplished yet another thing on my Bucket List—I went out and got a tattoo. No, not a tramp stamp. I got something important to me, inspired by a man who has always meant a great deal to me since I was a kid. Sure, he’s fictional, but what he represents is really what got me thinking tonight after the meltdown at my store.

Close up Batman tattoo

I think being an author is a lot like being Batman.

At least, that’s what it’s been like in my experience. Let me explain. Bruce Wayne is a persona. He’s a rich, snobbish fop. If you’re a big Batman fan, you know that Bruce Wayne is actually the mask and Batman is the man beneath it. He uses Bruce to operate in normal society, to get around, to keep people from suspecting that there’s something more to him than what’s on the surface. He’s the handsome, shallow face on the package of a product. He’s necessary, and useful, but the truth is that he is just a façade.

Batman is the cause. Batman is the answer. Batman is the real man beneath the mask. He does all the things that really mean something—saving lives, seeking justice, putting fear into the hearts of the wicked, and inspiring hope and goodness to those without it.

I could never compare myself to such a great character, but I do think that his duality is something that most writers/authors experience. In our day to day lives, we are often mild-mannered wallflowers. Some of us blend right into the crowd. Some of us are shy and withdrawn. Some of us are fun once you get to know us, but we keep our real selves below the surface. Part of what I realized about myself while this French lady and her husband insisted that I was a thief and a charlatan was that they had no idea who the hell I really was underneath. Maybe it was just my ego, but I almost wanted to snarl at them, “Do you know who I am? I write stories. This job is not who I am. I weave entire tapestries of conflict and horror and wonder. I dig into the ribs of monsters and expose their guts to the world. I am not some retail monkey. I am powerful. I am fearless. I am the one who writes monsters. I am a goddamn writer, you putrescent simpletons.

So many authors are cursed with menial jobs that they don’t enjoy because sadly, this calling of ours isn’t always lucrative or fair in the money department. If you go into the writing business to make money, you’re going to starve. It’s a labor of love, pure and simple. However, nothing’s worse than being stuck doing something that you’re good at, but you don’t enjoy it. Tonight more than ever, I felt the call of the night, the call that I think Batman always feels when he’s trudging around wearing the grinning mask of Bruce Wayne.

Hell, one of my all-time favorite poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar speaks to this exact problem:

“We wear the mask that grins and lies

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

This debt we pay to human guile

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile

And mouth with myriad subtleties


Why should the world be over-wise

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us while

We wear the mask


We smile, but O great Christ our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise

We smile, but O the clay is vile

Beneath our feet and long the mile

But let the world dream otherwise

We wear the mask!”

As a writer, it’s hard to suppress that raw creativity and stuff it into something suitable for public consumption. I am a die-hard introvert, and so I never once raised my voice or lost my temper with these relentless assholes, but the entire time I felt like donning a cowl and bursting out into the cold night to fight criminals. The average person doesn’t know that I’ve written four novels. The average person doesn’t know that I gobble up stories like Pac-Man. The average person doesn’t know how many hours I spend a week meticulously planning to make my characters suffer. They can’t know, because it’s not the kind of job that everyone understands. Writers do something that’s important, but isn’t always celebrated like it should be. We get a lot of hate—especially those who’ve gone to college and gotten degree in the “useless” English major—and a lot of condescension. (“You write books. I’ve always wanted to do that. Maybe I will someday. Can’t be that hard, right?”)  Our love of literature and poetry and abstract concepts are so often swept under the rug because it’s not important to mass media and to the general public most of the time. It’s sad, but it’s just another fact of life.

I say all that to say this—the Bruce Wayne mask can be stifling sometimes. But when the sun sinks beneath the horizon and the moon calls your name, it’s all worth it. Lace up your boots. Put on your Kevlar. Tie on your cape. Go out there and kick some ass, writers. Who gives a shit if the world only sees Bruce Wayne? Batman makes headlines, dammit.

Don’t want us writers to be famous?

Make us infamous.