Awesome Sauce, Zombies, and Self Publishing Dos and Don’ts

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I’m excited to welcome Matt (Awesome Sauce) Williams back to my site. For those of you who don’t know, he is an ubber productive author and blogger whose taste for topics knows no bounds. He recently published a zombie novel entitled Whiskey Delta which he first serialized on his blog. Today he’s here to tell us about Whiskey Delta and his most recent foray into self publishing. Pull up a chair, you just might learn something. Talk to us, Awesome Sauce.

1. For those who don’t know, give a brief run down of WD. What was the inspiration? When did you publish?

Whiskey Delta is basically my take on the zombie apocalypse. After reading and watching numerous franchises on the subject, mainly for the sake of research into what makes the genre work, I realized they all had something in common beyond undead creatures. Without exception, they all focused on the lives of your average citizens, or on a motley crew of people who were thrown together by necessity. Always these people were unprepared, untrained to deal with their circumstances, and had to improvise and struggle to stay alive. Frankly, I wanted to see a story where the people fighting the undead were trained, prepared, and knew how to deal with it, even if they still had a hell of time doing it.

Naturally, I was inspired by the recent upsurge in popularity that zombie franchises have seen in recent years. 28 Days Later was a big one, as wasThe Walking Dead, the miniseries and the comics. I also gained a lot of knowledge from the miniseries Generation Kill, which chronicled the 1st Recon Battalion’s exploits during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Between all that, I had a strong desire to write about zombie killers who know their trade, warts and all!

I began publishing it chapter for chapter in the spring of 2012, and finished it just shy of the summer. I took the plunge and decided to make it available to the public one year later, in April of 2013. While I still wanted to finish up work on its sequels and edit it before release, an unexpected shout out from Max Brooks kind of forced my hand and I uploaded it to Kindle without serious edits. The result was pretty rough, but still contained the story I had created without alteration or distortion.

2. WD is self-pubbed, which I think, aside from being brave, is the smart thing to do these days as it leaves control in the hands of the author. That said there are pros and cons. Tell us what they are in your experience.

Self-publishing means cutting out the middle man – or the gate-keeper, depending on how you view publishers – and being able to take your work directly to the public, which is a big plus. This is especially useful considering that traditional publishing is losing money on a daily basis due to the expansion in social media, direct publishing and print-on-demand houses. As a result, they are taking less chances on new authors. Lucky for us, the source of the problem also presents a solution.

On the downside, there’s the issue of being completely responsible for your own success. As an indie, you are responsible for all of your own editing, publicity and promotion. As such, you really have to commit to a long, hard slog and hold out while people realize you exist and see the merits in your work. You also have to contend with the perception that indie works are substandard, amateurish works that aren’t worth people’s time or money. Overcoming this is not easy, but hopefully with time, you’ll establish a readership and distinguish yourself from the herd.

3. You’ve discussed the good and not as good news about WD on your site since self-pubbing it. Tell us what you feel you’ve done right/wrong. What would you change if you could?

Well, one should always be happy that reviewers are finding nice things to say about your work. And every review has said that they liked the story, but were bothered by the quality of editing. Naturally, I feel like I was wrong to publish it so soon and worry that these reviews which call into question the quality of the work will affect long-term sales. So even if I do release a 2nd edition that’s error-free, the damage has been done.

However, I remember quite clearly why I put the book up when I did. I knew that a nod from Max Brooks might trigger interest in my book and send some people over to Google to look for it. And I knew that interest would quickly fade if people couldn’t find it. I have since come to the conclusion that the fact that it falls under the heading of zombie fiction is what is attracting readers, but at the time, I was convinced word of mouth promotion from an established author would make all the difference.

So really, barring some kind of prescient foresight on my part – which would have told me to just wait until it was editing before publishing, or drop the sequels and focus on the original – I can’t imagine having done things differently at this point. Live and learn, I guess!

4. What advice would you offer other self-pubbed authors?

Best advice I could give was the advice that was given to me over the years. I kept it in point form for the sake of simplicity:

  1. Do what you love, the rest will take care of itself with time.
  2. In the meantime, keep your day job. Until such time as you’re making enough money to support yourself, you’ll need that steady income!
  3. Don’t wait to be discovered. Use the tools that are at your disposal to promote yourself and make things happen.
  4. Do your homework. Before you can put your idea into proper written form, you need to do your homework and learn what works best for you.

5. Which of the characters in WD would you most want to befriend in real life? Why?

Tough question, but I think the Mage would be a very good person to meet in real life. He’s enigmatic, even to me, and I know for a fact that he’s the kind of person who’s had some very interesting experiences. Not only that, but he keeps you guessing. You’re never quite sure how much he knows, or whether or not he’s a good guy…

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