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…

You can catch Matthew Williams here:

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