peeps: Steven Konkoly
Part-time author Steven Konkoly, who gave us the Black Flagged series and The Jakarta Pandemic, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in English Literature from the U.S. Naval Academy. “I studied Shakespeare and Electrical Engineering during the same semester,” he recalls, “which should be illegal in the United States.” After graduation, he spent the next seven years with various units of the Navy and Marine Corps, bringing him all over the world. He eventually specialized in military fire support/forward observation.
As you can probably guess, all of this — his military education and experience and, as he puts it, his “focused interaction with an incredibly diverse array of domestic and foreign military units” — figure prominently in his writing, even the stories that aren’t linked directly to a military plot line.
He now lives in coastal southern Maine with his family and works for a major corporation, leaving him to “write at ungodly hours of the day and struggle to make the best of a short sailing season and unreasonably long winter.”
How Steven Got Started Self-Publishing
It took Steven three years to finish The Jakarta Pandemic, his first novel. “At that point, I was relatively undisciplined when it came to setting aside daily blocks of time to write or edit,” he explains. “I often went weeks at a time without writing a single word.” Although the process was “painful slow and frustrating,” he loved it. “I felt compelled to write the story and crafting the narrative felt natural.”
As he was finishing up, Steven’s wife wandered into his office and asked, “What are you going to do with your book?” He was stunned. “I had no bloody idea.”
So he took the first logical step: hit the Internet. Which led him to the next one: find an agent. The “fickle query process,” however, was a big turnoff. “‘Don’t do this. Read this. If you don’t include this… we’ll toss your letter. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t… and absolutely do not try to contact us outside of your query letter.’ The abject level of discouragement palpable on every literary agencies’ website was my first warning that this would be an utter waste of time.”
He tried anyway. But not being the type to put all his eggs in one basket and just sit around, waiting and hoping that his work won’t just “sit in a slush pile for eternity,” he continued exploring his options. Eventually, he came across Joe Konrath’s blog, where Steven then proceeded to spend “the better part of an entire day reading all of his posts.” At the end of the day, he had firmly decided on his course of action: He would self-publish his novel on Amazon. “At the very least,” he figured, “my friends and family would have access to the book, right?”
That was 140,000 readers ago. Safe bet he has no regrets.
Self-Publishing Tips and Observations
- “The term self-publishing will slowly slip away, fully replaced by some form of the word ‘indie’ or possibly ‘epublished.’ Wherever the verbiage settles, it will draw less of a distinction between ‘traditional’ publishing and the ‘self-publishing’ phenomena.”
- “I say this for two primary reasons. Over the past two or three weeks, I have seen a number of articles from major media publications, highlighting ‘indie’ successes like Hugh Howey, CJ Lyons… and many others, signifying a shift in attitude toward ‘indie’ authors and rising importance attached to the movement. This momentum will continue, fueled by…”
- “The second major development: the death rattle of Barnes and Noble. Sadly, the big bookseller reported monstrous losses last year, in terms of store and ebook sales. I don’t think either comes as a surprise to anyone. The fallout from this will be an infinitely smaller amount of shelf space for traditionally published books, which will cause a further contraction of the Big Six’s (or any publisher reliant on hard copy book sales) ability to support their mid-list authors and an even tighter reluctance to take risks on new authors.”
- “Now is a great time to establish yourself as an ‘indie’ author, because within the next year or two, these mid-listers will be forced to make the shift, or die on the vine. This will spark a whole new boom in ereader sales, as the previously staunch ‘I need a real book in my hand’ crew realizes that many of their favorite authors are unavailable in print format.”
- “For a tip, I’ll echo some of the previous sentiment. Start off with a professional looking product. When I started over two years ago, it wasn’t as critical, but the ‘indie’ industry has since then boomed with cover artists, proofers, editors… everything you need at reasonable prices. Don’t balk at the initial investment, I beg you. You don’t have to go crazy and max out your credit card, but you have to be willing to give your book a chance. If I published my first novel again today, with the same cover art and horribly self-deluded editing, it wouldn’t stand a chance.”
- “Another important strategy is to find a niche for your book in the beginning. I did this with my first novel, and it may have been the only thing that saved me from NOT investing in the necessities described above.” (Steven describes in more detail how he established a highly-specialized niche readership for his first book on his blog.)