peeps: Lee Stephen
Born and raised in Cajun country, Lee Stephen literally spent his youth “catching bullfrogs to eat and playing alligators in the bathtub.” Every little boy’s dream, in other words. But he does have a point when he says that it probably is “not the place most people expect to find sci-fi writers.” Yup, Crocodile Dundee, maybe, but the author of the Epic Universe sci-fi series?
Well, if you think about it, why the heck not?
Does he still do the bullfrogs and alligators thing? If he does, good bet not to the same extent. Besides the time he spends with his family in Luling, Louisiana, and his writing, he also takes home a day job paycheck from the Department of Homeland Security. So I guess, yeah, we can argue that he’s still messing around with bullfrogs and alligators.
How Lee Got Started Self-Publishing
Being a bit of a control freak, Lee says he never really was much into the whole traditional publishing scenario. “I know what I want to write, I know how I want it produced, so self-publishing was sort of a natural fit from the get-go,” Lee says. Like all first time writers, however, he did test the traditional publishing waters first with queries to publishers and agents, but he later realized his heart wasn’t really in it. “I remember getting rejection letters back and not feeling bummed so much as like, ‘Whew! Epic is still mine.'”
So the indie publishing route it was for Epic. And has been for seven years now. It’s a route Lee also happens to love.
Despite being a publishing non-traditionalist, Lee did show some resistance to ebooks. And that’s likely an understatement. “The jump from physical to ebooks was a big deal for me,” he remembers, “I fought it tooth and nail till the end… There’s nothing quite like the feel of holding a book in your hand and turning the pages.” Unlike many of the successful authors featured here on Wordpreneur Peeps, every book Lee has published has been released in print and ebook editions. “I’ll probably always go both ways, physical and electronic, with my books. But I definitely remember making that switch. It was during a time when sales had hit somewhat of a rock bottom, and I had gotten to a point where I was like, ‘Well, what’s the harm now, right?'”
So, was the move to digital a good one? “I made some e-conversions,” he recalls, “tossed ’em up, and sat back to see what would happen. And man, did things happen! It was like an injection of steroids for the whole series. I never realized until then just how many people were going the ebook route in looking for things to read.” So, does that teach us a lesson, boys and girls? It better, since that was a few years ago. “It’s only gotten more lopsided since. Easily, ninety percent of my sales come from ebooks. Probably more. It’s a brave new world. You will not succeed in the publishing industry today if you don’t go ebook in some capacity. That’s just reality.”
Self-Publishing Tips and Observations
- “I sort of feel like we’re hitting that next plateau, technology-wise. eBooks are here; that particular revolution is over. I’m sure one day we’ll come up with something better, but I don’t think that day is anywhere close (and I can’t imagine what that better thing would be).”
- “I think the big thing I’d hammer home is this: approach writing with humility. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met who’ve been convinced that they’re the next Hemingway or Shakespeare. If you’re that in love with your own ego, you should probably consider doing something other than writing, because you’re going to end up bitter. No one is as good as they think they are. The day a person realizes that, they can start focusing more energy on developing the product rather than getting intellectual payback on everyone who picked on them in middle school. It’s good to have somewhat of a chip on your shoulder, but I’m being honest when I say writers take that to a whole other level. Chill. Chill, then write, then do your best to put it together and let others enjoy it.”
- “I’d also say get a job. There are a lot of writers out there who don’t want a job — they feel like getting a job is giving up on the dream. That’s so far removed from the truth. I can produce Epic, and frankly do things that most indies can’t, because of my job with Homeland. I can write stress-free and can invest real capital into growing the brand. Once you make it and can bring in six figures on a regular basis, then you can quit your job and write for a living. But until then, earn that paycheck. Jobs don’t supplant writing, they support it. That’s a good thing to remember.”