peeps: Mike Dennis

Wordpreneur Peeps logoIndie author Mike DennisMike Dennis played music professionally for thirty years. “I was a piano player, also venturing off into electronic keyboards from time to time.” It was a career that took him all over the U.S. and “unusual foreign countries,” playing rock & roll, rhythm & blues and country music. He played just about every venue imaginable, large and small. It was a career that finally brought him to his “beloved Key West,” where he retired from the industry in 2003.

Would that be good training for an author? “Thirty years of writing would be more like it,” he admits. “But playing music is what I did, so that’s what I had to work with.”

Around the late 80s, while living and playing in New Orleans, his interest in writing began almost by accident. A writer friend liked the account he wrote of an overseas trip he took, and thought that maybe he could make a go of making up and writing down stories professionally. “Of course, I disagreed,” he remembers, “claiming fiction was for ‘real’ writers.” But she kept at him. So he started. “On and off for the next twenty years.” Along the way, he had finished several novels and a few dozen short stories. Not to mention “hundreds (or was it thousands?) of rejection slips.”

In 2006 he had moved to Las Vegas to play poker professionally. Then in 2009, someone offered to publish one of his novels. He took it. “I quit poker to develop an Internet presence and a promotional mechanism, as well as to write more books.”

Mike is now back home in Key West, where he lives with his wife Yleana, who he “married one warm December night in 2012 on the rooftop of an apartment building in Havana, Cuba.”

How Mike Got Started Self-Publishing

Setup on Front Street by Mike DennisMike turned to self-publishing after that first traditionally-published novel. “I’ve since published five more novels, two novelettes, a short story collection, and numerous individual short stories.”  This includes the Key West Nocturnes Series, “a group of dark, gritty novels designed to lift the lid off Key West and reveal it as a true noir city,” and the Jack Barnett/Las Vegas Series of two novelettes and a novel about a “reluctant ex-private investigator now trying to live a low-profile life in Las Vegas.”

But why, if he already had a foot in the door of the traditional publishing world, did he decide to go indie? “I turned to self-publishing after reading the astonishing accounts of people like Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath, who almost by themselves turned the publishing world on its ear.”

Risky? Maybe you missed the bits about “Las Vegas” and “Poker” a few paragraphs up above. Not that self-publishing’s really all that much of a gamble, but as far as bets are concerned, this looks like it’s turned out to be a really smart one.

Self-Publishing Observations and Tips

  • “The act of self-publishing is easy. Just a few clicks on Amazon and you’re in. What’s hard is writing a good book that people will want to buy, and then writing more such good books.”
  • “What’s also a little difficult is preparing the book for publication. This will require an outlay of cash. Too many writers try to poor-boy it and cut corners, but they’re making a big mistake… I might add, this will be all the money you will ever have to spend. After this, there is only income, no payout.”
  • “I cannot emphasize strongly enough the absolute necessity for every writer to hire a professional book editor. And by this I do not mean a friend of yours who was an English major, or someone you know who writes for a newspaper. It must be a professional book editor.”
  • “[P]eople do in fact judge a book by its cover. That is precisely the purpose of a cover. So here, you need a professional book cover designer… someone who thoroughly understands books. Someone who can take the essence of a book and put it on a knockout cover.”
  • “Good book cover designers don’t come cheap. But believe me, they’re worth every penny. Look around. Find one whose covers look very professional. If they don’t impress you, they won’t impress your potential readers. No matter what you spend, you will get what you pay for in this area.”
  • “It doesn’t matter if you’ve written the greatest book in history, or if your cover captivates everyone who looks at it. If it’s poorly formatted, you can get ready for an avalanche of one-star reviews. There are professional formatters out there, but this is a task which writers can do themselves to save money. It’s a royal pain, believe me, complex and very time-consuming, but it must be done or you can forget about selling any books. Ever.”

Learn more about Mike and his work by visiting his Amazon author page and his website.

Originally published: August 23, 2013