by Mitchell Hogan
7 Things I’ve Learned So Far (Transforming a Smash Hit Indie Book into a Traditionally Published Series)
by Mitchell Hogan
Three years ago I self-published A Crucible of Souls, my first epic fantasy novel. I’d hoped for maybe a few hundred sales in the first six months, knowing I’d have to release more books, and do a ton of self-promotion, before I had a chance of gaining any momentum.
A year and a half later, I signed a six-figure deal with Harper Voyager for my first fantasy series. I’d sold over 41,000 e-books on my own. Being new to the industry, it was a steep learning curve…and still is. I was lucky enough to receive invaluable advice from other authors, which guided me through the minefield that is publishing. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
- Get professional help. Seriously.
Quality feedback is essential. No one leaves their child alone in a room with a piano and says “come out when you’re a virtuoso”. It just doesn’t work. Everyone needs coaching, and that includes writers. One million words to competency? Forget that. It’s the slowest, most inefficient way to become a better writer. Learn from professionals, work on bettering yourself, use beta-readers, critique partners, revision is magical.
- Get a literary agent, if you can.
Excellent industry contacts, ensure your manuscript will be looked at rather than placed into a pile, negotiate contracts, a wealth of knowledge, able to pitch sub-rights far better than you can on your own. What’s not to love? I favor an agent who understands the ins and outs of self-publishing as well, and is comfortable with authors who are confident enough to take the hybrid route, and make the best decisions for their career. I was lucky enough to sign my Sorcery Ascendant Sequence trilogy with Laurie McLean at Fuse Literary, after a recommendation from another author.
- By signing with a publisher you lose control. It’s hard, but it’s also okay.
You give this up when you sign the deal. In my case though it was easier to handle than signing over a new book or series. I had two books of a trilogy already out there (with kick-ass covers!), so I knew anything Harper Voyager did would only improve the series. They tweaked the first two covers, put both of the first two books through a round of vigorous editing, and then came up with their own awesome cover for book three. In short, they took two books I wasn’t going to touch again, and made them better. For that, I can handle losing some control!
- If you’ve sold well already, you will most likely earn less.
Let’s face it, with e-books you’re trading royalties of 70% of net for 25% of net. If you’re already selling well, will a publisher sell three times as many books as you can yourself? It’s possible, but unlikely. When I was considering the deal in front of me, I hoped my publisher would at least sell as many books as I had already. But you should be okay with the thought of earning less, because…
- You hope to make up the lost money on other deals like audio, foreign rights, etc.
Which also expands and reinforces your name and brand. These deals are far harder to acquire yourself if you’re self-published, so this is another area where your agent shines. I have two deals direct with Audible now: one for my fantasy series, and the other for my sci-fi novel. I also currently have two foreign rights offers, which should bear fruit soon.
- You are going to disagree with some of your publisher’s suggestions and/or decisions.
Not everything will go smoothly, and attempting to please everyone (including yourself) will cause you an endless amount of grief. Take all their comments on board and try to look at them objectively, and put your emotions aside. Don’t be afraid to push back on issues you feel strongly about; you’ll be surprised how often you’ll get your way if you present a well-reasoned argument.
- Your career isn’t now in the hands of a publisher, it’s still in your hands.
Make sure you understand the business of writing, and the industry. Writing is difficult, but the business of writing is harder. Take it seriously, and learn as much as you can about the industry and the business of writing. An essential first step is to define your goals. What do you want to achieve? If you know this, then you can plan, and explore different options. Make decisions based on what you feel is best for your career at the time—just be courteous and professional. Each option you have—a traditional deal, Apub deal, self-publishing—has its pros and cons.
You are an author. You are also CEO of You, Inc, a Global Media Empire. You decide what works for you, and at the end of the day, your success depends on you.
Books by Mitchell Hogan
From the Aurealis Award-winning author of A Crucible of Souls.
Inquisitor Angel Xia, former mercenary turned detective, is used to being the hunter. But on another routine murder investigation the bodies begin to pile up, and Angel finds herself a target of sinister powers determined to conceal the truth.
The hunter has just become the hunted.
Betrayed by those she trusted most, and barely escaping assassination attempts, Angel receives a cryptic message from child begging for her help. Framed for horrific crimes, the only chance to clear her name is inextricably linked to a little girl – but the enemy is on her heels.
Running for her life, Angel races to forgotten places at the edges of known space that hold the darkest secrets of humanity…and the greatest threat to its future.
And all will be determined by what she chooses to do next. That is…if she can stay alive.
An imaginative new talent makes his debut with the acclaimed first installment in the epic Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing tale of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery.
When young Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, the boy is raised by monks who initiate him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery.
Growing up plagued by questions about his past, Caldan vows to discover who his parents were, and why they were violently killed. The search will take him beyond the walls of the monastery, into the unfamiliar and dangerous chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to become apprenticed to a guild of sorcerers.
But the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths he does not fully understand. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that will bring the world to the edge of destruction.
Soon, he must choose a side, and face the true cost of uncovering his past.
A novice sorcerer may hold the key to saving his world—or be the instrument of its destruction—in this second book in The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing saga of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery.
Anasoma, jewel of the Mahruse Empire, has fallen.
As orphaned, monk-raised Caldan and his companions flee the city, leaving behind their hopes for a new beginning, horrors from the time of the Shattering begin to close in.
With Miranda’s mind broken by forbidden sorcery, Caldan does the unthinkable to save her: he breaks the most sacrosanct laws of the Protectors. But when the emperor’s warlocks arrive to capture him, Caldan realizes that his burgeoning powers may be more of a curse than a blessing, and the enemies assailing the empire may be rivaled by more sinister forces within.
And soon, the blood of innocents may be on Caldan’s own hands.
In this gritty and breathtaking conclusion to the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, the award-winning fantasy series, a young sorcerer must learn to wield his extraordinary powers to defeat two warring empires.
In a battle of armies and sorcerers, empires will fall.
After young Caldan’s parents were slain, a group of monks raised the boy and initiated him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery. But when the Mahruse Empire was attacked, and the lives of his friends hung in the balance, he was forced to make a dangerous choice.
Now, as two mighty empires face off in a deadly game of supremacy, potent sorcery and creatures from legend have been unleashed. To turn the tide of war and prevent annihilation, Caldan must learn to harness his fearsome and forbidden magic. But as he grows into his powers, the young sorcerer realizes that not all the monsters are on the other side.
And though traps and pitfalls lie ahead, and countless lives are at stake, one thing is certain: to save his life, his friends, and his world, Caldan must risk all to defeat a sorcerer of immense power.
Failure will doom the world.
Success will doom Caldan.
From Books That Hook: We truly appreciate Mitchell Hogan taking the time from his schedule to share his experiences and insights. We hope you enjoyed it!
About Mitchell Hogan
When he was eleven, Mitchell Hogan was given The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to read, and a love of fantasy novels was born. He spent the next ten years reading, rolling dice, and playing computer games, with some school and university thrown in. Along the way he accumulated numerous bookcases filled with fantasy and sci-fi novels and doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.
His first attempt at writing fantasy was an abysmal failure and abandoned after only one page. But ideas for characters and scenes continued to come to him and he kept detailed notes of his thoughts, on the off chance that one day he might have time to write a novel. For ten years he put off his dream of writing until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He knew he would regret not having tried to write the novel percolating inside his head for the rest of his life. Mitchell quit his job and lived off dwindling savings, and the support of his fiancé, until he finished the first draft of A Crucible of Souls. A Crucible of Souls won the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel.
He now writes full time and is eternally grateful to the readers who took a chance on an unknown author. Mitchell lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, Angela, and daughter, Isabelle.
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A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan ~ Book Review (2015, YA fantasy, @HoganMitchell, @HarperVoyagerUS)Blood of Innocents – Mitchell Hogan [Review] New Adult Fantasy