This week on Indie Spotlight we have our first male author to take up the challenge and talk about his experiences with independent publishing. Welcome to my blog, John! Both John and next week’s author, Dylan J. Morgan write horror – so I decided to change the banners up for the next two weeks! Hope you like them!
John messes around with words for a living. He was born in England and grew up in the industrial Midlands. A place that lives in his heart. It’s where he learned to love scrawny cats, the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains.
Education was mostly English, Art and History – Grammar School style – everything else came later. The employment record is somewhat difficult to summarise (chequered is the word that springs to mind). Shop worker and office boy, sculptor and odd-job man, fraud investigator and thief. It’s all the same, when you boil it down. Pay your way and try to have a good day.
He enjoys apocalyptic stuff, horror, comedy and football (not necessarily together). A family man, John now lives a few miles from the old Victorian house in which he was born. Scribbling scary stories seems to keep him vaguely sane (accurate at time of writing). Current projects include more tales from the Dead Boxes Archive, another everyday cosmic horror novel from the Scaeth Mythos, and revisiting the post-apocalyptic world of Collapse.
Contact John F. Leonard here:
Amazon Author Pages:
UK – www.amazon.co.uk/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6
US – www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6
Before we start, I’d like to thank Sue for giving me the opportunity to contribute to her blog. My world revolves around writing. Some of it fictional, a lot commercial – writing and consulting for websites. It’s a pleasure to get a bit more personal and combine the two.
You’re very welcome, John. I’m finding it very interesting comparing different authors’ perspectives on the whole process of choosing indie over traditional publishing. What made you decide to publish your books independently?
For me, the decision to publish independently was spurred by a conversation with a well established author in the horror/post-apocalyptic genre. It’s best he remain nameless here, suffice to say that I have the utmost respect for the man. Anyway, this nameless saint had Hodder & Stoughton printing and promoting his books. I didn’t ask him to read anything, merely for advice about finding a reliable agent and/or publisher. His answer was brutally honest and far from encouraging. Basically, irrespective of whether the writing was good or bad, I had more chance of relieving myself in the Queen’s handbag.
So, basically, it was publish independently or don’t publish at all. I suspect this is the hard truth for the majority of writers. The traditional publishing space is small and shrinking as we speak. It’s easy to spend fruitless years searching and submitting and while you’re busily achieving nothing, the manuscript is slowly going to mould in a drawer or corrupting in a seldom opened folder on the laptop.
You’ve got to weigh the odds and make a decision that works for you. For me, it came
down to some stark options. Try to land an unlikely publishing deal or strike out alone on Indie Road. I was always going to choose the latter. It’s just how I am. Invest an unquantifiable amount of time and energy in something that could be hopeless or shift my arse and get cracking? Really no choice at all.
What are the benefits of being an indie author?
The biggest advantage of going indie is freedom. Beholden to nobody, you choose your own projects, set your own deadlines and decide when to press the publish button. The only contractual obligation is with yourself.
Practical considerations aside, there’s a hell of a lot to be said for full artistic control. From front cover to closing paragraph, you have the final say. There is an enormous sense of personal satisfaction in working this way. It doesn’t preclude external input, many indie authors enlist other folk to help with their books. The essential difference with indie is that collaboration is a choice rather than imposition.
Sounds like the perfect place to be? Heaven on earth for a writer, perhaps? Well, no, not exactly. For one thing, not everyone is the same. The aspects of publishing independently which attract me, the complete and utter responsibility and freedom from interference, will for some be a fairly direct route to the funny farm. Even when it’s great, the indie road has some pretty spectacular potholes.
What challenges do indie authors face?
Indie authors face unique challenges. Turning that manuscript into a published book can be a proper conundrum to the uninitiated. Let’s not even bother talking about proofing and editing, subbing out mundane stuff like formatting and image manipulation costs a pretty penny. Most indie authors aren’t in it primarily for the money, but that doesn’t mean they set out to make a loss.
In any event, by hook or by crook, you get there. The book is written and it’s now sitting resplendent on the virtual shelves.
Job done, time to kick back and relax, right? Light up a fag and pour a drink, if that’s your bag. You’ve earned it.
Not on your nelly, mate. This is where the real work begins.
Indie authors tend to wear a lot of different hats. Definitely the writer. Usually biggest fan and harshest critic. Possibly editing assistant and graphic artist. Let’s throw in dog’s body and toilet cleaner for good measure. There’s also a better than even chance that you’re the marketing department. And by the way, this is the most savage and demanding marketing department in the world. Unforgiving and relentless. Promotion and social media are the special Langoliers (yeah, I like Stephen King) reserved for indie authors. This breed of Langolier has a rather particular appetite. Instead of chewing up the past, they chow down on a writer’s here and now. Without constant diligence, today and tomorrow will be swallowed whole.
It seems like a very daunting prospect, particularly the first time you attempt to wear all these hats yourself. What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?
I find offering advice to aspiring indie authors very difficult. We all arrive on Indie Road with our own specific skill sets. Plus, we have different destinations in mind. I know my grumbling reference to marketing will ring bells with quite a few writers. But for others, publicising their work will be the easy peasy lemon squeezy part of the ride. In truth, I enjoy Twitter and promotional stuff despite the disastrous impact on time management (it’s infinitely preferable to formatting a paperback). The point is that independent authors share certain qualities whilst being an incredibly diverse bunch. As a consequence, my advice is general:
1) Don’t expect to earn a fortune and, at the same time, don’t let things slide into pure vanity project. Make it fun and meaningful.
2) Identify the relevant genres for your story and keywords which relate to those genres. The Amazon taxonomy is worth study.
3) Buy the best laptop you can afford and backup everything to another place.
4) Grow a thick skin. Criticism comes with the territory. Often helpful but sometimes downright painful.
5) Don’t pay too much heed to advice. The clue is in the name. We’re independent, the rules are there to be rewritten.
Great advice for newbies there. What have you learned from being an indie author?
If I’ve learned anything from being an indie author, it’s to be more tolerant. Folk are astonishing. Unbelievably intelligent and kind and, on occasion, very stupid and somewhat dull.
I’ll try to briefly explain the above statement. My take on this is that trying to squash life into words is a noble pursuit and not as simple as you might think. By publishing a book, and then engaging in what follows, you open yourself to the world. That amounts to the best and worst of humanity, given free rein in an inevitably unfair environment. It’s not dissimilar to how indie publishing has produced a parade of stunning stories and also spawned some right dross.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?
The Dead Boxes Archive, a collection/omnibus of horror stories, has just been published and will take me nicely into 2021. As mentioned, the work doesn’t stop just because the book is available. Running alongside this Dead Boxes thing is the development of a new website. It should be good, if I can ever devote the necessary time to my fabulously professional developer.
Beyond that, I’m considering a venture into the darkest of lands. I have a stupidly long list of new ideas and am pushing them down in favour of re-writing/re-editing my first effort. This was an outrageously (with hindsight) ambitious novel of 160K words. Going back there is the scariest of prospects and yet one which is becoming irresistible.
We’ll see. After all, it’s up to me.
What can I say in conclusion?
For me, Indie Road was the only road to take. Freedom, with lots of potholes.
Thank you very much for joining me on my blog today, John. I look forward to hearing more from you about the Scaeth Mythos.
5 of John’s Books
View all of his books here: www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6
The Dead Boxes Archive
The Dead Boxes Archive is a collection of stories and books that share some sort of association. It’ll evolve over time. Themes and events in Dead Boxes lore cross over with the Scaeth Mythos. They’re interwoven, separate but intimately linked.
The Dead Boxes?
Scary, awesome things. They can be easily overlooked. They’re ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique.
You could have one and not know it.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You really don’t.
Most bring nothing but misery. A few offer better, in the right hands that is. Some lie dormant and unnoticed. A Dead Box can corrupt and contaminate the owner unless handled with extreme care and a great deal of respect.
Box is a deceptive term. They aren’t generally boxes, they appear as everyday objects. A painting, or sculpture. A musical instrument or a toy. Anything you can imagine. But they’re never mass produced items. They’re always unique.
They are sundered parts of a bigger whole. The original Box fell through a crack in the past. A tale lost in the mists of time. Known only through word of mouth and obscure writings.
If those parts are ever reassembled, existence will change.
Light will flare, diminish and die. Substance will dwindle and disintegrate to nothingness. The human universe will fold in upon itself. Life as we know it will be extinguished.
If enough, but not all, of the Boxes were assembled, the possessor will be able to change the nature of reality. Not necessarily break the universes, but alter the fabric of life and death.
A Dead Box also features in the Bad Pennies novel. Indeed it’s an integral part of the narrative. But whilst at times overlapping with the Scaeth Mythos, the Dead Boxes are a distinctly separate entity. They’re their own very definite kettle of stinky fish.
Buy The Dead Boxes Archive here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08P7VHWS7
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B08P7VHWS7
Add The Dead Boxes Archive to your To Be Read list here:
The Bledbrooke Works
A story of the Scaeth Mythos.
Ever notice how some places don’t feel right? No rhyme or reason, they’re just unsettling, without you being able to pinpoint the cause.
The vaguely suspicious demeanour of the locals. The pewtered quality of light. The old and indefinably alien smell that blows on the breeze …difficult to say for sure, but there’s definitely something.
Bledbrooke is one of those places. It’s always been different to other towns.
Quaint and quiet, a little backwater with a somehow dark charm all of its own. Once you get used to it, you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
It’s not all sweetness and light though. There are problems.
A new one has just appeared. The drains on Cinderlake Drive are bubbling unsavoury water onto the street. Even worse, the toilets are blocked and spitting nastiness at some affluent backsides.
The town council reckon it’s a fatberg – one of those awful accumulations of wet wipes, grease and other unmentionables.
There’s only one man to call…
Donald Hobdike, world-weary and well past his prime, this sort of issue inevitably ends up on his chipped desk. When it comes to the sewers in Bledbrooke, he’s seen it all and more besides. Knows them better than he knows the back of his wrinkled hand.
Or so he thinks.
Maybe the labyrinthine warren beneath Bledbrooke still has some surprises in store for him…
THE BLEDBROOKE WORKS is a tale of everyday unpleasantness and cosmic horror. A short novella of subterranean terror seen through the eyes of an ageing engineer and a young hoodlum. One a pillar of the local community, the other an outsider who wouldn’t know communal spirit if it ran up and bit him on the bottom.
Buy The Bledbrooke Works here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QDSDNN8
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDSDNN8
Add The Bledbrooke Works to your To Be Read list here:
Congeal – A Post-Apocalyptic Horror Story
It starts with reports on the news of an inland lake turning semi-solid.
Surely, a media joke, some lame April Fool’s prank?
The before and after pictures are vaguely ludicrous and oddly disturbing, the contrast stark and strange.
First, darkly rippling water that hints at hidden depths. Slightly spooky and perfectly normal. Next, a putrid blotch of clotted sludge which bears little resemblance to anything aquatic.
It isn’t a joke.
And pretty soon, that greasy, sickening substance isn’t confined to an inland lake.
It’s spreading. Flowing over fields and filling streets.
Each morning brings a new revelation. Countryside denuded of life and towns empty and echoing.
The night is when it changes, becomes something that consumes. Something infinitely worse than a congealed impossibility.
CONGEAL is a short tale of apocalyptic horror. How the world ends may not be how you expect. Nuclear Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse could get beaten to the punch.
Our apocalypse may come from below.
An ancient, cosmic entity bubbling up to the surface in search of food.
It’s also the story of one individual and her fight to stay afloat in a sea of despair.
Buy Congeal here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07T74SCKM
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07T74SCKM
Add Congeal to your To Be Read list here:
Bad Pennies is the first book in the Scaeth Mythos.
Seeing a stranger die is the worst thing that Chris has ever witnessed. Picking up the dead man’s wallet is a mistake, a moment of weakness. That’s all it takes, one impulsive act, for reality to unravel. Because pocketing the wallet is only the beginning.
Dark forces swim below the surface of the world… They change their shape but never go away… They find a way through…
Chris Carlisle experiences an everyday horror. A morning starts out bad and gets worse. Wrong place at the wrong time and life takes a wrong turn. But even the blackest clouds have silver linings. He gets a little slice of luck to balance out the horror.
Just goes to show, bad often comes bundled with good. Sometimes, they bleed into each other until you can’t tell them apart.
That’s where the strangeness begins, when the miraculous starts to rub shoulders with the mundane and monstrous. Chris has stepped onto a long road that leads to a hideous and horrifying destination. Dark and dangerous stops are dotted along the way. The pavement is crumbling and craziness shining through the cracks.
Enough for him to question his sanity and come to the conclusion that madness may be the easiest way out. Sometimes need and greed get mixed into a deadly and deceptive cocktail.
He’s going to discover that dark and dreadful things lurk within spitting distance of the ordinary and routine. That there are levels of horror and layers of knowledge which defy any rational explanation. Impossible creatures crawl along the shady seams of the world. Monsters wait in the shadows.
The walls of reality are thinner than we know. In places, they’ve been hollowed to a hazy veil that struggles to hold back the horror of what lies on the other side.
Chris is going to get a glimpse of an eternal darkness. Become acquainted with a supernatural hunger that has endured aeons and echoes down the ages.
HE’S GOING TO ENCOUNTER THE SCAETH. A CREATURE THAT IS OLDER THAN TIME AND TWICE AS MERCILESS.
Chris thought life was grim. He has no idea. He thought he was hard up. He doesn’t know what debt is. They say that money is the root of all evil. They also say that the bad penny always turns up. That’s so true. Those crappy coins have a nasty habit of coming back.
Bad Pennies is the first book of the Scaeth Mythos, a terrifying vision of horror that will haunt your dreams.
Buy Bad Pennies here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0762HPJ8Y
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B0762HPJ8Y
Add Bad Pennies to your To Be Read list here:
Doggem is a dark fairy tale in the Dead Boxes Archive.
“Sentience? I’m just a throwaway toy, an inanimate object. How can I have thought and emotion? Opinion and experience? I’d shrug my shoulders if I could. The world is brimful of mystery.”
All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy. They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school. All they have to do in return is write his diary.
It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family. Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary. Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket. He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence. Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.
Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night. And George? Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.
Doggem is a spooky little tale about toy dogs and dark doings. A gently disturbing horror story. But beware, this charming cocktail of witchcraft, imagined folklore and paranormal fantasy might just bewitch you. Not easy to pin down genre. Without doubt it has a certain heart-breaking beauty to it. Maybe it’s a modern fairytale. A scary one, flavoured with a dash of the occult, written for an adult audience. After all, fairy tales feature the supernatural and have a magical aspect to them. They often have old cottages and eerie, unnerving woodland settings. Wickedly enchanting women and innocent children. Ancient evil and everyday greed.
Doggem is a short story, one in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive. The Dead Boxes? Some objects are frightening things and the Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category. They can be easily overlooked. Ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. A mobile phone, a piece of art… a child’s plaything.
Take a closer look. You’ll see something unique. You could very easily have one and not know it. Exercise caution. They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard. You don’t need one. You might think you do, but you really don’t.
Buy Doggem here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07L318QLJ
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07L318QLJ
Add Doggem to your To Be Read list here:
Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?
Rounding out the end of January, I will be talking with Dylan J. Morgan, author of horror, sci-fi and dystopian fiction. Hope you will join us!