I also went to the Workshop on the Coast in Lincoln City, Oregon, run by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryne Rusch. The workshop was interesting but intense. I only sold one of the six stories I brought, and some of the feedback was baffling. The one story eventually came out in Visions of the Apocalypse in Fiction River. The story was titled Three Degrees Above Zero, and was the only hard science fiction story in the mag. That was my second experience in working with an editor, and he made very little in the way of changes. Another story, Midnight Sun, was praised at the workshop as being the most original fantasy story the editors had seen in a decade, and still had not sold, due to some confusion at the beginning. I was told it would surely sell somewhere, it was that good, but I came out of that workshop with no desire to try the short market in the future. I would do some other anthologies, but only at invitation.
Liberty Con that year included panels, which were mostly about marketing and self-publishing. I got my feet wet there, and better panels in the future. It started me on the path of getting panels at other venues. Panels are the goal for most authors. They get you exposed to people interested in science fiction and fantasy, and everyone wants to connect with readers. I was connecting with some at cons even when I didn’t have panels, but this would make it easier.
Another Dragon Con, this time staying at the Marriott Marque, one of the main hotels. Another great time, and this time I knew a bunch of the authors, and got to meet many more. I was actually at one panel, Starship Smackdown (since renamed) and was asked by my friend Van Allen Plexico to come up and sit on the panel. I was introduced as Amazon Best Seller Doug Dandridge, which was also really cool. My first panel at a major con. I was up to 148,000 sales, and everyone I talked to was impressed. It always amazed me that the traditionally published authors thought my record was a big deal. It didn’t seem all that special to me, but as I later learned, that would be a great track record even for most traditionally published.
That December I took the Sail to Success cruise, recommended by Kevin. Eric Flint, Nancy Kress and Mike Resnick were the big names on that cruise, and I also had my first meeting with Arc Manor publisher Shahid Mahmud. I was invited to submit a story to Galaxy’s Edge, along with all the rest of the class, but Shahid invited me to submit to another anthology his company was publishing. I didn’t make it into either publication, not unusual even when invited. I was asked to do a one-man presentation on self-publishing, since no one there knew much about it. I had lunch with Mike Resnick, which turned into a one hour conversation where I learned a lot about the history of the field. I had coffee with Nancy Kress. Her late husband, Charles Sheffield, had read some of my early work, and had been instrumental in helping me to move forward despite rejections. I was happy to tell her how much the man meant to me. Both Mike and Nancy had the same question for me. Why did I want to become traditionally published, since I seemed to be doing so well on my own, and actually might make less money with a traditional imprint? The answer, of course, was exposure. The money is great, but all authors want as many people reading their books as possible.
In 2015 I joined the Science Fiction Writers’ Association. Now, a lot of people I know don’t like them, even some big name traditional authors. But it had been a dream of mine to join them, and they opened membership to self-published authors. You only had to prove that one of your books had earned as much as a standard advance, $6,000. Hell, I had twelve books at the time that had done better than that, many of them much better. So joining was a snap. Prior to joining, after talking with Jaym Gates, who was then working with SFWA, at a Dragon Con, I was able to sell two blog posts on self-publishing and marketing to the association at professional rates. So anyway, I joined, just to be part of the organization that so many of my heroes had belonged to. The first one to welcome me was Jerry Pournell, another legend and hero. Haven’t done too much with the organization so far, but one of their members helped me to get my first panel on the Lit Track at Dragon con.
2016 I did panels at Liberty, three big ones, moderating one with seven other authors including Chuck Gannon. This year I have one scheduled with John Ringo. Liberty is a small con, and I really don’t expect to get many fans there, but it’s still very cool, with lots and lots of authors. And then on to Dragon. The Lit Track director had promised me panels after a member of SFWA had told her about me. Got there, and they had nothing for me, and I couldn’t find the director. Finally found her, and she gave me one panel, with six female writers late in the evening when attendance would be low. Still, it was a panel, and I was asked to submit to a Dragon Con anthology. Got sidetracked and that never came to be. Van got me on the Starship Showdown (as it was now called) panel, which is always a great time. I would be willing to do those for every Dragon Con. Total sales by this time, about 194,000.
Back in February of 2016 Shahid had asked if I wanted to attend another Sail To Success, for a sixty percent discount. All I had to do was give two talks, self-publishing and marketing. I jumped at the chance. Interesting surroundings, interesting people, the Bahamas, hell yes. So I headed down to Miami in December to once again board the Norwegian Sky. Same faculty members, mostly the same presentations, but I was there to network. Really important to this business is getting to know other people in it. Opportunities come along at such events, just like they had at conventions. I talked with the agent, who expressed interest. I talked to the editor, who expressed interest. I talked with Eric Flint, who’s just an interesting guy. And I talked with Shahid on the last day, who had a business proposition. I would write some books for a space opera series, in a universe I developed, and he would get other authors to write later books in a shared universe. But the Universe would be mine. We finalized the deal later, and I flew out to Tucson to talk about the project and deliver the signed contracts. Dave Farland looked over my contract as a courtesy (remember the thing about making friends in the business). He thought I should get paid more, but I think the rewards down the line will be worth it.
So here I am, where the rubber meets the road. We have gone over the outlines, made changes, settled on the third outline, picked a series name, and now I’ve been asked to start writing. This is such an unusual deal, and I was very lucky to get it. Most books are published after the authors sends the manuscript in to an agent, who presents it to publishers, who then buy the idea if they like it. The author has already written the book, with no idea of whether or not it will sell. Prior to self-publishing, that manuscript might just go into a drawer somewhere and never again see the light of day. I ended up getting a contract and advance before the idea had even coalesced. And the publisher is really committed to this idea. We were talking promotion, a website, getting tables at a half dozen cons, all on him. And then he hired an editor. And not just any editor, but a famous one who had a part in the making of many authors. Remember the Bill Fawcett I talked about earlier in the first part of this blog. Yeah, that guy. I couldn’t believe it. But now I have to produce. Everything has brought me to this point, and I can’t let these people down. Talk about pressure.
Liberty Con is next week, and I’m finally on a panel with one of those New York Times Bestselling Authors. And we will be having a release party for an anthology, A Fist Full of Credits, by Chris Kennedy’s company, with stories by Chris Nuttall, Nick Cole, Jason Cordova, Mark Wandrey, Mr. Kennedy and others. I was happy to accept the invitation to this one, since it features so many great indie scifi authors, and I think the project can’t help but promote all of us to each others’ fan bases. Will write about that when I get back.
Since I first wrote this entry I have done four chapters of the first book of Kinship War. It helps to use the outline, and I am doing the research as I go. And man, the research I’m having to do. In Exodus the action was set ten thousand light years from Earth, allowing me to put whatever I wanted wherever I wanted. Now I have to track the real stars, and we have a lot of information on them. I have to look at a dozen systems before I found one that would work for the colony that was at the center of the story. Another four systems until I found the one I could use for my first contact. A completely different process. I was having a lot of trouble finding a program that would let me visualize the stars out to one hundred light years, until my friend and fan Roberto Ravoni from Italy reminded me of a program called Astrosynthesis. So the work is going on, and I am still working on some books for self publication. Just put out a collection of all the science fiction short stories I wrote while trying to get published. I am currently working on the next book of the Exodus: Machine War series, book 5 of Refuge, and a collection of short fantasy stories. The job never ends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well over two hundred thousand sales and counting. Maybe some day I’ll hit a million.