I’m often asked how I got started in this whole being-an-author thing. The answer involves a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and a lot of luck.
I was always a big reader. I carried one with me wherever I went. My teachers were constantly taking books away from me in class. My parents would often admonish me for bringing a book to the dinner table. I was more interested in what the characters were doing than the adult conversations they were having. I was often told to put the book away but not every time and I see now what they were doing. Letting that reading habit flourish has paid off well.
By the time I hit high school, I was penning short stories of my own. I’d often base characters on my friends, making them characters of themselves and placing them in the oddest of situations. These hand-written stories (this was before computers and email were a thing) would then get passed around the school for a few weeks and then I’d do it again. It was a fun distraction from the schoolwork that I only took a half interest in.
The writing took a break for several years of jumping out of planes and visiting the unfriendly parts of the world while serving in the military, but returned once I came home and became a flight medic. There’s a lot of downtime between calls and I would fill that time writing stories.
One day I was covering for a guy stationed at a firehouse. If you’ve ever seen the inside of one there’s the usual row of recliners parked in front of a TV. After the day’s training is over it’s not unusual to have a movie marathon going while we all wait for the tones to drop. Since the movies were almost always interrupted, I tended to hang back and write.
While we would all go on medical calls the fire guys (and girls) would return to the station while the medics took their patients to the hospital. It would often be hours until we got back.
That’s where I made my mistake. But I’m glad I did.
I left a full manuscript behind one night, one that I was editing, to go on a call. When we got back the TV was off, it was oddly quiet, and my manuscript was missing. I found it in the day room, where a long row of firemen were reading a page and then passing it to the guy in the next chair. I protested, but it was twelve against one.
Later that night the lieutenant found me and handed the pile of dog-eared paper back to me.
“It’s good, you should send it in.”
“Thanks, but it’s just a hobby.”
My partner on the escape pod agreed, and he hounded me about it for the rest of the month. So I looked into it. What did it take to get a book published in 2008? I had no idea.
I often wonder if I’m in control of what it is I’m doing, or if I were to let go of the wheel I would have still ended up on the same path.
Like most self-published authors I tried going the trade route first. I queried, revising the letter for every agent and publisher out there. With a career in full swing at the time, a special woman entering my life and the progression of middle age making itself known, the writing dream was a hobby with a lottery ticket option. I never dreamed it would get beyond that.
While waiting for editors and agents to respond I ran across an ad for Trafford Publishing. (This was before they were swallowed up by Author Solutions) and had a few copies made of my first book Closure. Sales were predictable and that was okay, I could still point at it on the shelf and say with all honesty that I had written a book.
Then I got a call from an editor at a major house. She liked the book and wanted a full manuscript. I mumbled something barely intelligent, hung up, and immediately Googled her. To my amazement I found out that she wasn’t just an editor, she was Vice President of the company. Someone who had been in the publishing world for over 30 years. When I started breathing again I told myself to step back. I knew the odds were still long, so I kept doing what I was doing and educated myself about the business a little more every day.
I’m very lucky that I did. While I was waiting for that editor to come back I was also reading Joe Konrath‘s blog. I examined KDP as it grew. I read blogs by other authors who had traveled this path before me. I learned about agents. I learned about contracts. The world of publishing was undergoing a huge change, and the timing could not have been better.
The editor got back to me in a couple of weeks and said she loved the book, BUT she had a few changes. I made them. She suggested more. I made some more. Then she suggested that I change the major twist in the story, the McGuffin, basically turning it into a clone of every other book in that genre.
I took a deep breath…and said no.
She made an offer. A good one.
I said no.
I stopped sending out query letters.
I deleted my list of editors, agents, and publishers.
I printed off Joe’s blog and read every word with a highlighter in my hand.
And I kept writing.
I wrote and re-wrote my blurbs.
I experimented with Select and read more blogs.
I stopped lurking and started joining the conversations.
And all this time I kept writing. Sales trickled in and then steadily grew.
After book three came out I went permafree with book one. Eight months later book four came out and I hit publish on it with a Bookbub ad of the permafree the same day.
That month I made well into five figures.
My wife and I discussed it. Two weeks later I quit my job and bought a new laptop.
That was twelve years ago. I now have twelve books out under Randall Wood and several more under a pen name. I built and launched ScribeCount, an indie author reporting service, in 2021.
I make my living as a writer now. I write Monday through Friday and play on the weekends.
It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot.
I have great fans who write me awesome fan mail. So much I can spend a good hour every morning answering it all. It’s a first-world problem but one I love to have.
Now I’m working on a three-book post-apocalyptic thriller. It’s huge, close to 300,000 words by the time it’s finished. For me, that’s equivalent to three full-size novels. It’s also nothing like my Jack Randall series which is what my readers love the most. So it’s a big gamble, but one I feel will pay off.
That many words require a lot of time. Which I have less of since launching ScribeCount. My days are now divided evenly between the two with ScribeCount often winning.
But I’ve noticed something that happens to other successful self-published authors. They fade away from the internet.
I’ve watched others who found success before me slowly disappear from the self-pub internet world. We’re constantly told by each other we need to blog and promote and tweet and Facebook and Pin and …..whatever, to increase/maintain our audience.
There’s some truth in that. From a business point-of-view, it makes sense. But sometimes I think you need to look at something strictly from a reader’s perspective.
Why do those successful writers disappear from the blogs and chat rooms? Is it because they’ve learned what works and no longer need to frequent them? Or is it something else? Do they have a dedicated fan base that they know will help them sell their books? Or do they know something that the others don’t?
We’re told to write 80% of the time and promote the other 20%. I always thought that was good advice and in the back of my mind knew it was a sliding scale in relation to a given author’s success. Now I’m wondering just how much that scale differs, and in what direction.
I follow a lot of my fellow authors. The successful ones blog less and less as time goes by. They seem to fade away from the other social media sites as well. This is contrary to what we are told we need to do, yet these authors seem more and more successful with every new book.
They have found their audience, and they are reaching them directly. Like everything else in the self-publishing world, we’re seeing a change. Where before an author had to spend a large part of their time marketing the ones that did that well can now dial back and focus on that loyal following of dedicated readers they cultivated. This has led to the Newsletter and Direct Sales taking the place of Facebook ads and Bookbub deals. Direct sales are becoming a more important part of that author’s career. Where Amazon and KDP once ruled, there is now BookFunnel and Shopify.
It’s a natural progression.
So I’m adapting to meet that change. With ScribeCount now up and running I can focus on writing books again. I’ve revamped my website (Nice, huh?) and started a newsletter. I’ve made all my books available here and will most likely have a bigger online store in the near future.
It feels good to be writing again.
So that’s how it all started, and how it’s currently going.
I’m excited to see what happens next. If you’d like to follow along with me on my journey sign up for the newsletter. I’ll check in about once a month or whenever I have a new book coming out. There will probably be a free story in there every once in a while along with some other giveaways. I’ll try and keep the pictures of Henry to a reasonable level.
My name is Randall Wood and I love sharing my stories with readers. You should start with Closure, the first book of the Jack Randall series of thrillers. It has over 32,000 reviews! Get it here for free or from your favorite online store. If you would like to be alerted when new releases happen just sign up for the mailing list. It’s the only mail I send.