Today, please welcome guest blogger Ethan Jones, as he talks about self-publishing and introduces his book that launches today, Arctic Wargame:
My Adventures in Self-publishing
I shopped my two novels, Arctic Wargame (out on Amazon on May 22) and Tripoli’s Target (out in fall 2012), to a few hundred agents and publishers over the course of 2009-2011. I received some great feedback. A few agents asked for a partial manuscript and two or three for a full. But no one was willing to make an offer or sign a contract. In the mean time, I kept writing.
I had not considered self-publishing because it seemed like a lot of work and I had truly hoped an agency or a publisher would pick up my works. Upon the suggestion of a good friend, I dusted off my first novel, Arctic Wargame. I found three great beta readers, all published writers, and we took a new stab at my gibberish. Then, I worked with two great editors and proofreaders, to create the best possible work. After formatting it professionally, it finally saw the light of publishing through Amazon.
Self-publishing, like many other things, is not for everyone. It is a lot of work, most of it done independently. It involved a lot of multi-tasking, being creative and relentless. The writer needs to be also a salesman and a publicists, to take care of the promotion and the marketing of the book, and to work with an art designer for the cover. Then, it's the turn to format the work and upload it to the right distribution channels. And let us not forget your social network and web presence.
Of course, most of these services can be contracted depending on your budget, but the majority of up-and-coming writers may not have the necessary sources to cover all or a part of these expenses. Depending on what one is willing to do on their own, the total cost for a book can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
The flexibility, the freedom and the low pressure are three things I liked during my adventures in self-publishing. There are no deadlines, other than those you impose on yourself, and those are quite flexible. If the editor does not return your manuscript on time, there are no upset agents or publishing managers. If the cover art is not acceptable, there is always time for a second or third or fourth draft. Interviews and blog posts can be scheduled around your life, not the other way around. You are free to do as much or as little promotion as you want.
The time-consuming, the learning curve and multi-tasking are three things I struggled with as I ventured into the self-publishing route. The first time is the hardest, of course. It takes a lot of time to find the right beta readers and editors. One must be willing to learn how to give interviews, how to conceptualize a cover design for their work, how to draft a press release and how to handle media inquiries. All these processes take time. Over the course of the same day a writer must wear so many other hats.
Needless to say, all these activities take away a lot of time and energy that otherwise would have been invested in writing another book. But self-publishing offers authors that direct communication to their readers, allows them to make their work accessible to everyone, everywhere in the world, and enables them to keep the price down, while still keeping an excellent margin of profit (70% of the sale price through Amazon, if you work is priced between $ 2.99 and $ 9.99). Above all, it allows the authors to realize their long-time dream of publishing their work and entertaining their readers.
I would love your readers' feedback. They can get in touch with me via e-mail at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org I promise to write to each and every one of them.
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Ethan Jones is a lawyer by trade and the author of Arctic Wargame, a spy thriller available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback. He has also published two short stories: Carved in Memory, a prequel to Arctic Wargame, and The Last Confession, both available on Amazon as e-books. His second spy thriller, Tripoli’s Target, will be released in fall 2012. Ethan lives in Canada with his wife and his son.
Canadian Intelligence Service Agent Justin Hall—combat-hardened in operations throughout Northern Africa—has been demoted after a botched mission in Libya.
When two foreign icebreakers appear in Canadian Arctic waters, Justin volunteers for the reconnaissance mission, eager to return to the field. His team discovers a foreign weapons cache deep in the Arctic, but they are not aware that a spy has infiltrated the Department of National Defence.
The team begins to unravel a treasonous plan against Canada, but they fall under attack from one of their own. Disarmed and stripped of their survival gear, they are stranded in a remote location. Now the team must survive the deadly Arctic not only to save themselves, but their country.
Six months ago
October 10, 3:00 a.m.
The sand dunes sank into darkness as a curtain of clouds dimmed the glow of the crescent moon. Justin limped closer to the small barred window of his prison cell. His bruised chest pressed against the rough surface of the bloodstained wall. He squinted and tried to stand on his toes for a better look. The rusty shackles clawed against the scarred skin of his ankles, and the heavy chain rattled on the cement floor.
“Quiet. Be quiet, you bastard infidel,” a guard growled in Arabic from down the shadowy prison hallway.
Justin stood still and drew in a deep breath, the cold night air of the Sahara desert filling his heaving lungs. Everything went silent again. No rapid steps rushing to his cell. No swearing bellowed by other inmates. He lifted his head, wrapped his free hands around the iron bars, and clenched his teeth, ignoring the jolts of pain from his fingers. With his eyes about an inch over the windowsill, Justin scoped the landscape, searching for the long-awaited rescue team.
Abdul, his connection within Libya’s Internal Security Agency who lay in the cell next door, had confirmed their escape was to take place early that morning. Their previous attempt the night before had failed, despite the inside help of one of the terrorists. Justin hoped this time their plan would be executed with no glitches.
At first, he noticed nothing except the rugged outlines of the steep dunes and the whitewashed walls of the sleepy town. Straining his eyes, he peered again. A small shadow slithered toward the prison wall. Justin blinked to clear his vision and stared at the approaching figure.
Bent at the waist, the shadow advanced at a rapid pace. It quickly disappeared from his sight, and he wondered whether the man had encountered a guard.
Justin’s heart pounded. He placed his ear to the wall and sensed a low grating noise. Someone, the shadow he hoped, was scaling the wall.
The window was at least twelve feet above the ground. He wondered how long it would take the shadow to reach it. A long minute dragged by and Justin was still alone. He breathed faster and faster and urged the man on the freedom side of the wall to make good time.
Finally, a hushed voice whispered in Arabic, “Abdul, Abdul, it’s me, Bashir. You there?”
“I’m Justin,” he replied softly.
“You’re the Canadian agent. Where’s Abdul?”
“In the other cell, around the corner, but that one has no window.”
“When did they move him?”
“A few hours ago, after they gave him a good beating.”
“Can he walk?”
“I think so.”
Bashir went silent for a moment. Justin looked up, but could not see the man’s face through the window. He asked slowly, “Bashir?”
A few seconds later, he heard a scraping sound. Bashir was offering him a large metal key through the window bars. “That’s for the shackles,” Bashir said under his breath, “and this is for the guard.” He produced a black dagger.
Justin grabbed the handle and weighed the weapon in his weak hand. A ray of moonlight glinted off the ten-inch blade.
“Can you do this?” Bashir whispered.
“You have only one chance. I’ll wait for you and Abdul in two black Nissans by the main gate. Then we’ll drive across the border to Tunisia.”
Justin frowned. “What about the hostages? The two Canadian doctors?”
“The Algerians moved them from their safe house to another location, out of the prison but still in town. My men are on their way there.”
“Yes, your partner is with them.”
Justin breathed a sigh of relief. “OK. I’ll make sure Abdul and I meet you by the gate.”
“You’ll have to be quiet. About twenty men are guarding the prison, and we can’t defeat them all.”
“Abdul knows the way, but if you can’t free him, walk down the stairs and go left. The hall will take you to a small courtyard on the ground floor. There will be a guard or two by the gate. You need to cross into the house next door.”
“Downstairs, then left, then to the house,” Justin said, finding it a bit difficult to concentrate on Bashir’s words.
“Yes. Get to the roof of the house and drop down along the side facing the mosque. Follow the road leading to the main gate. Is it clear?”
“Yes, it is.”
Bashir’s clothes rubbed against the wall, and then silence returned to Justin’s cell. He stared at the key and the dagger in his right hand. Stepping back from the window, he was careful not to jerk the chain and alert the guard beyond the solid metal door. The key fit into the shackles’ padlock. He coughed loudly as he turned the key to cover the dull clunk of the lock snapping open. Now almost free, he removed the metal loops from around his ankles.
First imprisoned in Tripoli after their hostage rescue operation went wrong, Justin and Abdul were subjected to torture by the Algerian hostage takers for two days. After Justin and Abdul attempted an escape and killed a guard in the process, the Algerians––with the help of the Libyan secret police––moved them to Ghadames, an isolated and less risky place in their minds.
Justin wasted no time. He took a deep breath, gripped the dagger tightly, and called out to the guard, “Hey, open the door.”
“Shut up,” the guard roared back.
“I need to talk to you.”
“No. Just shut up.”
Justin banged twice on the heavy door.
The guard’s voice grew louder as he drew nearer to the door. “What’s the matter with you? You want me to break your leg?”
Justin slammed his fist against the door.
“That’s it. You asked for it,” the guard shouted.
Keys clattered as the guard struggled to find the right one to unlock the door. Justin stepped to the side and lifted his dagger high, waiting for the right moment. His hand shook. The weapon felt heavy, straining his muscles.
“I’m going to beat some sense into you now,” the guard barked.
As the guard shoved open the door, Justin thrust his hand toward the man’s throat. The blade slashed deep under the man’s thick chin, severing his windpipe. The guard dropped dead into his stretched arms, blood sputtering from the man’s mangled neck.
Justin used the guard’s black robe and turban to wipe the blood stains from his face and his arms. He stripped the man of his keys, his side arm—an old Beretta 92 pistol—his AK-47 assault rifle and two magazines. Justin dragged the body to a corner of his cell and locked the door behind him.
He tiptoed to Abdul’s cell. On the second try, he found the right key. As he opened the door, the powerful stench of sweat and urine almost twisted his stomach inside out. Abdul was lying against a wall, asleep.
“Abdul, Abdul, wake up.” Justin rustled him.
“Huh? What?” Abdul mumbled with a big yawn.
“Time to go, man.”
“Justin, how did you…” Abdul sat up slowly and stared into Justin’s eyes.
“Bashir gave me a key and a knife.”
“Bashir? When did he come?”
“Tell you later. Let’s go. Can you walk?”
“Yes, yes, I can.”
Justin unchained Abdul’s bruised legs and helped him to his feet. Abdul leaned against the wall before taking a few unsteady steps.
“I’m good. I can do this,” Abdul said.
“OK, follow me.”
“First, give me that.” Abdul pointed at the assault rifle.
“Bashir said we need to break out in silence. Too many fighters for us to kill them all.”
Abdul held the AK-47 in his hands with difficulty and fumbled with the safety switch. Finally, he switched it to full automatic. “Just in case,” he mumbled.
Justin threw a glance down the hall and signaled for Abdul to follow him. They moved quickly to the end of the narrow hallway, their bare feet tapping lightly on the concrete floor, grains of sand gritting their toes.
“We go to the first floor, then left,” Justin said as they came to a spiral staircase.
“Left through the hall until we reach the courtyard. We have to go through the door taking us to the house next to the prison. Bashir will wait for us at the main gate.”
“What? That’s Bashir’s plan? There’s always a group of guards in the back.”
“He said there should be only one, two at the most, and we have to get rid of them quietly.”
“That’s impossible. They’ll see us as we go outside and kill us.”
“Maybe they’re dozing off.”
“If not, we shoot first.”
“No. We’ll have the rest of the Algerians coming after us.”
Justin winced as his left foot landed on the coarse surface of the first stair. He took two more steps and turned his head. Abdul nodded and followed behind him. Holding the dagger ready in his hand, Justin continued down the stairs. He reached the bottom. The hall forked right and left. A light flickered from the right. Justin stepped back, gesturing for Abdul to stop.
“What’s that way?” Justin asked in a hushed tone, pointing toward the light.
“A kitchen and a dining area. And someone’s awake.”“Don’t worry about it. We’re slipping out the other way.”
Justin glimpsed again toward the dim light, then to the opposite side and began creeping down the hall. He saw a door about twenty steps ahead and figured it was the one opening into the courtyard. Pressing on, he quickened his pace. Abdul’s feet shuffled loudly behind him.
“Quiet, quiet, Abdul,” he said.
“That’s not me.”
Justin turned his head and looked over Abdul’s shoulders. He stared right into the eyes of a man standing five or six steps behind Abdul and pointing a pistol at them. The gunman was of a small, thin stature, clad in a white robe and a black headdress.
“Stop or I’ll blow your head off,” he said in Arabic.
The gunman’s voice crackled abruptly. Its unexpected high pitch startled Justin. The pistol shook in the young man’s hands.
“He’s just a kid,” Justin whispered to Abdul, who was preparing to turn his rifle toward the gunman.
“I will shoot you,” the young man squeaked, this time louder. “You, turn around with your hands in the air,” he ordered Abdul.
Abdul swung on his heels, firing a quick burst.
“No,” Justin shouted.
Bullets went through the gunman. Two large purple stains appeared on his chest as he collapsed over a chair.
“No, no, no,” Justin cried. “He was a kid, just a kid.”
“Who was going to blow our heads off,” Abdul replied.
“We could have talked to him.”
Abdul shook his head. “No time for talk. Now run.”
Before Justin could say anything, someone kicked open the door behind him.
“Down,” Abdul shouted and pointed his AK-47 toward the door.
Justin fell to the floor, while Abdul kept his finger on the assault rifle’s trigger. Bullets pierced the bodies of two guards who entered the hall. Loud cries and barking orders came from two stories above. Rapid thuds of heavy boots echoed throughout the prison. Justin pulled out the Beretta from a pocket of his tattered khakis. As soon as two men running downstairs entered his sights, he planted a couple of bullets in each man’s neck.
“Go, go, go. Move, move!” he yelled at Abdul.
Abdul checked the door and fired a short burst into the courtyard. A few shrieks confirmed he hit his mark, and he dove outside. More gunfire followed. The reports of assault rifles echoed in the night. Heavy machine guns hammering in the distance pounded the urgency of their escape into the Canadian agent. After trading his Beretta for a high-powered AK-47 next to the body of a dead guard, Justin joined Abdul in the courtyard.
Arctic Wargames is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Arctic-Wargame-Justin-Novel-ebook/dp/B0084FH6M8/