7 Years of Anarchy
Seven years ago, in 2017, I took on self-publishing. Times had changed, and it was suddenly more doable than before. I had gotten my rights back to my previously published books, and I felt the need to do something with them. Anarchy was the apt title of my first DIY Punk Fiction book. The trials and tribulations of its journey would lead in fast succession to creating new versions of Wild Boys, Dolphin Street, and Trouble.
Years prior, in 2010, I had tried to self-publish my second book, Dark Lands, and it was a disaster. I tinkered with the Amazon site of the time and gave up and went with the vanity publisher, Wasteland Press, that I had used before on my first novella, Where the Road Roams. That experience guided me to submit Wild Boys to some publishers, and I got lucky on the third try with Beau to Beau Publishing. The relationship was good for awhile. Then things changed. My manuscript of runaway teens vs. brutal street punks, Escape from Dolphin Street, was held up due to censorship. At the same time, other separate issues of piracy plagued the rest of my books, and sales dropped off. We decided to terminate the contract, but there was still a struggle to get my rights back. Some important steps are to copyright your material, read the fine print of a contract, and save correspondence on import topics.
With the rights back in hand, I decided to learn what I needed to know (which was everything) about self-publishing and not have a repeat disaster. I decided to start by combining my first novella with my prior collection of short horror stories and adding some new material to create Anarchy: Strange Tales of Outsiders.
I scoured the internet for how-to videos, live tutorials, and user feedback and discovered the wonderful Scrivener program, which is still amazing to this day. I used my past handwritten notebooks, Word, and even Celtx screenplay files to compile and study my past versions and set about editing and organizing the new manuscript. (Later, I would discover another valuable resource in Vellum for e-books.) Editing was rough for me at first, but through repetition and the use of grammar programs for hints along with other eyes, the process has improved, and I have learned a lot. The experience has helped me tweak my self-published books to a good place in their current editions. I also believe that one has to let a past project live in the past and not dwell on changing the content over and over. It is best to move on and leave it within the veneer of its own time.
The new material included the following: The Carny Cage was written for the book along with the Punk Compendium introduction and Disseminate, a slice of gay cyberpunk flash fiction. (The latest edition also includes The Loner, an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired tale of bullies and revenge.) Under the Moonbow started as a submission to Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. It did not make the cut, so I changed the mythology, and it was accepted in MCB Quarterly Issue #3, October 2015. And after the requisite time for the rights to revert, I made it my own piece of Anarchy.
I needed to design a cover since I did not have the rights nor the desire to use the previous romance-influenced ones. I found an alternative to the expensive Adobe (which is now by subscription only) with Affinity (a one-time buy), and I learned how-to with trial and error and the templates provided by KDP. I had grandiose ideas inspired by Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams cover but had to dial it down to basic graffiti on a brick wall for my first go. On a few other projects, I tried different cover artists. The only one that is still in print is the western one for Wild Boys. All the rest, for better or worse, are my creations.
Marketing has been a roller coaster in and of itself. I have been through the changing times of social media, starting with a MySpace page (before I published anything), abandoning Facebook, IG, Twitter, and Vero, and coming back with one account on X @punk_fiction70. In the beginning, I was on Ray Hill’s Prison Radio Show to promote Where the Road Roams (before it was a piece of Anarchy) while researching my true crime manuscript, Lane Bowden 1973. I created marketing material in the form of postcard flyers for specific books and Punk Fiction business cards. I entered the Furries Writer’s Guild with The Trouble with Furries, which is an interesting writing place. I placed ads for my works on some book sites, including The Book Review, AFStewartBlog, HWA, and one for Anarchy in the 2017 StokerCon program. I discovered that Amazon Ads work, but the expense-to-sale ratio is hard to figure out. And my four proudest horror moments were when I had a personal classified ad in Fangoria Vol. 2 #5 (Fangoria has influenced my life since 1984.) and an ad for my giallo book, Modulator, in Rue Morgue #208 (Halloween Issue), getting a copy of Anarchy in the Naperville Public Library, and becoming a member of the Horror Writer’s Association due to the publication of Under the Moonbow.
Overall, I am proud of my accomplishments and have enjoyed some success with having formatted e-books, paperbacks, and hardbacks while maintaining a Punk Fiction blog on my website, davidsharpwriter.com, since January of 2017.
I feel this is the end of my phase of self-publishing. Never say never, but done is done… for now.
The epitaph reads: Punk Fiction 2017-2024
What this means for 2024 is that I will not be self-publishing any new books as I strive for a new path forward. My previous books will still be available to purchase, and my Punk Fiction blog will continue on this site for now.