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Thursday, October 16, 2014
U.L. Harper: A Self-Published Author
It’s a pleasure to welcome author U.L. Harper back to Thoughts in Progress. It’s been a few years since his last visit, but he’s here today to talk about being a self-published author.
His latest release is In Blackness: The Reinvention of Man: In Blackness, #2. Here’s a description of it: The aliens have returned and we’ve offered them…our flesh. The aliens mysteriously disappeared but not before they murdered thousands in man-made, human slaughterhouses. San Pedro has been gutted from the invasion, physically and emotionally. It is a time of deep unrest spurred by a lack of government transparency about the invasion. The aliens must have had human help. Dustin, Lenny, and Saline know their father is part of the conspiracy but before that even matters they have to save themselves. If Lenny and Saline want to live they must complete the missions assigned to them by aliens. Once on their respective journeys, Lenny meets Michaela, a woman ready to kill for those like her—individuals on the run from a mysterious and homicidal alien. She is visceral and determined to help Lenny, but why she will go to no end to do so will put them in grave danger. Saline, on the other hand, teams up with a young boy who is also the only person to see on board the alien ship. What he says about the ship is riveting and frightening even beyond her wildest ideas of it. The very nature of the ship is what could very well change everything. Meanwhile, Dustin remains home preparing for San Pedro’s apparent collapse when he discovers something that could either ruin him or help him through this trying time—his father’s secret stash of living, alien flesh. Now Dustin is left with a decision: trust his father and use the alien skin to his advantage or risk falling victim to ensuing barbarism. The Reinvention of Man is the second book in the In Blackness Trilogy.
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to U.L. as he talks about the publishing industry and being a self-published author.
I’m a self-published author. There. I said it. For better or worse I did it my way, do it my way, and appreciate my way. But I’m learning, even if I’m being jaded in the process, I’m learning. Some of the things I’ve learned about book publishing might seem obvious to most of you, but to me, not so much. Let’s get started.
First off, I’m just going to state the obvious. The book industry is broken. I didn’t want to believe it when I got started. I thought it was all negative hype and that for the true readers and the “real” publishers books were flourishing. I was wrong. My thinking was that I could write some damned good books and the crème would always rise to the top. The truth is, the crème gets old because the industry doesn’t believe in good story-telling; it believes in good story-marketing and if your great story doesn’t seem marketable at the time then why invest in it? That seems to be the general outlook from publishing. It means there are some bad books out there that no one really wants to read, getting pushed really hard. Thanks industry, for killing books…slowly. They complain self-publishing is flooding the market. No. Publishers have been flooding the market with crap for decades. It’s one reason why so many authors figure they can do it themselves. They’re like, I can put out crap like that. Sounds kind of rude but that doesn’t make it any less true.
It sounds bitter but that’s one thing that I learned.
So what I had to do was adjust. I had to do more than just write a damned good book, and I couldn’t wait. So this is what I did. I edited, big time. My newest novel, IN BLACKNESS, I scaled down from about 80,000 words to about 62,000 words. Some people accused me of lopping off story, which I did, and others accused me of skimping out on the characters, which I didn’t. Every character still grows all the way through the novel, it’s just that now I’ll talk about their parents, not their grandparents as well. They no longer look in the mirror in retrospect of something. They don’t ponder good and evil or make quips at the audience. I don’t dwell on scenery. I simply set the scene and move on.
Now I have less of a focus on being literary and more of a focus on having a distinct tone, clear movement and proper yet interesting timing. Yes, it makes for a much shorter story. The question is why do I need a shorter story? Here is why? It’s cheaper to proofread a 250 page novel compared to a 400 page novel, in a nutshell. It’s also cheaper to print and mail. Someone might argue to simply tell the story and that’s it. How it turns out is how it turns out. People that is hogwash.
You write the story, and you have to be willing to do what’s needed to make that particular story the best it can be, rather than what you think it should be. It’s not about you. It’s about the story, and believe it or not, it’s about the reader. You can’t please everybody, but why only please yourself? Be happy with what you create but you have to have the audience in mind.
Yeah, I sound negative. I’m not though. It’s pragmatic. Put it this way. My first novel, THE FLESH STATUE, in my opinion, will probably always be my best work. Like you might guess, it’s the one with most of my personality in it. I put everything I had into it. Love it to death. With that said, it’s the least impactful of anything I have out there. Why? Nobody gets it. And I never found a way to market it. The timing is messed up in it; there is too much information. In other words, it needs an editor. It will get it one day. Right now, however, I don’t want to touch what I consider is an epic piece of badly edited, hardly proofread, amazing slab of literature. Love it.
Okay, I’m not going to continue blabbering away. You and I have things to do. I’m just going to add this last little bit. Writing groups. There are different ways to look at them. Here is my view. Use them. Most of the time they have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s just that if you’re wondering what the reader might be thinking, then their opinions are gold. So what if you’re group does not represent your target audience. If they’re the audience you have then they’re what you have. Whatever they say is true, at least to them. It only takes one great comment to give you that ah ha moment. For me it was in college. I remember the comment to this day, decades later. My professor said that not only was the reader and characters surprised at the events taking place but so was the author. I loved thateffect, and I knew how I did it and I could duplicate it. To this day, I use the technique. Everything is always in front of the reader. I try to hide nothing. At the same time, what the character or characters do with the information kind of hits you in the face. It’s the illusion that the characters are jumping off the page on their own. The point is I got it from a writing group. Through the semester it was the only thing I remembered. The one thing.
Anyway hit me up on Twitter if you get a chance or email me. I’ll be around. Thanks for stopping by. U.L., thanks for joining us today and sharing your insight into the publishing industry and being a self-published author.
Now let me share a bit of background on U.L. in his own words.
First off I write books. I write science fiction and fantasy based in reality. Think Vonnegut meets McCarthy. My stories are never straight forward. My novels are basically devoid of romance. Love, yes. Romance, no. I don’t believe in romance, a lie a man tells to a woman’s reality. I have no business writing it. One thing all my novels have is that they take place in the immediate future or a slightly facetious present. If that doesn’t make sense then, damn. Leave me a comment somewhere, I guess.
I started writing when every other author starting writing—at about 12 years old, with a pencil and a spiral bound notebook. Had no idea I was writing stories. On any level, I finished my first novel at about 23 years old. It was a handwritten manuscript and all of it was in pencil. It was called The Nothing Bottom and nobody will ever read it, because I lost it right after I wrote it. My next novel I lost on a floppy disc. It simply disappeared from off the disc. I had to reimagine the entire thing. The current version is called IN BLACKNESS. Anyone willing can purchase it from wherever books are sold. It’s a good time. If I were to choose between that book and Disneyland I’d just kick Mickey in face and then go read my book.
I’m a native to Long Beach, California and attended Long Beach Poly High School and then Cypress Community College where I became Editor In Chief of the Cypress Chronicle (in the good ol' days).
Now I run after-school programs in Long Beach. Over three hundred students attend my programs. Nope, this wasn’t my first choice for work. My first choice was to be a professional tetherball player. Then I wanted to be a journalist. Actually, I wound up succeeding on a small level with the journalist thing. It’s just that $8 an hour will have you finding another job pretty quick. That bicycle wasn’t working for me, wasn’t getting me anywhere so to speak. That paper closed anyway.
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