Work in progress…

It has been less than a year since I got serious about getting my writing ‘out there’. I thought I would share my experiences thus far. I have made some mistakes, but I’ve done some things right, too. Prior to embracing the web, I spent a lot of time accumulating stories on my computer and submitting to literary magazines that three people read. Then, I wised up. I self-published my novel, ‘Joe Café’, and started a few blogs. I joined Facebook and Twitter. I joined a few groups on Linkedin. I learned a lot of things. Some of them the hard way. Most of them by paying attention.

I played in punk bands when I was younger, so I came into this Indie writing thing with some prior experience in ‘the independent arts’. I knew that it was important to make contacts…not people you can ‘leverage’…friends. I knew that it was important to find like-minded people and work together towards a common goal. I knew that it was important to promote your friends’ work before your own. I knew that community was the most important thing.

So, how are things going? The novel is selling better than I expected. I have worked hard to get peoples’ attention. It’s also a pretty good book. I’m a firm believer that you should not share your work until it is ready. I wrote for years and years before I felt I had a story good enough to submit. When I finally did, it was accepted by the Berkeley Fiction Review and the Chicago Quarterly Review. I wrote a novel before ‘Joe Café’. It wasn’t that great and lives on my hard drive. When I wrote ‘Joe Café, I felt I had come up with something worthy of publication. And I had a bunch of stories that became the foundation of my blogs.

I was lucky enough to meet a lot of great writers online. Many of them were kind enough to review my work – to interview me or let me do guest blogs for them…or all three. I took every opportunity I was offered and tried to return the favor whenever I could. I was fortunate to meet Morgen Bailey on Linkedin. She was soliciting stories for her ‘red pen’ critiques. I sent her a story immediately. Then more stories. Then we did spots on each other’s blogs. Then she interviewed me. This same pattern repeated itself. Within months, I was in contact with brilliant authors like Richard Godwin. Rosanne Dingli. David Antrobus. I met our own K.S. Brooks and Stephen Hise. And there have been many more since then (I won’t list them all…it would make this already verbose post absurdly long).

I learned from these people. I became friends with them. I was inspired by what they were doing. Time passed. I knew I had to step my game up to the next level. Soon, I will be publishing my second novel, ‘The Biker’. My blogs are doing pretty well. Hise invited me to join the Indies Unlimited team. I don’t know exactly why he did this, but I suspect that it had a lot to do with accountability. Accountability is huge.  I am starting a freelancing business and the same holds true.  If you say you are going to do something, you better damn well do it.  You probably won’t get asked a second time if you don’t.

I worked as a sportswriter while I was in High School. I did not miss deadlines. I took every opportunity offered to me there, too. I wrote about things I knew nothing about. I learned. I asked for a weekly column. I was given one. I did the best job I could and always took the shit stories as well as the fun ones.  I learned a lot as a reporter, including how to write fast.  But, more importantly, I learned that it was about the people above and beyond everything else.

I am not making a ton of money with my fiction writing, but I feel as though things are going pretty well. And if I can do it, you can too. The recipe is fairly simple. Get your game as tight as you can before you start trying to establish yourself. First impressions are important. Embrace the community of writers you will find. Do not focus on yourself.  The more you focus on other people, the more you will benefit – and you won’t feel like a sleazy used car salesman. If someone gives you a chance to do something for them, do it. Help out your fellow writers. Don’t ever flake.

I have done my best over the last year to find writers that I respect and to engage in real, meaningful dialogue…to forge real and meaningful friendships. It has been rewarding on many levels. I am now a published novelist. People read the free content on my blog and enjoy it. I am in the position to help other writers and artists. I am honored to be a part of Indies Unlimited…and being a part of Indies Unlimited will help me. But that’s not why I do it.

You reap what you sow. I’ve spent a lot of time on Facebook. More than I would like.  But I have met great people. Yesterday, a woman some of you know, Danielle Drake, helped me make the book cover for ‘The Biker’ that you see at the top of this post. She did not ask for anything in return. She did it because ‘paying it forward’ is the only way to be an artist with integrity. People (including me) liked the cover. Now, she is going to start making book covers on commission. She’s good at it. You can find her burgeoning business here. She opened a door simply by being willing to help.

Why do I mention this? Here’s why. A year ago I spent $35 on a cover for ‘Joe Café’ that wasn’t very good. I will never make that mistake again. I felt like I was being a pain in the ass when I asked for a small change. It wasn’t a fun experience. The result was sub-par, but I didn’t know any better. I like the cover I have now…one my wife, a photographer – Karen Mader, helped me design. Danielle made me a cover I love because she wanted to help. She spent hours working on it. It was a collaboration, but she made it happen.  And she made it the way I wanted it.  Graciously.  I didn’t even have to ask…she offered.

That’s it. It’s as simple as that. I know a lot of talented people now because I made the effort to get to know them. And it has opened doors for me, too. I did a few guest posts for Hise. I delivered on time, and I took him up on every offer to write something for IU. Now, I get to do it twice a week. Danielle saw the opportunity to help me, and she did it without any expectations. Now, I am telling you about what a great experience it was. Some of you will choose to work with her and your network will expand. And if you’re smart, you will put friendship before business.

I have learned something from all the people I mentioned here, and they have all helped me. Danielle just happens to be the most recent example of “Indie generosity”. I don’t know if these people have learned anything from me, but I do my best to spread the word. I suggest that people read their work. I tweet random things about them. They do the same for me. You may never make a lot of money being an Indie writer, but you can have a lot of fun, and all you have to do is produce quality work, show up on time, take the opportunities presented to you, and approach everything as a chance to help the community, not yourself. It’s amazing how that attitude comes back to help you in the long run, regardless.

A few years ago, I started a motorcycle club. I had been riding for years, but I always rode alone. Then I bought a big dual-sport bike and joined a KLR forum. Weeks later, I was riding six hours to the house of some guy I had never met. He spent all day working on my bike – for nothing. It kept happening. I did my best to return the favor by helping others.  They are like us. They are a community. My club is like a family. We ride some dangerous places. I literally trust them with my life. The club really only has one rule: if you see another biker who needs help, you stop.  No matter what. No matter what kind of bike they ride. Whether you are late or just out for a cruise. Rain, sleet, or snow.  You get into some pretty interesting conversations and meet some pretty cool people that way. Sometimes you even get a warm bed when you need one or a meal when you’re sick of Cliff bars. We Indie writers may never meet each other face to face, but that’s unimportant. We meet on a different kind of highway, but the moral is the same. It’s the spirit of it…that’s the thing.

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JD Mader is the author of ‘Joe Cafe’ and a Contributing Author to IU.  You can find more of JD’s writing on his blog: www.jdmader.com.

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Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

42 thoughts on “Work in progress…”

  1. Dan,

    I am lucky to call you friend! Did I learn something from you? Yes. I never would have had the knowledge (or courage) to start making covers seriously, if it wasn't for your support. Working with you was fun, rewarding, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I still plan to keep commission very modest. I don't agree with the 'you get what you pay for' mindset. I don't need a lot of money to do something that makes someone's day. Heck, I'd do it for free, if I could! I am glad you love it, its a great cover for a wonderful friend.

    1. Thanks Danielle. 🙂

      Next cover I need, I'll be knocking on your door. And I'm going to be shouting your name from the rooftops, so get ready. I'm lucky to call you friend, too.

      1. Next time make it a challenge, will ya? You need to whine, stomp your foot and otherwise be difficult! You told me you would be in the beginning. You lied.

          1. You better. It isn't 'work' if it is fun. You are just too nice a guy. Every time you'd ask me to fix it a little bit you almost seemed scared. I'm just glad we banged it into shape for you!

  2. Yep, that's what it is all about. Some of us are a bit better at it than others, but on the whole, Indies are a wonderfully supportive bunch. I, too, have learned a lot, benefited a great deal, and tried to give a little back. Just wish there were more hours in which to accomplish that.

    I don't know where you all get that energy.

  3. Great post, JD. I'm glad Stephen started this blog, he's done a great job with it and adding you and the others only makes it stronger and a great support for us. I'm glad to be a part of it, too.

  4. I read Joe's Cafe before this post. It has something old-fashioned in the best sense of the word: camaraderie, a woebegone one for all and all for one. I like you JD!

  5. Dan, this is a fantastic post. Sometimes when I see a long post on a blog, especially if it's getting close to bedtime (like right now), I will only skim over it and maybe not even to the end. I read every word of your post and enjoyed it all. Great job. And I wish you well on your new book as well as on Joe Cafe.

  6. Dan,

    You make me feel bad (but in a good way!). You've been far more reliable than I have. I've let my sluggish sales get me down, and I've been negligent about blogging, about many things. I am, however, closing in on finishing my next novel, "Fat Tuesday". This time I mean to do more of the things I swore I would the first time, and who knows, maybe the damn thing will sell better. Anyhow, I'm eager to read The Biker, because I know, based on Joe Cafe, that I'll love it and get all fired up. Anyhow, great blog, and I look forward to reading your forthcoming blogs, as well.

    1. Thanks a lot, Tom! And congrats on the new novel. I'm stoked to read it. The Space He Filled was one of the first indie novels I read that made me think, damn, there are some good writers out there…I better get busy. 🙂

  7. Great post – you really sum up the whole indie spirit. Like you say, I won't make much money out this, but it's not about the money (if I was in this for the cash, I'd be better off spending my time studying to be a lawyer or a doctor, or some such). It's great being part of something new and exciting, and I've met some fantasic people who have been unbelievably supportive (and still are!)

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