Barry Hutchison began his writing career with a flying leap into screenplay options at the age of 17, followed by 80+ traditionally published children’s books, before deciding to self-publish his adult fiction. He had a bit of a stumble with his first series, but followed up immediately with a second series that did very well, all within one year. This week, I talk to Barry about the things he learned from that first series and how community helped him turn the second one into success.
@barryhutchison on Twitter
Barry started his writing career right out of the gate by optioning a screenplay when he was just 17. He also optioned his second screenplay. But when his next few scripts didn’t sell, he went through a spate of “proper jobs.”
When his son was born, Barry started looking to writing children’s books. He took an idea he had originally envisioned as a screenplay and turned that into the first book in his series Invisible Fiends. Once he was finished with the book in 2007, he submitted it to an agency competition hoping to get feedback. Instead, what he got was representation. HarperCollins snapped it up right away and asked for five more. The series came out in 2010, and his children’s book career was launched.
Barry now has over 80 books under his belt as a traditionally published children’s author. He also writes comics.
So what made him try his hand at indie publishing?
Barry had an idea for a horror serial that he knew he couldn’t sell to a traditional publisher, so he decided he’d self-publish it.
Barry says he wasn’t surprised it didn’t go blockbuster. In his own words, it was a “disaster waiting to happen.” It wasn’t written to market, the POV jumped from 1st person to 3rd person, the episodes were only 15,000 words, half the story was set in Scotland, half in the U.S., following two teams of characters that appear unconnected until the end…just a very atypical story from what readers are expecting or searching for.
Even so, the freedom of self-publishing was liberating, and Barry says he was thrilled to have control of every aspect of the publishing process and did everything himself, including the covers.
Although Barry was a little discouraged by The Bug’s performance, he had another idea for a comedy science fiction series about Cal Carver, a con man in jail forced to share a cell with a cannibalistic serial killer called The Butcher. When Cal is mistakenly abducted by aliens, things take a turn for the hilarious.
Barry knew that regardless of the story’s prospect for success he was going to write it, so he might as well take another crack at self-publishing.
“Once I have an idea for a story, it just stays in my head until I can kind of get it out somehow. Once I write it down, it kind of leaves my head and frees up some space. Otherwise, it just sticks in there and buzzes around. I need to kind of exercise it by getting it out onto the page.”
He threw himself into learning as much as he could about indie publishing, joining Facebook author groups, listening to podcasts, and participating in the 20Booksto50K community run by Mike Anderle.
Barry spent a good amount of time building up a bank of good will in the community, helping and encouraging where he could. He stresses the importance of writers getting involved in communities like 20Booksto50K, noting how incredibly helpful and supportive such a community can be. Everyone is keen on helping each other achieve their goals, and so they were willing to help Barry.
That’s where he learned how to leverage instaFreebie to build his email subscriber list from 7 to over 3,000 in a month and a half. He participated in cross-promos with other authors to help extend each other’s exposure and gain more subscribers. It worked like a dream.
He put out the first book of Space Team up at $.99 for the first week. Thanks to his community and email list, he had 162 sales in pre-orders. He sold 40-50 copies that first day. Thanks to his ARC team, he had 10 reviews up right away. And then fellow authors started hitting their email lists, which kept sales consistent over enough time to tickle Amazon’s algorithms and keep the book selling well. After the first week at $.99, with good sales and decent page reads (his books are in the Kindle Unlimited program), he decided to raise the price to $2.99, and it continued to sell well. The first month he made $1,500.
He immediately set to work on Book 2, Space Team: The Wrath of Vajazzle, which came out in November of 2016, and has Book 3, Space Team: The Search for Splurt due out February 17, 2017, now available for pre-order. He also published Space Team: The Holiday Special in December.
Advice to New Authors
No. 1: Just write. Write every day. Write in different genres, try new things, write descriptions, anything. Just write every day.
No. 2: Find your community, your tribe…get involved and be involved. That’s the biggest thing I would say.
Just one this week:
Join a community of authors…or start participating in one of the several that you’re already registered with. Start building that “bank of good will” by helping out other authors, giving feedback and advice from your own experience, and offer encouragement. And don’t be afraid to seek feedback and advice and encouragement either. As Barry says, “I would rather have positive, constructive feedback than compliments” because he helps him become a better writer.
While it might sound a bit calculated the idea of building a bank of good will, if you are participating with a generous spirit, you will be adding value to the lives of people you respect and admire, and the incredible friendships that will evolve will be priceless. So get out there and say hi!
What’s the best thing you’ve gotten out of being a part of a writer’s community?
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