Craig Schaefer, author of the popular Daniel Faust series, is a few days shy of celebrating his one-year anniversary of going pro. In his inaugural year as a self-published author, he has published six books in two different genres and signed with 47North for a third series. This week, I talk to Craig about his overnight success 40 years in the making.
Craig has always been a writer. It’s been his one big dream, to become a professional writer, but like for so many, life kept getting in the way. But as he started coming up on his 40th birthday, he started getting serious about his dream. In 2013, he wrote the first book of his Daniel Faust series, The Long Way Down, and not liking the terms offered by publishers, sought agent representation.
Craig was thrilled when an agent expressed interest in the book and requested a three-month exclusive. But after those three months stretched ominously into a year with limited and scattered communication, he then received a form rejection email from his agent. It was a disappointing blow, to say the least. But it was then that a friend turned Craig on to self-publishing. He looked into it and realized very quickly that self-publishing was for him.
Fortunately, during the time he was waiting for his agent to sell his first book, Craig kept working on his series. Once he decided to self-publish, he committed to putting out no less than three books. He hired a cover designer, formatter, editor — professionals to help him put out a quality product so he could focus on writing and editing. By the time his first book came out, he was already working on his third book.
Sales in Craig’s Daniel Faust series, a gritty dark urban fantasy, grew organically, without any special pricing or promotions. All of his books are priced at $4.99. Most of his growth has been from word-of-mouth and the helpful push of Amazon algorithms and also-boughts.
A Calculated Risk
Craig describes his Revanche Cycle series as a four-volume epic political fantasy, a sort of feminist-leaning Game of Thrones set in a heavily fictionalized Italian Renaissance…a far cry from the gritty, underbelly universe of his anti-hero sorcerer Daniel Faust. He admits that there is very little cross-over between urban fantasy readers and epic fantasy readers and that he has taken a big risk committing to writing a four-book series in a completely separate genre; however, the final results aren’t in yet. Craig believes you need at least three books in a series before you can tell if it’s a success or not. He’s only halfway through the series, and he’s playing a wicked long game with a plot twist in 2016 that will connect his two very different series together. Only time will tell if his investment in the story will pay off, but he has no regrets. It’s a story he was passionate to tell…and if the positive reviews are any indication, it’s a story he told well.
One Year of Publishing
4/25/14 – The Long Way Down (Daniel Faust Book 1) – 374 pages – $4.99
6/13/14 – Redemption Song (Daniel Faust Book 2) – 380 pages – $4.99
8/27/14 – The Living End (Daniel Faust Book 3) – 381 pages – $4.99
11/11/14 – Winter’s Reach (The Revanche Cycle Book 1) – 367 pages – $4.99
1/20/15 – A Plain-Dealing Villain (Daniel Faust Book 4) – 283 pages – $4.99
4/19/15 – The Instruments of Control (The Revanche Cycle Book 2) – 315 pages – $4.99
Impressed by the Daniel Faust books, an acquisition editor from Amazon’s science fiction/fantasy/horror imprint 47North contacted Craig to pitch ideas for other series. Craig sold a spin-off series featuring Harmony Black, a character who appears in Redemption Song, a happy situation that could not have occurred, he points out, with a traditional publisher and their standard non-compete clauses.
What’s Next for Craig?
All good things, all good things: Craig’s second book in his Revanche Cycle series just came out on 4/19/15; he’s currently writing the fifth installment of Daniel Faust due out October/November 2015; and his first book with 47North featuring Harmony Black will be out sometime this winter. And fans of his Daniel Faust series will be thrilled to know there are 20 books ultimately planned, so there is more dark magic to come.
On giving up: “You have to want it. I mean, if you gave up that easily, how bad did you want to succeed in the first place?”
On readers’ reception of Craig’s second series: “They stayed away in droves.”
On what readers really care about: “The most important thing I learned was that readers are not your fans — they are your book’s fans. They like your series. They like your characters.”
On audiobooks: “I have to tell writers, ‘Get on audio. Do this. Do it now. Do it yesterday.’”
On failure: “If I can tell people one takeaway message from my experience, don’t be afraid to fail…especially if you plan to fail and you’ve got a fallback. Fail. Learn from it. Pick yourself up. Move on. Because long-term, you can benefit.”
- If you’re writing a series, Craig recommends committing to writing at least three books before branching off into other things. Readers need proof of consistency, and often, epic fantasy readers are reluctant to invest in a brand-new series until they see a second or third book.
- Get your books out in audio format yesterday! Craig points out that there is an entire new market of people who only do audio, and to not offer your book in audio format is akin to leaving money on the table. Audiobook listeners are really eager and very responsive, and they want your books!
- Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to succeed, and then do it. Craig gets up at 5:00 a.m., writes before going to his day job, writes at his desk during lunch, and writes when he comes home until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. He admits it’s not a healthy routine, but “I want it that badly. This is what I have to do to get my career where I want it to be.”
How badly do you want it? How many hours a week do you put into your self-publishing business? To what lengths will you go to achieve the Dream?
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