Episode # 147 – Boldly Launch a Fiction Career with Derek Murphy

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell8 Comments

derekcovernewDerek Murphy is best known in the indie publishing space for his website and indie author resource CreativIndie and his beautiful book cover designs, but this year he’s diving into fiction with an audacious plan.


CreativIndie with Derek Murphy

Derek’s YouTube Channel


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Joshua Dalzelle

Calm the F*ck Down: An Irreverent Adult Coloring Book by Sasha O’Hara

Show notes:


Derek Murphy describes himself as “a failing PhD candidate who’s spent 10 years helping other people publish their books (design, editing, marketing) and decided recently to quit everything and publish his own.” He runs the popular indie resource siteCreativIndie, has over 250 YouTube videos on his channel focused on helping and educating indie authors, and is a successful book cover designer.

At the beginning of 2016, Derek set out to take the YA fiction arena by storm. His plan is unique and fearless. Derek plans to publish the first part of 10 books — “half-books” or “series starters,” as he calls them — in 2016. Each book is set in a different subgenre under the YA umbrella. So far he’s got four books out: Shearwater: A Mermaid Romance; Orpheum: A Dark Fantasy Romance; The Scarlet Thread: A Dark Fantasy Romance; and Prescient: A Time Travel Dystopia.

In the Amazon product description, as well as at the beginning and end of each book, Derek emphasizes that each book is only Part 1 — then makes the offer to readers to get the entire book for free (when it’s finished) if they sign up to his subscriber list.

The advantages to this outside-the-box approach are many: publishing just the first part of each book allows him to publish faster and more frequently; it allows him to test the viability of a series idea; it’s generating a big list of subscribers in a short amount of time (he’s already gathered 12,000 subscribers for his YA list in 2016…and counting); and it allows him time to build up his reviews so that when the full book is available, he’s already got great social proof on Amazon.

But what about pissing off the readers?

Derek readily admits that it’s important to manage readers’ expectations; however, he says, “I don’t really care if they [readers] don’t like the style I’m publishing in because it’s still working for me.” He also points out that readers lose nothing as his books are available for free on Amazon through KDP, and readers will eventually be able to get the finished story for free with a sign-up.

“It’s your business,” Derek says. “You’re creating the content. You can kind of do whatever you want with it. I mean, you have to not piss off your readers, but you don’t have to let them make the decisions. You have to do what’s right for you and what makes money for you.”

(*Derek outlines his plan in more detail in his blog post How to Self-Publish a Book in 2016.)


Derek uses targeted Facebook ads and giveaways to attract readers to his website and books and ultimately onto his list. His giveaways are particularly win-win for both readers and the authors of the books he gives away. He puts together lists highlighting the best books in the subgenre of the book he’s promoting, offers those books as a prize, gets authors to cross-promote his giveaway (and why wouldn’t they, given it’s free exposure to his list?), and also offers his own book for free for signing up to his subscriber list. His most recent giveaway featured the “Best Scifi Time Travel Books for Teens 2016,” an offer that included 13 free books plus a Harry Potter “Time Turner.”

As Derek continues to build his series funnels and promote, he continues to build his YA reader subscriber list. His goal is to reach 100,000 subscribers by the end of the year. He estimates with a list that big, he could launch new books in his established funnels to the tune of 5,000 sales a day, giving him a better chance to remain sticky in the upper echelons of Amazon rankings.

Derek also continues to build his online platform by generating cross-platform content. For example, he turns his “best of” lists from his giveaways into blog posts, PowerPoint slide shows, YouTube videos, and LinkedIn posts.

YouTube is also a great way to attract traffic. Derek says he used to be terrified of doing video and had to force himself to learn how to do it. Now he’s got a robust YouTube channel featuring over 250 videos (100,000 views!) with the goal to reach 1,000 videos by the end of the year.

Adult Coloring Books

As if he wasn’t busy enough, Derek is also making adult coloring books, a category, he says, is currently dominating the Amazon charts. He’s made five so far, and he’s got plans to put out 10 more soon. They’re fast to make, taking him only a couple of days to put together a new product. He hires illustrators on Fiverr and uses royalty-free stock art. Each book has 20 coloring pages and range from topics like the current American presidential candidates to an coloring book adaption of the best quotes from Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich (titled Color and Grow Rich.)

NaNoWriMo Castle

Yep, Derek also has a castle in the works. While his original goal was to buy a castle to use as a writer’s retreat, this year he has rented  Château De Cadrès located between the Dordogne region and the Toulouse area in France, for the month of November. He will host a NaNoWriMo writer’s retreat that will include book bloggers, booktubers, and other YA authors.

Advice to Authors:

Derek says:

A lot of writers assume that their books should have value and try to guilt people into buying their book by saying things like, “It’s less than a cup of coffee.” Books aren’t worth anything if you can’t convince readers to buy them. It’s not up to the readers to support your writing habit. You have to make your book look like it’s worth $2.99, and out of all of the books out there, convince readers that your book is the one to read.


“If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” -Henry David Thoreau

Action Steps

  • Try something you’re scared to do. Derek was afraid to do video. Simon was nervous about podcasting at first. Now they’re pros. The way to get there is by giving it a go.
  • Run a giveaway for books in your genre to build up your email list. Many authors are reporting great success with this method, and if you leverage that content across multiple platforms, not only will you add new subscribers to your list, but you’ll develop new relationships with other authors in your genre. Win-win.
  • Got a crazy idea like renting a castle in France for a month? Do it. Everyone’s got audacious ideas, ideas that if only they could bring to fruition, would wow the world. But audacious ideas come with a lot of “buts” and “what-ifs” and other excuses of uncertainty. Don’t let those things get in your way. If you think you’ve got a good idea, do it. The world is waiting.

Simon Asks:

What’s the scariest, most intimidating thing you’ve had to do as an indie author thus far in your career?


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 147 – Boldly Launch a Fiction Career with Derek Murphy
  • R.F. Kacy

    I just finished listening to Derek and now I feel the need to take a shower. To be honest, I was never impressed by his work, but after today I’ll steer clear of anything he has to say. He seems to have little to no respect for readers and is really running with a playbook from the Kindle gold rush days. I’m all for making money, but there is something just too cynical about his approach in an age where indies still have to fight to be respected even by the corporations who are distributing their work (I’m looking at you, Amazon). I get it that he doesn’t really care what anyone thinks, but it’s that kind of attitude that gives self publishing a bad name. I’ve come to expect more from the show, so I hope this is just a little aberration.

    • Thanks for your comments – sorry I came across that way. I can understand how I would, lots of authors are uncomfortable talking about making money, and I can see how it seems like I “don’t care about readers.” But honestly I know I could never make a living as a writer if I didn’t write books that satisfy readers, so that’s my only goal. But that doesn’t mean I have to play by traditional rules. Indie authors have the freedom to do things differently and build relationships with readers directly, without doing things the way they are expected to. It’s worked great for me, so I like to share ideas with other authors, but I understand my way is unorthodox and maybe controversial. Though really, “find your readers, surprise and delight them” is hardly poor advice… and you probably haven’t read “Book Marketing is Dead” where I denounce 95% of spammy book marketing tactics and stress providing value and building friendships by giving more than you take (that book along with four other free books are available on my website). If you get to know me, I doubt you’ll find I’m in it for the money, because I suck at selling actually and give most of my content away.

    • SimonRSP

      HI RF, thanks for the comment. I think Derek’s comment answers this well. As the interviewer, I’ll just say that I felt I did drill down on some of the more controversial things that Derek was mentioning. Some of his tactics I would not repeat myself, but I do feel being informed about what others are doing is important as you develop your own ways for building a base of fans 🙂

      • Vivian

        Simon, I like the honest and undefensive responses you and Derek have made. It’s so off-putting when people respond to criticism with variations of “Maybe this just wasn’t for you”.

  • I’m fascinated by the “market-first” approach to all this and I follow Derek’s prolific and verbose blog posts regularly, but having just finished my third novel, one thing sticks out more than anything. I could never handcuff myself to the first half of a book and pronounce it “finished.” So much more reveals itself as you work your way through the book–and much of that will impact the first half. It’s one thing if the whole book is done and you just release one half at a time, but if you’re not even through writing it, how can you be so sure you won’t want (or need) to add something to the first half once you reach the end of the first draft? I discovered things in my last three chapters that were not planned or outlined at all–things that really improved the book and things that I had to plant the seeds for in the first chapter. I fail to see how Derek’s approach can really result in the best book for the reader.

  • Vivian

    I think a better approach to test the market is to write your novels as self contained acts which you would then release as novellas. By ‘self contained acts’ I mean creating two or more problems (eg 1. the inability of Pocahontas to be with John, 2. invasion) and solving one problem in the first act. Pocahontas is a self-contained movie. However, one wants to watch the sequel to find out whether the lovers will reunite.

    This way you won’t have angry readers telling their friends not to buy your books. Also, if readers become interested in the novellas at a future date you’d simply release subsequent acts.

    • SimonRSP

      Agreed – I’ve talked with a few guests who have discussed the idea of closing the big loops, while leaving smaller loops open. That way you don’t anger readers into giving up on the series because they feel too cheated, but they do by the next book because they need to know what happens to the loops that you’ve left open.

  • elizabethbarone

    New Adult is not “YA wih more sex,” it’s an entirely different demographic—characters aged 18-25, in that “newly adult” stage. They’re trying to figure it all out. They’re in college or have chosen a different path. Like YA, NA is a category with many genres, but the similarities end there. 🙂