A Decade of Zombies: A Retrospective of My Past Ten Years (Part Two: 2011-2012)

Welcome, once again, to my little retrospective of the decade series that I’m doing this month! This post is part two. If you missed part one, you can click HERE to read part one before continuing on.

Part two is where the really exciting things began. So hit the cut below and enjoy!

So now we enter 2011. To recap my overall circumstances, I was still working at Walmart while also working part time in EMS, and I was continuing to write my little zombie story on my BlackBerry. I’d just self-published The Becoming: Outbreak, and I was flying high because the reception was actually (surprisingly, at least to me) pretty good! So good, in fact, that it motivated me to finish the second part of the story, and that February, I released The Becoming: Safe House, which later became the second half of the first book of the official series. The reception to that was equally as good as the first part’s, and my sales boomed enough that I hit the Amazon bestseller’s list and started to make royalties that far exceeded what I was making at Walmart. I was happy as a clam, as the saying goes. [Side note: what does that saying even mean, anyway? I mean, are clams happy? How can you tell they’re happy? Eh, I digress.]

2011 was a really significant year for me, beyond just self-publishing and starting to see a moderate amount of what I termed success at it. That is because this was the year, in April specifically, that I received an email from someone named Jacob Kier. I can even tell you the day this happened: April 1, 2011. April Fools’ Day. And in all seriousness, I thought I was being pranked. Because, I mean, April 1st is the day of practical jokes (most of the time, really bad ones), and I was almost 100% convinced that the email was actually one from a friend. Thank God I looked a little closer! Because it turned out that Jacob Kier was actually the owner of a publishing house called Permuted Press, and while I hadn’t (knowingly) heard of Permuted Press, when I Googled them, I recognized a lot of the books that they had published and had even read some of them too. The email I’d received from Jacob was an offer to publish The Becoming and its sequels as a trilogy. Needless to say, I did accept the offer.

Once we’d settled on contract terms and I’d signed, I started working on what would become the new book two of the series, The Becoming: Ground Zero, while revisions were done on what would become book one, which was titled simply The Becoming and was a mashup and revision of the initial two novellas that I had self-published (The Becoming: Outbreak and The Becoming: Safe House).

The Becoming saw its publication on November 19, 2011, though not without some stumbles (which I’ll get to in a moment, as they didn’t reveal themselves until late 2012).

Speaking of 2012, at the very tail end of 2011, more exactly on the last day of 2011, I quit my job at Walmart because I was offered a very nice full-time position in EMS for an ambulance service that I still work for to this day (and I very much love working for this company). It was a no-brainer decision, really, because Walmart had cut my hours dramatically in the spring of 2011, and while that left plenty of time for me to finish writing what would be my third book, it wasn’t very nice on the checking account, and the job with the ambulance service tripled my salary. So of course I jumped on it. And that is how I began working full time on an ambulance as an EMT at the beginning of my writing career.

While we were prepping for the release of The Becoming: Ground Zero, I had the idea in spring of 2012 to write a little novella that told a bit of the backstory for two characters who don’t show up until halfway through book one of the series: Theo and Gray Carter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t flesh out the project as long as I would have liked; I was under some contract restrictions that would not allow for the publication of book-length works for so many months after the release of The Becoming (they call this a non-compete clause), so I had to cut out an entire subplot and then some from the book. This somewhat hacked-apart book later became The Becoming: Brothers in Arms.

This was also the year that I finished writing the third book in the series, The Becoming: Revelations. That whole process was a nightmare. Because I’d spent way too much time trying to get acclimated to a new work schedule that required me to work anywhere from forty-eight to seventy-two hours at a time, I had not figured out the best way to get my writing done, I was running up very close to the deadline, and I had barely even started on the book. So, in the span of a single month, I managed to draft and revise The Becoming: Revelations nine times over. Yes, you read that correctly. I essentially spent the first week hammering out an entire draft of the book, then slamming through revisions on average of two to three a week, and somehow, someway, I managed to actually turn in a completed, working manuscript by the deadline that it was due. It was, at that point, the longest novel I’d ever written (solidly the longest in the series, if I recall correctly—I think the only other book in the series that comes close to surpassing it is The Becoming: Redemption). And the book was, largely, the same version that’s on the market today.

Also in 2012, The Becoming: Ground Zero was released to the masses on August 12, 2012. And this was when I started to notice a problem. You see, my sales were okay, but they weren’t where I wanted them to be. And as I was approaching bloggers about reviewing my books, a lot of them were turning me down. I went to a writer friend of mine and asked what she thought the problem might be, and the first thing she said was, “Your book covers.” I consulted with several of the bloggers that I had contacted who seemed friendly and receptive to being honest with me, and they all cited the same thing: “Your books sound interesting, but the book covers are turning me off. They almost look like comic books.”

I approached the folks at Permuted Press about this problem I was hearing about from book reviewers, but I was rebuffed. Unfortunately, I was informed, the cost of new cover art for the books wasn’t in the budget, especially since the books weren’t selling very well at that point. But I really, really wanted to get my hands on new covers; they were needed desperately, if the feedback I was receiving was any indication, and so, even though it wasn’t in my budget at the time, I offered to pay for new covers out of my own pocket. We came to an agreement to make that happen, and I found and contacted Stephanie Mooney about new covers not only for books one and two but for The Becoming: Brothers in Arms too. And, quite honestly, while I liked the original covers of the books from an artistic standpoint, I can understand where the feedback I was receiving was coming from, and that is how we ended up with these book covers, which have been around since 2012:

Needless to say, I ended up being right: my book sales shot up after the cover change, and I started picking up all sorts of new readers that I was very excited to see reading my books and reviewing them–including people who said they weren’t even fans of the genre but loved my books!

So that covers all of 2011 and 2012. But we’ve still got more on the way in part three of the Decade of Zombies, in which I will be recapping 2013 and 2014, years that were exciting and heartbreaking respectively.

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