Interview with M. E. Brines

Sorry there’s no Bloodsuckers this week. I’ve been rather sick since I got a bad burger from Sonic. Instead of spending my Thursday evening writing the newest episode, I spent it in bed.

I accomplished next to nothing this weekend. The only thing I can be proud of is the fact that I’m now 61% of the way through my e-book edits. (Obsession with that is also why you don’t have a new Bloodsuckers episode.) I’m starting to get really excited about finishing this process, at long last. It’s really looking like I might move my publication date up.

But enough about me.

A few weeks ago–in an effort to be more supportive of other Smashwords authors–I downloaded a couple of new novellas and read them. One sucked pretty badly. The other, however, was refreshingly well-written. Typos were practically non-existent (in fact, I can’t remember if I found one), the main character was interesting, the subject matter was interesting, and it was suspenseful.

The story was The Spear of Destiny, a novella based on the novel The Fist of God by M.E. Brines. It involves sacred relics, Nazis, and one American trying to stop the Nazis from gaining the power of God(s). (If you like Indiana Jones-type stories, you’ll probably like this.)

I was so impressed by the story, I went to Smashwords to give Mr. Brines a review, and I checked out his other works. He has nearly 30 self-published works–both fiction and non-fiction; short story and novel–running the gambit from Christianity, to the occult, paranormal, and steampunk. (He also has a good essay on the nature of steampunk on his website.)

I chatted with him via e-mail and asked for an interview.

1.            You have a number of self-published books available on Smashwords, including both fiction and non-fiction. How long have you been a writer/author?

I’ve been writing ten years and what’s on-line is only a fraction of my output. I’ve been published in a bunch of magazines, two e-anthologies, plus all the e-books. However, the self-published e-books have only been out a little over a year.

2.            Are you writing full time/ as your sole source of income, or is that something you aspire to?

Not yet, although probably by September I will be able to transition. The e-books have done very well. I also run an online, play-by-e-mail game that’s bringing in a lot of cash. I should be able to quit my “day job” soon.

3.            From what I’ve been reading of other self-published authors, a writer’s income stream is pretty well non-existent at first, then slowly begins to build over time—snowballing, if you will—especially as more books are added. Has that been true in your case?

Yes, very. I made about $16 in 2011 from e-books and about $800 last month. I’m not typical. I have around 30 books out on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. The books all cross reference and I do a lot of social media promotion. Some of them sell really well and some don’t sell at all. If I had only one or two books it’d be really hit or miss.

4.                Have you ever been traditionally published? Would you do it now, if someone offered you a deal?

Only in magazines. I’ve tried that route the last ten years without success. But if somebody offered a suitable advance, I’d certainly go for it.

5.            Neil Gaiman said in a speech that when he first started writing—even after being traditionally published—that he felt like he wasn’t a “real” writer, and that someone was going to come along and arrest him for fraud—and that it actually took him quite a while to get over that feeling. And I think that’s probably a common feeling among writers (it is for me!).

At what point in the writing/publishing process did you start to think of yourself as a writer, tell people that you were a writer by occupation, etc.? Do you think it’s harder for independent/self-published authors to feel legitimate?

It was only very recently. For me, it had more to do with how much revenue I was making. When you sell a story to a magazine for $10 it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. Although considering the years I tried and sold nothing to anybody, it really is. I’m in a writer’s critique group, and there’s only three out of about two dozen that have been published — and in this I discount blogs and people who self-published books by paying somebody to print them.

E-publishing has changed self-publishing. In the past, being self-published by a vanity publisher was laughed off. And it was stupid. You just ended up with a garage full of books. But e-publishing yourself can lead to serious sales. John Locke sold a million books in 5 months and made serious money doing so. But at the same time, most of the self-published e-books are garbage — no editing, massive spelling, grammar and formatting errors, incoherent plots, terrible writing. The real test is the reviews and sales.

6.               What’s the best thing and worst thing about self-publishing?

The best thing is your destiny is in your own hands. I’m no longer at the mercy of some politically-correct editor in New York.

The worst thing is it’s all so incremental. There’s no lightning strike, no possibility of a six figure advance. My sales go up month after month, predictably, but slowly. And when I don’t blog, when I stop tweeting, they begin to decline. It’s a constant struggle, because while my destiny is in my hands, it’s just my hands. So the best is also the worst.

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2 comments on “Interview with M. E. Brines

  1. Keri, great questions. He was so kind to give you the interview, and I enjoyed his responses. They were encouraging. Love the Neil Gaiman comment about being a fraud and worrying someone will come along to arrest you. It does feel like that. 🙂

    • Keri Peardon says:

      Yes, I love hearing about a self-published author who is able to become self-supporting after only a year or two. And as Mr. Brines has a lot more stuff written (he’s published about 30 things in one year, just from his backlog), his income will only grow.

      One thing I’ve heard other people say about self-publishing is that the money is more consistent. You get it monthly or quarterly. Advances and royalty checks (if you ever get a royalty check) are much more inconsistent. That makes it harder to plan your bills. I’d rather have steady, but consistent sales for a long time than one lump sum early on and then nothing more.

      The Neil Gaiman quote is from this commencement speech:

      If you haven’t watched it yet, it is very definitely worth your time. In fact, it might be the best use of your time ever.

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