koogler When Tambo extended the opportunity for a guest blogger to wax eloquent (or at least make a valiant attempt) on her Tamboblog, I was at first hesitant, wondering what I could say to a group of readers who do not know who I am and have probably never heard of me? What kind of interest will “Guest Post from author, Michael Koogler” generate for Tamara’s loyal fan base? So, at first blush, this was something I was just going to pass by, thinking maybe I’ll do something like that down the road as I get more established.

But wait a second, what does it really mean to ‘be established?’ I’ve heard this term come up a lot over the past three years as I’ve been journeying down this magical road of being an author. Does being established mean living in a huge 11-bedroom mansion with servants in every room, smiling as I count the piles of cash I have made as a world-renown author? Or does being established mean having an agent and a 3 book deal with a Big-5 publisher and making a modest living? Or does being established mean I can go out to Amazon during my lunch hour at my HR job and see that I’ve got a couple books for sale and “oh look, I got a review!

So, it got me to thinking about what that term really means. And do you know what I learned? Being established is truly in the eye of the beholder, specifically your own. Now, hold on to that thought for a second and let me expound a little, before I lead you back to it.

July of this year (2015) will mark my third year as a real-life actual published author. It was always my dream to get published, ever since I was in high school, many moons ago. Over those many years, I dreamed the dream and occasionally, I even worked toward it. I wrote some things and did the whole query letter dance a number of times. Even when I started getting serious about writing and finishing my all-American novel, I still spent 10 years in a co-writing relationship to crank it out. And finally, it happened. In July of 2012, Hade’s Gambit hit the Amazon and Barnes & Noble online bookshelves, published by a small press out of Dallas, TX called Mbedzi Publishing.

Oh no, there’s that word…small press. The horror!

Now, Hade’s Gambit is a great read, if I do say so myself. If you like apocalyptic fiction, this story turns that genre completely on its head. But again, Mbedzi is a small press and right there, some people tend to hitch up a bit.

Apparently, in the eyes of some, you aren’t an established author at that point. Interestingly enough, as I have progressed in my writing career these past three years, I’ve actually been told that if you aren’t with one of the mainstream publishers, you aren’t an actual author. I promise you, I was actually told that, word-for-word, by someone that is currently with a mainstream publisher.

Really?

Let’s see. I’ve got two novels published by Mbedzi Publishing. I have a pair of short stories in an Mbedzi horror anthology, and another story in one by 13Thirty Books. I also have two self-published novels, with a whole lot more creativity to come. My books are legitimately available and people actually do read them. Are they any less of a novel because they are small press or self-published? Is my story-telling any less captivating because it’s not printed by a major publisher?

Over these past three years, I have done book signings at various venues; I have been a multiple-time panelist at ICON, as well as one of the authors leading discussion groups at DreamCon. I have done ComicCon, where I actually put one of my books into the hands of Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), who absolutely loved the idea that someone was giving him something, instead of the other way around. I have been a guest several times over of High School English classes. I have done readings, appearances, and all-around glad-handing.

And yet, I don’t have a mansion or servants. I don’t have a 3-book contract with an agent. I don’t (or can’t yet) do this full-time, as being an HR Director is what pays the bills.

But am I truly established? Well, dictionary.com defines the word establish [ih-stab-lish] as a verb (used with object).

1. to found, institute, build, or bring into being on a firm or stable basis: I published a novel. I’ve laid the founding stones for my career. I am established.

2. to install or settle in a position, place, business, etc.: My novels are available at multiple locations; ergo, the business model of being an author is in place.

3. to show to be valid or true; prove: I actually make money when someone purchases one of my novels, so it’s a true and valid business.

4. to cause to be accepted or recognized: I get reviews!

So am I established? I would say so. I write novels and it is absolutely the most fun there is to have. I have books available on multiple venues, I have a website, a blog (shocking as that may be), a twitter account, business cards, and even a brand new YouTube channel where I uploaded my first book trailer! My revenue doesn’t come on a check from a publishing house using the ZIP code 10010. I don’t get advances.

But I put my pants on just like Stephen King, RA Salvatore, Terry Brooks, and JK Rowling…ok, maybe not Rowling. There’s that whole dress thing. But the truth of the matter is, I have an imagination, just like they do. I write books by putting together words and sentences and paragraphs, just like they do. I can read my books on Kindle or Nook or hold my book in my hands, just like they can. I may not have a zillion fans, but I have a few. And those, to me, are pure gold.

Am I established?

I yam what I yam.

I’m an author.

And if you’ve made it through this and still don’t know who I am, let me assure you that you will. More importantly, for any other aspiring or small press or self-published author out there, people will come to know you, too. You write and publish a novel to be established. Where you decide to go on that journey is all up to you.

Finally, thank you, Tambo, for the opportunity to do a guest blog. I’m established!  Whoo Hoo!

~ Michael Koogler is the co-author of Hade’s Gambit and Rise of Cain. He has short stories in the horror anthologies, Sadistic Shorts and Never Fear. He released his first solo novel, the sci-fi thriller, Antivirus in April 2015, and his epic fantasy, Convergence, releases on June 1st of 2015.  He would love for you to read his work.

Website: www.michaelkoogler.net

FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Author.Koogler

Twitter: @MichaelKoogler

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6434436.Michael_Koogler

5 Comments

  1. Marc

    If you’re doing what you want to be doing (writing), then I really don’t see any reason to bother about some imagined pecking order or classification of an ‘established’ vs (I guess) “unestablished” writer.  As you stated, you are writing stuff, and readers are reading your writing.  End of story.  

    Otherwise, if the J.K. Rowling dress thing is part of the issue, see if Mary Robinette Kowal can loan you a regency dress as she did for Mr. Scalzi:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/07/16/and-now-here-i-am-in-a-regency-dress/

    1. Michael Koogler

      Marc, I agree completely with that. But unfortunately, that mindset exists with a lot of self-published or small-press authors and it’s perpetuated by some of the old guard. I never want to take anything away from the accomplishments of large-press authors, but you have the occasional one that does a disservice to those of us that haven’t gone big or just prefer the smaller press or self-publishing path. I would certainly love a bigger reach and to be ‘better’ established at times, but then I have to ask myself what my priorities are. Am I writing to make a ton of money? Sure, money is nice and I sure wouldn’t turn my nose up at making a ton of it. But ultimately, I write because I love to write. I love to story-tell and share those stories with readers. And my whole point of the blog post was to hopefully get others in a similar boat to look at it the same way. Unfortunately, I’ve met a ton of authors that haven’t caught the big house leprechaun yet; and they look at themselves as not being established or even as a failure, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. As you said, they are writing stuff and people are reading their stuff. End of story. And that’s exactly the way it should be. Thanks for the reply! 

      1. Marc

        I’ve backed authors on Kickstarter, which definitely isn’t the big time, but it is a platform through which those authors were able to get their stories out to an audience which was willing to pay for the opportunity to read what they’d created.  As you stated, it is a mindset – and not hitting the pot of gold after putting in their best effort may cause some to question why they are doing it.  Jim C. Hines has posted his income from his work (http://www.jimchines.com/2015/01/2014-writing-income/), and notes that it isn’t a get rich quick business.  

        A pair of authors I mentioned to Tambo were told years ago by their publisher that what they were writing wasn’t ‘popular’ anymore.  When the internet came around, and their fans found them, they were asked “Why’d you stop?”.  They hadn’t. They are now set to release another book (somewhere in the upper teens) of their series, with two more on contract. They just set up a Patreon page to help smooth out the income ups and downs.  Kermit was lucky to get the “Rich and Famous” contract from Orson Wells.

  2. Jean

    I dunno. You don’t look like a yam to me. An author? Sure. I’ll buy that.

    Excellent points, Mr. Koogler.

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