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July 18, 2016
By Drucilla Shultz
Indie author Kealan Patrick Burke urges self-publishers to stand out from the crowd and edit, edit, edit.

Kealan Patrick Burke won a 2004 Bram Stoker Award for his novella The Turtle Boy, but he still couldn't make writing his full time job. Eventually, he stopped writing altogether: his job as a fraud investigator sucked up much of his time and energy. “But because a writer can never really quit writing,” Burke looked for ways to get back into it. He decided to try self-publishing his considerable backlist as an experiment. Three short years later, he was able to quit his job and start writing full-time again. Publishers Weekly gave one of his self-published novels, Sour Candy, a starred review, calling the writing “visceral” and said of Burke “[he] creates a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre.”

Burke did much research into self-publishing before he committed to it: “I sought out advice from and read the accounts of those who had already done so…I wanted a balanced view of both the positives and negatives before I committed to it. I brushed up my Photoshop skills so I could design my own covers (a practical and economical consideration), read the formatting how-to books…and basically over the course of six months, tried to learn everything there was to know about the process.”

However, Burke readily admits that he underestimated the need for marketing, despite his research: “I was naïve and supposed that if the book was more widely available, the amount of promotion I would have to do would be minimal, that the exposure itself would sell it. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the lessons I had to learn the hard way (and it’s same no matter what the medium), is that no matter how good a book is, nobody will read it unless you teach yourself to be a savvy marketer. It’s a simple fact that many people continue to ignore, and then they blame Amazon, or competing writers, or the publishing climate, when quite often it comes down to the world not being aware that your book exists.”

We asked Burke what his tips for other indie authors would be:

Editing Is Key

"Make sure your work is edited and proofread to within an inch of its life before you hit the publish button."
“Make sure your work is edited and proofread to within an inch of its life before you hit the publish button. That said…”

Stand Out from the Crowd

“Everything can always be improved upon, from your writing, to the book design, to your synopsis and marketing. Digital publishing allows constant change. Being a writer/publisher means always finding new and innovative ways to make your work stand out.”

Reviews Are a Double-Edged Sword

“Good reviews are wonderful for the ego, but an informative negative review can be invaluable. You are not infallible and you cannot expect your work to be any different. It can always be better. The minute you think you’ve nothing left to learn is the moment you’ve given up on your craft. Do not engage reviewers. It is not their job to answer to a writer, and while you may not agree with them, the fact remains that you had your one and only opportunity to sway the opinions of reviewers when you wrote the book.”