Paying It Forward: An Indie Success Story
An indie author’s publishing platform invites collaborationWriters of sci-fi and speculative fiction have a unique superpower: the ability to create, dismantle, and rebuild whole universes. The universe of the indie author Fredric Shernoff’s dystopian Atlantic Island series is an ever-broadening one. Shernoff recently joined forces with fellow indie authors to publish short story collections and novels that orbit the Atlantic Island worlds.
Shernoff describes the dystopian series as science fiction that “explores normal people being thrown into abnormal situations.” He adds, “I like to discover how my characters get themselves out of predicaments.”
Shernoff has had a lot of time to observe what goes into creating successful indie franchises. “Other authors have great success building out their universes with multiple series using rapid-release techniques, and I’ve watched how they built dedicated followings through mailing lists and Facebook groups,” he says.
Shernoff is no stranger to working within writing communities. He began his own career writing fan fiction. He worked alongside the prolific self-published sci-fi author Hugh Howey and contributed to his 2014 collection, Wool Gathering, which takes place in Howey’s Wool universe, the setting of the Silo books. “Hugh was such a huge influence and has always been extremely supportive,” Shernoff says. “He is such a strong proponent of self-publishing, and that certainly pushed me to continue doing things that way.”Eager to pay forward all that he learned through Howey, Shernoff launched a Facebook ad campaign to find aspiring authors. “After a long process, I found four finalists,” he says. “They are contracted to write short stories for an anthology, followed by spin-off series. I cover all the costs of production and marketing, consult with them as they develop their plot lines, and perform multiple edits before sending the books off to my editor. Once I recoup my costs, there is a split of profits.”
Shernoff says that instead of releasing standalone titles with “loose Easter egg ties to the Atlantic Island story, I rebranded everything as part of the same multiverse.” He believes that his abilities as an author—and the scope of the books—have evolved since he wrote the first book in 2013, so before finding authors to join him for the project, he revised and rewrote much of the original trilogy. He is now writing a new spin-off series, Atlantic Island: Multiverse Academy, geared toward young adult readers.
In inviting other authors to join him in his venture, Shernoff aims to support budding authors and further establish Atlantic Island as a multitiered creative franchise. “The biggest thing I’m trying to get across is that Atlantic Island is the brand, not Fredric Shernoff,” he says.
Shernoff had originally intended to select two writers from among the many who submitted writing samples, but he was so impressed with the work of Dawn Dagger, AJ Kurtz, LaLa Leo, and Rennie St. James that he invited them all to join him.
“I believe karma or fate led me to Fredric,” St. James says. “The indie writing community often posts on social media that ‘other writers aren’t my competition.’ Fredric lives that sentiment.”
Though writing within an established framework comes with its own rules, St. James doesn’t feel restrained. “We have complete freedom to explore,” she says. “Much like time travel, one single action in one book can ripple out to all the other stories. That connection is just one of the surprises that makes it fascinating and fun in the Atlantic Island universe.”
Dagger, author of Slave of the Sea, says her experience writing fan fiction helped prepare her for writing comfortably within an already-established multiverse. “The collaboration with the other authors is so exciting!”Kurtz’s career developed from her interest in exploring and writing about the history of her hometown, Gettysburg, Pa. She has published five books and is currently expanding Shernoff’s multiverse through her Odyssey trilogy. “I’m having so much fun working within Fredric’s universe,” she says.
Leo, a mother of three residing in southern Virginia, has published on Wattpad and other platforms. She likes inventing stories in collaboration with her coauthors and feels that the mentorship Shernoff provides is invaluable. “Working on the Atlantic Island project is a mixture of exploring his world and creating our own within it, and having coaching from Mr. Shernoff is a dream come true,” she says.
The Atlantic Island multiverse is poised to expand even further: to the big screen. Though Shernoff can’t reveal much yet, he says his film agent continues to push Atlantic Island along, and it is currently with high-level executives at a major studio.
Shernoff is impressed with his coauthors’ motivation to independently build their own stories while also focusing on the broader collaborative picture. “Everything they create and I approve becomes fair game for everyone,” he says. “We all help each other, and there is a real sense of teamwork.”
Writing can sometimes be a lonely art, but Shernoff believes that it doesn’t have to be. “Nowadays nobody is alone in this business,” he says. “I’m so inspired by the help others have offered me, and I hope that, by providing the Atlantic Island multiverse platform for other authors, I can help them grow their individual name recognition and give them the support they deserve.”