Patience Pays Off: An Indie Success Story
How a determined sci-fi author forged his self-publishing path.Before becoming a writer, Fredric Shernoff had several careers. “I was a real estate investor, actor, and teacher, but writing has always been there,” the Florida author recalls.
The seeds were planted early for Shernoff, who counts Stephen King and Anne Rice as strong literary influences. He describes his own novels 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’s books include The Traveler, a time-traveling sci-fi romance, and the Atlantic Island trilogy, which takes place in an island nation following an apocalyptic event. (He published the final book, Omega Protocol, earlier this year.) But his first published work wasn’t sci-fi—in fact, it wasn’t fiction at all.
Under a pen name, Shernoff wrote a book about his brother’s pro-wrestling league titled Doing the Job (2013). He was urged by an editor to self-publish it.
“Once I started down that path and saw the opportunities, I decided to go that same route with my fiction,” Shernoff says. As he navigated the self-publishing process, he found his way by experimenting, learning from fellow authors, and taking strategic steps by using the resources available to him.
Early in his career, Shernoff read the work of Hugh Howey, the author of the Silo series of science fiction books, and met the author, who offered him some writerly advice. (Shernoff also contributed to 2014’s Wool Gathering, an anthology of stories that take place in the 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.”
Taking It to the Next Level
After publishing his work on Amazon and promoting his books through social media, Shernoff saw slow but steady sales growth. But he sought to broaden his publishing footprint. “Eventually the benefits of being exclusive to the Kindle began to dwindle,” he says.Shernoff next reached out to Barnes & Noble’s Nook self-publishing platform and has been advocating for his work since. He was able to increase public exposure to his books through the (highly selective) e-book promotion service BookBub.
“It took me several years to grow my sales and my audience enough to qualify for a BookBub ad,” Shernoff says. “In 2017, I landed one for Atlantic Island, and, immediately after, I picked up one for Traveler. I knew at that point I’d reached a different level.”
Shernoff’s work has also been selected for Amazon Prime Reading, Barnes & Noble’s Cyber Monday promotions, the Nook Daily Find, and gift guide selections. The Atlantic Island series has made Amazon’s top-100 list and is a bestseller at the Nook store.
“At that point, word of mouth took over and generated steady sales,” Shernoff says. “I continue to promote through public appearances.”
Of all of the accolades that Shernoff has received, he says he’s most proud of the many positive reviews he’s received from readers. “I’ve had a few rough reviews, as well,” he adds. “But I respect that my work isn’t going to be great for everyone.”
Shernoff has a few words of advice for aspiring authors: “Patience and perseverance are key. For the majority of us, success will not happen overnight. That doesn’t mean that a book can just sit there waiting to gain an audience. It takes constant marketing, tweaking and refining of blurbs, keywords, covers to find what truly works. Stick with it and gradually the doors start to open up.”
But Shernoff is still humbled by his success. In the early stages of his career, he says, he would have been content to sell a couple hundred copies of his books. It turns out that being a committed storyteller, learning from the success of others, and steadily reaching for the next star can pay off.
“At this point, I’ve sold tens of thousands and somehow the books keep selling,” Shernoff says. “It often feels like I’m dreaming when I consider how many strangers have experienced what I created. It’s an honor to entertain so many people.”