S.C. Barrus is an author/publisher whose debut novel, Discovering Aberration, was released in January of 2014. Set in an alternate Victorian era, the steampunk adventure follows Freddy Fitzgerald, a rebellious writer and ex-scuttler, and Thaddeus Lumpen, a desperate archaeologist with a slew of dangerous rivals. Together they will stop at nothing to make the discovery of a lifetime. But their island destination hides its own dark secrets which can push even the strongest minds into madness.
Barrus has been seriously writing since 2011, when he began publishing short stories and poems in small literary journals. In 2013, he began to explore self-publishing with his short story Midway Between Heaven and Hell.
He founded his own publishing company, Away & Away Publishing, in 2014 and, with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, released Discovering Aberration under Away & Away’s imprint. Readers can learn more at www.awayandaway.com.
Through May 29th, Discovering Aberration is on sale on Amazon for only $0.99.
Kickstarter was an amazing ride as well as an emotional roller-coaster. On the one hand, I don’t think Discovering Aberration would have been published in the way that it has been without Kickstarter. On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot since I launched the Kickstarter campaign. If I knew everything I know now, I don’t think I would have gone the Kickstarter route, or at least I would have had a more streamlined publishing strategy.
It’s an all or nothing proposition, so if you don’t hit your goal you don’t get any funding. Pledges come mostly in the first five days and the last five days, the rest is like a desert, so for a little over two weeks you’re ripping your hair out trying to find new ways to introduce your project to new people. Then there are the great days. In a single day I raised 30% of my goal, I was practically dancing. But I didn’t get a single percentage increase for days after that and I was back to tearing my hair out.
When it was all over, all that hair pulling and stress had resulted in the funds I needed to publish my novel. That’s an amazing moment and just the other day I was finally able to hold the paperback proof in my hands. It’s available for sale now, in fact it’s already sold thousands of copies. That’s crazy!
But like I said, I don’t think I’ll do a Kickstarter again. It was a great experience, and the end results were great, but I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d want to put myself through that. And there were a lot of hidden costs I didn’t consider properly which I’m paying for now.
So would I recommend it? It really depends. Do your research first, thoroughly, and then decide if it’s right for you. If you have an established audience it might work well for you, but if you don’t make sure you know what you are doing.
When it comes to self-publishing, what aspect of the process do you think authors most often overlook?
There are two types of self-publishers. The first is the group that takes it seriously, makes sure their work is quality controlled, and only release the best they have to offer. I consider myself part of this group. I don’t know what we are overlooking, but I think what we struggle with most is marketing. Actually getting your books out in the hands of readers is incredibly difficult and takes patience and creative thinking. This marketing mindset is really difficult for a lot of indie publisher to get their heads around.
The second group has written something and realized how easy it is to publish anything they want. After all, there’s no one left to say no. Except readers that is. So they publish without much thought. They don’t hire editors or cover designers and the end result is usually a mess. This group used to give self publishing a bad rap, but I think that stigma is fading. For them, they care more about seeing their words in print (or e-ink) than anything else, and that’s fine. I don’t think most of these people want to make a career out of writing, or if they do they’ll need a major shift in perspective.
What methods for marketing Discovering Aberration have worked best for you?
The thing that has stuck with me most in the last few months has been this: don’t underestimate the power of a good blurb. I thought I had nailed my blurb at first, but after a couple of promotions yielded only a few sales, I began to wonder what was wrong. I asked a few of my fellow authors to critique my blurb, and they shared with me some valuable suggestions. In the end we worked together to completely rewrite the blurb to what it is now. Suddenly sales tripled and I hit the top 100 list for steampunk. No sale, no promotion, just a good blurb.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing Discovering Aberration?
I learned so much about writing and improving my craft while I wrote Discovering Aberration, and that’s what I enjoyed the most. I love discovering new writing processes that improve my method, and with Discovering Aberration, I experimented a lot because I’m still kind of finding myself as a writer. The writing process of my follow-up novel has altered tremendously because of this. I’ve become more efficient, and I think the quality of my writing is continually improving.
What books and stories have inspired you and influenced your writing?
Where to begin? So much has influenced me over the years it’s hard to say what influenced me most. As a teenager, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk was the first book I read which lit the fire inside me to tell my own stories. So that was the spark. From there I’ve been drawing on so much, but what probably stands out most in my own writing are authors like Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jonathan Swift. I love the classic writing style and I’ve drawn heavily on that style in my latest works. I also love their sense of adventure, horror, and satire, often all mixed into a single story. All of that I brought to Discovering Aberration.
Discovering Aberration is your first published novel, but you have three other unpublished works, correct? Any plans to revisit those stories at any point?
Yes. I have two unpublished novels and a few shorts that are waiting to see the light of day. Both novels I plan on releasing at some point but they are about three or four points down on my list of priorities. My next release will be a novella set in the world of Discovering Aberration which will be called The Putrid Corpse. The name is a reference to a drink called The Putrid Corpse Extra Special Reserve Gin which is infamous in this world.
From there I’ll be writing the follow up to Discovering Aberration. Once that’s released I think I’ll revisit the first of the two novels I’m sitting on, which is Rem and the Big Case, a book about a guy whose become addicted to lucid dreaming to the point of sleeping far more than he’s awake. His subconscious constructs a noir-inspired detective who doesn’t realize he’s the figment of this guy’s imagination, all he knows is that his reality is falling apart and needs to learn why. So he investigates, which leads him down a path of discovering his creator and waking him up which could destroy the world of the dreaming.
What are your short-term and long-term goals with Away & Away Publishing?
My short term goal with Away & Away was to establish a sense of legitimacy to my indie publishing work. It’s another one of those steps that distances you away from some of the negative self-publishing stigma. As far as long term goals, mostly I just plan to keep on releasing my own works. I’m toying with the idea of eventually releasing the works of other writers, but that’s a long ways into the future if it ever happens at all. I’m really in this business to write.
In the movie version of Discovering Aberration, who do you cast as Freddy Fitzgerald and Thaddeus Lumpen?
The debates my wife and I have had over this have spread over many dinners. I think Benedict Cumberbatch would make a great Thaddeus Lumpen, he’s got that off-beat energy and his performance of Sherlock Holmes was spot on (possibly better than Robert Downey Jr.’s, but they’re close). As for Freddy, I really don’t know. Maybe James Franco. I’ve never seen him in a role like this but I think he could pull it off.
What do you enjoy most about living in the Pacific Northwest?
This area is great. It’s so green, there’s so much to do. I enjoy hiking and rock climbing, both of which this area has plenty of. I also like the fact that it doesn’t snow much around here because I hate the snow. There’s a lot about the culture in the Pacific Northwest that is unique and inspiring, you can’t find it anywhere else.
What are you working on next?
I have a lot on my docket, most of which I’ve already touched on. I’m marketing Discovering Aberration til the middle of next month when I jump back into production mode. Then I hope to release a string of shorter titles before moving back into novels. Other than that, I’m hoping to join a boxing gym again soon, I haven’t boxed in three months and it’s driving me insane.