Ryk Brown didn't expect his rip-roaring space adventures to earn him much more than coffee money. Then they took off like a rocket.
Ryk Brown's book, Aurora: CV-01: The Frontiers Saga promised to fill a void in me. The book was about the adventures of the crewmen of UES Aurora as they travel through dangerous territories in space. They meet mysterious aliens, suffer through personal demons and make questionable alliances. Classic space opera stuff.
Space opera has mostly disappeared from television, and I thought I've found my fix. But when I tried to purchase the e-book, I met an unexpected obstacle: Brown's books were only available on Amazon's Kindle, which is barred to Malaysian readers.
Fortunately, Brown was kind enough to personally e-mail me his e-books, so I was able to enjoy the fruits of his imagination.
Brown joked that the inspiration for his books came from a TV remote because "it looked like a spaceship." But Brown wanted to create his own Sci-Fi universe in which he could write stories.
"Space operas are about people and their struggles, not about spaceships and lasers. They just happen to take place in space. And that setting provides for a lot of interesting twists and variations that you couldn’t get in other settings. But more importantly, it has infinite possibilities."
Brown started writing 25 years ago, but only for five years. He wrote short stories, screenplays and even an epic novel just to see if he could.
"But the odds of getting anything published back then were so long that I just wasn’t that interested in even trying to get published," said Brown, who lives in North Carolina, via e-mail.
Then, his mother gave him a Kindle, which reignited his love for reading. He also discovered that one could self-publish quite easily through Amazon. So, he thought, "Why not?"
He then researched the ins and outs of self-publishing, but got a lot of conflicting information, which he thought was a lucky thing.
"It forced me to go with my gut and do things the way that felt "right" for me," he said.
And that way was to enroll his books through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select programme, which made his e-books exclusive to Amazon customers.
Despite his e-books being unavailable to readers without a Kindle Brown believed that he did the right thing.
"I was reading so many stories about how much time people were spending doing marketing. I stink at marketing. And the common opinion was that the best marketing was to write more books. KDP Select allowed me to market more easily, thus freeing me up to write," said Brown, 52,who thinks that "too much effort is required for too few sales" at other vendors.
Dream come true
When Brown released his first title in December 2011, his computer repairing business was failing and he was deep in debt. He had to borrow money from his 80-year-old retired mother to make ends meet each month.
He had hoped that by selling e-books, he could keep his head above the water.
"I expected to have only a small handful of sales per month for at least a few years. I figured, if I was lucky, I might be able to supplement my income (and justify the time spent) within a few years," he said. But his series took off like a nuclear-powered rocket, and by the end of his first publishing year, was making more than enough to supplement his income.
Now, Brown has since surpassed even that. A self-confessed workaholic, Brown churns out four novels per year. As a result, revenue from his nine titles - he now has e-book, audio and paperback versions - has allowed him to quit his day job and write full-time.
Life is better, said Brown. He's even taking flying lessons!
"The idea that I get to make a living doing something that I love so much, and have people enjoy it, that is a bit overwhelming. It just seems too good to be true sometimes," he said.
For more information about books, visit http://www.frontierssaga.com.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.