We start production on 1/15. Get ready…
We start production on 1/15. Get ready…
I suffered a mild shock when I woke up this morning and saw what the sales on the Commune Book One audio book were looking like. To put it in perspective, the audio format has almost completely outsold both the ebook and print versions of the story, which has been available since March of this year. It hasn’t overtaken the other versions just yet but, at this rate, give it a day…
A giant thank you to all my readers as well as R. C. Bray and all of his listeners. I’m well aware that a significant portion of you are coming along on this ride because of him and not me, and that’s totally fine. After having gone through the production process with him, I feel as though this is as much his story as it is mine. This was a team effort all the way.
Originally posted on dustysharp.com:
Commune: Book 2 is a remarkable read, and even manages to improve on the solid first book in the series. And that’s a tall order, as that one came charging out of the gates as a fresh, thoughtful take on the post-apaclyptic theme by rookie author Joshua Gayou. With his sophomore effort, Gayou ratchets up the storyline by digging us deeper into the personalities of several of the main characters, while continuing to advance the overall narrative of the “history” of this fictional community of survivors.
Book 2 primarily expands the story of another of the commune’s main characters, who was briefly introduced in the epilogue to the first book. Gibs is a former Marine, and we meet him and his hapless band of misfits as they struggle to survive amid the ruined cities of Colorado. There are several tense, violent, defining moments where hope seems all but lost, but under Gibs’ will and perseverence they manage to press on. Eventually they make their way to the Jackson, Wyoming, and are taken in by the original settlers of the commune (whose establishment was the subject of the first book). Here, the narrative switches from run-and-gun survival against other groups of more ill intent, and settles into a procedural of planning and working toward their long term survival in a more secure, permanent place. There are some interesting solutions to the problems of housing, food, security, and yes even waste disposal. Gayou has thought of everything.
This is where Book 2 continues with the satisfying breadth of theme and subject matter that was initiated in the first installment. Yes, we get plenty of action, plenty of Road Warrior style confrontations with the bad guys. But mixing in a healthy dose of real-world problems, and the clever solutions to them, helps with the immersion into the story. It lends a level of believability that is absent in the more cartoonish, all-gore-and-grim examples in the genre. And, gratefully for this reader, it also infuses an underlying sense of hope to the story. Yes, disasters happen, the group is fraught with setbacks, but ultimately we can see that they’re laying down the groundwork for long term success. We’re rooting for them.
Which isn’t to say the violence and action take a back seat. The story climaxes in an epic road-borne battle that rivals any I’ve read in the genre. This is the set piece that Gibs’ entire story arc has laid the groundwork for. His colorful personality is matched by his battle-toughness, as he leads his ragtag group of scavengers against an overwhelming force of bad guys. Here is the red meat for hard core fans of the genre.
But Gayou’s talent is in weaving the id and the ego. It’s not all just gunfire and explosions. He’s put some real thought into many of the more basic questions of a post-apaclyptic world, and handled those subjects with skill. The aforementioned survival needs, and their solutions, are a case in point. But Gayou throws subjects into the mix that you’d never even think of, then forces his characters to figure out a solution. One such episode features a member of their own group, who goes off the rails in a way that I’ve never seen addressed in a story of this genre. Several themes come together in that one small corner of the story, such as the subject matter itself, the idea that the monsters a group of survivors must face can come from within as well as without, and also the moral struggle to figure out a just solution.
Commune: Book 2, ultimately becomes more than just a post-apocalyptic narrative. It studies themes that break the norms of the genre, and therefore would be a satisfying read for even those who don’t usually read such books. We see deep character studies, watch them grow and develop, some for the good and some not so. Gayou stress-tests them in a wide variety of situations to see what they do. And its fun to watch.
Disclaimer: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the author at no cost. I was only asked for initial feedback, though there was no requirement to post an official review in exchange for the ARC. However, I enjoyed the book so much that I gladly purchased it anyhow, and am proud to offer my thoughts in this review as a verified customer of the book.
You have no idea how much a good review helps a little guy out. I’d be intensely grateful for any consideration you can offer!
If I had to come up with a specific trigger that decided me on writing a book, I guess I’d come up empty. Put an experience a year behind you and things start to go out of focus, I suppose. There had been plenty of false starts before I wrote Commune One, so I can’t really tell you why this one stuck and the others didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t the right kind of person to write a book back then, whereas now I’m the kind of person I need to be. Maybe it really was just all about learning discipline.
What I can say for sure is that, at some point, I sat down and started writing a story and, after hitting around the 90 or 100 page mark (I used to measure things in terms of pages at first), I realized that I was probably going to finish. Moreover, I realized the story I had was probably going to take a few books to complete, and that seemed okay to me. At no point did it occur to me that I might not get these done. So, I suppose you can legitimately call me a writer now. Or a hack. That works too.
As I put the finishing touches on that first book, it occurred to me that I’d have to start worrying about publishing the damned thing, so I dove into that process as well (and learned a whole bunch of new and important lessons through its execution). I learned how critical patience is, for example. You don’t want to rush this stuff, definitely.
As the first couple of sales started to trickle in, I started looking towards what would be next. For one thing, I knew I had two more books to write. For another, I got curious about audio books. If you’ve read some of my other stuff on here, you’ll know that I’m a passionate believer in audio books, given that they turn my daily commute into something I can look forward to rather than dread. And it just seemed to me that, in a market completely saturated with new entrants at various levels of quality (I’ve seen self published works of outstanding caliber right alongside those of stunning mediocrity), it behooved a fella to do something to stand out from the herd. This is just one of those important life lessons you pick up when you compete at anything for any given amount of time…and this market absolutely is a competition, make no mistake. Writers are competing for time and attention, so step one is not getting lost in the crowd.
An audio book with your name on it is just such a way to stand out from that herd. See, anyone can publish a book now; that’s not an amazing achievement anymore. Signing with a publisher: big deal. Putting your ebook up on the internet: not so much. But an audio book…well. That’s a thing that has to get produced. Someone (other than you, your friends, or your family) needs to believe enough in the story you’ve created that they’re willing to invest time and effort into it. In essence, you need other people to believe that your work is good enough that you can all make some money on it. Readers (and listeners) know this instinctively: if they see that your novel has been released as an audio book, they figure maybe there’s more to what you created than just some random person button-mashing away on a keyboard.
Coincidentally, at the same time I was pondering this industry, R. C. Bray (my hands-down favorite narrator in the audio book business) decided to host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) in which his fans could, you guessed it, ask him whatever they wanted.
Before I continue with this, I need to confess that, as I spent my wee hours of the morning contemplating the process of getting an audio book produced, I fantasized about having Bray one day narrate one of my books. I vividly recall thinking that if such a thing ever happened, I’d consider myself a success as a writer. For me, it wasn’t down to book sales or some big, fat publishing deal. My meter stick was just being able to hear something I’d written alongside the likes of The Martian or The Mountain Man series or even the Arisen series. I thought about that, silently, unwilling to mention such a conceit even to my wife, and advised myself to dream on.
During the AMA, I asked what I thought was a simple question: “Given the cost to produce the average audio book (I had read it could run anywhere from $10K-$20K, depending), could he offer any advice on breaking into the market for a newbie?”
His response was kind but clear: That’s a pretty deep question, honestly, and there isn’t enough time to answer that here.
He didn’t blow me off, though. He sent me his e-mail address and said, “E-mail me this question so I know its you and, when I have the time tomorrow morning, I’ll give you the answer it deserves.”
So I did that and we got to talking offline.
There was a bit of back and forth and I explained what my situation was to him, insofar as stating that I was interested in getting my book produced in audio format but that I didn’t have $10K to put up to get that done. Turns out that there are a few different ways to get the job done, some of which include profit splitting…in which case I only had to find a narrator who believed that my book was good enough to bet his/her time and effort on.
Now, as this conversation was going on, it happened that Bray went over to Amazon and bought the ebook of my novel without telling me. You can imagine my surprise when, after getting a few chapters in, he told me he wanted to narrate the series. I won’t belabor the point but I will say that I immediately called my wife and lost my damned mind into the phone. I don’t recall exactly what was said anymore but she did have to remind me to breathe several times.
My second book is now finished and in the editing process, soon to be sent out to my narrator (mostly so I can get it into his queue; he’s ridiculously busy). I haven’t really gotten rich doing this and I honestly don’t care if I do or I don’t. I decided a while ago what success as a writer meant to me: write something that people would enjoy and maybe one day hear it performed by my favorite audio book narrator. Money is kind of besides the point.
I can’t really offer any advice to aspiring writers to replicate such a thing. I can’t write an article that tells you how to craft a good story (hell, I’m not even sure that I’m 100% on the process) or even how to write competently. A lot of what happened to me over the last year had more to do with luck and random timing than anything else. How do I advise someone to be in the right place at the right time?
The best I can really do for you is to say that if I hadn’t tried, it wouldn’t have happened. At no point during this entire process did I believe I was good enough for any of this to take place. Even so, I said “screw it” and put my chips forward.
And that’s what it takes. Have a little faith in yourself, despite any evidence to the contrary that you can dream up.
First editing pass is complete on the manuscript. I’m not sick of the story just yet, which is good, but I soon will be after a few more passes. Time to send her out to some beta readers now. Unfortunately, there are few enough of those in my little circle that can read and critique a book in a timely manner – not due to lack of interest, of course. None of these people actually get paid; they just do it out of the goodness of their hearts. The thing about being a grownup is that your life is busy as hell. I’m grateful to the folks who are willing to lend a hand. To those of my friends lacking the time: I totally get it. Just buy a copy when it comes out and we’ll call it even 😛
Fantastically, it seems there are still folks out there taking a gamble on my first book. I say “fantastically” because that means that by this point, anyone still hitting the button to download it is a complete and total stranger. The family and friends crowd was exhausted a long time ago.
This also means that I’m doubly grateful to those of you jumping on the bus. It’s no secret that this is a series I’m working on; a series that is incomplete, by the way. I get that there are plenty of people out there who may be interested in beginning a series of books but hold back from doing so until said series has been completed. Seems George R. R. Martin has burned one too many fans in the world…
So not only are you guys taking a chance on a relatively unknown author in a veritable ocean of new talent, you’re also banking on the fact that I’ll have this series of books done in a timely manner. I’m absolutely humbled that you’re diving in with me.
I’m well aware of the phenomenon of authors freezing up towards the end of their series, freaking out that they won’t be able to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion. What I can promise you, my readers, is that I knew what the end of the Commune Series looked like from Day One when I wrote the opening line. There’s a plan here, and I don’t mean some nebulous Lost plan wherein the smoke monster turns out to be the manifestations of some super mutant human and all the characters are actually just dead time travelers (good God). Nope, I’m talking about a real ending that gets properly setup and paid off. I can’t promise that you’ll love what happens to every single character but I can guarantee that the ending will be earned.
Book Two is just around the corner. There are only a few chapters left to write (perhaps five or less) and then on to editing!