M.D. Cooper, author of Outsystem, talks about his approach to writing and his plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
I started writing the day after I finished reading Return of the King. I just didn’t want the story to end!
Tell me a little about your books.
Outsystem is a story of a woman who is trying to leave the Sol system in the year 4123. For a variety of reasons she has become disenchanted with humanity and wants to join a colony mission to start over. She gains a berth on a ship called the Intrepid where her rank of Major in the Terran Space Force’s military intelligence and counterinsurgency division gets her put in charge trying to find out who is out to blow up the Intrepid. The setting is very high tech, but the story is about the characters and how people who essentially have the same sort of goals, hopes, and dreams that we do fit into a world where there is no such thing as privacy, where you (may) share your mind with an AI, and are always connected to the nets.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
There are a fair number and a few stand out in my mind the most. Anne McCaffery for starters; I’ve read nearly every one of her books. Elizabeth Moon whose Serrano and Trading in Danger series gave me an appreciation for telling an action driven story and showed female protagonists that were strong, feminine, and very likeable while not using negative self-analysis to show humanity. Once a person reads Outsystem you’ll see Larry Niven’s influence—anyone interested in sci-fi should really take a look at his Ringworld series. Tanya Huff writes a future space-marine series that is a pleasure to read, and Mike Shepard whose Kris Longknife books are just great and inspired a lot of the nano-technology you’ll see in Outsystem.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I don’t have the ability to write every single day, but luckily my job is also very creative and I get a good outlet in it. I do try to write consistently, but also take breaks to recharge myself and find my muses—be it in replaying the Halo singleplayer missions, or reading from my favorite authors. When I’m recharged and my mind is clear I can bang out 5000 words a day, but most often it’s less than that. Because I write sci-fi I also do a lot of reading of sites like space.com to get my creative juices flowing.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
I did go through that process for a book that will end up being 3rd in the series in which Outsystem is the first. I sent the book around to dozens of agents, making sure not to send to too many at once, giving them time to respond, and eventually had an agent bite. She deliberated and held onto the book for 7 months before eventually saying no. After I started to see how successful some folks I know online were at self-marketing and self-publishing – coupled with the fact that most conventional publishers require writers to do a lot of their own marketing – I decided to bypass that system and just go directly to the readers.
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
I honestly haven’t been too specific with goals regarding sales. My main goal is to put in an effort and a level of quality that makes me proud. Financially it would be great to make my costs for promotion and editing back in the least.
How have you marketed your books?
I’m really just beginning this process now. I have a site: http://www.theintrepidsaga.com where I’m trying something new with uses being able to read a lot of supporting stories to the main books, as well as have an interactive experience with the content of the site changing as they progress through the stories. I’m also creating a site at Aeon 14 that contains a lot of data about the setting in which the series sits.
Have you signed up for KDP Select?
I have, but since I haven’t officially launched yet I don’t have a lot of feedback. 90 days of exclusivity doesn’t really seem to be all that bad.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
The sequel to Outsystem is in the works. It is called A Path in the Darkness. If the stars align it may come out in 2012, but it’s more likely that it will follow in early 2013. Ironically the 3rd book (Sabrina) is already written, and the 4th book is already in the works as well – I hope to release them in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Alongside these novel-length stories are some short stories and novellas that I’m going to be releasing for free on The Intrepid Saga, or for $0.99 on kindle (in the case of the novellas). Some of these stories are only connected by setting, and others serve to provide backstory for characters, or show events that were occurring during the main novels, but did not directly impact the plot.
M.D. Cooper’s Outsystem will be available from Amazon around July 9th. You can also visit his website at The Intrepid Saga.