I've held off on turning the Milligan Creek Series into audio books for a while now, partly because I wasn't sure if there was a market for middle grade audio books (I've since learned there is) and partly because I wanted to narrate the books myself but never seemed to find the time to do it.
However, recently I read something by fellow indie publisher, ad guy, podcaster, and coach Bryan Cohen where he said that even though you may be good at doing a lot of things, it doesn't mean you should be everything yourself. Instead, you should be focusing on what you do best and, perhaps most importantly, what makes you the most money.
That was a tough pill for me to swallow seeing as I enjoy learning new skills and seeing if I can pull them off. Case in point: on my last documentary, I was writer, director, producer, and editor. We only had a two person crew (me and my son, Huw), so I also worked as a cameraman, sound recorder, sound mixer, gaffer, grip, post-production supervisor, music supervisor, second-unit cameraman, and the list goes on. Contrary to appearances, it's not a control issue, just a desire to see if I can do it.
As I mulled over this advice, realizing Bryan was right, lo and behold, last Sunday my wife mentioned that someone I knew right here in town is an audio book narrator. I contacted him immediately, had him record a short sample, and just last night greenlit the project.
With any luck, Up the Creek (which just came out in hardcover) should be ready to go by the end of April, with the other books to follow. I'll keep you posted here.
I finally took the plunge and made Up the Creek available in hardcover, exclusively on Amazon. The other Milligan Creek Series books will follow shortly. The move involved resizing the book slightly and tweaking the cover, shown below. It also gave me an opportunity to add "A Brief Note About the Inspiration Behind This Book," which I've included in every other Milligan Creek series book. Plus, this edition contains a sneak peek at the first chapter of Unlimited. which will be the next book to get the hardcover treatment.
Up the Creek, the first book in the Milligan Creek Series, has just reached an important milestone (at least in my mind). As of this week, it's sold over 10,000 copies! That may not sound like a lot considering some books sell into the millions, but remember that this is an independently published book set in Saskatchewan of all places, and the majority of those sales have been into the good, ol' US of A. In fact, my biggest market is New York City. Go figure! As Frank Sinatra said, "If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!"
I wrote the first draft of Up the Creek way back in 2001. I was living in Abbotsford, BC, at the time, and we had just had our first child. I'd gotten a bite on the book after pitching the first few chapters to a mid-sized Canadian publisher, so over the next few weeks, I knocked out the entire draft, revised it, and was about to send it in when . . . that publisher went under, along with a number of other Canadian publishers who were the first wave to go bankrupt in the face of the dot com boom and a major consolidation in the market. Feeling a bit disheartened and not knowing what to do with it, I set the manuscript aside as I spent the next fourteen years or so working in the film industry.
Then in 2015, with filmmaking opportunities dwindling and opportunities for self-publishing growing, particularly through Amazon, I decided to dust off the manuscript and see if I could find an audience.
Initially, I focused on Saskatchewan, seeing as that's where the story is set. Not knowing how to market the book directly to kids, I decided to go to the "gatekeepers" instead--teachers, librarians, and parents--by offering to do writing workshops. Not only did this provide a legitimate service to schools and libraries, it also got me in front of thousands of potential readers. The plan worked, and soon I was booking writing workshops all over Western Canada. That gave me enough confidence to continue the series, until today I'm working on the fifth book with plans for at least two more.
And it all started with Up the Creek, which has now become part of the childhood reading of thousands of children across North America. Considering how formative authors like Gordon Korman, Roald Dahl, and Farley Mowat were for me growing up, it's amazing to think my books are playing the same role for so many kids.
I often joke that writing is all about days and nights of misery punctuated by brief moments of despair--and then something really bad happens. It's not really that terrible, but it is a laborious process riddled with self-doubt. So, I'm a big advocate of celebrating little victories and milestones like this one. Thanks to everyone who has supported Up the Creek and the other books in the series. The best is yet to come!
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life