“I’m an accidental Amish Sci-Fi writer.”
I said this during a recent NPR interview and got a good laugh out of my interviewer. “Explain that!” he said.
I never intended to be a fiction author, though I knew I’d really enjoy writing fiction. My career as a writer started after I wrote what became a non-fiction Off-Grid Living book… by accident! I was uploading free articles in a systematic way, in chapters, to my blog about living off the modern electrical grid. People started emailing me and saying, “You should really release this as a book!” I had a good friend who was really into producing web content so I asked him about it and he told me about Kindle Direct Publishing. We studied it and once I heard about KDP I never even considered getting the book mainstream published. I already had an audience, and I knew absolutely NOTHING about publishing. So we put the book up on KDP and announced a launch date. This was in early 2011.
Well, lo and behold the book went all the way to #29 on all of Amazon! I got a call from a guy who worked as an agent for these kinds of books and he said, “I can get you a contract, no problem. $5,000 advance and a standard deal.” I just shook my head. Why would I accept that deal? “I made that much yesterday,” I told the agent, and that was that.
That’s when I decided that I might be able to make a living at this writing thing. I released my first fiction book The Last Pilgrims a year later in 2012 and then I wrote an epic prequel to The Last Pilgrims entitled WICK and released it on KDP in serial format starting in the beginning of 2013.
When I released The Last Pilgrims and WICK through KDP, I had no idea that Dystopia and Post-Apocalyptic books were considered “Sci-fi.” People were writing me and emailing me and calling me a “Sci-fi author.” That was weird because I’m a plain person (think Amish) and I live in a plain community in Central Texas.
It was amazing. I was making good money and having a blast! The author community was so helpful, and so was Amazon. In January of 2013 I entered a contest put on by a publisher in England. The goal? Write a novella in under 30 hours! So I did it. I contacted Hugh Howey since I was really following his progress as a writer, and I asked him if I could use his likeness to write a satirical book lampooning… everything, including mainstream publishing. I told him I was going to call the story, Hugh Howey Must Die! He said, “Go ahead!” So I wrote a 28,000 word novella in under 30 hours. The thing was, the winner of the competition was going to win a mainstream publishing deal in the UK in e-book only! To me, that was silly. So I just decided to take my book out of the competition and publish it myself through KDP. It just made meta sense because the whole book was a statement on how easy it is to write and self-publish. I announced at the time that I would sell 1,000 copies of my little book in 30 days, and you know… we did it!
That little book led to me eventually meeting Hugh Howey and writing WOOL and SAND fanfic. I hung out with Hugh in San Antonio at Worldcon in 2013 and at the time I was writing a little short story series about An Amish young man who signs up for an emigration plan that is colonizing a new planet called New Pennsylvania. I called the series Pennsylvania and I told Hugh Howey about it. Well, Hugh started introducing me around Worldcon as an “Amish Sci-fi writer,” and the thing just took off. Pennsylvania became an easy bestseller and the Pennsylvania Omnibus recently went all the way up to #19 on Amazon.com! Although Amish Sci-fi is not the only thing I write, Thanks to KDP, Createspace, and ACX I have a career as an accidental Amish Sci-fi writer!
To read more about Michael Bunker, check out the famous interview that Jason Gurley did with Michael: The Grinder
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