Renaissance Hotel

Renaissance Hotel

It’s HARD To Start a Career as an Indie Author

If you’ve been in the self-publishing game for more than five minutes, you already know that earning a full-time income as an author is tough.

  •  You have to wear all hats, from writing to editing to publishing to marketing
  • Rules are constantly changing, and it's always a challenge to keep up
  • You may toil away on a book and not see sales, even with an eye catching cover and memorable story
  • It's tough to find time to write amid a day job, kids, and a full-time life that is constantly shoving your dreams out of the way!

As if that isn’t hard enough, there are no free passes, or promises of specific result regardless of how hard you work.

As Johnny once pointed out, someone could write a hundred books in a year and still see only scant sales because he or she was blind to the key elements required to succeed.

We’re all in the game because we love it; we stay in the game because we hope to establish ourselves as professional writers.

 But You Don’t Have to be Alone

Attendees at the World Building SummitI (Monica Leonelle, once a struggling author in the SPP community, now launching new books every month and working part-time for Sterling & Stone) originally attended the World Building Summit entirely because I saw what Johnny, Sean, and Dave were doing and knew that I wanted to be a part of it in some way—any way, really!

I’d been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast since nearly the beginning at the recommendation of my editor, and I felt like it was finally time to meet the guys in person.

For years, I welcomed the Sterling & Stone Team into my office, my weekly routine, my earbuds—and for years, they inspired me, influenced my thinking, and pushed me forward with my goals.

But that was all from a distance, through a broadcast relationship, and without them knowing my name, my work, or anything about me.

For awhile, that made sense.

But at some point, I realized that I could only mine so much mentoring from a podcast or blog. I had questions, not just about the team’s end results, which they often shared on the podcast—but about the process they used to achieve those results.

I knew from past experience that the most valuable information came not from asking, pestering, or digitally stalking, but from having a relationship with someone and investing the time to intimately study someone’s business and personal interactions.

That’s what ultimately led to me signing up for the Summit—at a time when I was still transitioning to full-time writing, when I was still trying to start up my first decent series, and when I didn’t really have the money to spend.

I knew if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to take myself seriously first and truly commit to moving my author career forward. I knew that the Sterling & Stone Team would help me step up and into the vision of my best possible self.

I signed up with no idea where the decision would take me, but my gut said it would be a worthwhile investment that would pay for itself many times over in the future.

Six months later, I’m living proof that it has! Since the summit, I’ve:

  • Become an authority on The Dream Engine world within the community
  • Started a YouTube channel with suggestions from the group
  • Been featured on podcasts within the community
  • Joined Sterling & Stone part-time as a writer
  • Partnered with Sterling & Stone to produce a series this year
  • Found a co-writer and friend (another Summit attendee) to help me publish on a monthly release schedule through 2015.

These pieces coming together has been CRUCIAL for setting myself up for success in 2015. And none of it would have happened if I’d never had the courage to attend the World Building Summit last September.

Going Pro Opened the Door to Where I’ve Always Wanted to Be

After five years of false starts, writing in my “spare time,” and struggling to build a backlist, I can honestly say that it’s 10x harder to start a career as an indie author without a rock solid support system of colleagues and friends who understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

I was doing fine on my own, to be fair. I had one friend and author who I worked with steadily, collaborating on projects, critiquing one another’s work, and learning from each other to write better stories.

But before the Summit, I still felt lost in the day-to-day, forever wondering what to do next.

Before the Summit, I felt frazzled by too many options and formats, different tasks I had to do all by myself. Before the Summit, I crawling through a slog. Before the Summit, I was making a small but steady income from my writing … but not enough to justify my full-time work.

Two things changed after the Summit. I’ll tell you what they are in a minute. First, I want to tell you the result: a slew of new releases, quality collaborations, and exciting projects that promise to rev my marketing and up my game forever.

How did it change me?

After the Summit, I understood how long this game really was, and that I was doing all the right things to grow my writing business efficiently.

After the Summit, I felt excited, aligned, and in a true state of flow while plotting my projects.

After the Summit, I’m leaping forward with seemingly less effort than ever before, because I’m focused on the most impactful decisions rather than a bog of to-dos that yield only the most anemic results.

Rapid evolution is rarely an accident. I found a writing family at the World Builders Summit, and now I’m shaving (literally!) wasted years from my trajectory.

Two key pieces clicked into place for me at the Summit: becoming a professional writer (going pro) and using the power of momentum to hurl me forward.

What are Your Writing Plans for 2015?

January is naturally a time to think about your goals. Unfortunately, too many writers will start the year gung-ho, so sure that this will be “the big one,” only to tumble right off the wagon come February, March…

It’s like trying to launch a rocket without fuel. Sure, the rocket could fly through space, but without that initial explosion it’s trapped in our atmosphere.

Once going, it’s easy to sustain trajectory—but without that initial momentum the rocket will sputter and fall!

The Colonist Summit Can be YOUR EXPLOSION

To truly “go pro” as a writer, you need to kick off the year with a big enough explosion to carry you through it. The Colonist Summit and the Sterling & Stone Team can help you do exactly that.

At the Summit, you'll work directly with Johnny and Sean on your book. They'll help you shape your story and give you smart tips for marketing success along the way. You still have to do the hard work, of course, but they’ll give you the tools you need and cheer you on as you push forward.

As we talk about Engine World, you won't just gather ideas for your book, you'll also multiply ideas for your business! Johnny and Sean are world-class storytellers who have pioneered several trends in the indie world already—and we all know they’re just getting started!

Observe their success mindset up close, and leave with invaluable clues as to how they think about indie publishing. None of this is shared publicly on the podcast or Sterling & Stone blog—it only happens at the live event!

You won’t just work with Johnny and Sean—you'll also meet peers who are every bit as invested in their careers as you are. This is important, because indie authors who can't hack it drop in and out over the years (I've seen it personally!). You want to form amazing bonds with super-invested colleagues — the sort that simply aren't possible online.

These colleagues will become invaluable future connections as you continue to grow your fan base, partner up, and learn from each other to collectively prosper.

Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats!

When you get back home, momentum continues. You're now on the inside, and others in the community will look to you for more information and detail about Engine World. This world is just getting started, and you’re at the front of the line!

Bonus exposure makes you a community leader in the community, which can only help when marketing your future book(s)!

Your personal connections will grow deeper roots. Three of the five World-Builder attendees now work directly with Sterling & Stone; the eight September attendees keep in touch with motivational emails back and forth. We're launching a bundle in March/April together.

None of this would have happened without the Summit!

You can reach out and learn more any time before, during, or after the Colonist Summit. The Sterling & Stone guys are helpful, kind, and always excited to share their ideas with you. They truly care about getting to know you, your goals, and your content.

They're inviting you into their world like family, so you won't get lost in the crowd.

Additionally, conference attendees are some of the best and brightest minds in indie publishing and every single one is "going places"—you can just tell! Sterling & Stone has the reach to attract the cream to their summits, which puts you in excellent company.

Before: You were doing everything on your own.
After: You're part of an ambitious group tackling challenges in tandem.

Before: You were crawling toward your dream in your spare time.
After: You are taking yourself seriously. (So is everyone else!)

Before: You were a hobbyist.
After: You are a professional.

Before: You were learning with binoculars.
After: You are learning at your mentors’ side.

Before: You were a fan.
After: You are a peer and valued professional connection.

Before: You were part of the community.
After: You are a leader within it.

Before: You were on the edges.
After: You are in-the-know.

Before: You were an observer in the Fiction Unboxed story.
After: You are a participant and creator.

Before: You were trying to create, build, and sustain momentum by yourself.
After: You have a huge kick-off and a team of supporters to get you going and keep you moving— this has made all the difference in your progress!

Are You Ready For the Colonist Summit, to Kickstart Momentum, and Finally Go Pro?

The Colonist Summit is where writers who are interested in creating Engine World stories can go to generate once-in-a-lifetime ideas, craft quality outlines, and gather invaluable feedback about their creative work.

When: April 18-19, 2015

Where: The Renaissance Austin Marriott in Austin, TX.

What’s Included: As a Colonist attendee, you’ll have access to a private forum on where you can interact with other colonists, discuss the Engine World, and coordinate hotel roommate information. During the event, we’ll be working together in an intimate setting to hash out the details for your story so that by the time you go home, you’re ready to kill it! You’ll spend time getting to know the other attendees and will be treated to a delicious, fancy, unforgettable meal on Saturday night. We’re still tweaking the details, but if you KNOW you want to join us, we promise it’ll be awesome: a world-class event, well worth the investment based on connections you’ll make, lessons you’ll learn, and the momentum you’ll gain!



4 Hot Topic Sessions covering need-to-know subjects like optimization (Sterling & Stone’s word for 2015), direct sales, writing fast, and self-publishing mistakes. These 90-minute sessions will be led by Sean, Johnny, and the rest of the Sterling & Stone team and will dive deep into some of the cutting edge authorpreneur strategy we are currently testing. We’ll be sharing our experiences in each of these areas:

  1. Optimization - How we are tweaking covers, descriptions, keywords, and more for each of our series, why some strategies work for some series and not others, and more
  2. Direct Sales - How we sell digital and print books through our website, what tools you can use to achieve the same setup, and how and why we decide on our packages (subscriptions, bundles, standalones, and more)
  3. Writing Fast - How we’ve optimized our writing time to produce tens of thousands of words per week with only 3-4 hours of writing time per day. We’ll also share how to create, experiment with, and improve your writing processes to produce high-quality books faster
  4. Mistakes That Make You Look Self-Published - The little mistakes that self-published authors make that are killing their sales. We’ll also share our process for identifying and tweaking problem areas and how it’s causing a significant increase in our sales

1 Optional Hot Seat Session Per Person on topics like optimizing a series, fixing product descriptions and titles, launching, promotion, and more. If you’ve always wanted a collective of smart authors to brainstorm solutions for your book, now is your chance. You can come prepared with an idea for your hot seat or decide when you get there. This session is 100% optional so feel free to skip it if your project is not ready for feedback just yet.

2 "Ask Us Anything" Sessions, where you set the topics! Bring your burning questions and all your notes from the hot topic and hot seat sessions to this rapid-fire “cocktail” hour that will close each day during the summit.

What World Building Summit Attendees Say:

You've already heard my take on the value of Sterling and Stone's live events, and my subsequent results. Here's what some of the other attendees had to say:

A.T. SchubertMy weekend in Austin was life-changing and career-making and could never be duplicated. I was putting forward a huge investment (for me) financially — much more than I am comfortable spending on almost anything. I could not have gone if it were solely up to me, but Andrew (my husband) saw the benefit too and helped push me.

"In deciding to attend the World Building Summit, I am trusting these guys for their whole career. Trusting that they will continue doing great work and continue doing it the right way. I am not just writing a book series — I’m writing a series that both supports and is supported by their work. And I personally have an even bigger leap, since these will be my first published work.

"It was a huge step and now after spending that weekend with them I know I made the best decision. They gave more and did more than I could have ever imagined.”

~ Amy Schubert, World Building Summit attendee

Garrett RobinsonI think it’s so amazing that these eight people from around the country, most of us almost strangers when we arrived, did so well at building an entire new world and emerged out the other side as not only co-workers, but as close friends for life.

“This weekend was powerful because of the time we spent together—and I mean, in each other’s faces—in the same physical space, as much as Dave obviously hated that! Online collaboration is fantastic, and with video handouts and email, it’s easier and more effective than ever before. But whether we were all out at lunch together or whether we were in a conference room hammering out details, I know we were more productive together than we could ever have been alone.

“The sum was truly greater than all of our parts, and that’s because there was no other option. We had to be at our best because no one wanted to let the team down. And no one did!”

~ Garrett Robinson, World Building Summit attendee

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I sign up?

Sorry! This Summit is SOLD OUT!

Who else will be in attendance?

Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant will be leading the event.

Additionally, most if not all of the World Building Summit attendees are returning for the Colonist Summit, so you’ll also have direct access to the canon writers if you have questions about their part of the world.

What other costs are involved?

Hotel: ~$190/night

Transportation: ~$45 Shuttle from the airport

Food: Saturday’s dinner is included; please bring money for breakfasts, lunches, and Sunday’s dinner

Is there a payment plan?

Yes! Click here to sign up with a payment plan -- You will be charged $500 immediately and automatically charged $500 per month for the remaining 3 additional payments.

Can I grab this later?

We'll be selling tickets until the event starts or we run out of spots. We are currently at 75% capacity.

There are limited spaces and we DO expect the summit to sell out.

Who are Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant?

SEAN PLATT is the founder of the Sterling & Stone Story Studio, creators of remarkable content for people who relish the art of storytelling. Sterling & Stone has six reader-loved imprints: Collective Inkwell, which specializes in horror, sci-fi, and superbly scripted fiction, Realm & Sands, which asks big questions within genre-agnostic stories, Lexi Maxxwell, which tells smart but naughty women’s fiction, Guy Incognito, which produces quality stories for children with the emotional and intellectual intelligence they deserve, LOL, which houses all of the irreverent comedy stories, and The Smarter Artist, which produces guides for creative entrepreneurs wanting to alchemize their ambitions into a healthy profit.

He’s a speaker and co-host of the top-rated Self Publishing Podcast and the author of over 4 million published words across six imprints. Sean lives in Austin, TX with his wife, daughter, and son.

JOHNNY B. TRUANT is a speaker, co-host of the top-rated Self Publishing Podcast, co-author of the #1 Marketing bestseller Write. Publish. Repeat: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success, and the author of well over 2 million words of popular fiction.

Johnny's fiction works (mostly co-authored with Sean Platt) include the political sci-fi serial The Beam, the fantasy/western mash-up Unicorn Western books, the satirical Fat Vampire series, the literary mindbender Axis of Aaron, and too many others to count.

Who is the team behind Sterling and Stone?

Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright (#1 horror author of the Yesterday's Gone series) host their trendsetting, boundary-pushing podcasts every week on YouTube, iTunes, and their two-posts-daily cornerstone independent author website at

Johnny, Sean, and David also launched Fiction Unboxed in 2014—a record-setting Kickstarter project in which Johnny and Sean wrote a full-length novel in 30 days, starting without any ideas or genre, in front of a live audience, sharing every detail of the process including story meetings, emails, and raw story drafts.

The novel birthed through Fiction Unboxed (The Dream Engine, first in the Blunderbuss/Alterra series) went on to spawn what the Sterling & Stone team calls "open-source fiction": an open story world in which any author may write and publish without requiring permission and without paying royalties to the world's creators.

Fiction Unboxed also marked the first year of in-person Sterling and Stone events, including the yearly World-Builder Summit held in September and the upcoming Colonist Summit held in April.

Why is it called the Colonist Summit? What’s a Colonist?

The Colonist Summit came out of a project called Fiction Unboxed, which promised and delivered a full-length novel in 30 days from conception to final product. This book, The Dream Engine, kicked off Engine World, the open-source fiction world that was one of the stretch goals of the Kickstarter campaign.

As part of the Fiction Unboxed project, which was fully funded through Kickstarter within 12 hours, Sterling and Stone offered two in-person summits, the World-Builder Summit and the Colonist Summit. The World-Builder Summit was for writers who wanted to write canon stories in Engine World and took place last September. The Colonist Summit was originally for writers interested in “populating” Engine World with stories, but has now been opened up to all writers who want to discuss the creation and marketing of any of their projects.

Why isn’t the Colonist Summit focused solely on Engine World stories?

Simply put, it doesn’t need to be. While the World-Builder Summit had a specific deliverable (to answer and fill in gaps in the world docs) and a common cause (to coordinate stories within Engine World), the Colonist Summit was always intended to be an opportunity to meet Sean and Johnny and discuss individual stories with them. In the months after the World-Builder Summit, the team at Sterling & Stone reached the conclusion that writers didn’t need to write in the Engine World to take advantage of this opportunity.

We’ve since structured the Colonist Summit so that writers who want to discuss their Engine World stories may do so, and writers who want to discuss other projects can do that as well. This provides more freedom for attendees to discuss the topics they care most about at the event!

What are the Main Differences Between the World-Builder and Colonist Summits?


  • Heavily focused on Engine World
  • Small, intimate mastermind
  • Roundtable
  • Lots of focused time per individual
  • $5000/person


  • Open to all writers' projects
  • Larger gathering focused on networking and sessions
  • Instructive
  • 20-minute hot seats
  • $2000/person

Got another question?

Amy Schubert is planning the Colonist Summit and would love to hear from you! Email her at