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July 11, 2016
By Drucilla Shultz
Indie author Michael W. Harkins urges self-publishers to focus on their craft and get a professionally designed cover.

When freelance writer Michael W. Harkins was contacted by Richard Ruggieri, an attorney with whom he had previously worked on media relations, he assumed it would be for more advice on handling press inquiries. But, as Ruggieri described his most recent case -- in which a family had taken a gun manufacturer to trial -- Harkins knew he needed to tell the story.

Soon, Ruggieri introduced Harkins to the family: “They said okay, and I was given unrestricted access to all the research and records. The events had already been a decade in the making when it finally got to trial, and it took another decade to create [Move to Fire]. They trusted me completely.”

Harkins’s mantra is “you can’t be a decent writer unless you’re a decent researcher,” and this seems to have paid off. Publishers Weekly gave Move to Fire a starred review calling it “a taut legal drama” adding that it “makes a powerful argument that the government should have the authority to recall defective firearms.”

Harkins was familiar with the publishing process and had designed print books before, but still needed to research book publishing tools and distribution channels. Harkins was surprised at the time it takes to get a book promoted, sold, and reviewed: “I knew all of the levels and tasks, but when you’re all the departments, it’s grinding.”

When asked why he decided to self-publish instead of going the traditional route, Harkins said a few agents had asked for proposals, but he felt like the time to publish it was now: “The book was finished, and with the subject matter and the almost daily reports about gun-related tragedies, I felt strongly that it was time and this was important. People needed to have a gun-related story that would provide some degree of inspiration in this seemingly gun-crazed time.”

We asked Harkins to give advice to other indie authors:

Focus on Your Writing

“It all starts with solid, professional writing, so be a writer before all else.”

Know Why You're Publishing

“Self-publishing is a way to present your story to readers, whether those are your family and friends or a wider readership that shares an interest in your book’s subject. Decide who you're publishing for, make it happen, and commit. Be in it for the long haul.”

The Cover Matters

“Unless you’re a bonafide designer, I strongly recommend getting a designer to do your cover. It makes a big difference.”

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