For a long time, Cameron Bolling ’20 was divided between traditional book publishing — sending the manuscript of his novel off to publishing houses in hopes of it being accepted — or self-publishing — controlling his own formatting and editing, pricing and marketing. 

“There’s a big self- versus traditional publishing debate in writer communities,” Bolling said. 

As Bolling sees it, with traditional publishing often comes a lot of rejection, a lot of paying people to prepare your book for its debut. You gain the stability of an upfront payment, but you don’t make another cent until your novel matches that initial amount, and the royalties that follow are far from livable wages.

While a publishing house claims most of your novel’s income Bolling said, self-publishing allows you to rake in a larger chunk of cash. This process also places the success of the book in your complete control. Some writers don’t have the resources or savviness to follow through, but for Bolling, and for his debut novel, Skyborn, self-publishing proved to be the right path. Bolling not only claims between 60 and 70% of profits, he also fully possesses the creative and directional freedom concerning his publication.

What began as a powerful first line — “A thick-shafted arrow protruded from the boy’s chest,” — and a vague idea, transformed into the dense outline of a trilogy. Bolling’s Battle of the Horizon trilogy is a story that portrays the perspective of a strong, queer female character of color. He allotted last summer for compiling book one, outlining during the first half of May, before following up with his first draft, then a second, then a third. After round three of edits and revisions, Bolling passed his manuscript off to a handful of beta readers.

One volunteer was creative writing major Laura Kontoules ’20, who described Skyborn as “An original, intriguing, and profound exploration of one girl’s search for freedom. With a cast of dynamic characters and top-tier worldbuilding, I was hooked from the first page.” 

Perhaps Bolling’s most esteemed beta reader was Garrett Robinson, author of Nightblade, who wrote, “Cameron Bolling has created a complex and fascinating character in a high-stakes world of dystopian fantasy. I can’t wait to read more.”

While waiting to hear back from his betas, Bolling commissioned the cover art for Skyborn from artist Aiden Guerette (@crowstrel on Instagram). When all the readers’ feedback arrived, Bolling wielded their critiques to form the final draft of his novel, ready for publishing. To make things even more legitimate, Bolling founded a company focused on diverse speculative fiction — Realmwrite Publishing. This decision arose mostly to serve as a “force field” of legal protection, and because he knows other independent authors who successfully delved down this route.

After publishing a few more of his own books, Bolling plans on growing his company to allow submissions from others. In the meantime, his projection for releasing Battle of the Horizon, Book II is early 2020, and Book III can be expected Summer of 2020. 

It feels as though Bolling spent his whole life careening toward this moment, toward publishing his first book. But now, with that tremendous goal accomplished, the feeling hasn’t truly settled in for him. 

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Bolling said. 

Reality only sets in during one specific scenario. While working on his sequels, when Bolling needs a refresher from Skyborn, instead of having to search through a document on his computer, he reaches for the physical copy on his bookshelf. That’s when it feels real, cradling the tangible story, the compilation of words that first spilled from Bolling’s brain, now printed on the ink-and-paper pages.

It can be difficult for freshly published authors to accept the stark palpability of their work; nevertheless, there remains a resolute reason why Bolling wrote this book. Mostly, he wants people to read it and enjoy (and spread the word about it). He also aims to portray a different perspective, one that isn’t often seen in fantasy novels.

“It’s important for people to read other points of view,” he said. 

When he isn’t churning out chapters for his novels, Bolling serves as secretary for Word Order, president of P.R.I.D.E and Philosophy Club, and manager of the LGBTQ+ resource center. After graduation, Bolling intends to write as much as he can as fast as he can in hopes of eventually sustaining himself on his writing, or in his own words, “just keep telling stories.”

Interested in buying a copy of Skyborn? Click over to Amazon where Bolling’s novel is on sale in e-book and print form. For more information about Cameron Bolling and his books, visit cameronbolling.com or look him up on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.