Self-Publishing and Marketing – T-Shirts and more!

Hi everyone!

If you talk to just about any business person, most of them agree on one thing – marketing is vital to the survival of most businesses!  But what is marketing, exactly?  And how does it apply to self-published writers?

The initial answer seems obvious – pay for advertisements.  Amazon KDP and KDP Select is probably most self-published authors’ best avenue, though it isn’t the only one.

However, there’s more that a writer can do than just paid ads, and I myself am brewing up plans for future marketing efforts!  Not to mention, in today’s blog, a very special reveal is at hand…  ;)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First lets talk about a couple of other marketing actions you can take as a writer.


Yes, you read right.  T-Shirts.  T-Shirts can be one of the best marketing tools you have outside of internet ads, and it can be surprisingly affordable!

For me, initially it was just an idea to wear a shirt myself with my novel’s cover on it, but you can use them in more ways.  Have a pre-order going through a venue like Kickstarter?  Make a t-shirt one of the tiered bonuses!  Got a table at a convention?  Have some t-shirts on hand to sell or even give away as part of a bonus if they buy your entire set or something.

Or even just have a method of selling them to any would-be hardcore fans!

If you’re thinking to yourself “I’m a no-name author, why would anyone want to buy a shirt of my books?”  You might be surprised.  Someone somewhere could fall in love with your novels, and want to proudly show off their fandom!  But they can’t do that unless you have a way for them to do so.

And one thing I will say: make sure the shirt is incredible and eye catching, just like your cover should be!  Sure you could take your front cover and slap it onto a T-Shirt and voila, insta-fan-material.  However, my friends at Guildhall Galatea and Color Me Impressed have shown me the value of a design geared towards a T-Shirt, rather than a book cover, and the results speak for themselves!

Not only am I excited to wear the shirt, but I’m hoping people may want to order some for themselves!

And yes, you’re seeing that right…while not the full cover, you just got to see more of the cover for the upcoming “Rise of the Forgotten,” the 2nd edition of book 1 of the Sword of Dragons series!!!  :D :D :D

Maps and More!

When I was a teen, I remember buying the video game Everquest, one of the earlier MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.)  One of the coolest things that came with it was a cloth map of the world of Everquest!

I’ve since lost that cloth map :( But I never forgot it, and started collecting other fantasy maps, especially from the Elder Scrolls.  I’ve wanted to find a way to offer maps to readers (other than just including them in the books) and finally have an avenue.

Low resolution, low quality print test, but still impressive!

While chatting with the folks at Guildhall Galatea and Color Me Impressed, we started talking about possibly printing my maps on cloth.  I immediately loved the idea, so I  went right out and found some material that looked good, and we did a test print.  And while it is a low-res, small test print, I was highly impressed with the result!!  As such, full-sized, full resolution maps of Edilas and Devor will be printed soon :)

What can I do with these?  I’d love to either include them with box sets of the books, or find a way to have them on sale separately.  Plus, at conventions, they would help me stand out from all other other authors!  And if I really do a kickstarter as a way to preorder, then these maps can be one of the tiered rewards!

This is just the beginning, however.  I don’t want to say too much in case everything doesn’t work out, but there may be some other incredible goodies on the horizon to accompany the Sword of Dragons :D

That’s all I have for today, everyone, but I am so excited about all of this!  I hope you are too, and I hope my fellow authors out there get some ideas or inspiration from these examples

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik


Print vs. eBook – Marketing Focus

Hi everyone!

Last weekend, Beck and I attended the first annual WhimsyCon, a new Steampunk convention in Denver that essentially replaced the defunct Anomaly Con.  While we were there, we attended a few panels on writing, self-publishing, and story-building.

One of the panelists that we saw a few times was a self-published author who makes six figures a year!  Who wouldn’t want to do that with writing?  So we eagerly attended his panels.

For the most part, I was pleased to find out that Beck and I were already on the right track, with our rebranding and focus on marketing with my books.  One of the things I didn’t necessarily agree with, however, was his idea of ‘write and publish as much as possible.’  To the point that he is publishing well over a dozen fiction novels per year.  I’m curious if he’ll be able to maintain that pace for very long.

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However, in all of the panels, including his, one thing came up that didn’t surprise me, but I’d never before considered with my own previous work…focus on eBook vs. print.

This author (and forgive me, I can’t remember his name…) pointed out that almost all of his sales were eBook.  A very, very, very small percentage of his sales were print.  And he even said that, ‘focus on eBooks’ and, unsurprisingly, he even suggested, “Amazon KDP for their KDP Select program, especially if you’re just starting out.”

It was around this time that I realized something…  I had focused most of my marketing on my print books for The Sword of Dragons.

And I realized that this probably was a mistake.

Why Was Print Important To Me?

Well, first of all, it still is…for one simple fact.  I love books.  I love physical books.  And all of my life, I’d dreamt of getting my books onto bookshelves.  In 2015, that dream became a reality.

But I still focused on it.  Still focused on getting people to buy printed editions.  Went to conventions to sell them (don’t worry, I still will :) ).  Urged people to buy them.

And I occasionally posted advertisements and sales on Kindle…whenever the whim struck me.

But I wanted my books to be read and to sit on bookshelves the world over!  I wanted to autograph them!  I wanted physical interaction, physical books, physical everything!

Why Should I Focus on eBook?

Because that’s frankly where the market has gone.  Not to say that I will not put out print editions or carry around printed editions to sell if I happen to run into someone who wants a copy.

A balance seems to have been struck between popularity of eBook vs. print, and I will always love and prefer physical books.  But what about the voracious readers, or as they called them in the panels, “serial readers,” the people who read an entire book every day?  Not only would buying printed books get expensive, but think of how much space they would need to store them?

Plus, as was noted in the panels, Kindle Unlimited is essentially the Netflix of books.  Pay a flat fee, and read as many books as you want.  It’s given voracious readers access to books at home unlike ever before.  Sure libraries are free, but if you found a book you wanted to read right now, and the library didn’t have it, you’d have to wait.  Or if you found an author you loved, but they only carried some of their books, you were out of luck, or at least had to wait for them to decide to bring in more of that author’s books.

Kindle Unlimited, it seems, is what is turning the tide in eBook’s favor.

And for self-published authors, it could very well be a good thing.  It gives the serial readers access to your books that they might never have had before.

Knowing that I hardly ever paid for advertising for The Sword of Dragons, I can tell you that when I first enrolled my books in KDP Select, I started seeing regular reads, which translated to regular royalties.  Granted, not a lot of money came in from that, but it was better than nothing.  And now that I’ve dropped my books out of KDP Select in anticipation of releasing the 2nd editions?  Nothing.

No sales.

That alone convinces me that, for a relatively unknown author like me, KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited is my best bet at getting people to give me a chance.

What Does This Mean About My Future Plans?

Rise of the Forgotten

Regarding my 2nd edition releases, and all future releases, well they’re still getting their physical copies.  I know that I’m not the only one in the world who loves physical books.  And if I can figure out how to sell it, I still want to sell a box set of the 2nd editions and The Orc War Campaigns.

However, I’ll also put more effort into the eBooks.  Last time I just let Kindle auto-convert my books to eBook format and did nothing else.  I didn’t inspect to ensure no conversion errors.  And as I already mentioned, I hardly paid for any advertisement.

That’s all going to change.  As I’ve said recently, it should be an author’s job to create the best product that they can, not just in quality of story and writing, but also in the actual product itself, its appearance.

I hope this is the right move.  I’m pretty sure it is :)

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

How the Death of Barnes and Noble Could Affect Writers and Readers

Hi everyone,

Recently the news exploded with the announcement that Barnes and Noble laid off almost every single full-time employee.  Worse than that, they gave no notice – employees came in on a Monday to start their week, and were told to go home.

Hearing this news, the very first thought I had was “They’re following Wal-Mart’s employment change from years ago: only hire part-time so that you don’t have to give them benefits or insurance.”  I almost wouldn’t even blame them if that was the case, given how terrible things have become in the United States for medical insurance.

But to let everyone go with no notice, pitiful if any severance, and ‘a chance to apply in a couple months as a part-time, minimum wage employee.’  If that isn’t a slap in the face to those who worked it as a career, I don’t know what is.

However, it gets worse.  Many seem to think that this is another sign of the coming end of Barnes and Noble.  This article is just one of many I’ve found that posits this inevitable future.  The going thought is that Barnes and Noble are trying to liquidate as much money as they can as quickly as they can prior to closing down.

If that’s true, if Barnes and Noble is about to die…what does that mean for writers?  Especially self-published writers?  What does that mean for readers?

Is this the end of print books?  I don’t think so, I still believe that the balance that seems to have been found between print and eBook will remain relatively stable.  Especially with the fact that Amazon is opening physical book stores.

But then…where do we go to get books?  In many larger cities as well as small touristy towns, there are independent book stores, but their offerings rarely match what Barnes and Noble used to have, or what Waldenbook/Borders used to have before they died.

Which kind of leaves it all on Amazon.  Possibly the best place for authors to sell from, and the best place for readers to buy from.

…which gives Amazon an incredible power.  They can single-handedly shape the future of reading and writing, if they choose to.  There has already been anti-competetive controversies surrounding Amazon (there’s even a dedicated wikipedia page about those practices!)

Granted there are a lot of other choices out there for eBook selling besides B&N and Amazon, but then Amazon doesn’t want you to go to them, so they offer benefits of remaining exclusive to them for eBook sales, on top of the fact that they have a greater reach than most, if not all other venues.

I’ve heard it many times from other Self-published authors, they despise some of Amazon’s practices, but publish through them because they feel it is the only realistic way to get their product out to the most people.  Whether or not that is actually accurate is up for debate, I know at least one of my friends who is really good with spreadsheets and numbers has experimented a lot with exclusivity vs. casting as wide a net as possible.

But the fact remains that if B&N dies, which seems likely, it will give Amazon greater power over both print books and eBooks.

I honestly don’t know at this point if that is good news or bad news for writers and readers…

What do you think?

-Jon Wasik

When Is It Time For A Cover Reveal?

Hi everyone!

I found myself struggling to come up with a blog article today, so the first thing I thought was, “Maybe it’s time to do a cover reveal for one of the new books!”

…but is it too soon to do that?

I honestly wasn’t sure what might be appropriate from a marketing point of view, so I decided to hit the search engines and start reading articles.  And pretty much immediately, the consensus was clear: not until your book is ready for pre-orders.

Do you agree?

Rise of the Forgotten

I’ve already done a partial reveal with the text on the titles, and I’ve received proof copies of Rise of the Forgotten and Burning Skies, both of which revealed a couple minor tweaks that are needed (and already fixed on the digital files.)  But should I wait for a complete reveal?

I think it makes sense to an extent.  That first impression can come with a buy impulse for a reader.  “That looks cool, I wanna buy that!”  So pre-orders would hopefully mount up.  Where as if I revealed the cover now, but pre-orders weren’t ready for another 4 or 5 months, people’s initial excitement might be long lost and pre-orders might be less than stellar.

So for the moment, I’m going to hold off on the cover reveal.

I want this release to be done right.  I want to learn from the mistakes I made in the past.  And I want to give my readers the best experience that I can.

What I can say is that I’m still strongly thinking about a pre-order bundle somehow that will include all 3 books (Rise of the Forgotten, Burning Skies, and The Orc War Campaigns) as well as a printed map, either of Edilas or of all of Halarite.

I’ve recently done just a test print on an 8.5×11 paper with an aged parchment effect, and I like it!  If a print service can do this larger, and on the right kind of paper, this would definitely make for a neat extra to throw in with pre-orders!

The only challenge I’m running into right now is a platform to sell the bundle through.  Etsy is a no-go because they only allow the sale of hand-crafted items, not printed books.  So I need to find a venue appropriate to such a sale, and eBay doesn’t strike me as appropriate.  Does anyone out there have any suggestions?

Thank You For Your Patience

Before I sign off, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who gave me words of support last month after my Mother passed away.  You words warmed my heart.  :)  I went nearly a month without a new blog, but I’ve still been seeing visits, comments, and likes on past blogs, and I’m grateful to everyone.

See you all next week!

-Jon Wasik

Goodbye My Angel, Goodbye Dear Mother

Dear friends…I don’t really know how to start this, I don’t really know what to say.  This past weekend, my mother passed from this life to the next.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write…and for the first time in my life, I’m having trouble with it.  I’ve been lucky in life to have two supportive and caring parents, and I’ll miss her terribly.  I do miss her terribly…

Her name was perfectly chosen.  She was an angel…  What I wrote in the dedication of my first book holds true, she taught me to be strong, to never give up, no matter how hard life became.

I hope you’ll all understand, it may be another week or so before I return to regular blogging.  Thank you for always being supportive, dear readers.  I’ll be back, I promise.


Sustainable Writing and Publishing

Hi everyone, welcome to 2018!

What if I told you that writing as much as humanly possible and publishing as much as humanly possible…wasn’t necessarily the best way to go?

I’ve written before about all of the research I’ve done over the question ‘can you make a living as a writer?’ and I’ve learned so much about the industry.  And one of the things I’ve learned is that many of the new authors who make a living these days often do so through volume – they write and publish, a lot.

I should have dug deeper.  But then, the self-publishing market is kind of a new thing, relatively speaking.  Who knew where the trend was going to go?

In reading a recent blog article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which led me to another, and then to another, the market has matured, and many self-published authors are trying to write more to keep up.

Writers are getting burned out.  And many of the new big-hitters from the past decade have apparently disappeared.

Burnout can be a problem in any career, any job.  But Rusch made a very good point in her blogs:

“If you want to sustain your writing and publishing businesses, you have to stop thinking like a manufacturer. You need to start thinking like an artisan. By that I mean, you are “a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.””

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When I read that article, it made me think about my own experience turning out a novel in record time.  When I wrote Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, I developed, wrote, and put it through two rounds of editing/proofreading in 3 months.  I was proud of myself for that.

However, the product wasn’t the best it could be.  I finished it on a deadline to pitch it at a writer’s conference, and the pitch went well, but when the agent read the product itself, she said that it needed a lot of work.  And she was right.

More than that, I had spent every single night after work, and every single weekend day, working on it as much as I possibly could.  That on top of a full time job meant I had time for little else except the essentials (grocery shopping, etc.)  That kind of effort was unsustainable.  It was exhausting

Making the Strongest Product You Can

Writing fiction is an art.  This includes in the cinema, although Disney seems to have turned it into a manufacturing job based on their extremely aggressive Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars Universe release schedule.  To their credit, they have probably dozens of writers working on the stories.  But they’ve also run into problems (and thus keep having to fire directors and restart filming on Star Wars movies, always citing ‘creative differences.’)

For those of us who don’t have an entire team of writers at our beck and call, putting out a novel a month, even one every three months, is insane.  I’ve even read that many consider one per year to be aggressive for a single writer.

And when a writer burns out, there’s no one else around to pick up the slack for them.  Their business growth falters.  Their income slows or stops.  And if they didn’t plan ahead for that…they’re in trouble.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

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As Rusch stated, being a self-published writer is a marathon, not a sprint.  Sprinting is not sustainable long-term.  And I’ve come to understand (even if I unconsciously knew it before) that the only way to eventually ‘make it’ as a writer is to settle in for the long-haul.  And to not jump the gun.

I want to write full time, badly.  Writing is my passion.  That’s why I’ve been doing it for well over 20 years.  And I’ve come such a long way in the past 3 years.

I also have a long ways to go.  And sprinting to that finish line wouldn’t be the best idea in the world.  I’ll arrive exhausted, if I even make it there at all.  And then I won’t be able to keep going.

A novel in 3 months is impressive, but that novel won’t be ready for publication for a long time.  In the mean time, I have the Sword of Dragons series to finish.

Release Schedule?

One of the things I’m having to let go is the ability to have a dead-locked release schedule.  I originally had a plan to finish the Sword of Dragons series by 2020.  It’s now 2018 and I haven’t even finished writing book 3.

And that’s okay.  I’m going at the pace I can sustain while maintaining life and sanity.  Plus, more than ever, I’m convinced that my re-branding of the series is a worthwhile move.

Because it took me over 2 years to learn that releasing the best product that I can, rather than a mediocre product at a fast pace, is more important.

When a reader pays $15 for a print novel or $5 for an eBook, they’re investing more than just money – reading takes time.  And investment in the characters.  They’re taking a risk by buying your product, especially if they have never heard of you before, or your story.

So make it the best damn novel you can.  I don’t just mean the writing, either.  Make it the best product that you can.

And however long that takes is however long it takes.

-Jon Wasik

2017 Hardships, 2018’s Promises

Hi everyone!

7 hours from now (where I live,) 2017 will become a memory, and that memory is full of mixed feelings for me.  Some of my greatest joys, some of my hardest sorrows.  Today being the last day, I thought I would end things with my annual ‘glancing back, and looking forward’ blog :)

Writing Without Publishing

After two years in a row of publishing, 2017 was the first year where I didn’t publish a single new novel.  And for much of the 2nd half of 2017, that meant depression for me…I already had a plan moving forward for my writing career, but I knew nothing would be ready for publication in ’17.

However, a recent article I’ve read by another author has reminded me that there’s something more important than pumping out novel after novel like a factory.  Writing is an artisan career, and sustainable writing is more important than mass production.  But I want to spend an entire blog writing more on that.  For now, let me just pass on the word – you don’t have to write 20 novels a year to be a successful author.  That leads to burn out.  Just do the best you can, and don’t forget to live a little.

Burning Skies Cover Preview

On the bright side, I have made considerable headway this year, especially in the 2nd half, towards the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons books 1 and 2, as well as finally getting the Orc War Campaigns anthology ready for print!

I’ve learned a lot about the market, far more than I ever anticipated, and I think I’m a little more prepared to move forward in my writing career in 2018.


One of the greatest highlights of ’17 was the day I proposed to my beautiful Starshine, Beck Stewart!  Since that day, we have moved in together and begun living and planning our lives together.  After more than a year together, and nearly a year engaged, I am happier than I ever thought possible with my relationship.

Fellow author, artist, geek, and weird like me ;) She has been my rock, my muse, my voice of reason.  She’s helped me keep the demons back, helped my writing move forward, and encouraged me every single day.  Thank you, Moon of my Life!

2018 – Three Books At Once?!

Rise of the Forgotten

With everything I have learned about writing, marketing, and cover art, I came to a decision in the last couple months: when I release the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons books, I plan to release them together, along with the Orc War Campaigns anthology.  That’s right, 3 books at one time!

As crazy as it sounds, it’s actually not a stretch, and in fact gives me the time I need to get everything prepared, and actually make the books look like they belong together, both with their covers and their interiors.

In fact, as of tomorrow, I’ll have finished editing Burning Skies!  At least, until I read through the proof copy.  I’m sure I’ll find more to fix with that.

But that’s my system – I have a proof of Rise of the Forgotten, and when I finish editing Burning Skies, I’ll order that proof while moving on to The Orc War Campaigns.  Once I finish that and order its proof, I’ll go back and read through Rise of the Forgotten’s proof copy, and so on.

When will these three be released?  I don’t know yet.  But I’m working quickly.

The Year I Get Married!

The first half of 2018 is going to be busy for another reason – my marriage is coming up fast!  And that means more and more of my time outside of work will need to be devoted to preparations.  I’m hoping I get proof copies of all 3 books before then, but I’m not going to rush.

That’s a difficult lesson 2016 and 2017 have taught me – rushing stories out isn’t the best idea.  Working under a deadline is one thing, but as I mentioned before, sustainable writing is more important.  I don’t want to burn myself out.

I know this is a writing blog, but I hope you all will understand if I indulge now and again and post news regarding my upcoming wedding :)

Happy New Year!

Thank you to everyone who visited in 2017!  Much to my surprise, my blog has received more new followers and views this year than in 2016, and I’m so glad you all have found your way here!

See you all next year!
-Jon Wasik

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