Category Archives: Self-Publishing

Can A Writer Live Off Of Writing?

Hi everyone!

In just a couple of months, this blog, A Writer At Heart, turns 3!  I’m excited that I’ve kept this going for all of that time!  There’s been ups and downs, and I know I haven’t always been able to keep up on posts, but it’s been an enjoyable medium to write in.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but one of my goals that I wanted to work towards when I started writing this blog was that I was going to make a living off of writing within 2 years.  3 years later, I’m nowhere close to achieving that goal.

Despite that apparent failure, my attempt to achieve that goal is why I worked so hard and was able to self-publish 2 novels in 2 years, and finish writing The Orc War Campaigns within a year (even if barely).

I may not be raking in the cash, but I am so much more accomplished as a writer than ever before!

Still, I’ve wondered lately, is it even possible to make a living off of writing?  Can only the big names make it, the ones who make the top sellers lists and make millions?  Was it a lofty, unobtainable dream of mine?  Should I let that dream go?

The Market Has Changed

With this question in mind, I decided to do a little digging and research.  Just going to google and typing in the question “Can writers make a living off of writing” yields apparently mixed results, or so I thought at first…

There were a lot of articles that enthusiastically said “Yes!” and a lot that unequivocally said “NO!  It’s a pipe dream!”  Who was right?

But the content of the articles, as well as their dates, is what started getting me to wondering about it.  You see, most of the ones that said it was a one in a million occurrence for a writer to live off of writing were either, A: 7 years old or older, or B: were talking about traditional publication only.

The ones that said it was possible?  They pointed out the change in the market.  Everything began to change as the internet grew and took on new characteristics.  eBooks changed the market, because suddenly you didn’t have to do a huge print run.  Self-publishing was a rare and very risky thing, and cost a lot of money up-front before eBooks.

Furthermore, as things continue to evolve, print-on-demand suddenly is no longer prohibitively expensive, and in fact is at a point where it can compete with traditional print runs.

Suddenly there are all of these avenues, and just about anyone can get published with little or no up-front cost!

Does This Mean Lower-Quality?

I want to state something important before I continue: I am neither bashing nor supporting either method (traditional or self-publishing) above the other.  In fact, even being a self-published author, it is still my dream to get picked up by an agency and publishing house.

Having said that, I’ve been scoffed at by some traditionally published authors in the past.  They think of self-publishing as an evil, and the most common reason behind it: “Anyone can get published without even trying, so a lot of garbage makes it onto the bookshelves.”

I respectfully disagree, this is something that hasn’t changed.  Before the internet, eBooks, and Print-on-Demand, there were a lot of good books that were published, true…but there were also plenty of bad.  No, I’m not going to cite examples, but I’m willing to bet you can think of a few on your own.

Despite the risk publishers took doing print runs, and therefore despite how careful they were in who they published and the content of their publications, not everyone in the world agrees on what is a quality piece of work.  And many trade publishers followed the market.  One of the articles I found while researching this topic said it right: a lot of bad books were published for this reason, and a lot of quality books were overlooked for any number of reasons, such as not being right for the market at the time.

So now that it is easier than ever to self-publish, what does that mean?  It just means more of both – the good and the bad.  Lots more.

Market Saturation?

So is this bad, then?  Does this market saturation mean readers are more picky, because there’s too much, and therefore it is harder for all writers to live off of writing?

Strangely enough, it seems like the answer is no.  I’m not an expert, but I have a lot of theories as to why things are better than ever, rather than worse, and the biggest one is: audience.

If you get published by a trade publisher, your book goes out to stores.  Depending on how much your publisher likes your work, it may just be your local market, or it might be out to a handful of countries, depending on what international deals they have setup.

But now?  Well, I’ve had people from all over the world read my books!  I only know this because of how Kindle Direct Publishing tracks sales and royalty currencies.  I’ve seen Canadians, Australians, Brits, and a few others buy my eBooks and even some print copies.

Suddenly it’s not just specific locations.  It’s whoever has an internet connection and the means to the right kind of currency.  Suddenly there are billions of potential readers rather than millions.

On top of that, people who are voracious readers don’t have to worry about physical books taking up space or waiting for them to be delivered.  Most people I’ve talked to outside of friends and family have read my first book in a single sitting.

Voracious readers are, if you’ll pardon the pun, eating up the increased volume of works to be read!

The Bottom Line?

The bottom line is that it is possible to make a living off of writing, more than ever!  However…that does not change the fact that it requires hard work.  A LOT of hard work.  You don’t have to have that one best-seller anymore like you used to, but from what I’m reading, those who DO live off of it, write a great volume of stories.

And that is no guarantee, either.  That’s an important thing to remember about writing: it doesn’t matter how good you are, you are not guaranteed to succeed.  In fact, Picard once said it perfectly in Star Trek The Next Generation:

Image source – fanpop.com

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.  That is not a weakness, that is life!”

So what should you do?

It all boils down to one thing: do you love to write?  Is it your passion?  Your calling?

If you can answer yes to that, then my advice is the same advice I’m giving myself: don’t give up.  Don’t stop.  Keep going.  Never stop.

Believe.

What Does Your Cover Say?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years, the cover of your novel can make or break you.

Recently my fiancee found an article that we read together today, found here, and it made me think of a lot of things, and I think even helped me answer one very important question: why have sales for Burning Skies been so much worse than The Sword of Dragons?

It boggled my mind, because almost everyone who has read Burning Skies told me they loved it as much if not more than The Sword of Dragons.  So it wasn’t that it was poorly written or a bad story.  And my advertising campaigns for Burning Skies have all tanked.  Fewer clicks than my ads for book 1, and no purchases.

Your Cover Describes Your Book

I’ve said this in a previous blog, long ago, but what’s the first thing a person sees when perusing either a book shelf or an online book store?  The cover.  “But don’t judge a book by its cover!”  So the expression goes, but frankly, everyone does.

David Penny's original covers...Thriller or Historical Mystery?
David Penny’s original covers…Thriller or Historical Mystery?

So what does your cover tell potential buyers?  What does it tell people your book is about?  The one time I went to a writer’s convention, one of the panels I went to covered this very idea, and again in the article I mentioned earlier.  An example writer, David Penny, had a well-crafted cover for his historical mystery series, but what he was shocked to realize one day was that his cover made readers think it was a thriller.

David Penny's redesign.
David Penny’s redesign.

So he had his cover redesigned and re-branded his series, and suddenly sales skyrocketed!

Why?  Not because the original covers were bad, quite the opposite.  But because the original covers weren’t attracting the right readers.  Those looking for a thriller would click on the cover to see what the novel was about, only to find it wasn’t what they were actually looking for.  And those looking for historical mysteries didn’t look into the book because they thought it was a thriller.

Target audience.  Who is your target audience?  All of your marketing should reflect who your target audience is.  If your book is a fantasy adventure but the cover makes it look like a teen romance, you are very unlikely to attract readers.

What Does This Mean For The Sword of Dragons?

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

Well…….I’ve been thinking.  A lot.  Lately I’ve felt like a failure as a writer.  A failure in a lot of things.  And I’m a bit lost as to where to go.

But…maybe the author David Penny is on to something.  Maybe this article was exactly what I needed.  The original cover for The Sword of Dragons was great, Christian Michael is a talented artist.  But for one thing, I didn’t do a very good job as a client helping him create an appropriate cover.  I was, to put it mildly, an amateur at being a client to a cover artist.  The article helped me realize my short-falls in that regard.

I also didn’t have maps ready for the release of books 1 and 2.  Not to mention I’ve since come up with some ideas to make the book as a whole even more attractive.

But the cover…I know some people say a cover isn’t that important, but everything I’ve been seeing and reading in the past year completely disagrees with that claim.  And I think I need to take a step back and reassess some things.

I am very strongly considering doing a re-brand.  Designing new covers for the first two novels using the tips and advice in the referenced article, as well as giving book 1 it’s own unique title.  Since this is the Sword of Dragons series, book 1 needs a title to indicate it is the first in a series.

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalAnd the more I look at book 2’s cover, the more I think: this does not in any way convey that this is a fantasy adventure novel.  Even book 1’s cover, as well-crafted as it is, does not necessarily convey that it is a fantasy adventure.

In other words, I need a 2nd edition of the series…

I have some thinking to do.  What do you all think?

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

The Trials Continue – 2016’s Highs and Lows

Hey everyone, welcome to the last blog of the year!

And what a year it has been…with some of my greatest highs and some of my lowest lows.  I wish I could say this roller coaster was for me only, but based on the memes I keep seeing on Facebook, 2016 has been one of the most difficult years for many people, and not just because of celebrity deaths.

Originally Posted by Cinnabon.
Originally Posted by Cinnabon.

Though I do wish to pay tribute to some of my favorites who passed this year, those who have inspired and left behind a legacy no one will soon forget: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Ron Glass, John Glenn, and Carrie Fisher.  Not to belittle all those who passed in 2016, but these five were the ones that hit me the hardest.

Looking Back on 2016

2016 started on a heart-breaking note for me, as my relationship at the time was already coming apart.  I’d spent the holidays alone, and it was one of the loneliest times of my life…  On top of that, I had failed to get Burning Skies out in November as I had originally planned, 6 months after book 1’s release.

digital-cover-1While production of The Orc War Campaigns was in full swing, I wasn’t sure it was going to do well.  I was scared that fans wouldn’t accept that as a substitute for the delayed release of Burning Skies.  I wasn’t sure the story would do well.  But I was looking forward to exploring my own wounds in the story…

In fact, as a reader recently pointed out to me, I have infused my past relationship failures into my writing a lot lately.  At the beginning of 2016, I was full of cynicism and anger, I’d given up on relationships.  I couldn’t bear another heartbreak…

Never-the-less, I trudged forward.  I said “Hell with it” and focused all of my efforts on writing and getting my name out there.  This year I had my first table at a convention, that of Starfest 2016, and sold several novels there!  It was an exciting beginning, and sales for book 1 were relatively steady in general at this point.

Character design and model: Beck Stewart. Photo by WeNeals Photography.
Character design and model: Beck Stewart. Photo by WeNeals Photography.

Then I attended Anomaly Con, a steampunk convention in the Denver area, and met some amazing authors!  In fact, of all of the conventions I’ve attended, I think Anomaly Con had the best organization for Author’s Row.

Better still, one of the most important introductions of my life was made that weekend: I met fellow author Beck Stewart.  And while I didn’t know it at the time, that brief introduction late Saturday night would become the love of my life…  :)

Burning Skies Release

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalWhile the Orc War Campaigns had to go on a mid-season hiatus, this led to the successful release of the 2nd novel of the Sword of Dragons series, Burning Skies, and what a release it was!  I had an amazing release party with family and friends, and in the first couple months of release, I sold dozens of copies!

I was on a high – everything was starting to go right.  A couple months after the release, Beck and I started dating, and interest in my novels was on the rise.  Though terrified at one point that I was going to lose my mother, she pulled through, and the middle of 2016 was one of the best times of my life :D

But alas, not all would continue to go so well.  Sales for both book 1 and book 2 suddenly just…stopped.  No gradual draw-down, no indication it would happen, just all of a sudden…

Image source - google.com
Image source – google.com

And as 2016 comes to an end, sales continue to be almost non-existent.  Honestly I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong…  Advertising campaigns on Amazon are no longer drawing interest, and all attempts to get others to buy my novels have failed.  And while The Orc War Campaigns has completed successfully…I’ve received no feedback.  I don’t even know if anyone has read it.

As a writer, right now, I feel like a complete failure.  Months of negligible sales, including at a convention this fall, no more fan mail, it’s like everyone just…forgot about the Sword of Dragons.

I’m not sure where to go from here.  I’m trudging along on book 3, though running into a bit of writer’s block (3 days to write 1 chapter?  That’s bad…) And I don’t know what else I could do to boost sales.

Ending 2016 On A High Note

Image Source - stylecaster.com
Image Source – stylecaster.com

But for all of the despair I feel about writing, I can’t end this article on a low note.  Because for all of that, there are also some amazing things going on in my life!  My relationship continues to grow, and I got to spend a usually depressing time of the year with my girlfriend and our families!

In fact, writing aside, this turned out to be one of the best years of my life!  :D  And while I really hope I can turn my writing career around in 2017, I am so glad to no longer have to face it all alone.  I am so glad to have a companion in life, a writing partner, a cosplay partner, and my best friend :)

For all of the darkness in 2016, my Starshine has lit up my life in a way no one else could ever do.

Plans for 2017

For 2017, I want to try to get The Orc War Campaigns into print this year.  But more important is my desire to release book 3 of the Sword of Dragons by the end of May…and I honestly don’t know if I can.

The Orc War Campaigns took up more of my time than I expected, and I fell waaaay behind.  Between that and my bout of writer’s block…I’m really afraid I won’t make it in time.  Maybe a novel every year is an unrealistic expectation for myself.  I’m really not sure.  I also don’t want to rush out a mediocre product.  I want book 3 to be at least as good as books 1 and 2.

So that’s a decision I’ll have to make in the next few months – try to keep to the schedule, or delay book 3’s release….  Which would you prefer, my dear readers?  Try to get it out on time, or take my time on it and shoot for a winter release?

On that note, I wish you all a fantastic New Years tonight!  Be safe, have fun, and I’ll see you in 2017!

Thanks for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

Writing A Series – A Love Affair

Hi everyone!

Have you ever seen the movie “Cloud Atlas” or read the novel from which it is based?  There’s a quote in the movie that kind of inspired this blog article:

"A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair."
“A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair.”

Off and on, I’ve toyed with the idea of going ahead and publishing the first Chronicles of the Sentinels novel in the near future, rather than waiting until I finish the Sword of Dragons series.  So I started reading through old blog entries while I mulled it over, and came across a blog I wrote earlier this year.

In it, I had talked about deciding, after almost landing an agent for Chronicles, to self-publish.  But instead of self-publishing Chronicles, I decided to self-publish what I called “my first love,” The Sword of Dragons.

And that’s when the answer came to me.

Commitment To A Series

I can’t stop working on Sword of Dragons.  I want to see it through to the end.  And I know as a reader, I hate when a writer takes years to come out with the next book in a series.

Image Source - stylecaster.com
Image Source – stylecaster.com

Just like I’m a one-woman kind of guy, I’m a one-series kind of guy :)  I can only really and truly focus on one at a time, otherwise I get distracted, and the series suffers for it.

Even writing The Orc War Campaigns has put me behind on the main novel series, and I’m genuinely worried I won’t be able to get book 3 out on time.  I haven’t even started the first draft yet!

So I’m going to stick with my original plan.  Work on one series at a time.  And while that unfortunately means I’ll only be releasing one novel per year (excluding the Orc War Campaigns anthology,) it’ll be well worth it to focus on one series, one story, at a time.

The Long Term Plan

So, assuming I can get book 3 out on time, my plan is to release one Sword of Dragons novel per year, leading up to the epic conclusion in book 6 in 2020.

Images Source - http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com
Images Source – http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com

From there, I want to finish the Chronicles of the Sentinels trilogy.  Even though book 1, Legacy, is already done, it needs work and TLC, so I’ll likely hold off releasing that until 2021, making that series go out to 2023.

From there…well let’s just say that I have enough story ideas to continue publishing a new book every year until 2030.  But after Chronicles, I’m not sure what I want to do first.

Image Source - http://best-sci-fi-books.com
Image Source – http://best-sci-fi-books.com

There are a few one-off novels I want to write, including a sci-fi story idea I had recently, but there’s also a series of sci-fi novels I want to write that totally cross boundaries of genre, in ways that I think are really cool :D

Anywho, that’s all for today, everyone!  Sorry for no vlog today, but maybe I’ll work up the courage later this week :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Many Directions – The Fun Side of Self Publishing

Hi everyone!

I know, bit of a weird title today, but trust me, there really is a positive side to self publishing that I wasn’t consciously aware of until this week, and I thought I’d share it with you!

beck-stewart
Check out my girlfriend’s writer’s blog! http://beckstewart.tumblr.com/

I had started thinking about it earlier in the week, and then my girlfriend wrote a really good blog article that helped me figure out what exactly my brain was trying to discern, and that is the need for a diverse skill set to be a self-published author.

What does that mean?  Well, bear with me for a moment :)

The first and probably most important skill any writer needs is, well, the ability to write, and write well.  This of course requires a broad vocabulary and a very strong understanding of the language that the writer is writing in.

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death's House Productions https://www.facebook.com/DeathsHouseProductions/
Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions https://www.facebook.com/DeathsHouseProductions/

A writer of any kind, self-published or not, also has to have strong editing and proofreading skills.  For some writers this is more important than others, as I have known many writers who have a hard time forming a coherent story in the first draft, and it takes significant editing and proofreading to turn their first draft into something resembling a story.  Trust me, I’m not knocking that, because some of those writers have turned out incredible stories!

…but there’s other skills that are valuable and even necessary.  Especially in the self-publishing world, and especially if you don’t have a lot of cash to back what is essentially a small, self-owned business.

For instance, the layout of your novel for print.  This requires both a creative flare and a knowledge/talent of which ever software you’re using, whether simply Microsoft Word or something like Scrivner.  Sure, there are templates out there, but those can take you only so far, and the need to manipulate them to do what you want requires an intimate knowledge of the software.

Then there’s cover art and cover design.  Graphic Design is a very, very different skill set from anything I have mentioned so far, and it’s not one that everyone has the time or patience to develop.

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalMy first novel’s cover, I actually hired someone to create it, and he did an amazing job!!  But it took me nearly a year in sales to recoup that expense, which was why I decided to do my own covers, once I realized that I actually retained much of my skills from when I used to do graphic design for a hobby.  Even then, the covers I have designed are a little basic, but they work well.

And then there’s the part that I struggle with the most: the business side of it.  Marketing and advertising, knowing how much effort and capitol to invest into a specific market.

marketing concept with business graph and chart hand drawing on blackboard
marketing concept with business graph and chart hand drawing on blackboard

For instance, is it worth spending the money to pay book stores who will take your books on consignment to put them on their shelves?  As much as I’ve dreamt of having my book on a book shelf, based on my research and what fellow writers have told me, at this time it is not worth the investment.  This is not true for all writers and all genres, but that’s part of job.

This Sounds Like A Lot Of Work!  Where’s The Fun?

That IS the fun…because I don’t have to do the same thing, over and over and over again!  In fact, with each new project comes new challenges and new opportunities.

I get to research new things when I include something in a story that I am not completely familiar with.  I get to write new stories.  I get to try new layouts.  I get to create new cover art.  And I get to explore the market without risking anyone else’s money or time, just my own.  My girlfriend is making a dress right now to make a cover for her upcoming novel, Bloody Notes, which she will also model for the photo!

And the best part of it all?  If you get bored or frustrated with one aspect, there’s always another project that you can switch to for a time and still be productive for your self-publishing business.

Getting frustrated with a scene you’re writing?  Go edit another story.  Bored with editing and proofreading?  Try creating a new cover or a new advertisement graphic.  Go to conventions to advertise and sell your books.  Your imagination is your only limit!

writing-dragonSomeone once told me that creative writing is not a good profession for someone with ADD.  I respectfully disagree.  Because there’s so much we can do, and as long as we have a system that allows us to move forward on all of our projects, then the ability to switch to varying types of projects plays right into our strengths.

Oh, and yes, you just read that right.  I just called ADD a strength.  I’ve gone my whole life trying to fight it, but frankly, my diverse and varying hobbies over the years have given me the very skill sets I need to make this work.

That’s all for today, everyone!  Thanks for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

Self-Publishing and the Importance of Editing

Hey everyone!

As I’ve read a few self-published books in-between traditionally-published books over the past year and a half, I’ve learned something that greatly surprises me.  Many of the self-published authors I’ve read have done a better job with editing than traditionally published novels.

spock-skepticalWhaaaaaat?!  No, that can’t be.  Publishing houses have teams of editors at their disposal!  How could they possibly have missed obvious mistakes??

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how or why that happens.  And it is very true, not all books are edited/created equally.  I’ve read some traditionally published novels that were near-flawless in their editing, and others that had handfuls of mistakes.

riders-revengeHowever, that divide is pretty narrow.  With very few exceptions, traditionally published novels usually aren’t all that bad.  However, self-published novels are another story…

I’ve read some that are almost flawless in their editing (Alessandra Clarke’s novel Rider’s Revenge had maybe one or two mistakes, and none of them were glaring) and then I’ve read some where it seemed like the author hadn’t even tried to edit their own book, let alone get anyone else to edit them…

Why It Matters So Much

To all of my fellow self-published authors out there, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the editing part right.  For more than one reason.

Firstly, and this is a personal observation that has no statistics to back it up, people generally seem to be more critical of mistakes in self-published novels.  Even a couple of mistakes in a self-published novel, and the people I’ve talked to tend to say something like, “This is why I only read professional writers!”  No joke, I’ve heard someone say that.

Take your work seriously, or others won’t take you seriously.  Go through multiple edits, and if you can, get someone else to edit as well.  Get a friend or family member who’s good with English to edit.  Or better yet, if you can afford it, hire someone!  (I’m strongly considering offering my services as a freelance editor…)

In fact, getting someone else to edit your work is probably your best bet as the highest quality, because I’ve noticed too often that if it’s your own work, it’s much, much easier to miss mistakes.  Just look at the mistakes in my blog articles for evidence of that ;)

What it ultimately comes down to is this: glaring errors in your novel will stop the reader flat in their tracks.

Image source - http://il9.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/10259909/thumb/1.jpg
Image source – http://il9.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/10259909/thumb/1.jpg

To give an analogy, imagine you’re out on a romantic sunset walk with your significant other.  The trail you’re on is beautiful, the sky is alight with oranges and reds and purples.  Hand in hand with your love, you are enjoying the journey that is so perfect and so…

And then you come across a dead body on the trail.

….Well, that certainly made you stop, and go “Wait, what?!”  Suddenly the romance is gone, the walk is over, and how do you move on from there?  This is the sort of jarring effect a typo or misspelled word has on many, many readers.  We’re yanked out of the story, and it becomes very, very difficult to recapture the mood.

Ultimately, I’ve never found a single novel, traditionally published or self published, that had zero errors, so don’t stress so much over it that you never publish your work.  But please do take editing seriously, for your benefit and the benefit of your readers.

And for the record, editing can save lives.  Commas can save lives.  Because the difference between, “Let’s eat Grandma!” and “Let’s eat, Grandma!” is huge!!  ;)

Image Source - www.dailytelegraph.com.au
Image Source – http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Burning Skies Release!

Hey everyone,

Burning-Skies-Digital-Final
Click the cover to see where you can buy!

Today is the day!  May 27th, 2016, Burning Skies is officially published!

Where is it available?  Everywhere!!!  ….Okay, not yet, lol.  But the kindle edition is available right now.  Click here or click the cover to the right to go to the Amazon store page!

I also saw that the Amazon page for the print edition has been created, but is not yet linked to the kindle page.  So until that happens, you can click here to go to the print edition’s store page.

World-wide distribution will take a bit more time, but fear not: it is coming as fast as createspace.com can work!

I am so excited to share this next chapter in the Sword of Dragons saga with all of you!  This chapter steps it up a notch (understatement…) so I hope you enjoy!

And please, please, please leave a review on Amazon!  Whether a good or bad review, feedback not only helps others decide if they want to buy the book, but it helps me figure out what I’m doing right, and what I’m doing wrong, so that future books will be better!

Thank you all for reading, and for sticking with me through this journey.  Remember, this is still just the beginning!

-Jon Wasik