Category Archives: Self-Publishing

Go For It, Even If You Don’t Believe In Yourself

Hi everyone, I’m back!

Photo by Danielle Lirette

Our wedding was wonderfully geeky, and we were very fortunate to have some incredible people participate in it and help us out!  It turned out to be a perfect day, with weather better than predicted, and nothing major going wrong.

However, I want to tell the story with pictures, and our photographer is still working to get our photos to us (the preview pictures she has shown us are incredible!)  But what I wanted to talk about today crosses from my wedding day to writing, and why you should never give up on yourself…

I Thought I Would Always Be Alone

My best friend (and best man) reminded me of something during the reception: when I was younger, I had a dream of a woman who was perfect for me.  My definition of what that might entail evolved over the years as I grew and changed as a person, but I knew what I wanted…

Image source – google.com

And as time passed, and rejections from women grew in number, I started to despair.  I started to believe that I was unlovable.  This led me to some pretty bad relationships that only reinforced my belief that I was unworthy.

…but I kept trying anyway.  I kept searching, even though I didn’t think anyone would ever think I was worth loving.  As the years and years and years passed, no matter how much I was rejected or how many bad dates I went on, even surviving an emotionally abusive relationship, I kept trying.

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

And then she was there.  The one who would one day become my wife.  Of course I didn’t know it at the time, and I remember thinking, even when I asked if I could add her to my Facebook, “she won’t ever be interested in me.”

That led to friendship…which 4 months later led to dating, and six months later led to engagement, and a year and 3 months later, marriage.

After more than two decades of searching and dating and trying and failing and being rejected, I finally found what I had searched for.  Someone who loved me, who believed I was worth loving.  And when I realized this last week, I knew that I had to pass the message on to everyone else…

Keep Going.  Never Give Up.  Even If You Don’t Believe

The same goes for writing.  Hell, the same goes for everything in life, but since this is a writing blog, let’s focus on that.

Writers get rejections, from agents and editors.  But does that mean you’re unworthy, that your stories aren’t worthy, and you should stop trying?  If JK Rowling had stopped trying after her first couple of rejections, Harry Potter would not be the phenomenon that it is today.

Writers get bad reviews, on Amazon and everywhere else.  Does this mean that their novel is really horrible and not worth reading?  If you get a few bad reviews, should you take it to heart and stop writing?  Everyone gets bad reviews.  Every book.  Take a look at your favorite book on Amazon, no matter how good it is, and you’ll find one-star reviews.  Even Ready Player One, which is now a major motion picture making millions, got one-star reviews.

What if you get published, or are self-published, and your books aren’t selling well?  Should you just…stop?  No.  First, harkening back to a blog I wrote about an author who re-branded his books, his initial publication was getting him few sales.  When he learned from his mistakes and re-branded his book, he started selling thousands of copies.

If you don’t believe in yourself, but you’re still passionate, GO FOR IT!  Don’t stop!!!  Keep doing it, if for no other reason than your love of it, your passion, your desire to make it, your desire to write and get readers.

Keep.  Going.

Because even if it takes decades, one day, whether you believe in yourself or not, someone else might.  And then your books will sell.  And you’ll write more.  And more.  And more.  And before you know it, you’ve achieved your ultimate goals.

The other option is to give up.  But then you’ll be left wondering for the rest of your life, “What if?”

Photo by my new Mother-in-Law :)

If I gave up…I’d never have met my Starshine.  Never would have asked for her hand in marriage.  Never cried the happiest tears of my life when I watched her walk down the aisle towards me.

What might you risk never seeing if you give up?

What might you never get to experience if you don’t try?

“What if I fail?”  Rubbish question.  “What if I succeed?”  Now that is a question worth pondering…

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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.

T-Shirts!

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.

Image Source – http://www.buzzfeed.com

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

Warmer in the Winter Concert – Lindsey Stirling

Hi everyone!

Last night, my fiancee and I had the exciting experience of attending Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in the Winter concert!  This is the fourth Stirling concert I’ve been to, and as is always the case, I was not disappointed!

Image Source – https://twitter.com/lindseystirling/status/931781927937261568

But why am I talking about concerts on a blog about writing?  Because of Stirling’s history, where she was and how far she’s come, and how she’s gotten there.

Because there are days when I need a reminder…

I know I’ve talked about Lindsey Stirling before, in fact it was after the first concert I attended that I made the decision to self-publish.  Not only does her music speak to me, but the story of her rise to stardom has inspired me.

And last night’s concert reminded me why.  During one of the breaks between numbers, she spoke of how she gets to live her dream every day because of her fans, but before her rise, she would play anywhere and everywhere she could get a gig, even in school cafeterias.  She did anything she could to get her voice, or rather her violin, heard.

Image Source – speakola.com

She got her shot when she tried out on America’s Got Talent, but was shot down by the judges.  I can imagine how she must have felt, being told she wasn’t good enough.  And somehow that reminded me of Peter Dinklage’s speech that I wrote about several months ago, when he mentions how the world will keep telling you that you aren’t ready.

Now Lindsey is one of the most popular performers out there today, and her star shines brighter than ever.

How many times have people told me that I’ll never make it as a writer?  That it’s impossible?  That it’s a pipe dream?  There are days when I find myself wondering if those people are right.

But there was something else Stirling spoke about that struck a chord in my heart and helped me regain my composure.  It was when she spoke about her battle with depression, when she used to look in the mirror and wonder if she had anything worth contributing to the world.

Fast forward several years later, and the answer is yes, she did have something worthwhile to contribute.

These concerts, her story, they remind me that though I may run into roadblocks often, though I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder…I believe I do have something worthwhile to contribute.

And so I keep going.  I keep writing.  I keep publishing.  I may never have a rapid rise to stardom, but I know that if I keep going, if I keep working hard at it, then no matter what happens, I’ll have left something behind that is worthwhile.

Plus, I’m reminded often that there are people who like my stories.  I’ve sold hundreds of copies of the first Sword of Dragons novel through Kindle and print, and the Amazon reviews may not be numerous, but they are positive.

Not to mention the positive things people say to me when they meet me.  Or when they send me emails.  I recently received an email from a long-time reader of my fan fiction series, expressing his sadness that I’m shutting down my fan fiction website in the near future.  He was emailing me back in the early 2000’s when STDragon was still live!

So I just need to remember all of those facts.  Remember the fans, those who have read all of my work, who encourage me to write more, and just keep going.  Someday, I’ll get to write full time, even if it isn’t until I retire from I.T. work.  Until then, I’ll just keep going.

I’ll never give up.

A Brief Holiday

Hi everyone,

Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :(  I’m really sorry!

However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!

Rise of the Forgotten

First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten!  I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy!  I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!

And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page.  I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it.  I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:

What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before?  Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?

Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!

-Jon Wasik

More To Map Making Than Meets The Eye

Hi everyone!

Part of why I was excited to release last week’s announcement was that I can finally talk about the different pieces of my latest project, and how everything is coming along with them!

This includes the maps of Halarite for the Sword of Dragons novels!  A couple of years ago, Wayne Adams of VtW Productions introduced me to a friend who was interested in making maps for the Sword of Dragons.  Through many months of collaboration, Chloe drew up several maps, including a low-detail one of the world and higher-detailed versions of each continent.

One thing we agreed on was that she would not label anything.  That task would fall to me after I scanned them in.  However, there’s one thing I didn’t think about at the time:

I have very little experience making or labeling maps.  And it is not as easy as one might think.

How do you put labels on a map so that it is understandable, legible, and not cluttered or confusing?

The map that came with Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion

Thankfully, I had actually done some work on this all the way back in school, and a little bit since then.  Plus, I love maps.  I have a giant map of Middle Earth hanging on the wall at our apartment, and I have kept every map from every Elder Scrolls game I’ve bought, not to mention some old maps from EverQuest.

As I’ve been working on this, I’ve come to realize a few things…

Labeling What’s Most Important

Good example of labeling what’s important to a story, from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Just like a book cover must convey the appropriate message to the target audience, a map should be tailored to convey the information someone might need from it.  In the case of a novel, a map should have the information a reader might need.

These decisions are especially important for me since my maps will be in a small, black-and-white paperback format.  That means there isn’t going to be room for a lot of small details, and fine-print will make it impossible to read.  Obvious labeling will be necessary.

I do have the advantage of the fact that I have different detailed maps.  The overall global map has few land features on it, so that gives me room to label political boundaries, for instance.  Furthermore, I’m considering having the global map span two pages, as I’ve seen done in other novels.

Then, for book 1, I’ll have the more detailed map of Edilas, the continent where the 4 kingdoms are, on a single page.  For book 2, I may still include that map, but I’ll also include a map of Devor.

Another lesson I remember from school is that bigger features require bigger names.  So for instance on the global map, I’ll make the world name the biggest.  Continent names will be smaller.  Kingdom names smaller, followed by city and feature names.

Maps for Print vs. Maps for Web

One advantage I do have: these are fairly high-res images.  So while I’ll be focusing for now on the maps that’ll go into books 1, 2 and 3, I will be making higher-detailed versions for the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/.  Thankfully people can always zoom in to read finer print on the web.

There’s also the advantage of color on the web.  I’ve already played around a bit by adding overlay colors for the 4 kingdoms on the global map.  I think this will be useful and interesting for readers.

While I don’t want to make readers of the print editions go online to see more detailed maps, I think having the option will be a nice addition.  “Here’s these maps, but if you want to see more details, go to the website!”  That’ll allow readers like me, who love to learn as much as possible about fantasy worlds, to get more information.

That’s all for today!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of the 2nd editions.  If there are any specific features you’d like included in the maps, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik