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?
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.
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.
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?!
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!
Back in March, I wrote an article about software that analyzes a passage and tells you whose writing style it is similar to. One of the things I was surprised to learn was that my writing style has changed over time. More than that, I’ve even come to realize that my writing style changes depending on what I am writing.
I’m not just talking about the difference between fantasy and sci fi, but within a single novel. The first Sword of Dragons novel (Rise of the Forgotten), I initially got Arthur Conan Doyle, and later on, JK Rowling. I’ve put in a few other passages from Rise of the Forgotten (all edited versions) and got Dan Brown for an action sequence, and then JK Rowling for another random section.
However, back in March, I was surprised when passages from Burning Skies and the unfinished book 3 came out as Ursula K. Le Guin, the writer of the Earthsea series. I’d never read any of her work, so wasn’t sure what to make of it. So I went out and bought the first Earthsea novel, The Wizard of Earthsea. About a week ago, I finally started reading it.
…and I don’t see it. I don’t see any similarity to her writing style. I was shocked by that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t like her writing style, I actually rather enjoy it and I’m getting through the first book very quickly. In fact someone said she’s a master of character development, so the comparison is flattering. But I don’t see the similarity to my style.
Or at least, I didn’t think so at first…
Am I Just Too Close To My Own Writing To See It?
I mentioned this to my friend Liza the other day over IM. She kinda paused for a bit, and then replied that she actually could see the similarity, and started going into details about how. One of the thing she said is that we both write very matter-of-fact in many instances.
I see that in Earthsea, but I wasn’t seeing that in my own writing. And I started wondering…is that just because I’m too close to my own writing? I know that’s why they say a writer should always get an outside editor (hard to do when you can’t afford one…)
It’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, though, it’s just my style. Some people will like it, some won’t. I started wondering if I should find a way to adjust my writing and make it less ‘matter-of-fact’ but then I realized that it works for me. Not to say my writing style is perfect – I will never stop trying to make myself better.
But that’s an important thing to remember. Find your voice. It may be like someone else’s, but that’s okay as long as it is your voice and it isn’t a struggle to write in that style.
So Do Outside Opinions Matter Or Not?
This becomes a rather difficult question to answer. Not everyone likes my writing style. And I truly do think that I’ll always have room for improvement. But who would be the best judge of my style and what direction I should go to improve it?
Honestly that’s something I struggled with in the writer’s critique groups. There were writers from all genres there, and some of the other writers there were criticizing aspects that were staples to fantasy. As much as I like to turn some tropes on their heads, if you do that too much, you can actually drive readers of your genre away. Finding that balance is difficult.
I find that writers often try to impose the rules of their genre onto others when they get into a critique group. Just ask any die-hard literary fiction writers. (And now I’m having flashbacks to my college days…)
So does that mean that only writers from your story’s genre can be good judges? Actually…not necessarily. Because even within a genre, writers have their own styles, and readers can have preferences to styles.
So the question is…who is the authority? Is there an authority? I honestly don’t know. Even within a single genre, ‘famous’ writers can have extremely different styles, and some of those famous writers break every rule that’s out there.
I don’t have an answer to that question. At all.
So my only advice: go with your gut. Trust the opinions of your target audience and don’t stop trying to improve your writing. In fact, pay close attention to what your target audience says. That may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing.
I apologize that today’s blog post is such a short one, we’ve had a family emergency and my mind is just…not in the right place for writing a blog. However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing this week, so I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been asked by a couple of people recently.
“Why did you announce the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons so early? If people know that there’s going to be a 2nd edition sometime soon, doesn’t that mean few people will want to buy the current editions? You won’t get many sales between now and then.”
That’s true, and is one of the things I considered when deciding when to reveal those plans. However, for the same reason that I made the announcement so early, I’ve not been buying any more advertisements for the books.
I would feel guilty, trying to get people to buy my books when there’s a newer, better version on the horizon. I already feel bad since I know there will be some people who already have the 1st editions that will want to buy the 2nd, and that in turn has fueled my desire to make the 2nd edition as good as possible, to make it worthwhile.
When I said that, someone replied, “Who cares if they have to buy two versions? You want to make a living off of writing, right? Then you should try making money anywhere you can.”
Is that the right way to make more money? Possibly. But is it the right thing to do?
It’s no secret, I want to be able to make enough sales to one day live off of writing. But I don’t want to make my entire focus be on money, because I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll lose my real focus – Telling stories the best way that I can.
Progress on the 2nd Editions
I’m more than halfway through Rise of the Forgotten’s edits, and I’m finding that all of the chapters I wrote just before, during, and just after my writers block all those years ago need way more work than any previous ones so far. And that makes sense to me, since I had a really hard time getting the story out back then.
As for the maps, the map of Edilas (the continent where the 4 kingdoms are) is complete except for a couple of details. Test prints came out wonderful! I need to get the world map cleaned up and a couple of final details on it, and then I need to get Devor ready for book 2.
Projected completion of 2nd editions is still in the air, but I’ll definitely let you all know as soon as I know :)
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?
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
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!
I’m excited to write this blog post today, because I’ve been hinting around my new writing project for some time, but I’ve not actually made any official announcements.
As many of you know, my life has been extremely crazy and busy lately, between moving, wedding plans, and work going through a busy period, so I knew I was not going to get the 3rd book of Sword of Dragons finished in time for its planned release.
In fact, I’ve not had a chance to really focus on writing the 3rd book at all, I don’t have the time to devote to it. But with all of my conversations with my fiancee about book covers, and all of the research I’ve done online, I knew there was a project I could do that would allow for very short spurts of work on it between the busy times.
The Sword of Dragons novels have all received high praise from those who have read it, but getting people to give it a chance has been a difficult task. All of my market research and discussions with other authors and my fiancee point to several factors, including but not limited to the cover.
As such, I am officially working on the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2 of the Sword of Dragons series!
What does a 2nd edition mean? More than just a new cover. A whole lot more! But let’s start there.
The New Covers
As I talked about in my last blog, I’ve learned that keeping marketing in mine from the get go has been important. This was a key focus for when I started working on new covers for books 1 and 2 while also planning covers for book 3 and for The Orc War Campaigns. I wanted to create a theme that could be carried through all 4 books, as well as be something I could carry into the rest of the series beyond book 3.
My focus on marketing this time around actually was a big help in coming up with the final cover layout for the entire series! I also followed the advice of publishers, editors, and cover artists, and created multiple versions for each novels’ cover, and then worked with several people to decide which one worked best, and even how to make the chosen one for each book better.
This involved sending the version to everyone helping me, as well as following my fiancee’s advice and taking a screenshot of an Amazon page, and editing in the versions of my cover to see which stood out best, and how my improvements to them changed how it popped on Amazon.
The result? 4 very amazing covers! That I can’t reveal just yet.
*ducks* Hey don’t throw things at me! ;) But seriously, I am not yet ready to reveal the covers. What I can tell you is test prints have turned out amazing, and even Christian, the man who made the cover for book 1, agrees that the new cover scheme is well done and works well with my genre.
Where did I get the cover art? That was where a ton of my time was spent: looking for cover art. And I ended up finding a cover artist on some stock photo websites who has done several pieces of dragon artwork that is stylistically similar. This allowed me to find 4 pieces of cover art that are stylistically similar, and I have knowledge that there is plenty more for me to use for future books.
The best part is, being stock art, I can buy the rights to use them on the novel. No legal issues, no ‘I hope they don’t realize I used their art without permission.’ I’ll have followed all proper procedures and will have legally procured the rights.
However, before I did purchase the rights, I took the watermarked, low-res versions of the artwork and made test covers, then printed them out to ensure they would look good. This is a method I intend to use from here on out, to ensure that I don’t spend money on cover art that I end up never using. I am, after all, working on a very limited budget.
Maps Will Finally Be Included!
I’ve heard it from countless readers: maps are a must! So the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2, and all future volumes of Sword of Dragons will include maps. I’ve had physical copies for a while, but haven’t had a chance to get them scanned, and a visit a couple months ago to Office Depot to get them scanned was highly disappointing, resulting in totally useless files.
Thanks to Wayne Adams from VtW Productions, I was able to get high-res scans finished last weekend. This means I now have digital copies to edit and prepare. These will first be made available on the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/, but will also be included in the novels. I hope this will be a big help to everyone who reads the novels!
My original plan with the 2nd editions was to do another set of proofreads to catch any spelling or grammar issues. As I started on book 1, it became very clear that my first published novel was in need of some serious TLC beyond copy-edit.
I am not changing the story, but I am fixing up how the story is told. Sometimes this means very few changes, but sometimes this means entire paragraphs are rewritten.
My beta readers have read through the rewrite of chapter 1 and thoroughly enjoy the changes, while noting that even though they have read the original version several times, the changes weren’t distracting. In fact, this is what I am working on right now, and am about 1/3rd through book 1.
Furthermore, Wayne and 2 of his friends have volunteered to perform copyediting on books 1 and 2! So this will further ensure a polished edition :)
But…book 1. Hmm. The Sword of Dragons book 1. Naw, that needs a better title.
Naming Book 1
When I first prepared book 1 for publication, Christian insisted that I should give book 1 its own unique title, different from the series title. I didn’t listen. And now I regret that decision.
So that will be part of the change in the 2nd edition. Book 1 officially has its own title! *drum roll*
Rise of the Forgotten
It fits quite well, not just in a big way, but in many small ways :) Plus, giving book 1 a unique title has allowed me to keep a theme for the covers of all novels. (And yes, I just showed you a sneak-peak of book 1’s cover ;) )
Those are all of the big changes coming in the 2nd edition! “What about book 3” you might ask? Well, that already has a title and a cover! But I still need to finish the actual manuscript. The Orc War Campaigns also has a cover, but again, I need to finish edits on it before it is ready for release.
“When will these be released?” I do not yet have a timeline for that, and I’m hesitant to try to set one at the moment. There’s still too much going on in my life to be able to predictably work on the edits. But I am working as diligently as possible, and I am looking forward to revealing more as time goes on!
I hope with these 2nd editions to please the fans I already have with a nice, polished, worthwhile product, while also attracting new readers!
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.
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.
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?
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.
And 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,
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.