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!
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!
If you haven’t heard yet, Stargate is finally making a comeback! And I’m not talking about a reboot of the movie franchise, which has either been fully cancelled or at least postponed. Rather, this is the next ‘chapter’ in the SG-1 Universe.
…Except, it isn’t. Announced only a few days ago, it’s called Stargate Origins (click here to check the announcement on Gateworld.net.) It takes place…sometime before SG-1, though we don’t know when yet. And reportedly follows an adventure of young Catherine Langford as she defends Earth against an unimaginable darkness… More on why this is a problem for me further down.
Sci-Fi and the Prequel Trend
Back in 1999, George Lucas released the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. At the time, I was extraordinarily excited about it, I’d always wanted to see those first three episodes, to see the origin story of Darth Vader, and, well, I was excited to see more Star Wars on screen.
What I didn’t know was the trend that it would begin…and that is a trend in Sci Fi that has endured for nearly 20 years.
Prequels. Though I don’t believe Phantom Menace was the first ever prequel, it was the biggest hit I’m aware of. Since then, here’s what we’ve seen…
Star Trek Enterprise (followed by the 2009 Star Trek reboot, and now Star Trek Discovery.
X-Men Origins and X-Men First Class
Prometheus (prequel to Alien)
Oz The Great and Powerful
And that’s just a small list of well-knowns. Now with Stargate Origins coming out, I find myself crying out “NOOOOO!” I for one have grown tired of prequels. Especially in Sci-Fi universes that are supposed to be about exploration and moving forward (Star Trek and Stargate both being examples.)
But why? Why is this continuing? Especially…well, do an experiment with me. Go to google.com and type in the search parameter “Why are prequels so popular?” I know that Google can tailor search results based on past browsing habits, but for me, the first 10 results talk about why the Star Wars prequels are so hated.
So if the first major prequel of a franchise was so horrible, once again, I have to ask…why is this trend continuing??
Theories of the Trend
One of the most common opinions I get when I ask people this question is “Hollywood can’t come up with anymore original ideas.” An interesting theory, but I wonder how true it actually is.
In fact, until recently, I didn’t really have a response except “maybe that’s true.” Until…Bright. The name of an upcoming, Netflix-produced movie, Bright is about modern-day Earth, with elves and orcs and faeries living side by side with us. Will Smith’s character is a police officer partnered with what appears to be a young orc. This is radically different from any major sci-fi/fantasy movie I’ve seen in recent years.
But it’s Netflix. It’s not a major motion picture studio, it’s a relatively brand new production studio. And I think this is a key point. Netflix broke the mold with movie rentals, and now is breaking the mold by producing it’s own TV shows and, now, movies. Like Amazon, Netflix seems to be all about trying new things, innovating, and moving its company in an unexpected direction. And it’s succeeding at it.
Major motion picture studios, however…it’s like an unknown author sending a manuscript to an agent or publisher. You’re a big, big risk. They are highly reticent to invest time and money into you, no matter how good your product is. So more likely than not, you’ll be rejected.
I think the same can be said about major motion picture studios and TV production studios. They want to invest money into something that has a proven history of making money. And even as reviled as the Star Wars prequels are, they made a ton of money. So prequels make money.
This, I think, is why we keep getting prequels and, for that matter, sequels, rather than truly original content.
This is also why I am becoming a big proponent of Netflix, and of self-publishing. It allows those with innovative or new ideas to get their ideas out there. They may not always succeed, but at least they can try.
Parting Thoughts on Stargate Origins
I’m really really sad about the direction they are taking to try to revive Stargate. I really want more Stargate, but a prequel? A prequel that, at least at first glance, blatantly ignores established timeline? For those who aren’t as familiar with it, before the Stargate was opened by Daniel Jackson in the motion picture, the Stargate was only opened one other time after it was unburied in Giza, with disastrous results. It was subsequently shut down for decades.
Yet this premise seems to indicate that Catherine travels through the Stargate, either before or after Ernest is stranded off-world, to confront some darkness that, apparently, SG-1 and the SGC are never made aware of.
In essence, it’s making the same mistake Star Trek and Star Wars made in their prequels: ignoring continuity.
Worse still, the series is being released as 10 episodes…each episode 10 minutes long. I can’t imagine why anyone thought this was a good idea…but then again…I’m kind of eating my own words now. I released 10 short stories which will later be compiled into an anthology (The Orc War Campaigns.) So…maybe this is a result of the trend of online and subscription based TV shows?
Anyway, I hope I’m wrong about Origins, but I really think this effort is going to fall flat on its face, and Stargate will once again be thrown into proverbial mothballs. :(
I’m back from Las Vegas! Yes, that’s where I went for my short vacation :) I’m not exactly a Vegas kind of person, but it was neat to see the strip and Lake Las Vegas. My Fiancee and I shared a Yard Long while we were on the strip, that was definitely fun :D
But now, on to the title for today’s blog…
Delaying Book 3
This is perhaps the hardest announcement I’ve had to make: there is just no way I can get book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series out by May. In fact…I really have no way of predicting when I will be able to get it out.
I’ve known about this for a little while now, but have been trying to figure out how to tell you all. I am really saddened by this announcement, and I cannot begin to convey how sorry I am.
The reason for the delay? I am only 4 chapters into writing the first draft, and have not been able to make any progress since the end of December. Things have been really busy, and I am due for a certification at work that I need to focus on or risk losing my job. Simultaneously, I have been looking for a new job, due to the insane, non-stop stress of my current job (and that really is an understatement…)
This is where I really wish I could just write full-time. I have so many ideas, and just no time at all to work on any of them right now. The Sword of Dragons, Chronicles of the Sentinels, and the slew of other series ideas I have. I am so incredibly sad that I cannot work on writing more right now :(
An Idea for the Future of Sword of Dragons
As I posted in a previous post, I’ve been considering creating new covers and rebranding the Sword of Dragons, including giving a more unique title to the first book.
One of my friends commented on my facebook that this might not be necessary, and that I should instead focus on advertising book 1. To that end, I’m going to begin promoting it once again and promoting Burning Skies a bit less.
However, I do think that I can present a stronger product with some additional work.
So my first plan? Try creating a cover that is a similar style to what I would do with books 1 and 2 for the print run of The Orc War Campaigns. I know that this is a bit of a risk, because it will mean spending money on buying the rights for an image for the cover. But it will help me determine if I can do the kind of presentation that I want, both for the cover, and inside.
If things go well with the Orc War Campaigns, and it gets a good reception, I’ll rebrand the first two books, and publish their 2nd editions a month apart as a run-up to the release of book 3.
When will all of this happen? …I don’t know yet. And I know, it’s not good marketing to state that publicly. But at least for the next few months, I won’t be able to direct much time and attention to my own novels.
I hope you all understand. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my writing career, but it is necessary. I really am so sorry for the delay, but I hope you all feel it will be worth it.
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.
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.
While 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.
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
While 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…
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
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 :)
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.