Tag Archives: agent

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.

From Writer’s Block to Creative Outpouring

Hi everyone,

On release day of The Sword of Dragons, I began telling the tale of how this epic story came into existence.  This is part 2 of that tale, the first part can be read here.

Four Years of Writer’s Block

The path to writing the first 12 chapters of what was still called Sword of the Dragon was a slow but eventful one.  I rewrote the first chapter about 3 times before I was satisfied, and then moved on from there.  At the time, my system was to write a chapter, and then go back and proofread it before moving on to the next chapter.

Little did I know at the time that this was a mistake for me.  It slowed down the flow of the story, and stifled my creative outflow.  Wow, it sounds so technical when I put it that way…

College-GraduationIt was right around the time that I graduated from college in 2007 that the dreaded writer’s block hit.  And it hit hard.  From 2007 until 2011 I wrote two chapters of the novel, and maybe only 2 short stories.  It was the least productive time of my entire writing life.

What caused it?  A multitude of things.  But a big part of it was uncertainty in my life.  I was graduating with a Bachelor’s of English, but I was dissatisfied with it at that time.  I was already on course for switching to IT for a career, but was unable to secure a job right after graduation.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.
Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

My life became chaos.  I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, and my writing suffered for it immensely.  I did eventually find a part time job that then led to a full time job, but even as I changed jobs and began to make incredible progress in my IT career, my writing continued to suffer.

Breaking the Chains – Inspiration Strikes

I’ve been told that pulling out of writer’s block is one of the hardest things to do for any writer, and until this had happened, I had no idea just how hard.  But I did.

It wasn’t instantaneously, though.  I began writing short stories again, but didn’t complete any of them.  I had some false-starts on chapter 14 of Sword of the Dragon, and I went back and rewrote chapters 12 and 13 a couple of times.

What finally seemed to do it?  I moved to Colorado.  And my inspiration soared!aspen_colorado

In many ways, my move to Colorado was the best thing I could have ever done.  I was unhappy where I was in New Mexico, I was unhappy in my job, and I had a lot of painful memories there.  I was stuck in the past.

So I found a better job in Colorado and ran away from New Mexico.  There was more to do where I moved to, better quality of life, and a job that didn’t require me to work 12 hour shifts.  Massive improvements.

Within months, it started.  I finished chapter 15.  Then 16.  Then 17.  On and on it went.  And before I knew it, Sword of the Dragon was completed in 2012!!

Changing the Title

So why did I change Sword of the Dragon to The Sword of Dragons?  Because it’s such a cooler title?  Actually I think I lucked out on it, because I was dead-set on the original title.  I like The Sword of Dragons better :)

But the reason behind was simple: The day I decided to start querying for an agent, I did a search on amazon, and found a novel subtitled “The Sword of the Dragon.

Image Source - http://www.authorappleton.com/
Image Source – http://www.authorappleton.com/

While published long after I first came up with Sword of the Dragon, I am not despondent nor do I believe the author knew about my novels, how could he?  And the description of Scott Appleton’s novel sounds really cool, I fully intend to buy it and read it :)

Never-the-less, this required me to change the title of my series.  It took me about 5 minutes of thinking (the first 3 of which was me getting over the fact that I couldn’t use my title) to come up with the revised The Sword of Dragons.

Rejections, Redirects, and Self Publishing

With the title changed and all references in the manuscript changed, I began the arduous process of writing query letters and synopses.  After each rejected query letter, I reworked it.  Checked out some awesome helpful websites (Agent Query Connect is the best!  :D)

But no hits.  This didn’t deter me.  While I worked on finding an agent, I completed book 2 of the series, Burning Skies.  Compared to book 1’s six-year development, book 2’s year-long development was insanely fast!

I took a break from the series when I came up with Chronicles of the Sentinels, but that was yet another incredible outpour of creativity: I developed, wrote, and completed 2 rounds of proofreading on the novel in 3 months!!!!  It is safe to say that my writer’s block is really over, heheh.

But when a potential agent for Chronicles fell through, something sparked in me.  I realized how annoyed I was at the whole process.  And I kept thinking about Lindsey Stirling, who was rejected (quite brusquely) by the panel of “America’s Got Talent”, but through social media, was able to make a name for herself!

lindsey-stirling-celebrity

The key was when I asked my girlfriend one question: “Do you think I should self-publish?  Do you think I can even do it?  Can I make it as a self-published writer?”

Her unequivocal “yes” was that last boost I needed.  :)

The result of that decision so many months ago?  Well, you’ve all seen it.  The Sword of Dragons :D

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Self-Publishing – Is It Freedom?

Hi everyone!

Image Source - http://carlywatters.com/
Image Source – http://carlywatters.com/

Today I came across a blog article by one of my favorite bloggers, Carly Watters, the article was called “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Querying as a Debut Author”  First and foremost, if you are a debut author looking to find an agent, check out that article.  She makes 5 very excellent points!

In fact, what she said in that article really helped give me some perspective on agents.  First, and I think this is the most important part, agents are individuals with individual tastes that are as varied as readers’ tastes.  Keeping that in mind, chances are good there is an agent out there somewhere who would love to see and represent your work (and mine :D heheh.)

Image Source - Unknown
Image Source – Unknown

Second, agents aren’t “creatures of the night” or scary monsters.  They really are people.  More to the point, they do what they do because they love to read.  Which means agents, good agents, want to read debut authors.  They are excited about finding new talent to bring to the world, not just for everyone else’s enjoyment, but for their own as well.

However, another thought occurred to me as I read through Ms. Watters’s article: relief.

Relief that my choice to self-publish The Sword of Dragons means I don’t have to worry about refining my query letter or synopsis.  I don’t have to wade through the vast sea of agents to find one whose interests may coincide with my story.  Relief that I don’t have to hit that dreaded ‘send’ button when I query.  Relief that I don’t have to get any more rejection letters.

Well, no more rejection letters for The Sword of Dragons.  I do still want to one day go down the path of traditional publication for one of my works.  Why?  Because I want to see my book on bookshelves at Barnes and Noble or The Tattered Cover (it’s a Denver thing :) ) Right now, print-on-demand doesn’t really allow for that, nor do eBooks.

Image Source - https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com
Image Source – https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com

So there will still be query letters in my future, and, I hope (crossing my fingers) an agent :)

But I just have this incredible sense of relief that I no longer have to query for The Sword of Dragons.  My writing future, this novel’s future, it’s in my hands.

I kinda like that :)

I do know that I have a ton of work ahead of me.  I also recognize that I probably don’t even know the half of it.  I’ve already put in more work than I anticipated just formatting the novel for createspace.com.

But it’ll be worth it in the end.  Of that I am certain :)

Oh and I know I promised the abstract last week, but I had to be sure it would fit in the cover’s back page.  Well it didn’t, so I have pared it down.  If it fits in with the cover, this will be the first place I post the abstract, I promise!

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Self-Publication – ePub and Print on Demand

Hey everyone!

I recently announced the exciting news that I intend to self-publish my first novel, The Sword of Dragons!  Okay so that’s not news to long-time followers, but tonight, I’m debating about which mediums to publish through.

https://www.nookpress.com/
https://www.nookpress.com/

My initial thought was to only go for ePublication, and regardless I intend to pursue that route.  The beauty of ePublication is that it is free up-front, it’ll cost me nothing to publish through Amazon, Nook, and Kobo, which I’ve discovered are the three big-hitters in ePublication.

However, I thought that a printed product was out of the question.  For starters, seeking professional publication was proving fruitless.  In fact that was what prompted this, I had become frustrated with my attempts to find an agent or editor, and decided to take my career’s future into my own hands.

Another avenue I considered was a type of service that was a hybrid between self-publishing and traditional.  In such services, I would pay up-front the costs for a print run, and the company I paid would also assist with distribution to book stores and marketing.  However, for a quality product and a comprehensive distribution, I was looking at many thousands of dollars that I don’t have laying around…

But recently, many people have begun pointing me to Print-on-Demand.  I had of course heard of it, but I thought it was prohibitively expensive.  I didn’t realize until tonight just how affordable it had become.

lulu.com
lulu.com

Granted, if I went PoD, a printed book would cost more than a traditionally-published paperback or hardcover, but…not by much.  Initial research shows I’m looking at about $8/book production cost through lulu.com.

I still have much research to do, but I will say this: the idea is tantalizing.  Why?  Because I really, REALLY want to have a physical book to hold in my hands.  That is a dream I would love to make come true.

There are other considerations as well.  Specifically marketing opportunities.  I can get booths at conventions and pay for several printed copies that I can then sell at the conventions.  Plus it allows me to sign books, which I personally love getting books signed by writers, and am much more likely to buy a book if I can get an autograph.

Plus, there is the consideration of audience.  If I only go ePub, I am automatically losing a significant audience of folks who don’t have, don’t want, or can’t afford to view eReaders and don’t want to read books on their laptops or PCs.  I don’t want to hurt my chances at becoming a full-time writer by excluding a specific set of readers.

So, what do you all think?  As readers, what do you want?  Would you all prefer a hard-copy or and ePublished novel?  Why?

Thanks for reading!  :)
-Jon Wasik

The Return

Hi everyone!

Yep, I’m back :)  It’s been a long while, or that’s how it feels anyway.  September was my last blog post, and a lot has happened in that time, some of which has made me reconsider the direction I’m going with my writing career.

Since I first started writing stories, I always wanted to pursue what is now called “traditional” publication.  Essentially that is finding an agent or editor to represent me, to spend time and money on me and my stories, and help get my work out there to the mass market.

However, there is another avenue, one that I’ve been resistant to for a long time: self publication.

Some people still shudder when they hear that.  And honestly, it still scares the hell out of me.  Why?  Time and money, and lots of it.

Granted the scene has changed a lot in recent years.  It used to be that self-publication meant hiring a printing company, paying for every copy of your novel, and then distributing that novel to whomever was willing to sell it for you.  It was expensive, risky, and making a living off of it was extremely difficult.  I don’t know if this existed before the internet, but if it did, I can only imagine how difficult it was.

http://www.thedreamlandchronicles.com/
http://www.thedreamlandchronicles.com/

At least with the internet, writers could promote their work and have methods for readers to order a copy online.  I know of at least one online comic book writer who uses this method, Scott Christian Sava of The Dreamland Chronicles.  His comic is free to view online, but hard-copies can be purchased, and this has given him at least some modicum of success (and has helped him garner interest from Hollywood!)

However, today it has become much more common for writers to begin making a living from self-publication, but not through the old printed method.  E-books have begun to take a real foot-hold in the market.  I’ve seen varying numbers for the market share of eBooks, ranging from 20% to 40%.  I’d more likely believe the 20%, but the point is, the market is growing.

This is why I have begun to consider pursuing eBook publication for my high fantasy series, The Sword of Dragons.  For more information on the first and second novel in this series, check out the “My Novels” section of my blog.

Pros and Cons

I still have lots of research to do, but I’ve discovered that there are multiple pros and cons of eBook self-publication.

One thing I like about self-publication is that I am essentially in control of my writing career.  My success, or failure, is almost entirely in my hands.  I do not rely on an agent or a publisher to represent me.  But there-in lies a con: that puts ALL of the work on me.

Agents and publishers do a lot for a writer.  Granted our work never ceases on a book, but they are the ones in-the-know for the market, and know how to advise you on what to do, they have the contacts, and they give you your best chance at the widest distribution.

https://www.nookpress.com/
https://www.nookpress.com/

Another big, big pro for eBook publication: you don’t have to pay to get your novel published.  Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s nookpress are completely free to use.  If I wanted to, I could get my novel out there for publication in a couple of days.  Plus neither vendor requires exclusivity, I can publish through both AND still get a hard-copy published some day.

However, it isn’t quite that easy.  There is still the cost of finding and hiring someone to create cover-art for the novel.  Granted I could make a very generic cover on my own, but I’ve found that even with eBooks, if the cover doesn’t catch a person’s eye, they are less likely to check out the book, let alone purchase it.

Another cost is advertising.  I don’t know yet if Nookpress or Amazon include advertising on their websites for books published through them, but any and all marketing beyond that would be solely on my shoulders.

When it comes down to it, there is one big advantage: guaranteed publication.  For all the cons, I get my name out there, I get my work out there for readers to see.  There are no limited copies, it’s available, worldwide, for all to read.  But can I make it as a writer via electronic means only?

Making It Big on the Internet

https://cnmill.wordpress.com/
https://cnmill.wordpress.com/

The fact of the matter is there are examples out there of varying artists who either make it big, or at least get a really good start on the internet.  Lindsey Stirling has been a huge inspiration for me this year, and she got her name out there thanks to youtube and collaborations with other musicians.  The aforementioned Scott Christian Sava got his name out there thanks to the internet.  And I see writers like C. Miller who has written quality work and has both hard-copy and eBooks available of her Reave series, and I’m inspired by her work.

So while there’s no guarantee, it is entirely possible.  I recognize that it will eat up a ton of my time, and I’d basically have to split between my full-time ‘day-job’ and writing, at least in the beginning.  The goal would be to eventually make writing my full-time job.

Decisions

I’ve gone over it again and again in my head, and I still am not sure.  I’ve heard that if I fail to sell a book well online, it makes it more difficult for me to find an agent or publisher willing to invest in me.  So of course, the what-if game keeps playing through my head.

I have a lot to think about.  And I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback from all of you.  Those who are writers, what are your experiences with self-publishing?  Those who are readers, how often to you read eBooks?  Anyone and everyone, your thoughts and opinions in this matter would be greatly appreciated.  Please leave comments below :)

Thank you,
-Jon Wasik

Writing Critique Groups

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for how long it has been since I wrote a blog entry.  Two weeks to the day!  :-\  It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and a bit of a roller coaster.  Okay more than just a bit!

But, on the bright side of things, I have completed the revisions to Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, and only need to finish up a query letter and synopsis, and then I’m ready to send my pages to Ms. Diver!  I’ll post the manuscript’s stats at the bottom of this article :)

On to the subject matter for today’s article!  And this has a lot to do with becoming published and/or finding an agent.

The Other Half of the Job

Now before anyone says anything, no, I am not down-playing the importance of writing skill.  No matter what, you must have a quality piece of writing in order to have a chance at either mainstream publication or making your self-published work sell.

Having said that, I have learned this year just how important it is for a writer to get out from behind the pen and actively work on getting your name out there, or going out and meeting other writers, meeting publishers and agents face to face.

In general, writers are by nature introverted to some extent.  (This is not a universal truth, however!)  And I used to have the naive impression that all writers had to do was write, and then leave the rest up to the ‘professionals.’

I was wrong.  I’ve been learning all about what a writer should do beyond writing this year, and honestly is part of the reason I started this blog, and started my facebook page.  Whether you’re self-publishing or going main-stream, it is chiefly the writer’s responsibility to promote themselves and their work, to get their name out there.

Image Source - RMFW.org
Image Source – RMFW.org

Beyond even that, however, is the ‘mingling’ part.  And yes, RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference and my experiences there is a big reason behind tonight’s blog!

If you haven’t read it yet, read my blog that details my experiences there!  I met so many different writers, which in and of itself was incredible!  More than that, I got to meet editors and agents, and pitch to one, which led directly to finding an agent interested in my work!

The lesson learned there was that my one weekend at the conference was far, far more productive than cold-mailing query letters out.  Now of course, there is no guarantee that you’ll have any success going to such conferences.  You really must have a good product to sell, be a person an agent or editor wants to work with, and have a good pitch!!

There’s also something else that I am going to highly recommend all writers do…

Writing Critique Groups

kevin-wolfWhile I was at the conference, I was encouraged by Kevin Wolf to join a local critique group hosted by RMFW.  I’ve now been to two sessions, and I have to say that it is an incredibly helpful resource!

Not only do you get to meet and collaborate with other writers regularly, but you get multiple eyes on pieces of your work, which allows for a wide range of view points, opinions, and suggestions!  Plus if you’re lucky, you’ll have published writers in your group that could potentially give you advice in other aspects of the industry!

Having said that, I should caution that not all critique groups are alike.  I was lucky to have found a great group my first time out, but I’ve heard horror stories.  So I would recommend checking around, and if your first venture into a critique group doesn’t go well, look for another one, but don’t give up!

I know that those of you who live in a small town might not have such a group.  I have two recommendations.  First, there are online critique groups, so just do a search on the internet!  Second, try to create one in your area!  I would be willing to bet that there are at least a few writers even in the small towns :)  And even if that’s not the case, it can’t hurt to try!

So what do you all think?  Are there other resources ‘out there’ that you would recommend on top of this?  And if you do go out and find a critique group, or are already part of one, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them!  So please leave a comment below :)

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy Revision

So as promised, here are the stats for the revised version of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, now marketed as an Adult Modern Fantasy novel :)

Word Count: 75,237
Page Count: 231

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

It’s a marginal increase, not the 80,000 words I was wanting, but I was grateful for the opportunity to flesh it out without worrying about making it too long.  I feel like anything extra added to the story would be arbitrary at this point.  This increase doesn’t come from big chunks tacked on here and there, either, every single chapter has been modified to some extent, little modifications here and there.

This includes fleshing out Alycia’s character more, so I am very pleased with that :)

I’ll be sure to let everyone know when I finish my query and synopsis and send it out!  Thanks for reading.

-Jon Wasik

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Stellar View

Hi everyone!

Today’s excerpt is a little special.  As I’ve been going through my latest revision before sending 30 pages to Ms. Diver, I’ve started running the NASA HDEV in the background, to give myself a great view while reading.

Tonight I caught a sunset while reviewing chapter 12, and thought I’d share it with you all, while at the same time giving you a full page of an excerpt :)

In this scene, Emmi is in her cat form, which I have posted an excerpt from before.  This is after that scene.  She is exploring the Sentinel facility, when she comes across a most curious section…

(Click the image for the full-size)

excerpt-nasaI hope you all enjoyed this!  It’s definitely more of an excerpt than I usually give, with the bonus of some eye candy ;)

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish my revisions today like I had hoped.  I came down sick on Friday and ended up doing next to nothing on Saturday except lay in bed :(

But that’s okay, it’ll give me a chance to finish this, write up a query letter, and get that query letter reviewed by a critique group I’ve started attending!  :D  (more on that in a follow-up article later this week)

I hope you all had a great weekend!  Thanks for reading :)

-Jon Wasik