Hi everyone, welcome back to A Writer At Heart! After a short hiatus, I’m back for more writerly goodness! Please note that starting today, the posting schedule will be once a week every Sunday. This will give me Friday night and Saturday’s to write new content for you all :) And now, on to today’s post!
In recent years, the movie The Martian has garnered considerable attention. Based on a novel by Andy Weir, the producers and director of The Martian went to great lengths to ensure (mostly) scientific accuracy, working with NASA on an unprecedented scale, and creating what some critics call one of Ridley Scott’s best movies.
The novel itself was becoming a success before the options for the movie rights were sold in 2013. However…what if I told you The Martian was self-published?
And not even self-published in the ‘traditional’ way, but in a rather unique way.
Chapter by Chapter – For Free
When Weir started working on the idea for The Martian, he had already been rejected by traditional publishers for other works, and decided to go a different route. He published The Martian, for free, chapter by chapter on his website.
It was only when his growing number of fans asked him to publish the novel on Amazon Kindle that he started charging, at only 99 cents (the cheapest KDP allows authors to publish their novels.) Within three months, he’d sold 35,000 copies! In 2013, an audiobook publisher and a print publisher both bought rights to The Martian.
So how did he go from an unknown, posting his story for free on the internet, to making hundreds of thousands of dollars, and getting a multi-million dollar movie adaptation?
I’ve not actually read The Martian myself, but a part of it I think has to do with the quality of the story (based on reviews.) Weir went to great lengths to make his novel scientifically accurate, and from some articles I’ve read online (including, yes, Wikipedia) he listened to what readers of his chapters said when they corrected scientific inaccuracies and had suggestions about characters.
Perhaps this is part of it, too. Not only does he have a compelling topic in his novel, one which is growing in everyone’s mind as NASA prepares to send humans to Mars in 2030, but he listened to and engaged with his readers. He didn’t dismiss them. He didn’t belittle them.
To quote a character from Stargate SG-1, “Never underestimate your audience. They’re usually sensitive, intelligent people, who will respond positively to quality entertainment.”
What do you all think? What was the secret to Weir’s success? Is there another element that took him from an unknown to a best-selling author through self-publishing? Curious minds want to know :)
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.
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:
“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.
Today is the day! May 27th, 2016, Burning Skies is officially published!
Where is it available? Everywhere!!! ….Okay, not yet, lol. But the kindle edition is available right now. Click here or click the cover to the right to go to the Amazon store page!
I also saw that the Amazon page for the print edition has been created, but is not yet linked to the kindle page. So until that happens, you can click here to go to the print edition’s store page.
World-wide distribution will take a bit more time, but fear not: it is coming as fast as createspace.com can work!
I am so excited to share this next chapter in the Sword of Dragons saga with all of you! This chapter steps it up a notch (understatement…) so I hope you enjoy!
And please, please, please leave a review on Amazon! Whether a good or bad review, feedback not only helps others decide if they want to buy the book, but it helps me figure out what I’m doing right, and what I’m doing wrong, so that future books will be better!
Thank you all for reading, and for sticking with me through this journey. Remember, this is still just the beginning!
Yep, you read the title right, the eBook for Burning Skies is now available for pre-order in the amazon store! Click here or click the cover image to the right to go to the amazon page and pre-order your copy today!
I am both intensely excited and insanely scared about this upcoming release! In fact, I don’t know why, but I’m almost more terrified about this release than I was book 1’s! Why?
…it might sound kinda lame, but what if it doesn’t live up to book 1? I mean, I know it will, in fact every time I’ve read through it for editing/proofreading, I’ve thought it was better than the first!
But The Sword of Dragons currently has a 4.9 star rating on Amazon. How amazing is that for a debut author’s first published novel?! I mean, wow!!!
That is a tough act to follow. Is Burning Skies up to the challenge?
Irrational fears aside, I think it is. Really and truly, Burning Skies steps it up! With fun new characters, amazing new locations, cataclysmic events for the characters to overcome, the introduction of a new (or rather, ancient) villain, and an epic battle between two titans in the final chapters, Burning Skies will grab your attention from the beginning and won’t let go!
Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen. There’s more to come right here before release date, less than two weeks away!! :D
It started as an idea. A dream, about another world where magic is common, dragons are myths come to life, and the fate of an entire world hangs on an ancient and powerful sword.
One year ago, that dream was finally realized. On May 12th, 2015, The Sword of Dragons was finally released! After over a decade of development, drastic changes and evolution, and so much heartache (not to mention headaches), it finally saw the light of day, and became available for public consumption!
But it is so much more than that. Today isn’t just book 1’s birthday…it is the anniversary of when I made one of my greatest dreams come true.
I don’t know when exactly, but I was around 9 or 10 years old when I attempted to write my first story, a Star Trek fan fiction (before I knew it was called fan fiction) that featured all of my classmates as characters. From that day forward, I dreamt of becoming a published author.
It took over 20 years to make that dream a reality, but I did it! 20 years…I’m either very persistent, or just incredibly stubborn. Probably both, lol.
So, I’m published…but am I successful? Over 50 print copies sold, and well over 100 Kindle sales (not to mention over 500 ‘sold’ free during a 5 day sale) and approximately 30 borrowed via Kindle Unlimited, that is definitely a success for an independently published novel!
Unfortunately, I cannot yet make a living off of writing. Not yet. But that is also a dream of mine, and as I think I’ve proven, once I’ve set my mind to something, nothing can stop me! There’s that stubborn/persistent streak again ;)
Based on what my friend M. H. Lee has told me regarding sales and number of books published, it may just only be a matter of time and how many novels I get out there. Not to mention more presence. The more word spreads, the better chance I’ll have.
So keep spreading the word, my dear friends and fans (I still get chills realizing that I have fans, heheh.) Make The Sword of Dragons known, help me make a living off of writing so that I can write more stories faster! After all, this is just the beginning. In just 2 and a half weeks, Burning Skies comes out. Beyond that?
Well…that is a story for another time. ;)
Thank you. Thank you all so much for your support. Your praise (5 stars on Amazon!!!) Your encouragement. All of it. I couldn’t have come this far without you.
In about 10 hours where I live, 2015 will officially be over. And what a year it has been. It was one of the most exciting years of my life, and simultaneously one of the most difficult. But rather than spend an entire post reminiscing on the past, I want to only briefly touch on it…and then look forward.
For that is what many consider to be the best part about a new year: starting with a blank slate. Leaving the past behind, and marching courageously into a brave new future.
2015 – The Year I Became Published
Without a doubt, my greatest triumph this year was publishing The Sword of Dragons. My first published novel!!! :D Even now, it feels almost unreal. I’ve been writing for nearly 20 years, so to finally have a book out there…it is just an incredible feeling.
While sales did not end up being what I hoped, they have begun to pick up again as word is finally starting to spread. And I end 2015 with more copies in the hands of readers than I anticipated!
All in all, so much good happened this year. While heartbreak overshadowed much of the 2nd half of the year, even that has subsided, and I am glad to say that I am in a happy relationship with a wonderful, gaming-geek, sci-fi/fantasy loving, gorgeous woman :)
Triumphs were made, hard lessons were learned, but in all, I look back at 2015 in awe…
While 2015 saw the publication of my first novel, I am stepping up my game a bit for 2016. Coming in January, I am going to start releasing, free of charge, a series of short stories set in the Sword of Dragons universe called the Orc War Campaigns. These stories take place right after the first novel, and will lead into the 2nd novel, Burning Skies.
As long-time readers of my blog know, Burning Skies is already written and proofread, all that’s missing is a cover. Which brings me to another goal I have for early 2016 – crowdfunding for book 2. More details will be coming on that soon :)
Other goals: I am looking into attending more conventions, including possibly getting a booth at them to sell my books. I also am looking into a book signing at one of my favorite coffee shops in the area :D and I also wish to start getting The Sword of Dragons on actual bookshelves, via consignment. Local to Denver, the Tattered Cover supports local authors in this manner, and will also host book signings :D
And finally, something I have slacked on for over a year – I wish to focus more on the blog community. While I’ve tried to be consistent on getting content onto my own blog, I have not participated in many other blog communities like I did in 2014. There are so many incredible and wonderful people out there that I met in 2014, and I wish to regain contact with them, and meet more!
The hard part will be time, all of this will require so much time, and that has been my biggest bane this year. My life has become increasingly busy, and I’ve had to make sacrifices in areas that I wish I had not been forced to.
In a way, I wish we still lived in an era of patrons of the arts. Hey, anyone out there want to become my patron, so I can quit my I.T. job and write for a living? ;)
That seems like a lot of big goals, with a lot of work ahead of me. Whew. But I’m determined, and with clear-set goals, perhaps I can reach them.
Final Thank You To All of You!
To anyone who is reading this, thank you for following my blog, for any past comments, and for all of the encouragement so many of you have given in 2015.
When I was a little kid and first dreamt of becoming a writer, I never could have imagined how there is sooooo much more to it than just writing.
Don’t get me wrong, writing is very important. I’ve spent 20 years honing my craft, and I intend to never stop striving to be better, no matter how good I become. If I somehow become the #1 best selling fantasy author in the world (if only) I will never stop trying to one-up my writing style, my stories. I want to be better.
But 7 months after publishing The Sword of Dragons, one thing has become very, very clear to me – writing is only part of the job.
Let’s pretend for a moment that I had published via the traditional method: found an agent, who found a publishing house, who paid me up-front for my work and helped with a lot of the ‘other stuff.’ That still would have left me with a lot of work to do.
As the author of my novels, I am the one best qualified for promoting it, and I believe that rings true for all writers. You know your target audience. You know your novel. You know its strengths, its highlights, what makes it worth reading.
But promoting it, and building a platform, is in and of itself is a full-time job, I’m discovering. And right now, I still suck at all of that, lol. Seriously, I would never have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for the advice and help of people like Wayne Adams, M. H. Lee, and Christian Michael.
But there’s still so much more to do, so much more that can be done. As I prepare to launch the Orc War Campaigns web series, my shortcomings are becoming even more apparent.
Challenges of the New Series
The story is turning out beautifully, in my opinion (hopefully my beta readers will agree :) ). Where it is now, where I plan to take it, it will make an excellent addition to the SoD universe (not to mention free to read!)
But how do I build up anticipation? I’ve tried to do so here on my blog, but I feel like I’ve fallen short. I’ve wanted to put more about it on the SoD website, but I’m struggling with how to present it there. And I need to do at least something to help present it graphically on the website, but once again, I’m struggling.
The first three stories are pretty much ready to go. Some final tweaks, that’s it. In fact I consider the first story, “Invasion,” completed and ready for public consumption! But presentation is important. I can’t just put it on a file upload and say “here ya go, folks, enjoy!” It deserves more than that, and so do the fans.
Which is why I made the decision (but never officially announced it until now) that the web series will not be launched this month. I am instead aiming for early to mid January. Nebulous, I know :( But with the first 3 ‘episodes’ all but complete, my focus for the next two weeks is creating a platform from which to launch :D
Not All is Lost
While I’ve struggled considerably with the ‘business side’ of writing, it has not been a complete failure. Sales are up! :D Almost all have been eBook, but there were even more print sales this month than the prior 4!
And this is the coolest part – it is safe to say that I have fans. :D Fans who are supportive, excited for the series, and bugging me almost every week for updates on the release of book 2. (For the record, I love being bugged about that, it inspires me to keep moving forward!)
So in light of all of this, and in light of the fact that I have achieved more than enough sales to be considered a member of RMFW’s IPAL (though I must now put in the paperwork for that), I am comfortable in calling the release of my first novel a success! And while I cannot yet live off of writing, this has turned out to be a giant step in the right direction.
And you know what? I have all of you, those who have followed my blog, read my book, and encouraged me, to thank for that success. Thank you everyone for a successful, life-changing first year!!
(Note: this will not be the last blog entry of the year. Stay tuned for more!)
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.