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.
What if I told you that writing as much as humanly possible and publishing as much as humanly possible…wasn’t necessarily the best way to go?
I’ve written before about all of the research I’ve done over the question ‘can you make a living as a writer?’ and I’ve learned so much about the industry. And one of the things I’ve learned is that many of the new authors who make a living these days often do so through volume – they write and publish, a lot.
I should have dug deeper. But then, the self-publishing market is kind of a new thing, relatively speaking. Who knew where the trend was going to go?
In reading a recent blog article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which led me to another, and then to another, the market has matured, and many self-published authors are trying to write more to keep up.
Writers are getting burned out. And many of the new big-hitters from the past decade have apparently disappeared.
Burnout can be a problem in any career, any job. But Rusch made a very good point in her blogs:
“If you want to sustain your writing and publishing businesses, you have to stop thinking like a manufacturer. You need to start thinking like an artisan. By that I mean, you are “a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.””
When I read that article, it made me think about my own experience turning out a novel in record time. When I wrote Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, I developed, wrote, and put it through two rounds of editing/proofreading in 3 months. I was proud of myself for that.
However, the product wasn’t the best it could be. I finished it on a deadline to pitch it at a writer’s conference, and the pitch went well, but when the agent read the product itself, she said that it needed a lot of work. And she was right.
More than that, I had spent every single night after work, and every single weekend day, working on it as much as I possibly could. That on top of a full time job meant I had time for little else except the essentials (grocery shopping, etc.) That kind of effort was unsustainable. It was exhausting
Making the Strongest Product You Can
Writing fiction is an art. This includes in the cinema, although Disney seems to have turned it into a manufacturing job based on their extremely aggressive Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars Universe release schedule. To their credit, they have probably dozens of writers working on the stories. But they’ve also run into problems (and thus keep having to fire directors and restart filming on Star Wars movies, always citing ‘creative differences.’)
For those of us who don’t have an entire team of writers at our beck and call, putting out a novel a month, even one every three months, is insane. I’ve even read that many consider one per year to be aggressive for a single writer.
And when a writer burns out, there’s no one else around to pick up the slack for them. Their business growth falters. Their income slows or stops. And if they didn’t plan ahead for that…they’re in trouble.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
As Rusch stated, being a self-published writer is a marathon, not a sprint. Sprinting is not sustainable long-term. And I’ve come to understand (even if I unconsciously knew it before) that the only way to eventually ‘make it’ as a writer is to settle in for the long-haul. And to not jump the gun.
I want to write full time, badly. Writing is my passion. That’s why I’ve been doing it for well over 20 years. And I’ve come such a long way in the past 3 years.
I also have a long ways to go. And sprinting to that finish line wouldn’t be the best idea in the world. I’ll arrive exhausted, if I even make it there at all. And then I won’t be able to keep going.
A novel in 3 months is impressive, but that novel won’t be ready for publication for a long time. In the mean time, I have the Sword of Dragons series to finish.
One of the things I’m having to let go is the ability to have a dead-locked release schedule. I originally had a plan to finish the Sword of Dragons series by 2020. It’s now 2018 and I haven’t even finished writing book 3.
And that’s okay. I’m going at the pace I can sustain while maintaining life and sanity. Plus, more than ever, I’m convinced that my re-branding of the series is a worthwhile move.
Because it took me over 2 years to learn that releasing the best product that I can, rather than a mediocre product at a fast pace, is more important.
When a reader pays $15 for a print novel or $5 for an eBook, they’re investing more than just money – reading takes time. And investment in the characters. They’re taking a risk by buying your product, especially if they have never heard of you before, or your story.
So make it the best damn novel you can. I don’t just mean the writing, either. Make it the best product that you can.
And however long that takes is however long it takes.
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!
Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :( I’m really sorry!
However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!
First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten! I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy! I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!
And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page. I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it. I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:
What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before? Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?
Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!
First I want to apologize for the lack of a blog post last week. It was a busy weekend, plus my ADHD was extremely bad :( I sat down to at least write a “Sorry no blog post this week” and just…nothing would come out, I couldn’t focus at all.
Adding New Genre Elements
Anywho, on to today’s blog topic! When is it too late to add something new to a series? A new element, a new story line…I guess that’s rather vague, so perhaps I’ll jump right into why I’m asking this question.
My previous blog entry talked about developing the story for book 4 of the Sword of Dragons series (which, by the way, is already shaping up to be more complex than book 3, story-wise!) Part of the development has involved trying to give more time and attention to the supporting characters.
This led to an element I’ve known for years I wanted to introduce: airships, and an airship captain as a character. But I didn’t know who to make that character, what that character would be like. So I started thinking about that.
Initially I started going down the path of a gnome. In some fantasy stories, especially Warcraft, that is typical: gnomes are steampunk engineers in the Warcraft universe. I also wanted this new captain to flirt heavily with one of the female supporting characters already introduced (I’m intentionally not saying whom at this time, spoilers ;) )
But then I thought, no, because of Warcraft, gnome engineers and airship captains has kind of become a staple of fantasy, and I wanted to do something different.
I still don’t know exactly what species, but I’ve also tried to increasingly show women in strong positions, so I decided I’m going to make the airship captain a woman…but then, I still wanted to do the story line involving the flirtation with the supporting character I mentioned.
And that’s where I come to the meat of this post. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say if a relationship ever sparks up between these two characters, but I have not yet explicitly shown or featured homosexuality in my series.
Why? I could go into a detailed explanation, but it basically boils down to the fact that when I first started developing Sword of Dragons over 15 years ago, it was still a very taboo topic and I didn’t give it much thought.
First and foremost, I know that this would alienate some existing readers who are extremely anti-homosexual. But it would also attract readers from the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t want to get into the topic of “is it right or wrong” at this time, that is not the focus of this blog post.
But this does mean that I’ll be introducing a completely new element into the 4th novel of the series. Actually, 2 elements, one that has been intended for some time, and one not.
This does not mean that the Sword of Dragons series will become a steampunk novel series or a homosexual erotica series. It will remain, at its core, a fantasy adventure series. But just like all fantasy adventure or sci-fi, it is a genre that can include elements of many other genres without it being out of place.
Fantasy stories can also be romances (and often are.) They can be horror. They can even be buddy-cop type stories (that could be an interesting story to write someday!) Or murder mysteries. They can be about individuals or about entire worlds, they can cover small personal struggles, massive interplanetary wars, and everything in between.
If you’ll pardon the pun, that is the magic of fantasy. It can be just about anything! It can take the writer and the reader anywhere their imaginations can fathom.
The hard part is making something new and fresh while also keeping it consistent. So what do you think, dear readers? Is book 4 too late to introduce these new elements, whether planned or not?
In case you’re thinking back and wondering, both of these elements were previously hinted at in the series. The steampunk is a combination of magic and technology, IE science and magic together. That has been hinted at in that I’ve made the physics of the universe, outside of magic, work like reality. Planets orbiting stars, etc. And the LGBTQ+? Well, I’m still wondering how many people have picked up on it, but let’s just say you might take a closer look at the final episodes of The Orc War Campaigns :)
Update on Rise of the Forgotten
I’m about halfway through chapter 27 on editing! I’ve been focusing more on the edits than the map-making lately, mostly because that has aligned with my schedule and opportunity. But since I’m almost finished with edits, that means it’ll soon be time to finish the map and get a proof copy of the novel ordered! I’m hoping by December I’ll have the first proof copy in hand.
I can’t wait to be able to release it for you all to read! :D
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 :)
Thanks for reading!
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.