Tag Archives: Cover Art

Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – How Much Do You Want To Write?

Hi everyone!

A month ago, I read an article that, like so many others, bashes self-publishing.  One of the biggest reasons?  “When you’re self-published, you don’t spend a lot of time writing.  You spend most of your time advertising, marketing, working with cover artists, basically anything but writing.  You’re lucky if you spend 10% of your time actually writing.”

The author goes on to say that if you would rather be a writer, you should work on your craft until you are worthy of traditional publication.

That statement bothers me.  “Until you are worthy of traditional publication.”

Why does it bother me?  Well, partly it goes back to another recent article I’ve written where we explore major motion picture studios compared to smaller ones, such as Netflix.  Big-name studios are less likely to go with a story that is unusual or different from what is currently mainstream.  Netflix is more willing to try to break the mold and think outside the box.

Traditional publishers, even ones that claim they love searching for talent, all boil down to one fact: they want a story that will definitely make them money.  Not because they are greedy, but because they are running a business, and cannot publish more books if they have to shut down.  It’s just a fact of life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But the elitist idea that your stories aren’t good enough if they don’t get picked up by a traditional publisher?  Hogwash.

Was J.K. Rowling’s story, Harry Potter, unworthy when it was rejected by a dozen publishers, before finally being picked up?  What about Carrie by Stephen King (rejected 30 times before being picked up)?  Or Dune by Frank Herbert?

A story can be brilliant and written incredibly well and still rejected by publishers.  Just as a story can be horrible and poorly written and still picked up by publishers.  It all depends on where the market is going, what is currently trending.  IE: what will be the safest bet in the market, what will more likely make money, regardless of quality.

Now that I’ve got that rant out of the way…

Should You Self Publish?

Despite the generally negative tone the article had about self-publishing, it was right that being a self-published author means you have a lot of work outside of writing to do.  And if you’re going to do it well and do it right, there’s more than I ever realized.

I’m not quite yet ready to divulge what my current project is, but I’m in the midst of a huge endeavor involving self-publishing, and the fact of the matter is, almost none of it is writing fresh content (lots of editing, though.)

And compared to the amount of work I put into the first run of The Sword of Dragons, it’s a lot more work, a lot is involved, and you could even say it’s taken years to get to this point.  I still have months of work ahead of me.

I could be spending that time writing, instead.  Writing and trying desperately to get an agent or publisher to pick up my existing stories.  So am I hurting myself by doing all of this work?

Some people might answer with a ‘yes.’  There are those who say you should write something every single day to keep your craft honed.  Maybe they are right, maybe not.  I do agree that practicing is the only thing that will make you a better writer.  There’s no secret trick, there’s no fast-path.  Practice makes perfect.  So the more you can write, the better.

Have you decided to self-publish?  Then I’d recommend striving to write at least once a week, if not more.  And by write, I don’t mean an entire novel a week.  Just write something if you can, to help keep yourself in practice.

Having said that, self-publishing definitely is not for everyone.  Marketing is hard.  Cover design is hard.  Book layouts is hard.  And there’s even more I’m learning about this whole publishing trade, and it’s no wonder publishing houses have so many people on staff from so many different fields of expertise.

If you think you would enjoy learning all of these fields and practicing all of them, then I am a huge proponent of it.  Go out there and publish your work!  But if dealing with all of these different pieces of the puzzle, many of which I haven’t even touched on in this article, is not your cup of tea, then perhaps working more on finding an agent for your works is the better course for you.

I am not a hater of either.  I think both have their places, and to be honest, if there came a day where I didn’t have to do all of the things involved with self-publishing, I’d be happy.  I’d much rather write full time, and do other artistic things as a hobby on the side.  But I AM enjoying most of the aspects I’m working on now.  Not all, though.  My biggest bane in self-publishing?  Marketing.  That does not come natural to me at all.

But the results are very much going to be worth it.  I promise you, my silence about my writing lately has not been because I’ve been idle.  Something big is coming :)

Thanks for reading everyone!  I’d love to hear any feedback on this topic, what do you all think?  Would you rather self-publish or go traditional publish?

-Jon Wasik

The Cost of Self Publishing

Image Source – http://infocus.emc.com/

There’s so much advice out there about what to do or not to do for self-publishing.  Some of the most common include “Hire a professional graphic design artist to make your covers.  Even if you’re a graphic designer, don’t try to design your own, it’s a mistake.  Hire someone instead.”  Or, “hire an editor.  My god, hire an editor!”

That’s all fine and dandy, and perhaps even is sound advice.  Except…that all costs money.  And if you want someone who is actually good at it, it costs a lot of money.  In fact depending on the size of your manuscript, an editor will probably cost you more than a graphic design artist.  Worse still, if you want custom artwork made, hiring an artist will probably cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  Then that art still needs to be turned into a cover.

So, okay, you have a novel you want to self publish.  You want to publish it as strongly as you can.  But you don’t have a penny to spare, let alone $500 or more for just one of these services.  Sure there are cheaper ones out there…so maybe you’re lucky enough to find a cover artist who will do it for you for $100.  That’s still $100.  Not to mention an editor.  To speak nothing of advertising.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to self publish and you want to follow the advice of all of these people and pay for all of these services, you need a fair bit of money up front.  But what if you don’t have that money to spare?

Before anyone says it, I’ll say now what the two most common responses are to that question.  “Go traditional publishing” and “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”

To the first response, this usually comes from people, both those who are published and those who are not, that don’t seem to understand the challenges a writer faces finding an agent and/or publisher when they are an unknown.  Even if you have an amazing story written extremely well, you’re an unknown, and as I wrote in my previous blog about prequels, these industry professionals need to make money.  Not because they are greedy, quite the opposite: they need to live, just like you and I do.

So the other response, “You’ll find a way to make it happen.”  If only it was that easy.  Especially in today’s supposedly ‘recovered’ economy.  Perhaps my viewpoint is unique to where I live, but it would take me years to save up the money to hire editors and graphic designers.  For just one novel.  Let alone more.

“What’s your advice, then?”  Well, my advice is, if you have the skills, do it.  Take the time to do it right.  Research.  Work on it.  And if you have friends with the skills you need and they are willing to do it cheap or free, take advantage of that (but don’t expect them to, just ask, and if they say they can’t or won’t, don’t be offended by it.  Both editing and graphic design are serious and time-consuming skills to develop.)

I’m fortunate to have started developing both of these skills early on.  Editing for my love of writing, and graphic design when I was writing my fan fiction.  I’m no professional at the graphic design end of it, and I’m always learning.  But until I make enough money to hire these professionals, I have to rely on myself and my talented friends.

That is not a sin.  That does not mean your heart isn’t in it or you’re not willing to make sacrifices to make your dream come true.  It just means you’re willing to do whatever you can to work towards your dream.

Because if you don’t, if you say “I don’t have the money, therefore I’ll never get published,” then yes, you’re right, you won’t ever get published.  But if you take the risk, and take the time and make the effort to make your self-published novel the best that you have the resources to make it, then you’re taking steps towards making your dreams come true.

Taking steps, even baby steps, is better than doing nothing at all.

My Dream for the Future

I had an idea, and I hope there comes a day when I can actually make this happen.  I’d love to someday set up an organization that seeks out potential authors and helps them find affordable editors and artists, and even has funds to help them get their first novel off the ground right.  I’m not talking about an agency, we won’t publish it or find a publisher for them, we’ll merely provide them the contacts and resources needed for them to do it.  And education on how to do it.

Due to limited funding, I know we couldn’t help everyone.  But maybe if there were enough people working or volunteering, they could at least read manuscripts from potentials, and if the potentials don’t quite meet the standards needed to qualify, at least give them advice on what they can do to improve and have a better chance the next time they submit.

At the very least, help give budding authors the tools they need to make themselves better and have a chance at getting their names out there.

Here’s hoping I can gather the connections and resources to get something like that off the ground someday :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

An Unfortunate Delay – Regrouping

vegasHi everyone!

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.

Image source - google.com
Image source – google.com

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

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

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.

Image Source - http://geistig.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://geistig.deviantart.com/

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.

Thank you for reading :)
-Jon Wasik

What Does Your Cover Say?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years, the cover of your novel can make or break you.

Recently my fiancee found an article that we read together today, found here, and it made me think of a lot of things, and I think even helped me answer one very important question: why have sales for Burning Skies been so much worse than The Sword of Dragons?

It boggled my mind, because almost everyone who has read Burning Skies told me they loved it as much if not more than The Sword of Dragons.  So it wasn’t that it was poorly written or a bad story.  And my advertising campaigns for Burning Skies have all tanked.  Fewer clicks than my ads for book 1, and no purchases.

Your Cover Describes Your Book

I’ve said this in a previous blog, long ago, but what’s the first thing a person sees when perusing either a book shelf or an online book store?  The cover.  “But don’t judge a book by its cover!”  So the expression goes, but frankly, everyone does.

David Penny's original covers...Thriller or Historical Mystery?
David Penny’s original covers…Thriller or Historical Mystery?

So what does your cover tell potential buyers?  What does it tell people your book is about?  The one time I went to a writer’s convention, one of the panels I went to covered this very idea, and again in the article I mentioned earlier.  An example writer, David Penny, had a well-crafted cover for his historical mystery series, but what he was shocked to realize one day was that his cover made readers think it was a thriller.

David Penny's redesign.
David Penny’s redesign.

So he had his cover redesigned and re-branded his series, and suddenly sales skyrocketed!

Why?  Not because the original covers were bad, quite the opposite.  But because the original covers weren’t attracting the right readers.  Those looking for a thriller would click on the cover to see what the novel was about, only to find it wasn’t what they were actually looking for.  And those looking for historical mysteries didn’t look into the book because they thought it was a thriller.

Target audience.  Who is your target audience?  All of your marketing should reflect who your target audience is.  If your book is a fantasy adventure but the cover makes it look like a teen romance, you are very unlikely to attract readers.

What Does This Mean For The Sword of Dragons?

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

Well…….I’ve been thinking.  A lot.  Lately I’ve felt like a failure as a writer.  A failure in a lot of things.  And I’m a bit lost as to where to go.

But…maybe the author David Penny is on to something.  Maybe this article was exactly what I needed.  The original cover for The Sword of Dragons was great, Christian Michael is a talented artist.  But for one thing, I didn’t do a very good job as a client helping him create an appropriate cover.  I was, to put it mildly, an amateur at being a client to a cover artist.  The article helped me realize my short-falls in that regard.

I also didn’t have maps ready for the release of books 1 and 2.  Not to mention I’ve since come up with some ideas to make the book as a whole even more attractive.

But the cover…I know some people say a cover isn’t that important, but everything I’ve been seeing and reading in the past year completely disagrees with that claim.  And I think I need to take a step back and reassess some things.

I am very strongly considering doing a re-brand.  Designing new covers for the first two novels using the tips and advice in the referenced article, as well as giving book 1 it’s own unique title.  Since this is the Sword of Dragons series, book 1 needs a title to indicate it is the first in a series.

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalAnd the more I look at book 2’s cover, the more I think: this does not in any way convey that this is a fantasy adventure novel.  Even book 1’s cover, as well-crafted as it is, does not necessarily convey that it is a fantasy adventure.

In other words, I need a 2nd edition of the series…

I have some thinking to do.  What do you all think?

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Burning Skies – Cover Reveal!

Hi everyone!

It’s here!  The final proof copy of Burning Skies has finally reached my doorstep, and I have to say, I fully approve :D  If I weren’t so excited, I’d write some big build-up to the reveal, but I can’t hold it back anymore, so without further ado, I give you the cover for the next Sword of Dragons novel!

burning-skies-final1
Click for larger image

I am beyond ecstatic, the cover turned out better than I could have ever hoped for :)  In fact this picture hardly does it justice, it really looks sharp!

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalIt’s been an interesting road leading up to this cover.  When I first started working on getting book 2 ready for publication, I originally intended to release it 6 months after The Sword of Dragons.  The biggest part that held me back and forced me to postpone?  I couldn’t afford to pay the cover artist for book 2’s cover, Christian Michael.

I had intended to save up and hope to be able to afford it 1 year out.  But then something occurred to me: I used to do graphic design for a hobby.  Maybe I could take a crack at it.  Not that I didn’t want Christian, he is after all a fantastic designer.  But the cost of book 1’s cover is really what kept me in the red.  In fact it’s only now, almost one year into book 1’s release, that I’ve finally made it into the black!

I didn’t want to go back into the red financially.  So I started playing around.  As some of you saw in a previous post, I had found amazing artwork that I loved and began to turn it into a cover for Burning Skies, while I waited for the artist to (hopefully) sell me the rights to use his artwork (with the hope that it would be inexpensive…)  But alas, he declined to sell me the rights.

Books 1 and 2 side by side :)
Books 1 and 2 side by side :)

Then a friend of mine reminded me that I had always intended to have simple, more symbolic covers for the first editions of the Sword of Dragons novels.  And I had an idea.  After pulling out Paint Shop Pro and experimenting over the course of several days, I had the first version of this cover.  And thus was able to order my first proof copy of Burning Skies.

Those who saw the first cover loved it, and I was mostly happy with it.  I knew I had to tweak it some to help it line up with book 1’s cover, but…something else was missing.  Something to really make the cover stand out.

Initially I thought to add a central object, like the Sword in book 1’s cover.  However, after much experimentation and failure, I was disheartened and resigned to leaving it as-is.

Until my friend and fellow author Beck made a suggestion to add the ember sparks to it.  I had no idea if I could figure out how to do it, but a short bit of experimentation later, and what you see now was born.  :D

I already have in mind what I’m going to do for book 3, and I can’t wait to get started on that (of course, would help if I wrote the novel first.  That is very close at hand!!)

And for your viewing pleasure, here is the entire cover :)

Burning-Skies-Full

I hope you all enjoy!  We’re just over 3 weeks away from release day, so stay tuned for more exciting Burning Skies news!!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

PS: Notice how I mention the Orc War Campaigns on the back?  That’s because the series isn’t over yet: I will finish it.  In fact…I resumed writing it last week!! :D

Getting Into Character – Writing With All Your Heart

Hey everyone!

Photo by Natalie Welts
Photo by Natalie Welts

Yikes, there I go again with larger gaps between posts.  I do so apologize for that, though in my defense, I was on vacation in Los Angeles for 8 days :D  A much, much needed vacation, too…

And in the spirit of Hollywood, a thought occurred to me recently as I was putting in the last edits for Burning Skies.  (Yes, you read right – the final edits for Burning Skies are in progress!!!)  How much do you, my fellow writers, get into character when you write?

I’ve written before about how much of our own voice goes into the narration, but what about the other direction?  When you write your stories, do you write clinically?  As in, are you impartial as you go?  Or do you “become” your characters, in mind and in heart?

Actors do it all the time.  And as I experiment more and more with my voice for the purposes of audio books, I find that I also have to ‘get into character’ when I read dialogue.  For that matter, as I’ve discussed before, the narrator too is a unique voice and character in the story.  I’m teaching myself to, well, not be myself when I read out loud.

The more I think about it, the more I believe this has been happening, without me even thinking about it, when I write.  Anyone who has read my stories knows that I prefer third-person limited perspective.  That limited perspective is what is key for me, because it focuses in on one character at a time, rather than omniscient.

In Burning Skies, there is a perfect example, though I am hesitant to share too many details (as the good Professor River Song likes to say, “Spoilers!”) Yet there is one detail I am so excited to share, one which I have tried to keep under wraps until now…

The Return of Kailar

Kailar (if TSOD became a movie :D )
Kailar (if TSOD became a movie :D )

Everyone expects Cardin Kataar to return – he is, after all, the protagonist.  But what of Kailar?  What happened to her following the conclusion of book 1?  Did she go to prison for life?  Was she executed?

Well, now, that is a spoiler I am not willing to give.  But she is back, and her story will occupy almost half of Burning Skies, just as it did in The Sword of Dragons.  I have much, much more that I intend to do with her character :D

In a way, I was excited to begin to explore more deeply into her character.  Much of which included some highly emotional moments.  And as I wrote each of those powerful moments in the story, I’ve found myself feeling the same emotions she did.  Every pang of anger, sense of loss, sense of helplessness, as I wrote each scene with her, I felt those myself…

I wrote these chapters almost two years ago, yet the memory remains fresh in my mind.  But I am not Kailar.  I have not experienced what she has.  I was never a Mage, nor a Warrior.  I never commanded orcs, I never fought armies, and I have not experienced having my powers stripped from me.

So instead, I drew upon my own experiences, the ones that made me feel just as powerless, helpess, useless…experiences that have shaped me, sometimes for the best, sometimes not, but ultimately have made me who I am.  And I used those memories to become Kailar as I wrote those pages.

The same is true for Cardin.  And Dalin.  Sira, Reis, every character whose perspective I have written in The Sword of Dragons and Burning Skies, and including the characters from The Orc War Campaigns.

And yes…though perhaps I should not admit this, this means that I have shed tears while writing in public places (I never write at home, I am usually at a coffee shop when I am writing.)  I don’t know if anyone noticed, I don’t know what people might have thought, but when I’m in the moment, writing those chapters furiously, my fingers flying across the keyboard in a flurry of creativity, I don’t care what’s going on around me.  The world disappears, and there’s just me and the characters.

Write With Passion

If ever there was advice I could give to fellow writers, it is this: write with all of your heart.  Infuse your passion, your love for writing, your love for what you are writing about, into every word, every paragraph.  When your readers open your book, make the pages explode into action before them, engross them, make them lose themselves in every character, every action.

Become the characters when you write.  Make them occupy you, as you occupy them.  Think like them.  Feel like them.  And if you can do this successfully, you will make your readers feel.  That is what draws me into stories.

After all, anything worth doing, is worth doing with all of your heart :)

Thanks for reading!  And keep an eye out: Burning Skies is coming out soon, so that means cover reveals, character reveals, and more :D

writing-dragon
Couldn’t help but include this in this article :D

-Jon Wasik

Starfest 2016!

Hi everyone,

I know it’s been two weeks since Starfest, but I’m finally able to sit down and take time to post on it!!  And what a blast I had!  :)  Thanks to my cohorts M. H. Lee and Wayne Adams (who shot the cover photo for this article, by the way,) it was a definite success :D

And as an added bonus, read to the end to learn some exciting news about Burning Skies!  :D

Starfest was a first-of-a-kind experience for me: for the first time ever, I was a vendor at a con, not a visitor!  That’s right, along with my friend M. H. Lee, I sat at a table in author’s row, actively engaging with customers, trying to convince them that my novel was worth buying.

20160311_155447This was definitely one of the most unique activities I’ve ever participated in.  First was deciding how to setup our table.  The only picture I took was our initial setup on day one, but it evolved often, and thanks to M. H. Lee’s awesome eye for putting up a store front, by the end we had a setup that really put our fiction novels at the forefront, and I think helped us sell.

20160312_105213We also had a GREAT spot, right next to the main passageway between the authors alley and the merchant section :D  So there was a ton of foot traffic that passed us by!

But most important was learning how to engage passersby.  This is something I struggled greatly with.  I tried to make eye contact with everyone who passed by, and even say hi or good morning…but this just wasn’t garnering attention or getting people to come buy our books.

So I observed my friend across from us, Marvin, as he effectively drew numerous folks in and helped sell several of his wife’s novels.  And I realized where I was falling short: I wasn’t trying to sell the novel.  I was being friendly and courteous, but I wasn’t drawing attention to The Sword of Dragons (a point M. H. Lee made to me as well.)

So on Sunday, I changed my approach.

“Oh, you like dragons?  Well then you’d love this book!”

“Do you like fantasy novels?  Then this book is for you!”

“Looking for a new fantasy novel?  Yes?  Let me tell you about The Sword of Dragons!”

And the result?  Well Friday I sold only one copy.  On Saturday I sold one.  But on Sunday, I sold half a dozen!  While I’m sure it wasn’t just because of my change in tactics, I’m sure it helped.

But I think that’s a lesson all writers can take away: sell your book.  Don’t be shy about it.  That’s why you’re there.  And I’m not just talking about conventions.  Spread the word, tell everyone about your book, tell everyone why it’s exciting and they should buy a copy.

After all, how can the word ever get out…if you don’t tell them?

Fantastic Cosplay!

Kaylee and the Doctor
Kaylee and the Doctor

I’m finding that the more I go to conventions, the more I am enjoying them :)  Hence why I’m going to Anomaly Con this weekend, even though I’ve not really gotten into the steampunk scene.  I met some amazing people at Starfest, made a new friend, and saw some incredible cosplay costumes!

I only cosplayed on Saturday, breaking out my 11th Doctor costume yet again, but I loved getting comments on it (even if it is incomplete) and I loved interacting with all of the cosplayers.

Here are some of my favorites from the con!

(This was my first attempt using the ‘gallery’ feature on wordpress, so bear with me if it turns out horribly…)

If you want to see more, check out my facebook page, I posted a ton there!  :)

Burning Skies – Final Proofread Complete!

Now for that news I promised: I finally finished the final proofread of Burning Skies!!  The results?…Well, I have a lot of work ahead of me…a lot…  But that’s going to have to be detailed in a future post ;)  But this is exciting news, this brings me one step closer to having Burning Skies ready for its end of May release!

So what are the next steps in prepping the book?  Taking all of my notes from proofreading and ‘fixing’ them in the manuscript, that’ll be a project in and of itself.  Also, I need to finish working on the cover so that I might finally do a proper “Cover Reveal” for you all :D

It also means I get to start posting more info about the story!  I am so excited, this was such an awesome story to write!  For all of the world-changing events that happen in The Sword of Dragons, they are nothing compared to Burning Skies ;)  So keep an eye out, this is just the beginning!

“A shattered world shall return to its people;
Darkness and fire will descend.”

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik