Tag Archives: eBooks

Planning Ahead for Marketing

Hi everyone!

When it comes to self publishing, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is marketing.  In fact, it’s been one of my biggest banes since I started down this rabbit hole.  Going in, I had no idea just how important it was, and for that matter, just how much it needs to be a part of your product development from day one.

I thought I had it all figured out in the beginning.  The day that I decided that I was going to self publish The Sword of Dragons, I immediately started looking at what I was going to do for a cover design.

Image Source – http://indiefreshpress.blogspot.com/2016/08/store-tour-absolutely-fiction.html

This led me to wandering bookstores with friends, pointing out book covers that stood out to us, discussing the good and bad parts of covers, and trying to figure out what would make a good cover for the Sword of Dragons.

In hindsight, doing so, especially first thing in the planning process, was a smart idea.  Unfortunately, that was probably one of the few things I did right in the beginning.

What did I do wrong after that?  For starters, I didn’t have a fully finished product.  I wanted my book out there, and I didn’t want to wait to finish important things, such as getting a polished world map ready.  I also didn’t spend more time researching marketing, researching fantasy novels, or cover design.

At one point, while looking at covers, I looked to a couple of my friends and said, “all of these fantasy novels look the same.  I want mine to stand out and be different.  So I’m not going to follow their examples.”

In principle it sounded like a good idea.  Make my book stand out amongst all the others.

Except I was looking on bookshelves.  Not at Amazon.com.  Not at Barnesandnobel.com.  Plus there’s one other aspect I hadn’t considered…

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

I’ve run into a problem with the Sword of Dragons series: everyone who has read it has thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve even gained a few fans!  And they’ve done their best to try to spread the word to others.

Books 1 and 2 side by side :)

But what about those who don’t know me or don’t know any of those fans?  Or even know the fans, but are so stretched for free time that they are picky about what they read?  What do they think when they see the cover for the Sword of Dragons or Burning Skies?  Do they see a book that looks like a great fantasy adventure?  Or do my covers say something else to them?

I’ve touched on the subject before about cover design, you have to target your audience.  And one of the things you can do is make a cover that fits within your genre while standing well on its own.  Many, many people have told me at this point, “put a dragon on your cover, your sales will increase.”  Why?  Because my book has dragons in it, and the entire series will increasingly feature dragons.  So I want to attract readers interested in dragons.

But there’s more to it than that, and this has as much to do with marketing as graphic design.

Marketing Books in the 21st Century

I think one of my biggest mistakes was trying to consider how my book would look on book shelves.  Even if I get to that point some day where Barnes and Noble puts my novels on their shelves, before I can get to that, I need to consider how my covers will look as a tiny little thumbnail on amazon.com.

And while working on a project’s cover recently (well, sort of recently, before we started packing to move), my fiancee had a great idea that I believe may have helped me in the long run.

If you go to amazon.com and start drilling down into book categories to, in this case, fantasy novels (sword and sorcery!) take a look at the books there.  The covers have all been resized down to thumbnail size.  Beck had the idea, “take a screen shot, and then edit in your cover design to see how it looks in comparison with the others.”

I knew the moment she said it that it was an amazing idea, and set out to do so.  It also helped me figure out which cover to use, because I had ideas for 2 or 3 different covers and had made preliminary versions for each.  I put each version up as thumbnails, and very quickly identified which cover popped best while still being easy to identify as a sword and sorcery type novel with dragons.

But I also realized there were issues with the.  The title blended in with the cover, and the cover was too bland-colored.  So I made modifications and performed several tests, until I had a cover that popped out nicely and whose title was easy to read.

That’s the thing to remember: whether browsing amazon.com or viewing your book cover from a distance at a bookstore, a reader will more likely see your cover as a thumbnail size, and so your title needs to be easy to read without overtaking your entire cover.  A difficult balance to strike, but well worth the effort.

Why Is The Cover So Important?

I keep coming back to this topic: your cover matters a lot.  Why?  Because every single aspect of your marketing campaign is going to hinge on your cover.  In book stores and on amazon.com, it’ll be the first thing a prospective buyer will see.  In a convention or book signing event, it’ll be the first thing patrons will see.  On advertisements, anywhere, whether amazon, facebook, or other, it’ll be the first thing they see.  If you have the money and resources to pay for adverts on billboards, bus sides, or trains, again, your cover, or some edited version of your cover, will be what people see first.

First impressions matter.  People judge books by their covers.

Granted, if you have a fantastic cover but a crappy story, you aren’t going to get anywhere with sales, either.  You might do better than if you had a bad story and a bad cover, but reputation will probably kill your book’s sales.

Do you have a good story?  Then you need an appropriate cover to go with it.  Not just good, but appropriate.

There’s more nuances you can add into a cover design, but I think I’ve written enough on the topic for one day :)  I hope this helps my fellow authors out there, I’ve learned so much about marketing and cover design in the past 3 years and I wish to pass that knowledge on!

Do you have any tips or lessons learned about marketing and cover design?  Please post them in the comments below for others to read!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Advertisements

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.

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 Release!

Hey everyone,

Burning-Skies-Digital-Final
Click the cover to see where you can buy!

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!

-Jon Wasik

Burning Skies Now Available for pre-order on Kindle!

Hi everyone!

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalYep, 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?

Image Source - https://www.pinterest.com/cajunf/
Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/cajunf/

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

Thank you for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Book Birthday – The Sword of Dragons Turns 1!

Image Source - www.lisavictoria.net
Image Source – http://www.lisavictoria.net

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!

Cover Sword of Dragons DigitalBut 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 ;)

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalBased 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.

-Jon Wasik

Trials and Triumphs – Looking Back at 2015, Looking Ahead to 2016

Hi everyone!

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.

inspirational-happy-new-year-quotes-book

2015 – The Year I Became Published

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

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!

gamefest-jokeOther highlights this year included reaching over 100 followers, attending the Gallifrey One Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles (and meeting fellow author Lily Gunning!), being interviewed on Show X from VtW Productions, attended VtW’s Gamefest (totally incredible, and sooooo looking forward to the next one), and started the brand-new Orc War Campaigns series for Sword of Dragons.

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…

Braving 2016

Image source - earthlightacademy.blogspot.com
Image source – earthlightacademy.blogspot.com

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 :)

galaxyfestOther 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.

See you all in 2016!

-Jon Wasik