Tag Archives: publishing

Warmer in the Winter Concert – Lindsey Stirling

Hi everyone!

Last night, my fiancee and I had the exciting experience of attending Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in the Winter concert!  This is the fourth Stirling concert I’ve been to, and as is always the case, I was not disappointed!

Image Source – https://twitter.com/lindseystirling/status/931781927937261568

But why am I talking about concerts on a blog about writing?  Because of Stirling’s history, where she was and how far she’s come, and how she’s gotten there.

Because there are days when I need a reminder…

I know I’ve talked about Lindsey Stirling before, in fact it was after the first concert I attended that I made the decision to self-publish.  Not only does her music speak to me, but the story of her rise to stardom has inspired me.

And last night’s concert reminded me why.  During one of the breaks between numbers, she spoke of how she gets to live her dream every day because of her fans, but before her rise, she would play anywhere and everywhere she could get a gig, even in school cafeterias.  She did anything she could to get her voice, or rather her violin, heard.

Image Source – speakola.com

She got her shot when she tried out on America’s Got Talent, but was shot down by the judges.  I can imagine how she must have felt, being told she wasn’t good enough.  And somehow that reminded me of Peter Dinklage’s speech that I wrote about several months ago, when he mentions how the world will keep telling you that you aren’t ready.

Now Lindsey is one of the most popular performers out there today, and her star shines brighter than ever.

How many times have people told me that I’ll never make it as a writer?  That it’s impossible?  That it’s a pipe dream?  There are days when I find myself wondering if those people are right.

But there was something else Stirling spoke about that struck a chord in my heart and helped me regain my composure.  It was when she spoke about her battle with depression, when she used to look in the mirror and wonder if she had anything worth contributing to the world.

Fast forward several years later, and the answer is yes, she did have something worthwhile to contribute.

These concerts, her story, they remind me that though I may run into roadblocks often, though I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder…I believe I do have something worthwhile to contribute.

And so I keep going.  I keep writing.  I keep publishing.  I may never have a rapid rise to stardom, but I know that if I keep going, if I keep working hard at it, then no matter what happens, I’ll have left something behind that is worthwhile.

Plus, I’m reminded often that there are people who like my stories.  I’ve sold hundreds of copies of the first Sword of Dragons novel through Kindle and print, and the Amazon reviews may not be numerous, but they are positive.

Not to mention the positive things people say to me when they meet me.  Or when they send me emails.  I recently received an email from a long-time reader of my fan fiction series, expressing his sadness that I’m shutting down my fan fiction website in the near future.  He was emailing me back in the early 2000’s when STDragon was still live!

So I just need to remember all of those facts.  Remember the fans, those who have read all of my work, who encourage me to write more, and just keep going.  Someday, I’ll get to write full time, even if it isn’t until I retire from I.T. work.  Until then, I’ll just keep going.

I’ll never give up.

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A Brief Holiday

Hi everyone,

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!

Rise of the Forgotten

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!

-Jon Wasik

When Inspiration Strikes – Developing The Next Novel

Hi everyone!

Whenever I start actually writing the manuscript to a new novel, by that point it has been at least a year or two in the making (the one exception so far being the Chronicles of the Sentinels.)  I first come up with the general idea, either for the story or for a character, and start to unravel the entire story surrounding that idea, as well as back story to go along with it.

So it shouldn’t surprise me, and yet it still does: I’m smack in the middle of 2nd edition edits, still need to finish writing the first draft of book 3 of The Sword of Dragons…and suddenly inspiration strikes, and I start unraveling the entire story for book 4 in my head!

Not to say I don’t already have a general idea of all six books anyway, but I mean actual full story details.  And the best part is that I started coming up with the details when I started thinking to myself, “how can I start to give the supporting characters more attention?”

And it just started unraveling in my head like the story was already there in my mind, I just hadn’t brought it forward to my conscious thoughts yet.

What’s really exciting is that, just like  with my 7-year run on my fan fiction, things that I wrote in the earlier books are coming together to create the new stories.  Things that happened in the first 3 books as well as The Orc War Campaigns will become important in book 4…some things I didn’t even mean to make important later on!

I get so excited when this happens!  I love that, somewhere in the back of my mind, everything is connecting together from the beginning and building on the foundational story.

The Importance of Supporting Characters

Image Source – http://sunniersartofwar.com

More and more, I’m learning just how important supporting characters are.  Often times supporting characters become fan favorites in stories.  Samwise Gamgee, for instance, or Ron Weasley.

In the past, this was something I struggled with.  In my fan fiction, I focused a lot on the two main characters, the Captain and his first officer.  To the suffering of all other supporting characters.  I started to rectify this in the last two seasons, but I realized this was something I should have done from the get go.

For The Sword of Dragons, I tried to ensure I at least had good back stories setup for Reis, Sira, and Dalin.  Yet I feel like I still haven’t given them the time and attention they deserve.  That’s definitely changing starting in book 3, and most definitely now in book 4.

But, I have a question for everyone: are you usually willing to read a longer novel due to more time and attention being given to supporting characters?  For instance, book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will have about 1/4 of the chapters devoted to Reis going on his own adventure without Cardin or Sira.  Plus several other chapters branch off for other supporting characters.

All of these instances are integral to moving the main story line forward, and I think that’s probably the key: any time a novel goes to a perspective of another character, it must be with a legitimate purpose, and not ‘just because.’  What do you think?

Status of 2nd Edition Edits

I have less than 100 pages of edits left for Rise of the Forgotten, which means I’m more than 2/3rds through it!! :D  I’m excited, I really like how the changes are affecting the flow, I think it’s making for a much more enjoyable story.  Of course, that’s my own opinion, I just hope everyone who reads it will agree :)

Much to my surprise, so far I’ve reduced the word count of book 1 by 1400 words!  I’m kind of glad to see this overall trend, though, mostly because I’m trying to get rid of redundant phrasing and make each paragraph have more impact.

I haven’t had time to work on maps.  I also just realized that the artist doing my character sketches, Centalynn Artworks, should be back in country now, so I need to go back to review her latest iterations and make choices to send to her.  I don’t currently plan to include any character sketches in the novels, but I’d love to have them on the website as soon as they are finished :)

That’s all for today, thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

More To Map Making Than Meets The Eye

Hi everyone!

Part of why I was excited to release last week’s announcement was that I can finally talk about the different pieces of my latest project, and how everything is coming along with them!

This includes the maps of Halarite for the Sword of Dragons novels!  A couple of years ago, Wayne Adams of VtW Productions introduced me to a friend who was interested in making maps for the Sword of Dragons.  Through many months of collaboration, Chloe drew up several maps, including a low-detail one of the world and higher-detailed versions of each continent.

One thing we agreed on was that she would not label anything.  That task would fall to me after I scanned them in.  However, there’s one thing I didn’t think about at the time:

I have very little experience making or labeling maps.  And it is not as easy as one might think.

How do you put labels on a map so that it is understandable, legible, and not cluttered or confusing?

The map that came with Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion

Thankfully, I had actually done some work on this all the way back in school, and a little bit since then.  Plus, I love maps.  I have a giant map of Middle Earth hanging on the wall at our apartment, and I have kept every map from every Elder Scrolls game I’ve bought, not to mention some old maps from EverQuest.

As I’ve been working on this, I’ve come to realize a few things…

Labeling What’s Most Important

Good example of labeling what’s important to a story, from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Just like a book cover must convey the appropriate message to the target audience, a map should be tailored to convey the information someone might need from it.  In the case of a novel, a map should have the information a reader might need.

These decisions are especially important for me since my maps will be in a small, black-and-white paperback format.  That means there isn’t going to be room for a lot of small details, and fine-print will make it impossible to read.  Obvious labeling will be necessary.

I do have the advantage of the fact that I have different detailed maps.  The overall global map has few land features on it, so that gives me room to label political boundaries, for instance.  Furthermore, I’m considering having the global map span two pages, as I’ve seen done in other novels.

Then, for book 1, I’ll have the more detailed map of Edilas, the continent where the 4 kingdoms are, on a single page.  For book 2, I may still include that map, but I’ll also include a map of Devor.

Another lesson I remember from school is that bigger features require bigger names.  So for instance on the global map, I’ll make the world name the biggest.  Continent names will be smaller.  Kingdom names smaller, followed by city and feature names.

Maps for Print vs. Maps for Web

One advantage I do have: these are fairly high-res images.  So while I’ll be focusing for now on the maps that’ll go into books 1, 2 and 3, I will be making higher-detailed versions for the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/.  Thankfully people can always zoom in to read finer print on the web.

There’s also the advantage of color on the web.  I’ve already played around a bit by adding overlay colors for the 4 kingdoms on the global map.  I think this will be useful and interesting for readers.

While I don’t want to make readers of the print editions go online to see more detailed maps, I think having the option will be a nice addition.  “Here’s these maps, but if you want to see more details, go to the website!”  That’ll allow readers like me, who love to learn as much as possible about fantasy worlds, to get more information.

That’s all for today!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of the 2nd editions.  If there are any specific features you’d like included in the maps, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

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

Writing Is Stress Relief

Hi everyone!

Life has become completely crazy this year, especially in the past few months since we had to move (and not exactly by choice, either.)  Between the chaos and craziness that has been my day job this year, wedding planning, and moving, I’ve found myself with very little time and energy to write, or do much of anything writing-related.

It suddenly occurred to me how much I missed writing, and how I’ve had few good methods to help relieve stress.  I remember one afternoon, while we drove to the grocery store, I turned to my fiancee and said, “I really need to find time to write regularly again.”  It was out of the blue, but I figured there had to be some reason I felt compelled to say it.

And not long after, I realized why: writing is one of my biggest outlets.  One of my biggest stress relief avenues.  In fact in recent years, it has become the biggest.  I no longer sing in choir, haven’t in years, and I don’t read as much as I’d like to, especially in the past 2 or 3 years.  But writing, that has been my constant.

Even after we finish unpacking, the craziness isn’t likely to end anytime soon, we still have a long ways to go in our wedding planning, and work isn’t going to let up anytime soon.

While TV and video games still provide some outlet, they still don’t have the affect on me that writing does.  They aren’t as powerful an outlet.  They help me wind down at the end of the day, which is needed, but they aren’t writing.

Why Is It So Powerful?

I don’t really have a definitive answer to that question, but maybe we can figure it out right now.  Storytelling has been a constant in my life, ever since I was a small child telling wild stories to my Great Grandma Marcis.  It was fun.  And then in 5th grade, I wrote my first short story, and have been hooked on writing ever since.

But somewhere after that, writing definitely became more than just a fun obsession.  Just like choir, just like reading, just like video games, it allowed me to shut out the rest of the world and become engrossed in something else.  With choir, when I sang, the world around me disappeared and my entire Universe became the director, the choir, and the audience.  When reading, the characters on the page were my entire Universe.  Same with video games.

Image Source – http://finalfantasy.wikia.com

But then, that still doesn’t explain why writing does more for me than any of those other outlets.  It certainly didn’t always.  I still remember how obsessed I became with Final Fantasy 7 when I first discovered it.  Same with EverQuest.

I think it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado, when I finally broke a 4-year writer’s block and finished book one of the Sword of Dragons, that writing became something far more for me.

In the past 5 years, I’ve written 3 complete novels and am developing many more.  The development, the writing, the publication process, it all makes me so happy!  I obsess over my stories (ask my fiancee, once I get on a tangent about a story, I don’t stop talking about it!) and they feel like they need to be told.  And that I need to be the one to tell them!

It’s my way of giving back to the world, I think, while at the same time giving myself something.  I’m able to satisfy both my need for stories, both to experience and to tell, while giving the world stories.

Image Source – http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Last_Jedi

Recently when watching the latest trailer for Star Wars The Last Jedi, it reminded me how great stories make me feel.  And I love being able to make others feel that way.  Maybe my stories aren’t as great as Star Wars – that’s not for me to decide.  But who knows, someday, maybe someone will fall in love with my stories the same way I fell in love with Star Wars, or Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings.

That would be truly amazing :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!
-Jon Wasik

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