Tag Archives: reading

Print vs. eBook – Marketing Focus

Hi everyone!

Last weekend, Beck and I attended the first annual WhimsyCon, a new Steampunk convention in Denver that essentially replaced the defunct Anomaly Con.  While we were there, we attended a few panels on writing, self-publishing, and story-building.

One of the panelists that we saw a few times was a self-published author who makes six figures a year!  Who wouldn’t want to do that with writing?  So we eagerly attended his panels.

For the most part, I was pleased to find out that Beck and I were already on the right track, with our rebranding and focus on marketing with my books.  One of the things I didn’t necessarily agree with, however, was his idea of ‘write and publish as much as possible.’  To the point that he is publishing well over a dozen fiction novels per year.  I’m curious if he’ll be able to maintain that pace for very long.

Image Source – http://www.buzzfeed.com

However, in all of the panels, including his, one thing came up that didn’t surprise me, but I’d never before considered with my own previous work…focus on eBook vs. print.

This author (and forgive me, I can’t remember his name…) pointed out that almost all of his sales were eBook.  A very, very, very small percentage of his sales were print.  And he even said that, ‘focus on eBooks’ and, unsurprisingly, he even suggested, “Amazon KDP for their KDP Select program, especially if you’re just starting out.”

It was around this time that I realized something…  I had focused most of my marketing on my print books for The Sword of Dragons.

And I realized that this probably was a mistake.

Why Was Print Important To Me?

Well, first of all, it still is…for one simple fact.  I love books.  I love physical books.  And all of my life, I’d dreamt of getting my books onto bookshelves.  In 2015, that dream became a reality.

But I still focused on it.  Still focused on getting people to buy printed editions.  Went to conventions to sell them (don’t worry, I still will :) ).  Urged people to buy them.

And I occasionally posted advertisements and sales on Kindle…whenever the whim struck me.

But I wanted my books to be read and to sit on bookshelves the world over!  I wanted to autograph them!  I wanted physical interaction, physical books, physical everything!

Why Should I Focus on eBook?

Because that’s frankly where the market has gone.  Not to say that I will not put out print editions or carry around printed editions to sell if I happen to run into someone who wants a copy.

A balance seems to have been struck between popularity of eBook vs. print, and I will always love and prefer physical books.  But what about the voracious readers, or as they called them in the panels, “serial readers,” the people who read an entire book every day?  Not only would buying printed books get expensive, but think of how much space they would need to store them?

Plus, as was noted in the panels, Kindle Unlimited is essentially the Netflix of books.  Pay a flat fee, and read as many books as you want.  It’s given voracious readers access to books at home unlike ever before.  Sure libraries are free, but if you found a book you wanted to read right now, and the library didn’t have it, you’d have to wait.  Or if you found an author you loved, but they only carried some of their books, you were out of luck, or at least had to wait for them to decide to bring in more of that author’s books.

Kindle Unlimited, it seems, is what is turning the tide in eBook’s favor.

And for self-published authors, it could very well be a good thing.  It gives the serial readers access to your books that they might never have had before.

Knowing that I hardly ever paid for advertising for The Sword of Dragons, I can tell you that when I first enrolled my books in KDP Select, I started seeing regular reads, which translated to regular royalties.  Granted, not a lot of money came in from that, but it was better than nothing.  And now that I’ve dropped my books out of KDP Select in anticipation of releasing the 2nd editions?  Nothing.

No sales.

That alone convinces me that, for a relatively unknown author like me, KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited is my best bet at getting people to give me a chance.

What Does This Mean About My Future Plans?

Rise of the Forgotten

Regarding my 2nd edition releases, and all future releases, well they’re still getting their physical copies.  I know that I’m not the only one in the world who loves physical books.  And if I can figure out how to sell it, I still want to sell a box set of the 2nd editions and The Orc War Campaigns.

However, I’ll also put more effort into the eBooks.  Last time I just let Kindle auto-convert my books to eBook format and did nothing else.  I didn’t inspect to ensure no conversion errors.  And as I already mentioned, I hardly paid for any advertisement.

That’s all going to change.  As I’ve said recently, it should be an author’s job to create the best product that they can, not just in quality of story and writing, but also in the actual product itself, its appearance.

I hope this is the right move.  I’m pretty sure it is :)

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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How the Death of Barnes and Noble Could Affect Writers and Readers

Hi everyone,

Recently the news exploded with the announcement that Barnes and Noble laid off almost every single full-time employee.  Worse than that, they gave no notice – employees came in on a Monday to start their week, and were told to go home.

Hearing this news, the very first thought I had was “They’re following Wal-Mart’s employment change from years ago: only hire part-time so that you don’t have to give them benefits or insurance.”  I almost wouldn’t even blame them if that was the case, given how terrible things have become in the United States for medical insurance.

But to let everyone go with no notice, pitiful if any severance, and ‘a chance to apply in a couple months as a part-time, minimum wage employee.’  If that isn’t a slap in the face to those who worked it as a career, I don’t know what is.

However, it gets worse.  Many seem to think that this is another sign of the coming end of Barnes and Noble.  This article is just one of many I’ve found that posits this inevitable future.  The going thought is that Barnes and Noble are trying to liquidate as much money as they can as quickly as they can prior to closing down.

If that’s true, if Barnes and Noble is about to die…what does that mean for writers?  Especially self-published writers?  What does that mean for readers?

Is this the end of print books?  I don’t think so, I still believe that the balance that seems to have been found between print and eBook will remain relatively stable.  Especially with the fact that Amazon is opening physical book stores.

But then…where do we go to get books?  In many larger cities as well as small touristy towns, there are independent book stores, but their offerings rarely match what Barnes and Noble used to have, or what Waldenbook/Borders used to have before they died.

Which kind of leaves it all on Amazon.  Possibly the best place for authors to sell from, and the best place for readers to buy from.

…which gives Amazon an incredible power.  They can single-handedly shape the future of reading and writing, if they choose to.  There has already been anti-competetive controversies surrounding Amazon (there’s even a dedicated wikipedia page about those practices!)

Granted there are a lot of other choices out there for eBook selling besides B&N and Amazon, but then Amazon doesn’t want you to go to them, so they offer benefits of remaining exclusive to them for eBook sales, on top of the fact that they have a greater reach than most, if not all other venues.

I’ve heard it many times from other Self-published authors, they despise some of Amazon’s practices, but publish through them because they feel it is the only realistic way to get their product out to the most people.  Whether or not that is actually accurate is up for debate, I know at least one of my friends who is really good with spreadsheets and numbers has experimented a lot with exclusivity vs. casting as wide a net as possible.

But the fact remains that if B&N dies, which seems likely, it will give Amazon greater power over both print books and eBooks.

I honestly don’t know at this point if that is good news or bad news for writers and readers…

What do you think?

-Jon Wasik

Sustainable Writing and Publishing

Hi everyone, welcome to 2018!

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.””

Images Source – http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com

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

Photo Source – http://www.parcjeandrapeau.com

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.

Release Schedule?

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.

-Jon Wasik

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

Are Writers Too Close To Their Stories?

Hi everyone!

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.

What do you think?

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

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