I found myself struggling to come up with a blog article today, so the first thing I thought was, “Maybe it’s time to do a cover reveal for one of the new books!”
…but is it too soon to do that?
I honestly wasn’t sure what might be appropriate from a marketing point of view, so I decided to hit the search engines and start reading articles. And pretty much immediately, the consensus was clear: not until your book is ready for pre-orders.
Do you agree?
I’ve already done a partial reveal with the text on the titles, and I’ve received proof copies of Rise of the Forgotten and Burning Skies, both of which revealed a couple minor tweaks that are needed (and already fixed on the digital files.) But should I wait for a complete reveal?
I think it makes sense to an extent. That first impression can come with a buy impulse for a reader. “That looks cool, I wanna buy that!” So pre-orders would hopefully mount up. Where as if I revealed the cover now, but pre-orders weren’t ready for another 4 or 5 months, people’s initial excitement might be long lost and pre-orders might be less than stellar.
So for the moment, I’m going to hold off on the cover reveal.
I want this release to be done right. I want to learn from the mistakes I made in the past. And I want to give my readers the best experience that I can.
What I can say is that I’m still strongly thinking about a pre-order bundle somehow that will include all 3 books (Rise of the Forgotten, Burning Skies, and The Orc War Campaigns) as well as a printed map, either of Edilas or of all of Halarite.
I’ve recently done just a test print on an 8.5×11 paper with an aged parchment effect, and I like it! If a print service can do this larger, and on the right kind of paper, this would definitely make for a neat extra to throw in with pre-orders!
The only challenge I’m running into right now is a platform to sell the bundle through. Etsy is a no-go because they only allow the sale of hand-crafted items, not printed books. So I need to find a venue appropriate to such a sale, and eBay doesn’t strike me as appropriate. Does anyone out there have any suggestions?
Thank You For Your Patience
Before I sign off, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who gave me words of support last month after my Mother passed away. You words warmed my heart. :) I went nearly a month without a new blog, but I’ve still been seeing visits, comments, and likes on past blogs, and I’m grateful to everyone.
What if I told you that writing as much as humanly possible and publishing as much as humanly possible…wasn’t necessarily the best way to go?
I’ve written before about all of the research I’ve done over the question ‘can you make a living as a writer?’ and I’ve learned so much about the industry. And one of the things I’ve learned is that many of the new authors who make a living these days often do so through volume – they write and publish, a lot.
I should have dug deeper. But then, the self-publishing market is kind of a new thing, relatively speaking. Who knew where the trend was going to go?
In reading a recent blog article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which led me to another, and then to another, the market has matured, and many self-published authors are trying to write more to keep up.
Writers are getting burned out. And many of the new big-hitters from the past decade have apparently disappeared.
Burnout can be a problem in any career, any job. But Rusch made a very good point in her blogs:
“If you want to sustain your writing and publishing businesses, you have to stop thinking like a manufacturer. You need to start thinking like an artisan. By that I mean, you are “a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.””
When I read that article, it made me think about my own experience turning out a novel in record time. When I wrote Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, I developed, wrote, and put it through two rounds of editing/proofreading in 3 months. I was proud of myself for that.
However, the product wasn’t the best it could be. I finished it on a deadline to pitch it at a writer’s conference, and the pitch went well, but when the agent read the product itself, she said that it needed a lot of work. And she was right.
More than that, I had spent every single night after work, and every single weekend day, working on it as much as I possibly could. That on top of a full time job meant I had time for little else except the essentials (grocery shopping, etc.) That kind of effort was unsustainable. It was exhausting
Making the Strongest Product You Can
Writing fiction is an art. This includes in the cinema, although Disney seems to have turned it into a manufacturing job based on their extremely aggressive Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars Universe release schedule. To their credit, they have probably dozens of writers working on the stories. But they’ve also run into problems (and thus keep having to fire directors and restart filming on Star Wars movies, always citing ‘creative differences.’)
For those of us who don’t have an entire team of writers at our beck and call, putting out a novel a month, even one every three months, is insane. I’ve even read that many consider one per year to be aggressive for a single writer.
And when a writer burns out, there’s no one else around to pick up the slack for them. Their business growth falters. Their income slows or stops. And if they didn’t plan ahead for that…they’re in trouble.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
As Rusch stated, being a self-published writer is a marathon, not a sprint. Sprinting is not sustainable long-term. And I’ve come to understand (even if I unconsciously knew it before) that the only way to eventually ‘make it’ as a writer is to settle in for the long-haul. And to not jump the gun.
I want to write full time, badly. Writing is my passion. That’s why I’ve been doing it for well over 20 years. And I’ve come such a long way in the past 3 years.
I also have a long ways to go. And sprinting to that finish line wouldn’t be the best idea in the world. I’ll arrive exhausted, if I even make it there at all. And then I won’t be able to keep going.
A novel in 3 months is impressive, but that novel won’t be ready for publication for a long time. In the mean time, I have the Sword of Dragons series to finish.
One of the things I’m having to let go is the ability to have a dead-locked release schedule. I originally had a plan to finish the Sword of Dragons series by 2020. It’s now 2018 and I haven’t even finished writing book 3.
And that’s okay. I’m going at the pace I can sustain while maintaining life and sanity. Plus, more than ever, I’m convinced that my re-branding of the series is a worthwhile move.
Because it took me over 2 years to learn that releasing the best product that I can, rather than a mediocre product at a fast pace, is more important.
When a reader pays $15 for a print novel or $5 for an eBook, they’re investing more than just money – reading takes time. And investment in the characters. They’re taking a risk by buying your product, especially if they have never heard of you before, or your story.
So make it the best damn novel you can. I don’t just mean the writing, either. Make it the best product that you can.
And however long that takes is however long it takes.
7 hours from now (where I live,) 2017 will become a memory, and that memory is full of mixed feelings for me. Some of my greatest joys, some of my hardest sorrows. Today being the last day, I thought I would end things with my annual ‘glancing back, and looking forward’ blog :)
Writing Without Publishing
After two years in a row of publishing, 2017 was the first year where I didn’t publish a single new novel. And for much of the 2nd half of 2017, that meant depression for me…I already had a plan moving forward for my writing career, but I knew nothing would be ready for publication in ’17.
However, a recent article I’ve read by another author has reminded me that there’s something more important than pumping out novel after novel like a factory. Writing is an artisan career, and sustainable writing is more important than mass production. But I want to spend an entire blog writing more on that. For now, let me just pass on the word – you don’t have to write 20 novels a year to be a successful author. That leads to burn out. Just do the best you can, and don’t forget to live a little.
On the bright side, I have made considerable headway this year, especially in the 2nd half, towards the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons books 1 and 2, as well as finally getting the Orc War Campaigns anthology ready for print!
I’ve learned a lot about the market, far more than I ever anticipated, and I think I’m a little more prepared to move forward in my writing career in 2018.
One of the greatest highlights of ’17 was the day I proposed to my beautiful Starshine, Beck Stewart! Since that day, we have moved in together and begun living and planning our lives together. After more than a year together, and nearly a year engaged, I am happier than I ever thought possible with my relationship.
Fellow author, artist, geek, and weird like me ;) She has been my rock, my muse, my voice of reason. She’s helped me keep the demons back, helped my writing move forward, and encouraged me every single day. Thank you, Moon of my Life!
2018 – Three Books At Once?!
With everything I have learned about writing, marketing, and cover art, I came to a decision in the last couple months: when I release the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons books, I plan to release them together, along with the Orc War Campaigns anthology. That’s right, 3 books at one time!
As crazy as it sounds, it’s actually not a stretch, and in fact gives me the time I need to get everything prepared, and actually make the books look like they belong together, both with their covers and their interiors.
In fact, as of tomorrow, I’ll have finished editing Burning Skies! At least, until I read through the proof copy. I’m sure I’ll find more to fix with that.
But that’s my system – I have a proof of Rise of the Forgotten, and when I finish editing Burning Skies, I’ll order that proof while moving on to The Orc War Campaigns. Once I finish that and order its proof, I’ll go back and read through Rise of the Forgotten’s proof copy, and so on.
When will these three be released? I don’t know yet. But I’m working quickly.
The Year I Get Married!
The first half of 2018 is going to be busy for another reason – my marriage is coming up fast! And that means more and more of my time outside of work will need to be devoted to preparations. I’m hoping I get proof copies of all 3 books before then, but I’m not going to rush.
That’s a difficult lesson 2016 and 2017 have taught me – rushing stories out isn’t the best idea. Working under a deadline is one thing, but as I mentioned before, sustainable writing is more important. I don’t want to burn myself out.
I know this is a writing blog, but I hope you all will understand if I indulge now and again and post news regarding my upcoming wedding :)
Happy New Year!
Thank you to everyone who visited in 2017! Much to my surprise, my blog has received more new followers and views this year than in 2016, and I’m so glad you all have found your way here!
Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :( I’m really sorry!
However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!
First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten! I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy! I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!
And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page. I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it. I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:
What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before? Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?
Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!
First I want to apologize for the lack of a blog post last week. It was a busy weekend, plus my ADHD was extremely bad :( I sat down to at least write a “Sorry no blog post this week” and just…nothing would come out, I couldn’t focus at all.
Adding New Genre Elements
Anywho, on to today’s blog topic! When is it too late to add something new to a series? A new element, a new story line…I guess that’s rather vague, so perhaps I’ll jump right into why I’m asking this question.
My previous blog entry talked about developing the story for book 4 of the Sword of Dragons series (which, by the way, is already shaping up to be more complex than book 3, story-wise!) Part of the development has involved trying to give more time and attention to the supporting characters.
This led to an element I’ve known for years I wanted to introduce: airships, and an airship captain as a character. But I didn’t know who to make that character, what that character would be like. So I started thinking about that.
Initially I started going down the path of a gnome. In some fantasy stories, especially Warcraft, that is typical: gnomes are steampunk engineers in the Warcraft universe. I also wanted this new captain to flirt heavily with one of the female supporting characters already introduced (I’m intentionally not saying whom at this time, spoilers ;) )
But then I thought, no, because of Warcraft, gnome engineers and airship captains has kind of become a staple of fantasy, and I wanted to do something different.
I still don’t know exactly what species, but I’ve also tried to increasingly show women in strong positions, so I decided I’m going to make the airship captain a woman…but then, I still wanted to do the story line involving the flirtation with the supporting character I mentioned.
And that’s where I come to the meat of this post. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say if a relationship ever sparks up between these two characters, but I have not yet explicitly shown or featured homosexuality in my series.
Why? I could go into a detailed explanation, but it basically boils down to the fact that when I first started developing Sword of Dragons over 15 years ago, it was still a very taboo topic and I didn’t give it much thought.
First and foremost, I know that this would alienate some existing readers who are extremely anti-homosexual. But it would also attract readers from the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t want to get into the topic of “is it right or wrong” at this time, that is not the focus of this blog post.
But this does mean that I’ll be introducing a completely new element into the 4th novel of the series. Actually, 2 elements, one that has been intended for some time, and one not.
This does not mean that the Sword of Dragons series will become a steampunk novel series or a homosexual erotica series. It will remain, at its core, a fantasy adventure series. But just like all fantasy adventure or sci-fi, it is a genre that can include elements of many other genres without it being out of place.
Fantasy stories can also be romances (and often are.) They can be horror. They can even be buddy-cop type stories (that could be an interesting story to write someday!) Or murder mysteries. They can be about individuals or about entire worlds, they can cover small personal struggles, massive interplanetary wars, and everything in between.
If you’ll pardon the pun, that is the magic of fantasy. It can be just about anything! It can take the writer and the reader anywhere their imaginations can fathom.
The hard part is making something new and fresh while also keeping it consistent. So what do you think, dear readers? Is book 4 too late to introduce these new elements, whether planned or not?
In case you’re thinking back and wondering, both of these elements were previously hinted at in the series. The steampunk is a combination of magic and technology, IE science and magic together. That has been hinted at in that I’ve made the physics of the universe, outside of magic, work like reality. Planets orbiting stars, etc. And the LGBTQ+? Well, I’m still wondering how many people have picked up on it, but let’s just say you might take a closer look at the final episodes of The Orc War Campaigns :)
Update on Rise of the Forgotten
I’m about halfway through chapter 27 on editing! I’ve been focusing more on the edits than the map-making lately, mostly because that has aligned with my schedule and opportunity. But since I’m almost finished with edits, that means it’ll soon be time to finish the map and get a proof copy of the novel ordered! I’m hoping by December I’ll have the first proof copy in hand.
I can’t wait to be able to release it for you all to read! :D
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
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!
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?
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
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,
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.