Friday, April 18, 2014

The Path

After last week, this one was pretty quiet, but there is a rumbling.

There's been an interesting chain of events:

  1. I sold a copy of A Noble's Quest
  2. The reader enjoyed the book. 
  3. The reader shared the book with his sister. 
  4. His sister enjoyed the book. 
  5. The first reader put a review on for 5 stars
  6. The sister brought the book to the attention of her boss, who does purchasing for libraries down in the US. 

It's possible that this one reader might lead to a snowball effect. This is what I've always hoped for, times a million. As an indie author, we all hope people will enjoy our books enough to tell other people about them. We hope those people will enjoy it enough to tell yet more people. Growth is slow and organic, because each step of the way requires three things. 1) The reader has to enjoy it. 2) The reader has to know other people who might be interested in it, and share the news. 3) That next reader has to pick it up and read it.

His sister is an avid reader, and she thought she had the twist at the end figured out ahead of time, only to realize she had no clue. Both of them have put me on a list of authors to watch for, which is about the highest praise an author can get.

This has the potential to sell 100+ copies of the book.
I don't like to count on a deal before it's finalized, but this could be the start of something amazing! Because it's for libraries, it's not worth a lot of money up front. I have it set up that institutions can purchase the book through for a discounted rate, and I'll only see $1 profit per book. But it's not so much the money that has me excited as the potential to reach hundreds of new readers! I'm filled with nervous energy, so I think I need to do some writing to get it out.

Demon Invasion is up to almost 17,000 words. By the end of tonight, I'm hoping to have it over 18,000. At my normal writing pace, I should be done the first draft in 2-3 weeks. Then I'm going to get cracking on A Hero's Birth.

Since this novella is going to be priced at only 99 cents, I'm not paying for cover art. Instead, I'm using a picture I took at my cousin's last year and using the same font for the title that +Harvey Bunda uses for my other covers.

It's nothing fancy, much like Dawn's cover, but I like it. Here's what it's going to look like:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

So many things!

It's been a big, big week for me!

First, I finished the third draft of A Wizard's Gambit and sent it off to beta readers. For those not familiar with the term, this refers to readers who look through a book pre-release and offer suggestions for fixes. It's a familiar term in the gamer community, where games go through a pre-release where players are allowed to explore the game and report on problems that need to be fixed. There's an understanding that it won't be perfect, because any time there's a giant undertaking like that, there are bound to be problems that the creator misses because they're too close to the project. I'm terrible at editing my own stuff. I'm getting better at picking out the poor writing in other books I read, but unfortunately that isn't translating into fixing my own errors.

For those of you not beta reading my next book, here's the blurb. At least I think it's the blurb. I still have lots of time before the book's release, so it might change a bit:

For his courage Thomas is awarded land and a title. Gripped by guilt and uncertainty, he questions whether he is worthy of such honours. Sarentha begins down his own path, learning in secret of new dark powers. Eliza is torn between love and duty, struggling to meet the demands of heart and state.

However, the friends have little time to settle into their new roles. Despite the promise of a new golden age, wicked forces beyond the Empire's borders threaten to destroy everything they have fought for. Tamor's new king falters when genocide and plague bring the Empire to its knees.

Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza are forced to come forward to hold Tamor and her people together. But for every threat they resolve, another emerges. In a desperate bid to learn the truth behind their plight, Wizard Ramar Wettias sends the fledgling heroes on a dangerous venture that spans the entire continent. Before they can uncover the answers sought by the wizard, they must make difficult choices and face their most terrible fears. Only by illuminating the past can they step into the future.

One misstep would end their lives and plunge the Empire into darkness.

There's a sense of stress that comes along with releasing a book for readers. I worry that, despite reading the book a few times, there will be something major that I've missed. It happened with A Noble's Quest, where the climax was all out of order. My dad read through it and pointed out that he thought the story was over, and then it jumped to other action scenes. It required a little tweaking, but it made the story flow much better.

But A Noble's Quest has been a success, I think. I've had good reaction to it, even if only meager sales. But that comes with time. Organic growth is slow, but we got what I hope will be a bit of a boost this week when our local Guelph Tribune posted a press release! I was excited when the editor said he'd run it in the paper, and asked me to submit a head shot to go with it. My wife squealed with joy when she saw it (partly proud for me, partly pleased because she created the press release package and some of her lines were copied word for word into the paper). If you're an indie author, and you want a press package done up, just let me know and we can work something out. My wife's interested in doing more of them.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Hero's Birth - cover sketch

Edit: A slight change has been made to the image, where Thomas is now looking directly at the threat. 

I know A Hero's Birth is still a long way from seeing the light of day. I've written the prologue, epilogue, and just a start to Chapter 1.

It'll probably be a year or so before I run the Indiegogo campaign to fund book 3, but Harvey is helping me get stuff set up well in advance.

Want to see Thomas Strongblade?
How about Adam Grimbling (Isn't that one of the dullard chumps from A Noble's Quest? - Yes)
and his abomination created by mashing a whole bunch of zombies together!?

Is there any way to safely approach that thing? Arms and mouths everywhere.
I am so excited to write the last book! Hopefully in another week or two I'll have A Wizard's Gambit out to beta readers (get in touch with me if you'd like to beta read - I already have three lined up, but I would like a couple more if possible), then I can finish off Demon Invasion, and buckle down and start hammering out A Hero's Birth.

I would pee myself if I saw something like that coming at me!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why self-publish?

There's this fun thing going around where writers blog about writing on a Monday, and then tag a couple other authors to talk about writing on the following Monday. +R.J. Blain tagged me to add to the idea, and I roped in +Matthew Graybosch, author of Without Bloodshed for next week's installment.

Fortunately, I was already working on a writing related blog post, so here goes...

I am so immersed in the independent author/self-published world that I often forget how new it is. I have to step back and explain this incredible process, because I feel like there's still some misunderstanding about what it means to have a book in print.

First, a quick Traditional vs. Self-published comparison.

You can't approach a traditional publisher directly. It's simply not allowed. So first, you need to find an agent. An agent is someone who takes a look at your pitch, and if they like it, they'll take a look at a sample of your book, and if they like that, they'll ask to see the whole thing, and if they like that, they'll talk to you about representing you. Just because an agent has decided to represent you does not mean that your book will be published. But if it is, the agent takes a cut. A "finder's fee" despite the fact that you'd throw yourself before the publisher's feet yourself if they'd let you.
Once the publisher hires you to write, you probably get a nice payment from them to churn out more. It's not a lot of money for a first time author, but hey, it's pretty darn good if you need the cash fast (Although, honestly, if you need cash fast, writing probably isn't the way you want to go).
Books are put in stores, e-books are created, they market for you and do everything for you so you can dedicate all your time to writing.
That said, you have a contract. You are obligated to finish on time, and deliver results. You can be fired from your work. You don't own what you write. You write for the paycheck. You might haggle for a percent of extra stuff that spawns from your writing, but it isn't yours. The decision to further market your work outside of books is not yours to make. You have rabid fans, like R. A. Salvatore, who would kill to watch a movie about Drizzt? Tough. Some mysterious people in suits don't think a black-skinned elf as a protagonist is going to make them enough money to pay for it to be made.

You write a book. You publish it. You control your destiny.

Okay, that's a bit tongue in cheek. Many people want to write books, and now that you can self-publish, many people do. Whereas the agents and publishers act as gatekeepers in the traditional realm, there is no such bottleneck when it comes to self-publishing. Once your file is ready, you can upload it to Smashwords, or Amazon, or Draft2Digital, or whatever service you want.

However, there are indie authors who do just that. The bare minimum. They write the book, put it out there, and it probably doesn't sell. They get their friends to review it and give them great reviews. Maybe they take part in the shady practice of paying for 5 star reviews. People buy it, pan it, and it's forgotten.

With self-publishing you have to be your own gatekeeper. You have to look at your book and ask yourself if it's something that can stand up to the traditionally published books out there. To get it to that quality, there are a few things you should do:
  1. Get a professional editor. Maybe two. This costs money, but it makes the difference between a bad indie book and a passable one. Make sure you get references first, so you know you're dealing with someone reputable. There are a lot of scammers on the net, so you have to protect yourself.
  2. Find beta readers who aren't going to pander to you and say, "It's perfect!" Being a "nice friend" isn't being a good friend, if you're serious about wanting to get your book out to as many people as possible. You need people who aren't afraid to point out problems or sticky spots. You want to crush as many errors as possible before publishing.
  3. Get a professional cover artist. This is surprisingly easy. There are so many artists on Google+, and they're helpful and responsive. Make sure to look at a sample of their art, and find references. Again, this will cost money, and the better the artist, the more it will cost (generally speaking). I did my own cover for my first book, and while I was happy with how it turned out, it wasn't great. It wasn't eye-catching. It didn't tell a story.

Getting a professional artist was the difference between this:

and these...

 There's no comparison. 

It's true that having those things isn't a magic bullet to success. Whereas the traditional publisher's marketing team will get your books in stores, and promote you, you're on your own as a self-published author. It's important to network with people, both authors and readers. Authors are important to get to know because they have mountains of wonderful advice, and if you have the time, authors love to talk about their writing to the point of not shutting up about it (guilty!). You need to get to know people who like to read, too, because they're the ones who are going to buy your book. Sure, some of your author friends might, too (I tend to buy indie books, rather than traditionally published ones now to help out the herd), but largely you need to expand your circles of influence. Word-of-mouth is your best bet. It's slow. It requires people to take time out of their busy lives to read your book. If they enjoy it, they might tell their friends about it, who might take a look at it. There are no guarantees, and it's hard to get noticed when you're an unproven nobody. If you're in this to get rich quick, you're in the wrong area. A lot of authors don't make enough to pay the bills with their writing.

But if you're passionate about it, and if you've put together a great story, those positive reviews that you eventually get are going to feel amazing! They may or may not generate more sales. One thing you can try is looking for review websites. NOT ones where you're paying for reviews. Rather look for people who are passionate about reading your genre, and blog about books they've read. There's no guarantee they'll agree to look at yours, but keep trying. You have to. No one else is there to do it for you. 

I think the greatest aspect of being an indie author is having total control of your work. If one day I get a sizable fan base, and they want more (e.g., action figures, movies, etc) I can look into doing those things. I'm not powerless. I don't have to shrug my shoulders and say, "Try asking Faceless Corporate Master." Of course the path to that sort of fandom is more difficult when you are going it alone, so you may never get that following. 

Whatever you do, don't try to be a one-hit wonder. This is related to my previous point about not making money fast. From everything I've read, the typical writer doesn't start to generate a fan base until they have 5 or more books in circulation. You need to reach a critical mass, where people who find your book (and like it) can bounce to other books. If you show that you're capable of writing several books well, people will take notice. 

"Five books is a lot," you say. 

It is. When you consider the editing and art costs for each book, and the time required to write them, it can take years and thousands of dollars. I'm hoping to write one book every two years, with an added extra (short story anthology or novella [leaning toward novella, since Dawn hasn't performed well]) between each one. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up that pace, especially now that my books are getting longer, but I don't want to leave readers hanging too long between books, either. 

One step at a time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to be a successful indie-author, roll up your sleeves and prepare for a long, hard slog. If you want to make money quick, I recommend getting work in Alberta's oil fields, or the diamond mines further north. I hear they pay great!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thank you

Although I usually use this space as a personal diary, this post is for you. That's right. You right there.

Thank you

I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received since my book, A Noble's Quest, was released in paper back. While I had hoped that maybe some day I might get through selling the 50 copies I ordered, I was shocked at the speed with which they disappeared.

Even after giving away several copies (to newspapers for PR and a handful for gifts), I've broken even on my investment with current purchases, and promises to buy when I see people back home this summer. And still have 8 books to sell! I've always said that if I can break even, I'll be happy, and if I can make a little more, that's a big bonus. So with 8 more copies to sell, that'll be profit that goes directly back into my writing to help pay for book 3, A Hero's Birth.

I'm ecstatic for this final book. I have a lot of great stuff coming up, and I think this cap to the trilogy is going to be amazing. I'm looking forward to Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza growing into the stuff of legends, and I hope you all enjoy the story, too.

I am keenly aware that none of this would be possible without your support, and I am so, so grateful. I know there are a ton of books out there to read, and the fact that you have taken time out of your lives to support my writing, and more importantly read my book is humbling.

Thank you 

I can't say it enough. You're awesome.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wandering book

I had this great plan, and I hadn't heard anything like it before...
So of course there's a website dedicated to the idea!

My plan is to release one paper back copy of A Noble's Quest into the wild. I'm just going to leave it on a table in a coffee shop, and let someone take it and do as they will. I set up a Google+ community for my wandering book(s - eventually, when I have more than 1) and thought myself rather clever.

I announced the idea on Google+, and one of my author friends said, "That sounds like the idea behind" So, curious, I checked it out, and it's almost exactly what I had in mind. So I signed up a book, put a note in the front cover for people to please visit that site when they've found and read it, and the book is ready to go!

Now, this could wind up being a waste. It could die a fiery death on day one, for all I know. But I love the notion of random chance taking my book to new and interesting places. It might just wind up circulating in Guelph for years, but I'm hoping for a grand adventure!

I also set up a community on Google+ where I'm hoping people will leave selfies with the book, and their thoughts, criticisms, and hopefully not just a picture of the book on fire.

Fly, little book! Make many friends! Bon voyage!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boxes of Books

A thing of beauty!

I'm not sure who's more excited about the big box of books, me or my wife! As soon as I opened it up, she snapped this photo with her phone and had to share it on Facebook.

It's pretty cool getting big boxes of books in the mail.

This weekend I'm going to go around town and whore myself out try to see if anyone will put my books in their stores.

I know I initially said I would be selling my copies for $12 a piece, but it turns out there was a hidden shipping charge for the Canadian side of the deal. So I'll be selling my own copies for $13. Still, if you see me in person and pick one up, you're saving the cost of shipping.

If you're not in my area, you can pick up your own copy through CreateSpace.

If you really insist on getting an autographed copy, and we won't see each other, we can work out payment for the book + shipping costs.

"What is this book?" you ask.

If this is your first time hearing about A Noble's Quest, here is a link to the promotional video, and the blurb is as follows:

Thomas and Sarentha flee everything they know when Thomas murders a co-worker. In the dead of night, a cloaked noble approaches and offers them a sum of coins they cannot refuse. His sole request is for the pair to retrieve an amethyst from a tomb.
From there, they are introduced to Eliza, a spirited and head-strong noblewoman who proves her competence with her skills in diplomacy and combat. Together with Thomas' strength and steadfastness, and Sarentha's drive and inquisitiveness, the trio makes an odd but capable group.
Their adventures take them across the lands of the Tamorran Empire to witness sights they never imagined. With grand plans in motion, everything hinges on Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza's success. Artefacts need to be crafted, alliances need to be formed, and above all, secrets need to be kept. Not even their own allies know every facet of the noble's quest, and he plays a dangerous game by creating plots within plots.
Can the disparate trio hold together throughout their trials? What secret does the noble know that causes him to go to such extraordinary lengths to succeed? Dark shadows blanket the Tamorran Empire, and illuminating those secrets will bring a terrifying truth.