Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Akiri: Dragonbane!

The third installment of the the Akiri series, Dragonbane is available for kindle! Huzzah!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

We Are Not Snowflakes

Okay people. It’s come to my attention that I’m a pompous, elitist, privileged, asshole. I was aware of being an asshole and have been for many years. Just ask around. As for the rest…I’ve never been called pompous. I spend my time at my desk wearing a pair of sweat pants and sometimes a tee-shirt. This is also how I present myself in public. For fun, I drive down to the local VFW and listen to war vets tell stories while we drink beer and whiskey. Not exactly what a pompous person does. Or am I missing something?
Elitist could be more accurate. But only in terms that I work in an elite field. With roughly 15,000 novelists making a living, being one makes me elite – though not necessarily elitist. I don’t look down on someone because of their job, education, or social status. I was not born rich. I am not and never have been a part of what one might call “high society”. Well…unless you count my younger years when I smoked a lot of pot.
And as for privileged, you might be thinking ”White, middle-aged male. Hell yeah, you’re privileged.” The problem is, given what I do for a living, none of that helps me. I could be anyone. I could be black, white, male, female, or an alien from Mars. You only know about me what I tell you. And I could be lying. Morgan Rice has sold millions of books and I only recently found out she is a woman. I still don’t know what she looks like. So as a fantasy novelist, privilege doesn’t help me.
I was called these things by other writers after suggesting to them that they should write 1000 words per day. Understand that these were people with agents and most having been published at least once. I mean, what the hell is wrong with telling a writer to write. No one will pay you to be a writer. They pay you for what you have written. I must have touched one hell of a nerve because the name calling and accusations flew. I was an elitist pig. Yup! A bunch of traditional authors were calling an indie, elitist. I had to drop my pen to be certain gravity was still working.
Some of you may be thinking, “But Brian, not everyone has that much time.” This is true. But once you decide to take that step from hobbyist to professional writer, you have to make the time. You can’t wait for the muse to strike. You must start producing. Being a novelist isn’t about book signings and wine. It’s day after day of sitting behind a keyboard and pushing forward. It’s writing when you don’t feel like it, because it’s your job. In short, it’s hard fucking work that never ends.
You can’t expect to write one novel every five years and remain relevant. You are not going to attain stardom on the strength of a single book. If you think it will happen, all I have to say is, good luck with that. I’ll come visit you at the place you tend bar and you can tell me all about how unfair the literary world is.
We write because we must. I’ve heard that quite a bit, as I’m sure you have. It’s a groovy way to add a bit of artsy-fartsy to writing a novel about swords, dragons, and magic. But the second part of that is: we must because it’s our job. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do…most of the time. But being a professional comes with responsibilities and obligations. That means I have to write when I just don’t want to. It means writers block doesn’t exist in my world. I have to force myself to keep going. Will the story suck? It might. But I can’t edit what isn’t on the page.

You may think I’m wrong. You may think the others were right about me. All I know is that of the hundreds of successful novelists I know, all of them hold this view. If you are a writer, you have to write. We aren’t snowflakes. We’re beasts – ravenous and relentless. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

What do I need to Self-Publish?

Recently, I read an article about “how to self-publish” that has me thinking. If this person is right, then I’ve been wrong for my entire career. According to this person, you don’t need fancy editors or proof readers. You don’t need cover artists. Hell, no. All you need is grit and determination. That other stuff is a waste of money.
This is a dangerous thing to tell an aspiring writer. It sets them up for bitter disappointment. And being a novelist is already tough enough without crippling yourself out of the gate. So I’m going to answer some basic questions posed by many new authors.
Do I need and editor and proof reading? YES! Well…. if it’s for a writer’s group or simply something to share with friends and family, no. But if you intend to ask people to pay for your work, you do. It’s not just about putting out a professional product. It’s also about respecting the fact that you are asking a reader to spend their time and money on you. To release a book that has never been edited or proof read not only shows a lack of respect for the work, but it disrespects the reader. Their time is as valuable as yours. And when you offer a book for public consumption, people expect value. They expect professionalism.
I can hear it now: “Yes, but I don’t have the money for an editor.” Neither did I when I started. But I saved my nickels and dimes; I did without until I had enough. It took time. A lot of time. But I believed in the work and I wanted to give it the best chance I could.
It’s also important to understand that this is a business. For those who disagree - You are offering the fruits of your skills and talents to the public. In return, they pay you. Sounds like a business to me. And in what business can you get away with zero investment and expect a return? Does it happen? Sure. And some people win the lottery, too. I hear all the time about the few out there who have made a career without editing, proof reading, etc. But for every one of them, there are a hundred who will tell you exactly what I am telling you.
I realize producing a book can be expensive. I also realize that not everyone has the money. Even saving, it might not be enough. But there are ways to get it done. Trading services, local writer’s groups, and networking online can help you attain valuable resources. But it takes time and effort. You are trading money spent for time spent. Either way, you are spending something.
Do I need a cover artist? YES! Well…. You might already be a good artist or brilliant with photoshop. I’ve seen it. Not often. But it happens. I wish I could draw, paint, or do more with my computer than type. But I can’t. Therefore, I employ a cover artist.
Here is where I find there to be no excuses. Back in 2010-2012, cover art was hard to come by and exceedingly expensive. These days you can pick up a nice cover for a very reasonable price. The web is filled with sites selling pre-made covers that look absolutely spectacular. I’ve seen them for as little as $100.
Your cover is the first thing a reader sees. It conveys to them the tone of the work and builds anticipation for the story. It also tells them that you care enough to present it properly. If you put out some homemade cover you threw together on your laptop, why would the reader believe you took the time to make what the cover contains worth reading?
How much does this all cost? That varies. I spend quite a bit. But I do this full-time and my readers have certain expectations of me. Although I can’t tell you exactly how much, I can tell you it’s not cheap. Whether your currency is time or cash, if you want success in self-publishing, get ready to spend it.
They say that “time is money”. In this case it is the literal truth. If you have no chance at hiring an editor, proof readers, cover artists, etc., then you must network until you have the resources to get it done. That means getting to know people – both online and in person. It means becoming a part of a community. It means when you ask for someone to use their skills on your behalf, you must be ready to give something of value in return. The fact is, you should be networking regardless. But here, you have specific goals regarding the quality of your book.
If I spend all this time/money, what’s the guarantee? None. Just like anything else in life, you might fail. There are hundreds of reasons why this could happen. Far too many to mention. And trying again might not work either. Yeah, I know. That sucks. But being a professional novelist is not an easy goal to achieve. There are only about 10,000 of us out there doing it for a living (these numbers are an estimate based on multiple sources, but are nonetheless debatable). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you want to be a writer, be one. But go into it with your eyes open. Write your books because you enjoy it, not for fame or riches.
You don’t know everything. You might be wrong. Sure. I make no claims of being an all-knowing, indie Yoda. Everything I am saying is based on a very short career. My first novel was released in 2011. Since then, I’ve written and published fourteen books, which have sold roughly 750,000 copies. One of my books was a top five finalist in 2015 for Fantasy Book of the Year on Audible ( I lost). And I was the first indie in history to get a six-figure audio deal. Those are my qualifications, such as they are. Wow! Sounds awesome, right? But believe me when I tell you that I’m a minor player in the indie world. A virtual nobody. So it is important for me to tell you that what I have said is also supported by the opinions of dozens of colleagues who make me look like a complete novice. Their sales are in the millions and their experience far greater than my own. So, I rely heavily on their opinions.

I am not advocating that people should spend their life-savings or neglect their family. Nor am I saying success is base solely on the money you have in your bank account. But to think you can start a business without investment is laughable. And when you self-publish, that is what you are doing – starting a business.

There is some amazing talent in the indie world that tragically goes unnoticed. And there are some who still think indie is the poor cousin to traditional publishing, rife with inadequacy and talentless hacks. I, along with many others, are trying to change this perception. We’ve come far since the initial indie explosion. We still have a long way to go. But with enough effort, I think we’ll get there. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Akiri: Sands Of Darkness

Akiri: Sands Of Darkness is availbale for pre-order! Paperback, Hardcover, and Audio coming soon.

Pre-order on AMAZON

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Pitfalls

Many of my readers are themselves aspiring authors, and I am often asked for advice or insight pertaining to how they can “make it” as a writer in the indie world. I try to be helpful. But more often than not, what I have to say is nothing new. Good cover, professional editing, catchy blurb, networking through social media, etc. As much as this is all true, it’s nothing they can’t find out from other sources. In fact, there are far better sources for this type of information than me; people who use the various avenues of promotion to its uttermost. My methods are rather simplistic. They are certainly no secret.
If you do intend to give it a go as an indie novelist, there are some things to watch out for. The indie world is riddled with scammers and snake oil peddlers ready to exchange bogus and frequently harmful methods and products for your hard-earned money. It’s easy to fall prey to these charlatans and, if they’re good, hard to ferret them out.
Here are a few things to look out for, along with some things you can do to avoid being taken in:
1.      Guarantees. There are none. If someone tells you that they can guarantee you even a single sale, they’re lying. In any business where you offer promotional services, you can only go by past performance. They can provide data such as the size of their mailing list or estimated readers they can reach. But they cannot tell you how many will buy your book or that you will hit the top 100 lists. All ads and promotions are risks. Anyone who claims otherwise is full of crap. 
2.      Testimonials. These can be easily faked. Check them out thoroughly. Not only can the authors be either misquoted or the blurb simply made up entirely; it could also be a sock puppet and the person not even exist. Not all testimonials are fake. In fact most are not. But it’s easy to do, and few people bother to check out their validity.
3.       Money up front. Recently, I’ve been hearing about people becoming part of box set anthologies. There is nothing unusual about this. I’ve been in a couple of them myself. But I was never asked to pay up front to cover any costs. And I licensed the rights to my work for a limited time only. If you are asked for money up front you are not dealing with a reputable individual. It’s normal for someone to recover their costs via royalties earned. But it is never acceptable to ask a writer to pay for these beforehand.
4.      Beware of cultism. It’s perfectly normal to look up to another author, or aspire to achieve what they have achieved. And there is nothing wrong with singing the praises of a promotional tool with which you have had success, or someone who has helped you along. But remember that you are not dependent upon anyone for your success. Nor do you owe anyone anything other than kindness and consideration. Do not get sucked in to a situation where you are asked to behave in ways that go against your morals and ethics because you think there is no other way to attain your goals, or you feel indebted. Remember that you are the reason for your success or failure. No one else.
5.      The exposure con. Many an aspiring novelist gets talked into giving away their work for exposure. I’m not talking about perma-free. I mean periodicals who ask for content in exchange for exposure. It’s usually crap, and almost never has the desired effect. If someone wants your content, they can pay for it.
6.       Undercharging. There are some great promotional and editorial services with solid reputations and good track records. They provide services without wild promises, and let you know up front what you can expect and what you are getting. The thing is…they cost money. Quite a bit of money. Discounts appear good on the surface, but in this business, you get what you pay for. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
7.      Vanity Press trapsIf you are paying to have your book formatted, edited, proof read, and a cover made, you are an indie. You have no need for a vanity press. They try to come across like they are offering products and services that you cannot access on your own. Some even make claims of getting your book seen at expos or stocked in bookstores. This is not the case. There is nothing a vanity press can do for you that you cannot do yourself.
      Moreover, they overcharge the hell out of you for what is generally substandard work. I know I mentioned undercharging, but overcharging is just as common when dealing with these people. Take the time to learn the business and the trade skills. Go online and find tutorials on formatting and interior book design. Or simply find a reputable company who does it for a reasonable fee. You should never receive less than 100% of your royalties if you are the one paying for publishing costs.
8.      Toxic forums. These can be just as dangerous as scammers. Disappointed and bitter people often invade what starts as a positive and valuable source of information and turn it into as cesspool of bad advice and negativity. They prefer commiseration to information. They do not truly want to hear of your achievements. They would much rather wallow in shared failures. It validates their point of view that they did everything right, and it was the stupid, blind, and otherwise unworthy world that didn’t recognize their genius. Stay away from these places. Becoming a writer is hard enough without this in your life.

I hope this helps you navigate the wild and wonderful world of being a novelist. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Avoid Scammers

When I first began my journey to becoming an author, like all those before me, I had visions of fame and riches running through my head. It didn’t matter that the odds were heavily stacked against me. I was what you might call, a ’true believer’. I would succeed where others have failed. I would be the exception rather than the rule. Well, in my case, it actually worked out.
But there was a period of time when my faith was shaken; when I thought that maybe things wouldn’t go according to plan. People weren’t lined up around the block to buy my book. And I began to considered that maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Nine months had gone by, and I was no closer to achieving my goals than the day I wrote the first line – or at least that was what I thought. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, was that I was laying the foundation for what would later become a fantastic career. But that’s another story.
Thinking I was just spinning my wheels and not knowing what to do next, I was about as vulnerable to scams as I have ever been in my life. Fortunately, my career took off before I fell victim to the scum who prey on the dreams of the hopeful. But, as I am sure you are aware, many aren’t so lucky.
Recently, I saw someone post on an online forum an offer that, to me, sounded too good to be true. Claiming best seller status with millions of copies sold, this person listed what on the surface appeared like the greatest offer an aspiring writer could hope to run across. It included everything from multiple email blasts to tens of thousands of this authors loyal fans, to professional covers and editing. Hell, you even got to talk to this person once a week, and go over strategies and receive help with your story – from a NYT BEST SELLING AUTHOR. I mean, wow! Who wouldn’t want that? Isn’t that worth a scant $1300?
The answer is no. It’s worth a lot more. And that’s what made me suspicious. Editing alone from a reputable editor can cost more – for just one book. And even premade covers using stock art run over $100. And this person was saying that they would produce three manuscripts, edited, formatted and ready to upload.
And then there’s the mentoring. I remember the thrill I felt the first time I had a one-on-one phone conversation with Michael J. Sullivan, then later Hugh Howey. I had been on a radio show panel about the different stages of publishing. It was me Hugh and Michael. The only reason I was there was because I knew the guy running the show. Afterward, I contacted Michael and Hugh and asked them for a bit of advice. Both were very cool, and graciously gave me some of their time. Afterward, I was over the moon with excitement. So, the idea of a weekly conversation with the top tier author would be extremely enticing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this person can back up the claims. The post was anonymous, so it’s not like anyone could dispute their story. But it smacked of a scam. It is pricy enough so that a writer with a day job, trying their best to break through, might think it’s legitimate, yet cheap enough that it’s not out of the range of affordability.
To put this into perspective, I spend between $3000-$5000 on a typical release. This includes editing, covers, formatting, and proof reading. This does not include marketing and promotion. That’s ONE book. Not three.
Were I to offer a comparable service (which I would never do), I would have to charge roughly $10,000 just to cover my own costs. This is taking into account that as my name and reputation would be on the line, the work would be professionally done by the same people who do my books. And that’s where I think part of the scam is. For $1300, I could easily do a quick edit, a premade cover, and format a manuscript. I could even farm out the work for about $500. But it sure as hell wouldn’t be professional quality. The rest – the weekly conversations and mentoring…window dressing.

What I’m trying to say is that there is no easy way. The better something sounds the more likely it will turn out to be a scam. I know it can be hard to resist the urge to believe. But before you make the leap, take a minute to think. When people offer their services, they do so with the expectation of a profit. If what they are offering simply doesn’t add up, there is a good chance you’re going to end up the victim of a scam.