Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Audio Rises!

Back in 2010-2012 indie publishing was in its infancy. Kindles were the hot new thing and traditional publishing was still trying to get a handle on the rapid changes occurring in the industry. But indie authors: we could adapt quickly. With lower production costs we could charge less, and through KDP retain a large portion of our royalties.
Many old school readers simply did not like the new wave of technology. They preferred the feel of a book in their hands as they enjoyed their favorite authors. But over time many of them succumbed to the allure of the kindle. With it, they could pack away hundreds of their favorite books and take them anywhere they wanted.
As its popularity increased, so did the resistance of traditional publishing. Indies were stealing away more and more market share and calling into question why they were charging so much for digital copies? This sparked outright war between traditional and indie publishing. You should have seen the scathing articles denouncing indies as hacks who were destroying literature. But we fought back…with sales and fans. Digital was where the indie lived. This was the one thing the Big Five never understood. We knew we couldn’t get into book stores. We didn’t have the distribution. But so what? We understood the new technology and could see its potential. The enemy was trying to beat us up in our own yard. Well…that didn’t work out for them.
Today, traditional publishing regards indie as an accepted part of the literary world. Okay, maybe not accepted. But tolerated. I mean, they can’t do anything about us, after all. There are still some of those jerks around who shout at the sky about how we’re ruining everything. But they’re few and far between. For the most part, we have earned our place at the table and go about our business relatively unharassed.
But just when things started to calm down, a new beast emerged from the fog. Audio Books! Sure, they’ve been around a while. But recently people have discovered how enjoyable they can be. And with new downloading technology and mobile devices, it was just what the hungry reader on the go was looking for. Even the most old-fashioned of souls had to admit it was a great way to read a book when their time was limited by the rigors of day to day life.
I remember years ago when I was doing a lot of cross country traveling; I would stop at the Cracker Barrel and pick up a book on CD for the trip. You could rent it, then return it to any location so long as you saved the receipt. But they were bulky and it took several cd’s for one book. Not very practical from the point of view of the new age technological world. But the narrations were great and I very much enjoyed the listen. Not to mention it made the trip pass by more quickly.
I remember clearly the first time I heard one of my books in audio. Derek Perkins was the narrator and did such a fantastic job, he made a book I knew better than any other new again. I had never considered an audio version. At the time, it was the territory of the Big Five. Indies barely had a presence in the market. But you know indies. We’re a bunch of rowdy disruptors if nothing else.
In no time, audio went from less than 10% of my income to a full 1/3. By the time Dragonvein came along I was convinced audio was the future. During this period, Big Five publishers were shouting that the kindle was on the decline. People were returning to hard copies, just as they had predicted. And I admit, kindle sales dropped off. But not because readers were going all retro. The drop-off rate match almost identically with the rate of the increase of audio book sales.
The traditional publishers still did not understand the kindle reader. We’re talking about a reader who is unafraid of technology; welcoming of change. Audio books are just another way for them to consume the stories they want and love. And you can read them here and there, you can read them anywhere, Sam I Am.
But some companies could see the writing on the wall and took swift action. Audible.com noticed how well indie writers were doing in the emerging format. They noticed the rise of other audio publishers that were formally below their radar. They checked the numbers and were highly impressed. And being that they are owned by Amazon, they had the financial resources to act aggressively.
This spawned a rights war that is still being waged. The Big Five were not about to simply let go of this newfound income. It was either you sign over audio, or no deal. Years ago, that would have been the end of it – game, set, match. But that was then and this is now. Audible fought back. How? With cold hard cash, of course.
Out of nowhere, advances of a few thousand dollars turned into a few hundred thousand. Now an author could sell their audio rights, retain their digital and print rights, and receive a larger advance than the Big Five offered for all of their rights combined. This has gone far to empower the author. You want all of my rights? Fine. Pay me as much as Audible, then double it. You think I care if my earnings come from paperback sales or from audio? Why should I? Indies don’t care about the pedigree that comes from being traditionally published. But now, it’s not only indies who are getting wise to this. Already several authors are fighting back and demanding either more money, or to retain their audio rights.
Where this will all end up is anyone’s guess. But once again, indies are slap-dab in the middle of it. It makes me wonder what’s next? What new format will come along that has the industry in an uproar? Whatever it is, you can bet indie writers will be jumping on it like a starving man on a loaf of bread. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Reviews and How to Cope!

In due course, every book that sells more than a handful of copies receives a bad review. Hell, they usually receive quite a few, regardless of how good you might think it is. I can’t think of one that hasn’t. And for the author, this can be painful to deal with, particularly in the beginning.

I remember the first bad review I read about The Godling Chronicles. It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I didn’t want to speak to anyone for two days. How could this have happened? Why were they not entertained by my work? And the mean things they said were just…well…mean. What had I done to deserve that? After all, I’m a nice guy. And I worked so hard! Besides, everyone else liked it. Or at least, they said they did. Were they lying to make me feel good? The possibility actually entered my mind…more than once.

It wasn’t until I peeled myself off the couch and dared to click on the Amazon site that I began to feel better. Afraid to look at my own book, lest there be more hurtful criticisms, I found myself looking at the Fellowship of the Ring page. It was then I noticed that it had quite a few one-star reviews. After reading a dozen or so, I felt as if a great weight had been lifted. If a literary mind such as Tolkien can be raked over the coals, who am I to think I won’t ever be? I still was a bit irritated, but I was able to move forward. In time, they bothered me less and less, until I learned to put them into the proper perspective.

Obviously, not all books will appeal to all readers. I mean, duh! And two plus two is four. But it’s easier to know this intellectually than to experience it. As writers, we pour ourselves into our work. We use every ounce of skill and talent at our disposal to create something worthy of praise. This leaves us extremely vulnerable and exposed. I’ve shown the world my best, or at least the best I had at the time. I then asked the reader to judge my abilities. And believe me, they do. Occasionally in a…spirited way. But that’s what I signed up for. So I grew thicker skin and gained a better perspective on my own strengths and shortcomings. Not all negative reviews are useful, but many are. They can help in ways you might not realize at first.

Through my reviews – the good, the bad, and the ugly – I have refined my approach and honed my skills. I have learned who my audience is and what they expect from me. Through the readers, I have found my place in the literary world. I know where I fit in. I know how good I am and how good I am not. I have learned to play to my strengths and work through my weaknesses.

In the end, it boils down to the fact that when you write a book and do anything other than shove it in a drawer, you are opening yourself up to criticism. And though there are reviews that are genuinely mean-spirited, most are accurate. If a reader says that your character is flat, it is--at least, from their point of view. Arguing about it is pointless. You will never convince someone they are wrong about your book. For good reason. If they didn’t enjoy it, they didn’t enjoy it. You can’t talk them into remembering that they liked it when they didn’t. This is why it is NEVER a good idea to respond to a review. Nine times out of ten you come off as a defensive china doll who can’t handle criticism. You cannot win these battles, so don’t fight them.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Your vote is appreciated!

Akiri: Dragonbane has been nominated for book of the year in the self published category. Please help me to the next round!

                                                                 Vote Here!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

So You Want to Be a Writer?

So you want to be a writer, do you? Awesome! For me, there is no better way to make a living. Believe me when I say that I have tried many other professions – from working on offshore supply boats to selling cars. I even traveled around the country playing music for a time. But nothing holds a candle to the life I have as a professional novelist. It’s not just the writing; it’s the people. The fans are wonderful, as are the other writers I’ve met. I have gone from day in, day out toil and monotony to spending my time inside my own head, thinking up new and fantastical worlds.
But it’s not all fun and games. Though the rewards are tremendous, the cost is high at times. For those of you interested in what it means to write novels for a living, I will give you a brief insight into what it is truly like and what you should expect if you are determined to pursue a career in writing.
First of all, I should explain that my experience is as unique as any other writer’s. Though there are similarities, each person travels down their own road. Moreover, I am limited to my own perspective. There are many ways to write for a living; being a novelist is but one.
As many of you know, I am an independent author. Though my audiobooks are produced through traditional publishers, the production of my kindle and paperback editions are solely my responsibility. This means hours of mind-numbingly tedious work that is added to my already heavy schedule. But it is either get it done or watch my career circle the drain. Many new authors go into indie publishing with the expectation of it being somehow easier than the traditional route. They soon learn that nothing could be further from the truth. Both methods are an uphill climb. And you are no more likely to “make it” as an indie than through traditional means. Is it quicker? Yes. You succeed or fail in far less time. But the obstacles you face are no different. It is a continuous battle to keep yourself productive and maintain focus on your goals. And even should you have a strong launch and quickly attain your sales objectives, you discover that it’s only the beginning. 
When I launch a new series, every word I write is a risk. I depart from what I know people like and throw the dice, praying that I get lucky. You might think that my previous success would ensure future sales. If only that were true!
In the world of indie publishing, two things are the key to continued success: production and quality. It is the first aspect that many find discouraging. The amount of material involved in building an audience is staggering. This year (2017) I have written four books and am scheduled for six by the end of December. You would think that after a time, I would have enough of a backlist to be able to relax somewhat. But nope! In order to remain relevant, I have to keep pumping them out. Readers of indie demand that we give them stories at a pace traditional publishing cannot keep up with. That’s the very thing that propelled indie to prominence in the first place—and it’s why readers keep coming back.
But you simply can’t bang out a bunch of words every day and expect people to read them. Maintaining quality is essential. This can really put your mind to the test. Coming up with new adventures is not as easy as one might think. A novel is more than a concept; you can’t just think of a neat plot and expect it to magically transform into a book. As they say, the devil’s in the details. Individualizing characters and then outlining a political and social structure, magic systems, and even the laws of physics all have to be taken into account. This takes time. And when time is not your ally, the pressure can mount.
It is important to have in place an editing and proofreading team so that you can move from one project to the next without missing a beat. These people need to know your work and what you expect from them without needing to bombard you with questions.
Of course, you have cover art, interior designers, and bloggers to deal with as well. But that’s another topic. For the purposes of this piece, we are focusing on the very base essentials for indie success.
The popularity of indie relates directly to the fact that we give readers an abundance of good quality stories – and we don’t overcharge. So, when you ask yourself, “Do I have a book in me?”, you need to then ask, “Do I have 20 more?”
At this point you might be saying, “Why are you being so discouraging?” I’m not. In fact, before you gain an audience, you’re in a position to take much of the weight off your shoulders before you get started. You can do this by understanding one simple thing: there is no hurry to publish. None whatsoever. 
I see all too often a mad dash to the finish line; new authors chomping at the bit to click on the “publish” icon. Are they ready? Usually the answer is no, and for many reasons. The one that relates to what I am talking about pertains to the possibility of initial success. What if your first book sells like crazy? Are you ready for that? Do you have a follow up? Do you have the time to write one? How long did it take you to get the first one written and edited? Because let me tell you, once sales start happening, you have about 90 days – then poof. It’s over. Sure, there are exceptions. But typically, that’s your window. After that, sales begin to dwindle, and you lose your initial push. Why not wait and have three or four books written ahead of time? Put yourself into a position to take full advantage of that initial momentum. You can use this time to expand your network and build yourself a solid foundation on which you can launch a career that has both stability and longevity.
Quantity and quality are not the only factors, but they are the most fundamental. Before you dive into indie publishing with the hopes of quitting your day job, you need to have the relevant information. You need to know your own capabilities. Can you write four or more books per year? That single question is enough to tell you if you should consider traditional publishing.
I know indies often frown at the idea of going traditional. Mostly it’s backlash from years of being looked down upon by the “real writers” who are signed with one of the Big Five publishers. We’ve spent so long taking veiled insults and defending our right to publish without the gatekeepers standing in our path that many of us feel somewhat bitter. But there is nothing wrong with a writer who wants to go the old-fashioned route. Is it slower? Yes. But not every writer is cut out for the breakneck pace of indie. It can be absolutely soul-draining. There are times I just want a break – a few months of…well…not writing. But I can’t do that. I have chosen my path. I’m not complaining. But there are realities I face that can’t be ignored. And my family depends on me.
I think all I am trying to say is that before you embark on your journey, do your research. Make sure you are going down the road that is right for you. Indie sounds very appealing, particularly when you know that with traditional publishing you will face rejection after rejection. But make no mistake, with indie you face it too. Instead of agents and publishers, it’s readers. But unlike agents and publishers, readers reject you in a very public and sometimes cruel manner.
Whatever course you choose, know that becoming a writer is a wonderful thing. Despite all of its pitfalls and heartaches, there is nothing quite like the feeling of hearing a reader telling others how much they enjoyed your work. The sense of personal validation is like nothing else I have experienced. I hope you find in writing all that I have found…and more.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SPFBO? What's That?

Many of you will have no idea what the SPFBO is. It stands for Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and has been instrumental in shining a light on both individual indie writers as well as indie fantasy as a whole. Created in 2015 by the best-selling author Mark Laurence, the SPFBO provides hundreds of indies the unique opportunity to have their work reviewed by top fantasy sites, with thousands of followers. These sites typically review and discuss traditionally published authors and would rarely consider reading an indie novel.

The rules are simple. There are 300 entries spread among 10 review sites. Each site narrows it down to 1. And from those 10, a winner is chosen. The prize: aside from the review itself, exposure and prominent mention by a world-famous author…and I think he sends a trophy. This may not sound like much. But for those of us who have spent countless hours soliciting reviews and doing anything we can think of to get noticed, it’s a pretty big deal. Big enough that not only did I enter, but several of the top selling indies out there did the same.

As with any literary contest, the judging process is subjective. There is the possibility a book could end up in the hands of a reviewer who simply prefers a different style. But it’s as fair as it can be, given the number of books. But the point of it isn’t winning the contest. Well, not to me. Getting these high-volume sites to review an indie is nearly impossible. And here is an opportunity to spread your name. If you lose, fine. But they might remember you. They might even have liked your book enough to recommend it. Bare minimum you get a critique from a highly thought of reviewer. And so far, the reviews that have come in from those eliminated have been thoughtful and carefully crafted. No. Not all of them were 5 star. But they were constructive, and many left spots where the author could use a quote – another big deal.

Speaking of quotes, I asked Mark Lawrence to give me one about the SPFBO and he had this to say: “The SPFBO, or Spiffbo to its friends, is a collective effort that has become far more than I imagined it would be. It has made a huge difference to several excellent writers and a small difference to a great many more. It's one of the things I am most proud of, although my contribution is quite small." Mark is far too modest about his contribution. He is in constant contact with the participants through the social media site, and has been a true source of inspiration. Hell, he even gave me the quote I asked for the next day.

Why a guy like Mark Lawrence, a traditionally published, best-selling fantasy author with no specific ties to indie of which I am aware, would take the time to help indie authors is a question only he can answer. But I’m glad he did. So if you haven’t read his work, do so. Not only will you be reading a book written by one of today’s most talented writers, you’ll be supporting someone with a heart of gold and a true champion of the literary world. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

99¢ Sale on Akiri!

From now until Tuesday September 19th. Don't miss out!

      Click the link below

   Amazon US

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tropes! Tropes! And More Tropes!

To trope or not to trope? That is the question. One to which no small amount of discussion has been dedicated. Does the world really need another farmboy with a secret destiny? Have elves become old and tired? Do you really want another rock hammering, tunnel drilling dwarf? You bet! But then, I love the tropes. I don’t need them. But I love them regardless. I admit it can be overdone. And if the story is weak, all the elves in Elrond’s army won’t make it better. That’s where I think people get turned off.

I’ve always believed that a good story should be able to translate into nearly any genre. Simply adding elves, dwarves, dragons, magic, etc., isn’t enough. And if the writer is lazy about it, the tropes become annoying. Simply ramming a prophecy in so that the plot makes sense, or to use in place of subtle foreshadowing is a fine example. Not that there is a thing wrong with a good prophecy. Done well, it can add an air of mystery and be used to enhance the book’s ah-ha moments.

The races in fantasy are another bone of contention. But again, we run into the same issues. Elves, dwarves, trolls, orcs, are absolutely wonderful in my view. Overdone? Yes. But so what? Again, it’s not the frequency of their use, it’s the way they are portrayed. Creating a society is not easy. It’s meticulous, time consuming, and often frustrating work. Simply ripping off Tolkien is a sure-fire way to turn off a reader. No one wants another group of eternal know-it-alls. If they are so damn wise, why didn’t they get rid of the bad guy in the first place? And why do they all have to live in trees? Are they cousins to the mighty squirrel? But if you give them a real history; one that is complicated and perhaps a bit tumultuous, they can be fabulous additions to your world. This is true with any of the trope races. I think it’s when there is an utter absence of thought and depth you see the “trope haters” take exception. And who can blame them? Orcs are evil, elves good, dwarves xenophobic mole people, and humans…in power and governing the world, yet at the same time the least special and weakest race. Yeah. It’s easy to see why an avid fantasy reader could scream, ENOUGH!

And there is the plotting. How better to start a good fantasy novel than with…wait for it…the farmboy? But hey! I like the farmboy plot. Though massively overused, it is a great way to launch an adventure. Now keep in mind the farmboy doesn’t have to be an actual farmboy. Your hero can be a farmgirl. Or the child of a blacksmith. Or whatever. The point is the unlikely hero. A mundane person who discovers they were special all along. The reason it works so well is that people desperately want to see themselves this way – a lowly worker bee with untapped potential and undiscovered greatness. How could you not relate to that? And there isn’t a thing in the world wrong with it. But if you use this plot, you must use caution. Pay close attention to how you flesh out the main character. When using a common theme, you have to make up for it with great characters and exciting storytelling. It’s one thing to rehash the farmboy plot. It’s something else to do so with two dimensional characters and jaw-droppingly predictable storytelling. You’ll lose the reader…even the trope loving kind. This applies to other common themes such as the dark assassin, disgraced soldier, and the lost prince or princess, to name but a few. Use it. But you’ll need to step up your game.

Tropes in general are not bad. They provide a sense of familiarity that I, along with many readers, find pleasing, and even comforting in a way. Used well, they can help paint a picture of your fantasy world that can transport a reader away from their hum-drum and provide a bit of pleasure in an otherwise harsh life. It’s when they are used in place of well-considered storytelling that they begin to annoy people. You have to strike that balance between the familiar and the new. It’s a tightrope walk, to be sure. But no one ever said being a writer was easy.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

BookBub Follower Drive!

Hey everyone! I'm on a drive to get more BookBub followers. Think you can help me out a bit?

My BookBub Profile


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. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

News is Scary!

As I am weary of turning on the television and being frightened out of my wits by one news alert after another, I have decided to focus on getting healthy – both mentally and physically. The mental part is a challenge when you sit at a desk all day basically talking to yourself. But I am finding time to step away and enjoy the quaint little town I call home.

Fairhope is…well…imagine if San Francisco and Mayberry had a love child. Nestled along the banks of Mobile Bay, it’s one of those places that you see in postcards, but know that it couldn’t possibly exist in real life. The people are friendly, the streets and buildings immaculate, and being in the Deep South, the weather allows you to enjoy the amenities almost year-round. The downtown boasts dozens of boutiques, eateries, a mom and pop book store, and even a small museum where you can learn the local history.

Down by the bay is a pier where one can fish, go out to dinner, or just take a stroll. When I was a kid, we would walk to the end and watch the heat lightning illuminate the thunderheads far off in the Gulf of Mexico. It was our own personal fireworks display. And it seemed to always be there to show off for us when we came. I remember once, when I was about nine, my uncle took me there fishing. No sooner had we baited our hooks when he dropped an extremely nice pocket knife which he had just bought that very day into the water. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he stared down for more than a minute. Bob has a calm manor about him. But I think he wanted to scream bloody murder at that moment. Occasionally, I’ll walk to the spot where he dropped it, wondering if it’s still there. But the water is too deep and the bottom too soft for me to ever try solving that particular mystery. From downtown to the bay, Fairhope is a town stuck in time. Some of the buildings are different and there are some new shops. But it’s more or less as it was when I was a child. And yet there are changes which I find unsettling.

Where once Fairhope was a well-kept secret populated by a small number of long-time residents, who although a bit set in their ways, maintained the town’s charm and beauty, it is now bursting at the seams with newcomers. Just finding parking can remind me of the years I spent living in New York. In the outlying areas, new subdivisions have sprung up to accommodate this influx of people. New schools have been built (my old high school is now the elementary school). And the small festivals have turned into major public events. Still, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can stroll down main street and window shop until your heart is content. And if the heat is too much, sooner or later a cool breeze from the bay bearing just a hint of salt and honeysuckle will be along to make it all better. 

As for the physical…not nearly as quaint. I’ve been going to the gym and “sweating to the oldies”. Once upon a time, I was in very good condition. No more. I’ve become a doughy, middle-aged man who looks at a flight of stairs with dread. I have a long road ahead of me. But I didn’t get this way overnight. So, it will take time. What I am looking forward to, is when you start actually feeling good after a workout. Not feeling as if I just finished working at a Roman quarry under the relentless crack of a whip; every muscle aching and head throbbing to the beat of my heart. Two months, I’m told. I can hold out that long….I think.

In any event, it’s better than watching the news.    

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Speech! Speech!

This post will be short. And though it may sound political, I assure you it is not.
As a writer, I am a staunch supporter and advocate of free speech. For me, it is the well-spring from which all other freedoms are drawn. Without it, I would not be able to create. Rather, I would have to conform to a prescribed format that fit the narrative of those who have decided for you and for me what may or may not be said and heard. Great stories would have never been told. Entire genres of literature would not exist. Music and art would be lifeless and uniform. But it goes deeper than the aesthetic.

Without free speech, there is no innovation. Science and technology are based on ideas and flights of fancy. And when minds are stifled and ideas controlled, the imagination required to turn mere concepts into world changing advances evaporates. There is no moon landing, cell phones, personal computers, internet, GPS, quantum mechanics, cosmology, medical breakthroughs, or any of the thousands of things we have come to depend upon and that make our lives both richer and longer.

It is a challenge to listen to speech you find repulsive and offensive. But if my right to free speech meant I had to listen attentively for an hour every day to someone who makes my blood boil and my skin crawl…I would suffer it gladly.     

Friday, February 10, 2017

Who Cares What I Think?

It’s been asked of me if I have any strong political opinions. Or more to the point, did I support Clinton or Trump? I naturally refused to answer. But I was curious why it was important for this person to know. I discuss politics quite often. But I do so at home and with those close to me. I find it to be a subject best left off Facebook and Blogs. 
The person who had asked was a long-time reader who had thought she had noticed certain political statements hidden within my books. I explained that there is none – or at least none of which I am aware. My job is to entertain, not preach. And though certainly my beliefs might occasionally spill onto the page, it is never intentional.
 Why would anyone care what I think about politics anyway? What qualifies me to tell someone else what they should think or feel? I’m a writer of fiction, not a pundit – though sometimes it seems like the same thing. But the fact remains I have no special qualifications that would make it advisable for me to go running my mouth off about the left or the right wings of our politics.
Don’t misunderstand. I speak out about absolute wrongs. But liberalism and conservatism are not absolutes. They are complex philosophies that take on many shades of grey and often overlap. And though I do have my own views, I would guess that my readers do too. I’m sure you have enough to think about without being subjected to mine.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Vote for the Spacie Awards nominees! Remember - A vote for me is a vote of kittens, puppies, and chocolate.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Dragonvein - Book Five! It's Here

Huzzah's are in order! Dragonvein - Book Five is finally available for kindle. Thank you for following this story that has been such a distinct pleasure to write. I hope it has been as much of a blast for you as it has been for me.                  
 And don't worry. Paperbacks and Audio versions will be forthcoming. 

Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon AU   Amazon CA