Monthly Archives: May 2014
April 30th this year marked 2 years since I decided to try self-publishing and released Crimes Against Magic on an unsuspecting world. A lot has happened in 2 years. So, I thought I’d go through some of the highlights in, sort of, chronological order.
Selling a copy.
On the opening day of release in 2012, I sold 28 copies of Crimes Against Magic and was, frankly, astonished. I wasn’t really to know how things would change over the next year, but it was a hell of a start.
Getting e-mails from people.
This never gets old. Not once. I always love to hear from people who have enjoyed my work. I’d be crazy not to.
Breaking the top 10 in my genre
A great moment for me. I think the first time it happened, in July 2012, I got to #8 in urban fantasy in the US.
Publishing my second book
Born of Hatred was also self-published in Dec 2012.
Getting to the top 10 in my genre the UK.
Jan 2013, I had both books in the top 10 Urban Fantasy in the UK. It’s always nice to do well anywhere, but it was pretty special to get it that high up in my own country.
Feb 2013 I got a call from my now publisher, 47North who offered me the chance to work with them. I said yes. Turns out that was a pretty good call on my part.
September 2013, both Born of Hatred and Crimes Against Magic are re-released by 47North with edited content and new covers.
Top 100 part 1
Oct 2013 was the first time I broke the top 100 in the US and Canada.
I release my first novella, Infamous Reign. I’m quite proud of that little story, even if it did take me longer to write than Born of Hatred.
Top 100 part 2
By Feb 2014, Crimes Against Magic was in the kindle top 100 in US, Canada, UK, Germany and Australia. Born of Hatred was in UK, US and Canada.
With Silent Screams
Feb 14th was the release of Book 3, With Silent Screams. It went in the top 100 in several countries, as well as hitting the number 1 spot in 7 genres, and appears to have gone down well.
Getting a phone call from Waterstones to be asked if they can stock my books because people are asking for them was a massive moment for me.
April 2014, I got myself an agent in the form of Paul Lucas from Janklow and Nesbit.
It’s been a crazy 2 years, and I’ve met some awesome people, specifically my 47North brethren who have both incredibly fun to get to know and more help than I could possibly hope for. If there’s a closer group of writers working for any other publisher, I’d be astonished.
I’m writing Book 4, Prison of Hope, and should have a release date for you about both that and book 5 soon enough. I’ve got other things I want to write too, so I’m hoping to start the first book in a new series at the end of the year. Other than that, I have no idea what the future holds, but so long as I continue to enjoy writing and people enjoy reading my ramblings, I’ll be pretty happy.
The Hellequin Chronicles seems to have struck a chord with readers. People tell me they enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them, and I can’t ask for anymore than that.
Right, I figure it’s been too long since my last competition and it’s time for another one.
So, here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to send the MP3 of all 3 Hellequin books (Crimes Against Magic, Born of Hatred and With Silent Screams), to 2 lucky people. I’ll sign the boxes of both and the winners will probably get some other stuff put in the bag too.
This is going to be a little different, because to enter I want you to nominate 1 person who you’d like these to go to and tell me why.
That’s right, we’re going to be all altruistic about this and give these to someone you think will enjoy them. It could be your other-half, your parent, child, friend, neighbour or even random dude in the street. That last one is probably a little weird. Just tell me who and why.
Next Friday I’ll get one of my daughters to randomly pick names out of a hat and those two people will get MP3 copies of my books sent to them.
This is just a brief post to say now that everything is signed and done, I can happily announce that I’ve now acquired an literary agent in the form of the awesome Paul Lucas from Janklow and Nesbit.
Janklow and Nesbit Associates, and Paul in particular, represent many wonderful authors, and I look forward to working together.
Anytime someone says to you, “Ah, you’ve written a book, just publish it.” Ignore them. Just publishing your book, be it on Amazon or ibooks or wherever, is a terrible idea. Here’s why.
You have a book. congrats. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, have a beer and bask in your exhausted glory. Then you see someone write the above statement. They put their book out on Kindle or ibooks, and it did well, why can’t you? Well, I guarantee you they didn’t just write a book and publish it for a start.
Here’s what it should say.
1. Write a Book.
2. Edit the ever loving crap out of said book.
3. Get people to read your book. Not your loved ones or friends, but other writers or critique partners. Don’t have any? Join a writing group and get some.
4. Edit your book.
5. Research the best way for you to publish. Self publishing IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. I can’t stress that enough.
6. Write a synopsis and query letter, even if you have no intention of looking for an agent. Do it anyway, they help.
Here’s where the list diverges.
7. You can search for an agent. It’ll probably take a long time and be full of heartbreak and woe, but if your work is good enough, you’ll get one. I got mine after my publishing deal, everyone’s way of getting one is different. Don’t loose heart.
8. You decide to self publish. Congrats.
9. Edit the book. Professionally. Hire someone.
10. Get a cover. Professionally. Hire someone if you suck at art.
11. EDIT THE BOOK.
12. Research how to get to the people who would want to read your book. Figure out how much you want to price it at.
13. Research the best platform for your work. Do you want to use KDP or have it on Kobe, ibooks etc?
14. Make sure you book is formatted correctly for every format you want it in.
Now they diverge back (mostly).
15. Start building toward a launch. Use Social Media and other methods to build buzz. DO NOT SPAM PEOPLE about your book, either now or when it comes out.
16. Launch the book.
17. Learn how to deal with people who won’t like it. Or don’t read reviews. The latter is preferable, but any writer who says they don’t ever read reviews is lying or has someone do it for them.
18. DO NOT ANSWER REVIEWS. Seriously, don’t. Not even the good ones.
19. Behave professionally. Always.
20 to 19,999,999. Work your ass off.
10,000,000. If you’re lucky and good. Profit.
I’ve probably missed a few ‘edit your book’ steps, and I certainly can’t emphasise that enough.
I know, that looks like a lot, and it is, but here’s why you never ever just self-publish your book without all the work. Well there’s 2 big reasons.
1. Publishing your book is a little like playing poker. There’s a lot of skill involved, but more than that is the need to have some luck. Launching without preparing properly is like playing poker, but you’re holding a tic-tac-toe board. Launching after you prepared, is like playing poker, but you’ve stacked the deck slightly. It’s still needs a lot of skill to win, but your chances of getting a lucky hand are higher.
As a self-published writer, you’re going up against other self-published writers who know how to play the game, and traditional published authors who have backing and probably an agent’s help. You go out there cold and it’s not gonna be pretty.
Those people who just throw their book out there unprepared, are the same people (usually), who complain about no one buying or liking their work.
2. Those people who just throw their books out without proper editing and cover. Other Self-published writers don’t like them. Why? Because they’re unprofessional. You need to get your book the best life it can have, you need to lavish it with attention and love. Get it edited, get it a good cover, get wise on how to market it.
And that’s my advice for going from writing your book to publishing it. Anyone who says, just publish it, remember it’s never that easy.
To the shock of absolutely no one reading this, it turns out that writing a series isn’t easy. I’m now on book 4 of the Hellequin Chronicles and making notes for book 5, and there are plenty of things I’ve learned over the course of the series that I shall now impart for your reading pleasure. Or to enjoy the warm glow from my misery, it’s up to you.
1. You need to have a good idea of the number of books you’re going to write.
It doesn’t have to be exact. You can say 4 or 5 and do 8, but saying it’s going to be 3 books and you write 30, is probably going to mean a lot of extra work when you realise your life now consists of one series.
I always knew how many books the Hellequin was going to be. That number has grown by a few, but it’s still in the right ball-park. And no, I’m not going to say the number in case it changes. Let’s just go with many for now.
Having a number means you have a rough idea about how it ends. Which brings me on to.
2. You know how it ends.
From a personal point of view, I had to know how the series ends. Yes, that ending is capable of change, and adding new characters to the series means there’s always going to be a difference from your original view, but you should at least have a good idea of how you’re going to end the whole thing. Getting to book 6 and realising you have no more story to tell, but no idea how to end it, probably isn’t going to endear you to your readers a whole bunch.
Also, if you have an idea how it ends that makes it easier to drop hints about future plot points. I’ve learned that people like hints, they hunt for them and even the smallest thing will become fodder for discussion.
3. Spreadsheets are your friends.
I’ve used Excel most of my adult life. That might be the least interesting sentence I’ve ever written, but Excel is a beautiful thing when it comes to writing a series. The last thing you want to do is get to book 3 or 4 and write something that contradicts what you wrote in book 1. Because when you do, people will notice.
I have 1 spreadsheet with 6 tabs open. Each one for a different book, containing each character for that book. It lists where they start in the book, where they finish and anything I need to remember. For every character. No matter how small a part they have.
It’s a lot of work, but it would be almost impossible to do it without.
4. Drop Hints.
See above. People love hints. I’ve got them in every book about where things are going. Just little things that I know will pay off later in the series, but for the moment don’t really mean much. The naming of a character not in the book, a throw away sentence or something a character sees. They’re great fun to sprinkle through the books, and even more fun to see people notice them and try to figure out what they mean. I’m cruel like that.
I use Aeon Timeline. This is mostly because Nate is 1600 years old and my memory for over 1000 years of history isn’t that great. Timeline software for any character is helpful. Knowing where a character was at a moment will help you if you’re going for an epic series.
6. Write Novellas/Short Stories.
I can’t tell you how many people have asked for novellas or little short stories between books. On the minus side, yes it’s extra work, but the plus outweighs it in my opinion. People get to keep your books in mind as they wait for the next one, and in my case I have a millennium to play around with, so I can set the novellas in periods of time that my main books won’t cover.
Also you can spotlight other characters, which is a fun way of adding depth to people’s favourite characters.
7. Each book should move the overall plot forward.
If you’re writing a series, each and every book should have a forward momentum to the overall story. It might not mean much at the time, but there should be changes, or introductions, to things that will impact later on.
Every single book should be able to be read as a standalone. Whatever you need people to understand for that book should be explained in that book. Sure, if someone has read the previous books in a series they should get more out of it, but if I pick up book 5, I should be able to understand the plot without needing to go to Wikipedia to figure out who a character is.
According to my editor this gets less and less of an issue the further in the series you get, but personally, I like the idea of making the books standalone. I want people to be able to pick up the new book and enjoy it, whether they’ve read the past ones or not.
9. You’re Gonna Piss People Off.
Accept it, do it anyway. Everyone has a favourite character, and as a writer your job is to create interesting stories people want to read. Sometimes that means screwing with a character people love. Actually scratch that, it usually means screwing with a character people love. Characters die, or do things people won’t like. You can’t please everyone, so don’t bother trying. Please yourself. Okay, that sounds weird.
Basically if you’re happy with it, others will be. If you pander to people because you don’t want to upset anyone, you’re going to be the author of the dullest books in the world. You think George R.R. Martin or J.K. Rowling would stop writing something because it would upset someone? Actually, George might do it just because it would, but that’s beside the point. You write the story you need to write.
10. Don’t Needlessly Piss People Off.
Seriously, don’t. Don’t get to book 4 decide you need to shake things up and massacre half the cast with no build up. Don’t get bored with a character so do something completely out of character for them just to give them something to do. Don’t make them suddenly idiots (unless there’s a reason). Don’t do things for the sake of it. Whatever you do to your characters, or have them do, has to have a point. It has to make sense. Killing off characters is fine, sometimes it’s even shocking, but killing off people over and over again becomes less shocking and more and more boring. Don’t make your books boring.
So, there’s 10 points to think about when writing a series. There’s a bunch more I imagine, but we’ll leave it there for now. Writing a series is a lot of work, mostly in preparation and remembering what happened where, but it’s also a lot of fun. I guess I should probably get back to it.