Soon…

Grimluk 2 is coming along. I finally finished the chapter 2 rewrite and started chapter 3. I had to do chapter 2 completely fresh, with only a few bits and pieces good for recycling into the second draft and it took me a bit longer to get it nailed down. Chapter 3 and onward will go much smoother once I get the beginning redone so it fits with chapter 2. I’m sure there’s stuff later on that I’ll have to scrap or rework but I doubt I’ll have to completely rewrite a chapter. I was pretty happy with the majority of what was in the first draft. We’ll see what happens as I get through it though.

Which brings me to the real news. I’ll be launching the Kickstarter campaign for Grimluk 2 on the 31st, which also includes revealing the title. This go round, I don’t have a cover yet, but I’ve tried to build a much more visually appealing campaign page and I feel pretty good about the reward tiers. I even made themes for them. So keep watch and stay sharp.

2015 – A Review

Given how much has happened in my life this year, I figured a retrospective was in order. The year ends tonight and next year is already shaping up to be eventful in some usual and some new ways.

My year started off rocky. After getting moved, January was almost entirely me fighting off depression and feeling like a giant fraud of a writer. I was pushing on A Demon in the Desert as much as I could. February was rough too but had more progress. Stan Nichols liked my facebook page too. That was surreal. Sometimes I still think about asking if he’ll read it and offer some public thoughts.

March saw my work increase a lot and I tried off some promotion, posting snippets each week for kickstarter backers and others alike. I’d also attempted to start a Patreon (that ultimately I shut down as I wasn’t comfortable continuing it and by then, I’d managed to get one person interested). It helped me keep my writing schedule consistent but that’s about it. I’ve also apparently been working on map stuff for almost a year, off and on. I started the original map while I was running the kickstarter last year, I think and ended up scrapping it and starting over this summer. March also saw me get diagnosed with diabetes.

That diagnosis took a lot of focus and after experimenting with medication and stabbing myself several times a week, I shunned the meds in favor of overhauling my eating habits. I’m still having issues with that in some ways but I managed to go from an A1C of 13 down to 7.4 just from reducing or eliminating a lot of shit from my diet. Namely not sucking down regular sodas all day.

I used the Camp Nano from April to help get work done on A Demon in the Desert and had some folks read through sections and give me notes. By the time the end of May rolled around, I had declared myself DONE and then learned that releasing a book can be a pretty quick process. I meant to release the paperback on June 1st but instead, released it on May 28th. Either way, I got everything set up, ordered a box, sent everyone their digital copies, signed everything, boxed it up, and got it all shipped out. Then I started selling.

My first month has been my best month, followed by October. June saw me sell 18 copies total, I think. October was 14 or 15. July taught me an important lesson: never have 99c sales when you only have one book. Not a smart business decision. I spent most of the summer and part of the fall learning about making business decisions. And I’ve had some helpful tips from other writers. In particular, Krista D. Ball has been a huge help and became a fast new friend. In May, I’d also finally made use of the guest post Ed Erdelac offered me over on his blog and in July, I was r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day. Both turned out pretty good.

Then I turned 30 this year. The first half of the year was filled with adjusting to a new location, family stuff, health stuff, finishing and then releasing a book, and hitting the big Three Oh. Not bad.

After finishing the book, I took a little break and then banged out “From Tusk Til Dawn.” Submitted it to a couple of magazines but got rejections on it and decided to toss it up on Patreon. Still pretty happy about that story. That was all in July and after that, towards the end of the month, I started Grimluk 2.

Between July 23rd and October 23rd, I wrote 30,000 words. Which was a big goddamn deal. It took me about a year to get to 40,000 on the first book. Amazingly, November saw me prove that I really can do this seriously as I used Nanowrimo to keep writing and wrote nearly 37,000 words, finishing the first draft on the 26th with a little over 67,000 words. I’ve gotten a little work done on the second draft now and I can say with 100% confidence that book 2 is gonna knock people’s socks off. It’s bigger and better. Hell, I even took something a reviewer said about the plot of the first one and made it a point in the second one.

Now here I am, December 31st, reflecting on everything. December’s been difficult. Yes, I’ve had a year of very hard work and I’m proud of that but I’ve spent a year pretty isolated too. Nici and I don’t really do a whole lot and Auburn’s a college town so making friends has been, well, not really possible. The holidays are hard too, for both of us.

I really want to hope that 2016 will be a lot better in those regards. I hope that the kickstarter for Grimluk 2 will succeed. I hope it does at least as well as the first one. I hope that maybe I can attend a convention. I hope that I can finish Grimluk 2 and then bang out the first draft for the third book.

I hope you meet your own goals next year. I hope you succeed and grow. I hope you have a good 2016.

-Ashe

Beyond Nanowrimo

It is December 1st, which means Nanowrimo has come to an end. The goal was 50,000 words in a month. On that metric, I failed. I hit 37,000 words. I also started November with 30,000. So, while I failed at the 50K, I definitely succeeded elsewhere. I proved that I’m more than capable of working far harder than I had originally guessed. Going forward, I’ll be able to bust out a first draft within three months, hitting roughly 30,000 words each month. That feels awesome and will make this career that much more obtainable. The harder part will be doing a kickstarter for a new book once a year until I can pay for editing and art out of my own pocket. We’ll see how that goes.

Now, speaking of Kickstarter, I’ll be starting the campaign for Grimluk 2 in February. Before it goes live, I’ll reveal the name of the book, the (tentative) blurb, and anything else that comes up. Unlike the first book, I won’t have a cover to help sell this campaign with but I’ll have some other things. And also unlike the first book, I’m going in with a completed first draft. Grimluk 2 is already bigger and better than its predecessor and my efforts on Kickstarter will be as well.

For anyone else who’s completed Nano, keep going. Start your next draft or finish the first one and keep kicking ass.

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My final Nano count.

Nanowrimo Days 5-24

I won’t bother posting through the screencaps of my word counter (via Scrivener’s wonderful project targets feature) for every day since the last time I posted. I will say that I have been kicking ass this month. I’m not as far as I could have been but that was from a conscious decision on day 12 that I needed my goddamn weekend. I usually take Fridays and Saturdays off. Run errands, clean, veg out, generally just do some of the things I don’t do during my work days. It’s helped me continue on, and last week, I finally had my first day where I hit 2000 words. A milestone for me.

After last night, my Nanowrimo word count is 34,237 with my project total sitting at 64,000 and just a touch over that last 237. I’m also nearly done with the first draft. Which may seem weird since my goal for Nanowrimo was to write 50,000 words in hopes of hitting an 80,000 word first draft. That hasn’t happened but that’s okay. I’ll be finishing up the final chapter this week and then beginning the second with a rewrite of the first four-ish chapters. Definitely the first two and probably the third as well. All of which will probably be condensed to one chapter. As I wrote on, the chapters started leveling out between 3400-4500 words.

Given I’m nearing 70,000, I’m confident that I’ll hit my 80,000 word goal in the second draft. On top of rewrites, I have a lot of additions and expansions to make, and lots of areas that need filling out (not to mention finishing out a whole section of the final battle). I’m pretty damn proud of how hard I’ve worked these past four months and it’s paid off big time. My plans for a February kickstarter look solid too and I hope that one succeeds as well as the previous book.

Nanowrimo 2015, Days 1-4

After a nervous start on Sunday evening, I started day 1 of this year’s Nano with a bang, shooting a fair ways over the daily minimum. Day 2 was the same, with Day 3 being even better. Tonight, Day 4, I just barely went over the minimum but it was a deliberate choice because the next section is gonna be an emotional one. It feels pretty fuckin amazing too. The first three days saw me do a half month’s work as compared to the previous three months (10K a month for a 30K total). I feel extremely confident that I’ll get this first draft finished by the end of Nano and start whipping it into shape for a kickstarter campaign in February. You can see my daily word counts below. I’ve taken to using Scrivener, which has a handy project target tool that includes total and session counts. More updates to come.

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Day 1
nano-day2
Day 2
nano-day3
Day 3
nano-day4
Day 4

New Stories!

Bit of an update to go with these new stories as well. I’ve shut down my Patreon. After the security breech, and the fact that I’ve only had one patron, I figured I should just put it on the back burner for now. In the meantime, I’ll be uploading everything I posted there and then occasionally adding new pieces as well. The most important two, however, are the ones I’ll be linking below, as the first was going to be a part of this month’s postings, and was a request from said patron, and the second is the short story I had submitted for publication and was so excited for over the summer. Happy reading, y’all.

“Sadie’s Kitchen”

“From Tusk Til Dawn”

Patreon and an Update

While I haven’t gotten tons of writing done this week, I did get more plotting done for the second Grimluk book, which will help. The book’s coming along at near 15,000 words, almost a fifth of the 80K goal. And in only a month a half, that beats the hell out of my pace for the first book.

In other news though, it’s Friday and September so it’s time for a new story. “From Tusk Til Dawn” is now up on Patreon. Part of me kind of hates doing this because I really really want folks to read this story and realistically, putting it as backers only means few people will, buuuuut I’m also trying to be a professional here. So, for those who haven’t heard, this story is about a lady orc wanderer who ends up having a close encounter of the fanged kind.

https://www.patreon.com/ashearmstrong

Why Pro-Wrestling Made Me A Better Storyteller

A hush falls over the crowd in anticipation of what’s to come. The lights go out and a great gong rings out. Everyone in the building erupts as the organ hits and the funeral dirge begins. Blue light and artificial flashes of lightning fill the dark as a tall figure emerges, clothed in a long coat and a wide-brimmed hat. Smoke billows around his feet as he stares down the aisle at his opponent in the ring. He walks, slowly, deliberately, even somberly down to the ring, letting the tension build. As he ascends the steps to the ring, he stops at the top, pausing for a moment before slowly raising his arms, and with them, the lights of the arena. He steps into the ring and after another pause, he reaches up slowly and removes his hat, contorting his face into a grim and demonic visage of strength and intimidation. AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA! The Undertaker is ready to fight.

For those of you unfamiliar with that scene, you can check it out one of the more recent versions here, from Wrestlemania 27. The Undertaker is probably my favorite wrestler of all time and without a doubt, one of my favorite characters ever. Sure, little Ashe was a Hulkamaniac. Much in the same way that kids love John Cena, it was an inescapable part of being a kid who loved wrestling. But I also loved the Macho Man and Jake the Snake and The Undertaker (the former two I learned to appreciate even more as an adult, while Hogan…well, let’s just say Hulkamania finally died). And Undertaker, along with his early manager, the late, great, ever spooky, Paul Bearer (ooooooh, yes!), stayed with me the most.

Here was a man whose gimmick was that he was Dead. Supernatural. An otherworldly gravedigger who would hand-build you a coffin before putting you in it. Now, if you’re not a fan, you’re probably saying, “Ashe, wrestling isn’t real and it’s for children, grow up.” And to that I say…I don’t care. The character was amazing. He was spooky and powerful and stood out. Where most wrestlers had flashy outfits and yelled their promos, Undertaker rumbled gravely words of threat at you while Paul Bearer hyped him up. In the ring, he would surprise you by moving quick, striking fast and hard, and sitting up and staring his opponent down after they hit their finisher.

But that’s just one character. I spent years watching WWE. We all look fondly back at what is now called the Attitude Era. You may know this as the era that brought us Stone Cold Steve Austin and the most electrifying man in sports-entertainment today, The Rock. Not to mention the height of Mick Foley’s career, the creation of D-Generation X, and the now infamous Monday Night Wars with WCW. The mid-to-late 90s was a helluva time for a wrestling fan.

But characters…theatricality…stories…this is what I really want to talk about. You’ve seen the theatricality of the Undertaker. It goes beyond just entrances though. In ring, the performers tell stories with their bodies. There are tricks to the moves for safety, sure, and they plan the high spots out in advance but they can still get hurt and they do. But they tell their stories with brawling and technical moves and power moves and whirling, breath-taking moves. It’s theater, it’s ballet, it’s goddamn kung fu movies but live and with no wires! Watch enough and you develop a strong sense of flow with action. I credit wrestling with helping me write actions scenes that reviews have commented weren’t overdone or too long.

On top of all this, you take a teenage me, the internet, and online roleplaying and you get to e-wrestling. This most definitely helped me way early on at learning some things about writing and storytelling in a more general sense. When I started, I was garbage and I wanted my character to basically be Raven, except a powerhouse. Then he became Kevin Nash but less of a dick. THEN I reintroduced his cousin who was metalhead version of Raven with a side of Bill & Ted. Again, garbage all around but the latter bit actually saw me step my writing attempts way the hell up. And you worked with the other RPers. You could, conceivably, plan huge storylines with someone else (which I did twice and had plans to do so with another person before she disappeared and I got bored).

And these weren’t just promo pieces like you see on TV. These combined with episodic storytelling. We wrote mini-stories. We might write about house show matches (the shows that aren’t on TV or pay-per-view) and a promo, or do a whole thing that had nothing to do with your next match and was completely ridiculous and silly. You got to win matches by entertaining the moderators the most. It’s really hard to just do that with your basic promo when you are completely in charge of your own storylines. So you tried shit and like the real thing, sometimes you’d drop something cause it sucked or didn’t work right or you got sick or whatever. It was great practice and, again, like the real thing, when it was good, it was damn good.

So, I guess my ultimate point here is that this is why wrestling is still important to me. I’m much, MUCH more critical of the WWE these days and primarily only keep up with the NXT roster (which is well worth the 10 bucks a month for a WWE Network subscription), but it still hits me and I’m still impressed with great matches and great spots and it still helps me. If you’ve read A Demon in the Desert, I actually had Grimluk clothesline someone and powerbomb someone else. I also outright wrote in the Wyatt Family because Bray Wyatt single-handedly got me to come back to watching wrestling last summer.

If you want the tl;dr version of all this, then basically, watch the following video. And also remember that Max Landis is a giant toolbag but he nailed wrestling in his video.

A Demon in the Desert Reviews – Some Favorite Snippets

I figured that with a combined total of 8 reviews between Amazon and Goodreads that I’d share some of my favorite pieces of each. All but two at the moment are from kickstarter backers, but I’m still excited that anyone has taken the time to review at all. I’m giving a name, whether they were a backer, and where the review came from.

Steph Lehenbauer was nice enough to do a review for her column over at Rock and Hill Studio (and posted a short version on goodreads and Amazon). My favorite bit from her review says, “Grimluk, the main character, is an intriguing guy. He’s an orc, but a nice one. A friendly giant. I always love these sorts of characters. (Hagrid springs to mind.) He’s also plenty bad-ass. Early in the book is a scene in which he pistol whips some zombies, always good fun. He has a very honorable sort of character that I enjoyed; he’s kind of the anti anti-hero. He’s Captain America in the Hulk’s body, which was a fun combo.

“The supporting characters are a fun bunch, and you get a good feel for their different personalities and a bit of their backgrounds. I really enjoyed reading it, and the final battle had me with goosebumps and giggles (as an avid D&D player, I was picturing my group and I in the same situation and it was magnificent).” – Samantha, kickstarter backer via Amazon

“I have to say I found this a fun, action-oriented, pulpy read that’s great brain candy. It features a diverse cast of interesting weirdos, and the underexplored weird west genre is celebrated fully within it’s pages. I’m excited for the further adventures of Grimluk!” – Pope, kickstarter back via Amazon. This was also his entire review haha.

“This is Ashe’s first novel, and it’s a very promising first effort. I love the Grimluk character, and I love the setting. It’s a post apocalyptic wasteland loaded with monsters and demons. This fits into the ‘Weird Western’ genre, as it’s basically a western storyline. However, it’s also loaded with elves, orcs, and magic, so there are fantasy elements too. There’s also horror, so we get a blending of several genres.” – Quentin, backer via goodreads.

I can’t remember reading any Westerns before, but I’m glad that my first one was a Weird Western. The concept of this book grabbed me the moment I heard about it, so much so that it became the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter. Nice deconstruction of fantasy tropes. There’s orcs, humans, dwarves, and elves, and yet each of the characters felt like they had personalities of their own, independent of common fantasy race characteristics.” – Ariel, backer via goodreads.

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was its general tone and subtle/dry sense of humor. No, it’s not a “comedy,” but there were some spots that garnered chuckles from me. I think my favorite line is still (the understated),”I hate ghouls. They’re so…tedious.” And I have to say that I can see that as being the truth, and I’ll probably consider that every time I see a ghoul in a story from here on out.” C, backer via goodreads (and better known as wilburwhateley for tumblr folks).

I really enjoyed the fight at the end. I was hoping there was something big to happen to warrant the amount of time spent on investigation. Ashe certainly delivered on that. I also really liked how everything was connected in the end and even though the ‘battle’ was won in the end, there was so much tragedy that it didn’t really feel like they had. I really like when books do that, because the ‘everything worked out and everyone is happy’ type of ending get a little boring sometimes.” – Heather, backer via goodreads.

The protagonist was likeable and interesting, being a Hellboyish “big scary guy with enormous gun that is actually very nice once you know him”. All the action scenes were cool and the little horror stories through the book were deliciously creepy.” – Felipe, via goodreads.

Most of the reviews have been 3-star, and I’m pretty pleased with that (couple of 3.5s, a 4, and a 5 as well). The full reviews were very constructive and I appreciated it a lot. I actually ended up talking with Heather more in-depth after she volunteered on facebook to read the short story I was working on for submission to a magazine and some of the perceived harshness of her full review was altered. The biggest thing I’m happy about is how well received the characters were and that, despite what could be counted as a rough start, everyone seems to be fully on board for seeing more of Grimluk.

And boy oh boy, you’re gonna see a lot more of him in the next one.

Things I Learned Writing A Demon in the Desert

I’ve been bouncing this idea around my head for a few weeks now, and especially after reading one of my kickstarter-backer reviews, and seeing the latest version of this from an author guest posting on Chuck Wendig’s blog, I figured it was time to get it out. There was a colossal amount of learning involved in this book. So I’m going to attempt to run through all of it. Some of it will be about kickstarter, some about writing a whole goddamn book, and some aspects of the business of being an author-publisher. I hope it’ll be helpful for any hopeful writers. So, let’s do this.

Writing

  • This will sound cliché, and it is, but after seeing various writers get the question (and me ASKING one or two), I feel it deserves first billing here. Do the writing. Ass to chair, fingers to keyboard. But here’s the thing some of us might not realize about doing The Work: you don’t have to bang out 1000 words a day. Especially if that’s not normal for you. If you have any sort of mental illness, it’s probably safe to say that this will be a struggle for you. It was for me. Some nights were easier than others. Some nights were outright battles just to get two sentences out. Which leads into the next point…
  • Set a minimum goal. When I started the book, it wasn’t even a book. It was a short story (or at least, I thought that’s what it would be). For the first couple of months, my daily goal was, believe it or not, just two sentences. Most of the time, I flew past my daily goal but having that goal was good. Cause Ass-to-chair and a daily goal adds up. And you can increase it as you’re able. I was still struggling a lot with depression, so two sentences was good. It was achievable, it gave me little bits of momentum, and they add up. You do The Work and it adds up. You write two sentences five days a week, sure, it’s not a lot over a month, but that’s not the point. Word count can be important but it’s not a taskmaster. You’re the writer, so if you feel like you’ll struggle at first, start small. There’s no shame in it. Each day, you’ll have more words than you had the day before. That’s how stories get done.
  • On the flip side though, you absolutely cannot force yourself. There were nights where I sat down and my brain was static. I could squeeze a few words out and each one felt wrong. Those are the nights where it’s better for you to just step back, go get a snack, and try to just relax. Especially if you have to deal with health issues. It’s important to realize that sometimes, you just need a small break. Related to this is that some nights, you get stuck and you gotta step back and chew on the story some. There were plenty of nights where I had ideas but when I started moving forward, I got stuck. One thing that helped me a lot was something Ed Erdelac recommended, though I’m not sure if I followed exactly like he suggested. When I got stuck, I’d drop down from the story and make plot blocks. I’d write out where I wanted to go in the most bare bones manner. “Jack meets Jill. Jill shows Jack the hill. A demon escapes the well at the top of the hill and pushes Jack and Jill down it. Jack’s corpse becomes the new home for the demon.” I was surprised at how much headway I made doing that.
  • And after all that, it does get easier once you start finding your stride. I was unable to focus on writing last June and December but once I got going again, I regained my momentum. By the time March rolled around, I felt like I was busting my ass, in a good way. I was hitting 500-1000 words a night and that does feel good. You learn tricks as you go, like the plot blocks, and you learn to recognize your work habits. Just keep going. And remember…
  • FIRST DRAFTS DON’T HAVE TO BE AMAZING. Yours might be, mine wasn’t. Mine was garbage. But it was a start.

Kickstarter

  • I’ve said this to everyone who would listen because, quite frankly, I jumped the Kickstarter gun way too damn soon. DO NOT start your campaign unless you have at least two drafts done. Bare minimum, if you just can’t stand it, or if you’re actually experienced with everything BUT running a crowdfunding campaign, make sure you have a finished first draft. I know that this sounds incredibly obvious. “No duh, Ashe, who’s that dumb?” Hi. I am that dumb. My first draft wasn’t even finished when I started my campaign. Hell, I didn’t even write The End til March this year. This hurt the book because…
  • I vastly underestimated how much work I had to do when I started the campaign. Originally, I had planned to release A Demon in the Desert in March. That is freaking ridiculous. That is…unreal. But by the time I figured that out, I’d reached 100% funding somehow and then I was stuck. Now, I know that my friends would’ve understood if I’d said “I can’t release the book til late summer” but my friends would’ve been thrilled (and were thrilled) to read my poo poo first draft. But between how much work I had left and the fact that I had to orchestrate a move from Tulsa, OK to Auburn, AL meant that there was no way I would meet a March deadline period. So I begged forgiveness and said I’d shoot for a late June release.
  • So you’re gonna start a kickstarter campaign. Are you 100% prepared? No, no you’re not. And there’s no way to be 100% prepared but you can get close. You can set a full campaign up without making it live. And if you’ve never done one before, you’ll definitely want to do this since you’ll have to set up an Amazon Payments account to receive the funds should you hit 100% funding. That can take a few days to a week to process. And what about promotional material? Do you have a cover? Do you have promo art? Do you have reading samples? Are you prepared to make regular updates? Have you planned out your rewards and prices? Do you have a budget? Did you then factor in the processing fees that Kickstarter and Amazon take out? You’ll want to do that. I set my goal for $850 dollars and ended up with $775 after processing. Now, I ended up doing things a little different than I originally planned so it worked out but trust me, it’s better to be over-prepared. And while we’re on money…
  • You’ll still need more than you think when you’re setting things up. Because if you’re new to the whole concept and business like I was (and still am), there are things you didn’t think about or factor in. Have you looked at editor costs? I had no idea about freelance editors. Not one. And editors don’t just make sure you use the right words or make sure the grammar’s correct. The full editing process involves a professional helping you hone the story, sharpening into a finely crafted weapon of feels. And what about a cover artist? Despite “don’t judge a book,” people absolutely do judge a book by its cover. And if you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or horror, you want, you need a good cover. You can find artists to fit all kinds of budgets (and editors too), but trust me, you want to include that in there if you can’t afford it out-of-pocket. I was fortunate enough to get the cover before the campaign because I already knew what I wanted it to look like and my mom was nice enough to help me pay for it. Someone said recently that my goal seemed “reasonable.” Making a book is actually pretty expensive and I undersold myself. Be transparent about the costs too. Budget breakdowns are helpful to backers.
  • So you’ve started the campaign, how do you get backers? Well, you definitely don’t run around anywhere you can find posting about it. I have learned much about self-promo and the biggest aspect of doing it is presentation. When you’re a newbie, you have to rely on friends, and family if you’re able, and then you have to go out and you have to find your audience as best you can. And you’re gonna want to focus if you can. If you decide to take to goodreads, like I did, don’t join any and every group that has some connection to what you’re writing. Pick one that lines up the most and then, before you promote at all, engage the group. Get a feel for them, learn the rules. Cause, believe it or not, lots of authors (and I definitely hold myself accountable here) show up to goodreads groups like locusts. Don’t do that. Pick your avenues carefully and deliberately. Then realize that you’re probably going to get ignored a lot. Here’s some good tips on self-promotion in general from Michael J. Sullivan.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to do EVERYTHING. If you offered signed paperbacks as a reward, give yourself time to sign them, and box them, and label them, and ship them. Give yourself time to finish the project. Six months post campaign end isn’t unreasonable. You might want to say longer and hey, if you’re ready sooner, then everyone gets a pleasant surprise.

The Business

  • You want an editor. You need an editor. Yes, they’re expensive, I know, it sucks. I had no idea at first but it’s not uncommon for an 80,000 word book to cost $2000 for editing. Thankfully though, there are freelancers who understand and will offer payment plans. Though if you’re going the kickstarter route, this is one more reason to have at least that first, complete draft done. You’ll have a word count, which will give you an editing price, which will be a number you can slap on your budget for your campaign goal, which lets your potential backers know what they’re funding. Before I go on, I just want to make it clear that I am extremely proud of the work I did on this book. Is it a 5-star debut? Hell no. But I don’t think it would’ve been even if I’d had an editor. I had written on and off at various points in my life but this was the first time I really threw myself into it whole hog. So Grimluk’s first outing could’ve used a hard round of developmental edits on top of the proofing. But, that’s what this is all about: Things I learned.
  • Self-promotion is always hard. You have to find a balance for how much you do it and how and where and there are a lot of folks who don’t want to be told about your book from you. There are plenty who do though. I’ve come across plenty of folks in the orcs tag on tumblr who’ve shown huge interest in the book once I made them aware. But like I said earlier, that’s because I focused. Shotgun promotion just does not work. Which also means…
  • It’s gonna take for you to build an audience. It just is. Unless you can somehow hit the right buttons (or wrong buttons as the case may be) on your first try, you’re gonna spend a long time finding readers. The best thing you can do is keep writing and keep getting better and keep releasing stuff.
  • It’s okay to read reviews of your book but you have to keep something in mind about them: Even if it’s one of your crowdfunding backers, reviews are NOT for the author. They are for other readers. You can use them to become better but they are not attacks on you or for your ego. That way lies madness.
  • There is no setup for pre-orders via Createspace. You can set up pre-orders for the Kindle edition (and on Smashwords), but there is no pre-order for the paperback. And the whole process goes faster than you think. So, if you have a specific date in mind as a self-pubber, don’t release til that date. Get everything ready, order your proof copies, make any corrections that need to be made, and then wait til your allotted time. If I remember right, processing for the paperback and the Kindle took about 24 hours each once you hit “SUBMIT.”
  • And what about getting paid? Well, Createspace/Amazon payments take a while. Basically, you don’t get paid for three months, starting from the release day. Thankfully, once your pay cycle finally starts up, and you get your first royalties, it’ll be monthly thereafter.
  • I bought my own ISBN instead of using the free ones. I bought them directly from Bowker because $99 for one ISBN is ridiculous and a pack of 10 is less than $300. A pack of 1000 is less than $600 and would last you a very long time, especially if you only release via Createspace/Kindle. You have to have an ISBN for each format of your book, and since I put up an edition on Smashwords, I used three ISBNs. Ultimately though, ISBN is up to you. I read a few things that convinced me I should go that route but it is entirely up to you. The biggest thing about having your own is that you get to assign your Publisher, instead of it defaulting to whoever provided the ISBN (ie- “Published by Createspace Publishing Services 2015”).

Bits and Bobs

  • Michael J. Sullivan gave me a bit of advice one night in March: If you’re in the US, focus on Createspace/Amazon, cause that’s where you’re gonna make all your money. Originally, I had planned to have an extra edition through IngramSpark, in hopes of getting into bookstores. Honestly, there’s not a huge reason to do that anymore. Sure, it’d be cool to see yourself in a bookstore but it’s so easy to set up online now and you can always order a box of your books to sell yourself elsewhere.
  • If you do a print book, you should ABSOLUTELY make use of the Kindle Matchbook program and offer that bad boy for free. It’s how it should be at this point. If you buy a movie these days, it comes with a digital copy. You can rip any CDs you buy for later use, but there hasn’t been a way to do that with books until now. You don’t HAVE to do this, of course, but it’s a practice readers appreciate. Especially for the bigger books. There’s also a service called BitLit that’s designed for this as well.
  • To start with, you might look at other authors as “competition.” But here’s the thing: We’re not competing with each other. We’re all writing different things. Yes, we’re writers, but there are millions of people out there and you can find an audience. And the indie community is small. We’re not competitors, we’re a community. Support your fellow writers. SA Hunt tweeted one night that it’d be cool to start seeing indie writers recommend each other in their books. Fantastic idea! Utterly brilliant. So I did. I picked six folks, including Sam, that had helped me or encouraged me or that I had enjoyed reading (or some combo) and added a recommendations page to the back of the book. The ebook even has links to their websites. Cause we’re still readers too. We still get excited about reading a good story, so why not share that with your readers? It costs nothing and it builds good will all around.
  • Straight up: Being an author-publisher is not fucking easy. It’s not. You have to learn every aspect of the business. There are new sites and services now that can help you though. I’ve heard lots of praise for Draft2Digital from folks who either don’t have the time or can’t quite get their head around formatting a manuscript. I’m planning on using Rock and Hill Studio for the next Grimluk book (and probably every other book I publish) after talking to Matt Davis. He totally sold me on their services, which includes full editing, formatting, AND a cover, and the desire to elevate self-publishing as close as it can get to traditional publishing.
  • Beta readers CAN be helpful. You’ll have to figure out how many you can handle and how many notes you want from them yourself though.
  • If you use openoffice instead of Word, disregard every Word-based tutorial you find (which will be every Official tutorial). I found this tutorial very helpful: Part 1 & Part 2. Similarly, for formatting a paperback in openoffice, you want to save it in the default format, ODT I think. Here’s why: It saves your page styles. That is very, very, very, VERY important. Once you have everything formatted for print, export it to a PDF. Trust me. I fought with this for weeks before I figured out the problem. Using the ODT means all of your formatting stays put and gets locked down in the PDF.
  • You can, however, still use a DOC format for ebooks. There is no page formatting, only paragraph styles, and those stay put just fine.
  • Again, self-publishing is hard. If you don’t want to do it, that’s understandable. Polish that manuscript, read up on writing agent queries and cover letters, and start sending out queries. That will be hard too and you’ll need to send out A LOT of queries before someone bites (that’s why we have the advice “Get use to rejection”). They’re both hard but they’re different kinds of hard. And remember that just because your agent gets you published, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna get a huge advance. You might only get $5000, as opposed to $50,000.
  • Please remember that artists deserve every bit of what you pay them. I know that $200 seems like a lot for artwork for just the front cover, but a good cover can get you sales and backers and that artist works just as hard as you do. And like you, they’re probably underselling themselves in order to make any money at all.
  • My final bit of advice is that even if you want to do everything yourself, exert your independence like an independent motherfucker, you need to remember one thing: You cannot and should not do everything alone. You need support. You need editors. You need cover artists, and maybe a different person to design the cover layout. If you feel like you have it in you to tackle lots of what’s required to publish yourself, go for it, but be mindful and don’t be too proud to admit when you need help. Cause you will need help. Plan accordingly, do your research (whether for the story or the business side), be respectful and professional (you can still say “fuck” gratuitously), and don’t bite off more than you can chew unless you flourish that way.

I hope that all of this makes sense and helps anyone hoping to enter the world of pro-writing. This is just all the things I learned. Your mileage may vary and you may learn a whole other swath of things that I missed. I also may have forgotten something but I think I got the important stuff. Ultimately, traditional and self-publishing are tools. Neither is better than the other but self-publishing is harder if you’re not prepared. Good luck, and thanks for reading.