How do I write? My Process!

There are lots of different ways to write books, but there’s only one way that I’m intimately aware of…and that’s my own method! So what is my method, exactly?

Well, the answer is that it’s evolved over time.

When I wrote my first book, I started an outline. Just a few bullet points per chapter, all the way up to the middle-ish part of the book. Then I started writing. My focus was task-oriented. This happened, then this, then this. Not a whole lot of thought on themes, or character arcs, or any of that good stuff. I was just trying to get through it…flying by the seat of my pants, so to speak.

Needless to say, I rewrote it oh, about eight times over in the next 5 years before publishing it.

By the time I wrote Hunter of Legends, I was focusing more on themes first, with character arcs and the magic of the world set first before going too much into detail about what happened. I only knew the beginning, a scene in the middle, and the scene at the end. Everything else was filled in on-the-fly.

Seeker of Legends involved lots of characters and plots coming together simultaneously, and took a bit more planning.

For my newest series, I spent a year-and-a-half thinking about it before putting pen to paper. Then I bought a little notebook and wrote a few dozen pages of little notes. Snippets of scenes, magic, character arcs, humor, etc. Then I made a complete outline. Then - and only then - I began writing. And unlike any of my other books, where I just wrote until I finished, then read it and edited it, I’ve been going back and editing the whole book over and over again after completing a few chapters.

My day-to-day technique for finishing 2-3 books a year is simply to write something every day that I physically can. I average anywhere from 3-7 pages a day over each month, depending on how much free time I have. A first draft running 150,000 words takes me 2.5 to 5 months to finish now, and I spend a good 2-3 months editing before I publish. The physical act of formatting and publishing a book (both ebook and paperback) takes me about 2 hours. It took 2 weeks the first time I did it!

Every book I write now has been brewing in my brain for at least a year-and-a-half to two years before I start writing. I order a book cover six months in advance before I even start writing, and have to finish by the time the book cover is due to be done. Helps to keep my nose firmly on the grindstone!

So that’s my process in a nutshell. What’s yours?

How much does it cost to self-publish?

If you publish your book the traditional way, it shouldn’t cost you anything. But if you want to self-publish, chances are you’ll need a little cash to do it. I can only speak as to my experience, but if you want to know what it takes to self-publish, read on!

The first potential cost of publishing a book - other than the opportunity cost of time it takes to write it - is in hiring an editor. Now I don’t do that. I edit my own books, both to reduce costs and because I actually enjoy it. But hiring an editor is another option…and it can be an expensive one.

Having someone proofread your manuscript - offering spelling and grammar suggestions, as well as word usage suggestions - might cost around 0.5 cents per page, or $500 for a 100,000-page manuscript. Having someone do copyediting - which includes the above, plus suggestions on writing style - might cost several times that. One company I know of charges $1500 per 100,000 pages.

The second potential cost is in designing a book cover. Sure, you can do it yourself - and if you’re an experienced graphic designer, give it a go - but otherwise I’d recommend spending money on this. The price range varies, but I spend about $600 to $800 per cover. That includes the ebook and paperback covers, and some promotional images.

The third cost is for your website. Personally, I use Squarespace. The domains cost around $20 each a year to maintain, and the web design tools are a couple hundred bucks a year.

The fourth cost is in buying proofs and paperbacks for yourself and any conventions you might want to go to, as well as for giving local libraries and bookstores a few copies. For me - for books in the 150,000 to 200,000 word range - it costs about $6-$7 a book.

The fifth potential cost is advertising. Sure, you don’t have to advertise, but it can help. It’s certainly helped me get the word out on my books, and makes a demonstrable difference in book sales. I advertise through Amazon, Google, Goodreads, and Facebook. It costs about 20-40 cents per link click, and for me it’s only worthwhile for book series. Getting people to buy the first book means they might buy the second and third. But if there’s only one book in the series, it’ll be hard to make a profit through Google and Facebook ads, at least in my experience.

The sixth potential cost is conventions. I go to Readercon and the World Fantasy Convention every year, and with flights and hotel costs, it can run up a tab of thousands of dollars a year.

The seventh potential cost is doing the audiobook. If you go through ACX, this can be free if you share profits with your narrator, or cost thousands of dollars if you don’t. It cost roughly $16,000 to do the first three books of the Runic series. I could have gone through a traditional audiobook publisher like Tantor, and I would’ve gotten a few hundred dollars per book and had the audiobooks made at no cost to me.

As you can see, it can be really cheap or really expensive to self-publish, depending on how much you choose to do yourself. As a sole proprietor in the U.S., these are tax-deductible, which helps.

Of course, the question you might be asking yourself is whether or not your book sales will ever make enough money to net a profit. I can’t answer this for you - it depends on your book, after all - but in my case I’ve been lucky enough to more than break even with my self-published books. Ultimately, you have to write a book that lots of other people want to read, then find a way to get the word out.

I hope this helps with those of you that are thinking of going down the self-published road in the future!

Updates!

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog entry…but I swear I’ve been busy!

I’m two-thirds of the way done with the final draft of Destroyer of Legends, and am a quarter of the way through the first book in a brand-new fantasy series. I’m pretty excited about both, and hope to publish Destroyer of Legends in January 2019.

I’m also deciding whether or not to make the attempt to publish my new book series independently or through a traditional publisher.

I’ll keep you updated, and will be ramping up the writing an editing during the winter!

Why I wrote the Runic series

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a teenager. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher read a few of my short stories, then told me I should talk to a published author. At the time, I didn’t know what to think. The idea of becoming an author…a real author…seemed impossible. A pipe dream.

After that, I didn’t write. Not for over a decade. I went to work as a software programmer, then got sick of that and decided to go to college. I pursued my dream of becoming a doctor, getting into medical school, then doing my residency. The better part of two decades passed, and my aspirations to become a writer seemed to die.

Then, at the age of 31, I was nearly finished with my Emergency Medicine residency. On the cusp of becoming a full-fledged physician, I was also preparing for the birth of my first son.

His name was Kyle.

I remember watching my son after his birth, laying there in his crib. It brought me full circle, back to thinking about my childhood. How I’d always wanted to write a fantasy book. I promised myself then that I would write a fantasy trilogy (at minimum!) for any child I brought into this world, with them as the main character.

I’d learned so much about how to be a good person from books. About how to act chivalrously, to give people the benefit of the doubt. To solve problems and follow a code of ethics. Every hero of the many fantasy books I’d read as a kid had acted as one of my guides, showing me - sometimes in ways I hadn’t realized at the time - how to be an adult I could be proud of.

So I began writing Runic Awakening. A story about a boy that was like me growing up. Not particularly confident. Surrounded by people I considered heroes, the real movers and shakers of my world. At first it was going to be a children’s book.

That changed.

You see, at the same time as I was writing the Runic series, I separated from my ex-wife. Crushed by the thought of not being able to see Kyle every day, the story took a darker, more adult turn in the second half. I also started thinking about the father figures in my life…and those in my son’s. The Runic series became a story about father figures, and their importance in a boy’s life. In the book, Kyle’s new stepfather was a father figure, as was Kalibar, and Darius. And even the Dead Man. Each represented a different type of father. The permissive father, the nurturing father. The tough father who forced Kyle to sink or swim. The cruel, manipulative father who Kyle wanted desperately to please.

So it was that the first half of the book was a lighthearted children’s book, and in the second half, there was murder, betrayal, and heartache. After completing the first draft, I sent it out to my oldest brother.

In my brother’s words, it was “not good.”

I rewrote the book completely, deciding to write the first half in the same vein as the second. A darker story emerged, more adult…but still with Kyle as a child. Thus was born a sharp contrast between the innocence and incompetence of the main character, and the adult nature of the rest of the book. The supporting cast of the book became the heroes, with Kyle looking up to - and hoping one day to become - one of them.

Eight rewrites later, I considered the book completed…and promptly wrote the second book. And the third.

I met my current wife then, and settled down into a new life. Kyle grew older, and the trilogy I’d written faded into the background of my life. Then, nearly five years after beginning the series - and over a year of sitting on all of them - my wife read Runic Awakening. With her input, I made some more changes, and completely rewrote the story one last time - from the first page to the last - to its current form.

She insisted that I publish the book.

I’d never really meant for the series to be read by the public. They were my stories, with characters I adored. I hadn’t written them with any consideration as to public demand, or a target audience. I didn’t try to follow too many conventions of fantasy novels. They were written for fun, not for publishing to the world.

Despite this, I began to research how to self-publish. Months of reading - and making mistake after mistake - I published Runic Awakening.

At the time, I hoped fervently that one or two people would read it…and that maybe - just maybe - one of them might enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. The first month, it sold 67 copies. The second, 667…in addition to a half-million pages read on Kindle Unlimited. The third month, 687 ebooks and 760,000 pages read.

Needless to say, I was flummoxed.

You see, I never expected more than a few people to read the book. It was a passion project, not for public consumption. But as I published Runic Revelation two months after Runic Awakening - and they began selling over a thousand ebooks and over a million Kindle Unlimited pages a month - I realized that there were other people out there like me. People who enjoyed the characters I’d come to love, and the stories I’d come to cherish. By sharing these stories, other were able to share in my joy.

The idea that other people would carry these stories with them, and maybe - just maybe - that someone who read them might one day be inspired to write a story of their own, just as I was inspired by the fantasy authors before me - was immensely gratifying.

Having written four more books since, I’ve come to realize how lucky I was to have so many readers take a chance in reading the Runic series. I know full-well that I had no idea what I was doing as an author at the time…and that I still have a lot to learn. You, my readers, have taught me with your feedback, showing me both what I’ve done right, and how I can improve my craft.

I’m on my third fantasy series now, and my eighth book overall. Writing a new set of stories for a child I have yet to meet. I still have a great deal to learn, and I look forward to the process. I feel lucky that the fruits of my hobby - stories that I wrote for myself and my children - have been enjoyed by others. And if I inspire just one of my readers to do as I did - to write a book - then that’ll be the icing on the cake.

I never thought I’d be a published author. It’d always been a dream. If you feel the same way, I encourage you to just start writing. Put words to the page. Tell a story. Put yourself out there and see what happens. Because chances are, your story is something that someone else will want to read.

If I did it, you can do it too.

Runic Revolt to be published by August 30th!

Runic Revolt will be published at or before August 30th. I'm wrapping up the last edits, and formatting the book for publishing. It's been a fun ride going back to Kyle, Kalibar, and the rest of the crew! I'm looking forward to more books in the series.

I'm also three hundred pages into Destroyer of Legends, the third book in the Fate of Legends series. That will be published in January of next year.

I'll be starting a brand new fantasy series in September, one that I'm very excited about. I'm also looking forward to the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore in November! I'll be there with my wife, as usual, and hope to see some of you there!

Runic Revolt Preview Updated

Runic Revolt, the 4th book in the Runic series, is nearly complete! I've done one round of editing, and am busy with the second - and likely final - round. It will be published in August.

I've updated the preview on my website to include the prologue and first two chapters...and I'll have a cover reveal soon!

In the meantime, I've completed about 80 pages of Destroyer of Legends, the third book in the Fate of Legends series. After I finish that, I'll be starting a whole new fantasy series!

Runic Revolt - 1st Draft Complete!

The first draft of the fourth book in the Runic series is done!

It's been quite the journey over the last three and a half months. I came back from doing the Fate of Legends series to start writing Runic Revolt, and for about a month I wasn't quite into it. The writing was fine, but I wasn't feeling it. It didn't excite me.

I wondered if I had another Runic book in me. If I'd ruined my momentum by writing a different series.

But then my muse struck with full force, and filled the book with meaning and purpose. I just needed a reason to write the fourth book...a theme that excited me. Thank goodness I found it!

Now I know that not only do I have a fourth book in me, but that I have even more as well. I look forward to editing the heck out of Runic 4 over the next month or two, and then seeing what you guys think about it!

Goodreads Giveaway Failed!

Every once and again I try new marketing ideas to bring more readers to my books. A while back I decided to try a Goodreads Giveaway, where I offered to give away three free copies of one of my books. As you may know, I love to talk about the numbers...and let me tell you, they weren't good.

A total of 605 people requested the book, and 241 people put it on their "to-read" list. Of these, precisely zero people put it on their "currently reading" list.

Now, there are several possibilities for why this happened.

  1. The book cover didn't attract any readers to actually read it.
  2. The blurb for the book is failing to convert potential readers into readers.
  3. Giveaways aren't an effective way to promote books.
  4. Giveaways attract mostly people who collect free stuff (leading to #3).

Either way, I didn't find the giveaway useful, and although I may try it again with a different book, it certainly makes me question the value of using Goodreads' new ebook giveaways. Those cost $119 for the regular giveaway of up to 100 ebooks, and $599 for premium listing of the same. With no guarantee of ROI - and for $599, an almost certain loss of about $599 - I can't justify these promotions as a viable way to market my books.

 Has anyone else had better luck with these promotions? If so, let me know!

Six weeks till Readercon!

Only six more weeks until Readercon in Quincy, MA!

I'll be there for the whole convention, and I'm looking forward to it! My goal is to have the fourth book in the Runic series either published or pretty darn closed to it by that point. I'm about 70% of the way through writing it, and working hard to finish on time.

After that, I'll be working on Destroyer of Legends, the sequel to Seeker of Legends. And then it'll be time to start a whole new series, one I've been thinking about for the last year and a half.

As usual, I'll keep you posted. Hope to see you at Readercon!

Update on Runic Revolt

I'm about halfway done with Runic Revolt, the fourth book in the Runic series!

Lots of new stuff in this one. Working hard to finish it by this summer, hopefully before Readercon! It's quite the lofty goal, considering the first book took years to finish, the second took over a year, and the third took ten months to complete. I'll do my best, but I won't compromise quality.

I'm posting another chapter to the preview on my site. You can click here to read it. Keep in mind that there might be small errors here and there, as I haven't done my usual three to four rounds of editing yet!

Sorry for the Delay!

I'm nearly ready to publish Seeker of Legends!

The major roadblock has been getting my usual beta readers (my wife and brothers) to read and tear apart the book. Life has been overwhelmingly busy for them...but the feedback process is nearly complete!

In the meantime, I've been working hard on Runic Revolt, the fourth book in the Runic series. It's coming along quite nicely...almost 40% complete! I'll keep you updated as usual. The best place to check for my progress is on the home page. Each book has a bar graph showing my progress. I update it almost daily.

All right...back to writing Kyle's next adventure!

Why I wrote Hunter of Legends - Racism, Nationalism, and the Self

I am white, and my wife is black. When our son Hunter was born, it was right around the time of the Presidential election in the U.S. The themes of nationalism vs. globalism, racism, and cultural genocide were - and are - front and center in the minds of many Americans. Not to mention the fact that my wife and I were still getting strange - or downright angry - looks and comments from people (of several races) that didn't approve of our union.

And as a writer - and a father to a biracial son - I wanted to understand it.

I think of fantasy as a way to explore elements of human nature by changing the rules of the world to address these elements. To expose them and play with them. So I created a world where everything about you - your appearance, personality, skills, memories, and so on - was potentially contagious. Where strong-willed individuals could pass on their traits to weaker-willed people. And where the strongest-willed of all were called Legends. Those who cannot be changed, yet can change anyone else.

Naturally, this led to a society where people who spend enough time with each other ended up acting and looking like each other. And where an outsider - someone with dark skin, or a different way of thinking - would pose a real, tangible threat if their will was strong enough.

By making the idea of cultural genocide a very real possibility, I was able to explore the feelings both sides might have about it. The ideas of self, of community, and of what makes a people one people. Is it the way they look? The way they act? Their belief systems, or religions, or rituals?

And how do you remain yourself when everyone around you can change who you are?

I hoped that, by exploring these issues through fantasy - and by placing Hunter within that story, and seeing how he might react to such a world - that I could further my understanding of these important issues. I also wanted to write a story for Hunter that he might read when he's older that could help him process these issues as well.

I found that, in writing Hunter of Legends, I often ended up enjoying the characters I disagreed with the most. And I think that, if we all spent a little more time trying to understand each other - without necessarily having to agree with each other - that it would be a good start toward building a better future for our children.

If you're interested in reading Hunter of Legends, click here for a preview of the first 3 chapters, or click here to get it from Amazon!