Advice on Self-Publishing

Hello again, everyone!

As most of you know, I am a self-published author, and lately people have told me they’d like to see more posts with insight into the writing process as well as advise for budding authors.

So here we go! Today I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned in self-publishing books.

#1 Hire Someone to Design Your Cover

This is a big one. A lot of self-publishing places like Amazon KDP allow you to design a cover for free with a cover generator, using stock images and fonts.

They all look bad.

Not necessarily bad, I guess. But you know just by looking at it that it’s a cookie cutter cover. And if you scroll through the self-published books, you’ll see multiple iterations of the same design.

Writing a book is an intensely personal journey. You’re baring your soul on the page for complete strangers. It’s a part of you. Hell, I was so invested in the first draft of my sequel as I approached the end that a time or two I accidentally referred to my daughter by the protagonist’s name, Abby.

So do your book justice and hire someone to custom create a design just for you! I approached an old friend to whip something up for me and I got these:

And I loved them. I payed him $60 for each and it was money well spent. It might cost you a little more if you don’t have a friend who can do this, but if you’re going to invest in anything on the self-publishing road it ought to be the cover.

#2 Don’t Forget the Little Things

When I published His Name Was Zach, I almost forgot to include page numbers! That would have been embarrassing. So before you publish, grab one of your favorite books and flip through it from cover to cover, and make sure your book has all the trappings of a traditionally-published book.

#3 Manage Your Expectations

Everyone and their mother has self-published. There’s so many self-published books out there that the only way to get yours read is through aggressive self-marketing. And even then you might not get many sales. Lately my books have gone through a slump, I admit, and I haven’t had more than a sale here and there.

Don’t expect to upload your title and watch the sales roll in. The leg work is on you.

There you have it! If you have more questions, leave them in the comments, and thank you for reading!

Advice for Authors: Is Your Story Predictable?

“All your bad guys die, the good guys survive. We can tell what’s gonna happen by page and age five!”

There’s a popular YouTube series dubbed “Epic Rap Battles of History”, in which famous people from all corners of the world and throughout time are pitted against each other in a battle of wits. The above line is one of the insults from George R.R. Martin, directed at J.R.R. Tolkien (you should check out the video, it’s really well done and a favorite of mine).

That’s a popular critique of Tolkien’s works: it’s predictable. There is never a doubt in anyone’s mind that the Ring will eventually be destroyed and that Good will triumph over Evil.

And yet, despite the ending never being in doubt, it’s one of the greatest stories in human history. In fact, many of the greatest stories ever written have endings that are fairly predictable. So is predictability in a book inherently a bad thing?

See the source image

Now of course there’s some caveats here. Predictable shouldn’t describe the entirety of your story. Even Tolkien wrote in some plot twists and surprises, like the death and return of Gandalf, the fracturing of the Fellowship, and the betrayal of Sméagol. So if every scene and conflict is foreseen by the reader, then that might be a problem.

But being able to guess the overall resolution of your story doesn’t make it bad. Because reading (and writing) is an adventure, and like any other adventure it’s about the journey, not the destination. So if your writing is good, the story is fun, the characters lovable, and there’s a couple of unexpected detours along the way, who cares if you arrive just about where you thought you would?

Furthermore, by trying too hard to keep the reader guessing, you run the risk of losing them completely. The easy target here is M. Knight Shyamalan. He’s widely known for his movies being full of bizarre twists and unexpected turns, and sometimes criticized for it.

You may even lose yourself in the story if you try too hard to be crafty. It becomes very easy to write yourself into a corner and having to make significant rewrites or resort to a deus ex machina device.

So, as with most things in life, you need to find a happy balance between predictability and mystery in your writing. It’s not the end of the world if your ending can be guessed at, nor is an amazing plot twist guaranteed to make your book a 5-star thriller. Write from your heart, pour your soul into your story, and it will unfold exactly how it must.

How to Protect Your Work

First off: I’m not a lawyer. Let’s just get that cleared up!

If there’s one thing most new self-published authors fear, it’s having their work stolen! What if they send it off to an agent or beta reader, and that person just goes ahead and publishes it under their name and it sells millions of copies in dozens of languages???

Spoiler alert: that won’t happen.

If you’re a brand new author and have no other claim to fame, nobody is going to steal your work. Why? Because people only steal things that are valuable, things that could make them money. And no thief is going to take the time and effort to nab an unknown’s manuscript (which may not even be any good) and pray it makes a couple bucks.

But maybe you would like your work copyrighted all the same. Just in case. Well, you’re in luck! The moment your work is created in any tangible form, whether that be a loose-leaf binder or a Word file saved on your laptop, that work is copyrighted to you. You can check out this article for more information on that.

Here’s the caveat on that: if you haven’t filed with the US government (or your nation’s government) and sent them a copy of your work to hold a copyright in their library, trying to sue someone for damages will be harder than if the only copyright you have is the fact that it’s saved on your hardrive.

But there’s a caveat to that caveat: that is again an unlikely scenario. If on the incredible off-chance someone steals your work, it’s even more unlikely that they’d actually turn a profit, especially not enough that would make litigation worth it in the end.

So what have we learned today? Sleep at peace! Your work is copyrighted the moment you put pen to paper. You can file with the government if you like (it’s relatively easy and cheap), but it’s unlikely to ever pay off. Thievery of indie authors’ work is rare, and even more rare would the profit from their theft be worth trying to take in court. Hell, you’d be more likely to die on the drive to the courthouse than to have your work stolen.

Stephen King needs copyright protection. You and I don’t.

He Who is Not That Scary

I’ll just come out and say it: Voldemort is not that scary of a bad guy.

I mean, he is a bad guy. But I don’t think he’s bad enough to warrant that whole ‘Dark Lord’ moniker. I haven’t read all the books, but I’ve seen the movies and to me he’s basically just a two-bit murderer with a fan base. That puts him on the level of Charles Manson, and nobody calls him a dark lord.

‘Dark Lord’ should be reserved for the truly evil villains, those who embody darkness and death. Villains like Sauron from Middle-Earth. Now he’s a Dark Lord. I mean, he’s literally a god that rules an empire of darkness and commands vast armies. Voldemort is a fugitive of justice that runs with a magical version of the Green Street Hooligans.

That’s really the only point to this post, I admit. I saw something about J.K. Rowling last night which reminded me that I never really cared for her characters. I’m a Tolkien fan through and through!

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments! Tell me why you think Voldemort is a better villain than I imagine, or tell me about your favorite Dark Lord in literature!

Facing Rejection…Again

Well, I finally heard back from the publisher I’d queried and they’re going to pass on my His Name Was Zach series :/

Not gonna lie, I was pretty disappointed about this one. I thought it was a great fit for what this publisher wanted, and they even requested the full manuscript, but in the end they wanted something else.

But life goes on! I’m still working hard on my new Creed series, and my cover art designer has started the cover for Their Names Were Many. We’ve talked and we should have it ready for sale by Christmas!

So keep an eye out for the third and final act in Abby’s journey through the apocalypse! It’s an exciting one, I promise 😀

And as always, thank you for reading!

Advice for Budding Authors

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post like this for a while, offering some advice to new authors. Because it’s hard to write a book. Fiction or non-fiction, YA or Adult, it’s a daunting task to enthrall a reader with little more than the written word, especially with the tremendous capability of other mediums of entertainment like blockbuster movies.

So here’s a couple of tips that I’ve learned from my own experiences and from hearing the plights of other authors:

Don’t start writing prematurely. This may not be something you’ve heard before, but I think this is a problem for many new authors. Of all the woes I’ve heard from authors, writer’s block is the biggest one. Authors constantly bemoan the fact that they don’t know what to write in the next chapter or paragraph.

My advice? Finish the story in your head before you put it on paper. Before I ever wrote the opening sentence in any of my His Name Was Zach books, I knew what the story was. I spent several weeks imagining it in my head, thinking of what could happen. Only then did I finally begin to actually write, and I think that helped tremendously. Sure, I hit a snag here and there, but I’ve yet to face any major writer’s block where I feel as though I’ve hit a wall.

Start with the end. To piggyback on my first point, and hearkening back to an earlier post, try formulating the end of your story before you try to write the rest of it. After all, as the old navigator’s maxim goes: if you don’t know your destination, how will you ever know how to get there?

Write first, edit later. If you’re anything like me, you demand perfection from your work. You may sit there and read the paragraph you just wrote and try to fix a word here or phrasing there.

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Listen to Michael Jordan. Stop trying to edit as you go. Finish the story first, get it all down on paper, and then you can go pack and begin to polish your work!

What do you think of my advice? Anything you’d like to add? Share your thoughts in the comments below! And as always, thank you for reading!

Veterans Day and the Great War

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, a day where most folks will deliver a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to military veterans for their service. But I’m not going to talk about that much because it’s also the anniversary of the end of the Great War, or World War I.

The war technically ended the day before, but the signers of the armistice actually scheduled the war to end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

This was always such an insane fact of history to me, that the war was scheduled to end later than when the papers were signed. They could have declared a ceasefire immediately, but they waited. Why? I don’t know, for theatrics I suppose. But that cool little piece of theater cost men their lives. Henry Gunther, considered the last man to die in the Great War, was killed at 10:59 am, shot dead by an enemy machine gun. Artillery officers, unwilling to bear the logistical burden of transporting tons and tons of shells back home, instead ordered their crews to continue shelling enemy positions until the very minute of 11:00 am.

What a tremendous loss of life, and for seemingly nothing. A mere generation later, a second and even worse war followed. The ‘war to end all wars’ was instead merely the first act of a truly horrifying half-century of total war.

I could go on for hours about this war, if you let me. But instead, I’d encourage you to pick up some books about the Great War. It’s a truly fascinating subject of study for the historically inclined, and deserving of more attention in the public lexicon.

Lastly, from this author and former Marine infantryman, a ‘thank you’ to veterans who may be reading this blog. And as usual, thanks to you all for supporting my work!

Writing Updates: A Slugfest

Hello everyone! I’d like to apologize quickly for my unannounced hiatus. I occasionally lose all motivation to blog due to working full-time, parenting, and writing. But I try to keep these occurrences few and far between!

Speaking of writing, I’m making some slow progress on my new book series, tentatively titled Creed. It’s a treasure hunter series that follows protagonist Conner Creed as he travels around the globe in search of ancient (and maybe magical???) treasures.

The problem is…writing new characters is hard! Coming up with sequels for His Name Was Zach wasn’t that difficult because I already knew Abby. Her interactions with others didn’t require a whole lot of effort because, as an established character, she often did whatever she wanted.

Now coming up with a whole new cast is slower. I don’t know much about Conner yet or what makes him tick. Same goes for his best friends Frankie and Mohammed.

But I’ll keep pushing and get over this hump! I’m at 11,000 words and this is feeling like a 75k-85k kind of novel.

I’m also still waiting to hear back from a certain publisher! I emailed them the full manuscripts for the entire His Name Was Zach series and they said it’d take a few weeks to get back with a response. So keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to support my work, please like and share this blog post, or even check out my books on Amazon 😃

Behind the Scenes and a BIG announcement!

You ever wonder what the writing process is like for your favorite authors? How do they come up with their stories? How did the first few drafts look compared to the published work?

Well, you’re in luck! Today will be the first of a regular feature where I discuss my books and how they got to the finish line. Today, we’ll start with my debut novel: His Name Was Zach. Warning, there’ll be minor spoilers ahead.

(Oh and I have a big announcement at the end of this post 🤫)

As the homepage of my blog says, I wrote the first draft entirely by hand while deployed to Afghanistan. It was 2013, my second trip to what we called ‘the sandbox’, and let’s just say it was less…kinetic than my first deployment. I unexpectedly found myself with a lot of downtime.

So I decided to finally complete a lifelong dream of mine and write a novel. I had brought many pens in my seabag but I only had one notebook. So I wrote home to ask my parents to send a couple notebooks in a care package then got to work!

As I’ve said before, the first thing I wrote was the last chapter. Zach died before I’d even got to know him! And I knew that Abby was going to be alone in the world.

I’m still very proud of the last line: Abby took that first step. I think it’s phenomenal and emotional. I actually chose this line because His Name Was Zach was originally going to be a stand-alone story, and I wanted a sad yet hopeful ending, open to the reader’s interpretation.

But even after I realized that this was going to need a sequel, I kept that line. I wanted each book to be a completed work within the series, and that really was he only way to end that book.

Sad, but hopeful.

Now, about that announcement…I might be getting a publisher soon 😃 I sent samples from each book from His Name Was Zach, and they emailed back and asked to see the full manuscripts! Now I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but fingers crossed all the same!

A New Series!

Time for a quick update on what I’ve been up to! Their Names Were Many, the final installment of my His Name Was Zach series, is nearly ready for release. I need to format it for printing (which is a huge pain, lemme tell ya) and get the cover art, then make sure everything looks good. As I hoped earlier in the year, I’m still looking for a release date of sometime near Christmas.

I’ve also begun working on a brand new book series! This one is a more light-hearted, action story (I’ll be honest, I needed a break from the heavy hits of Abby’s story. I loved writing it, but at points it was hard to deal with all those emotions that were like punches to the gut). It follows treasure-hunter Conner Creed as he seeks ancient treasures lost to history. It’s been fun to write so far, and the villain I have planned is deliciously dastardly.

So that’s what I’ve been up to! I hope to have a more concrete release date of Their Names Were Many soon, and I’ll be back here with an update when I do! Follow me on Book Sniffer so you can be the first to get updates on new books and book deals. If you’re on your phone, click here to get the app!

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