How often should I write?

It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? The question on every new writer’s lips: how much should I write per month, per week, per day…?

It’s a question that arises out of a lack of experience, and a lack of true confidence, and there’s nothing wrong with either of those things — they’re perfectly natural. But the sad truth is… there’s no “one size fits all” answer. And there shouldn’t be.

Here’s why.

It’s a simple one: we’re all different. Do what you can. Write what you can. Aim to finish your book. No matter how long it takes, if you actually finish it, you’ll have achieved what millions of others have failed. Be proud.

Of course, it’s not always as simple as that, even though it probably should be. Age eventually becomes a factor. Your goals will be a factor. Your job will be a factor.

For example, if you want to be a full-time writer, making effectively the same as what you might earn working for somebody else, then you want many good quality books on the market (and I stress good quality, because it’s hard enough to sell books — if you want to do this full time, you need quality, just like every other job). The more you have available, the more you will make per month. More books will see return readers. More books in a series will see multiple purchases. And so on. Not to mention the fact that multiple titles indicates to a reader that you aren’t just a fly-by-night hobbyist.

And no, being a hobbyist isn’t a bad thing, but if you think that readers aren’t that petty, then you are sorely mistaken (not all, but many).

And if you are a hobbyist (and I expect many first time writers are, even if they don’t think they are — the future is bright, but it’s still just the future), then it’s really up to you… and how much time you have one your hands… and perhaps even more importantly, how much you want to write.

If you take the advice of the pros out there, you’ll hear that golden target thrown about — aim for 1000 words per day. I’ve heard it from many, and I also find many new writers try to align themselves with it, but let me tell you — it’s hard.

Scratch that. It’s not hard to write 1000 words. In fact, I tend to write 2-3000 every time I find time to write, but that’s the point… It’s hard to find the time to write. It’s hard to always be motivated. It’s… just hard.

And the pros will tell you to just write. Even when you aren’t motivated, just write.

That’s fair enough advice if it’s your livelihood, but when it’s a hobby, don’t take that advice as gospel. It’ll only drag you down when you inevitably fail. (And if you are a full-time writer, my advice is probably not what you should be looking for.)

Some writers out there aim to write “anything” per day. Even 100 words is a success. Kudos to them for that idea, but it doesn’t work for me. I feel bad if I don’t knock out a chapter every time I write, as I feel as if I leave the scene unfinished. That’s a “me” problem, I know. Scenes can be revamped and expanded (even deleted in full) during the editing process, so I shouldn’t be that precious, but I am.

Truth be told, though… I do subscribe to the “aim for 1000 words per day” mantra. But only as a personal target, and I don’t beat myself up when I miss it… which is realistically 75% of the time. The point is, I don’t stop at 1000. I use the target as a method to get me writing, and when I do, I knock out two or three days worth of writing in one go. Sometimes several days in a row. And that’s a massive boost to confidence. I just don’t let those off days get me down — in the end, it’s just a delay on the end product.

And that’s the kicker. Don’t sweat the days unless it helps you stay on target. My goal for my current sci-fi is 100,000 words. My Japan travel guide, maybe 60-70,000. And for my episodic novel, I’d like to knock out 20 chapters before I look to proceed. At the moment, I’m a third of the way to my sci-fi target, halfway towards the travel guide, and… a long way off the episodic novel.

At 1000 words per day, I could be on top of my sci-fi in 2-3 months, or finished my Japan guide within a single month. These kinds of goals are the ones I find give me more traction. If I work hard, I can have two books finished by the end of this year, both ready to go through editing, beta reading, and so on, with a target of mid-next year for release. That’s pretty good. If I stay on target. And even better? By the end of the year, I can also possibly release my episodic novel, which will be ongoing, targetting a chapter a week (big task, I know, but that’s why I want to get 20 chapters ahead before I start).

So in the end, you need to set your own goals. Goals that mean something to you, but goals that can be flexible. That’s the key part — if you fall behind, you can’t spend your time beating yourself up, you need to readjust your goals and keep pushing.

So, even if that means you still want to target 1000 words per day, or 5 chapters a month, or a book in 6 months, or however you want to do it — make it work for you, and make it realistic. Sure, you could write a 90,000 word book in les than 3 months, but will you, really?

Be honest to yourself, and you’ll hit your targets. Hitting targets keeps you going. Don’t set yourself up to fail.

Anyone can write a book!

As a self-published author, you’ll inevitably come up against this from time to time. When you share your pride at having written and released a novel, some people just can’t let you have a win. “Oh, you’re self published? Anyone can do that.”

Cue jaw drop. Allow blood to boil before simmering.

The problem is — it’s true. Anyone CAN write a book. But my ready response when this comes up (and thankfully it’s not often… it’s just those really cynical self-loathing people that hate the world) is – “Really? Where’s yours then?”

The sad truth is, however, that there is a large amount of low quality self published books on Kindle. Books that were self edited (a cardinal sin, I’m sorry to say). Books that did not go through a beta review or developmental process. Books that are poorly formatted. Books with covers designed using free tools and stock images.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am aware that not everybody can afford to pay for some of this work, and some writers have a very frugal budget, but the point is, the amount of brilliant writers out there that don’t need all of this extra polish is probably close to zero. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of great books out there with cheaply designed covers, because I know there are. But the sheer number of truly amateur books outweighs… well, everything else available on the market.

Is this a problem? In some ways, no. Amateur writers deserve to be able to share their work as much as anybody else. More than that, even though I did choose to pay for editing, typesetting, and a professionally designed cover, I’m still somewhat of an amateur writer myself. I’m no better than anybody else, I just had more money.

But the question remains… SHOULD anyone be able to write a book?

There are some strangely confident people out there in several of the writers groups that I’m in, who can barely string a sentence together, yet they somehow have written 10 books. Some of these have barely sold any copies, and are priced well above the market (eBooks at $10 USD, for example). Some have excerpts that are difficult to read due to poor sentence structure and strange word choices. Should these people be able to write a book? CAN anybody really write a book?

It’s a complex topic, but if I boil down the idea of a book to simply sharing a story, then yes, anybody can write a book, and anybody SHOULD be able to write a book. There is room in the marketplace for people of all skill levels to do their best – and the market will decide.

Who are we to judge the quality of anybody’s book, simply based on their writing? Even Stephen King’s books are edited (although I’m quite sure his output is already quite highly polished even before editing). If that person was able to make a few dollars from their books, and influence even one person, then perhaps that’s a success.

The selfish side of this argument, though, is that these lower quality releases dilute the market significantly. It’s much harder for those that put in the effort to polish as best they can to even be noticed. And the sheer quantity of lower quality titles available perpetuates the stereotype that all self-published books are low quality.

As a new writer myself, and one that put a lot of time, money, and effort into polishing my book… I feel this way quite often. I blame others for slow sales and so on. I occasionally feel resentful at other writers’ successes. I’m only human.

But the reality is… 15 years ago, what I did was impossible. Unheard of. What the Internet has allowed us to do — in various ways, not just for writers — is amazing. Anybody can release music now, and make it available to the world via streaming services. Anybody can make their own video, and put that up online for people to view via YouTube. And anybody can write a book.

And the harsh fact is — that’s the way it should be. If I wanted to, I could open a restaurant. If the food was poor, nobody would eat there. If it was amazing, then I’d be booked for months in advance. It’s the market that decides.

So, like anything else, don’t sweat the competition. If you want to succeed, then write the best damned book you can, and do your best to market it. Then write another, and another, and another. If you really do a good job, you will find a market, even if it’s small.

And those smartasses that tell you “anybody can write a book”? Sure, that’s true, but YOU did, and THEY didn’t. So there.

Ideas: Not as Rare as You Think

You know who has ideas? Everybody. Every damned day.

Many writers tend to put a huge amount of emphasis on their ideas. They carry little notebooks with them everywhere. They sleep with a notebook beside the bed. I mean — what if you have an amazing idea and you forget to write it down? Shock, horror!

Personally, I’ve done this many times. Woken at night and had a great idea, and expected I’d remember it in the morning. Of course, come morning, it was gone. Ah well, no harm, no foul.

The truth is, ideas are a dime a dozen, and they aren’t great ideas until you do something with them. I wonder how many people reading this have had wonderful ideas that they’ve held on to over the years? Ideas are nothing if they aren’t utilised.

The other thing is… do you really have an original idea? Whether you do or you don’t doesn’t matter in the end — even if your idea roughly amounts to the same basic premise as Romeo and Juliet, this time it’s you that’s telling the story, with your emotions, your feelings, your preferences, your locations, and your characters. Whatever you do, it will be yours, and you should be proud.

So don’t sit on your ideas waiting for something original — it may never come. And even if it does, certain aspects will most definitely be derivative. The world is too old, and the amount of works too vast for any one idea to be wholly original, so let it go.

You know what makes a really great idea? Development. No idea starts out perfect, it takes time to work an idea into something better. You’ll know you have a truly good idea when you want to start developing it further. And once you do? Write that damned book.

Tell your story, otherwise your idea is just that. An idea. And nothing more.

Planning my second book

So… here I am, not long after writing an article about the whole stupid “plotters versus pantsers” debate… writing an article about how to plan (again). I like to plan in advance, and if you think you might too, then this is for you. If you’re a plotter, feel free to read and see what us wacky plotters do. But per the spirit of my previous article – just do what works for you!

You may also have seen my article about how I planned my first book – I recommend reading that, too. It has a much simpler method than I employed for the second novel, so if you aren’t looking for something complex, you might want to start there.

Why didn’t I use the same process, you may ask? For two reasons, really. One, that method was useful for planning a simple story with a few main characters and a single story arc, and this time I wanted something on the grander side of the scale. In short, I knew this method wasn’t helpful in terms of world building. And secondly… because it was the first process I used, one that was very simple for the needs of a beginner, but I knew it wasn’t likely what I needed (personally) to get me where I wanted to go with this new novel.

Where did I start?

At first, I started with some very general notes on Google Docs – genre, a couple of little ideas about where I wanted to take things. As you may be aware, I’m writing a sci-fi novel at the moment, but I didn’t want it to be too epic. If you’ve read Pyramidion, you know I write a fast-paced story, and I wanted this one to feel similar, but follow the story arcs of 3 or 4 main characters. As a result, I didn’t want too many crazy new alien factions and so on getting in the way of the action.

And then? Then I watched a series of lectures by Brandon Sanderson. They are long, and Brandon Sanderson very much teaches his methods, but I found them very useful for working out how to write better characters and better stories. Here’s a link to the first one. There are 11 in total, plus Sanderson has a bunch of other videos on his YouTube channel that you might find interesting.

Anyway, I used a method of his referring to “promises and payoffs” – the story needs to make promises in its subtext. There needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. And there needs to be progress towards those promises – major progression events that let the player know that the story is moving in a direction. And it all needs to pay off in the end – you need to keep your promises.

This also applies to the characters – they need to have some personal connection to the plot; they need to make their own progression or journey along the way; and something about them needs to change. This could mean they learn something as the plot progresses, or something more grand. But more importantly? They need to be likeable… and that’s the hard part.

Using all of this basic plotting structure, I came up with the skeleton of what my final story will be (and note that I’m still only about 25% into writing the novel, so there’s still a lot that is missing from my plans). using that plot structure, I then decided on who my main characters would be, as well as any other important characters that might influence this storyline. I gave them each their own story and basic background… and then I jumped into the worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding… where to even start?

Ok, I need to preface this section – this is written by someone very new to worldbuilding, and is intended as a reference for others that are also new to worldbuilding. I am not an established builder of worlds. What I say now may embarrass me in years to come, but so be it. We all have to start somewhere.

And considering I’ll still be using Brandon Sanderson’s advice, it’s probably still useful. Again – watch his lectures. You don’t have to follow them word-for-word, but it will absolutely help. Especially if you are new to writing.

Anyway – worldbuilding. Given you need to create a whole new world, it can be quite complex, but the biggest takeaway I had from Sanderson’s lecture was this – if something isn’t going to have any real impact on your story, you don’t need to build it in advance. He suggested making a list – and I’ve copied it below for your reference – and then choosing a few that might matter to your story and working on them.

PhysicalCultural
RacesGender Roles
WeatherReligion
TechtonicsGovernment
MapEconomics
FloraBorder
FaunaFashion
MagicFood Lore
VisualsHistory
CosmologyRites of Passage
TerrainSocial Heirarchy
Languages
Taboos
Military
Greetings/Curses

For my current novel, I only focused on two in the physical realm (races and terrain) and about seven in the cultural, as this is where my story differs most from the “norm” (gender roles, religion, economics, history, social heirarchy, languages. and military). I fleshed some of these out briefly, but others – history, for example – I went into great detail around. The main point – don’t try to do everything or you’ll never finish. Remember: never stop never stopping.

Where to from here?

This was far from the end, of course. Being a sci-fi novel, I had planned my story to play out over multiple planets, so I needed to create some minor worldbuilding for each of them as well, and then I needed to work on what I strangely found to be the most difficult.

Naming.

Naming characters in a fantasy or sci-fi novel can be hard. I use a few methods – history and meanings of names in various regions, and websites such as Fantasy Name Generators and Behind the Name. These are both quite useful for different reasons and I recommend you check them both out.

Oh, there’s another difficult component of books with multiple characters… timing! How do you plot things that happen in your story and keep track of them? How do you plan the chapter order so that you have the right things happening at the right time – and with the intended effect on the reader?

This took me some time to figure out, and in the end I developed something myself, which actually works really well. Using a spreadsheet, I plot the time in arbitrary units along the columns, and the individual characters along the rows. In each cell, I describe what happens in one or two words (“Introduction” for example or “Conflict”, “Moon”, and so on – words that have meaning to me in context of the story and the character arc, but don’t take up too much space in the table.

It ends up something like this:

12345
Character 1 (C1)IntroEscapeSpaceshipConcern
Character 2 (C2)IntroMeeting
Character 3 (C3)IntroFearConflict

And then I plan out my chapters in order of time, but avoiding two chapters with the same character sequentially – C1-1, C2-2, C1-2, C3-3… and so on. I actually map this out below the table in the spreadsheet, with chapter numbers as this helps me visualise things better (and I use the character’s name so it’s less confusing – John1, Jane2, John 2, and so on). It also allowed me to split the story into three parts as I could visualise what happens and when, which makes sense from what happens in the story and helped me break things down further. Very useful for me, but your mileage may vary. (And note the info I’ve put in that example has nothing to do with my current story.)

To be honest, every chapter I write tends to see me adding more notes to my plan – I flesh something out in the story which adds to the worldbuilding, and I feel I need to keep it all together in one place, or I’ll lose it in the story. Or I’ll just think of a great new idea throughout the day. Or I’ll create a cool new character as I write. The worldbuilding doesn’t stop.. probably until the book is done.

Also… much of the middle section of my story is missing – I know where the story goes, and I know some of the set pieces required to get there, but exactly how and when that happens? Still to be confirmed. But that timeline/spreadsheet? That will help immensely.


So there you go! My current method for planning my second novel, which is going to be considerably more complex than my first, but written with the same pacing. In truth, I still think this second novel is quite simple as compared to many sci-fi and fantasy novels that I’ve read, but I definitely need all of this panning in order for it all to make sense. To be honest, I don’t know how others could write something like this without planning ahead. Smarter than me, I guess.

And I’m actually planning on writing a LitRPG at some point, which will be FAR more complex. So… we’ll see how things go with this method, but so far, so good! And if you don’t know what LitRPG is… go look it up. It’s fascinating.

Good luck! I hope this has been useful!

The “Plotter vs Pantser” debate is silly

If you’ve been hanging around writer circles for a while, you’ve probably heard the topic come up – “which are you, Plotter or Pantser?” My answer is, invariably, it doesn’t matter. But before I get to that – and to why I find the whole damned topic infuriating – perhaps some definitions are required.

A “Plotter” is a writer that plots their story in advance. Not necessarily painstakingly or meticulously – they just sit down and plan things out before taking their ideas and developing them into the story at large.

A “Pantser” on the other hand (and to be honest, I just hate the term – I must be getting old) is the type of writer that writes by the seat of their pants. No plotting, no thinking about things in advance, just get in there and let the story play out as it will. Put romantically – let the characters speak for themselves.

For many, the debate is not just about “which one are you” but also “which one is better”… which is the right way to write. And that’s just stupid – and for new writers, it’s downright confusing. And perhaps even harmful.

Think about it – virtually every new writer that I’ve seen asking questions in writing circles will inevitably ask this question – how do I write a book? How much should I plan? How do you develop characters? And sadly, the most common response from writers is to use the “Plotter vs Pantser” response – “You’re either one or the other! Which one are you?”

What should the real response be, though? When it all boils down, writing isn’t hard. The concept is simple – take the words in your brain, and put them down on paper, either physical or digital. That’s it. How you choose to organise them is up to you – and there are a number of different ways to do this. The problem isn’t whether Plotting is too much of a waste of time or Pantsing is too risky, it’s working out what works for you.

Plotting can be great – it can help a writer develop a highly complex story. And Pantsing can be great, too – it can surprise even the writer, potentially making for an even more exciting read. But focusing on one or the other is just as detrimental – just write.

To me, the whole argument is less one of actually helping others, and more one of individuals trying to associate themselves with a clique – or potentially even a favourite writer. The amount of times I’ve seen a Pantser justify their preferred method by stating “Stephen King is a Pantser” is ridiculous.

Good for Stephen King. He’s clearly a genius. But I’m sure his drafts are extensive – I highly doubt the complexity of his books comes out in the first draft. The other thing, though? I’m not Stephen King. And on the Plotter side? I’m not J.K Rowling either. And I don’t want to be.

If I had to chose a side (and I really don’t want to, but here we are), I’d have to say that I’m probably a Plotter. But even then, I only plot so much – there is a lot that surprises me as part of the writing process, and some of the ideas that have cropped up “from the seat of my pants” (so to speak) have been good enough to warrant a change to the planned plot.

And I’d also argue that Stephen King thinks about his books a LOT while he writes them. He may not have a plot on paper, but I’d bet he has one in mind.

What makes writing hard isn’t so much the process, though, it’s the “finishing” part, in my opinion at least. Like I said in a previous post – never stop never stopping. Don’t let the plotting process slow you down so much that you never actually start writing the book. Don’t let it get in the way so badly that you have several other ideas, and you neglect this one to work on others. Don’t let the lack of a plot and a sense of direction for your novel allow you to suffer from writer’s block. Write that book until it is done.

I understand that the “Plotter vs Pantser” argument is just a bit of fun for writers, and perhaps I’m just a bit of a curmudgeon. My own personal gripes aside (that being that I think the argument is childish and an attempt to associate with one’s heroes), I think it’s harmful and confusing to new writers. I believe one famous writer even stated that Plotters are “hacks”. How lovely. That’s one way of suggesting that you’re better than everyone else (and I know I’m far from a great writer, but damn… let other people be proud of their work).

Again – I may just be a grumpy old man (or an old man in a younger man’s body, perhaps – I’m not old! Promise!), but my point is this, and always this – find your own path. Don’t let anybody steer you wrong. And FINISH. THE DAMNED. BOOK.

Pyramidion now available to purchase – eBook releases 5 June!

My first novel, Pyramidion, is now available via Amazon, in both Paperback and eBook formats! While the eBook is currently only available for pre-order, releasing June 5th, the Paperback is ready to go, and generally ships within a couple of days – how exciting!

The link below is to Amazon Australia, but it is available in all regions – just switch over to your local region!

If you’d like to know more, here’s the synopsis:

What if everything you thought you knew was a lie?

“Seek the Pyramidion.”

After losing his whole world in a car accident, Luke Nixon falls into a pit of despair, only to find himself receiving advice from his dead wife in his dreams. He soon ends up under the care of an ancient organisation and learns that he and his family are of an ancient bloodline – and that his daughter is still alive.

Unsure if he can trust them, but lacking any other choice, Luke is left with only one option: to rescue his daughter. However, it’s no simple task following a breadcrumb trail across multiple continents, through the spirit realm, and ultimately bringing Luke face to face with gods and demons.

Click button below to buy now!

Cover Reveal: PYRAMIDION

Pyramidion

A project I started all the way back in March 2020, not knowing at the time where it was going or where it would end up, now finally coming to the end of its first phase – publication!

While I don’t have pre-order details just yet (they are coming within the next day or two), I can tell you that the book is targeted for release on JUNE 5TH!

And that spectacular cover you see to the right? This was drawn and designed by Simon Sherry – cover artist extraordinairre. Please, follow him on Twitter for more of his phenomenal art.

And keep an eye out on this very website for pre-order details in the next couple of days!

(Also, have you signed up for the mailing list yet? Head on over to the Home Page and scroll down to the bottom. This will include information on forthcoming books, but also free stories in the world of Pyramidion, coming soon!)

Beware Vanity Press and Predatory “Self Publishing” Companies

I am just about to publish my first novel, and I’ve done the whole thing myself (with, of course, help for cover design, editing, and typesetting). However, over the last 12 months, I’ve also done a hell of a lot of research into publishing, and looked into a number of organisations that promised to help me “self publish” my book. This immediately rang alarm bells for me – if I’m the one self publishing, then why do I need a company to help me? Beyond this exposure, though, I have close contacts with people that have utilised some of these companies, and I wish I could have advised them sooner. For that purpose, I hope this article will help any new writers on the path to self publishing.

Depending on your exposure to self publishing, you may not have heard of the term “Vanity Press” as yet. These are generally smaller publishing houses that promise to traditionally publish your book – at an upfront cost to you. The simple advice here is this – don’t fall for it. Traditional publishers will often pay YOU for the chance to publish your book, based on the fact that they see good potential in your book actually selling. Vanity presses don’t care if your book sells or not – they make money simply from the contracts they forge with writers, and then move on to exploit the next.

With the rise of self publishing, a new angle on the Vanity Press format has arisen. These are companies offering to help you self publish and market your book, all at an upfront cost. This is effectively a Vanity Press under a different name, and again you should be wary. Many of the claims these companies make are vague, and the prices they charge are exorbitant.

Note I’ve chosen not to name names in this post – my opinion is that none of these “self publishing” companies should be trusted. If you want to self publish, then… do it yourself – it’s actually quite straightforward. However, I will use an example that I did see on one well known organisation’s website.

This company offers a la carte options at a reasonable price – editing and cover design services, for example. However, they also offer self publishing bundles, being quite open that they will effectively do all the things you can do yourself, but as a service. They then make a lengthy list of inclusions to make it seem like a lot of value is provided in these bundle.

I reviewed two of their “most popular” bundles – one of which came out at just over $3000, and another at $6000.

The $3k package included:

  • Paperback, eBook, and Hardcover, interior and cover templets for authors to choose the internal layout, the option for authors to submit their own cover (but NO cover design), a website with very basic design, ISBNs supplied, worldwide distribution and listing, 15 paperback copies, 5 hardback copies, 50 business card, 50 bookmarks and… a whole list of things that look good but mostly meant nothing – and note NO editing service. Nor can you set your own price – they will set the price for you, which pretty much also means you won’t have access to your book in the portals. Doesn’t sound like self publishing to me…

Seriously, the length of the list was impressive, but consider this – many of the items on the list were standard offerings as part of a KDP submission, which authors can do themselves for free, or a $50 IngramSpark submission. Worldwide distribution and listing, for example? This most likely means they will submit your book via IngramSpark and click the “worldwide distribution” button. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will actively seek to get your book into bookstores. Bookmarks and business cards will set you back $100 if you do it yourself, as will the book copies. Writers will still need to get their cover designed and their book edited. To do everything on this list yourself would set you back all of $500, probably less.

The $6k package included:

  • Everything in the $3k package, plus cover design, a few more copies of your books and marketing material, an undefined marketing campaign, and – finally! – copy editing and cover design services, as well as the capability to set your own prices

And that’s it. Sure, the list makes things look more impressive, but again, most items on the list can be rolled into a single aggregate that writers can do themselves at low cost. I’ve seen the output of this package and I can tell you this – the Copy Edit seemed like more of a Proofread, and the cover design was very basic, utilising basic fonts and public domain images. From what I’ve seen, it hasn’t really been worth the cost. More importantly? Everything on this $6k package can be done – and done well, I might add – for far less than half that cost, plus you would have full control over everything.

My advice would be this: consider what needs to be done in order to self publish, and organise it all yourself.

Here’s a quick list:

  • Write book
  • Edit book
  • Design cover
  • Get ISBNs
  • Typeset/formatting
  • Publish via Amazon
  • Publish elsewhere
  • Market your book

That’s it. Sure, there’s a lot more work that goes into all of this, but this is a very basic list of what needs to be done in order to self publish, and in my opinion there are two that you absolutely shouldn’t do yourself (edit and cover design) and a third that you can do yourself, but getting someone else to do it may be a better idea (typesetting). And marketing? I’ll discuss that chestnut another time.

So go off and research prices for cover design, editing, and typesetting. Think of an amount you’d be willing to spend, and still within that budget. Keep in mind that you might not sell enough books to get this money back (it’s important to be realistic). You might find you can do all of this for only $1000! Personally, I’d spend more – ensure you get a really good cover, and that your edit is extensive and professional – but the amount is up to you.

Now… keep in mind that I did mention that some of these “self publishing” companies offer these services a la carte. While this may be true, I think it’s better to go find someone who offers this service as a primary source of their income – you’ll get much better results.

And… I should note that I have been told there are some organisations out there that help writers prepare to self publish, and then let the writer do the publishing themselves – effectively helping with editing, cover design, and typesetting only. This may help you to get things done all under the one umbrella, so it may well be a viable option. My preference is to find the right resource myself, but I thought I should clarify that not everyone out there is gunning for your money and offering nothing in return.

But the bottom line is this: don’t spend a ridiculous amount of money to let someone else “self publish” your book for you – and then effectively own the publishing rights. Yes, it seems daunting to do it all yourself (and at times it is), but trust me – when all is said and done, it’s really quite easy.

I will look to cover the self publishing process in more detail in future posts, so join my mailing list for more info (scroll to the bottom of the page). I’m currently working my way through Book 2, and finalising marketing for Book 1, so I’m still learning, and there’s a great deal I can share that I think will be of benefit.

Book 1 Update: May 2021

Hey!

You might recall back in mid-March that I had completed the third draft of my first novel (title: Pyramidion), and was ready to pass over to professional editing. If so, you might be wondering where things are at now, two months later. Good news! That’s what I’m here to tell you!

When I’d done my third draft, I was pretty happy. If you’ve read the article, you’d know. But I didn’t mention anything about my editor.

I didn’t know where to go, originally. I considered a few people online – I frequent several writer’s groups on Facebook, you see, and there are several editors there, all of whom were reasonably priced with their offers. I also checked Fiverr – a website where one can hire another person to do… pretty much anything. I’ve used Fiverr a couple of times before, and I always found them hit-and-miss. Not only do you get what you pay for, but you really don’t know if that person is trustworthy. I wasn’t sure I could trust my book to Fiverr.

And to be honest, many of the editors I found on Facebook were similar – they were either of limited experience, or their portfolio just wasn’t satisfying (or… successful, in many cases, which I’m not sure is a good sign… perhaps I’m being too picky).

So I was stuck.

In the end, I came across a helpful website for writers – Reedsy. It’s full of articles and free videos/courses, many of which are very useful for new writers. Plus, there’s paid content as well, and – more importantly – a service that puts writers in contact with editors, effectively allowing a writer to propose a job to a select few editors, who can then make an offer for this job, should they choose to.

What makes this system better than Fiverr is the amount of information each editor provides: current day job (many of the editors do this as a side job), previous employment, previous edit portfolio (and links to the books themselves), plus testimonials from previous customers. Even better? Many of the editors already work within the publishing industry – in fact, many work for traditional publishers and do this editing work on the side, which feels like a bonus for those of us that are looking to self publish.

But it’s not the cheapest. In fact, it was about double what I was quoted by the Facebook editors… It was a tough decision, but I wanted what I felt was the best. I wanted to give my book the best chance.

Anyway, I don’t want to go into this process too much, but suffice it to say that I chose one of the offers, and the editing is well underway – in fact, it may even be completed in the next couple of weeks.

At the same time, I engaged an artist friend who had previously done some design work for me, and asked him to create a cover for me. He has experience in cover design (quite a lot, actually), so I trusted he would be able to come up with something original. I provided him with a copy of the third draft to help him understand the story, and he came back to me with a first draft at the end of last week.

And he damnwell knocked it out of the park. The image you can see on this page is a tease – it’s cropped from the cover art itself. I can’t wait to show it off in full, but not until I’m ready to publish. You can bet your ass it’s worth waiting for.

Soon, my pretties.

Aaaand… this is true. It will be soon. In fact, all going well, I hope to publish sometime in June. But there’s still a fair amount of work that needs to be done first – completion of the editing (which will require a full follow-up re-read by yours truly), typesetting, finalising of the cover (front, back, and spine), official ISBN and barcode… and then off to publishing!

Sadly, as a new author, I can’t publish on a specific date, so I won’t be able to give an exact release date, but I will be within a day or two. And I don’t want to do a cover reveal until I’m probably around a week from publishing…

So June may be optimistic, but I’m going to go all out. Hopefully the next update will be a full cover reveal and estimated release date… time will tell.

“Am I good enough?”

Am I a good enough writer to sell books – that is, am I good enough for people to actually want to read and enjoy reading my books? This is a question that I’m certain has plagued writers since time immemorial. In my opinion, though, it’s not a question of “am I good enough?” but rather – “do I really want to write?”

If you want to write – write for yourself. If you have a good enough story, and – of course – if you a re a proficient writer, you may be picked up by a publisher. However, if you wrote for yourself (effectively, to tell the story you want to tell), then you should ultimately be happy with your work – and self publishing is a valid option (but one I will go into in some detail in a later post).

Selling and success are different – in some ways, actually finishing writing a book, even just a first draft, is a success in itself. So, as I said in my article ‘Never Stop Never Stopping’, just write until you finish your first draft. Do your best to get that story down on paper. Once it’s done, you can fix it, fix it some more, get some input, get yourself a kick ass cover, and get to publishing. The first step is the writing itself.

You ARE good enough

Very few writers are amazing writers at first draft. In fact, every successful book you see on the shelves (and even those less successful) were edited many times before publishing – several times by the writer themselves and at least once by a third party. Nobody should avoid editing – it will actually improve your work. You should resist that urge for your story to be “all you” because it will ultimately be flawed – as we all are.

So write your book. Edit your book. And have someone else edit it too. You are good enough – if you have a good idea and can structure it well, you can get the story down onto the page – and then you can work to tell it WELL.

Of course, not everyone is a good writer, this is true. Some writers may struggle to sell any books, no matter how hard they try. So feedback becomes important as well – feedback from those that aren’t going to protect your ego. You need to receive hard criticism – it will ultimately make your book better, provided you listen. Of course, if you have a few beta readers and only one has major problems, you can always pick and choose what you fix and don’t fix. But if more than one person points out a flaw or many flaws? Then they’re probably right.

In the end, though, the main person that should be happy with the work is yourself…

… but you aren’t amazing

I hesitated to write this section, but I think it needs to be said. I’ve been a member of a number of Fiction Writing Facebook groups, and I can tell you now – there are a lot of people out there that think thy are GREAT writers, but have very poor grammar and articulation, and are very difficult to read. This doesn’t necessarily make them a bad writer – but as I said in the previous section, they should be aware of this. We all should.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been told that my writing was great – easy to ready, flowed well, some even told me my writing was exceptional. However, I know it’s not. I write in an overly simplistic manner, I skimp on detail, I tend to tell more than I show, and my grammar is far from perfect. My first book (publishing within the next month or two at the time of writing!) is far from a classic. In fact, it’s short, fast-paced, and could be better – everything can ALWAYS be better. But I’m very happy with it – it’s not going to run off the shelves, but I feel as if I’ve told a good story, and it can only get better from here.

The point is – friends and family will always tell you very positive things (for the most part). They will always tell you that your writing is great – exceptional even. But that’s perhaps compared to themselves. Not to Stephen King. So it’s important to keep that in mind. You, like everyone else, will absolutely need an editor.

Success?

Success is what you make it, and this brings me back to what I said at the start – write for yourself. There are billions of people in this world, each with their own likes and dislikes. you can’t possibly write something that appeals to everyone. So write something YOU like. Something YOU would want to read. I can guarantee there will be others out there that will also want to read it. In some cases, maybe only a few; in others, many.

That said, your book won’t find an audience simply because you wrote it. It will need a good cover, and it will need to be advertised. Good luck with that. And even if you self publish, it will cost you money (how much depends on your budget), so success is tricky – very few first-time writers will see mainstream success, self-published or not. In fact, very few of those that self publish will recoup the costs within the first year. Or ever, for that matter…

So… write for yourself. Be happy with your work, and build a budget based on how much you would be happy to spend even if you made nothing from your book. That way, every sale is a bonus.

That said… I acknowledge that’s not so easy. We all want our books to sell. In our mind’s eye, we all see that “best seller” sticker on the cover. But while it is important to have goals and to have ambition, it’s also important to be realistic. More than that? All success requires hard work. My goal will be to recoup my expenditure in my first year. I’ll do my best to achieve that, but if I sell anything at all, I’ll still see that as a success.