Digital Publishing – Notes from the Field

When that first manuscript is complete and you step back from the keyboard to consider what you have created, there comes a point when you have to decide just what you will do with it.  There are a few options, but what we all want to do is have our work seen, in one form or another and that almost always means publishing.

The traditional publishing route is fraught with difficulty and negative experiences that might falsely give the impression that your work is inadequate.  The other side to that coin is self-publishing, which once held the stench of desperation, failure, and misplaced pride in a way that almost no other business venture did.  It was the last avenue for writers who could not break through to publishers or the agents who held the keys to the kingdom of literary recognition.

Let’s not mince any words here; getting your message through to publishers and agents is difficult.  The advice you will hear is varied and at times contradictory on how to even begin.  The changing market for online publication has opened up a host of new opportunities that for some are a more preferable option than the old ways.  If your desire is to go it alone, with some planning and a willingness to let your work speak for you, digital self-publication offers a great deal of flexibility and opportunity.

To begin, I feel like I need to reinforce one key idea here; digital publishing on your own is all about persistence and perhaps a bit of savvy.  Online publication options have changed the publishing landscape in a fundamental way.  Let’s begin with the assumption that you are a capable writer and you have a good story to tell.

What do you have to do in order to succeed now?  You have to be as good as you think you are.  An avenue for your work to be judged by the people who matter most is open to you however, the proof of your work has to stand on its own.  What I would like to do here is set forth the five things I believe are necessary for engaging the world of digital publishing and for helping your work to stand out as something exceptional.  It’s not a path I’ve mastered, like you I am an adventurer in this new untamed wilderness.  Like all other trailbreakers, our survival and success depends on learning from those who have gone before and by sharing the tools of our trade.

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Another Day and New Potential

The story begins here.

This week saw the culmination of a project began earlier this year.  My follow up work to Master of the House finished its initial draft.  Initially the book was to be titled “Children of the New Potential”.  I’ve decided to change that and use the series title along with a shorten version of that tentative title. That being said, I am happy to announce Legacy of Shadow: The New Potential (TNP) is complete and ready to face the challenges of the market.

So, how do I explain this book?  TNP is the story of a group of characters who make a similar decision to walk away from the lives they are leading into the unknown.  Each of the characters does this for a different reason but as they end up on the same path, together they are given a warning that the answers each of them seeks rest at the top of a frozen mountainous wasteland at the top of the world.  Over the course of a week these characters fight against the forces pursuing them, against their own fears, and against the fear of passing the point of no return.

Laylani is an Elf of Deep Shadow who has taken up a burden that was not her own.  Her arrival in Britania spells doom for its people and spreads fear that the City State is under attack from the undead forces at its door.  She has come seeking refuge after her failures in the northern lands.  Laylani finds no refuge in Britania but manages to regain control of her destiny and perhaps the friends who will see her through it.

Eric is a Templar in the service of Britania.  He is smart, skillful, and has a promising career ahead of him however a nagging sense of worthlessness and isolation leave the warrior feeling as if there should be something more.  When he comes face to face with Laylani and senses something familiar and kindred in the supposed threat to his homeland, it becomes the catalyst that will either ruin his life or save his soul.

Vavian is a free-wielding mage who works and lives outside the control of Britania’s Magi Guild.  He is a sought after criminal.  He is a threat to the social order.  He knows what the Guild has in store for the downtrodden of Britania.  Using the chaos around Laylani’s arrival to move on his own plans, he becomes hopelessly wrapped up in a struggle that he could have never imagined.

Dempsy is a wealthy ‘Copter pilot with a keen eye and a strong distaste for the law.  He plans to help Vavian escape Britania and life a life of comfort, ease, and coin but when his friend returns to him and reveals that their plans have changed, Dempsy has a choice to make.

I never could have imagined how difficult writing this book would be.  It was not that the actual writing, typing, and plotting were hard, overcoming doubt was the challenge.  Master of the House lent itself to an ever tightening plotline and left plenty of room for character evolution.  TNP is a lead off book, meant to spark a whole series but still be self contained.

I had to capture a world, introduce new characters, justify motivation…  Of course every book does this.  I’m not complaining, not at all.  What I wish to express here is that this book is the first step in a bigger story.  This overall story is something I have captured in my mind and now had to find a way to condense the important parts into an opening act.

I was not even sure I liked my own characters as I wrote the book.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.  (Rest assured they ARE awesome and the book turned out great.)  It’s simply that when you are inside a story, crafting it and setting the stage for later, you know who these characters WILL be.  As you write them, you see them only as they are on the first page or first chapter and it feels wrong.

The further along I traveled in this book, the better it felt.  Not only were my own fears unjustified but many of them were incorrect too.

I plan to do some site expansion and add information about these characters in the coming weeks.  I will also post my query that I will send out for this book for anyone to see and comment on.

I should really take a lesson from Dempsy.  He pretty much nailed it:

 “You can never bake the same cake twice. That’s a life lesson. Don’t forget it.”


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Act III

Envy will actually enter into the fray this time around...

I have not been updating much (I hate when blogs I follow say that…) but it’s not for a lack of work going into this.

My current book is nearly completed.  I am estimating about three weeks until I enter the editing phase and possibly late summer to dive back into the publishing field.  This site will be updated with characters and setting information for this book at that point.

When I was writing Master of the House, the ending was pretty much known from the outset.  A few details here and there were a mystery to me but I knew what the end would look like.  Writing Children of the New Potential has been a completely different experience.

I had no idea where this book would wind up (that’s not an admission of a lost narrative!).  Rather I knew the outcome of the events but I did not know the characters well enough until I had written the majority of the novel.  The ending of this book would really be colored by how I came to know the characters.  This book is really more of a traditional fantasy novel when compared to Master of the House but as the plot evolves and the fantastic elements are uncovered, understanding my characters really lets me unleash a really epic ending that will hopefully leave readers expecting a follow up work.

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The Point of No Return

The point at which it is further to go back than it is to continue forward.  ^_^

My “second” book, such as it is for the moment (dependent on whether or not Master of the House is broken into two books at some point) is now over 50% complete.

I’d be lying if I said that this was easier or even as easy as Master of the House was to draft.  Working within the confines of a planned length and moving through knowing that a full revision would be required have been very trying on my creative style.

I often have to accept the fact that my page count per day is around half of what it normally is due to this, but the grind continues.  The biggest challenge really has been the structuring of chapters.  Previously, I would write chapters under a theme that would run clearly through.  This time around, chapters are presented more in a scene format with shifting to another location or into another obstacle as the call for beginning or ending another chapter.

If I wasn’t in the middle of it all, I would think that smaller bites and more concise sections would make for easier writing.  Working towards creating something that is “market ready” has proven to be anything but.

That being said, sometime in June this work should be complete and I will be in the midst of editing (and more regular site updates).

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Status Update

As of today, my second planned work has surpassed the 30% mark for completion.  I have a tentative title for this book:  Children of the New Potential.  That title may have to change because there’s a real chance it’s too long.  I don’t mind.  One thing that will not be too long is the actual length of this book.  After the initial difficulty I found in getting Master of the House to market, I have carefully plotted the length of my follow up work to ensure it is what those in the industry refer to as a “marketable length”.

I really only quote that because it seems to apply only to first time authors.

Soon enough I’m going to have to open up some new space on this site and begin outlining this new book in the same way that Master of the House is cross referenced.  Tomorrow will mark 21 days since I started working on this second book.  40,000 words in three weeks has left me very tired if I’m honest.  I did not even notice that my pace was moving along this quickly until my buddy told me not to burn myself out. (Hi Rob)

Gotta keep moving while I have the time to do so…

I will be posting a preview section of the new book tomorrow.

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Fear and Loathing in the Digital Landscape

Criticism is kindness in disguise.

The creative process is something new for me.  Getting into a line of thought that keeps me generating content is difficult and unpredictable.  It’s not something that is easy to explain, especially if attempting to explain it to someone who does not engage in something similar in their own life.

The best way I can find to relate the entire process of creating and the uncertainty behind it is to ask you to imagine you are made of glass.  Everything you make or create is made of similar glass yet the world you exist in remains the same as always.  Everywhere you go and everything you do allows those around you to see through you.  It’s a sense of hollowness that I imagine is difficult to avoid.  There’s a sensation that the smallest wrong move will shatter you, that the wrong kind of criticism will break you.  It’s a feeling of being insubstantial but entirely breakable at the same time.

The things you create are subject to the same forces.  Having been the one to create something, you know how to look through it.  You know where the flaws in the glass are.  The sensation that anyone or anything could ruin your work with a careless flick of the wrist or a loud noise is ever present.  The only way to make the things you have created worthwhile at all is to subject them to this very destructive element of life.

I can understand how paralyzing feelings like these might be for someone.  In a world where everything is easily broken, including yourself, it becomes very easy to tip-toe around.

The truth about glass is that there are many different kinds of all colors and varieties.  These seemingly fragile worlds that we build up around us, both personally and in our work…they just aren’t as prone to breakage as we might think.  The rewards are distant and perhaps they will never be attainable, but the creative spark is a gift.

(As an aside, it occurs to me now that I don’t know if I’m reassuring myself or just stating what has always been in the back of my mind in regard to this kind of thing.)

How often have you heard “I wish I was as creative as you…” or “I never would have thought to…”?  The world is full of people who administrate, keep on task, and facilitate.  There is great worth in that kind of thing but there is also great worth in the act of creating something.  If you can create, you more than likely should do it.

It’s always a battle against self-image.  Success outside the creative process is easy to quantify.  There are measurable goals, obvious failures, titles, and achievement.  Whether you’re writing a book, working on a series of paintings, or building a website, the measurable goals are no where near as easy to identify.  That leads to an almost inevitable feeling of failing and God forbid you compare your work to something with measurable goals.  Like I said at the beginning, it’s akin to walking around the world while made of glass.

Finding self-satisfaction is the ultimate guard against this line of thinking.  It is a task that is immensely difficult to achieve on a personal level much less in regard to your work.  What other options are there though?  The other way of thinking leaves us afraid of shadows, thinking that everyone and everything is against us.  The first step in getting others to value what you do is to value it yourself.  The next step is to put your work out there.  Your work may be constructed of glass.  The fear of having that work shattered before you may be nearly debilitating.  However, only by letting light of criticism and review hit your work can you stop worrying about it breaking and begin enjoying the ways in which it shines.

Afterword:  I used to gouge my eyes out reading stuff like this.  I may in fact hate myself for writing/owning up to it.

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Putting the cart before the horse

When we’re children there’s a lot of talk about following your dreams and encouragement to “do what you love”.  It’s a worthy theme but as an adult, it’s an axiom that pretty much means you get to take a five minute break from the discussion or lecture until whomever is talking comes back to reality.

Of course we all can’t be firemen, ballerinas, or astronauts; that much is certain…

Or is it?

What if…bear with me for a moment here, but what if there was some secret cabal of firemen, ballerinas, and astronauts out there who actively spread such rumors just to defend their own job security?  It might not even be quite that insidious but how many times do you have to hear about what you can’t do before you start believing it?

What happens when someone decides to step out of the shadow of regret and works towards something that will ultimately make their career path seem worth while?

I’m going to find out.

For two years I am going to set aside my white-collar college educated career and put myself towards a single minded goal of writing books and having them published.  This blog will serve as either a declaration of independence or a wordy tombstone for my career choices.

Starting in September 2011 I began work on my first novel and completed it in February 2012.  Two weeks ago I began shopping it around with various publishing agents.  Upcoming posts will talk about the writing process, character development, and all the impending failures that this kind of a gambit goes through.

One thing that plays through my head and keeps me grounded amid the uncertainty is the following:  We tell the tales of heroes to remind ourselves that we too may be great.

It’s time to start making sure that there is equal parts “doing” to “dreaming”.  Win or lose, publication or obscurity, I’m not going to look back and regret not taking an opportunity.

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