Self-Publishing Woes

Self-publishing is expensive.

Having attempted to self-publish on the cheap and finding out that it doesn’t work, I decided to remove my book from sale pending some extra content, a new cover, and other bits.  So, I thought I may as well consider a proper professional edit, beta readers and all the jazz that comes with properly releasing a book.  All this with a view to republishing it sometime in the first quarter of next year looking all spangly*.

The problem?

It’s all so expensive.  For a proper edit, I was quoted a little over three hundred pounds and while that’s actually pretty good value when you consider there are some out there asking for over a grand**, it’s still a lot of money on my budget and that’s not even considering that the word count has increased since that quote.  Throw in beta readers and the art for the book and my costs are approaching the one thousand pounds mark before I’ve even set a release date.

Now sure, with suitable preparation I can save the money I need to get all this done.  But it’s going to be tight and I might have to survive on a diet of bread and water for the next six months or so, I jest of course, but you get my point.

So, I got to thinking whether there were other ways I could make money from my writing.  If I’m being honest, saying such things seem a little vulgar, I don’t know about the rest of you, but the thought of hawking my stories feels wrong somehow.  It’s daft of course, what else am I going to do if I want to become a full-time writer?

Anyway, after some thought I have come up with a potential solution to my problem that I’m hoping will enable me to make the required money, whilst also offering something of worth on a regular basis.  The solution; Patreon.

For those of you unaware of what Patreon is, let me direct you to what they (Patreon) call the magic line:

“Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid.”

I have a lot of things I need to do to enable me to my book out in a professional manner that will enable me to get it noticed.  It’s not just all the things I’ve mentioned above, but the necessary funds to promote my book to help get it noticed.  I would also prefer if possible to sell it via a webstore of my own if possible, thus avoiding the middle man, this will obviously incur further costs.  Then there’s the novellas I’ve written to follow the first book and of course the second book I would like to release no more than twelve months after the first and so, on it goes.

The work of any author is never finished, self-published authors just have a tad more to do.

I’ve not come up with a precise model for what I’m going to offer, but short stories at the very least are a given, along with a few extra rewards here and there, I’ll decide firmly in the future.  However, I feel now is the time to offer a word of reassurance, this blog shall forever remain free and I shall still be publishing Vernon stories through it.  My good friend Zog would never forgive me if I tried to charge for those.

Why am I telling you this?

Well it’s like I said sometime, to someone somewhere, or maybe in this blog…let’s just assume I said all right?

“Join me on my journey to becoming a full-time writer.”

To my mind it’s just the next step on the path to becoming a full-time writer and I’m quite excited to see how it goes.  It’s going to be a learning curve for sure and to be truthful a little nerve wracking, but I think it’s just the next logical step.  I shall keep you updated with my progress of course.  If it goes well, then who knows, maybe my experiences might inspire someone reading this blog in the future to try something similar.

Peace out folks, and happy writing!

*Super excellent
**One thousand pound

World Building

World building is hard.

I’ve often looked on enviously at fiction authors who write in a real-world setting, I’ve always thought they had it easier when it came to their worlds.  I mean sure, no -one forced me to write a fantasy series, thereby rendering it necessary for me build a whole new world from the ground up.  It was just the natural way for me to go, having long been a fan of fantasy fiction.

I digress however, the subject of my writing envy.

I think I’ve been a little unfair to my fellow fiction writing contemporaries.  In truth, we all have to build worlds when we write fiction, it is important you see to set the rules of your world in advance and then stick to them.  There’s little more annoying than going through three quarters of a book being told one thing by the story, only for it to do an about face and do something entirely contrary to the pre-existing rules of the story.  It’s jarring and few things will break immersion faster.

In any genre, whether it be fantasy, sci-fi or something a little more grounded like romance or drama, the world the story takes place in needs to be built.  If built in advance, with the author noting the ‘rules’ of the world and keeping in mind it’s lore, then as long as the author sticks to them everything should be consistent and non-jarring.

The same is true no matter what type of fiction you’re writing.  I can well imagine the fact that the Harry Potter series of books were couched in a real-world setting didn’t make it any easier for J.K. Rowling to write them.  Indeed, Lee Child will have had in mind when writing the Jack Reacher books what the eponymous character was capable of when writing them.  All worlds, no matter their location need to be built to a point.

When writing Brogan and the Bandit King and further stories set in the same world I needed to do the same.  Elves and dwarfs are a no-no, but wizards and demons are fine.  There will be fantastical creatures of all varieties for the hero and his companions to battle, but no orcs or goblins.  These are the things I need to remember as I go on.

Anyway, enough of my rambling, I need to decide where to put a city.

Looking Up

I really should lift my head up more and take in my surroundings.

As frequent readers of my blog will know, I recently changed jobs, resulting in me now working a completely different town (Runcorn) from the one I had been working in (Warrington) for the last twelve years.  I recently went to Warrington to meet a friend to catch up, before and after our meet up I spent some time sat in the shopping centre watching the world go by.  It struck me while I was this just how little I noticed in my previous twelve years of pottering around the centre of Warrington.

Every day I had been in work over the last twelve years, I had walked different routes around Warrington to the various shops, pubs and whatnot in town.  But having long since gotten used to the town centre I would cruise around town, head down, on auto-pilot, taking in nothing of my surroundings.  So, there I was last Tuesday, sat on a bench in the middle of the mall just watching people go about their business and it struck me how little I noticed around me.  I’ve always considered myself to be a perceptive individual, very aware of my surroundings and what have you, but sat there I noticed shops I didn’t even know where there for starters.

A friend of mine often says that people don’t look up often enough, and she’s right.

There are all sorts of things going on around us, above us as well.  There are all sorts of things out there to provide us with inspiration, whether it be books or movies, the behaviour of people or random unexplained occurrences that boggle the mind.  Perhaps you’re like me and on those dark starry nights you spend time looking up into the sky wondering what’s out there or staring at distant streetlights, wondering what’s happening there.

All sorts of things drive me to write and though I don’t usually lack for ways to inspire myself, I think these past twelve years I have been depriving myself of a valuable source of inspiration.  Whatever inspires you, perhaps you might consider just sitting, looking up and around, see where it takes you.

Who knows, perhaps you’ll be like me and discover an untapped resource.

A Good End?

This blog has gotten a little of track of late, I think I’ve been letting my sentimental side run away with itself; time to correct that.

So, a post about writing, yay!

I was thinking recently about endings, specifically endings to stories.  In short, they’re hard to do.  I think the hardest thing any writer has to do is bring the curtain down on a story, especially if that story is part of a long running series that they have invested no small an amount of time into.  I’m only just embarking upon writing my own writing adventure with the Brogan books and so I don’t need to think about ending it any time soon, but the thought of doing it fills me with a deep feeling of dread whenever it enters my mind.

I think a writer has two main problems when coming to ending a story, ending at the right time and ending in the right way.

I’ll start with ending at the right time.  One of the worst things a writer can do in my opinion is to draw out a story, all stories and characters for that matter have a shelf life.  The time comes when consideration must be given to whether the best thing for them is to end it, there a few things worse than seeing a much-loved character being flogged like a dead horse to put off their eventual execution.  I get why they do it, we love them, they’re like part of the family and ending their story is akin to taking a family pet to the vet knowing it’ll be last time you do.

Overstating the issue?  Maybe, but I love my characters, even the bastards; I put too much into creating them not to get attached to them.

Whilst timing is important, equally as important is execution.  How many times have we been following a story in whatever medium we’re experiencing it, only to get to the end and be left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.  Take for example the ending to the first trilogy in the Mass Effect series of games.  Now sure it’s purely a matter of opinion on whether the ending to Mass Effect 3 was any good, indeed it is a very polarizing topic.  Much like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it.  But it doesn’t alter the fact that it left many people feeling like they had been sold a lemon.

For those of who haven’t played the games, the series was sold on the basis that the choices you made through the series would affect the ending.  I can only speak for my own experience, but I was personally feeling good running into the last half an hour of gameplay.  The story had been good, the musical score was outstanding and the characters were all behaving in characteristic fashion.  Sadly, everything north of this point was, in my opinion at least, complete and utter bollocks.

Half an hour later and the game was over.  I won’t tell you how it went, I will however say three words that should explain the situation clearly; deus ex machina.  The writers threw a curveball, and not in a good way.  It was a disappointing end to what had otherwise been an outstanding series of games, the response of the writers to criticism didn’t help matters any either, but that’s a topic for another time.  The moral of the story is this; timing and execution are key.  If you want your stories to be remembered for the right reasons you need make sure you end them at the right time and in the right way, of course having a good story also helps.

For my part, I hope that when the time comes for me to end the Brogan series, I do it right.  It may not have many fans now, but those it does have deserve the best I can do.

Peace out folks, and have a lovely day.

It continues…

This is frustrating.

I thought I had a good idea for a blog post, I was all prepared to sit down and write it, I’m past my writers block I thought.  Well, two paragraphs into it I was sat there looking at the two paragraphs I’d written, ruminating about how shit they were and wondering why I can’t seem to put two decent words together.  Indeed, it seems all I can write about these days is my inability to write, it’s made all the worse when I think about how I’ve been like this since the beginning of January.

I think I know what the problem is though, I’ve got a new job.  I’m due to leave my current place of employment where I’ve been working for the last eleven years, same employer, different job and location.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that my problems started around the time I put the application in for this, clearly, it’s causing me some problems.  The upshot of this is that if I’m right, this is only going to be a problem for another month.

This does make me think however, change really isn’t easy.  A new job is going to be good for me, but the fact that I’m going to be leaving the place I’ve made so many friends over the last eleven years is going to be tough.  It’s a big change and it’s not going to be as easy as I might have envisioned it would be, the effect it’s having on my writing is obvious.

I think I’m going to have to take my time and write my way out of this one.  In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted as to my labours.

A Healthy Debate

Has anyone ever found themselves in a fiery debate over the merits and behaviours of their favourite character in a book?

I was recently engaged in a heated debate with my brother over a book we had both read.  It was part two of Games Workshop’s Gathering Storm series and having both just finished reading it we engaged in what started out as friendly discussion about it.  We started off discussing the contents of the book specifically, what we thought of it in general and what direction we though the next part might take.  There was recently a leak with regards to the third book and we now have a good idea of where it is going to go, it involves the return of a character that I and many others loath with a passion.  My brother however likes this character and is greatly looking forward to his return, this being were our opinions differed.

My opinion was that the series has been very good up to now, lots of twists and turns that kept the reader guessing, with some good background to boot.  However, the character returning in the third book is a bit of a Marmite character, you either love him or hate him, there doesn’t tend to be much middle ground and truth be told his return probably doesn’t surprise many.  Cue heated discussions as to his virtues or in my case, negative character aspects.  Indeed, it got so heated that we were both starting to get exasperated that the other could not for whatever reason see our respective points of view.

This is not an isolated incident.  Myself and my brother tend to have these discussions regularly, they get so heated that you would think that the people we were discussing were real.  I suppose that is the sign of a good story with well-constructed characters, you feel such an attachment to them that you feel like you must defend them; well I do at least.  I get so worked up that someone is criticizing my favourite character I feel an unstoppable urge to leap to their defence.

Grant Ward from Agents of Shield, Shane Walsh from the Walking Dead and Rogal Dorn from the background of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 game to name but a few.  I can’t help it, they’re great characters and don’t deserve a lot of the criticism they receive.

I could go on about this all day, so I’ll finish off with this.  The art of great story telling is getting people to care about your story and your characters, if people get half as worked up about my characters as I do about other people’s then I shall be a very happy author indeed.

What about yourselves?  Are any of you similarly pushed to these levels of defence?  Any characters you feel are underappreciated?

Please comment below, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Writing on Auto-Pilot…

It’s no secret that I’ve been having problems writing of late.

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been in something of a lull since Christmas, nothing would work for me and I could never seem to work up the motivation to get going consistently.  I seem to be coming out of the other side of it now and that brings me to the subject of my blog post.

My lack of energy and motivation really taught me to appreciate and savour the good times.  Before Christmas I was on a roll, writing on auto-pilot you could say.  I was churning out multiple blog posts through the week and still finding the time to do some creative writing as well, I felt like nothing could stop me.  I think back and it’s no surprise I came to a screeching halt.  I’d write in the morning before work and having worked a full day I would spend all night, every night sat in front of my laptop or with a notebook in front of me writing.  I loved doing it and enjoyed it immensely, but it was always going to burn me out eventually.

You know what though?

I’ll do it again, I’ll get that in the zone again and sit there writing all day loving every minute of it.  Because when writers are in that sort of mindset that’s what we should do.  We should take every minute available to us to hone our craft and do the thing we love.

So, whatever you write.  When you’re in the zone and racking up the wordcount like a child prodigy at a spelling bee, be sure to savour and make the most of it, who knows how long it will last.


This was a daily prompt response.

Weaving a narrative…

I like a good, well woven narrative.  You know the sort I mean, the type that keeps you guessing and coming up with all sorts of new theories as to where it’s going.

I mention this because I’ve just finished watching the first season of Westworld and the last episode blew my socks off.  It was, as you might expect from the last episode of any season jam packed full of surprises of all sorts.  As it was tying up all the plots from the season, all the bits and pieces that seemed a little weird to me at the time were explained in exquisite detail.  It was an expert piece of story-telling of a sort that I can only hope to achieve one day.

So, that’s what this post is about; narrative.

Though I wrote few of them, I have been making up stories all my life.  I would imagine all sorts of people doing all sorts of things, I would make the stories increasingly complex until I couldn’t remember where they started or indeed what they were about by the time I awoke from my day dreams.  However, all this daydreaming did teach me the importance of a good narrative.

It’s important you see to understand the difference between a story and a narrative.  When you look at the definition of the two words there appears little difference, however as with most things, the devil is in the detail.  A story is described as an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.  Whilst a narrative is described as a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

Any fiction writer can create a story, containing rich and interesting characters with deep and immersive back stories.  A narrative is another thing, the narrative of any story is the mechanism by which we drive the story along and take it from the start, to its conclusion.  The narrative is like the links of a chain, a series of set pieces that when linked together form the story.

Coming up with a good narrative requires planning, I’m speaking from experience here.  When writing Brogan and the Bandit King I did some planning, it’s only now as I look back I realise that it wasn’t nearly enough.  I had all sorts of ideas, different characters to fit into the story and set pieces I wanted to write.  I had a rough idea of how I wanted the story the go, where I wanted the titular hero to be by the end of it and so in my mind I had my story, all I needed to do was write it.

What a tremendous muppet I was.

Including the editing stage, it took me somewhere in the region of two years to write and get it to the point that it was ready to release.  Whilst some of that was down to spelling and grammatical errors, the largest amount of time came from moving chapters about, deleting bits and adding others.  There were several bits near the start of the book that I wrote in intending to do something with later, before promptly forgetting about them.  Then there was the town that had one name at the beginning of the book and another at the end.  Thinking about it I was a fool, a little planning at the start could have saved me a lot of work later.

So, that’s my advice to anyone setting out to write a story, do some planning at the start.  Make some notes, write down your story ideas and plot a good, coherent narrative.  Then hopefully you won’t do what I did and forget about the box hidden under the wheel arch of the cart.

Let Me Share a Secret…

I was told something unsettling by some very wise people recently, I am a brand.

I must admit this was somewhat disconcerting, not least because I always viewed myself simply as Tom, overweight hairy bloke from Liverpool.  Office worker extraordinaire, eater of Mars bars and general all round nerd.  Frankly, if someone had told me a few years back that I was going to have to market myself as anything other than the above, well I possibly would have eaten less Mars bars to be honest.

When I was writing my first book I must admit, I never really gave any thought to what I was going to do once it was finished.  Obviously, I knew I was going to publish it and to do that there was going to have be some promotion of the book, but I never considered that it would mean having to promote myself as well.  In hindsight, it was obvious really, after all what do we do before buying a book, we read reviews and research the author to reassure us that the book is going to be worth the money we’re going to spend.

When you’re writing it’s easy to get caught up in the creative process, to pour so much of your creative energy into your project that you’re blind to the things you’re going to have to do at the end.  The reality for an author looking to sell copies of whatever literary work you have written, is that promotion is important.  Promotion of yourself as well as your book, if people trust you then they will be willing to buy from you, they will be willing to make that initial outlay and take a gamble that you are worth it.

There are a some things you can do to start with.  First of all you will want to come up with a decent author bio, I have an author profile on both Amazon and Goodreads, so a bio is key as it helps people relate to you as an author.  It won’t do the job by itself, but I personally think it’s good for people to know a little bit about the author.

There are also services out there that can help, for a price of course.  I would personally recommend Rowanvale Books, their advice is good and they’re not too expensive if like me, you happen to be working on a budget.  However, in the interests of fairness I feel I should say there are many others out there and you should shop around, what’s good for one isn’t necessarily good for another.  The choice as ever is yours, but if you lack experience in this sort of thing I would heartily recommend considering paying the extra cost.

I’m not going to lie, if you’re not used to this sort of thing then it can be difficult.  Keep pushing ahead, listen to advice from people, but at the same time try to be your own person; it will get easier.