Looking Back: 2014

2014 is nearly over, with a mere three days left in the year before 2015 starts. I thought I’d take this time to look back on my year, with another post tomorrow talking about what I plan to do next year (which will be the special announcements post I mentioned a while ago).

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My take on the Amazon/Hachette Dispute

For those of you who may not know, Amazon and book publisher Hachette have been in a pretty public and major dispute over how much Amazon is allowed to price Hachette’s ebooks. From what I understand, Hachette wants higher ebook prices ($9.99+), while Amazon wants to price them lower (less than $9.99). This dispute has been going on for a while now and doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.

In the beginning I eagerly followed every update about the dispute I could find. I did this because I believe it is part of my job, as an indie writer/publisher, to keep as up to date on news about the publishing industry as I can. I don’t want to be taken by surprise by some sudden or unexpected change, after all, the way some publishers and writers have in the past.

But recently I’ve been avoiding almost every article written on the subject, even if it is written by someone I like. Why?

Because the dispute has nothing to do with me*. I could honestly care less about who ‘wins’ because neither side’s victory or loss is going to affect me in any way. I am certainly not going to raise or lower the prices of my books in response to whatever happens. If I were a Hachette author or Amazon worker I might care, but I am neither, so I have no reason to give a hoot about which way the conflict goes.

Basically I just think there’s more drama surrounding this conflict than it deserves. I was especially disappointed when Stephen Colbert weighed in on it a while ago, not helped in the least by his misunderstanding the whole situation. I think that was the point when I just got fed up with it.

If Amazon and Hachette do come to some sort of agreement soon, I’ll definitely read about it. But I’m honestly not holding my breath and definitely won’t be altering my own plans in reaction to whatever agreement they come up with.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to return to writing my next novel, which does concern me and therefore deserves my attention.

*Dean Wesley Smith wrote a good blog post about it back in July that reflects my own attitude toward the dispute quite well.

“The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock” is now available!

First book in the Prince Malock Duology

The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock

You read that headline right. My fantasy novel, The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock, is now for sale on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords* for $7.99!

Here’s the synopsis:

Prince Tojas Malock, Crown Prince of the island of Carnag, is chosen by the sea godess Kano to go on a dangerous and potentially lethal voyage to the island at the edge of the world, World’s End.

Confident in his own skills, Malock assembles the finest crew money can buy and sets out into the mysterious southern seas beyond the edge of the Northern Isles. But when he loses almost the entire fleet in a month, leaving a single ship struggling to remain afloat and a ragtag crew that wants to be anywhere but, Malock realizes that he is in way over his head. It doesn’t help that the information about the southern seas provided to him by his lover – an aquarian woman named Vashnas, the only mortal to ever reach World’s End and return alive – turns out to be less-than-accurate, causing him to wonder what else she might be hiding from him, and why.

Kinker Dolan, an old fisherman from the small and obscure island of Destan, has a secret. It’s a terrible secret, a secret that fills him with guilt and shame in equal measure. Yet when he attempts to flee Destan to escape his guilt, he ends up getting drawn into Prince Malock’s mad voyage, where he must use all of his wits and knowledge to keep his life – and his secret – safe.

With mortal-eating gods, murderous aquarian pirates, and betrayals within the crew itself, will Prince Malock, Kinker, and the rest of the crew of the Iron Wind make it to World’s End alive? And even if they do, how will they react to the true purpose of the voyage?

And if you want to be immediately notified of when the sequel, The Return of Prince Malock, is released, then subscribe to my email newsletter here.

*Will be available in Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and other ebookstores very soon.

What are your goals as a writer?

One of the most important things I have learned about the writing business is that you should be clear about the goals you want to achieve. Your goals determine how you approach your writing career . . . or your lack of one.

As an example, the writer who wants to publish only one book will have to approach the writing business differently from the writer who wants to make an entire career out of writing. The writer who wants to publish one book need only think short term, whereas the writer who wants to make a career out of this writing thing has to think long term, as in five, ten, or more years.

I’ve already written about my goals as a writer before. These goals–to be great and to make a living off my fiction–inform nearly every decision I make regarding my career as a writer. If a decision will not help me become a better writer or help me make money off my writing, I generally don’t do it.

Notice how my goals don’t include:

-Getting on the New York Times Bestseller List
-Becoming a household name that everyone knows (but not necessarily loves)
-Writing The Great American Novel
-Selling a million copies of my first novel
-Writing a book that becomes a classic
-Being published by a big publishing company
-Becoming a creative writing professor at a prestigious university
-Getting a blockbuster movie made out of one of my books
-Having my stories analyzed in creative writing classes across the country
-Appearing on every late night talk show whenever I have a new book out
-Getting represented by a literary agent from a famous literary agency
-Being invited to speak at campuses, writer’s groups, libraries, and bookstores around the country

There’s nothing wrong with wanting any of that and if any of it does happen to me, hey, I won’t complain. Those just aren’t my goals at the moment. Perhaps I may aim for some of those later on, but right now all I want to do is become a great writer and make a living off my work and I can do all of that just fine without any of that other stuff.

You might differ. Maybe you want all of that or only some of that or maybe you want something else entirely that I didn’t even mention. Maybe you have the same goals as me. Whatever your goals may be, it is important to be clear about them. If your goals are muddled and confused, then don’t be surprised when that happens to your career.

I’ve notice that a lot of beginning writers don’t have very clear goals. They talk about making a career out of their work, but get obsessed with one book or don’t try to learn business or anything that could help them long term. I used to be that way, too, until I realized that writing is a business as much as an art and that if I didn’t want to get screwed over by agents, publishers, or anyone else who tries to take advantage of unsuspecting beginner writers, then I needed to learn that business.

If you do not care to make a career out of writing–maybe you only do it as a hobby or simply want to do it as a side thing to have some extra coffee money–that’s fine. It means you will have to approach the business differently from how I or other writers like me do, but again that’s totally fine. As long as you are clear about what your goals are and don’t try to pretend your goals aren’t what they are (such as publishing only one book and claiming that’s enough to constitute a career, for example), then you will probably do fine (‘fine’ being relative here, of course, depending on your goals).

Learning a New Skill

Whenever I set out to learn a new skill, I generally prefer to have someone show me how its done first while explaining how they do it. Then I try to copy them as best as I can, which inevitably means I make mistakes but that’s okay because the only way to learn is by making mistakes (even though making mistakes is rarely fun, especially embarrassing ones).

Interestingly enough, this isn’t how I learned to write fiction. I didn’t have someone show me how to do it. I just sat down one day and started writing really awful fanfiction (that I cannot find anywhere at the moment). Of course, since then I’ve read countless books, articles, blogs, and videos on the art, craft, and business of fiction writing, but I’ve never had a teacher or mentor of any sort, even though I find the idea of a writing mentor really cool. I’m self-taught, I suppose you could say.

I’m not exactly sure why I like hands-on learning best. I guess it’s because I find explanations and instructions, even well-written ones, difficult to follow. I’ve always appreciated having someone show me how to do it and then letting me try to copy how they did it, even if it means messing up. It’s probably because explanations and instructions, whether verbal or written, are more open to interpretation than watching or doing something yourself, and misinterpreting instructions can cause a lot of grief for everyone involved (especially on projects that require following the instructions to the letter).

This preference for hands-on learning extends to teaching as well. Whenever I have to teach someone something, I usually show them how to do it while explaining what I am doing. I then let them try it themselves; after all, how else am I going to know if they learned something if I never let them try it?

What is your learning style?

Why do you blog?

Bloggers blog for different reasons.

Some blog because they genuinely enjoy it. They like sharing their thoughts on various subjects online and love interacting with their readers in the comments section of their blog. They are the kind of people who would blog even if they had no readers or were making no income from it whatsoever. These people generally blog every day or at least very frequently.

Others blog as a means to an end. These people write blogs in order to achieve certain goals, such as selling books or spreading awareness of certain political/religious/social issues or supporting a cause or some other goal. These people may like to write, but they may not be particularly fond of blogging in itself and blog only when they need to.

I’m in the second category of people. I started this blog as a way to build my author platform. I hope that the readers of this blog will eventually translate into readers of my fiction (once I publish them, of course). To be sure, I like my blog, but it can be hard for me to come up with ideas for posts, which is one reason I don’t blog every day.

I see myself as a fiction writer first and foremost. It’s what I spend most of my writing time doing. I like to write nonfiction, too, but fiction is my real strength and what I like best and it is ultimately what will be making me money. Blogging will help, which is why I am doing it, but if I had to choose between giving up my blog or giving up my books, I’d choose my blog every time.

I have nothing against people who blog for its own sake, though. It’s just something I don’t understand. To me, blogging is a means to an end. I don’t understand how you can be excited about blogging every day. Honestly, I don’t. As cool as it is to get comments and likes and subscribers, I’m interested in that stuff only insofar as it helps build my author platform, not for its own sake.

I guess it just comes down to preferences, like with any form of art. I prefer fiction writing while blogging on the side, while I am sure there are some bloggers who write fiction on the side. Neither preference is inherently superior to the other. Just comes down to what you like doing best.

-Tim

Another victory

Today I finished the third draft of my upcoming novel, The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock.

I am done rewriting or, as some writers call it, ‘redrafting.’ I will put it aside for now, work on a few short stories, and then come back to it to do some editing. I could do the editing right away, as I know of several problems that need to be addressed, but this draft was a lot harder for me to write than the last two and I would like to focus on something else for a while, just to give my mind a break.

After I edit out those errors, I will then give it to some friends of mine to look over. And after that, I will get it ready for publishing, which should be sometime later this year if all goes according to plan. So excited.

-Tim

Taking Charge of my Business

I hope to make a career out of writing fiction.

That is a rather ambitious dream, when you consider all of the obstacles that new and old writers alike must constantly deal with. Scams seem to be around every corner, plenty of people will take your rights and your money with a smile on their face, there’s a ton of misinformation about writing and publishing everywhere you look, and sometimes you get sick and you miss a few days of writing and you think, this is it, this proves I’m not a writer, that I’m a fraud, that I’ll never make any money off this. Even though you have not yet published even one book yet.

Indeed, there is no guarantee I’ll ever make a living at this. Joe Konrath calls publishing a lottery and I am starting to think there’s some truth to that metaphor when you consider the millions of books published each year, traditional, indie, or otherwise, and how many new writers give up early on. Indie-/self-publishing has made it easier to make a living writing fiction, true, but it still takes a while to build a dedicated readership who will buy basically anything you write.

Nonetheless, I still want this to be my career. I’m taking a long-term view of the business, trying to give myself time and space to learn and make mistakes and to write a lot of books. It’s not easy because I want to be published now and I want to be making a living now, too, but I still have a lot to learn and it wouldn’t do for me to upload my first novel to Amazon or some other website right away until I’ve got a proper grasp of things like formatting and cover design, for example.

This is why I am indie-publishing, actually. I would like to have as much control over my business as I can, even if that doesn’t guarantee me anything except a lot of hard work. Indie-publishing gives me that control and indie-publishing is a viable option in today’s world, so I’m gonna give it a go and see where that takes me.

Oddly, I am excited for my future, maybe because I have set realistic goals. Right now, all I want to do is make enough money off my fiction (both novels and short stories and maybe other things, too, later on) to live off of. True, it may take a while for me to achieve that goal, but it seems far more reasonable that uploading one book to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Kobo or whatever and expecting it to sell a million copies within its first few weeks or months.

Whenever I get worried or depressed about my future as a writer, I remind myself to keep writing and learning and to never give up. I believe that as long as I do that, then maybe someday I’ll achieve my dream of becoming a fulltime career writer. Maybe.

I can only hope.

-Tim

Blogging less and Writing more

Hi, guys.

You may have noticed that I have been blogging far less often than usual recently. Days can go between blog posts and I don’t always write substantive articles, either.

That’s because I’ve recently started to teach myself ebook formatting, as well as cover design. Not only that, but I’ve increased my writing time from two hours a day to four in order to produce more work and finish my novel, The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock, quicker.

All of this takes up a lot of my time, rarely leaving me enough time to blog. Because I want to be a career writer, I figure it would do more for my career if I spent less time on this blog and more time writing (or formatting or doing cover design, etc.). Doesn’t mean I have abandoned this blog. It just means I am putting my priorities in order and I realized that blogging was less important and less helpful for me as a writer than, say, writing my novel or making covers for my books, for example.

I’ll still try to update this blog a couple of times a week, but probably no more than that, I’m afraid. Just thought I’d let y’all know.

-Tim

Why Aging Doesn’t Scare Me

In response to this prompt:

Aging doesn’t terrify me, the way it does some people. Admittedly, the idea of my body getting weaker, my memory becoming poorer, and losing my health doesn’t make me look forward to it, but I understand that aging is something that happens to everyone and is unavoidable, so it’s best to accept it.

Besides, aging has some advantages over youth. As a 19-year-old, I have a better understanding of the world than I did when I was nine and I will no doubt understand it even better at the age of 29. I will still make mistakes, but I will be able to handle them better because I’ll have the experience to know how to deal with them.

Additionally, as a writer, I am constantly striving to improve, so the older I get, the more time I have to practice and the more stories I get to write. I honestly cannot wait to see what kind of stories I will be writing when I get into my sixties or seventies (assuming, of course, I don’t get into an accident that takes away my ability to write).

Overall, I am looking forward to getting older. I’m enjoying my youth, of course, but I’m constantly thinking long-term and, if all of my plans materialize, I think my older years will be even better than my younger years. One can only hope.

-Tim