The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Category: Author Origins (page 1 of 2)

Author Origins: Michael Anderle

Note from D_Sidd: Michael Anderle exploded onto the indie author scene with a fast-paced, no holds barred approaching to publishing. Calling him an overnight success wouldn’t do justice to the sheer amount of work he’s put in, but Michael has made a lot of progress over a short period of time because he’s not afraid to revolutionize and think outside the box. In addition to this interview, I highly recommend checking out his 20BooksTo50K Facebook group.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I started publishing for 2 reasons.  Half to know how to do it, and share it with my eldest son, Joshua.  Half because (as a huge reader my whole life) it became a bucket list item after having read other Indie Authors (John Conroe, PS Powers, Laurence Dahners) and figured, I can do this as well.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What is the hardest thing about writing for a living now?

I had a small consulting company which was in between projects during my first three books.  Due to this, I had more time than most.  I would write like crazy, even on the plane or in an airport.  Whatever it took.  Having been a programmer earlier in my career (I am late 40’s at this time) I have learned how to type well, structure my thoughts (on the fly) in a logical fashion and understand the logical progression of steps to accomplish step one to step ten.

This has been beneficial for anything like how to kill seven Nosferatu, to making sure I provide enough in between steps for a character to get off the couch to make it up to their room for a reader.

Presently, my challenges are building my publishing company while I write, and juggle family.

Tell us about your schedule and habits back before you made the move to full-time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

Because I had my own company, my time had been my own to manage.  I just took time away from (say reading) and applied it to writing.  Moving time spent studying some new sales & marketing technology into studying our profession.

It was a conscious decision to forego moving my Digital Sales & Marketing company forward, and take that time and move it towards Indie Publishing. 

Remember, writers write. Writers who publish have a product to sell.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

Published 3 books Nov 2015, 1 in Dec and then about 11 books + 2 Novellas in 2016.

I grossed about $430 in November 2015, about $3,000 in December 2015 and $10,000+ in January 2016 (5 books at this time).

I went all in with Amazon as a business decision.  I didn’t feel I had the time to commit to figuring out how to go wide at the time, and since I was a HUGE Kindle Unlimited fan, it was easy for me to make the decision to trust Amazon.

At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

Once I had passed my consulting income, I never looked back.  By March I was 2x my consulting income and I felt I had enough of an understanding of my options that I started releasing clients and moving their responsibilities to others.

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

My ebook income covers the bills.

Was there ever a point when you felt like quitting writing or didn’t think you’d ever become a full-time author?

I had a 2-year plan to become a full time author, it just hit in 5 months instead of 2 years.  I persevered through a burn-out time (about 2.5 months) and understood how to handle the emotional challenges that were thrown my way (this was late summer 2016).

I still completed and published 2 books during this time.

Starting out, what were some misconceptions you had of life as a full-time author? Were there any unexpected challenges you never realized before you got to that point in your career?

No, since I had a consulting company, I was better equipped to handle the working while alone or keeping myself on task (versus allowing bosses or others to help keep me on task).

I had no misconceptions since I knew nothing about the field before I started (I hadn’t written anything in 30 years, and the last thing was in High School (very poorly received, too)).

What’s one thing about your author career that not many people know?

With as many podcast(s) as I have been on, it’s hard to figure out what I haven’t told people.  I would say that many of the tweaks to my career, have come about by being involved in the fan base, and allowing them to help steer the direction of the stories.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet?

Know what your mountain is and whether your goal (the mountain you are climbing) will even support you full time.

For example, if you are dead-set on going trad-pub, the chances of you making enough money in the beginning is fairly remote.  Even if you receive a large advance (call it $20,000) it doesn’t come in one chunk, and there are tax issues with it, as well.

If you are literary minded, and desire the prestige of writing awards? Most often, these books perform – on the whole – poorly in sales.  So, know what your goal is.

My goal was income and having fans that loved the stories enough that they would re-read them.

And they do.

What should they be focusing on?

Knowing what their goal really is.  Don’t have conflicting goals.

For example, I want to make a lot of money AND write literary Super-hero books…  Those are almost mutually exclusive.  Possible? Sure, but that will be a LOT of effort to find out you aren’t the person who will make it happen. 

Then again, never say never…

Just don’t bet the farm.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

Know where those who are giving advice are coming from (know what THEIR mountain is).  My advice, while well-intentioned, won’t be appropriate for some readers since we don’t share the same mountain.

Know if you are a writer only, or are willing to put in the effort to publish (and learn it) as well.  If not?  You are going to be SUPER-challenged in this endeavor.

Author Origins: Ben Hale

Ben Hale author photo

An avid snowboarder from Utah, Ben Hale grew up with a passion for learning. This thirst for knowledge led him to sports, music, and academic endeavors. After a year of college, he did volunteer work in Brazil and became fluent in three languages. Graduating from the University of Central Florida, he started and ran several successful businesses before publishing his first novel in June of 2012. By the end of the year he’d sold almost ten thousand copies of The Second Draeken War, and he began writing full-time. Now spanning 10,000 years, ten titles, and two series, The Chronicles of Lumineia represents a sprawling YA series that has sold over 100,000 copies, and continues to expand its readership across all ages. Each of his books has been inspired by his wonderful wife and five beautiful children.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I am an author of a sprawling fictional fantasy world that spans 10,000 years, 13 books, and 3 series. Unlike most writers I didn’t set out to be a writer. Instead I had a story I thought about as I would fall asleep at night. One evening my wife asked me why I could fall asleep so fast and I told her about my story. She asked me to tell it to her thinking it would help her fall asleep. It took me four days to tell her the entire thing, and it didn’t help her sleep. Her prompting is what drove me to write it. Four years later I was publishing the first and soon after it became my full-time job. Now I’ve sold over 100,000 copies and am preparing to publish my 14th, 15th, and 16th books this year. I also have an audio firm that bought my audio rights, and have done incredibly well with them.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What is the hardest thing about writing for a living now?

Discipline on both counts. Writing when you have a day job requires discipline to stay consistent. Writing when it’s your job requires even more discipline because there is no immediate consequence for not writing. To be successful as a writer at any point requires daily discipline.

Tell us about your schedule and habits back before you made the move to full-time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I dedicated an hour a day to write. Owning a business gave me the flexibility to do that, and I stayed consistent except during the busy season. I didn’t worry about publishing or marketing, I just focused on the story and learning how to write. I also did a lot of drafts. My first book I published the 24th draft, and I still think there are errors.

Now I write 3,000 words a day, or edit 60-80 pages a day when I’m editing. This year I wrote my first book in 7 weeks and edited it in 6. (13 drafts) I hope to write 4 books next year. Regardless of where you are in your writing career consistency is key.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

My sales on my first book averaged about 2 per day. Over three months they crept up until they were selling 20 per day. Then I published my second book and they both averaged 25 per day. Two months later I published my third and they took off, averaging 350 sales a day between all three. Keep in mind I had already written the three books, so publishing them was easier.

At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

I took the plunge when my books were earning more than my business was. I also set aside about $10,000 dollars in case sales went down before I could publish more books. I ended up using every cent of the reserve before I managed to stabilize my sales.

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time while my wife is a stay-at-home mom. We have five kids so she works a lot harder than I do.

Was there ever a point when you felt like quitting writing or didn’t think you’d ever become a full-time author?

More times than I can count. At one point my sales dropped so low I earned less than $600 for the month. Without my reserve I would have been sunk, but I persevered and kept writing, putting out a new book that helped things bounce back. As much as some might think a great book will make you set for life, that is rarely the case. Most writers that are successful write and keep writing. For most writing a career because they made it one, not because one book took off and it was given to them.

Starting out, what were some misconceptions you had of life as a full-time author? Were there any unexpected challenges you never realized before you got to that point in your career?

I’m sure I had the same image that most people do, that a writer gets to do whatever they want. The truth is that it requires just as much work as any other job. Fortunately I came into it with a background as an entrepreneur, so I viewed by books as products and my series as a product line. I managed to avoid most of the major pitfalls that new authors often face, but caution and courage were my watchwords.

What’s one thing about your author career that not many people know?

What I do for research. I rock climb, play sports, video games, and snowboard, all in the name of research. I can’t perform magic, but I try to do things that create sense of the magical. It’s where I get a lot of my ideas from.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Don’t get too attached to your work. Your writing is a medium to convey emotion and ideas. It is not you, or your child. It’s merely a tool to convey what you want. Critiques, reviews, and opinions about your writing is not a referendum on you, it merely helps you know how your medium is being perceived. Never grow so attached to your writing that you ignore editors, friends, and readers.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

Take courage and be patient. Writing is a long game, and few are able to make it a financial success in a year. Your success in that time has very little to do with your success ten years from now. Remember, you didn’t become a writer to market and do business. You became a writer to write, so do what you love.

Author Origins: Kevin Tumlinson

Kevin TumlinsonKevin Tumlinson is speculative fiction author writing thrillers, science fiction, and contemporary fantasy. His latest thriller, The Coelho Medallion, is available on Amazon and has already thrilled readers and reviewers. You can learn more about Kevin from his website—kevintumlinson.com.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

Who I am is kind of straightforward—I’m a guy with a laptop. Which is quite an accomplishment by the standards of my pre-teen self, who longed for a computer more than super powers or owning his own personal monkey. Both of these things were high on his list.

I tell everyone that I wrote my first book when I was five years old, and that isn’t a lie. Maybe a slight exaggeration. I was five years old. And I did write a book. It was scrawled out in pencil on five pages of notebook paper—front and back—with a hand-drawn cover (even then I designed all my own covers) and some very nicely written copy on the back cover.

Tragically that first book was thrown away by my stepfather after an ill-fated bout of personal modesty. He had asked if I wanted him to type it up for me at work, and I had said, “Oh, it’s not that important. Do whatever you want with it.” Apparently he’d wanted to toss it in the wastebasket.

Thus began a long-standing fear of publishers, and an aversion to modesty.

I’ve written short stories and ‘first thirds’ of books my whole life, and I even managed to finish a manuscript or two early on. One of these got the attention of an agent, who turned out to be a scam, and a publisher, who turned out to be real.

The publishing deal didn’t end well, mostly because I can do basic math. Keeping the advance and the contract they gave me was going to end up costing me out of pocket, and the odds of the book selling well and earning back the advance were long.

So I paid it back—including having to dip into my savings to pay back the bit I’d already spent—and ended the contract. Ownership of the book stayed with the publisher for the next few years, and it’s never seen the light of day. I think I could publish it now, but it’s awful, and needs a lot of editing. Also, it’s a relic of a bygone way of thinking about publishing. So I think it’s good where it is for now.

At this point in my career I’ve published more than 25 books, and I have at least five more already on the board for the rest of the year. My newest book, ‘The Coelho Medallion,’ is kind of a departure for me—my first full-on thriller. I’ve written thrillers before, but they largely relied on a heavy science fiction influence. This is the first that stands all on its own merit, and judging by reader reaction it’s living up to its Dan Brown/James Rollins roots.

I’ve always been a fan of contemporary fiction, putting relatable and modern-feeling characters in extraordinary circumstances. Thrillers are a great way to explore stories of all types. So it’s my belief that ‘The Coelho Medallion’ sets a new tone for the rest of my writing career. I’ll still write scifi and fantasy and anything else that attracts me, but I’ll return to this particular well for years to come.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What is the hardest thing about writing for a living now?

I worked for years as a copywriter, and as a media producer (documentary television, talk radio, etc.). Those are jobs with a very heavy writing and editing focus. So for me, the toughest part about writing fiction while keeping a day job was just getting myself to sit down again after 10-12 hours of writing and editing, and write and edit more. At least this stuff was more fun.

I taught for a few years, and I wish I could say that I spent summers writing novels and short stories. But the truth was, I spent most of my down time playing video games and going to the movies. I think I was burned out. Or bored. I was single at the time—maybe that has an effect on your ambition. But most likely, I was just being lazy.

These days, now that I’m a full-time author, my biggest challenge is keeping income steady. I still take the occasional copywriting job to fill in the gaps between book income. This is an ocean, and it has waves.

The good news is that those gaps are getting more and more narrow as the days go by, so that I expect book income will be a lot steadier and more reliable. I’m counting on that, actually, as my wife and I just purchased an RV and we intend to travel full time, living off of my book income while I do a sort of roaming and roving book tour, and while we enjoy everything this country has to offer.

Tell us about your schedule and habits back before you made the move to full-time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

Before going full time, my schedule was to get up around 4 AM every morning and write for about three hours before going to my day job.

When my work day was done, I generally crashed. I’m not much of an evening or night person. I get up early, and write when my energy is high, then spend the rest of the day sort of fighting the urge the fall forward and sleep on my keyboard.

That hasn’t really changed much, since going full time. I still get up early. I still write all morning. And I still spend the rest of the day doing something else. I use the afternoons for marketing, or producing podcasts (I host four of them now). And I run the more mundane errands of life. If I have client work (which I’m starting to trim down) I do a lot of it during that time.

In the evenings I tend to do something that doesn’t require the same mental muscles. When I’ve finished a draft of a book, I usually sit in my recliner with the TV going and my laptop resting on a small lap desk, and I tinker with the cover. I design all my own covers—something I don’t necessarily advise others to do—because it relaxes me, and helps me feel that the book is finished. Once I see the cover, I feel like I finally have a book.

But over all, my best and most basic habit is this: Get up and write every single day.

I have a minimum daily word count. It has changed periodically since my day job days, but it’s still there. I went from a minimum of 1,500 words per day to a minimum of 5,000 words per day. That’s about two hours of writing, all told. And I divide that on most days, between work on a book and work on a short story.

I had no idea, early on, how much I could leverage short fiction in my business. But it’s been amazing, and it’s something I highly recommend. I try to write a short story every single day.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first stared out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

I’ll be completely honest here—my sales were complete and total garbage for the first six years of my author career.

I haven’t gone back to tally it up, because I think it would break my heart, but I’d be willing to bet that out of all the sales I’ve made over the entire span of my career, 95% of them were made between 2014 and today. I started publishing in 2008, so for six years I had a pretty stagnant pool.

In 2014 I had only four books published—the first two ‘Citadel’ books, a crappy collection of short stories with no common theme, and a non-fiction book aimed at college students. Of these, the Citadel books were selling the best, but those figures were in the single digits.

That’s because I was one of those guys who thought, “If I write a book, the world will beat down my door to get it!” I had dreams of über fame, off of the first book in an unfinished trilogy, from an author no one had ever heard of. I’m sure there are readers here who can relate.

In 2014 I got serious, though. Actually, technically, I got serious in 2013, toward the end of the year. I realized that if I was going to accomplish this dream of writing books full time, I actually needed to write books. And I needed to market those books. And I basically needed to put out a book more than once every two years.

That’s when I developed my ’30-Day Author’ formula. I figured out exactly what I would need to do to write a book in 30 days, and I did it. Then, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I did it two more times, back to back. And that was that.

Eventually I actually wrote ’30 Day Author’ so I could share the stupid-simple method I use to do this, with people who may feel overwhelmed by the idea of developing a daily writing habit.

At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did it feel afterward?

This is a tough question to answer, because the timeline on this is kind of vague. Birth, maybe?

Kidding.

Actually, I think that like a lot of full-time writers I never actually came to that decision, it’s more like it came to me.

I was working as a Creative Director for a $100M software company, and I actually really loved the job. I wasn’t planning to leave, if I’m being completely honest—not unless my books suddenly started selling like crazy. But the company merged with one of it’s subsidiaries, and brought in a more senior-level marketing person who took over the department I’d been running. The new VP of Marketing didn’t think there was much need for a Creative Director. Or copywriters. Or me, really. So I was let go, with a nice severance and some stock options, which paid well later on.

So that decision was kind of made for me, at the time. By that point I had already started getting serious about my writing and about the business of being an author, so getting let go from a full-time job, and having a big hunk of money to go with me, made it kind of easy to get started. I took a chance, rolled the dice, and started writing more books.

I wish I could say that from that point on I was full-time, never looking back. But I still had to take copywriting and marketing work to help pay the bills. I’ve had a very eclectic career, and most of it was spent as a freelancer and contractor, so I had those skills to fall back on when the severance and stock money started to run out. But book income has steadily increased over the past couple of years, and I’m closer than ever to the point where I can support two fully grown adults with stories about super powers and spaceships.

Joke’s on you, college career counselor who told me to go into air conditioning repair. (shakes fist in air)

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

I’m close. Getting closer. But I bring income in the doors with a variety of services on top of the the books. I still do copywriting, for example—recently I’ve started writing cover blurbs and website copy for authors. I’ve done some ghostwriting. I’ve edited books for authors. I had a bit of income from podcasts. I get paid for speaking engagements. I do cover design and other design work.

The truth is, a lot of that will still go on even after the books can more than pay for our living. I’m too much of an entrepreneur to just ignore opportunities. What will happen, however, is that I’ll be even more picky about what tasks I take on than I already am. And I’ll be more expensive. I’m already one of the most expensive copywriters around, but I still get people who want to pay for me to do the work, because of the work I deliver. People will pay more when they know you have a proven track record for increasing revenue. Go figure.

I’d love for the books to be 100% of both my income and my retirement fund. But I’d still do a few other things not the side. We’ll call that additional income “gravy.” And I’ll do that because the explorer in me demands that I do it. Everything is a learning opportunity, and it all ends up filtered into the books.

Also, I get bored easy, so I’ll do these things because they can be fun.

Was there ever a point when you felt like quitting writing or didn’t think you’d ever become a full-time author?

Hell yes. In fact, I’ve probably spent more time thinking about that than I’ve actually spent writing for the past 30 years. But I’d never do it. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to. If someone paid me to quit, I’d end up being fired.

Because people who do this aren’t people who can do anything else.

Seriously, look at all the authors you know. Especially look at the authors who have day jobs. Why in the world would you put yourself through all of this? You go to a job every day, bust your hump, take lip from the boss, deal with the stress and anxiety and constant edge-of-disaster of it all, and then you go sit down and write?

Authors—seriously, I mean this about all authors—are the bravest and hardest working people I know. They’re obsessed. And they’re insane. Nobody spends the kind of time and energy we spend, doing work that could just be obscure and thankless at best, without that obsession and insanity.

But we also think about quitting all the time. Because this is thankless, work. It’s the kind of work you love, that you’re passionate about, but it’s so intimately tied to your feeling of self worth that if no one reads it, if no one tells you it’s good, you start to wonder if you’d be better off frying chicken nuggets for a living.

So yeah, I think about quitting. I think about it when the money gets tight (it still does, from time to time). And I think about it when I get crappy reviews (hoo boy). But I’ll never actually quit. I can’t.

I live by Jim Rohn’s philosophy of ambition: “I can do this. I will do this. Or I will die trying.”

Once you start feeling like that, you’re not quitting anything, ever.

Starting out, what were some misconceptions you had of life as a full-time author? Were there any unexpected challenges you never realized before you got to that point in your career?

I honestly thought, early on, that just writing a book would bring readers.

Stupid, right?

Even more stupid: I knew that no one buys books from authors they’ve never heard of, but I somehow believed that I would be different. I would write a book so amazing that people would just be pulled into its gravitational field, and read it because it demanded to be read.

What a dunce.

I had misconceptions about the author life in general, too. I had visions of rolling out of bed any time I felt like it each morning, flush with rest and eager to sit with the page. I imagined I’d pen a book a year, and that a publisher would give me a big, fat advance for that book, so that all my needs were met, and my only worry in life would be, “What trouble should my zany characters get into today?”

I thought I’d have enough money from advances and royalties to buy a multi-acre farm, with a giant house and a lake and an old barn. I guess I figured I could pay someone to maintain all that, too, because I’m not a farmer.

Basically, if you’ve ever seen an author in a film or on television, that’s the life I figured I’d have. That’s what I’d been trained to believe my whole life, after all.

The reality was this: No one cared. No one was going to pay me anything for my work. No one was even going to read my work.

Unless I made them.

And you make them by doing the real work of being an author. You get out there and meet people. You make connections. You build a list of loyal readers who will buy anything you sell. You connect with other authors, editors, agents, publishers, and anyone who knows anything about the industry, and you learn everything you can from them.

And repeat.

Being an author is about being in business. You’re building a brand, you’re creating a product, and you’re marketing both. Sometimes you get lucky and someone wants to help you—a traditional publisher fronts you some cash, takes on some of the overhead, and provides you with some resources. Even then, you’d better get it in your head early that this business is about you, not them. You will still need to think in terms of marketing and promotion, and building relationships with readers, and building relationships with people in the industry. Because if you can’t pay back the advance, and your book isn’t pulling in sales naturally, the publisher will ditch you, and they’ll keep your book, too.

Sorry—I kind of went on a tirade there. But the point is, when I started out I didn’t think of being an author as being in business. And now I do. And coming to that realization is what allowed me to transition to full time.

What’s one thing about your author career that not many people know?

Most of my books started as fantasies I crafted in my head while going about life as a kid, a college student, and eventually as an adult. There are characters, events, and abilities in my books that were born as fantasies I envisioned at night to put myself to sleep when my mind was racing.

Basically, most of my books are bedtime stories I’ve told myself for years.

It’s kind of like cheating.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

The best possible advice is the same advice I was given, though not in so many words: Write anyway, and write every day.

Write anyway, because sometimes things suck. Sometimes you’re tired, and sometimes you have no idea what to put on the page. It sounds trite, but the truth is if you just force yourself to start writing anyway, you’ll break through ‘writer’s block.’ And you can always go back and edit what you wrote to make it better.

Write every day, because that’s how you produce a book in a timely way. Rather than spend two years sipping cognac and sucking on a pipe while wearing a smoker’s jacket contemplating the complexities of life so that you can boil them down into their purest, most concentrated essence, just friggin’ write.

Most of the books on the market right now could have been written in 30 days or less, and I’m not even exaggerating. If you write every single day, you will produce more books, faster. Period.

Also there’s this advice I paraphrase from Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’—Don’t put pressure on your art to make your living.

That one’s tough, because that’s exactly what authors hope to do.

But the gist is that you should think of the art first, not the income. Find a way to balance a day job with doing your art, and if you hate the day job find another source of income you like better. Your art—these stories you’re compelled to tell—is a gift to you and to your readers. If it comes down to it, choose the art over the income. Go make a living making coffee for people and write on your lunch breaks. Go take a job arranging flowers or folding clothes or making sandwiches—as long as you can keep writing.

If your day job is keeping you from writing, don’t wait for the writing to take you away from your day job. Go get a better day job that makes it possible for you to spend more time on writing, and then write every chance you get.

If writing is really going to be your full-time career some day, then it doesn’t matter what jobs you take in the meantime, right?

People hate when I give them this advice, and I totally understand why. I would have hated me for it too, honestly. But it’s the truth.

Look at your reasons for doing this, and ask yourself if you really want to write books because you love telling stories, or do you want it because you think it’s an ‘easy and fun way to make a living?’ Because if it’s the former you’ll write even if you work for someone else, and if it’s the latter you’ll quit the second the work gets too hard. And it will get too hard.

But really, the best advice is to write a book, and then write another, and then repeat until you’re incapable of writing any more.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

You never asked me where my ideas come from. Or how I craft characters. Or whether I prefer to plot my books or just pants the writing.

Thank you.

I get those questions all the time, and they’re the toughest to answer, because there’s nothing clever about them.

I get my ideas where everyone gets their ideas—I steal them. And I craft characters exactly the same way. And I prefer to pants a book, because plotting seems sinister.

But I think there’s a general question at the heart of this interview, and it’s one that everyone reading this is really asking every single day: How do I do this?

And the answer to that meta-question is so simple it’s disgusting: You just do.

Write every single day. Commit to a word count and hit it, every day. Meet as many authors and editors and publishers and agents as you can, take them to coffee if you can, and ask them every question that you can (do not ask them to read your book, help you get a contract, or help you sell it—just ask them to share what they know, and thank them with coffee and a nice hand-written note).

Read a lot. Write a lot. Learn a lot. And grow.

Share all of what you learn with everyone you meet, and hold nothing at all back.

And don’t wait for anyone else to tell you it’s ok to publish, or it’s ok to pursue your dream.

Just do it. Warts and all. Typos and all. Publish, fix the gaffs when you find them, and republish. And do that over and over again until you have so many books that if a handful of readers discover one, they have a vast forest to explore afterward.

Just be sure you’re writing for the love of it, and the full-time income of this business will be a lot easier to reach.

Author Origins: Mark Lawrence

Mark_Lawrence_bioMark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. He now writes full-time. Formerly he was a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say ‘this isn’t rocket science … oh wait, it actually is’.

Between writing and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time playing computer games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.

He has two trilogies in print, The Broken Empire, starting with Prince of Thorns, and The Red Queen’s War starting with Prince of Fools, concluding in June with The Wheel of Osheim. The first book in the Red Sister trilogy is due for publication in 2017.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I’m Mark Lawrence, fantasy author. I never really decided to be an author, I just wrote books for fun, and when I got ‘bullied’ into sending one to an agent I rapidly got a publishing deal. Currently I’m finishing off my eighth book and I stopped having a day-job a year ago.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What is the hardest thing about writing for a living now?

Without wishing to sound obnoxious, I didn’t find anything hard about writing while having a day job. If they hadn’t closed down the entire research department I would probably still be there. To write a 100,000 word book in a year you only need to write 300 words a day. I can easily write 300 words in half an hour.

Writing while not having a day job is even easier. I guess the hardest thing is not letting Facebook and twitter eat my day. Weep for me.

Tell us about your schedule and habits back before you made the move to full-time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I don’t really have a schedule or habits other than those imposed on me. Most of my time was taken up with work and looking after my very disabled youngest daughter. I did my writing when she went to bed. If I don’t feel like writing then I don’t. Fortunately, most of the time I opt for writing over the alternatives.

I’ve always been very relaxed about writing – it’s something I did for enjoyment, and I still enjoy doing it. I’ve never sweated over a piece of fiction.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

I was lucky enough to be published by big six (five) publishers (Penguin and Harper Collins) and by imprints that focus on a small number of authors (Ace and Voyager. Their releases tend to generate a decent amount of buzz and they have the clout to get their titles in bookshops. Additionally some elements in the online genre community did me the enormous favour of getting outraged by my first book and writing the sort of scathing reviews that generate great interest (I don’t think anyone ever believes they will sink someone’s career with outrage). So I had traction from day 1.

At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author?

I had enough income to quit my day job but no great inclination to do so. The entire 200-strong advanced research department at the aerospace giant I worked for was axed out of the blue in an internal political move. So now I’m full time.

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

Just writing. A great many authors on the shelves of any high street bookshop will need a day-job to keep the lights on. I’m very lucky that my decent sales (a million books in five years) and modest life-style mean that I can support my family on my writing income.

Was there ever a point when you felt like quitting writing or didn’t think you’d ever become a full-time author?

I never did think I would become a full-time author and it was never my goal. I never thought about writing in terms of quitting or not quitting because I wasn’t writing to achieve some goal – I was writing because I enjoyed it. If I stopped enjoying it I would have stopped doing it, with no sense of guilt or failure. I would have called it starting whatever replaced it rather than quitting writing.

What’s one thing about your author career that not many people know?

Some people seem surprised that I don’t listen to my audio books … it’s a medium that doesn’t work for me, so I’ve never listened to more than the first couple of minutes of the first book.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Again this question feels odd to me because it’s coming from a very different mind-set. I had the luxury of a job I enjoyed. As a child I wanted to be a research scientist. As an adult I was one. Making money from writing wasn’t a goal.

I could say to write for its own sake. If you enjoy writing then whether you’re published, or sell widely is just a bonus. The truth is that the vast majority of people who write will make very little money from it, so to me it’s sensible to only do what makes you happy writing-wise and if you luck out, great. Other people have very different approaches.

Author Origins: Brian Rathbone

author origins brian rathboneBrian Rathbone is a bit odd. Fitting in has never really been his thing. He tried it once — it didn’t work out; neither did high school. After getting his GED and leaving the life of a professional horse trainer, Brian went to work at a nuclear plant, and then a convenience store, a gas station, a pizzeria and eventually in the mailroom of a commodities trade company. After discovering computers in the early 1990’s and doing consulting work for companies like Lockheed Martin, Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Joe Gibbs Racing, Brian moved up to Voice President of Research and Development for a medium-sized Internet company. Later in his technology career, Rathbone helped expand broadband Internet access into rural areas as part of a stimulus funded broadband planning grant awarded to the North Carolina State Broadband Initiative.

During much of this entire adventure, Brian was an avid reader of fantasy fiction. For years he’d known he would eventually write his own stories — he even told his wife he would someday write fantasy novels on their first date. It took many years of thinking about writing novels before he got the opportunity to act on it. After a couple false starts, he found himself at a career crossroad. While sitting in the Atlanta airport on a 2-hour layover, Brian finally committed himself to writing. He wrote the first chapter of Call of the Herald that day and has been at it ever since.

The first trilogy in the Godsland fantasy series is The Dawning of Power. The ebook is just $0.99 on Amazon Kindle, and with the purchase of the ebook the audiobook is just $1.99!

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

Hi, everybody! I’m Brian Rathbone, a successful self-published writer with a good chance of soon becoming a hybrid author, who is both self-published and traditionally published. I’ve always had a deep love of fantasy fiction and decided as a teenager that I would someday write my own books. When I worked in technology and programming, I would have difficulty shutting my mind off at night and would debug code in my sleep. Sometimes I fixed real problems this way, but it was exhausting. I began thinking about my stories I would someday write. When I finally got the chance to write, I had fifteen years of thinking into it. I couldn’t type fast enough — still can’t.

It took me a decade to succeed as a self-published writer, but now I am able to write full-time. It’s not always easy, but I am living my dream.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

Time and money. When I had a day job, I had plenty of money to provide a robust marketing budget but not enough time to make effective use of that money. Now that I am full-time writer, I have the time but fewer financial resources than I did. I anticipated two years to make the career change, and a year and a half into it, it’s working out about right.

All the nights, weekends, vacation days and sick days I spent writing have finally paid off.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I’m currently busier than I’ve ever been before, but it’s all good stuff. I recently finished writing my eleventh novel, which is the first I’ve intended for traditional publishing in eight years. I queried an agent I met at a convention and am waiting patiently for a response. In the meantime, I am outlining the fourth and final trilogy in the Godsland fantasy series. I’ve also been working on some collaborative novels, two of which are in the final stages of editing. I’ve been planning a Kickstarter fundraiser for these books for a couple years, and it’s all coming together. My voice artist has six novels in his que and I’ve been proofing those as they come in.

Just in case I was getting bored, I recently had a non-fiction writing project offered to me. It’s broadband related, which allows me to tap my passion for technology and utilize my writing skills in a way that will actually help people.

I also occasionally tell a bad dragon joke on Twitter.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

My sales started out heartbreakingly slow. It was 2007, and eBooks weren’t what they are today. I had finished my first trilogy but failed to attract an agent or publisher. I decided to run an offset print run myself, which was a huge mistake. I did lots of things wrong and risked $7,500, but I believed in myself. It took me three years to make my money back.

Eventually I discovered Mobipocket, which was the dominant ebook retailer at the time. The Dawning of Power became the best selling epic fantasy on Mobipocket for the better part of two years. I was hooked. Once the Kindle changed the world and absorbed Mobipocket, I continued to make a solid part-time income from my writing. Releasing the second trilogy and the audiobooks solidified my sales, and the release of the third trilogy made it possible for me to go full-time.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

I wanted to write full-time for years before I got to do it. It was very difficult managing my time and family life against my writing and publishing work, which was a full-time venture in itself. My wife and I decided we needed certain savings and safeguards in place before I made the leap. When the federal grant I was working on ended as scheduled, I had the opportunity to make a clean break. I couldn’t resist. It hasn’t always been easy, but I don’t regret a thing.

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

I can live off my fiction royalties alone, but I also write non-fiction and computer code when the opportunity arises. For example, I wrote software for the furniture manufacturing industry back in 2005-2008, and it has been running eight or nine factories ever since. There is a good chance if you bought a sofa, recliner, ottoman, or ‘lift chair’ in the US in the last decade, my software was used when cutting the wooden parts. Every once in a while those factories need something tweaked or added and I put my programmer hat on. It’s fun as long as I don’t have to do it all the time.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? What are some of your interests outside of writing?

People told me to give up writing for years — even people who love me or are dear friends. I almost gave up a hundred times, but I just couldn’t give up. I knew it was something I was supposed to do. I persisted even though it made people think I was nuts and put pressure on a number of my relationships. There were a lot of sacrifices, but it has finally paid off. It’s a good thing, or I would be in the dog house for years!

I love racing. If it moves, chances are I tried to race it at least once, but mostly I raced horses, motorcycles, and cars. I never went pro as a harness driver, but I did win a number of amateur horse races in my younger years. Later in life I adopted online stock car racing, which is a good bit safer. I won an online racing championship in 2007 after four years of trying. People laugh, but it was among the hardest things I ever pulled off and something I’m very proud of.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Don’t give up. Building up a residual income through royalties takes time, but it is by it’s very nature residual, which means I now get paid even if I don’t work. Granted I earn more when I release new work and when I put effort into marketing, but I still get paid even when I don’t do those things. It’s been almost a year since I’ve released a book or have done any work that contributed directly to the bottom line and I’m not homeless.

Focus on producing lots of quality content and building your audience. Content is king and visibility is queen. I give away series starters as eBooks and audiobooks and use bad dragon jokes on Twitter to drive traffic to them.

I wrote a book about how I built my audience for anyone interested. It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Author Origins: Jacqueline Garlick

Jacqueline GarlickJacqueline Garlick is an author of young adult, adult, and women’s fiction. She loves strong heroines, despises whiny sidekicks, and adores a good story about a triumphant underdog. (Doesn’t everyone?)  Her edgy, rule-breaking, Tim Burton-esque style of writing has earned her the nickname…the Quentin Tarantino of YA…among close writing friends.

In her former life, Jacqueline was a teacher (both grade school and college, don’t ask) but more recently she has been the graduate of Ellen Hopkin’s Nevada Mentor Program, and a student of James Scott Bell, Christopher Vogler and Don Maass. An excerpt from Lumière earned her the prestigious Donald Maass Break Out Novel Intensive Scholarship, in 2012. Lumière—a romantic steampunk action adventure fantasy—is also the winner of the 2013 LYRA award for best YA, and was also awarded an indieBRAG Medallion, in 2014. Contact Jacqueline on her website www.jacquelinegarlick.com or catch up with her on Twitter @garlickbooks  or on Facebook.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I’m Jacqueline Garlick. I guess I decided to be an author around grade three. Or so the story goes. Apparently, I drove my teacher Mrs. Martin, crazy asking to write and illustrated my own stories on a daily basis. She was very supportive; thus, I started my first series right there in her room. After that, it took me forty long years to take writing seriously again. The loss of my career (due to an illness inflicted by my employer…long story, another blog), an extended sick leave, and finally, expulsion from my teaching position (over sticking up for my rights!) were all motivators in my decision to pursue my life-long passion of writing as a career. Right now, career wise, I’d say, I’m ticking along nicely, still learning the ropes, but swinging from most. One happy writing monkey over here!

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

Well, for me, as I said, I’d lost the day job, so that took care of that pesky little detail, HA! But seriously, ultimately, that put more pressure on me to succeed as a writer. I felt the need to succeed, and hurry up about it, which I don’t recommend to anyone. Self Publishing (as is Traditional Publishing) is more of a slow burn game. Publishing Rome is seldom an overnight sensation kind of thing. The hardest part about balancing writing with everyday life is that fact that I want to write all the time, all day long, and there are things like dinner, and husbands, and kids, that need tending to…occasionally. HA! I’m a bit of a workaholic. I find it hard to take breaks. If I’m on a break, I feel like I’m cheating my business, slacking off…which is unacceptable when you’re running your own business, or at least in my books. So, taking time for myself is a tough one, but a very necessary one, to preserved creativity. A double-edged sword for sure.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

The one thing I do that hasn’t changed is…I write every single day. Whether it be for one hour, twenty mins, two mins, or the whole day…I write EVERY SINGLE DAY. My schedule is easy. I get up, shower, make a protein shake, and I write until my family comes home again. I work on marketing in the evenings. Then I wake up and do it all over again. It is nothing for me to work from 7:30 am to 11:00 pm, sometimes 2 the next morning, around other things, but uninterrupted until at least 4 pm everyday. As I said, I’m a bit of a workaholic.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

Lumiere had only been out for the first year, so I had really just gotten started when Amazon came calling and bought the series from me. I had planned to bring out Noir on my own (book two) as book two’s usually generate a leap in sales, but, as I said, Amazon/Skyscape made me a deal, and I sold them both, so I don’t really know. I can say; however, that my other series (actually a serial) IF ONLY, really started to take off in popularity by book three, IF ONLY SHE HADN’T. I like to theorize that it’s because it features Aubrey, my villain, and people love to hate her so much that they rushed to read it, but then again, it might just have been that by book three, readers trusted in me enough to finish the five book serial and were willing to invest. I’d say, it’s tough to make too much traction with just one book (although there are one-hit wonders out there, for sure!), by two or three books, readers are willing to jump in and check you out. They’ve seen your work around and been impressed by your covers (hopefully)(covers are KEY), and by writing multiple material you’ve proven to them that you’re a serious artist in it for the long haul, so they are willing to try you out.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

As I mentioned above, the decision was sort of made for me, but I can tell you, it was a terrifying one. Change is always nerve-racking, you know you what? If things don’t change, they’ll always stay the same!

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

I do a variety of things, but mostly, I focus at this, point on the writing. For example: I’m a well sought after story development editing coach, (not many people know that) helping writer’s write their best books. I very much enjoy story developing, but I only take on a handful of students each year. If I do more, I find I end up neglecting my own writing, and as I say, that is my focus at the moment.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? What are some of your interests outside of writing?

One thing that people might not know about me is that I LOVE to public speak. What makes other’s sweat, makes me SMILE. In fact, just for fun I’m starting up an new Book Tuber channel tomorrow, called “Two Old Chicks Pics” with a long-time writing friend of mine, Rosemary Danielis. Together will be reviewing books we like to read and suggesting more! So, come by and check us out, won’t you?

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Focus on the writing. In this game, productivity is key. You need to just write and write and write. Write YOUR best book, put it out as flawlessly as possible, with an alluring cover, and then get onto the next product. I say product, because that is essentially what your manuscript becomes. First it’s art. Then it’s a product. For consumers to consume. And you want them to keep consuming; thus, you need to produce more products…so, get that but in your chair and CREATE!

Author Origins: Justin Sloan

Justin SloanJustin Sloan is a video game writer, novelist, and screenwriter. He studied writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program and at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. He has published such novels as Back by Sunrise and Teddy Bears in Monsterland, and non-fiction such as Creative Writing Career: Becoming a Writer of Movies, Video Games, and Books and Military Veterans in Creative Careers. Additionally, he has published short fiction and poetry.

Justin was in the Marines for five years and has lived in Japan, Korea, and Italy. He currently lives with his amazing wife and children in the Bay Area, where he writes and enjoys life. Learn more at www.JustinMSloan.com.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

On a snowy day in Washington, D.C., when I was in pain from a military related issue and not able to do anything aside from sit at my window, I decided to try to write a novel. While I thought I would take my time and try to finish over the next 50 years, I had it done in a much shorter time and soon learned that I was obsessed with writing. From there I started doing everything I could to learn the craft, from partnering with writer friends to write books and screenplays together, to taking classes and eventually enrolling in the Johns Hopkins MA in writing program and then the University of California, Los Angeles screenwriting program.

Somehow along the way I landed an amazing job at Telltale Games, where I get to write video games all day, and work on my novels and screenplays at night (if I can get my children to bed at a reasonable hour). It is a dream come true!

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

For me the hardest thing about having a regular day job before was knowing that I couldn’t spend that time writing or improving my craft. It was eating me up inside! I would wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 am and write, and sometimes write on my lunch breaks. I had to feed the creative beast within. However, I’ll say the good thing about having a non-writing job was that all day long my creative juices would be struggling to emerge, so by the time I got home every day the writing just flowed. Now that I have a writing job during the day, there are certainly days when I come home and my brain has shut off its creative side and just wants to spend time.

The other big hurdle to writing now is that I have two children, and one is an infant. But of course my family takes priority, and they definitely make me a better writer. There are so many scenarios in life that you simply cannot truly understand until you have children. For example, there’s a scene in the movie The Fault in Our Stars where the dad picks up his teenage daughter to carry her to the car and then hospital – this may touch all of us, but when you have a daughter and imagine having to do that? Oh man, the emotions move in crazy ways.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

The main change for me (aside from what I’ve already covered) is that now that I’ve published, I spend a lot of time marketing – whether this is author interviews, podcasts, blogs about what I have going on, etc., and that definitely eats into my writing time. That said, we have to find our own healthy balance in this regard, and I’ve reached a point where I have a certain number of books out there and a couple more on the way, so I feel okay with putting in a bit more time on the marketing side, for now.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

When I first published, I decided to self-publish because of the advice I was hearing from such places as the San Francisco Writers Conference or the Self Publishing Podcast, and the horror stories I was hearing from other authors about bad experiences they were having with small presses. Not all small presses are bad, of course, and I am going with one for my upcoming literary novel, but you have to do your homework.

I gained traction with some of the KDP promos and whatnot, to the point where my books were at number one and three in their categories, but I have since moved away from those types of marketing because I feel it cheapens your writing, in a way. Now it has been almost a year since I first published, and I just started seeing organic traction. My book Creative Writing Career has been number one in its Amazon bestseller category for two or three weeks now, and in the top ranks for a month or so before that, which I am pretty happy with. This was after having published two novels, two non-fiction books, a fantasy serial, some short stories, and excerpts from the non-fiction books. So the lesson learned is that (a) it takes time, and (b) having more titles helps discoverability.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

My book Back by Sunrise is a fun pre-teen adventure about a girl whose dad gets deployed overseas with the Army and doesn’t come back, and how the girl deals with that grief through a magical necklace that turns her into a bird one night. Many people may see the book and just think it’s a cute story, but it came from a personal place – I served in the Marines and watched people be deployed, and watched my friend’s wives worry about what would happen if they never did come back. Thankfully, that never happened to my friends, but it does to people all over the world. Also, around this time I had a cousin commit suicide, and it was quite devastating. While I had written the screenplay before this happened, I couldn’t let the story sit on the sidelines any longer – my cousin’s death was what pushed me to adapt the screenplay into a novel and get it out into the world.

One of my readers contacted me and said that she used to be a hospice worker and that she thought this would be great for children dealing with grief. I hadn’t even thought about it, but of course she was right. By the time this interview goes live, I will have gone to a summer camp hosted by the Hospice by the Bay, called Camp Erin, where I’m doing a book signing (and the children and teens there get the book free). I’m so thrilled to be a part of this, and hope that I can continue to help others through tough times.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Keep an open mind. When I first started writing, I had no idea it would lead to writing for video games, let alone on some of my favorite IPs (Game of Thrones and Walking Dead). If all you want to do is write novels, it’s much more of a gamble, and perfectly fine if you are okay with your writing being more of a hobby until it one day hopefully takes off. Regardless, continue to focus on your craft, but also keep getting yourself out there so you can build a community of people willing to help each other (and potentially, fans).

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

I love sharing my story, but even more than my own I love sharing the awe-inspiring stories of those around me. This is why I put together my recent book, Military Veterans in Creative Careers. In addition to my advice (applicable to everyone, not just veterans) on making it as writers, actors, etc., I have interviewed a number of military veterans about their experience leveraging their past experience to land themselves in the careers of their dreams. If you only want to read my fiction, that is great, but consider checking out this book as well, if nothing else to pick up and find inspiration from time to time or to share with someone you know who could benefit from it. Every time I look back through one of the stories shared in my book, I can’t help but think how incredible the journey is to follow our dreams, and I wish I had something like this book when I was starting out to point me on the right path. Also, when this interview goes live, the audiobook should be out (Audible, iTunes, and Amazon), and the narrator has done an amazing job. His name is Scott Levy, and he has acted in movies, a Linkin Park video, and video games such as Battlefield: Hardline. If have any questions or have your own cool story to share, hit me up!

Author Origins: Joseph Lallo

Joseph LalloJoseph Lallo, though having written several novels, was slow to consider himself an author. Educated at NJIT, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering, the world of Information Technology is where most of his bills were paid until Sept of 2014 when he finally became a full-time author. His books include the popular Book of Deacon series, as well as a sci-fi adventure series called Big Sigma and a steampunk series called Free-Wrench

His most recent release is a collection of his Book of Deacon stories, The Book of Deacon Anthology and in November that series will continue with The D’Karon Apprentice.

You can find him at www.bookofdeacon.com and he is @jrlallo on twitter and tumblr.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

My name is Joseph R. Lallo (still haven’t earned that second R that seems mandatory for us fantasy author types). I’m originally from Bayonne, NJ, and until recently I was working IT for the healthcare industry through a complicated sequence of sub-contracts that isn’t really worth explaining.

I’d never really had any plans to be an author, though from a very early age I knew I wanted to write a book. Basically I just knew as early as second grade or so that I wanted “wrote a book” to be on my list of things I did when I was a grownup. There were a few abortive attempts around that time, but eventually I discovered a game called Dragon Warrior, a title for the NES which was a fairly standard RPG involving knights, dragons, descendants, and prophesies. My buddies at the time decided to create our own characters and stories to act out within the setting of the game. (As far as I know this was prior to the advent of the term LARP, but we were almost there.) The others eventually moved on, but the creative juices continued to flow and ferment in my head until in high school or so I started jotting down notes. By college I’d graduated to typing those notes, and in 2010 after two years of rejection from literary agents I let my friends talk me into self-publishing.

In September, 2014 I finally quit my day job (a week before they laid off my whole department—first rat off the ship!). Since then I’ve been writing a few thousand words a day, and working with Jeff Poole and Lindsay Buroker on a podcast dedicated to the intricacies of marketing for indies in our genres. I’ve got somewhere north of 13 books out—the exact count is a bit blurry because there’s an anthology and some short stories and contributions to collections in there—and the sales have been more than enough to buy the bills, not to mention put the down payment on the house I’m living in.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

The hardest thing about balancing the writing with the work was remembering to sleep. In the early days, before I published, writing was an escape from the frustration of the IT world. I would write on my phone during my train/bus commute, type for a few minutes before I left for work, and type for a few hours after I got home. Let’s be honest, I also typed more than was really morally appropriate while I was at work, since running reports and compiling code meant some days there would have otherwise been a lot of thumb twiddling.

After self-publishing, writing continued to be a mildly disappointing hobby for about a year and a half. After that things picked up and I started to treat writing as a second job which grew to eclipse the main one.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

Back then, depending on shift, I would get up at either 4:30 am or 6:30 am. After the normal morning ablutions I would have about 10 minutes to do some quick outlining or writing, then I was out the door and onto a bus/light-rail/train commute. That was usually an hour, during which I would use my phone or a pad to write some more. I was at work until 4 or 6pm (again, depending on shift) and would write during my lunch hour and during those moments when there was little else that could be done work-wise (which didn’t come up as often as I would have liked). Then came the reverse commute with a little more phone writing, then dinner and another hour or two of typing. Weekends generally had three hours of writing each day as well, assuming I didn’t have other plans.

Nowadays I’m up at 7am or 8am (or whenever my brain decides to stop ignoring the daylight). And I write until I’ve got at least 3k words, however long that takes. Most days I get closer to 5k, and then I spend the rest of the day doing chores, taking walks, and handling emails and other book biz.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

I released my first book in January, 2010. Between then and May 2011 I made about $19. Which was something like eight sales, because I had a widely varying price structure at the time. It wasn’t until I had 3 or 4 books out that I saw traction, and only then because I’d made the first book in the Book of Deacon trilogy free.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

I’d like to say I made the decision to quit the day job when I did my taxes one year and found that my day job’s salary was barely enough to cover the taxes on my self-employment income. In reality it took a year and a half longer than that. I ended up sticking at my day job out of the ironclad belief that the success I was enjoying was temporary and as soon as I stepped onto the rickety lifer raft of my writing career it would sink and I’d be ruined. Things at work continued to get more and more unbearable though, and for months I was hemming and hawing about maybe quitting the job. Then, after 9 years, the people who had subcontracted me finally made an offer to hire me as an employee. Their offer was generous, but would have almost certainly come at the cost of 10-20 hours a week unpaid overtime, which aside from destroying my sanity would have entirely eliminated the time I’d been spending writing. At that point I knew I had to either quit the job or quit writing. Framed in that way, it wasn’t a difficult choice.

By then I’d been earning good money with the books for almost three years, and banking most of it, so I had a big enough nest egg to take some of the anxiety out of the act. What I felt, mostly, was relief that I wasn’t agonizing over a decision anymore. My dad almost had a heart attack though. He’s from a background where you don’t quit a job, ever.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

I think a lot of people who are thinking of going into writing full time don’t realize that, especially for self-pub and increasingly for traditional pub, it isn’t just a job, it’s a business. You’ve got to handle everything from lining up editors and artists to planning advertising and doing book keeping. If you go as far as I did, you’ll even be setting up a PO Box and handling some inventory. Writing is only about half the job.

As for interests outside of writing, I’m into video games. I also got a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering, so sometimes I like to solder together some doodads or toy with 3D printing.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

It may sound trite, but just keep writing. There are things that will help you get noticed, and to sell more books, but you can’t make use of any of them if you don’t have books to sell. The more titles you’ve got out, the more chances you’ve got to win the “discovery lottery” and have people realize how good your book is. And if you’re writing a series, having a bunch of stories means if you can hook them with the first book, you can sell through the whole series. All of the other stuff, from getting good covers to getting proper editing, comes second to actually finishing the story and, ideally, starting the next one.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

Once you get rolling and you’ve got some money (assuming you’ve already gotten top notch covers) consider getting some reference drawings or illustrations of your characters. There’s something magic about giving your characters a face, and giving your fans someone to picture (and maybe someone to draw their own pictures of).

Author Origins: Lindsay Buroker

Lindsay_BurokerLindsay Buroker is a full-time independent fantasy author who loves travel, hiking, tennis, and vizslas. She grew up in the Seattle area but moved to Arizona when she realized she was solar-powered. You can find her at http://www.lindsayburoker.com where she blogs about her adventures in self-publishing and shares character interviews and excerpts from her latest books. Some of her recent releases are Warrior Mage (epic fantasy) and The Blade’s Memory (steampunk).

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I’ve been a lifeguard, a fast food jockey, a soldier in the U.S. Army, a systems administrator, and a professional blogger. I’ve been writing off and on since I was a kid, but got “serious” about being an author back in 2009 or so. By 2010, I had finished my first couple of novels (The Emperor’s Edge and Encrypted), but was dreading the agent-querying process. That fall, I got my first Kindle, and soon after, I stumbled across J.A. Konrath’s blog, specifically an article where he shared his self-publishing success. Within less than a week, I tossed aside all of my thoughts of seeking an agent and committed to self-publishing. I published my first two novels in December 2010 and January 2011.

I wasn’t an overnight success, but I managed to sell some books, and I got some nice feedback from readers. Encouraged, I published two more novels in my Emperor’s Edge series in 2011, along with some shorter works. By 2012, I was making enough to quit the day job, and by the time I was doing my taxes for 2013, I realized I was making more as an author than I ever had in any of my previous professions. Things have been going along well ever since, and I have over twenty novels out now, between my name and a pen name.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

I was already self-employed, so I didn’t have as hard a time as many authors do, but I’m lucky things went well, because I mentally checked out of the day job before I was really there with the author income. 🙂

As far as balance goes, I love writing and publishing and pleasing my readers, so it’s easy for me to work more than I should. I also see this as the golden age of self-publishing, so there’s a little “better save up what I can and invest it while the going is good” in the back of my mind. I feel guilty if I don’t get X number of words done a day, so I’m often plugging away well into the night. I have to remind myself to go out and play with friends and take non-working vacations now and then!

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

If I’m working on a new manuscript, I’ll usually get up, make a latte, and try to get some words done before heading out for some exercise. I have dogs and live up the street from the national forest, so that’s often a morning hike. I’ll work through the afternoons and try to get to my word count goals before dinner and any evening activities. If I make my goal, I might relax a bit at night and answer some emails, but I have been known to put my head down and ignore email until I finish a manuscript. It’s hard for me to take my eyes off the end goal, and I can usually get a rough draft done in 2-3 weeks these days.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

There weren’t many places to advertise back in 2010/early 2011, but I tried a Goodreads campaign and was able to get a couple sales a day that way. I still remember getting Encrypted reviewed at The Fantasy Book Critic, a big site that usually sticks to traditionally published stuff (or at least it did back then) and that I got a nice boost in sales that February. When I released the second book in my EE series in May, I dropped the price of the first from $2.99 to $0.99, and that helped bring in more readers. In November, when I released the third book, I made the first one permafree, and that also helped a lot, especially with sales in other stores, such as Barnes & Noble.

I never really had any huge best sellers until I got lucky with a 99-cent boxed set this year, so a lot of my success has just been from continuing to put books out and from gradually building up a fan base. One of the cool things about self-publishing right now is that it’s very possible for a “mid-list” author to make a good income.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

Early on, probably earlier than I should have, but I still had some income coming in from my blogs, so it wasn’t as much of a leap of faith as for people who have a regular job and walk away from it. You are motivated to succeed, though, when you cut the cord a little early, because there aren’t many other options!

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

I kind of tell it all in my blog and on various podcasts, so I’m not sure if people who follow along are missing anything. I probably make more than people would guess (that’s the one thing I stopped talking about openly, since it seemed like bragging once it was more than paper route money :D), and that’s probably true for a lot of indies who aren’t mega sellers but who have a few series out that are selling moderately well.

I play tennis, hike, take road trips, and this year, I’m hoping to spend the winter some place where I’m closer to skiing, since that’s a hobby I miss.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Writing and publishing a lot of books is a good plan, but you have to be ready, too. I was a little lucky that I didn’t find out about ebooks and self-publishing right away, because I joined a workshop and worked on selling some short stories and such (basically following the old route to finding an agent). I got those rejections and abandoned a few novels and learned a lot before coming back to the EE series. I might have rushed to publish if it had been as easy as it is now, and that probably wouldn’t have been a good idea.

You usually only get one chance with a reader, so you want to make sure the book they pick up is a good one. Having a lot of books out there only helps if people go on to buy and read the other ones and tell their friends about them.

Author Origins: Michael Fletcher

Michael FletcherMichael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author. His novel, Beyond Redemption, a work of dark fantasy and rampant delusion, is being published by HARPER Voyager and is slated for release June 16th, 2015.

His début novel, 88, a cyberpunk tale about harvesting children for their brains, was released by Five Rivers Publishing in 2013. 88 is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and elsewhere. The next two Manifest Delusions novels, THE ALL CONSUMING, and WHEN FAR-GONE DEAD RETURN are currently in various stages of editing while Michael tries to be the best husband and dad he can be.

Michael is represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. He occasionally blogs at www.michaelrfletcher.com and is building a wiki at www.michaelrfletcher.com/beyondwiki for the world of Manifest Delusions.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I’m Michael R. Fletcher, a fantasy and science fiction author. I tried to get George’s second R but he was unwilling to part with it. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but finishing a book is hard work and I always thought it seemed like a ridiculous dream. I figured I’d be better off focussing on having a job that paid the bills and kept me in Jameson’s so I got a job in rock and roll.

Back in 2008, while working as an audio-engineer doing FOH sound in a variety of shitty clubs in Toronto, I decided I wanted to write a book. Unwilling to let ignorance and wisdom get in my way, I threw myself at writing.

My first novel, 88, was published in 2013 by a Canadian micro-press called Five Rivers. It gave me a taste of success, but more importantly I learned an insane amount about the craft of writing (and editing) during the publishing process. I took everything I learned and put it into Beyond Redemption which sold to HARPER Voyager in 2014. The moment the deal was signed I knew this was my chance. In the last year I’ve written two more novels, both of which I’m currently editing.

Where am I in my career? Ask me next year. Beyond Redemption is due to hit the shelves on June 16th, 2015. If HARPER Voyager buy my next two novels, I will be able to maintain my writerly delusions. If they don’t, I might get a job at HomeDepot. I need light bulbs.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

I had this pretty easy while writing my first two books. I worked nights in rock clubs doing sound for bands. This left my days free for writing.

Currently we’re living off my wife’s income and my advance and I write full time. I don’t have a real life. There are days where I don’t see anyone other than my wife and daughter and I’m okay with that. It’s possible I might be slightly introverted.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

My weekdays have become fairly regimented:
06:00 – Drink two cups of black coffee and read whatever novel I’m into. Right now it’s Anthony Ryan’s amazing Queen of Fire.
07:00 – My four year old daughter rises from bed and I make her breakfast and get her off to school.
08:15 – Go for a run. If you’re going to spend your days with your ass in a chair, you’d better get some exercise.
09:30 – Start writing.
11:30 – More coffee! I usually bring the carafe to my office and drink while I work. If you aren’t suffering minor hallucinations in your peripheral vision, you need stronger coffee.
16:30 – My wife gets home and we sit together to talk about our day over a beer or a glass of wine. Or two. Sometimes three.

My goal is to write 2,500 words a day at least five days a week. Weekends are for family. Most weeks I hit that and a little more. My current work-in-progress (120,000 words) was written in ten weeks. I’m a firm believer in getting the first draft finished fast and then editing it later.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

The moment the Beyond Redemption deal was signed I decided I was going to put all my eggs in one basket and go dancing through the mine-field.

As I see it you have two choices: You can make the smart decision—the wise decision—or you can chase the dream. I’m lucky to be in a situation where chasing the dream is an option.

What are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

I have a pile of studio gear (including high-end speakers and sub-woofers) left over from my audio-engineering days and listen to skull-crunching death metal while I write. The chaos and savagery does something to disconnect my brain from everything else. It distances me from reality and cocoons me in a warm cuddly blanket of rage. Editing however I do in complete silence.

Hobbies? I remember those. I sacrificed them on the alter to the dark gods of publishing so that I might have more writing time.

Between the years of 1997 and 2010 I was the guitar player in a goth metal band called Sex Without Souls. We lit things on fire and played fetish clubs. One of every four gigs would be called a Train-Wreck Show and the singer and I would crack a 26er of Wild Turkey before the first song and finish it before the last. We usually played 45 minute sets. Once, in mid-guitar solo, the singer tried to feed me bourbon and accidentally poured it in my eyes. That stuff stings.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Rather than give advice, I’ll share what seems to be working for me.

I realized that writing didn’t just happen on its own. I wasn’t going to accidentally write a book in my spare time. I had to make a real a decision and then follow through with it. I carved out time each day—even if it was only an hour—to write. I made that writing time sacrosanct. My first book took two years to write and about the same to edit, but I got it done.
Fear distractions! When the Beyond Redemption deal was signed I decided I wanted to finish two books in one year. I gave away my gaming console, cancelled my cable TV, and hid my guitars in the basement.

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