The Everyday Author

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

Category: Author Origins (page 2 of 2)

Author Origins: Anthony Ryan

author-anthony-ryanAnthony Ryan is the New York Times best selling author of the Raven’s Shadow epic fantasy novels as well as the Slab City Blues science fiction series. He was born in Scotland in 1970 but spent much of his adult life living and working in London. After a long career in the British Civil Service he took up writing full time after the success of his first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. He has a degree in history, and his interests include art, science and the unending quest for the perfect pint of real ale. for news and general writing about stuff he likes, check out Anthony’s blog at: anthonystuff.wordpress.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.

I’m Anthony Ryan and I write mostly fantasy with some occasional forays into science fiction. I can’t really recall a time when I didn’t want to be an author, it’s been my principal ambition ever since I fell in love with reading at an early age. I got my break when I self-published Blood Song, the first novel in the Raven’s Shadow epic fantasy trilogy, which led to a three book deal with Ace. Tower Lord, the second book in the series, was published last July and the third, Queen of Fire, comes out in the US and UK in July 2015.

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

Simply put: time. You never have enough of it. I wrote Blood Song over a period of six and a half years, but after signing with Ace I had less than a year to write Tower Lord. I must admit I struggled for the first couple of months until I took a hard look at my daily schedule and made some changes. I realized most of my ‘lost time’ came from my daily commute into London, so I bought an IPad and started writing on the train in the mornings and evenings. It’s a source of continual surprise to me that I actually managed to turn the book in on time. These days the hardest part is starting a new project after a period of downtime between books, it takes a while to get back into the daily rhythm of it all.

Tell us about schedule and habits from the early times (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I try to aim for 2000 words a day, but don’t always get there. I tend to write in sessions of thirty to forty five minutes throughout the day as I find I’m incapable of sitting still for hours on end. The main change to my writing habits is that I’m much more detailed in the way I track my progress, my word-count spreadsheet has grown over the years into a multi-columned monster.

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 think I’m somewhat unusual in self-publishing because the success I had was based on one book rather than a series. for the first six months I published Blood Song only on Smashwords during which time I sold all of five copies. It was only after publishing on KDP in January 2012 that things started to happen. I sold twenty books in the first month and sales doubled each month until May when I sold over 2000 copies, by which time Ace had gotten in touch. Paradoxically, the bulk of my self-published sales took place after I’d signed the contract with Ace because they allowed me to keep selling Blood Song before their own version came out. All in all I sold 45,000 copies as a self-publisher and the series as a whole has sold over 200,000 copies since being traditionally published.

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?

Logically, the decision was pretty straightforward when I took a look at my income and realized my tax bill would be greater than the take home pay from my day job. That being said, it was still a big decision to make. I’d worked in the UK Civil Service for over twenty years and here I was deciding to quit after less than a year as a published author, so I won’t pretend it didn’t involve some frayed nerves. Luckily, it all worked out and I have no regrets…yet.

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’ve published a series of SF-Noir novellas called Slab City Blues which doesn’t sell in anything like the numbers the Raven’s Shadow series does, so I always wonder how many people actually know the books are available. Outside of writing I spend a lot of time reading and am a committed Netflix and Amazon Prime binge-watcher. I’m also not averse to the occasional beer festival.

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

Keep writing and concentrate on finishing. When you look at the advice available to self-publishers the bulk of it relates to marketing when the most important thing should be producing work that’s actually worth marketing. No amount of hours spent promoting on social media will turn [a] bad book into a good one.

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

I have a Raven’s Shadow novella, the Lord Collector, in the recently released Blackguards Anthology from Ragnarok Publications, if people want to check that out. I also recently finished the first volume in an entirely new fantasy series and hope to announce some important news about it soon.

Author Origins: Jen Williams

Jen Williams author profileJennifer Williams is a fantasy writer and Lego obsessive who spends much of her time frowning at notebooks in cafes and fiddling with maps of imaginary places. She is represented by Juliet Mushens of the Agency group, and is partial to mead, if you’re buying. Her debut Fantasy novel, The Copper Promise, and the sequel, The Iron Ghost, are published by Headline. More nonsense available at sennydreadful.com, and you can marvel at the amount of time wasted on twitter by following @sennydreadful.

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.

Like most writers I suppose, I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember — the first Christmas presents I remember asking for were a desk and a typewriter — but I only really started thinking about writing books about ten years ago. I had been told as a young person that writing was a foolish career to pursue because it was too competitive and hardly anyone made any money from it. Being so young, I was still under the impression that adults knew what they were talking about, so took this advice to heart and attempted a career in illustration instead (which is, if anything, even more competitive and difficult to make money from than writing). What I eventually realised — and it’s a very important lesson — is that writing is its own reward, and if you are a writer, you can never really walk away from it. Writing made me happy, and without it I didn’t quite make sense. So around ten years ago I started writing a book for fun, written in bits and pieces after work, and when I finished that I jumped straight into the next one, and then the next one… A decade later I’m writing my ninth novel, with the follow up to my debut due out in February. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

The most difficult aspect of managing a writing career with a day job is simply time management, and in a related sense, energy management. When I come home from work, all I really want to do is sit in front of Tumblr for four hours eating chips, and if I’ve been up since some godawful hour of the morning — not helped by long commutes on buses — my brain is usually fuzzy and less than inspired. There’s also the fact that any social commitments that have to be arranged around your day job automatically eat into writing time, so you have to be very careful about what you agree to and when.

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

I am still writing alongside my day job, so my schedule is still in full swing. When I come home from work, I go straight to my writing space, which is a little desk in the corner of our bedroom, open the laptop and get working straight away (or any time Windows feels like opening Word, which can be any old random time at all, really). I don’t let myself sit down for a rest first or have a browse on the internet, because immediately my brain slips into RELAXATION MODE and my time is very limited. I normally write for between an hour and a half to two hours, which isn’t a huge amount, but it adds up over the course of a week. At the weekend, I will work for around six hours, usually with multiple breaks in between.

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 self-publishing experience is quite an odd one. I published the first section of The Copper Promise as a novella called Ghosts of the Citadel, which would eventually go on to make up around 10% of the final novel. My plan was to publish each part, of which there were four, as a sort of side project to go alongside the other books I was writing; basically I was curious about the self-publishing experience and wanted to dip my toe in the water. The sales of it weren’t stellar but they were steady, and most importantly I got a number of very positive reviews on Amazon. A few people were recommending it to each other, and I suppose that created a little positive buzz. I had some queries regarding the complete manuscript, so rather than publishing each part as I wrote it I went ahead and wrote the entire thing. From there I queried my dream agent, and to my enormous and unending surprise she was keen, and from there I was fortunate enough to sell my trilogy to Headline. So in summary, my self-publishing experience was short but lucky.

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?

Well in truth I haven’t. I still have a day job that is vital for things like regularly paying the rent and eating those meal things you’re supposed to have three of a day, and I don’t expect to be able to give that up any time soon. Like everyone, I hope one day to be able to say that writing is my only job — this is the end game dream for me — but for now the reality is that I live in London and it sucks cash out of you like some sort of soot-covered cosmic hoover.

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 love of high fantasy (and low fantasy, or sword and sorcery, which I prefer) was actually rekindled by a video game, the wonderful Dragon Age: Origins, and if I have a big obsessive love outside of books then it is probably this game and its sequels, along with Bioware’s amazing space opera trilogy, Mass Effect. I’ve always been a gamer to some extent – my first Gameboy is still in my top five best Christmas presents of all time, just under the SNES — but Dragon Age was the first game to give me something I’d only previously experienced in novels; a deep sense of immersion in a fantasy world, and strong emotional attachment to characters (I love films too, of course, but books and games last much longer, and therefore have more time to worm into your heart). Dragon Age gave us a traditional fantasy world with women, gay and bisexual relationships, and a sharp sense of humour — it made me want to write fantasy again.

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?

I think regardless of whether you are writing full time or not, the thing to be focussed on is writing better books. Outside of everything else you can do to push your career forward to the fabled “I can stay at home and write all day stage”, you won’t get anywhere near it without having written a decent book. So to that end, finish the books that you start and look at them with a critical eye; I wrote a number of “practise” books before I felt my work was remotely ready to be seen by the outside world.

Author Origins: David Wright

author-david-wrightDavid Wright is the bestselling horror and sci-fi co-author of the Yesterday’s Gone and WhiteSpace series, and a cartoonist. He is also one third of The Self-Publishing Podcast with Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.

You can find him at www.DavidwWright.comwww.CollectiveInkwell.com and www.SelfPublishingPodcast.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.

I’m David Wright and I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember. As a child I was heavily influenced by the Peanuts comic strip and it held a magic which transported me to another time and another world. After the Star Wars movie came out, my parents got me the first few comics in the series, and I was immediately hooked on comics and serialized storytelling. Ever since, I’ve been merely hoping to do what the best artists did for me — create worlds for others to get lost in. I’ve gone back and forth between comic strips and writing books.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

Thankfully, writing is my job at the moment. I’m not sure how prolific I could be if I’d gone back to another job, as I’m pretty low on energy to begin with most days. Having a full-time job and making time for my family would seriously hamper my ability to write books.

Having said that, I think the hardest part now is getting out of my own way. I battle with depression, so it’s difficult to feel like anyone gives a shit about anything I’m creating, but fortunately, my co-author, Sean Platt, is a very optimistic person and has done a lot to help me get out of my own way.

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

My schedule and habits suck with a capital S. As I said, I tend to get in my own way. It’s not uncommon for me to procrastinate, or write a bunch, hate it all, delete it, then start over like two days before deadline.

I am trying to get my shit together, though, and put a system in place.

Would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

We sold very little in our first month. Despite a ton of interviews around the time that Yesterday’s Gone: Season One came out in summer 2011, I think we sold maybe 50 copies?

It took a little while for sales to really pick up, though I can’t recall the exact time. We didn’t wait around, though. We went right to work on another book so once people did start to discover us, they’d have more than just a book or two to read.

There’s a debate amongst writers about the luck factor. Some writers say you don’t need luck, that you can succeed on your merits alone. But I disagree. I think you DO need to work your ass off, and in doing so you can create some luck, but I feel there is still an element of luck involved. Had Pixel of Ink not featured us when they did, who knows what would’ve happened?

I think we still would have found success, but would it have come in time to be enough to support us as full-time writers? It’s tough to say.

Which is why I’m grateful to our readers, as well as the attention that reviewers and book bloggers have given us.

I know it can be difficult to see other people break out when you’re still behind in some way, but you have to work through it because while luck doesn’t give you a guaranteed outcome, giving up does.

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?

We were working freelance as consultants and writing and doing art for companies when we decided to invest in ourselves.

Sean was a huge factor in us taking a chance on ourselves. He basically continued to work (for a little while) as we wrote so we could support the company (and I could pay my bills) while we got this writing thing off the ground.

Then Sean quit consulting, probably a bit earlier than I would’ve felt comfortable with, and we were on our own — sink or swim.

We swam like the desperate motherfuckers we were.

It’s tough to make a leap of faith like that and not know whether it will pay off. If I hadn’t had Sean’s belief (and financial support early on), I’m not sure I could’ve done it.

I would tell most writers to keep their day job as long as possible, though. I’m very pragmatic in that way. Though some would call me cynical. And by some, I mean most.

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?

We talk about everything on SPP, so I’m not sure if there’s anything we haven’t discussed.

As for hobbies, I’d like to be a musician but lack the dedication to learn how to play well enough. But I’ve always had a love for diverse musical styles and almost always listen to music while I wrote. I’m also a casual gamer. I like shooters and big open world games like the Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series.

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.

You HAVE to treat writing like another job. You HAVE to put the hours in. This means sacrifice in your social life, your TV or movie watching, video games, etc. There is no shortcut to putting in the hours. I spent thousands of hours in my teens and twenties writing crap in order to get to a point where I could write stuff less crappy. Even then, I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until my job as a newspaper reporter, with the constant writing to deadlines, that I got over my fears and learned to get out of my way.

Author Origins: Sean Platt

seantwitter_400x400“The Alchemist” of the Sterling & Stone trio, Sean Platt is also the founder of Guy Incognito, co-founder of Collective Inkwell and Realm & Sands and a co-host on the Self-Publishing Podcast. From designing story worlds to Sterling &Stone’s website, he does a bit of everything. Sean loves it all, but telling stories is his favorite, and he considers himself lucky that he gets to do it with his best friends Johnny and Dave. Sean lives in Austin, Texas, with (best friend) wife, Cindy, and two amazing children, Ethan and Haley. He’s trying to get the guys there as fast as he can.

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

I’m Sean Platt. I decided to be an author about fifteen minutes after I read an email that told me my “vocabulary was too rich for children.” I’d written some stories for the students at a preschool I ran with my wife and submitted them to an agency. Hearing that, I figured I would go online, build my own audience, and do things my own way. That was six years ago. Now I’m a full-time author with over five-million words published across six imprints and multiple genres. I love what I do and am lucky to do it.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

Prioritizing on which projects I want to work on. I have over a hundred ideas in an idea file, each which could be fleshed out into anything from a short story to a full book to a sprawling series. Figuring out what I want to do next when I want to do it all is a constant struggle. That’s the difficult balance for me. The home life stuff isn’t that big of a deal because I work from home and set my own schedule. Yes, I have shit tons to do always, but I love what I do so it’s also my hobby.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what youre doing now if it hasnt changed).

I’m not sure which time you’re referring to, but my schedule and habits basically build off of each other. Right now I’m waking up at 5:30, getting my writing done, then getting my beats done, then moving into editing and polishing, before tidying up lose ends through the rest of the day (usually that starts around noon). Every day at two o’clock I have either podcasts, story meetings, or interviews like this one. On the rare day when I don’t, I record videos that answer reader questions.

If you dont mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

 Dave and I had written Available Darkness and needed to develop a marketing plan for it. We ignored that instead, and wrote the first season of Yesterdays Gone. We started getting traction on that title around two months after its release. So, two books, but seven titles because we put the episodes out individually back then.

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?

About three years before I could afford to. It was dreadfully difficult. We lost our house, took a lot of crap jobs, and did whatever we needed to do to keep our heads above water. But I felt great doing it. Despite the difficulty, I always believed I could do it (and so did my ever loving wife), and being my own boss and telling stories for a living was a big enough reward to justify the risk. For me. That’s not advice I would ever give anyone.

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 don’t know. I talk about everything, so at this point I’m not sure there’s really anything that not many people know of. With a couple hundred hours of podcasts there aren’t many unexplored corners. As far as hobbies, I love spending time with my family but most of my hobbies are directly related to my work, which is why it doesn’t feel like work at all. Writing is less than 10% of my job. Telling stories is a huge part of it. Watching TV and movies, talking to my friends, really just about anything I love to do feeds into that.

Whats the single best piece of advice you have for authors who cant support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Building a catalogue. Use every single molecule of available time to write, write, write. You cannot do this enough.

Author Origins: Johnny B. Truant

Truant AU

“The Architect” of the Sterling and Stone trio, Johnny B. Truant is also the co-founder of Sterling and Stone’s Realm & Sands imprint and the host of the Self-Publishing Podcast. Before Realm & Sands, Johnny wrote the Fat Vampire series and The Bialy Pimps. Then, co-author Sean Platt convinced him it was way more fun to write collaboratively. Johnny (mostly) agreed, and since then they’ve written a few Harry Potter series’ worth of words together, including co-writing a full novel in thirty days for their “Fiction Unboxed” project. Johnny would love to live in Austin, but is unfortunately stuck in Ohio for the time being.

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 always wanted to be an author, but there was no practical way to do so when I first started trying to publish in 1999. It was all about a lightning strike back then. Only after meeting Sean Platt (one of my partners) and seeing that he and Dave were doing this in a “do the work, produce and optimize” way that I felt it was possible for real. I’ve just always liked storytelling and am thrilled to be able to do it every day and pleasing fans.

Right now is a very exciting time for us at Sterling & Stone. We produced like mad in 2013, then iteratively improved across our six imprints and larger systems in 2014. 2015 is the year we optimize and begin making it all harmonize and generate the profit we’ve deferred for so long to put our systems in place. There are too many exciting new things coming to list!

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

I never had to do this dance, as I’ve always been self-employed and tend to leap with both feet into whatever I’m doing — not the most secure ways to do things. The closest I had to balancing writing and a day job was when I was still doing my last entrepreneurial venture (online instruction via my old blog) at the same time as writing, but I always had plenty of time and can’t offer very good advice here. I really respect people who can make it work with tighter constraints!

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

My schedule now is pretty set. I write every workday starting at 6am and typically put in 4 hours. After that I either have family stuff (Mondays and Wednesdays I’m in charge of my kids and we usually go do something together) or I move on to whatever non-fiction-writing work I have. Some of this is admin (optimizing product descriptions and detail work) and sometimes it’s blog posts or other less creative writing. We have a few meetings per week and we do our podcasts on Friday. Basically whatever needs to be done other than fiction, which I always do first thing because it’s most important. But aside from that family stuff, I always put in a full and rather packed day.

I don’t work formally on weekends but do sometimes kind of tinker on my laptop, doing things I want to do anyway (it helps that I love my work). I don’t work past 6pm either. Finding that work/life balance is really important to me. But this compacted schedule works for me, and I typically produce 30-40,000 words of rough draft copy per week, plus a bunch of other important things that need doing.

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?

Initial sales were pretty terrible, but increased steadily. It took me a year before I could consider myself full-time as an author, but even then I was being a bit foolhardy and it wasn’t all perfect every month even then but I always made it work. I think I may have had seven or eight books out at the time? I’m not sure; it’s been a whirlwind. But there is definitely a critical mass thing, where you finally have enough out to give you a base. But others could get there faster than I did, with a lot of hard work, if they weren’t so scattered and focused on one genre with one popular series. We’ve always thought long-term and gone wide.

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?

It took a year before I didn’t need an additional (entrepreneurial) source of income, but 1.5 years probably would have been more sensible. It actually didn’t scare me at all because I’m optimistic and always believe a bit too much that all will work out. My wife was far more nervous and stayed that way for quite some time. Only in the past year has she finally relaxed. For me, I just do what I believe. I don’t always think about the possibility that I might fail.

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?

Ha, thanks to the Self Publishing Podcast, I imagine there are few things about my career that people don’t know! Outside of writing, I’m fairly athletic and like spending time with my family. We homeschool our kids, so there’s plenty of opportunity for that. But having the career I do, so much blends right into my work — creativity, IMO, doesn’t stop at putting words on the page. Everything about our business is creative and I spend a lot of time “creating” on it, in all forms, in many media.

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 shipping work and getting new stuff out. Also focus BIG TIME on building your mailing list and communicating with the fans you already have. Sales do matter, but I’d honestly focus more on the tick-up in your mailing list subscribers early on. If you obsessively watch your sales, you’ll drive yourself nuts and get disheartened easily because sometimes stuff just doesn’t sell at certain times. The three metrics I’d watch would be total words written in rough draft, total works published, and mailing list growth. It might be a good idea to not even CONSIDER any other numbers for six months or more after publishing your first book.

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

I just always like to tell people how hard this is. I know it can be discouraging to hear that, but I think that if you can be discouraged from writing, you probably shouldn’t be an indie author as a career. You have to soldier on when it’s difficult and when nobody is buying or paying attention to you. You have to write when the words don’t come easily. But if you love the craft and keep going, this is the best way to spend your life, for the right kind of person, that I can possibly imagine.

Author Origins: Michael Sullivan

Author Michael SullivanMichael J. Sullivan is a publishing veteran, using a wide range of tools including: self, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio to get his stories “out there.” His best-selling debut series, The Riyria Revelations, was released by Hachette Book Group, has sold more than half a million copies, been translated into fifteen foreign languages, and appeared on more than ninety-five “best of” or “most anticipated” lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Audible.com. His most recently released work, Hollow World, is classic social science fiction reminiscent of Asimov, Wells, and Heinlein. Michael’s current project is The First Empire, a four-book epic fantasy which explores the difference between myths and legends and the true account of historical events. It challenges what it means to be a hero and the impact of ordinary people, long forgotten over time. Michael posts about the business side of writing for Amazing Stories Magazine and is a host of the writing podcast Hide and Create. You can learn more about Michael at his website www.riyria.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.

Thanks for having me. I’m Michael J. Sullivan author of twenty-six books (nine published, three in the queue). I’ve wanted to be a novelist ever since I was eight or nine years old when I found an electric typewriter in the basement of a friend’s house. To be honest, I never thought it would be possible to make a living this way, so that was never a goal. Almost every author has some form of horror story about their difficulties, and I’m no different. I spent over a decade writing and then quit because I wasn’t getting anywhere. I concluded writing had been an incredible waste of my time, and I vowed never to write creatively again. I stayed away for a decade before relenting…but only on the condition that I wouldn’t seek publication. Interestingly enough, it was those set of books that got me on the scene when my wife decided to handle the publishing aspects. As to where I am now, I’ve been a full-time novelist for the last four years and one of the lucky few who earn a good living from doing what I love the most.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

I’m one of the few who never had to balance writing with a day job. The first time around I was a stay-at-home dad and wrote when the kids were napping, or after my wife came home. When I wanted to return to writing, my wife was extremely supportive, and since her income was substantial, we could live comfortably on her paycheck. I’m grateful to return the favor, and she quit her job three years ago. As for balance, I find I can’t write well if that’s all I focus on and always “mix it up” with other activities including physical and educational.

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

I start off each morning with coffee (essential), some oatmeal and fruit, and some time reading the paper and checking out the Internet. After that, I’ll read a few pages of an author whose writing I enjoy as it helps to “prime the pump” if you will and get my head in a “writing space.” I’ll write through until lunch, where I’ll take a break with my wife. If I haven’t hit my word count, I’ll write a bit more in the afternoon. Usually, though, that is my time for physical activity.  I’ll go for a bike ride, a jog, or workout. Depending on the time of year I’ll do something artistic (like painting) and in the evenings, I usually read, which often is something non-fiction so I can learn something new.

(Optional Question) 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 initially published through a small press (before ebooks came on the scene) and I have no idea how they sold (I never received a royalty report or any money). Once I started self-publishing, I had a much better feel for things. With just one book out, I was happy to sell a few books a week. When it got to a book a day, I was ecstatic. I released my books on a six-month schedule, and they went something like this:

  • April 2009 book #2 was released: sales started at 100 and went to 250 by the next release
  • October 2009 book #3 released:  sales 250 then growing to 500
  • April 2010 book #4 released: sales quickly grew to about 1,000 a month
  • Oct 2010 book #5 released and that month’s sales were 2,600. But in Nov, Dec Jan and Feb they were 9,500, 10,500, 11,500 and 12,500 respectively. We negotiated a deal with Orbit during the first part of October and Orbit’s versions went up for pre-sale in March 2011. My self-published books stayed on the market until August 2011 (Orbit books were released in November – January) but I’m not sure what the sales were. I wasn’t promoting the self-published books, and it was definitely less than over the Christmas but I don’t recall the exact numbers.

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?

During that Nov 2010 – Feb 2011 time period, income was really high $45,000 – $55,000 a month. Plus we had a six-figure offer from one of the big-five. Usually, a multiple-book contract will be paid out over many years. In my case, all the books were all written (and scheduled for release in three consecutive months: November 2011 – January 2012). Because of this, I saw the full amount fairly quickly. By April 2011, I had enough cash reserves to pay all the household bills for more than two years. With that kind of cushion, it seemed a safe bet for my wife to quit her day job. Still, writing income when traditionally published can be sporadic so we always have a good cushion on hand. If push comes to shove, Robin will have plenty of time to get a “real job” if needs be. I love having her at home, so I’m incentivized to keep the income flowing and repay her for years of doing similarly for me.

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 have a fairly “open” online persona so most people know a lot about me. The one thing they may not know is when I get “stuck” with a plot I go for walks and have out loud conversations with myself. There is something about doing that aloud that activates a different part of my brain, which usually provides a solution. My hobbies outside of writing include: biking, hiking, jogging, painting, gaming, and hanging out at the local pub with some writer friends of mine.

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?

I’m always harping on three being a magic number. I see too many authors spending too much time promoting themselves when they have only one book available for sale. Until you have three books, you should be hyper focused on writing more books.  Once you have three books out, then you can spend more time on promotional activities, but doing so before then just won’t be productive. You really need readers who buy multiple books from you, so you need to make getting multiple books your number one priority.

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

Not really, it’s been pretty comprehensive. I’ll just say in closing that this is a profession that rewards two things: persistence and quality. If you can write a book that people love so much they’ll tell others about it, and you can produce books at a fairly consistent rate then there is no reason you can’t find success. If you self-publish, make sure you are putting out a book that can go toe-to-toe with those released from New York. You owe it to yourself and to your readers to put out only your best.

Author Origins: Ben Galley

Ben ProfileBen Galley is a young  author from sunny England. Ben has been writing since he was old enough to be trusted with a pencil, which, and if you know Ben personally you’ll know why, was somewhere in his early teens. Now of course, he’s much more responsible, and has moved from the pencil to the self-publishing world. He is the author of the epic fantasy trilogy – The Emaneska Series. He has released four books to date, and doesn’t intend to stop writing any time soon.

As a proud indie author, Ben does everything by himself. He writes, edits, sketches the maps, manages tours, does the marketing… even this website was crafted by his very hands. Ben regularly tours the country doing signings and workshops, allowing him to meet a great many interesting people on his journeys. He is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on the subject of self-publishing, and is incredibly zealous about helping other authors and writers.

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 worked my backside off for several years, until I had a book I could self-publish.

My name is Ben Galley, and I’m an author of dark fantasy and tall tales. I decided to become an author from the very moment I could hold a pencil. My imagination has always run wild – a by-product of being force-fed JRR Tolkien and mythology from a very young age! Writing stories and dreaming up worlds seemed to come easily to me. It was an escape as well as something I could share with other people.

I wrote my first novel aged 11, and that passion for writing never died. It only got stronger. When I’d finished university I decided it was time to take the plunge and achieve that dream of being an author. I worked my backside off for several years, until I had a book I could self-publish. My debut – The Written.

I’m now 26, with 4 fantasy books and a self-publishing guide on the shelves. I now also run a consultancy business that helps other authors self-publish, and over the last year, I’ve also opened my own eBook store Libiro.com, with co-founder Teague Fullick. I like to think the aged 11 me would be pretty pleased!

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

For me, it was hard to get the time to write and actually finish a book that I could then publish. I worked full-time whilst writing The Written and the rest of the Emaneska Series, and there were never enough hours in the day. However the dream drove me on, and I would work all day at my job, then come home and work into the morning at my writing. It was tough, and stressful, but it’s paid off in the long run.

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

It’s important to keep the ideas fresh, to keep your head in the game, and to keep your skills sharp.

One way of getting around the long hours spent behind bars, serving tables, and generally despairing at my lack of opportunities, was to write The Written and Pale Kings on my mobile phone between customers and on breaks. That way I didn’t have to tear my hair out waiting to get home, and could keep the workflow steady. However, The Written still took 18 months to write this way!

To this day, when I’m in the middle of writing a novel, I strive for 2000 words a day minimum. It’s important to keep the ideas fresh, to keep your head in the game, and to keep your skills sharp.

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?

It’s a scary decision, that’s for sure – book sales can be fickle, especially seasonally. And of course, you can’t ride the success of one book forever: you need to keep coming out with product. Once I had enough books on the shelves, the income was consistent and knew my other projects were taking off, that’s when I knew I could do it.

Put simply, the feeling was euphoric.

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?

Good question! I’m pretty open on social media and the web, though I wonder if people knew what sorts of music drove my words sometimes. I do have a strong passion for metal…

My other hobbies outside of writing, when I have the time, include a spot of cooking, hitting the gym, gaming, and rat-keeping.

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?

Two things!

There is no better marketing than your next book.

Writing. Day in and day out, and every day. There is no better marketing than your next book, and as that’s the element that sells, the more the merrier. You will also benefit from the practise too – the more you write the better you will get, and that again is very important.

The second piece of advice is professionalism. When publishing, quality and a professional standard are paramount to standing out from the crowd, and to making sales. This means a great cover, spotless editing, and good formatting for eBooks and paperbacks.

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

Just that it was a pleasure to be part of this series, and to tell any other authors or budding writers reading that there has never been a better time to be an author. We now have the means, the technology, and the support to make it on our own, and be our own author-preneurs. It’s a tough job with a steep learning curve, and it can be hard at times, but please do persevere, because it’s also the best job on the planet.

Author Origins: Rysa Walker

Rysa Walker author profileRysa Walker grew up on a cattle ranch in the South, where she read every chance she got. On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light.

Timebound, the first book in the CHRONOS Files series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. A CHRONOS Files novella, Time’s Echo, is now available exclusively on Kindle and Audible.Time’s Edge, the second book in the series, will release on October 21st, with the final book and novella coming in 2015.

For news and updates, visit her at rysa.com.  She tweets @rysawalker and if you see her there or on Facebook, please remind her that she should be writing!

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, I’m Rysa Walker, author of Timebound and The CHRONOS Files series.  The second book in the series, Time’s Edge will debut on October 21st.  I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, but much of my focus was academic and nonfiction writing until a few years back.  I wrote Timebound (originally self-published as Time’s Twisted Arrow) in my spare time between teaching history and government online.  I’m now a full-time author, currently working on the final book in my series, scheduled for publication with Skyscape in the fall of 2015.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

It can be hard for me to write when the kids are running about, the dog is barking, or the phone is ringing.  And this is still an issue as a full-time writer, except that I now have the other duties of being a writer to distract me as well.

Getting into the “groove” so that I can write.  That was never an issue when I was writing lectures or academic articles, although even then, I had better luck writing late at night when there were fewer distractions.  It can be hard for me to write when the kids are running about, the dog is barking, or the phone is ringing.  And this is still an issue as a full-time writer, except that I now have the other duties of being a writer to distract me as well.  I have to “unplug” except for my writing software and music, and go into the “writing cave.”  And the kids have almost learned that it’s a very bad idea to interrupt Mom when the headphones are on and her fingers are flying across the keyboard.   (The dog, not so much.)

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

I still write in bursts.  I try to get in at least 1000 words a day, but it doesn’t always happen.  More likely, I’ll have four days with 500 words and three where I hit 4-5k.

I take care of the side tasks of being a writer — answering emails, posting to social media, interviews, etc. — when my brain is not quite to the point of dealing with time travel conundrums.  I’m still more likely to get a lot written if the house is quiet, especially late at night, but the kids have to be at school by 7:15 so I don’t get as many late night sessions as I’d like.  As a result, I still write in bursts.  I try to get in at least 1000 words a day, but it doesn’t always happen.  More likely, I’ll have four days with 500 words and three where I hit 4-5k.

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?

That decision was much easier thanks to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  I entered the contest in December, after self-publishing Time’s Twisted Arrow in October of 2012.  My primary hope was to get to the stage where you get the free Publisher’s Weekly review, thinking that maybe there would at least be a nice tagline in the review that I could tweet.  There was—”Kate is the Katniss Everdeen of time travel” made me very happy—but then the book kept going. It took the YA prize and then the Grand Prize, which meant a $50K advance on royalties and a contract with Skyscape.  That was almost exactly my salary for a year, so it made quitting the day job much easier.  I also have a husband with a solid job, so I wasn’t worried about the kids starving or the mortgage going unpaid.  It was still a decision that would have been difficult to make if I’d only won the YA Prize, since the advance would have been $15K.  That’s still a really nice advance in these days where debut authors often don’t get any advance at all, but I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to leave behind a regular paycheck if I didn’t know that a full year’s salary was in the bank.

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?

That I’m actually a hybrid author—some works self-published, some traditionally published.  I had always envisioned The CHRONOS Files as a three-novel series with two shorter novellas in between, written from the perspective of other characters.  Skyscape wasn’t too keen on the idea of novellas, having had less-than-stellar luck publishing a few for other series.  They contracted only for the two remaining novels (Time’s Edge and the still-untitled third book), but they agreed to let me self-publish the novellas.  That’s unusual for publishers, who usually don’t like to give up control.  The first novella, Time’s Echo, was self-published for Kindle and Audible earlier this year, and it has been a very nice additional income stream.  I also love the fact that it lets me keep one foot in the very supportive world on indie authors, who understand that we really are NOT competitors, but colleagues.

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?

Find ways of getting your name out there before you publish your first book.

Whether you end up going traditional (increasingly rare for debut authors) or self-publishing, you will need a solid marketing platform.  I’m still unagented (and happily so), but many of my colleagues swear their agent earn every bit of the 15% they pay, and most agents will not even look at a new author who doesn’t have a blog and an active presence in social media.  Find a social media outlet that works for you and build up a core group of followers.  That will, in many cases, be fellow authors at the beginning.  That’s okay — remember that authors read, too.  In fact, we read a lot.

Also, finding places where you can publish short fiction is still a very good idea.  Even though there are few magazines that publish short stories these days, there are online outlets, including a few that pay.  One example is Kindle Worlds, which is a paid fan-fiction site that Amazon set up a while back.  I’ve been poking around there a good bit lately, since I’m in negotiations to set up a “world” for The CHRONOS Files.  They’ve got worlds ranging from Pretty Little Liars and the Vampire Diaries to Kurt Vonnegut, Hugh Howey, and dozens more. Find a world that you want to “play” in and publish a few short works within that universe — and if there is a world similar to the genre you’ll be writing in, that’s even better.  There are several advantages for a new author.  First, you start making money on your writing, which can be a huge incentive to keep writing.  Second, you learn the tricks of the self-publishing trade in terms of formatting, marketing, etc.  But most importantly, when you finally get your book into the hands of agents, editors, or straight to the readers, you’ll show up not as a first-time author, but as a seasoned writer, with several works already selling.

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

I’d like to add that it’s important to find a routine that works for you.  And don’t give up.

You’ll see a lot of authors who insist that you must have the discipline to meet that minimum word count each and every day.  That might work for some, but for those juggling work and family, that advice can be disheartening.

There were occasionally weeks when I managed to crank out a few hundred words each day while writing Timebound, but there were also entire months where my schedule was so hectic that I barely even looked at the manuscript.  If you really want to be a writer, you’ll eventually finish that book — and it might even be better for having “marinated” a few years.

Author Origins: Blake Atwood

Blake AtwoodBlake Atwood is a freelance editor and writer at EditFor.me and the author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad. He’s proofread Texas legislation, led communications for a large church, written copy for a law firm, and edited hundreds of articles for a niche content marketing platform. Today, he offers affordable editing and writing services to self-publishers. Download his Self-Publisher’s Checklist: 33 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing for free by subscribing to his helpful email newsletter for writers. 

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

Every serious writer wants to “graduate” to become an author. Seeing your name on the spine of a book is every writer’s ultimate dream. Whether we admit to it or not, there’s validation there—the fact that something I created out of almost nothing exists in the real world.

I became an author because I wanted to prove to my insecure writer self that it could be done.

Two months after starting the initial writing of my book, I quit writing, sure that no one would be interested in what I wanted to say about a critically acclaimed show I thought few people had been watching.

Then fate intervened. 

That’s when I became an author. That’s when I got serious about finishing my book regardless of public reception. That’s when I got up at 5 a.m. almost every day for weeks on end to write for one or two hours.

I knew that if I was going to self-publish, I at least wanted to take advantage of free publicity and have the book’s release date coincide with the final season premiere episode of Breaking Bad. Following those two months of having essentially given up on the project, the powers that be announced that Breaking Bad would return to the small screen one month later than it had in previous years.

As if by magic, I’d be given back an entire month.

That’s when I became an author. That’s when I got serious about finishing my book regardless of public reception. That’s when I got up at 5 a.m. almost every day for weeks on end to write for one or two hours.

Four months later, I had an author page on Amazon.

It’s been a year since then, and that one book has opened doors for me that would have never been opened otherwise.

Though I’m adamant about encouraging self-publishers to always start the next book after they’ve finished their first, I’m terrible at taking my own advice. I have yet to start another project of my own, but I’m getting restless about it. Plus, my highly encouraging wife keeps goading me about the next book.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?
When I wrote my book in early to mid-2013, I was working 40 hours a week and I was a newlywed.
In July of 2014, I left full-time employment to pursue full-time freelance editing and writing work. But, when I wrote my book in early to mid-2013, I was working 40 hours a week and I was a newlywed. I wrestled with finding time for myself to write the book. I wanted to spend quality time with my wife, and I didn’t want my writing efforts to take away from my day-job efforts. Eventually, I capitulated to my own comfort and began writing at 5 or 5:30 a.m. every morning for at least four days a week.

Before I began freelancing, I assumed that having myself as a boss would grant me at least an hour or two out of my work day to write my own words, but my outside work has been consistent. Consequently, if I want to write and publish another book, I’ll very likely have to revert to the daily, early-morning discipline that helped me write the first book!

For me, the hardest aspects were (and still are) finding the right time to work on a book, being absolutely dedicated to the writing for that time block, and working as hard as I can to meet deadlines, even if they’re arbitrary.

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

Even though I’m freelancing, it’s still a full-time job, and I have to be intentional with how I spend my time. When I was employed by a company, I had to get up early to write. There was simply no other way the book would ever be written, as I certainly wasn’t going to sacrifice time with my wife, family, or friends in order to write (though I’m sure that happened on certain occasions).

Some boundaries can be a hindrance, but many are necessary, especially for the do-it-yourself writer and self-publisher.

Now that I’m fully in charge of my own time at work, there’s less urgency to giving time to my own writing—and that’s not a good thing. Some boundaries can be a hindrance, but many are necessary, especially for the do-it-yourself writer and self-publisher.

I need to get back into the habit of rising early to write my own books, else they’re likely never to come into existence.

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?

With my wife’s blessing—because I wouldn’t have done it otherwise—I quit my full-time job in July of 2014, but it wasn’t because of my book sales. When I made the transition, I felt equally excited and terrified.

If you’ll allow it, I’d like to offer a specific word of warning to first-time authors considering quitting their day jobs to become full-time writers: don’t.

I’m going to be far too honest here and share my current book sales and revenue. This is neither gloating or bemoaning. Such numbers are something I wish more first-time, self-published authors would share, which is why I’m doing so here.

Having written a book is such a larger achievement than having made money from it.
Though Amazon offers stellar royalties, I never assumed that one book would allow me to quit my job—and it didn’t. However, like I said, the book opened doors for me to pursue other paid writing work on a full-time, freelance basis. So I guess I could argue that the book has allowed me to help financially support my family, but it’s by no means the sole supporting cause.

As of the end of July 2014, or nearly a year’s worth of sales, I’ve sold 1964 copies (digital, print, and audiobook versions), given away 1274 copies, and have made $2447 total for an average of 110 books sold per month with an average monthly revenue of $245.

Considering that some sites say most indie-published books sell less than 500 copies in their lifetime, I’d like to think my book’s done well, and that’s the point. Even with generous royalties and fairly good sales for a seldom-marketed book with a no-name author, I’ve only made $245 per month.

I’m absolutely thankful for that income, but it’s nothing to quit over. At this point in my life, it’s an important part of a larger business plan, but I’d like to caution would-be writers and self-publishers that, unless you strike the lottery with your book, quitting your day job after releasing one book (or even two or three) isn’t encouraged.

But you should still write that book. Having written a book is such a larger achievement than having made money from it.

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?

The actual genesis for my book started in 2010 with this article. I had no idea then that I’d ever write a book about the show and was fairly certain the website wouldn’t even accept the article.

Outside of writing, I read and drum, though not at the same time.

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?

Be patient and focus on the task in front of you. That’s two pieces of advice, but they’re two sides of the same coin. Trying to write a BOOK is much more difficult than trying to write a page of a book—and even that can be difficult at times.

By focusing on each step as it comes to you (outline, draft, revise, revise, revise, publish, market, market, market), you’ll prevent yourself from burning out.

Maybe you want to build a writing career on the back of that book, but that’s far too much pressure to place on yourself and your book, especially while you’re writing it. By focusing on each step as it comes to you (outline, draft, revise, revise, revise, publish, market, market, market), you’ll prevent yourself from burning out.

Yes, this will take longer, but the reward is worth the focused effort.

Is there anything else you’d like to touch on?

I’m happy to offer an editing quote for any self-publishing authors. And whether or not you choose me to edit your book, promise me that you’ll pay some qualified editor to edit your book. Everyone needs an editor!

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