Category Archives: Starting a Career

The Importance of Conventions by T. Allen Diaz

I’m preparing this week for my first, I hope of many, Labor Day journeys to Dragon Con in Atlanta. Dragon Con is a huge convention and the largest venue I’ve ever attended. I’m lucky, now. I’ve snagged my first writing contract and WordFire Press and Bard’s Tower do most of the heavy logistics for me, but it wasn’t always that way. Only a few short years ago I was scraping together the money I needed to pay for a booth and buying stock to put on the shelves in the hope to make enough to at least pay for my room and meals. So, it’s a pretty good time for someone to ask me about the con circuit, whether or not it’s worth all the sacrifice, and to weigh its pros and cons. The conventions are amazing experiences that have been indispensable to my career and are too important not to do. I’m not just talking about the big shows. To paraphrase a favorite movie character “Judge them not by their size”. The commercial success I’ve had to-date can be traced directly to the smallest con in sales and attendance at which I’ve ever appeared. 

The 2015 Necronomicon here in Tampa only expected a paltry twelve hundred or so, but I was already experienced enough to know that every opportunity to get out and mingle among potential fans and colleagues was one to be taken, especially if it was affordable and meant no traveling. Every time I go to these things, great or small, I take something away: a business tip or story idea or that ever-elusive serial reader. So, I went to Necro with the same excitement with which I go to every con. I didn’t make a ton that weekend, though I do recall a vendor next to me that still likes my Facebook page and follows my work, but I did make the acquaintance of a certain You Tuber/author interviewing artists and other folks at the con. My interview was a short affair, just ten minutes or so, but this You Tuber/author and I really hit it off and became friends and mutual business contacts.  

Two months later, Garrett Pomichicter gave me a guest spot on his on-line interview with Alan Dean Foster. A month after that, he introduced me to this fantastic publishing company out of Colorado called WordFire Press. I volunteered for them and met the great Kevin J. Anderson, Dave Butler, and Alexi Vandenburg. I did as many shows as I could with them. I learned the importance of being a good salesman and how to pitch a book. I was able to pick their brains about the business and made some friends along the way. I also put my books in people’s hands. 

Today, one of those books, Lunatic City, is a WordFire Press release that sold out at its debut at Tampa Bay Comicon 2017. I’m working diligently on edits and rewrites for its sequel in the hopes of a 2018 release. One of my WordFire colleagues and friends, Dave Butler, talked me up to another publisher, Chris Kennedy of Seventh Seal Press, looking for military sci-fi writers interested in contributing to one of his Four Horsemen Anthologies. My ten-thousand word short story, Hero of Styx is unofficially slated to be released in a book titled The Good, the Bad, and the Merc later this year. And, I’m about to go to Dragon Con, one of the largest, most prestigious conventions in the Southeast. Who knows who I may meet or what opportunities await there? 

So, when fledgling writers ask me: “Is it really worth it to go to all those cons?” I ask them, “Can you afford not to go?” Cons are tough, they’re a lot of work, and, if you do it right, you go home sore, mentally exhausted, and without a voice. But, every handshake, every interview, every person you meet is an opportunity, an opportunity you will never get sequestered up waiting for someone to trip over your manuscript, no matter how good it is.

 

T. Allen Diaz is the author of speculative fiction, including the dark space epic series the Proceena Trilogy and his gritty, moon-based noir, Lunatic City. He lives in the Tampa Bay area with his wife and three kids where he has lived for his entire lifeFollow him on Twitter as @Proceenawriter and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/T.AllenDiaz where you can stay up-to-date on all of his latest news and events. 

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Momentum in the Real World

This month is supposed to be all about how to build and keep momentum. But I must admit that right now I feel sort of like a phony talking about all my amazing momentum hints and tips. Because I’ve been pretty low on the momentum scale for the past year or so.

That’s because life.

Two years ago, I had crazy dreams of being a full-time writer. I had the luxury of living off a separation package that provided a good income for most of a year, and I used that time to hammer out my War Chronicles trilogy. Or most of it. It turns out that making a living as a writer isn’t something that I was able to just turn a key, and bang! I’m a successful writer!

Don’t get me wrong, I did very well with my trilogy. I got an audio publishing contract to go along with my self-published e-book, and between the two of them, I did quite well for a first-time author without a standard publishing contract. I’m proud of what I accomplished.

But in the end, I had to go back to work. Full time. With additional hours quite often. And that meant I had to learn the new job, and learn an entirely new sort of programming to go along with it. Which meant long evenings and weekends taking online programming classes and writing code to learn how it all actually worked. I am one of those who learns by doing, so I had to do it.

On top of that, we had just purchased a lot on a lake, and built a house. The house was finished about ten months ago. Well, “finished” is a relative term. The basement and landscaping weren’t finished. I had to do all that myself. Which meant lots of long nights and weekends focusing on house finishing tasks, which are still not completely done, and I am just now really getting into the landscaping side. So that’s also lots of long nights and weekends.

So, in the past ten months, I’ve managed to write only about 40,000 words on my current novel.

And you know what? That’s probably pretty good for the circumstances I’ve been in. Even if it does come out to roughly three hundred words a day. Because at the very least, I’ve kept at it. And what I have written, I think, shows a lot of growth from my previous writing. I learned a lot from my first experience as a writer.

But I can’t really call that “momentum” in the sense that most of these articles mean. But sometimes I think that “momentum” of the sort I’ve managed can be just as important as pounding out a thousand words a day, day after day, to the tune of three or four books a year.

Because I’ve never considered giving up on my dream. It’s just been prioritized against some other very important priorities, and I’ve made steady, if slow, progress.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, in the context of momentum, is that the most important aspect of momentum may not be how many words you write each day. It may be more important that you just maintain the dream, and even when it is incredibly difficult to find the time to write, you manage to carve out evenings or weekends when you pick up where you left off, dust off your keyboard, and pound out another scene. And another. My output may have been a trickle, instead of a flood, these last ten months, but that trickle has never dried up. I’ve never lost track of the story, and when I do find the time to write, it feels great to put another chapter behind me.

And that’s the thing that really matters. Writing, as important as it is to me, is not my entire life. Other things matter, and sometimes they matter more than writing. But as my time has become freer since completing some major projects, I’ve been improving my word count, and I feel like that will continue. I’ll get this story done. And another. And another. It just may not be as fast as I would like, that’s all.

Are Small Publishers a Small Price?

When it comes to publishing, opinions vary by wide margins. Some say traditional publishing is the only way to get noticed, to come out with a quality book, and to have a chance at a wide readership. Others say traditional publishing is a scam, they use their authors, and only the top sellers get anything out of the relationship. For some, indie publishing is the only way to go. The writer has full autonomy of their work; able to make the covers, formatting, and editing quality the way they think it should be done. Yet, I’ve seen some authors and readers turn their noses up at indie publishing, saying it floods the market with sub-par books and the writers are wannabe hacks who couldn’t cut it in “real” publishing.

And then we come to small publishers. Are small publishers a middle-ground or a scam? Because the books are vetted by non-partial book enthusiasts, does that lend them more credibility? Are they run by publishing novices who don’t really know what they’re doing? Do they have the power to increase marketing and exposure or is it just self-publishing where the author does more work and never sees royalties? Are authors risking their novels/career/time because the small publishers always fold within five years? Are authors increasing productivity because a small publisher takes care finding and working with editors, cover artists, and formatting?

In short, what does it cost us to use a small publisher and what are the rewards? This is the question we’ll be asking this month. Read each day for views from the authors and the publishers. Our fictorians and multiple guests are going to be writing about personal experience and personal views. As always, we’d love to hear your comments. Keep the conversation civil and discard any preconceptions. Let the debate begin:

Colette Black Bio:
Author PicColette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion. Author of the Mankind’s Redemption Series, The Number Prophecy series, and the new Legends of Power series, Colette writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance. Find her at www.coletteblack.net

 

Lies New Authors Tell Themselves

Nothing makes a professional author chuckle like listening to potential writers deciding to get into the field. Far too many think it’s easy to write a book and then have publishing companies dump shipping containers of hundred dollar bills on your front lawn. While this is a theoretical possibility (E.L. James comes to mind), it’s not probable.

I thought I would pick a few common lies that wanna-be writers tell themselves. Enjoy!

Writers Make Lots of Money

If only this was true. The best advice any professional author can give you is “don’t quit your day job.” You will need the income stability for yourself and your family, plus you may need the healthcare benefits if your day job provides them. Other benefits include life insurance and retirement contributions.

A study in the United Kingdom showed the average income for a professional author was £12,500, or $15,400 per year. That’s up from $11,000 per year, but only because the British Pound has declined in relation to the U.S. Dollar ever since Brexit was approved. Either way, fifteen grand and change will not go much further than paying some of your bills.

Is it possible to get rich writing? Yes, but again, not likely. You may have similar luck playing the Powerball and Megamillions lottery twice a week.

My recommendation? If you feel the call to write, then write and publish. Don’t go in with the idea you’ll get rich. If it happens, congratulations. Maybe you want to switch over and write full time, now that you no longer have to worry about money. You can work towards that goal, and you can change the odds with improving your craft and continuing to publish.

Writers are Experts in Language and Grammar

I have yet to meet one, although I would hedge and say that J.R.R. Tolkien is probably one of the closest. Every author I know makes a ton of mistakes when writing. After all, that’s why editors were invented. Editors typically have a better grasp of the mechanics of language…or at least the great ones do. The editors will comb through your work and fix all of those comma splices and split infinitives, vacuum out the extra commas, and polish the correct letters when you use to, too, or two.

The purpose of an author is to tell a fascinating story in a logical methodology. Things have to happen and destinies and lives should be changed. Focus on that while doing your best to learn more about using proper grammar. At the very least, your editor will appreciate the effort.

You Can Never Become an Author

This is the saddest lie one can tell themselves. You’re basically convincing yourself not to even try, although you want to. You might be the magic lottery winner (and not Shirley Jackson’s version) if you start to curate your thoughts and words onto a page.

Is it hard work? Hell yes, it certainly is! It takes a lot of writing, editing, re-writing, and re-re-writing to put out a decent story. You can’t wait for your muse to inspire you if you’re gunning for the professional author title. Writers write, and that means there is no time for things like “writer’s block”. Can you imagine not selling coffee at your day job because you’re not feeling your coffee muse? Writing is just that, a job. That means you need to learn to be productive. There are a lot of suggestions and recommendations on how to do this on The Fictorians. In fact, this October and November, there will be a NaNoWriMo theme that stresses productivity.

In the end, focus on the craft. Notch out some time from your busy schedule, even if it’s only an hour, and use that time to write just as if you were going to your day job. Produce new words. Edit old ones. Learn new skills. Read new books outside of your favorite genre. Improve yourself instead of lying to yourself. One has to realize that most of the time we’re our own worst critic.

I believe in you, for one. Now go earn some more fans.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.