Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Switching gears, and the art of getting things done.

So I find myself in a bit of a situation. I have finished writing the sequel to my book 'Wayward Guardian' and I was rather looking forward to resuming work on my next project, which was a fantasy book which I had thought was only about half done. Turns out it was more than half done. So now I don't have a project on the go.

I discovered this while I was doing some quick edits on the new project in anticipation of writing in it again. While I was doing this, and looking at the rest of the plot that I had worked out, I realized that what I had written actually came very close to a story in and of itself, and that what was left to write, could very well stand as separate book as well, with a few modifications.

Now when I say separate, I mean in a physical sense. The stories are still one and the same, and the second book would be a continuation of the first, it's just that what was originally half a planned book actually has all the making of a full and good story in and off itself. So I decided I'd just split the book into two.

This had the advantage of meaning I now have two books waiting to be published, pending editing. However, as stated before, it means what I thought was going to be my next project for the foreseeable future, now isn't.

So what to do?

I could always write book three in the Guardian saga, but I want to let that wait a bit, let the juices flow. I've got a good idea where the story is going, but it needs some more details.

Instead, I decided I work on the scripts for the graphic novel/web comic series I will be doing with my good friend Austin Shurtliff. We've been wanting to do this for some time, but the timing hasn't be write, and we weren't sure how to go forward.

We had a nice long chat about it some weeks ago, and I think we're ready to get rocking. I'll be doing the writing, and he'll be taking care of the illustrations. Personally, I think he has the harder job, though the writing for this is proving a lot more challenging for me than I had anticipated. I'm hoping to fit the script writing into my schedule, while maintaining some book based writing.

So for the next few weeks, it will be editing, and script writing. Once the editing is done, then it'll switch to script writing, and book writing.

How exciting.

Remember, you can keep up today on all our projects over at the Ravania page. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Editing, and the art of quality.

Mmmm good day. It's been a busy one for me. I've gone to job orientation for a new job (Got to pay them bills!) to make up the difference while I kick everything else into high gear. I've done my first draft edit of about 5 chapters of my book. I've written a chapter in another book, and decided how to proceed with said book.

Of all of those things, I think I enjoyed the editing the least. I really don't like editing. If I could do without it, I would. However, I cannot do without it. Unedited, my writing is horrible, my grammar is weak, and my story telling is strained. My rough draft is always a mess. You may have even noticed some evidence of this on my blogs. I try to catch it all, but it's a big job.

Good editing can really set a story apart. I was browsing through the latest free kindle books on promotion by Amazon, and reading their reviews, and I was struck by the common thread in many of the reviews of these self published books. That thread was the thread of many obvious mistakes. One review mentioned that the writer had completely neglected to put quotations around his dialog. So the only way to tell the difference between between characters talking and descriptive paragraphs was the inclusion of the occasional he said, she said. I of course chose to download this, but I haven't had the chance to see for myself yet.

I suppose me downloading it suggests it may have just been a clever marketing ploy, but I find that unlikely.

It occurred to me, that it could well be that the only thing keeping these people from being really big would be the strength of their editing. For many of these stories, almost everyone would say 'It's a great story!' or 'It's full of engaging characters.' but then it would get to the rest and these same reviewers would say 'Full of typos.'. Of course, some reviewers never noticed at all, but the ones that that did were numerous enough to hurt their ratings.

I know how hard it is! I really do, if it wasn't for the lads at Ravania, I would be a sorry mess with my writing. We thankfully have something of a support group, we each bear the burden of editing. I find I can read my work as many times as I want and still won't see what I need to see, because I see what I meant to write, not what I actually write. Add a fresh set of eyes that weren't involved in the writing of the story, and all the missed typos start coming to life.

That said, there is a difference between a few missed words, and typos on every page. If you try to hit perfection every time, you'll never actually finish a book. Just be thorough, take the time and effort, and do the best you can. Remember, the keen eyed will find typos even in New York Times best sellers.

To any new authors, or even established indie authors, I'd recommend passing your works to as many people as you feel comfortable with. Try and priorities those who are willing to actually look and not just read. I pick my Father as one of my readers because if there is a misspelled word, he will find it. The man once found a typo in a crossword puzzle, much to his frustration. He doesn't do so good on story content, but I have other people in my reader group to look for those. Different eyes see different things. The more eyes that go over your work, the more they'll see, provided, again, there the kind of people who will look rather than just read.

Remember, if you don't try to set a standard for yourself, you'll never stand out above the crowd.

Till next time! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Testing what makes you tick.

So I just got back from a weekend camping trip on lovely Vancouver Island. All in all, it was a pretty rad time, but as the time came to a close, I was chomping at the bit to get back and jump back into my work.

On reflection, I realize this is the first time this has happened to me. Most of the time, when vacationing, I find that I dread going back and ending my adventure. Most of the time I would dread coming back and having to sink back into my old life.

Not so on this trip. I was excited to return, happy to resume what I was doing, and determined to make even more progress towards my goals and dreams. I realize that this is a good indication that I'm doing something I love. I was so interested in returning that whenever I heard talk of plans to make the vacation last a little longer, it actually made me unhappy. I decided to jump ship and get back home with one of the campers who had to return early.

I am one of the ones who very much agrees that it's important to take a step back every now and again. Doing this lets you see how far you've come, and lets you regain perspective which may have been lost in the hustle and bustle of everything. I came back from my vacation with a lovely piece of prose and a new short story to be revealed at a later date.

However, the stepping back also lets you see something else. It lets you see how much you're enjoying our life at that moment. If your vacation is marred by the dread of returning home, then there is room for improvement. If it's dampened by all the worries you brought with you, then it may be time to learn to let some things go. Time to step away gives us an opportunity to see what were stepping away from, and also gauge how much we want to step back into it. It's just a good way to see if you actually like what your doing.

I know I do. I hope you do too.

Till next time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blogging about a Blog, Indies Unlimited

So I read a post from Indies Unlimited. You can find the post I am about to talk about, here. I'd also recommend checking out the blog in general, as it does seem interesting. I've been poking at it, and especially under their section about submissions, I was caught by their mission, stated, "We want to dispel the myth that Indie books aren’t as good as other books." Pretty good for a mission. I mean, it sounds like part of our mission over at Ravania.

So anyway, I was reading this post. The blogger, Becky Wicks, was talking about her switch from a traditional publisher to indie publishing, and her experience therewith.

I was struck by a few things, first, when she switched, she realized that indie authors need to be their own marketing team. Yes! Complete agreement there. As she said later in the post, no one will be as passionate about your story than you. Even if you have a great story with all the makings of a best seller, if no one knows it exists, it won't mater one bit. You have to get out there, you have to make your presence known.

This battle is a difficult one to fight, and an almost cyclical one, as I touched on in my last post, but it's one which can be fought, and one which you can make progress with. Thankfully, as she listed off all the outside help she had to get, I realized that between the five of us at Ravania, and our various circles of influence, we've got most of those jobs covered. For the most part though, we're all pretty inexperienced in our various responsibilities, but we will improve.

The other thing she mentioned was how the magic point for getting some traction and seeing good results was about 5 books. Under our banner, we've got about 3 right now, with another 3 set to release by years end (ish). Between us, we've got that number hit, but individually, we've got some time to go yet. I'm hoping to leverage our combined strength as a way to move our brand forward.

She also mentioned something about having a good mailing list. Still working on that.

Lots of work to do. Lots and lots.

That just makes it exciting.

Till next time people!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reviewing the Review system.

Good day readers. I regret to inform you that I am going to be away for week, so you'll have to be without the enjoyment of my words for at least that long, well unless I can find a moment it write, but I don't want that kind of pressure. Hopefully my co-conspirator Vance will pick up the slack in the mean time.

I got a little frustrated again this week. When you are a new author, it very hard to get traction. To get into any of the good book promotional circles, you need reviews, to get reviews, you need people who will read your book, to get readers, you need promotion, and reviews so they know it's worth their time. It is a viscous angry circle.

The most obvious thing to do then, is to pick one thing and try to break the cycle at that one point. Or rather, not break the cycle, but start a positive cycle where a negative one once read. The point that is usually chosen as the entry point is reviews. I'm no different in the this regard, I see that as the point to pick too.

The problem, however, is the whole 'getting a review' thing. The really prestigious ones usually charge money, and when you're a starving artist, with emphasis on starving, it's really hard to justify any kind of expense. The free review sites are usually so swamped by the hordes of other authors who just desperately want a chance to prove themselves. It's hard to have your submission seen when it's lost in a mountain of other books. There's only so many hours in a day, and the free sites, by virtue of being free, can't really afford to pay a reviewer.

Now the best kind of review, in my mind, is from readers themselves. The problem with that, is readers don't want to have their time or money wasted. If you leave a negative impression on them, it'll linger. To make matters worse, the level of quality between those hordes of authors and their works varies wildly. Some have the potential to be the next new york times best seller, whereas others, if writing were like American idol, would be sent home crying by Simon Cowell.

The thing they all share in common though is that no one knows about them. No one knows they exist. Their books languish with a ranking on amazon with entirely too many digits behind it. Not many people intentionally browse the lower levels of the book rankings looking for books, and this is in part because no one wants to waste time or money.

If a book has no reviews, it's essentially a gamble as to what you'll get, and if you have to spend money, then it's a gamble most people don't want to take. This is particularly true because there are plenty of books written by known authors that are quite a lot of fun to read. Why take a risk on a no body, when the somebody does what you want, and you know they do what you want?

The method I've decided to use to try and break the cycle is simple, and has been done before. The first thing I'm doing is offering a free promotion for my e-book. From september 4 to the 8 my e-book will be free on amazon. My hope for this is that as it will eliminate the money concerns when it comes to reader risk. Hopefully some people will be willing to take the time risk, and garner me some reviews. Once I have those under my belt, it'll be that much easier to promote, and should translate into more readers for my next book. We shall see if it works!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Of Moons and Madness

Good evening everyone, part time wizard Arlin here. So it's a full moon out tonight, and that means a blog post.

Since I've decided on writing a blog post every time there's a full moon, as well as when ever I feel like it, I've thought that it might be kind of nice to have the full moon posts have a sort of shared theme. I'm not sure what that's going to be, though I feel as though it may be more personal in nature than my usual posts.

So maybe for my first run at this, I will answer a question. Why?

Why's, as they stand, are very important to me. Why's are what makes the difference between doing something for the right reasons and doing something for the wrong reasons. Now that sort of thing, right and wrong, can be rather subjective to most people. I have very strong opinions about most things, and for the most part I know where my rights and wrongs lie, that said, everyone has a different set of beliefs, and such questions should be judged on a basis of current knowledge, and current beliefs, on a case by case basis.

But I digress. I wasn't going to talk about why's in general. I was going to talk about my why.

Before I get to that though, I should also answer, why what? What is an easy answer. What is 'everything I do in life'. What is Ravania Entertainment. What is my professional life. What is how I treat my fellow man. These are all the what's that are coloured and shaped by my why.

So what's my why?

I seem to be dancing around that question a lot.

So lets get right to it then. My why is love.

I know, I know, it's corny, it's cliche, and no one ever talks that way anymore. Well you'll be happy to know that there is a second why, and that's cause it makes me feel good, so it's a little selfish, but the first why is love.

I want to make Ravania Entertainment as big as I can because I love those who I am building it with. I want to make it as big as I can because I love the stories we tell, because I love the vision we share. I love what it has the potential to become, and I love the potential it has to help other people discover there own whys. We have massively insane plans for this thing, and I stick with them because of my why.

I want give the best service I can give in my professional life, for those who don't know, I work as a finical coach, because I feel so many people need help in that area of there life and I honestly feel that I can help them get a handle on it. I do it because I love helping people, and because I love the fact that I can get ahead in life doing something that helps others also get ahead in life.

I choose to treat people with respect, and when possible, genuine caring and attention, because I love people and believe everyone is deserving of care and love. I do it out of love for my fellow man, and out of love of my God, who would give me such gifts as I have in the way of talents, and who has done so so I may help my fellow man.

In short, my why is love. A love of people. A love of doing. A love of stories. That's my why. And it's important to have a why. A why keeps you focused when the world demands you become distracted, and if I get distracted, I'll get lost, and I'll loose sight of everything I'm doing. So until next full moon, you'll probably have to just listen to me prattle on about Ravania Entertainment, because I sure do love talking about that.

Till next time everyone!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The trouble with Covers, and some assorted ramblings.

So I was running the 'book review' circuit today. Oh boy what a treat that is. I mean, obviously the best way to get reviews is organically, but if you have no reviews then the quality of your book may come across as suspect.

This does have a negative impact on sales.

I decided that I needed to put my not inconsiderable stubborn determination towards solving. However, after about... three hours... or so, I have now grown bored of this pursuit. This unfortunately means that my stubborn determination is not what it used to be. That said, it was really an adventure and I have learned many valuable lessons.

First and foremost, there is a resource for almost everything you could think of. Everyone has a service to offer, and really I myself am no exception, what with my endless promotion of Ravania Entertainment. The problem you run into though is most services require something in exchange. Things are in rather short supply for me, as I am still in the 'starving artist' stage of my rise to fame. That's not to say I resent this state of being. Far from it, every adventure starts off small, and every journey will have it's challenges. More importantly than that, I am also a capitalist at heart, and I understand the value of ones time. These services don't do themselves!

The second thing I learned is that in the self-publishing world, cover services are ripe with options. It's easy to just pick a template and a picture from the cover design services and whip up a slick cover for your new book. I, unfortunately for them, find most of these such covers to be... well... without personality. Where is the love and care in template? Thankfully I have access to a few talented artists who have thus far been eager for the challenge of creating a cover.

Double thankfully, Ravania Entertainment itself has it's own very talented art guy who has made most of our covers and all of the art assets on our website here. We are truly blessed to have him under our banner. I mean he made our banner, he'd better jolly well be under it!

Anyway, back to the covers. As I was saying, I found most of the covers offered by these services to be lacking in personality. However, technically speaking, they do all look good, and the uniform styles do tend to draw a buyers eye. They see them as similar and it gives comfort. I myself suffer from this particular syndrome. You give me a planet and a spaceship on your cover, and BAM, I'm interested. So it's entirely possible that our lovely hand crafted covers might be doing us a disservice because they look so different from the average cover you find online. But just you wait, when we have 20+ books, we'll have the advantage, no longer will it be a detriment, it'll just be another reminder that it's a Ravania Entertainment book. It'll become a calling card!

Ultimately, everything we do is part of building our brand and making us unique and different. We don't want to be like the mainstream. We want to make our own dang stream!

This is part time wizard Arlin Fehr signing off. I'm outta here!