Tag Archives: getting published

How long does it take to write a book?

Answer: I have no idea — even after writing nine of them.

Maybe some authors have a formula that produces consistent results, but for me, the question is too nuanced to allow for a simple solution. Here’s why:

  • No two novels are the same.
  • I tend to work on other projects in between drafts, which artificially extends the timeline.
  • I don’t consider a book “done” until it’s published.

In other words, the writing itself is but one portion of a much longer process that starts with choosing a worthy idea to pursue and ends the moment the product is available for purchase.

Sometimes it can feel like centuries pass between penning the prologue and typing “THE END.” | Image by Alan Jacobs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Often that journey has as many ups and downs—and plot twists—as the fiction itself.

Take Project 5, for example…

After writing the three books of The Renegade Chronicles and a standalone (and currently unpublished) Altaerran novel called Magic’s Daughter, I attempted to compose a book that would merge characters from both works. I abandoned it after 22 chapters because it felt like I was simply filling in the blanks, and truth be told, I was starting to burn out on sword-and-sorcery fantasy—as a writer and a reader.

I decided my next book would take a step in a drastically different direction. I chose the working title “Project 5” because, well, I hoped it would yield my fifth complete novel. (Not very creative, Ghost of David Past!)

In June 2006, I began plotting an urban fantasy novel set in present-day Earth. The cast included Benedict Strong, a nearly immortal magic-caster who defied his heritage by trying to live a normal life; Lady Pandora, a stage magician who used real sorcery in her shows; and a few others.

I wrote a couple chapters before losing interest.

Next, I embraced a completely new plot — a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid that would eventually become If Souls Can Sleep. Once that story got its hooks in me, there was no turning back. Here’s a snapshot of the steps leading from inception to publication:

Dec. 10, 2006 — Began brainstorming a new Project 5, starting with rough character descriptions.

Dec. 31, 2006 — Wrote the prologue and began researching sleep disorders while hashing out ideas for the plot.

March 5, 2007 — Wrote the first chapter and then drafted a chapter a month for the next two years.

Oct. 30, 2008 — Realized that I was trying to write three books in one; removed select scenes from the first draft and saved them for Books 2 and 3.

April 7, 2009 — Developed an outline for the remainder of the novel after finishing Chapter 24 to prevent “writing in circles.”

July 1, 2009 — Finished the first complete draft of If Souls Can Sleep.

July – September 2009 — Read through the first draft and made notes for editing.

Oct. 18, 2009 — Started working on the heavy edits.

May 2, 2010 — Finished the second draft.

May 3, 2010 – Sept. 4, 2017 — Did lots of other stuff.*

Sept. 5, 2017 — After finishing the second draft of Book 3 in The Soul Sleep Cycle, jumped into proofing and prepping If Souls Can Sleep for publication through One Million Words.

Sept. 20, 2017 — Finished the production and marketing schedule.

Sept. 21, 2017 – Jan. 29, 2018 — Tackled/tackling all of the tasks required to publish and promote the book.

Jan. 30, 2018 — Publishing If Souls Can Sleep.

* Nota bene: I set aside If Souls Can Sleep for seven and a half years while I worked on a variety of other projects, including writing and editing the next two books in The Soul Sleep Cycle; co-writing and publishing a children’s chapter book (The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers) with my wife; writing a few short stories (“The Lake Road,” “The Monster and the Mirage,” and “Ghost Mode”); reworking and submitting “Ghost Mode” and an older story, “Going Viral,” to various publications; and publishing the three novels and a digital collection comprising The Renegade Chronicles as well as a free e-book compendium (Capricon and Beyond). I also spent time marketing The Renegade Chronicles, creating an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for a pun-a-day calendar, and making this website during that time.

You could say that If Souls Can Sleep will be 11 years in the making when it publishes early next year—though, technically, the inception for the series goes back even further.

According to the first entry in my Project 5 notes, dated Dec. 10, 2006:

Years and years ago, I thought that it might be fun to write a story about a man who meets a woman that he swears he knows. And she seems to recognize him, though neither can say from where. At some point, he would recall her as a recurring character in his dreams.

There was, of course, more to the story, but a lingering question has (in a sense) haunted me from that point forward: Who are the strangers that appear in our dreams? Are they real people whose names we have forgotten—or perhaps never knew—or are they amalgamations that our minds concoct when it needs nonspecific characters for a scene?

My next book will contend that dream strangers are real people, even if they do not exist in what most would call the real world.

“Years and years ago”?

That initial inkling has evolved—maybe “mutated” is a better word—over the course of decades, which only underscores my belief that the life of a story spans far longer than the time it takes to write it down.

Regardless of when this labor of love actually began, one thing remains true: I’m looking forward to finally sharing If Souls Can Sleep with the world in 2018!

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Happy Reader Appreciation Day!

Last year, I arbitrarily declared 9/13 “Reader Appreciation Day” and offered a free e-book on my website.

Continuing the tradition of giving stuff away in thanks for the support I’ve received from friends, family, and fans, I’m pleased to pass along these wallpapers:

These graphics are an adaptation of the cover that will accompany “Ghost Mode” when the short story is published later this year. The art was created by graphic designer extraordinaire Mary Christopherson, and I couldn’t be happier with how she brought the villain to life.

Speaking of upcoming projects, here’s a sneak peek at what the future holds for the fiction of David Michael Williams:

The Soul Sleep Cycle

I’ve been working on this genre-bending-but mostly-science-fiction series, on and off, since late 2006. Having finished the second draft of Book 3 earlier this month, thus ending the saga (for the time being), I’m eager to transition into publishing Book 1 as a paperback and e-book through my One Million Words imprint.

The Soul Sleep Cycle reveals a hidden world where a select few people possess the ability to prowl the collective unconscious. Two rival factions of dream drifters have turned the dreamscape into a war zone, and those sworn to protect the public must walk a razor’s edge of morality while fighting against those who would use their power to control life and death.

Book 1: If Souls Can Sleep

Vincent Cruz used to think he would give anything to bring his daughter back.

After years of reliving the morning his daughter drowned, Vincent’s recurring dream suddenly stops, only to be replaced by a new nightmare that stretches from his subconscious into the real world and beyond the grave.

With the help of his stoner roommate and a sleep doctor with issues of her own, Vincent must make sense of a dream in which he becomes Valenthor, a medieval warrior who also lost a daughter and who, like Vincent, has turned to the bottle for solace. But Valenthor’s clichéd quest is more than a coping mechanism that lets Vincent play hero, and unless he can figure out how his devious—and comatose—half-brother, the CIA, and an amateur fantasy writer figure into the phenomenon, he may lose more than his mind.

  • Projected publication date: January 2018

Book 2: If Sin Dwells Deep

  • Projected publication date: October 2018

Book 3: If Dreams Can Die

  • Projected publication date: April 2019

Short Stories

‘Ghost Mode’

“Ghost Mode,” an ominous yet playful story that depicts a dire fate for tech addicts in the not-too-distant future, will appear in One Million Project’s fantasy anthology. Proceeds go, in part, to cancer research. Learn more about that here.

Loyal readers might recognize the pompous protagonist—the Quentin E. Donovan—from a writing exercise tentatively titled “The Villain,” which was part of a crowd-sourcing experiment to help me decide what story to pursue. Read an early draft of the beginning here.

  • Projected publication date: December 2017

‘The Lake Road’

I don’t write much in the way of short fiction. In part, it’s because writing novels—and, inevitably, series—keeps me plenty busy. But small, self-contained stories can be an excellent palate cleanser in between drafts of longer works. I wrote “Lake Road” for just that purpose in 2010.

When an editor at One Million Project asked if I had any other short stories lying around for another of his publications, Bite Size Stories, I rediscovered my tale of a jaded guardian angel, remembered how strange and fun the story was, and worked hard to make it worthy of mass consumption. Now I can’t wait for the rest of the world to meet Felix and the unexpected adversaries he encounters on a certain rural Wisconsin road.

  • Projected publication date: TBD

ONE-SHOT

Amid writing, editing, and publishing novels and short stories, I also have entered into a so-far secret project that will stretch my creative writing skills in exciting new ways. I won’t go into details yet, but suffice it to say, ONE-SHOT is a collaboration with some extremely talented people and corresponds with an objective that’s been on my bucket list since I was young.

I’ll share more about ONE-SHOT in the months to come!

  • Projected publication date: Spring 2018

With so many releases on the horizon, I’d love to keep you informed along the way. Don’t miss future cover reveals and other teasers. Sign up for my monthly newsletter today!

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A tale of two book releases

For an author, nothing compares to your own book release—though seeing a friend get published comes awfully close!

This year, I’ve had the privilege of watching two of my peers reach the finish line with their respective literary ventures. The vicarious thrill I feel for them is buoyed by the fact that I played a small part in both of their journeys.

I don’t mention my contribution to pat myself on the back. Both of these gentlemen are tremendously talented, and even without my help, they would have produced a story well worth reading (and buying!). But because writing can be such a solitary pursuit at times, I think it’s important to point out that we all become better writers when we can depend on our peers’ experience, expertise, and, above all, support.

Both of the writers I’m about to introduce are fellow members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin (AAW). Once I wrote about why writers groups still matter. If nothing else, the following examples should show that even if you could do it all yourself, it sure is nice to have some help along the way!

Always Gray in Winter

Cover for "Always Gray in Winter"I met Mark J. Engels midway through the first draft of his debut novel, Always Gray in Winter. I was immediately impressed by his deep, complex story, well-developed characters, and fierce commitment to doing the featured werecat family justice. It helped that he also possessed a natural knack for stringing sentences together; with the basics mastered, he was well on his way transferring the action-packed plot from his gray matter to computer screen.

Over the past year and more, our friendship deepened, and he peppered me with many questions on everything from the craft of writing to the query process to book marketing. I also had the honor of being one of his beta readers.

Though I don’t profess to know everything about this crazy industry, I did my best to guide him. (If nothing else, my own missteps might have taught him what not to do). In return, I’ve been blessed to have him as a beta reader for my Soul Sleep Cycle novels (publication pending!) and my go-to guy for advice when I started my own business.

Every writer—and every book—has a unique path, and it sure has been a blast to watch Always Gray in Winter blossom from a thick binder tattooed by many-hued highlighters to a bona fide paperback, which released just last week.

Congratulations, Mark!

That Wonderful Mexican Band

Cover of "That Wonderful Mexican Band"I’ve talked about Tom Ramirez before. He’s the one who exposed me to that old (apocryphal?) adage about how everything written before the one-million-word mark is simply finger exercises—inadvertently providing inspiration for the name of my publishing company, One Million Words.

What I haven’t said before—at least not officially—is that Tom is a mentor of mine. Not only did he invite me to join AAW in the first place, but also he has been both a tough critic and a generous cheerleader when I needed it over the years. Encouragement like that is a priceless thing for up-and-coming writers.

Some history: Tom had been working on his memoirs for as long as I have known him (11 years) and well before that too, on and off since the late 1960s. When he finished, it was time for me to return the favor by encouraging him to self-publish That Wonderful Mexican Band.

I also gave him a step-by-step plan for accomplishing this—not only because I had learned a thing or two while publishing The Renegade Chronicles, but because I truly believed his book needed to be published.

That Wonderful Mexican Band was released in January, and even though the pages tell of Tom’s life during the Great Depression, the book will always remind me of our 21st-century friendship.

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Milestones from my book marketing marathon

What do you call a race without a finish line?

That’s not really a riddle. Or if it is, I don’t pretend to know the answer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about book marketing lately…because I’ve been doing a lot of book marketing lately. I keep coming back to that cliché about how (fill in the blank) is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as I want to quickly plow through my list of marketing tactics so that I can wrap up this project and begin planning my next novel, progress is unavoidably slow.

And pushing myself harder will only cause me to burn out faster.

Maybe the whole marathon metaphor is flawed in this case because publishing The Renegade Chronicles felt a lot like crossing a finish line. Leading up to that achievement was a series of tasks that required sustained pacing and a “keep your eye on the prize” mentality.

But even with Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters displayed on my bookshelf, trophy-like, a new endurance test lies before me—the next leg of the never-ending race.

In the spirit of celebrating small successes along the way, I submit the following 10 marketing and sales milestones:

1. Last month, I got a bit of press thanks to Action Publications.

2. Over the past couple of weeks, I sent requests to roughly 80 book bloggers. Three of them have expressed interest in reading and reviewing Rebels and Fools.

3. I’m on deck to be included in a “Newly Released” list on one website and the subject of an author spotlight on another site.

4. My professional Facebook page recently reached 100 likes.

5. The Fond du Lac Public Library now carries all three volumes of The Renegade Chronicles.

6. I’ve sold 75 “units” over the past six weeks. This includes paperbacks, individual e-book downloads, as well as the three-in-one digital collection.

The flag of Denmark

Right now, someone in Denmark might be reading my book. How cool is that? | Photo by US CIA via Wikimedia Commons

7. Three of those e-book sales were from readers in Denmark.

8. Last week, I received some very positive feedback from someone who doesn’t typically read fantasy: “I wasn’t sure if I would (like it). This isn’t my normal genre. I struggled just a little in the beginning trying to keep track of who all the characters were, but after that I was hooked. … I love the number of strong female characters, the bit of romance, all the adventure and plot twists. … I’ll be sure to post a great review when I finish.”

9. I will be the featured speaker at a Fond du Lac Area Writers’ meeting in June.

10. On June 17, I will be the featured artist at Cujak’s Wine and Coffee Bar during the Tour the Town Art Walk in Fond du Lac. (I’ll provide more information closer to the event.)

On second thought, writing, publishing, and book marketing are not so different from actual marathon running. The finish line is simply a measure of progress, not a true end—because there’s always the next race and another opportunity to improve.

Thanks for reading my blog and for your ongoing encouragement. I’m convinced “word of mouth” is the most effective form of marketing, so if you know anyone who likes fantasy adventure, please tell them about The Renegade Chronicles!

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‘Where can I buy your books?’

Yesterday, The Renegade Chronicles were officially published…which means I can finally answer the question above.

Book covers of The Renegade ChroniclesI emphasize “finally” because even though any publication process—whether traditional or indie—tends to be a long slog, the story of this particular fantasy series is half a lifetime in the making. Without further delay, here are the three ways to read The Renegade Chronicles:

Paperback editions

Rebels and Fools (Vol. 1), Heroes and Liars (Vol. 2), and Martyrs and Monsters (Vol. 3) are all available as paperbacks. You can order them via Amazon.com, but I’d be extremely appreciative if you ordered them directly from the printer, CreateSpace, since Amazon takes quite a big cut of every sale.

E-book editions

Currently, the digital versions of the The Renegade Chronicles are available for Kindle exclusively (though that may change in the months ahead).

Digital collection

The best deal by far is buying the three-in-one digital collection for Kindle. For $9.99, you get all three novels as well as a comprehensive appendix detailing the people, locations, and magical items of the world in which the series is set.

The story behind the story

So many people over the years have asked when they’ll be able to read my fantasy series on something other than desktop printouts and PDFs (and not received a satisfactory answer). I feel compelled to share the following timeline, if only to illustrate the longevity of the project.

  • 1990 — In sixth grade, I wrote a short story that introduced two characters who would eventually star in The Renegade Chronicles.
  • 1993 — I wrote another fantasy story that would serve as a rough foundation for the plot of Rebels and Fools.
  • 1994 – 1997 — I began building the world of Altaerra while in high school and wrote many episodic stories about characters around the world, including many of the people that populate The Renegade Chronicles.
  • 1997 – 1999 — As a project for an independent writing course in college, I wrote two-thirds of the first novel.
  • 1999 – 2001 — I finished what would become Rebels and Fools and rewrote the entire novel my senior year since my writing style and skills had improved significantly along the way.
  • 2002 – 2003 — I wrote and edited the sequel while living in Zhangjiagang, China.
  • 2004 — While querying literary agents for the first two books, I wrote and edited the third book.
  • 2005 – 2014 — Due to a lack of interest from traditional publishing companies, I moved on to other projects, including a standalone fantasy novel, a sci-fi series, and a children’s book.
  • 2015 — I began exploring the idea of starting my own indie publishing company to produce my works of fiction. I reviewed all three volumes of The Renegade Chronicles to see if I still believed the stories had merit—and to evaluate how much work would be required to get them print-ready.
  • October 2015 — I edited Volume 1.
  • November 2015 — I edited Volume 2.
  • December 2015 — I edited Volume 3.
  • February 2016 — I laid out the print editions of all three novels and composed the front- and back-matter (e.g., acknowledgments, about-the-author page, etc.).
  • March 2016 — I formatted the e-book editions of all three novels as well as the three-in-one collection. I also created the exclusive “People, Places and Peculiarities of Altaerra” appendix. On March 29, 2016, I published all iterations of the series—two days ahead of schedule but not a moment too soon.

Now, at last, let the binge reading begin!

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It’s a…business!

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, author David Michael Williams brought a new publishing company into the world.

By Claude Covo-Farchi from Paris, France via Wikimedia Commons

  • Name: One Million Words LLC
  • Lengths: great
  • Weight: pretty darn heavy

I’m delighted to report the delivery was quick and painless—less than an hour in an attorney’s office. And yet a lot of labor went into the small business since its conception. From entertaining the idea of entrepreneurship to determining which projects to tackle first to drafting an official business plan, there’s been no shortage of Ts to cross or Is to dot.

Truth be told, the One Million Words “brand” predates any of the aforementioned planning. I’ve been using that name in conjunction with my marketing communications since 2010 and bestowed it upon this very blog in 2012.

Going forward, One Million Words LLC will publish the novels of mine that aren’t picked up by the traditional market, including The Renegade Chronicles, my forthcoming fantasy trilogy.

Sorry to say, I don’t have any “baby pics” to share. However, a logo or wordmark might be appropriate farther down the road.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue working toward my late-March milestone of making Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters available in paperback and digital formats.

Stay tuned for the next big announcement!

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A different class of writing

Spending time with young people can make you feel old, but it can also make you feel young, too.

I had the pleasure of talking with students at Waupun High School yesterday. My mission: to share my educational background, professional writing experiences, writing advice, and tips for getting published with the fledgling writers—in 45 minutes or less.

waupun-warriors

Despite my best efforts, I might have uttered “when I was your age” at least once.

In all seriousness, it was a very casual environment, and even though I did most of the talking, I couldn’t help but be a little inspired as we went around the circle, and the students told of their current projects and future ambitions.

Because I’ve been up to my (pointed) ears in editing a certain fantasy trilogy, I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a shortcut here by repurposing my notes from yesterday’s spiel—quasi-transcripts, if you will.

Hopefully, you’ll find a nugget or two of wisdom regardless of where you are on the path to authorhood.

My story

I started writing in earnest in high school. My fantasy tales bore a resemblance to the books I was reading at the time: DragonLance, Forgotten Realms…you know, books with dragons on the covers. Mostly, I engaged in world-building exercises and episodic storylines, though there was at least one false start to a novel

By senior year, I knew I wanted to be a novelist. At UW-Fond du Lac, I signed up for an independent study writing course. It turned out to be a one-on-one with a professor, where I delivered a chapter for her to critique each week. This was one of the most valuable college courses I ever took, and I learned an awful lot about the basics of storytelling, the importance of word choice—and how to meet deadlines.

In those two years, I wrote two-thirds of what would come to be Volume 1 of The Renegade Chronicles. When I transferred to UW-Milwaukee, I completed the first draft and then rewrote the entire manuscript from scratch senior year since my writing style—not to mention skill level—had dramatically changed since freshman year.

I submitted chapters of my book for various writing workshops, and peer review also proved incredibly valuable. (Though in one class, I had to convince the professor that genre fiction had merit before we were allowed to present fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc.)

Meanwhile, I took as many literature and linguistics classes as I could. Beyond English courses, I signed up for philosophy, psychology and a ton of history courses. An all-too-common adage dictates one should write what one knows. Ergo, the more you know, the more you can write about.

I somewhat regret I didn’t take any journalism, marketing, or radio/TV/film classes. At the time, I wanted only to write fiction, so none of those related disciplines appealed to me. Then again, I picked up many of those skills later in life.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, I taught for a year in China, where I had my favorite job title to date: foreign expert. While overseas, I wrote a sequel. I also tried to publish a short story I had written in college (to no avail) and researched agents to represent my fantasy novels.

When I returned to the U.S., I got cracking on Volume 3—while racking up rejections for Volumes 1 and 2.

I was fortunate to find an entry-level position at a newspaper. As a news clerk, I mostly was responsible for formatting lists, such as marriage licenses and school lunch menus. (Have you ever questioned the proper spelling of “tri-tater”?) I typed up letters to the editor, too.

But I also got to do some proofreading and wrote an article here and there. In less than I year, I was promoted to entertainment writer and editor. I picked up a slew of skills in the newsroom—writing and proofing using AP style, headline writing, lead writing, pagination/layout, the basics of photo editing.

Most importantly, I learned the virtues of brevity.

After a few years, I went to the “dark side”—public relations and marketing. At UW-Oshkosh, I wrote press releases, coordinated interviews with faculty and staff, wrote articles for the online news publication and the alumni magazine, became a wiz at Word Press and other content management systems, taught myself project management, and supervised student interns.

I learned even more when I became an account executive at BrownBoots Interactive, including more website skills, search engine optimization (which injects a lot of science into the art of writing), writing for TV and radio commercials, managing multi-channel marketing campaigns, estimating on projects, blogging, and much more.

That’s right, the guy who couldn’t care less about journalism, public relations, and marketing in college grew to appreciate them and, if I do say so myself, excel at them.

But my dream has always been to be a novelist…

About 10 years ago, I joined Allied Authors of Wisconsin. Because I couldn’t get an agent to bite on The Renegade Chronicles, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and wrote a sci-fi novel that got very good feedback from my beta readers. An agent, who is also a member of AAW, elected to represent If Souls Can Sleep.

And because I didn’t learn my lessons with The Renegade Chronicles, I wrote a sequel before selling the first one.

My wife and I wrote a children’s chapter book to test the waters with self-publishing. (More on that here and here.) But between a full-time career and family obligations, I always felt as though my fiction got short shrift.

Earlier this year, I decided I to take a chance and put my fiction on the front burner. I transitioned to a new role at the agency to allow for larger pockets of time for writing and editing fiction. I created a business plan and am committed self-publishing The Renegade Chronicles in 2016.

My long-term goal—my dream—hasn’t changed remains the same: I want to make a living writing fiction.

Writing advice

There’s no shortage of writing advice out there (and sometimes tips contradict). But here is some advice my mentors gave me “back in the day”:

  • Margaret Weis: “Treat your writing like a job. Write on a schedule.”
  • R.A. Salvatore: “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t, you’re a writer.”

I’ll add a few of my own observations to the mix:

  • Embrace a variety of life experiences—everything is fodder for your writing.
  • Learn as much as you can about the industry and gain related skills. Even traditionally published authors have to be business-minded marketing experts.
  • Write as many different kind of things as you can because you might be surprised at what you’re good at…and what you might enjoy.
  • Don’t turn your nose up at any writing gig—even if it’s the company newsletter—because everyone has to start somewhere.
  • Get feedback from others (e.g., writers groups, online forums) but realize that not all critiques are created equal. Not everyone is your target audience, and ultimately, it’s your story.
  • Always write what you love and do whatever you can to hold onto that passion.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up.

Tips for getting published

A lot has changed since I was in high school. Back then, you were supposed to write and publish short stories (which I sucked at), and you couldn’t hope to publish a novel without an agent. Also, self-publishing was for losers, and vanity presses that preyed on amateur writers made it expensive, too.

Today, self-publishing is both respectable and profitable. Print-on-demand means publishing a book is relatively inexpensive, though there are outside costs like proofreading and cover design. The biggest challenge is getting noticed above the noise.

As someone who is still on the path to publication, I don’t have any surefire secrets for becoming a bestseller. I do, however, have a couple of tips:

1. Don’t publish before you’re ready. After more than a decade between drafts, I’m now hacking apart The Renegade Chronicles, and they’ll be much better for it. And do your homework to avoid wasting your time…or getting sued.

2. Don’t be afraid to take chances. By the time you’re ready to publish a novel or a comic book or your memoirs, a lot is going to have changed. It’s never been a better time to be a writer, but it’s also the Wild West of publishing right now. If you want to get noticed, you have to experiment.

If you follow the crowd, you’ll always be behind.

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