Sunday, April 13, 2014

Should I Publish My Book Myself

You may be reading this post because you have run into a brick wall with agents or big publishing houses. Never fear. You have not hit the end of the road until you decide to give up. Everyday that goes by gives us less and less reason to use a big publisher. Fifty years ago, we were considered authentic and the real deal when and only when a publishing house agreed to publish our book. Today, that is not the case. As I have said in many past blogs, what really matters is that your book gets out there and into peoples hands for them to read. So, by now, you should realize that big publishing houses are no more than middle men. Yes, they may just cut you a nice size check for the rights to your story, but in my opinion, that is not success anymore. You want to be respected as an author, right? So, get your book out there and get it read. Before I go on, I want to point out a few areas where publishing houses do excel. They edit and then they edit more. They also pass on manuscripts that truly are not worth publishing. It's harsh, but it is the honest truth. I have been asked to read manuscripts that cause me to scowl as though I had just swallowed a bug. It was painful to read. But, that is beside the point.

EVERY author feels his/her stuff is the best. We are going to assume yours is the next best thing. So you want to overcome the handicap of not having a big publishing house take on your book? Do these two things: Have other people read your manuscript and give you honest feedback. Edit, edit, edit!!! Friends and family will want to tell you what you want to hear. Even after telling them to be brutal, they won't. Find someone, anyone you trust to read it. One of my editors reads my entire manuscript backwards, line by line, so she can catch grammar mistakes along with incorrect word use. I would suggest getting in contact with a college professor. It's what I did. I found a university professor and a teacher. The university professor was brutal. But, it helped me publish a manuscript that has gotten me amazing reviews and over 4000 book sales in three months. A community college is most likely best as class sizes are smaller and the teacher may be more open to other projects other than her students. Feel free to stop in the local elementary school and check there. You should find a teacher that wants to help. Especially in the summer months. Get with book clubs or other authors. This last option is most likely the best option for convenience. When you have edited and gotten HONEST feedback, then you are ready. Check in with my blog next week to start down that road to getting the book published...self published, that is.

My saga continues:

So, last I mentioned, I had gotten a glowing email from an agent who had decided against my book. I had actually received about three or four interactions with agents asking for more. I can't recall if it was three or four. Time does that to me. Anyway, that's besides the point. After some serious soul searching for a week, I decide I am no longer going to pursue an agent or a big publishing house. Why? you might ask. Because I believe I now have what it takes to be a respected author. I have good material or I would not have gotten so much positive attention so quickly. However, the main and real reason for going alone? I just won't give up control of my story to a stranger. I put too much time into it to do that. At this point, it's not about money for me. It's about making sure my story develops the way I want.

Now, here is where you need to try to follow in my footsteps. I became close with the manage of the Barns and Nobel in my home town at the start of my project. I got him involved with my books years before I published. He was supportive and very nice. I must say, I got very lucky there. When I actually put my book in his hand, he was shocked at the quality of a self published book and instantly ordered twenty of the first three books for his store. See how easy that appeared? My books were on the shelf just like that. I did not need a big publishing house. Each independent store can order your books. Now, don't go rushing out thinking that you are going to get your books in the stores. You might not want them in the stores. WHAT??? BUT, BUT, BUT.... you say? That is correct. For now, just get them on the shelf in your home town store. Be happy with that. There are reasons for this but I don't have time yet to explain or this blog will get too long. I have five Barnes and Nobles looking to put my books on the shelves. Those are just the few I contacted. Let me just say, if you don't have a big marketing plan, don't pursue the stores, yet. I will talk about marketing later. It's CRUCIAL!!! Getting them into the stores at the wrong time is a disaster waiting to happen.

I am way out of sequence here so let me back up. How did I put a book in Mike's hands(That is the store manager's name)? After a considerable amount of research, I chose to go with Amazon. They are, without a doubt, hands down, the cheapest for the quality. Their program really does a great job walking you through how to get your book set up with them. You can learn it in a day. I did. It's called createspace. Go take a look so you can feel some of the excitement build at the thought of becoming familiar with how you are going to finally publish your books. Createspace .

So, I figured this all out and then stated work on the cover. I own a photography studio by the name of Amber J Photography here in Lansing, MI, so I had a huge advantage. Amber was going to do my covers. If you want to succeed, you must, must MUST have a professional cover made. If you don't have the talent yourself, HIRE SOMEONE!!! If you don't, then you are selling yourself short and cutting the chances of success in half. Almost everyone, myself included, shops by the cover. The front, back and start of the book are what will sell. Go take a look at my covers. There is a lot of research that went into that, also. If you want to be a success, this is what it takes. Be meticulous.

Check out Createspace, figure out an amazing cover that really gets peoples attention. You want something that draws your attention. Go to your local big book store and peruse the books that are facing out so you can see the cover. See what gets your attention.

Okay, I have given you enough to think about. If anyone wants me to read any of their stuff for an honest opinion, feel free to contact me.

Allen J Johnston

The Divine Apprentice

The Divine Path

The Divine Unleashed

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Find an Agent or Go It Alone

Okay, again, you are here looking to glean what knowledge you can to make that book a success.  Good.  I believe everyone has a chance at being published.  Not everyone is going to have that next best seller, but everyone can try.

Last I wrote, we were working on doing that submission to an agent.  Are you keeping track of who you want to submit to?  Stay organized.  So now you know you need a completely polished manuscript (or as perfect as possible) and you need a very creative query that is going to make the agent want to read more.  Is that all?  Nope.  You need a summery, also.  This is a tough one.  A summery is your entire book summarized into just a few pages.  This is where it can be frustrating.  Depending on the agent, the summery may need to be anywhere from one page to several pages.  Stick to the guidelines of how to format this.  Most agents are good with 1.5 line spacing with a font of 12 and Times Roman.

I have seen people reduce the font size and get rid of margins just so they can squeeze in more information on that one or two pages.  I know it is tough.  It really is.  You want to hit all those great scenes and give the agent more to draw them in.  You want them to really get the feel for your story.  As tough as it sounds, you can and will do it.  They want to see a clear plot.  If you can find a way to make the summery into a story that will elicit emotions, GREAT!  Don't keep anything back in hopes of making them curious.  Make sure to include the conclusion or how the conflict is resolved, if it is resolved.  Make sure there are no mistakes.  Go over it and go over it another ten times.  Have others read it and give their input.  Your query and summery must be as flawless as possible.  It sounds daunting but when you get started, your creative side will wake up and you will start to have something to work with.

Try not to repeat what you put in your query.  The query is a sales pitch while the summery is your book crammed into a few pages.  Once you have this done, you will really be ready.  But, take some time to get feedback from others.  I am going to ask one more time for you to put everything away for just a day or two before hitting that send button.  Your head will be spinning and this is when you can make a simple mistake.  We all get like this.  As we get ready to send off our carefully crafted query, our perfect summery and the first five pages of our manuscript, our adrenalin gets flowing.  Oh, I forgot to mention that you will need to send your first five pages of your manuscript.  The agent wants to get a feel for how your story flows.  They want to be enticed into reading more.  Make sure your story has a way of grabbing the reader quickly.  Okay, after one more time of carefully checking everything over, you are ready.  Send it off!!!!!  If your query and summery are well done, and you have a great manuscript, the agent will contact you and ask for more.  This is the start.  Even if they do not offer to represent you, it means you got their attention and you could not do that if your work was not up to par.  Keep at it.  You MUST contact me and let me know what happens.

Continuation of my saga:

So, I have sent off my ten queries with my carefully crafted summery.  I have worked it and worked it.  I get a few rejection letters in the first week.  They appear to be form rejections.  Not very impressive but I was warned that this is how it goes.  Every writer gets these.  Even writers that have published a slew of books successfully get these.  On my third query, the agent wants more.  My heart is pounding like mad.  An agent wants to see more of MY manuscript.  I can remember the day like it was yesterday.  I send off the first two chapters as requested.  I have my smart phone glued to my side in the event that the call comes in or an email is sent to me.  Every time my phone buzzes, I eagerly grab it, hoping beyond hope that it is THAT call.  I have to keep in mind that I have seven other queries out there begging for attention.  I get another agent respond asking for more.  This is GREAT news!!!  It tells me I am on track and doing something right.  I am grateful I was careful not to dash off with my first submission.  It is starting to pay off.

Typically, they will either not respond or they will send a very polite form letter.  If you get an agent that takes the time to respond with a personal email, you have done well.  Even if it is a rejection, a personal response means they took the time and you got their attention.  They may give you advice or they may just encourage you to keep trying.  If they tell you that you need to polish the manuscript, DO IT!  Do not send out anymore submissions.  You only have a finite number of agents and you do not want to use them up on something that has errors.

Okay, lucky for me, I don't have that problem.  Days are going by and I am still waiting.  Some agents will take up to four months to respond.  This is torturous.  Uggg.  But, it is part of the process.  After a month, I get an agent that asks for three chapters.  She says she is very interested and my head starts spinning with excitement.  I can tell this is the chance I was hoping for.  I send her the manuscript and wait...and wait...and wait.  Keep in mind that this is the forth submission so I am extremely pleased.  She writes back and sends me a very lengthy email detailing what she did with the manuscript.  She liked it so much that she took it to a board meeting to see if the firm wanted to take it on.  The agent liked it and wanted it.  Now she had to convince the firm.  The firm declined.  I know.  Darn.  But, not really.  I was elated.  "Why in the world are you excited about a rejection???" you ask.  Because now I know my work is good enough to get published.  It is my first favorite rejection I have ever gotten in my life.  I have a second and I will tell you about it in later posts.  Out of 2000 submissions she had gotten that month, she liked mine.  Even though her company decided not to pursue it, I got something incredible out of it.

Time to end this post.  Don't want to take you away from your writing for too long.  Check in next week where I focus more on my story so you can see what I did to make my books a success.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed
Next release: Oct 27,2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do I need a book agent?

Well, this is the real question that will decide how you spend the next year of your life.  "A year of my life?  Why on earth would it take that long???" you ask.  Because that is the way it is.  Now, you just might be one of the lucky ones that snags an agent in the first submission.  It could be as soon as two months or even sooner.  It is possible.  It's also possible to win the lottery.  However, if you are good at even simple math, you will see that those odds are extremely low.  Most agents get over 500 submissions a week.  Yes!  500 A WEEK!  When they take only one or two new titles a month, where does that leave you?  Many agents are months behind as they work their way through submissions.  Oh, let me mention the two forms of submission before I go much further.  Most agents will allow you to submit either electronically or by sending in your manuscript.  Some accept just written manuscripts while others are only electronic.  I believe everything is moving toward electronic.  It definitely has its pluses.

For this blog, I am going to assume you are being calculating and doing everything possible to increase your chances of success by using this site. www.querytracker.net.  There are others out there but I really liked this one.  This is an incredibly useful tool.  It will help you stay organized and help increase your chances of becoming published.  After all, that is the goal.  I became a member and I believe it cost me $25.  It is free but to get the full use of all it has to offer, there is that small cost.  Not so bad if you end up with an agent.  Take some time and become very familiar with the tools.  You can narrow down the agents to those specific to your genre.  You can also submit to those that you feel give you the best chance based on their acceptance percentages.  I don't believe they are as accurate as they could be, but its something to work with.  Query tracker will list the websites of the agents.  Go to those websites and read all about them.   It takes time, but in the end, if you get an agent, it will be worth it.

Okay, I am going to assume that you have followed my advice and have had the manuscript read by at least a thousand people.  Okay just a few hundred will do.  Alright, alright, so you don't even know that many people.  I would hope at least 5-10.  I am also going to assume that you took their input to heart and fixed any flaws.  So, now you have a manuscript that practically glows.  It's perfect, right?  Now, put it away for two weeks and leave it alone.  NO, don't even look at it.  Trust me.  It will make sense when you do this.  Start writing something else or just go enjoy life but don't touch the manuscript.  You will be tempted but don't do it.  You need your mind to be away from it.  If you are following my blog, you must have at least some faith in me so continue to trust me.

Two weeks have passed and you are eager to get your manuscript back in your hands, or in front of your eyes if its on your computer.  Read it as a reader.  You may be shocked to realize that you did not quite convey what you where trying to convey.  You may find that your sentence just flat out does not make sense.  Trust me, all of us go through this.  Take notes or do what you must to ensure that every sentence, every word, every scene is as you meant it to be.  If you really want to check for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling...etc, then read your manuscript backward line by line.  You will not get caught up in your story.  But, first read it the right way to ensure your story is saying what you want it to say.

"Now can I send it out to agents?" you ask.  Maybe.  OK LISTEN UP!!!  You would not believe how many people decide to send out ten letters and they use a copy and past approach.  I assure you, sending out ten letters all addressed to Pam will get them filed in the permanent file.  Out of those ten, Pam will be the only one to read.  Also, spell the name right.  DO NOT guess on an agents spelling of their name.  I would suggest sending out ten queries.  Stay organized and always know who you are going to send a query.  Query Tracker does an amazing job of keeping track of this.  You might not think you could become unorganized, but trust me, you can.  As I said before, I have no affiliation to this website beyond the fact that I used them and that they are truly a good source of information.

I have actually had a response within a week before.  It was a rejection, but it was fast.  It allowed me to send out the next query.  Now, if you are like over 99% of authors, even published authors, you can expect a slew of rejections.  It's part of the process while looking for an agent.  Just stay with it and keep sending out a query every time you receive a reply.  If you don't receive a reply in about two months, I would suggest querying again or send an email asking if they got you query.  Some agents are now posting that if they did not respond, it's a no.  I will not comment on my opinion of those agents.  Okay, enough of that for now.  You have plenty to think about and plan.

Now for more of my personal story:

Forgive me if a jump around a bit.  Things do come to mind as I write this week after week.  Let's see.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  I had the most perfect copy of my manuscript I could ever hope for.  I had been meeting with my editors for six months, going over every detail, making sure everything was perfect.  If you want your book out there, AND...you want it to be well received and get great reviews, you will be meticulous every step of the way.  So I had my final copy in my hands and then put it away for two weeks.  Boy was that tough.  I was certain it was ready to land on an agents desk for them to run to their boss saying they had the next best thing.  But I know by now that I do need to put it away.  It was tough.  It really was, but after all my research, I knew this was best.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Once you start getting reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, you cannot take them back.  I am a little off track so let me refocus.

Two weeks go by and I sit at my computer.  I am nervous.  I know I am closing in on that moment when I either hit send or drop that heavy box into the post office with a heavy thud.  So, I calm myself and start reading.  Wow.  An error on the first page?  After all the work I have done and all the work my editors have done?  Okay, it's a fluke.  I read on.  I don't think I am able to get more than four pages without finding something that did not make sense or finding that I had used "site" instead of "sight."  Oh, I clearly know the difference but obviously my fingers don't.  I come to the ugly realization that my manuscript is not done.  I am a little down but that two week break did what it was supposed to do. It helped me look at my manuscript critically and see if it was ready.  It was not.

Now, don't blame my editors.  It's not their fault they did not catch everything.  Rarely is there a book out there with no mistakes.  I don't think I have ever read a book without mistakes.  My first book has 118,000 words.  That is a daunting task to find everything.  We authors just have to strive for perfection even if we don't achieve it.  It's part of it.  I went through my manuscript until I could find no errors, no misspellings, no misused words.  Then I took it to my editors and they proceeded to really dissect it.  Yes, if you want to be respected as an author and you really want people to send you emails telling you how amazing your book(s) is/are, then this is part of the process.  I recently had someone who read my series send me an email telling me I was now one of their favorite authors right along with Raymon Feist, Michael Sullivan and David Dalglish.  That made my week.  That made it all worth it.  Again, I am off track.  I shall have to watch that.  Anyway, you will really, REALLY be happy you took the time to be thorough.

Alright, my editors go through the book very closely.  They find an additional fifty errors.  In 118,000 words, that's not too bad, but because I am a perfectionist, that was too many.  I am happy to say, after fixing those errors, I could find no more.  It was ready.  "For heavens sake, are you now ready to submit???" you ask.  YES!  I really am.  I get my list out and I get my top ten agents I am sure will love my work.  I research their submission criteria again and then I realize I don't have a query or synopsis.  I don't know if that bald spot was there before, but I am definitely a few hairs less after pulling them out.  The manuscript is ready but I need a convincing query and a synopsis.  Your query letting is a very quick intro that should entice the agent to want to read more.  I am going to post the first paragraph of my query.  This got me good attention.


Kade looks up at his executioner with no fear or hate, watching . . .waiting. At six months old, he could hardly do much more as his grandfather agonizes over the task of taking the life of his only grandson.


Does this elicit something in you that makes you want to know more? It did for many of the agents that I sent it to. They wanted to know why a man would want or need to take the life of someone he loves. Clearly he would not be agonizing if he did not care about the child. And what would drive him to the point where he is in this position? Right?

The first paragraph of your query is where you either hook them or they stop reading. Trust me, when I say most agents stop reading over 90% of the queries they get based on this one paragraph, I mean it. The next two paragraphs should really entice them into wanting to know more. It should raise more questions than answers. I would say to go to your local book store and read the back of books. See what makes you want to read more. I spent over a week perfecting my query. I ran it by my editors. When I thought I had a winner, they shrugged. If you want to be be a success, you must get input from others. Have I said that before? Hmmm. Are you seeing a pattern?

I continued to tweak it over and over. I think I had over twenty queries before all those that read my query said, "Wow. This makes me want to know more." I even ran it by complete strangers. Almost all said they wanted to know more about my story. What a big relief. So now I knew I had a good query. I save it and I save it. I had the query and my manuscript on four flash drives. Please follow these guidelines so you can give your manuscript the best chance for survival. You can have a New York Times best seller but it will not see the light of day if your query letter fails. Give it as much importance as you do your manuscript. Now, your book may have an error here or there, but your query must not! No exceptions! A missing comma won't tank you but misspelled words are the kiss of death. Misspelled words in your query translates into hundreds if not thousands of mistakes in your book. They will run from your manuscript faster than a gazelle being chased by lions. Put the time into this and you will be rewarded beyond what you could ever have hoped.

Okay, tune in next week when I continue my saga. Yes, to me, it definitely feels like a saga. It consumed years of my life where I did nothing but work on my writing. I have much more to tell to help you become a success. Stay tuned.

Allen J Johnston






The Divine Apprentice

The Divine Path

The Divine Unleashed

Friday, March 21, 2014

Submit to a publisher, get an agent or self publish

You want to hear more of my story?  You want to know what I did to get to where I am now selling over 1500 books a month?  First, let me address the title of my post and then I will get back to that.

So, you may be struggling with what to do with your cherished manuscript that you have poured your heart and soul into.  Yes, we all hold our manuscripts dear.  You have done all the hard work and now you are ready to let your beautiful little bird fly out into the world for all to read and see.  But, how do you do that?  It's there in your hand, ready to go, and yet...it sits.  So you automatically think that you need to get one of the big publishers.  No problem, right?  Okay, I am going to be brutally honest.  You NEED honesty right now, even if it stings.  I would estimate that publishers take on less than 1% of books sent to them and an even ridiculously dismally smaller amount than that for authors who send a publisher an unsolicited manuscript.  Even after reading my blog, many will still feel the urge to throw their manuscript at a publisher, hoping the publisher will hug the new found gem to their chest and pronounce to the world that they have found the next big thing to hit this world.  For those of you that just can't be swayed from this option, for the love of god, please, please, please follow the publishers guidelines of how to submit.  Get on their website and follow their submissions TO THE LETTER!  Do not be clever and send them your picture or your facebook page believing that when they see you, they won't be able to resist.  Don't get on photoshop and create a clever cover.  For them, it's all about the bottom line.  The bottom line is your writing.  If you stray outside their guidelines, you can expect your beautiful work of art to be filed in the circular file. Even if they don't toss your story aside right away, it will go into what they call the "Slush pile."  They will have a low level intern read it in about four months when the room fills up.  So, do I suggest sending to a publisher?  NO!

So, what should you do?  Well, let me ask, as I have in previous posts, what is the most important thing for an author?  I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again.  It should be one of two things:  Seeing your book on the shelves of the most popular book stores in the world, or getting your writing on those neat little electronic devices that everyone is carrying around these days.  So, since you are still reading, you are clearly getting that you should look for a more calculated approach to getting your book published; an approach that has proven to be more successful, yes?  Good!  So for those of you that have decided not to waster your time going right for a publisher, you may be looking to hook up with an agent.  NOW you are thinking.  Keep in mind that this is still a traditional way of getting your book published.  So, onto talking about finding an agent.  There are several GREAT sites.  I will list my favorite for you.  I cannot say strongly enough that becoming a member on these sites is a huge benefit.  Let me make this clear.  I have no affiliation with these websites nor do they even know who I am.  However, I have used them and I want YOU to find the best path in life to get that beautiful work of art out in the world and read.  This is a site I highly recommend.  http://www.querytracker.net/  It has a lot of tools to help you.  Make sure you find an agent who reads your genre, or once again, you are just wasting everyone's times.  Okay, I think I have given you enough for the time being.  Check in next week to my new post about vanity presses and places that promise to get your book published for a price.  I know you want to hear about it now but, I can't put everything there is to know about publishing all in one post.  Now, onto my personal story.

Continued from last post...

So, I am all excited to get my book out into the world and on all those nifty little electronic devices.  By the way, did I mention that I threw my book at several publishers previously, hoping that they would proclaim to the world that they had found the next greatest thing in the world?  NO?  Hmmmm, well I did.  And it took six months for them to send me my manuscript back with not so much as a, "Thanks for submitting but this might be best used as kindling."  This is the truth of what it means to be an author.  Rejection is hard hitting and stings.  Are you still game?  Yes?  GOOD!  It is part of the process.  Let it go and move on.  Some of you reading this will have already tried this method and considered giving up.  DO NOT!  You only lose when you quit. It might be years but when that first book sale happens, it will all be worth it.  

Okay, so I decide to get a few well known doctors in my community, who I know, to read my first chapter and give me their brutal, honest opinion.  I don't think three days could have gone any slower.  Yes, that is how long it took for me to meet with them again.  My palms are clammy and I have to wipe them on my pants before I shake their hands the next time I see them.  I pretend to be casual, but inside, my stomach is in knots.  I am expecting hard core rejection.  Well, I want praise but I made it clear that I need them to be honest.  He is 70 and she is in her 50s.  They are not teenagers who might jump at the fantasy genre.  I was skeptical about them liking the fantasy genre, but as they sat down holding the first chapter to The Divine Apprentice, smiles lit up on both of their faces.  The first words out of their mouths were, "When do we get the next chapter."  OMG, did they really just say that? I think as my head spins.  Really?  Yup, they sure did.  Believe it or not, my future as a writer was hinging on their input.  But, they loved it and even called it brilliant.  This started a beautiful relationship that still exists today.  I officially cite them as my editors in my book.  

Now PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to what I am saying.  If you want to increase our chances of becoming a success, you must get other people to read your work and give you honest feedback.  They will help you see the strengths of your work and give you input on how to improve the weak areas.  We ALL have them.  Suck it up and take the honest feedback WITHOUT being defensive.  If you can't, give up right now.  Criticism is something we all get and when you make your self a public figure, as all authors are doing, you will get it.  If you find yourself explaining things too often to those that you are talking to about your manuscript, your writing needs tweaking.

So, I gave my editors one chapter at a time to read and encouraged them to write as much as they wanted while finding mistakes.  Then I would meet with them and we would discus the story.  It took me six months of doing this two or three times a week to finally get through my trilogy.  But, when it was done, I really felt like I had a winner.  They caught many mistakes that I did not see.  When you decide to start looking for an agent, you must have the most perfect copy of your writing possible.  Misspellings in the first few pages will bring up red flags.  Read critically and then read it again.  What you submit to an agent must be as flawless as possible and it must draw them in quickly.  Find a way to elicit an emotional response.  Find a way to make them care about your characters or the story.

Okay, check in to my blog next week to hear more of my story.  Thanks for reading and please contact me with any questions.  As I said previously, I will always make time to answer any questions.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed

Monday, March 17, 2014

Designing a Cover


Guest blog written by: Amber of Amber J Photography

One of the most important parts of a book is the cover. We've all heard that saying about not judging a book by its cover. However, the truth of the matter is that readers tend to do exactly that. I know, for myself, that a great cover can grab my attention and make me pick that book off the shelf and check it out. One thing I never realized is how much effort goes into choosing that perfect cover. If you are planning on putting a character on your cover, you have to make sure they fit how you pictured that character when you were writing them into your story. This cover will be something that readers will refer to when picturing your story's hero – or even the villain.

For the cover of The Divine Apprentice, I was given the creative reigns and told to go for it. I immediately had this vision in my head of Zayle holding onto this blue Divine Flame, staring down into it. I suggested that we not see his face or eyes. This gives the reader the opportunity to give this character a face in their mind. Allen wanted Zayle to be the main focus so we opted for a solid black background.

Another thing that you must think of when designing covers for a series; they must all be similar. When there are several books sitting side-by-side on a shelf, you want the reader to know they are part of a series. For the Divine Path, Allen wanted Darcienna's eyes to captivate anyone who looked at the cover of the book. Her eyes play such an integral role that it was important to get them exactly how Allen had envisioned them. We tried several shades of blue...and by several I mean around 10 different shades. But, we knew the moment we hit the right tone. It fit perfectly.

The Divine Unleashed was by far the most challenging cover. Kade had to have just the right expression. We wanted him to be intense without looking angry or mean. He had to show strength and power. The lightning took lots of tweaking and adjusting. It had to look powerful without overwhelming Kade. After many different mock-ups,
we finally perfected the amount of lightning. Allen was happy with the covers and so was I.

It was great working with someone who was so passionate about his characters. Yes, it was a lengthy and sometimes tedious process. But, in the end, the covers represent the vision that Allen had for each character. That is the most important part.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Fear of Failure!

So, you might be curious why I titled this blog post "The Fear of Failure."  It's simple.  Most people who want to write a book, or anything for that matter, fear that they will be labeled a fraud, a joke or many other horrifying thoughts.  Even writers who have been writing for years and have published a dozen books still go through this.  "What???" you ask.  "Really???"  Yes!  This, alone, causes many writers to keep from starting their first book.  I am a perfect example of this.  I wrote my trilogy that totaled a word count of over 300,000 words.  What did I do with it?  Well, like any normal person with fears of humiliation by the public, I hid it away on my shelf.  Yes, I put over a year into writing this series and then shelved it.  Does this sound familiar?  If it does, let me assure you that you are not alone.  So what got me moving again.  Well, after two decades, I decided to dust it off and show it to the closest and trusted people in my life.  "TWENTY YEARS???"  You ask in shock.  Yes, but let me get back to my story.  So, they read the first chapter and their eyes opened wide as they looked at me and said, "Wow, I had no idea you could write like this.  Why is it not published?"  My answer?  I am sure it is the same as yours.  Lack of confidence and fear of humiliation.   My head spun slightly as they firmly pushed, no, SHOVED me in the direction of getting my book published.  Needless to say, that kind of confidence was inspiring, so I decided to try.  If you are interested in following my story, check back and I will continue to explain my thrills, excitement and letdowns.  Don't fear, it's all part of the process.  So I will save the rest of the story for the many weeks to come and move onto other things you may find useful.

I am always approached by people who start a sentence by saying, "You know, I always wanted to write a (fill in the blank)" but inevitably end up finishing by saying "But I am afraid that it won't be good enough," or "I don't know how I would do it" or "No one will want it."  It does not mean that you should not write it.  You should.  I mean it.  YOU SHOULD!!!  The only way you can become an author is IF YOU WRITE.  So, put your fears aside and get in front of your computer and write.  Yes, if you are reading this, you can feel your pulse start to quicken at the thought of being an author.  Grab a hold of that feeling and let that excitement drive you until you have finished the book...or whatever you want to write.  You may even contact me and ask my opinion.  As long as I have time, I will read what you want to show me and I will give you feedback.

So now I am going to share with you the most asked question I get.  Interestingly, I am asked, if I could give one piece of advice, what would it be.  This is an easy one but 90% of the self published authors still mess this one up.  The one piece of advice I would say that needs to be followed....EDIT EDIT EDIT!!!  You MUST proofread your books and edit over and over.  Why do I say this?  Anyone who writes books and has any success at it knows what I am about to say.  As you write a story, it makes sense to you.  It will surprise you to go back and read it a month later and find you are confused about what you were trying to convey or that you missed your mark completely.  It happens.  So, read and reread your book over and over.  Now, I may be a bit OCD with this but I read each of my books at least ten times.  "TEN TIMES???" you ask.  Yes.  If you want to be taken serious, you MUST MUST MUST remove as many errors from your book as possible.  You would be shocked to see how many simple mistakes people make.  Would you believe that I actually saw a book where the title was misspelled?  You laugh but it happened.  For the record, mystery is not spelled mistery.  Yes, that was a true mistake, not an intentional misspelling.

So, have I encouraged you enough to start writing?  If not, then let me direct you to read my book, which I was afraid may not be good enough write.  Do it.  Go to Amazon and search my book and read the first two chapters free.  See what I was afraid to publish.  Not everyone is going to give me five star reviews, but I realized that I was the one holding me back.  Stay tuned to my blog to see how my publishing story continued.  For now, get to that computer and start putting down your ideas!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Divine Unleashed

First, let me say thank you Brian for taking the time to contact me and let me know that you are liking the books. I love when my readers appreciate my work and look forward to my next release.


The wait is over. My next book is being released Saturday, Feb 22, 2014. I believe it is going to be my best book yet. Kade makes alliances with unlikely allies and struggles to overcome his own internal battles. The question is, will the power he wields corrupt him? Will he lose himself as so many other Chosen have done in the past? The old adage that power corrupts is something that Kade finds applies very much to himself as he struggles to maintain his values. The temptation is definitely there but can he turn his back on so much power? Read on and see how Kade deals with each obstacle...to include the obstacle of love. Thanks all and please feel free to comment here. I very much enjoy when my readers connect with me.