Kindle Unlimited 2.0—Fair? Or Conniving Plan?

At the beginning of the month Amazon switched over to what many authors are referring to as Kindle Unlimited 2.0 or (KU 2.0). The change was simple, but significant: instead of a flat royalty rate when someone borrows your book, you now get royalties for every page of your book that is read. See? Simple. But also significant.

I admit, when I received the e-mail alerting me to this new plan I was very skeptical at first. Even though I was only making about half the amount on a borrow as I would on a sale, it was still nice that this was a guaranteed royalty rate(so long as the reader made it past the sample 10% of the book). So when I saw they were changing it to be pages read, I got nervous. With the old plan, if someone borrows my book, but doesn’t like it, I still made the money on it. But now, if someone borrows my book and reads only a few pages before tossing it, I might get a couple pennies. This would drastically change my royalties earned being enrolled in KDP Select, which made me decide that I was not going to re-enroll in the program for another 90 days. But then the strangest thing happened—I stepped back, looked at this change after my knee-jerk response had settled, and realized it’s actually not only fair, but if my books are good then it has the potential to pay far better than the old plan.

Though I was skeptical of KU 2.0 after reading the email, I think I really got jaded after I saw the reaction from many in the indie author community. A reaction that seemed to be filled with nothing but moans and groans about how Amazon was screwing them over again. It was then I realized how we were complaining about the very company that made it possible for authors of all types of skill sets and stories to actually get their work in front of readers. When I started looking at it that way, I was shocked (and still am) at how much some folks complain about Amazon. How Amazon doesn’t care about indie authors, how they are greedy, conniving, yadda yadda yadda. These people have already seem to have forgotten that Amazon has not only given us all publishing deals (deals far more favorable than most traditional publishing deals), but that they are the pioneers for this indie author boom we live in. Without Amazon, many of us would have a lot of words written in a file that is collecting digital dust for no one to enjoy. So to those people, I say show a little appreciation for what Amazon has done, and stop expecting them to just give you more. Which leads me to this stunning realization…

Amazon is giving indie authors more! But there’s a caveat—you have to give more. The people pitching the biggest fits (at least from what I observed) were those who have quite a few short stories published, many of which were listed at 99 cents, and taking advantage of the blanketed borrow royalty. Weren’t we just talking about conniving? Time to do some math (don’t worry, it’s not too hard).

When you list a book at 99 cents on Amazon, you earn about 35 cents per sale. However, under the old KU plan, all borrowed books, regardless of sale price or length, earned the same amount or royalty. Amazon KDP select has a pot of money each month (KDP Select Global Fund), and the amount of borrowed books was divided up against that pot. The average was around $1.35 per borrow. That meant a book that would normally yield the author 35 cents per sale (if listed at 99 cents) would make them a dollar more if it was borrowed. And since the only requirement to earn a borrow royalty was for the reader to get past the sample 10%, this method was quite effective for books that were 40-50 pages long (meaning the reader just needed to get through 4-5 pages in order to earn the author the $1.35). Do you see where this starts to become a little lopsided for novelists? So someone who writes a 40 page short story or novella in a month or less would earn the same amount my nearly 700 page book, As the Ash Fell, would earn on a borrow. But all of that has changed. Now, if the estimates are accurate, and Amazon will pay $.005 per page read (that’s a half a penny), then my book would earn $3.5 for a borrow that someone reads cover to cover, while that 50 page book would earn a quarter. So, as I said, a simple, but significant change in how things work.

My biggest worry about this, in terms of negative impact, is: what if my book stinks, and every time it gets borrowed only a few pages are being read? Well, if that’s the case then I have bigger problems to worry about. If people are buying/borrowing my book, but not reading it, then fixing that issue is my biggest priority as a writer. Thus far, I have been pleased with the results from the KU page count on As the Ash Fell—in fact, it’s trending to exceed my expectations by nearly double this month. The only thing I wish Amazon would add (and perhaps it’s in there somewhere and I haven’t found it yet) is to let me know how many people make up my total pages read, so I can know how many people finished the book versus how many people stopped halfway through, etc.

Another benefit to KDP select, which hasn’t changed recently, is the Kindle Countdown deal or free giveaway. I recently ran a countdown in the US that ran for a week. And in that week alone I had more sales than my first month total, and darn near cracked the top 100 in Post-Apocalyptic genre (which is no easy task).

So, for the people fussing about Amazon not caring about the indie authors, I would fully disagree. In fact, to me it sounds like they are looking out for the indie authors, keeping things balanced with the people who were capitalizing off of the flat borrow rate from before. They’ve honestly created a platform that has the potential to get out as much as you put in. That’s about as fair as it gets.

So to summarize: write good (ugh, my wife/editor is going to kill me for that one), write long (whether you take a year and write one longer novel, or crank out 10 short stories), do your best to let the world know about your book, and KU 2.0 will benefit you. On the flip side, if you write the literary equivalent of click bait that is only a few dozen pages, it may not pan out so well.

So if you decided not to enroll in KDP select so that your book will be available to other folks like Nook, iBooks, etc, then I salute you—may your book do extremely well on those other platforms. To those who do it just to “get back” at Amazon for making things “so terribly unfair”, I say “Thanks for making the KDP global fund a little bit bigger for the rest of us.”

I will now go hide and wait out the inevitable assault from those I have angered with this post.

Fourth of July Sale

It’s been too long since my last post. I know, I know, I am pretty bad about these things. But I figure most people would rather me be working on my next novel than posting every day on my blog. However, I do plan to post a bit more frequently in the future. Having said that, I would like to take a moment to announce that As the Ash Fell is currently on sale for the Amazon Kindle for US customers. 99¢ for the next two days, then it will move up to $1.99, then $2.99 and then back to the normal price of $3.99. So get it while it’s cheap!

Also, I plan to be making an announcement about my next book in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. If you haven’t signed up for my mailing list yet, just simply submit your email address on the right for book updates, exclusives, and even some prizes!

Have a Happy Fourth of July everyone! Be safe, and enjoy time celebrating our nation’s independence!





Guest Blog and More

Hey everyone,


My friend and fellow author, Belinda Frisch, asked me to do a post for her blog. You can view it HERE – The topic is on what to do after publishing your indie book. It’s geared towards authors obviously, but I think a lot of folks might enjoy it (and some of the techniques will apply to endeavors outside of writing).

In other news, I recently was browsing on Amazon UK’s site and I visited As the Ash Fell‘s page. I was shocked when I saw not only was it in the top 10,000 of all Kindle Books, but it was in the top 100 Kindle books in the Post-Apocalyptic genre. I am not sure if that makes the book a best seller or not, but I think that’s pretty cool. Thanks to all the readers out there who have made that possible!

Also, thanks to everyone for making the book’s launch a huge success! I couldn’t have done it with y’all!

I’ve also been busy cranking away on a new book. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it in the not-so-distant future, but until then I will leave you with some promotional pieces I created for As the Ash Fell. 




Until next time


Book Review: Werewolf Cop

I’ve been following Andrew Klavan’s video commentary since around “Talking Crap with the President” aired. Klavan’s a gifted writer when it comes to making the viewer laugh while teaching some facts. Though I loved watching his videos, I had never read any of his books. Then I saw a tweet about Nightmare City being on sale. I thought I would give it a go. I didn’t realize that it was a YA book, but that didn’t matter. It was no less gripping and intense than what I would expect from a more mature book. I was impressed. So when Andrew started tweeting about his latest upcoming release, Werewolf Cop, I was intrigued.

I made a mistake when I first started reading this new supernatural crime thriller of his. A mistake because I started reading it right as I was launching my own novel, and those efforts demanded I spend much of my time focused on that, and less time reading. I was annoyed with this because after just two chapters of Werewolf Cop, I was hooked, and I didn’t want to stop reading.

Here we are, a month or so later, and I have finished Werewolf Cop. Do I feel the same about it as I did after the first two chapters? Nope. I like it even more.

One of the first things that drew me in with this book was Klavan’s elegant, yet simple writing. I must admit a tinge of jealousy coursed through my veins as I read Werewolf Cop—I only hope to be able to write that well someday. When you’re reading this book it’s very obvious that you are not just reading a police report or blog post recapping some events. However, a casual reader also won’t be reaching for a thesaurus every ten minutes either. Klavan does a great job of using words that aren’t always common, but common enough that the reader will know what he’s saying. And when he uses more obscure words, he does a wonderful job of surrounding it with context that will let you know the definition. Casual and hardcore readers alike will enjoy this book. And while we’re on this topic, Klavan’s ability to create unique, interesting ways to describe everyday things is fantastic! I know on more than one occasion I stopped and read a description and went “I know I have never heard that kind of description before, but it works so perfectly I can’t figure out why no one else had come up with it before.” So all in all, the writing quality is superb in Werewolf Cop.

Now to the story. I will admit, I am not really into supernatural stories, especially something along the lines of a werewolf. Not that I have anything against it, just not my usual cup of tea. Nor do I often read police suspense/thriller/mystery novels. Again, just not my normal genre, but I have nothing against it. After reading this book, though, I think I will be checking out some more police stories. If they are half as good as this one, I know I’ll enjoy them.

I’m not going to get into the specifics about the story. One, I am always afraid I’ll discuss a spoiler that the author didn’t want revealed. And secondly, I can just let the blurb on Amazon tell you what it’s about. I will say, however, that this story is very unique, and will have you on the edge of your seat more than once. Zach Adams certainly finds himself in some tough situations, but never did it feel like “yeah right, that’s unlikely,” when he did. Nor did it feel contrived when he—at times—found ways out of those situations. All in all, a great story that will have you turning each page in anticipation.

Characters are a huge part for me when it comes to a successful book. I believe boring, one dimensional characters can destroy a great story, while well written, deep characters can propel a mediocre story into greatness. Well, Werewolf Cop has a great story and great characters, so it’s win-win. When I am reading a book, I typically find myself watching the characters from an outside perspective. Sure, I get tense for them in stressful scenarios, or I am sad for them when the scene is pulling at the heart strings, but I am always able to stay pretty detached. With Zach Adams, however, I felt as if I was seeing the world through his eyes. I felt his anxiety, I felt his rage…I felt his regret. I felt the intense desire to control the beast that was consuming him. I felt as if I was Zach Adams. I am not sure that any other book I’ve read has had me so invested in the main character. Well done, Mr. Klavan!

No book is perfect, however, and while there is little I would critique about Werewolf Cop, I will warn readers who are looking for something more in line with Klavan’s YA lineup: It ain’t this book. Language in books and movies doesn’t really bother me, though I am not a fan of God’s name being taken in vain—something this book has a fair bit of. There are some relatively mild sexual scenes (mild in comparison with other books and prime time television), it may not be for everyone in that regard. The book is definitely a mature rating, but I suspect that most people would suspect that based on the title.

At the end of the day, this book is certainly among one of my favorites. I was very excited that Klavan’s website says this is book one in a trilogy, and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the lineup. In the meantime, however, I will be checking out some of Klavan’s older books, and hope that they aren’t too big of a distraction as I dive into writing my next manuscript.

You can buy Werewolf Cop over at Amazon.

Interview: Author J.T. O’Connell

As I try to expand what all happens on my website, one of the things I am going to start doing is interview various authors from around the world. I would like to welcome my first guest, J.T. O’Connell who recently released a book called The Remaking. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Tell us a little about yourself, J.T.

J.T.O: I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fourth of six children in our family. Having so many siblings, it was rare  the TV was ever tuned to anything that interested me, so my interests were fulfilled in books. Reading has been a priceless hobby. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world! I now live in a little township northeast of Cincinnati with two dogs and a cat, all three spoiled.

AJ: You released The Remaking back in March. Why don’t you give us the elevator pitch for the book?

J.T.O: The Remaking is a story about life in a dystopian society. Sela is nineteen, but already out on her own, avoiding notice of the government. Her greatest fear is that she may be caught and then used as a hostage to control her father who sent her into hiding. She buries her old identity and clothes herself in a new one, hoping one day to be able to see her parents once again. When she stumbles upon a group seeking to undermine the authority of the Remaking, Sela decides to help change society for the better. But she must walk a fine line, helping this secretive organization, while keeping her true identity concealed.

AJ: What inspired you to write The Remaking?

J.T.O: Young Adult literature is remarkably consistent in some of its themes these days. That is, of course, due to publishers following down paths that are tried and true. One tone that nearly shouts from many novels is the young rebel who fights against the whole construction of society, not just parental control. This is a theme most teenagers will appreciate handily. Hunger Games, Divergent, and others make a central premise out of fighting back against state tyranny. Interestingly, this has been an issue in American life since the mid-18th century (perhaps earlier even), and remains so in contemporary discourse.

I must confess a great burden of inspiration from George Orwell in my writing of The Remaking, though I do not want to pretend any qualitative similarity to that literary legend. That is for the reader to decide. However, my approach to society in general is more direct than mainstream publishers would generally allow. It is important for Katniss or Trix or Sela to fight against tyranny, but it is just as important that they fight on behalf of a better way. I think that is partly why Mockingjay splits the Hunger Games fan base. The end of the book proffers no valid alternative to dictatorship. Combine that with the personal strife Katniss faced, and the final image is one void of any shred of hope. That is why the epilogue strikes many people as strange, myself included. From utter hopelessness and irreparable despair to a happy and pleasant family, but without any thorough explanation of how one can find joy.

The Remaking comes at this differently. The book is upfront about many of these ideas, instead of skirting around them, pretending that Sela’s personal life dictates everything she does. If that were true, then how could there really be any problem with the government? Some people see Katniss from The Hunger Games as self-centered in the extreme, because all of her actions on the world stage come purely from an emotional cage she built for herself. There is a fair criticism in that, though I think it lacks nuance. In The Remaking, Sela’s personal life is deeply involved and drives the story, but she also sees the value in altruistic efforts to change the system. It may be rhetorically safer to avoid having a character wrestle with differing ideological concepts, but I believe that struggle what made 1984 a classic of literature, giving it endurance that transcends the Atlantic Ocean and nearly seven decades.

AJ: Your previous books have followed around male protagonists, but in The Remaking your protagonist is a 19 year old girl. Was this a difficult transition to your writing?

J.T.O: Writing Sela grew easier over time, actually. Initially, it was a daunting prospect, putting together this person who needs to become intimately acquainted to the reader. Yet, she somehow came into her own as the writing progressed, and I’m still not completely sure how that happened. Male main characters can be challenging as well, even though I am more familiar with the perspective. A good main character is vulnerable but not weak, sensible but not genius, reserved but relatable, kind in the right place and fierce on occasion. In some ways, Sela fits into that mold more naturally than Denver from the Sunlost books. I enjoyed writing Sela’s character, and was happy and relieved after a few female friends expressed approval of her femininity.

AJ: Can readers expect a sequel to The Remaking?

J.T.O: There are at least two more books to come after The Remaking. It’s interesting, actually. I didn’t want to write The Remaking. I wanted to write the third book, and I still do. That story is going to be a whopper, but it requires so much back story, there were at least two full books that simply must come before. And the particulars of the dystopian world are good enough that I didn’t want to shortchange it by trying to sum up all these events in a handful of early chapters. The Remaking is a great book, and could even be a standalone, but there will be two more books coming. Maybe more!

AJ: What’s your perfect writing scenario? Outside on a nice sunny day with a laptop? Or inside in a dark room, listening to music?

J.T.O: I’m far too sensitive a writer. Which is not to say that my writing is melodramatic; it certainly is not. I mean that my environment and mindset can drastically affect how well I write. And annoyingly, it is not all that consistent. What’s the perfect situation to be writing? The one that works! I sometimes write outside on a laptop, sometimes on paper, sometimes on a couch, sometimes at my desk, sometimes with music, sometimes without. I once hand wrote a few chapters while on an evening visit to the campus of MIT. I once wrote on a laptop while taking a break hiking way up in the Rocky Mountains with my dog, Moose. I’m finicky, I suppose. It can be frustrating, but so long as I manage to produce, I’ll just go with it.

AJ: Hobbies outside of writing?

J.T.O: I really enjoy hiking these days. I’m a romantic for the western wilderness. The Rocky Mountains as earlier mentioned, Painted Desert, Natural Bridge, Meteor Crater, White Sands, Grand Canyon, Black Hills and Thunder Basin, Petrified Forest, Wilson Lake. I don’t cross the Mississippi nearly as often as I’d like. Besides that, I play guitar and read. I’m always trying to blaze my way though my “to read” list. There’s not really a light at the end of that tunnel, though, and I make no secret that I like it this way.

AJ: Right now, what’s your favorite book?

J.T.O: Oh wow. Favorite book. Just one? That makes it tough, so I think I’ll cheat. For my non-fiction pick, I’ll say Modern Times by British historian and journalist Paul Johnson. It’s a history of the world from 1900 to 1990. You would think it would unoriginal and blasé. Quite the opposite, Johnson draws many conclusions and relationships out, inspiring a great deal of reconsideration.

I simply cannot pick a favorite work of fiction, so I will destroy brevity and select the whole Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson for the last three books). I’m not through the whole story yet (fourteen books, 11,000 pages, one story!), but what I’ve read so far has blown me away. They are fantastic books! So well constructed!

AJ: What are you currently working on? Will it be out soon?

J.T.O: I just finished editing a novella called Littledon! It is an allegory of sorts, and I hope to launch that very soon so that I can focus all my energies on following up The Remaking.


Thanks for the interview, J.T.

You can find more information about J.T. below.

Purchase The Remaking on Amazon Kindle


Release Day + 7

So, today marks the 1 week mark since I released As the Ash fell, and I have to say I am very pleased with how it has been received.

I am not talking about just my friends and family who want to be supportive (though I believe many of their comments to be genuine). I have started to get reviews and feedback from people who don’t have a horse in the race. Just using general marketing and spreading the word on various forums and social media I have gotten some tremendously positive feedback, and most of them asking for a sequel.

I want to post one of the 5 stars reviews I received on Amazon from someone I do not know except through the forums I posted my book in:

This is put together better than the 299 days series (which I enjoyed but were too instructional). Tastefully done and no hints of mall cops or zombies. A good balance of drama and action. I was pulled in by the characters and couldn’t stop reading. The kindle apps make it too easy to read at work.

I only hope the author follows up with a sequel!”

I have not read the 299 Days series he’s referring to; I’ve only heard of it just here and there. However, when I looked it up on Amazon, the books, as a series, had hundreds of reviews at 5 stars, and was selling on the Kindle for $8-$9 a pop. This was a huge compliment for me. I know many folks really like their post apocalyptic books, so for someone to tell me that my book read better than another (successful) series they enjoyed, was an incredible and humbling comment.

There are three things I am receiving consistent feedback about: The story flows well, the characters are deep and believable, and it’s hard to put down. These are the kinds of comments I like to hear. While there may be issues with finer details, getting these broad issues taken care of will keep readers engaged and want to see more from the story after each page turn. It means I have done my job as a story teller, not just an author.

So how were sales for my first week? Well, I won’t discuss numbers in public—that’s partly my rule and I’ve also heard Amazon doesn’t care for those things either. However, I will say that I set a modest goal for my first month’s sales, and I got 75% of the way there in my first week. That’s not including borrows via Kindle Unlimited or paperback sales. Strictly sales on Kindle e-reader. To say I am encouraged is an understatement. My book ranked between 15,000 and 25,000 all week long, which was with almost no marketing (just me telling people about it on Twitter/Forums/Facebook). I am excited to see what happens when I start doing some marketing—and I have some pretty cool plans coming up soon about that.

I want to again thank all my friends and family who have helped spread the word of As the Ash Fell, and made this a successful launch. Thank you!

As the Ash Fell is currently available on Amazon Kindle (Kindle Unlimited as well) for $3.99 and Paperback for $14.99.

Until next time,


As the Ash Fell RELEASED!

Hello everyone,

I am very pleased to announce that, after more than a year of hard work, As the Ash Fell has released on Amazon Kindle! I can’t even begin to describe the feeling at the moment, so I’ll just give you the link. I will write a bit more detailed post later.

Download the Kindle version HERE!

Order the print version HERE!



Reviews: Just as important as sales?

When I released my first novella on Amazon back in 2011 I thought the only thing I would need to worry about in terms of success was sales. If I got sales, and people liked it, they would tell their friends, and eventually I would have a snowball effect. Then people started talking about Amazon ranking. The better your ranking, the better your sales—or so went the theory, anyway. This made me push hard for some sales, as ranking was directly associated with sales. But eventually, the sales push plateaued and as fewer people bought my book, my standing in the ranks sunk deeper and deeper into the abyss. But there was something the book was missing that I didn’t pay enough attention to.


As I finished the draft for As the Ash Fell, I started researching the publishing process again. After all, it’s been 4 years since I released Loose Ends, which is not even published anymore. I know Amazon KDP has matured even more since then, not to mention I would be experiencing my first Create Space process, and so I looked at the whole thing as if I had never published a book in my life. The research I’ve done, and the advice I’ve received, all pointed to the significance of your book’s reviews.

Having a general positive rating on your book will encourage people to click on the link when it shows up during their browsing. If you have a 2 or 3 star average, this may not help, but if you are hitting in the 4-5 star range, this will certainly entice people to read your book’s blurb, and either buy, or at least download the sample (at which point its up to your writing to get them to purchase). But more than just having a 4 or 5 star rating, you need to have numerous reviews. If a book has under a dozen reviews, and they are all pretty positive in nature, then there’s a good chance you’re looking at the author’s friends and family. Now this doesn’t mean the book is bad, but it also doesn’t mean the book is good, either. Friends and family are biased, and as such they will give a book a good rating in an effort to help their loved one out. To be honest, this is a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s great for people to rally behind and support their friends and family. On the other hand, it doesn’t really help them improve as an author to get insincere praises. It might taste sweet in the short term, but will become pretty bitter in the long run.

Regardless, most authors will get a surge of this kind of support after a book launch. It’s only natural. The amount of reviews will vary, but I’ll just peg it at around a dozen or so reviews from your supporters to help get things going. This can be great, as not everyone will be quite so cynical with reviews as I am, but you can’t let it stop there and just let nature take its course. Writing a review isn’t hard, it doesn’t have to be some professionally written, spoiler-free overview of the book along with your thoughts. It can just be a couple of sentences describing the experience you had with the book, along with the star rating. Yet, when Amazon sends that email saying “Hey, what’d you think of this book? Leave a review!” most people still ignore it. I’ll admit I am guilty of that, too. And this is why you, as an author, need to be proactive to encourage your readers to leave reviews. Chances are a good deal of your readers (at first) will be folks you interact with on social media (or perhaps friends of friends). So, as you see some sales of your book coming in, make sure you are vocal about reminding people to leave a review, as it will help attract potential readers for your writing.

Good reviews are always nice. If you are getting 4 and 5 stars—especially from people who have no reason to do so except that they liked your book—can be a jolt of energy and excitement. But what about the 3, 2, and dreaded 1 star reviews? Well, keep in mind your book is not going to appeal to everyone. And regardless of why someone bought a book in a genre they don’t normally read (for example), they are still entitled to their views on what they thought of your book. If they are decent about it, and offer true constructive criticism, then take their advice seriously. Consider how you might improve in the areas they mention, but be sure to filter out the comments that are subjective or personal taste. If someone doesn’t like your writing style, that’s just life sometimes. If comments are rude, ugly, and lack the maturity of a 3rd grader, just ignore it. People will hate just for the sake of hating. For all you know it could be a wannabe writer who has never put forth enough  of the effort and dedication it takes to finish writing a book of their own—they are just bitter. Don’t let reviews like this get you down. They genuinely do not offer any sort of help, except perhaps comic relief. Another positive about lower rated reviews is having a few on your book isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It tells people that you don’t just pay to have fake reviews posted so that your novel looks more impressive than it is. I have a sneaking suspicion that not only indie authors do this, but larger publishers do, and that is about the lowest thing an author (or publisher) can do. Let your work be reflected in the reviews, good or bad. And if it’s bad, improve on it and do a better job next time.

At the end of the day, if you write a solid book that people enjoy, the reviews will largely be positive. The hard part is getting people to actually review it. So make it known, as best as you can, to your readers the significance of leaving a review (especially if they enjoyed it). Authors understand the importance of reviews, but not all readers may. A reader may like your work and say “I’ll show my appreciation by purchasing future books.” We do appreciate that, but a good review can generate several more sales for the author, which in turn can generate more reviews, and ultimately lead to dedicated readers of your work.

So please, readers (especially readers who are authors, as you know better), leave reviews for the books you read. It helps much more than many of you realize.

Novel Postmortem

In the game industry we (typically) do a postmortem after every project. Essentially each person writes about their own experience on the project—the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I near the end of the project with As the Ash Fell I thought it would be fun—if not a little therapeutic—to write one about my first full-length novel experience.

I started writing Ash almost exactly a year ago (I think it was in the closing days of March, 2014). I set out a goal to finish the draft in just a few months, get my wife to edit during her last trimester of pregnancy with our son, and then get ready to release shortly after he was born. As you can see, that didn’t happen. So my first point is:

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

Ugh, I really hate to use cliché phrases, but this is really the case here. When I first started the project, I wrote the first couple of chapters and decided I was done. After my wife read those chapters, she emphatically told me I wasn’t done, and that she wanted to know what happened with this story. So I continued writing with the plan I mentioned above. I wanted to ship this book and move on, but I had to deliver a high quality piece for my debut splash into the novel world. Unwilling to compromise on the latter half of the plan, I decided I needed to just take as long as I needed to do it right. Despite my disappointment that it’s a year later and still not released (almost there, though), it was the right call. Rushing something out the door, especially when there is nobody pressuring you to do so (except for yourself) is a really foolish move. No matter how many times I wanted to rush this area, or cut that corner, I felt the nag in the back of my head to avoid such lazy tactics. I am glad I did. I believe the end result is something significantly better, and I believe readers will enjoy the book much more because of it.

Eyes on the book before you release.

Once I finished the draft, I was pretty proud of it. I wanted to just get it edited and shipped (again, my desire to quickly publish it was taking control). I thought it was perfect the way it was, but I knew I needed some people to read it. So my wife/editor, and my good friend J.T. O’Connell read what I called an “Alpha” version of the book. The feedback from both of them was genuinely good, but they also both agreed: The ending needed to change! I won’t go into detail about this as to not spoil the story, but I was really surprised with that feedback. I disagreed, and it took a lot of convincing to change it. I eventually caved, and after I released the book to a handful of “Beta” readers they told me how much they liked the book, and enjoyed the reworked ending. When I told them the original ending, every single reader agreed with Lia and J.T. about the original ending not working. I would have never thought this would be the case, but their valuable feedback and insight made this book stronger. Get as many eyes on the book as you think you can before releasing it. Yeah, it might mean you get a few less sales, but if your book is better for it, the added sales in the long run will far outweigh the fewer in the beginning.

Edit, Edit again, and for a change of pace, edit some more.

When I finished the draft for Ash, I thought it might have a few little grammatical errors here and there, and certainly expected some punctuation issues. I thought there might be the occasional paragraph restructure to help make things flow more smoothly, but overall I knew it was solid. Then, before I let my alpha readers get a copy, I did my own edit pass. Wow! I spent a couple weeks reworking many areas, tweaking, correcting, and so on. It was rough, but that’s why it’s a rough draft. Then I gave it to my alpha readers. Lia printed the whole thing out and did red-ink on it as she read. Keep in mind her red-ink comments were more or less just pointing out places it didn’t flow well, incorrect word usage, details that were far too technical, etc. Essentially, it was not a line-by-line edit. I am surprised her pen didn’t run out of ink before she finished. It was bad. Real bad. Then, after I made those adjustments, I released to the beta readers and they found a plethora of mistakes, too. Some that I missed even on my second, more detailed read through. Lia is now doing the line-by-line edits and I know that by and large this release will be very clean and professional-level editing, I know that if I can find mistakes in big-house published books, there will likely be some in mine. But the point I am getting at is: don’t release a book plagued with little mistakes that will take the reader out of the story. One of the biggest stigmas indie authors have going against them is crappy editing. Take the time, edit carefully, and make readers go “Wow! This is an indie book? It’s so well written and has almost no grammatical mistakes.”

Cover Art.

Despite being encouraged not to, people do judge books by their covers. You need to make it a good one. In my case I actually do cover art for other authors, so I thought that would be a simple enough task. Except when it came time to put down the first pixels for my own book cover, I acted as if I had never opened Photoshop before. To those that have seen the cover, you know it’s a pretty simple illustration. Not a whole lot going on. However, it took me quite a while to reach that point. I almost contacted some artists I know from the game industry to have them do a cover. Thankfully, I feel I pulled it together in the last minute (thanks to some suggestions from Lia) and I am happy with the end results. But the big takeaway I have from this is, if you can’t create a professional looking cover, then hire a professional. You might have a great book, but if nobody looks inside how will they ever know? Indie books are in the middle of a sea of other books. You need to stand out in all aspects—that especially includes cover work. I was just a day or two away from hiring someone to do mine, which would not only be a hit financially, but a bruise to my ego as an artist. If it made my book more attractive, however, then it would have been worth it.

Writing your draft is only half the battle.

So, after you finish your draft you think you’re finished, right? Wrong! Besides what was discussed above, there is so much more to launching a book. Get ready to become a marketing major! I will say this—I hate this part of launching a book more than anything else. The amount of time I spend on Twitter and Facebook just trying to get a few people to share or re-tweet is very frustrating. I’ve also spent money to advertise posts, and will likely do a lot more of that in the future. It’s anything but fun, however, it is necessary. Yes, a lot of your sales will eventually come from word-of-mouth, but you will need that initial momentum to get people to read your work so they have something to tell their friends about. Once Ash releases, I do plan to do some advertising on websites which will cost money instead of so much time, but I also plan to give review copies away, offer prizes/giveaways on my social networks, find relevant websites and social media folks to try and get interviews and such. As an author, I would much prefer to spend my time writing and reading, but it’s a necessary evil so long as I am an indie author.


I am sure there is much more I could write about, but I’ve already rambled on long enough. The high-level takeaway here is that, as an indie author, it’s a lot of work to release a book, if you want to make a splash. I have seen plenty of indie books that have me shaking my head as I see awful covers, poor marketing techniques, and worst of all—terrible quality control on the writing itself. So many great ideas are dead in the water because authors rushed to get things out the door. Don’t make that mistake. Take your time (even if it means missing your own deadlines) and make sure you are making a great first impression.

A friend of mine posted a review about a book she enjoyed, and she started off by saying that she almost didn’t read it because she was turned off with the author’s first book. However, she gave him another chance and was glad she did. Unfortunately, most readers don’t give authors a second chance—don’t give them an excuse to write off (no pun intended) your books forever because you were just itching to release your work before it was truly ready.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. I hope you enjoyed it, and that you found it beneficial.

Until next time,