Blog

Two weeks after launch – a retrospective

Traitors of Sol Artwork

It’s been two whole weeks now since ‘Traitors of Sol’ was released worldwide in ebook and paperback, and it’s given me time to reflect on the overall. The dust has settled, the fevered excitement of launching my first novel has died down. It’s time to sit back and take stock.

Now, I went into this launch knowing that I wasn’t going to be using any paid advertising at all. That means no paid retweet ‘promo’ accounts, no Amazon ads, nothing. I thought long and hard about this, and I decided it wasn’t the right time to do it.

I’ve seen from numerous sources, that ad campaigns work best when you have a number of books out – especially in a series such as ‘Traitors of Sol’. Even though this isn’t your standard mega-series (it will consist of two volumes to complete the story), there is still more of the tale to come.

With this in mind, I’ve put the money aside for the ad campaigns until the second book, ‘Hope of Sol’, is released. The reasoning is that you get more bang for your buck. If you have one book out, that click will only generate one potential sale; if you have two books however, you are looking at selling potentially two books from that one click – if the reader enjoys the first, of course.

There were a number of ‘free’ promotion routes I went:

Goodreads

I ran a Goodreads giveaway for the month leading up to launch. It was easy to set up, as long as you have an author account with them, and it was easy to edit and monitor. There were numerous tips on how to get a good response, mainly revolving around number of copies to giveaway, and offering them signed too.

I settled for ten copies in total, as it seemed like a good number and affordable (hence the ‘free’, as you need to purchase copies of your book and pay postage), and I offered them as signed too. In total, 1,057 people entered the giveaway, with no effort on my part. Of those, a further 400-odd added the book to their ‘Want to read’ list. Although that doesn’t guarantee a sale, it does keep your name out there as a reminder.

I also garnered 7 ‘followers’ on Goodreads as well, when I had none before. For the price of buying a few of your own books, I recommend it.

Twitter

Twitter is my main habitat online. I didn’t do too much special here. I posted the occasional reminder that the book was out at the end of the month, and also held a pinned tweet about it too.

I also offered 5 paperbacks in a competition for any shares or likes. This didn’t work quite as well as Goodreads, but as an unknown author with 800-ish followers, it didn’t work too badly.

Reddit

I posted the book up on Reddit, in r/wroteabook. Whether this garnered any response I don’t know – however it is there, with a link to the book and information about the blurb and pricing.

Overall

It’s been an emotional journey. I can still remember getting halfway through the first draft, then coming to a realisation that Carl and Hawke should be swapped with how they viewed the chapters, and the feeling of dread knowing that I was going to have to rewrite the entire book. It paid off in the end.

The launch was more successful than I imagined considering my limited advertising. I seem to have a consistent KDP flowing in of 300-400 per day, although solid sales have been less enthusiastic. As I said before, I went in with expectation of 1 or 2 sales, so I’ll take this as a win.

When ‘Hope of Sol’ comes to land, I’ll be hitting the ground running months before with paid advertising. By then I should have garnered some reviews on ‘Traitors of Sol’, and it will offer readers an entire and finished series.

No doubt I’ll write an updated report on it then, until then I’d better get cracking on my edits.

Traitors of Sol is available worldwide in ebook and paperback format.

The Road to Publishing: The end of a long journey…and the start of a new one

The 31st of July rolls around in seven days, and I still cannot believe it is here. Usually the day would go by unnoticed, but now I have something to mark it for. ‘Traitors of Sol‘, my first full-length novel, is going to be released in eBook and paperback format.

I’ve released work before, that is true; however these have been short stories, either in e-magazines or my own collections. It’s like comparing a sprint to a marathon, a single battle to an entire war. They are all triumphs, but some leave bigger impacts than others.

‘Traitors of Sol’ is not my first attempt at a full-length novel. There are numerous pretenders which fell by the wayside; not strong enough story or character wise to make the journey. They still float around, scenes waiting to be cannibalised by other projects, but they are not fit for human consumption in their current states. ‘Traitors of Sol’ is the first to make it, the first to pass muster with beta readers and myself. That final full-stop on the final edit was my Everest.

It’s both exciting and fearful knowing that your work is going to be out there. This a universe that has been built from the ground up to support the weight of a multiverse spanning story. It has races, creatures, and lore, all specific to this strange little existence buried between two covers. It has characters who I’ve cared about, enough to see them as people in their own right (how I will feel when I finally say goodbye to them, I do not know). Now it will all be out there, no longer confined to my single mind. It’s a universe waiting to be shared and explored with anyone interested.

I won’t wax lyrical for much longer on this point, but as you can probably tell, this is a big moment for any writer. It’s a the culmination of days, months, and years of thought and labour. It’s endless rewrites, countless edits, and innumerable worries over the most minute of details. It’s a labour of love, and to see it born into the world is a satisfying and enduring feeling.

If you are writing your own novel, and the end seems far over the horizon – I hope this gives you the push and support you need. You can do it. You will do it. Then you will start again on the next one.

This may be the endgame for ‘Traitors of Sol’, but it is the start of a another journey. The follow-up, ‘Hope of Sol’, will complete the story, and there are many more adventures beyond that – possibly in the same universe, but definitely beyond it. All that can be done is follow the writer’s mantra: write, edit, release, write.

I hope we can make this journey together, and I look to sharing further adventures with you.

Traitors of Sol‘ is released 31 July in eBook and paperback format, and is available worldwide.

George A. Romero – A fond farewell from a fan

I can still remember the first time I saw a Romero film. I was around a friend’s house for an all night gaming session (I believe we were playing Halo on the first Xbox on LAN), when said friend produced a disc from a sleeve. It was Dawn of the Dead. It took one swift look to know we wanted to watch it: zombies, gore and a high age rating.

We sat and watched it with mouths agape. It lived up to everything the blurb had promised. We laughed at the over the top gore, cheering every time a zombie was eviscerated. As a group of teenage boys, how could we not fall in love with the idea of holding up in a shopping mall and defending it against undead hordes?

The next day, once I had recovered from a lack of sleep, I headed out in search of more. I found a box set – the Trilogy of the Dead. I ended watching all three back to back – and it was glorious.

Watching these in my younger (I am still young FYI, I think) years it was all about the action and terror. Those nail-biting moments when the undead are clawing at the doors and windows, smashing through and grabbing the unsuspecting victim who stood too close. These were the moments when my heart pounded and a smile found my lips.

The thing with Romero was that his films weren’t just about zombies. They were a large, and terrifying, feature to be sure, but they were a conduit to a commentary on society as a whole.

I like to think of Romero films (specifically the Trilogy of the Dead) to be like wine. When you’re younger, you see it at a basic level – a quick way to get drunk in wine’s case, or a good way to scare the bejesus out of you if you’re watching the film. However, when you get older you develop an appreciation of the deeper aspects.

I’m sure this has been stated ad nauseum – but in the wake of his death I don’t think it can be said enough. George A. Romero birthed the modern zombie genre as we see it today – even with its bloated Hollywood versions (World War Z, The Walking Dead), which Romero was said to have disliked. He spoke in interviews of there needing to be more to the picture than just people killing zombies – and his films proved just that.

So tonight I will raise a cup of gore and these humble words to the visionary man – a master storyteller who brought fear and thoughtfulness to so many people.

 

Why I Write – Inspiration and Desperation

Yes, I know – the title is a little self-indulgent, but sometimes you need to get an eye into the mind of the writer. I think it’s important to have a reason to write, a driving force which guides your muse. Also, it’s an excuse to have a vent – and who doesn’t love to do that?

For myself, and I imagine most other people who feel creatively inclined, creativity is a form of expression. It’s a chance to break free from the mundane and explore other horizons. It’s a way to channel feelings and thoughts, both bad and good, in a way that is healthy and therapeutic – it’s your mind breaking free of its regimented thought patterns.

For me, I always find it important to have some kind of creative output. My job is, for want of a better description, soul-crushingly boring. I work for a large company, doing the same thing day in and day out. It’s very dry, very corporate. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the job as such – the colleagues are great, and my boss is too – but the tasks themselves are repetitive and mind-numbing.

The thing is, I’m a cog. Nothing more, nothing less. When you reduce my role to its basic elements, that’s what you get. There’s no creativity, no expression – you’ve just got to keep your cog turning at the pace required. Keep the pace and you keep the peace. It’s sterile, suffocating, and woefully life-sapping.

When I call to speak to HR or to order new IT equipment, I don’t give my name, I give my number. I’m faceless. Just a number that completes a set task. As depressing as that sounds (and it certainly feels it sometimes), it’s this pent up frustration which fuels my inspiration.

As I’m sure it is for any creative work, the creator’s life and psyche bleeds into their work every now and again. There’s a short story I’ve written for ‘Bleaker Horizons’ called ‘Seromine’. Each time I’ve gone back to edit it, I realise that it’s a dead giveaway that I’m a frustrated office worker. The character the story focuses on a man whose days consist of completing endless and ever increasing workloads just to get his hit of happiness at the end of the week. While not entirely representative of my day job as a whole, there are certainly strong veins that run through it which reflect my 9-5 grind, and the elusive reward and recognition that many workers strive for.

I’ve probably painted a very depressing image of my work-life, but the thing is, it’s this sterile environment that fires the creativity. Just as there is no light without dark, I find the stale corporate environment a ripe ground for my imagination. It gives me an adversary; something to fight back against, in my own way.

I think of the company I work for as something that pumps a bland grey into the world – sucking the colour and vibrancy from life itself. As a cog, I contribute to that to some degree, so I have a need to fight back. It’s guerrilla warfare*. When the company has its back turned, I create colour and life, and I feed that back into the world with my words. It gives a sense of purpose and responsibility to the words I put to keyboard.

If there is a point to this post, then I’ll attempt to end with it. Whoever you are, and whatever you create; be it writing, painting, or simply happiness – go bring that colour into the world. Keep fighting the good fight – because the world needs more of it.

*I was going to say ‘wordfare’, but I thought it was a bit too much. Then I laughed at it, so I’ve put it here for other people to cringe/laugh at too.

The Road to Publishing – Artwork

Like it or not, it’s a fact of life that people do judge books by their covers. Look at that bookshelf above; what do you see? Yes, I know – books is probably your first answer, but are there any that stand out among the crowded shelves? This is what I’m talking about.

Artwork is an important element in the world of books, almost (dare I say it) on a par with the work itself. It’s the hook for the eye before the hook for the mind, an image that says ‘Look at me! I need to be read, I’m interesting!’

What happens if  you don’t have that eye-catching image? You put yourself back. There will be other books loitering in the wings – others with gorgeous and slick covers. They may not have a better story than you, they may have characters that pale in comparison to yours, but they get the first punch, so to speak.

So, you’re going to need to get yourself a cover that is eye-catching and catches the mood of your work. It costs money, there’s no way around that, but it doesn’t have to kill your wallet – and those extra eyes on your work may turn into extra sales. It’s best to think of it as an investment. The more sales, the more you make your money back, and hopefully more.

Pre-made VS Fully custom

Depending on the scale of your project, or your budget, you may wish to go down the pre-made or custom route for your cover art. Both offer professional (providing you find the right artist) finishes, for an effective price.

Pre-made

Pre-made covers are exactly what they sound like. The artwork and typography is pre-set, and your title and words will simply fill in the blanks. Without a doubt, this is the most cost-effective way of getting yourself a professional looking finish (unless you know a graphic designer or are one yourself, of course).

The pros of pre-made covers are the simplicity and price. You can see the design up front, with all of the placement and style of imagery and font available for you to see. This allows you to make an informed choice as to whether the cover is right for you and your book. Prices can vary, but you can find yourself some great covers for a great price.

The main con is, of course, that it is pre-made. Your scope is limited to what is already laid out before you (unless you are willing to pay extra for alterations), so you must make sure the design is right for you before you go ahead.

Bleak Horizons is an example of a pre-made cover. It saw a design I liked, and for a great price too. Within the next 24 hours I had the design ready to go and upload. Short, sweet, and effective.

Custom made

This is where things can get expensive (obviously a con if you’re stretched on your budget). You’re essentially paying an artist to create your vision. This isn’t something that they put together quickly, it’s something they work hard at.

You should have a specific vision ready for the artist (or at least you should do, unless you trust the artist enough to freestyle). Most will offer a conceptual stage where they sketch out ideas/layouts, and should consult you on the creation journey.

Although it can get bogged down in detail, the big pro is when you see the final result – you can be sure you have a unique design ready to grace your cover.

Traitors of Sol features a custom cover. This incorporates a piece of art which I commissioned (a beautiful large piece of sci-fi landscape which I may do a giveaway of a canvas of in the future), along with custom typography.

The process took around a month from conception to delivery, with many tweaks and changes in between – so make sure you have the time you need for the full order to be completed.

So, there you go – a quick in and out of the options available to you for your book cover. Keep it professional and eye-catching, and you can’t go far wrong.

Got any cover art hints, tips, or helpful links? Why not drop them in the comment box below.

The proof is in the pudding.

Or the reading, in this case.

I’ve always heard others saying that there is no better feeling than holding a solid, physical copy of your own book, and I can now say I agree wholeheartedly. It’s almost enough to make you feel like a proper author!

The paperback proof of Traitors of Sol arrived yesterday, in a pretty hefty package. The sound it made as it hit the floor after falling through the letterbox was slightly concerning, but after a quick check of the structural stability of my house I turned my attention back to the book. As I’m sure you can imagine, it did not take me two minutes to tear it open.

Although it’s wise to never judge a book by its cover, it’s also the first thing that prospective readers will see. It’s got to be bold, and it’s got to tell the reader exactly what they are getting. I was very pleased with the quality of the cover print, and I feel it did my artist justice. The colours seem to pop out, and images and blurb are crisp and distinctive. Take a look, hopefully you’ll agree. (Apologies for the image quality, the camera I used isn’t exactly top of the range).

20170527_121954 20170527_122005

Of course, no book would be complete without readable font and quality paper. I’ve looked through the pages, and scoured it for printing mistakes and other errors but I must say I am very pleased with the result. The lettering is clear on every page, and the printer has handled it very well.

20170527_122036

Overall, I’m very pleased with the results of using Createspace. This is the first time I’ve used them, and not only is the process intuitive and easy to grasp, the book feels substantial, it reads easily, and the formatting has come out exactly how it was uploaded. If there is any other writer thinking of taking the plunge, hopefully this help with your decision – feel free to drop me a message if you want to go a bit more detailed too!

Traitors of Sol is released worldwide in paperback and ebook format on 31st July 2017. For a chance of winning one of ten signed copied, follow the link below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Traitors of Sol by J.  Porteous

Traitors of Sol

by J. Porteous

Giveaway ends July 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Traitors of Sol – Cover Reveal

It’s been a long time coming (my, such a long time…) but I can finally reveal the cover art for Traitors of Sol! It’s been a little while since I’ve actually posted a blog, and this is why! There have been plenty of last minute ‘maybe I should just check xx’, and other such worrying – however it has finally come to fruition, with the new cover to top it off.

Traitors of Sol is the first half of a two part saga, following the (mis)fortunes of the Space Bastards, a mercenary crew low on their luck and their money. Both parts will span to the edges of own universe and beyond, as the crew fight not only for their own lives, but for the fabric of existence itself.

As my first published full length novel, this is not only incredibly exciting but slightly relieving as well. The amount of work that goes into a full length novel compared to a short story is incredible. From the first draft and through the subsequent edits, it is impossible not to form a bond with the characters. To see them come to life at the end of such a journey seems like a revelation, and it’s nice to finally see light at the end of the tunnel. 

Why not join me at the end of the tunnel? The ebook will be enrolled into KDP select, plus available in other formats as well. I promise it will be one hell of a trip.

‘Traitors of Sol’ will be released on 31st July 2017, and will be available in ebook and print format. Review copies will be sent at request.

traitors_of_sol.jpg

Finding time to write (or other leisure activities)

This is a timely one for myself, especially considering I missed a blog post last week due to time (in fairness, that was partially illness related).

Finding the time to write is always a problem for any writer. Part-time jobs (or even full-time jobs), family, and other commitments, can cause issues of time constraint. There are only twenty four hours in the day, you’ve got to work at using them at top efficiency. Here are the ways I’ve tried to create time (with varying success, your mileage may vary), perhaps it could help you claw back some of your own time? Of course, this doesn’t just apply for writing, it could be used for whatever your hobby is.

The Early Bird special

This one is for those of the mindset that sleep is for the week. Set your alarm an hour or two earlier than you usually would in the mornings, even on workdays. Wham! Suddenly there are extra hours in your day! Of course, this can be draining, both physically and mentally. I tried this myself for a month, and it has its pros and cons. Obviously the con is waking early, but, if you can force yourself to do it, the pro is not just extra time, but extra focus too.

I found myself concentrating very well on my task (once I had woken up). My mind was sharp and I found I wrote stronger sentences which required less editing. There is a calm serene to the early hours of the morning, perhaps that was what helped so much – I wasn’t frazzled out from my day job.

Strength in numbers can help with this one. If you are a Twitter person, then #5amwritersclub could be your heroes.

Ring-fenced time

This one requires discipline. Set an hour (or however much you can dedicate) to your writing time. Whatever limits you set, stick to it. No matter what. Does that TV show have another fourteen minutes? Stop it. Does your Facebook or Twitter desperately need to be checked again? Stop it.

Everything needs to be instantly thrown out as soon as your ring-fenced time hits, otherwise you can find your own bad habits eroding your precious time. You need to be able to police yourself efficiently. Perhaps you could set an alarm at the start of your time, a signal to drop whatever you are doing at the time? Whatever it takes, you need to be strict with yourself. Unless you can rope a friend in to hit you with a stick if you try to do anything else.

Do it whenever you get the chance

This one kind of links of from my last blog about always carrying a notepad. Beware, this is a messy one that can end up with all kinds of loose ends and editing woes – or at least that is how I found it at times. If you have a good mind to tie your elements together, this could let you get some serious headway.

You’ll need to carry something to write with at all times. It can be a notepad, a laptop, even your phone. Once you have that, it’s simple! Whenever a spare few minutes comes into your day, get writing. Scribble things down, type letters into that keyboard – just do something, even if it just an idea for a scene that you will write up when you get more time.

Of course, things are a little more haphazard with the writing this way. I found I had to edit more heavily during following runs through the manuscript, as loose threads had wormed their way in and needed to be either resolved or cut out entirely. As I said before, if you have a more ordered brain than myself, this might not be an issue.

So, there are three ways to find time to do what you want. Is there anything you do to create your own time? Feel free to share it below!

Essential Survival Kit for the Writer

I’ll be straight up with you, this blog post is going to come relatively short and sweet. The blame lies solely on Mass Effect: Andromeda, and I accept no responsibility with regards to my own lack of willpower to say no to an extra hour (or seven) of it. I’m sure I’ll make this relevant somewhere.

Anyway, there’s certain things you can’t force, and inspiration is one of them. Inspiration is the fuel for any creative, and, as with any fuel, you dont want to needlessly waste it. Want to get more mileage from your brain? Then read on!

There’s always a moment when you sing a great tune in the shower, or think of a great idea in the dead of night. Your heart jumps, a smile flickers on your face. These moments are great; your mind has just revealed to you the next charts topping single, the next Picasso, and there’s no way in hell you’ll forget it.

Wait five minutes from this moment.

You’ve forgotten it haven’t you? I know I have. It’s criminal, really. I can only imagine the amount of top-grade ideas which have been drained from the collective minds of humanity. We’d probably all be flying around the galaxy shooting lasers by now.

There’s only one way around it (alright, probably a few), and that is to carry a notepad. Yes, I know, it’s a bit ‘old school’ these days, what with phones and tablets, but these things run out of battery – and that means you’ll be left stranded with an idea which will melt to nothing like an ice sculpture left in the summer sun.

Now, you could think that you could just think that sitting in front of a computer with the idea to write should do the trick. Some people can, and I truly envy them. But for myself, and most of the other writers I know, inspiration seeks you in your weakest moments.

It could be a scene you witness while you rush to work, or a passing conversation you overhear. These kind of moments, while striking at the time, will quickly be written from your brain by the time you sit down to write. You need to note it then and there. You can’t publish a forgotten thought.

It doesn’t have to be a full paragraph or even a sentence, it could simply be a couple of key words. Even you read it back at the next opportunity, those key words should cause your brain to find a shortcut to that time and place.

So, the moral of this post is to always keep something to hand that you can jot a note on. It will save you frustration in the long run. If you’re going for a run, commuting to work, or playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, keep something handy!

See? I told you I would make it relevant in the end.

The Horror of Writing Horror

Genre writing is something to think of as a safe bet. Reading fantasy? You’re going to find either magic, swords, and most usually both. How about sci-fi? It’s almost definite that you’ll get at least one spaceship.

Of course, this isn’t always the case, but these well-worn tropes give you an idea of what to expect. Now, tell me what defines horror?

An unstoppable murderer in a mask? A gruesome creature attacking in the dead of night? Or perhaps zombies slowly marching towards an outpost of humans? All great answers, and all great examples of what could be called ‘gore horror’.

But what about psychological horror too? Less of the bloodletting but more shadows lurking in doorways? And what about…

This is the crux of what I’m getting to. People find different things scary – which can make scary writing difficult in itself.

For example, when it comes to what I find scary, it’s the great unknown – the Lovecraft style indescribable horror. On the other hand, my other half is terrified of clowns. There even people out there who are terrified of buttons. I could go on, but I think you get it. People are as varied in their fears as they are their personalities.

With some stories I’ve put out I’m the past, I’ve had some people tell me they were genuinely terrified and wished they had not read it (Hooray, job accomplished!), and I’ve had others simply say ‘That’s not scary at all.’ – that one always sucks. But then you have to think, maybe it is scary, just not for them.

I tell myself this when I write the next story. The best way to write horror, in my eyes, is to write what you find scary; really wrench and pry out your own fears, and there’s guaranteed to be someone reading it who feels just as terrified of it as you. Sure, you could Google (other search engines are available) ‘Top Ten Phobias’ and write a story for each, but if you’re not scared of something, how can you make others scared of it too?

Technique and writing prowess obviously come into the mix (bad writing is a terror in itself), but with emotions, as with any writing, you can really hook the reader. Using your own genuine emotion from your own fears will come across as much more authentic than simply writing ‘He was really, really scared of the bad thing.’

Of course, as with anything, some lucky people can get away with anything (I’m looking at you, Stephen King, with your ability to somehow make horror out of everything).

Now, I must get round to writing that great button-horror I’ve been thinking of.