Conventions during lockdown

Because all of the conventions have been cancelled during lockdown, a lot more are going online.

I’ve already been involved in one, called CONtagion. A SFF convention and also meeting space on Facebook, which has links to panels, workshops, readings, blog posts and all sorts to keep you busy.

I moderated a panel about writing fantasy series and how most writing advice is about how to get the first book written or published. This panel is focused on the demands of writing a series of books. How do you keep it going? How do you keep yourself motivated? And how do you deliver something interesting to reading on time, every time? You can download the MP3 of the panel here

QuaranCon2020

I’m also getting involved with QuaranCon2020, which is running for the next few days from today, Friday 24th, over the weekend and into early next week. These will be live panels, on YouTube, via Zoom, where viewers can ask the panel questions at the end.

Friday 24th April 8pm (UK time) I’m on a panel – Fantasy book series, how long should they be? Here’s the link to YouTube for tonight

Monday 27th April 9pm (UK time) I’m on a panel – Magical systems in Fantasy.

The website with the full schedule for all panels is available on the QuaranCon2020 website here.

 

5 Cool Comics to Read

Something to keep you occupied during lockdown.

sleeper ed brubakerSleeper – This is still one of my favourite series of all time. It’s gritty and sometimes grim, but not overly so but it’s definitely not a comic for children due to the adult content (violence, swearing, sex etc). It’s about a guy who has some powers (no capes, no tights) that are kind of low key but useful and brutal, going undercover in a criminal organisation. It’s espionage with an edge as there is the constant fear that he could be discovered at any time and the repercussions if that happens will be very bad. It’s two seasons, well 2 x 12 issue trades. Self contained and an excellent read. Amazon UK

Y the Last ManY: The Last Man – Only slightly close to the knuckle given the current situation, however, it’s still worth your time. A virus wipes out every male on the planet except one guy, Yorick, and his pet monkey. It’s about his journey across America in a strange new world. Yorrick has lots of interesting and thought provoking adventures. This 10 trade paperback comic book series is also in development to be a TV series, coming maybe 2021 given changes to scheduling and so on. Amazon UK

joyride vol 1

Joyride – A fun sci-fi comic about a girl living on Earth during a particularly difficult time who just wants to get out and explore, have fun and find out what’s going on in the wider galaxy. So she steals a spaceship because Earth sucks, and together with two friends, goes off to have some adventures. It’s that simple. It’s fun, brightly coloured, not too heavy, but it’s sometimes emotional, often funny, and the whole thing is only 3 trades long from start to finish, so it is a self contained story with a satisfying end. Amazon UK.

locke and key vol 1

Locke and Key – You’ve probably heard about this because of the TV series, however, as with many things, the source material is better. The TV series crams a lot of stuff in and picks bits and pieces from across the whole 6 trades. This comic has more time and space to explore areas, take it’s time, sets things up gradually and creeps you out. When the TV show was first being advertised I spoke to a few people who thought it was a teen drama or YA series, and I can see why but the comic book is definitely not. It’s a lot more brutal than the TV series, scarier at times and it will creep you out. Also it is also a self contained story. The TV series is going off in its own direction, so even if you are watching you’ll get two different stories. Amazon UK.

Mister MiracleMister Miracle – This is a 12 issue, self contained story. While it is part of DC comics, you don’t need to know much about the character or the series beforehand. You don’t need to be a fan of superhero comics because it’s not about that. At all. I’ve spent hours with friends discussing this book. I’ve done a whole podcast on it where 4 of us talked about the themes and ideas being explored in it for over an hour and barely scratched the surface. The book is fascinating and it is the kind of thing you can reread and will get something different from it every time. If you want something to spell everything out and  give you all of the answers, then this isn’t that kind of book.

Very simply put, imagine if the Devil and God each had a son, and to ensure a form of peace between the two warring empires, they each raised the other’s son. That’s the basic premise. Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle, was raised in a hellish dimension by Darkseid, the epitome of evil. At the same time Orion was raised by Highfather, the epitome of pure goodness, in the equivalent of Heaven.

This story takes place years later when Scott is an adult. Scott has done it all. In the past he’s been a superhero but now he and his wife are just trying to live a quiet life on Earth. He’s a professional escape artist and celebrity. The story is about family. It’s about being an adult. It’s about faith and destiny. It’s about being a parent, but also being someone’s child and the expectations that come with that. It’s about freedom and choice. It’s about a hundred other things that I don’t want to spoil. It’s also an action and adventure story with a war, and duty, and honour. It’s a family drama with real weight and consequences. It’s also hilarious at times and very emotional and terrifying.

It’s one of my favourite comic books of all time. Read it. You can thank me later. Amazon UK

If you read any of them, get in touch and let me know what you thought or send me 5 comics you think I should read (self contained stuff only please).

Battlemage on sale – Kindle deals

I thought this was just a daily deal thing and it might now just be a weekly deal so it could end on Sunday, however, as of this minute, Battlemage is 99p on Amazon UK on Kindle.

So if you started with Mageborn, now is the right time to go back to the beginning and get a deal.

Also, Battlemage on Amazon.com is currently $1.23 but this could change at any minute as it doesn’t have the limited time deal sticker on it. So get it ASAP.

It’s my birthday

Yes, today. What a day. I thought it was going to be a fairly forgettable one. Not a big or special number. I thought it would just cruise past and I wouldn’t remember it in years to come. Never forget the old saying or curse, depending on how you look at it “May you live in interesting times.”

Anyway, since it’s my birthday I’m going to ask a favour!

Write a review

If you’ve read one of my books and you enjoyed it, please take a couple of minutes to leave me a review on Amazon. It really helps get the books noticed by other readers who may not have heard of me. Also, Amazon has lots of complex algorithms, which are always changing, however one thing remains constant; the more the reviews you have the better.

Something to read

If you like comics and want to read something quite different from me, the first issue of Flux, a comic book mini series (4 issues), that I’ve co-written is now available on Gumroad. It’s a science-fiction thriller about the threat of time travel, government issue wearable tech and one detective’s search for the truth.

We’re hoping to launch issue 2 on Kickstarter on April 1st. We were in two minds about whether or not to proceed, but we’ve polled our previous supporters and the majority said we should continue as normal and sort out posting physical copies later. Anyway, Issue 1 is now available on Gumroad is you’re interested.

Bonus

A small bonus for loyal readers on here, and for those of you that have made it this far! As you’ve seen, the new book being published next year, The Coward, is book 1 in a 2 book series. I’m delighted to tell you that this book has a fantastic map which has been drawn by an excellent artist. I gave him my crappy hand drawn nonsense and he turned it into a thing of beauty. So watch out for that!!

Thanks for reading, take care and stay indoors.

PS. – What are you reading at the moment? I’m always searching for new fantasy and SF books and you can’t get better than a recommendation.

New Book Deal

I’m been sitting on this news for a while so I’m very glad that I can now officially share it. I have a new book deal with Angry Robot books!

Here’s the link to the press release and story in the Bookseller

As the story mentions this is a two book series and it is set in a totally new world. After six books and a novella set in the world of Balfruss, Vargus, Munroe and the rest, I was ready for a change. I have other ideas, and at some point in the future I might revisit that world, but for the time being I’m done. We’re going to let it rest.

It’s exciting and slightly terrifying to start with a clean slate. The exciting part is that I get to make up everything but that’s also the scary part as no-one knows what is going on. So I have to explain it in a way that’s clear to new readers without it being too exposition heavy.

Book 1, The Coward, is obviously written and this year I will be working on it with my new editor at ARB. This year I will also be writing book 2 and I’ve already made a good start. So that means next calendar year I will start writing something completely new. Exciting times ahead!

March Progress Report

Hello. I’ve been a bit quiet on here over the last couple of months, mostly because I’ve been so busy, and somehow it’s March already. So I thought a quick update report was due. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t talk about yet, which is the other reason I’ve not posted in a while. So, time to dance between the raindrops a bit. So please bear with me a while longer.

Books

What I can say is that I’m currently working on three different novels. All of them are at different stages and at least one of them is not what you would expect from me. I’m still writing fantasy but these are stories set in a new world.

For the time being I’m done with Balfruss and the rest. I have no idea at the present time if I will ever revisit that world. I have a few ideas rattling around that would need developing further. So never say never, but for the time being I’m working on something completely different. It’s scary and exciting, creating new worlds, new people, new creatures. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done anything in a new world so it’s been a lot of fun.

I hope to have some news in the next few months that I can share but for the time being I’ll just have to be vague.

Reading

I’ve been doing an interesting experiment over the last couple of months. In addition to watching TV shows including, The Witcher, Altered Carbon, Star Trek Picard, I’m Not Ok With This, and many others, I’ve been rewatching The Expanse.

When I first started watching Season 1 a couple of years ago, I really struggled. I’ll admit it, I had to force myself to chug away on season 1, but then something clicked and I began to love it. Now, it’s one of my favourite SF series. The experiment I’ve been  conducting is that I’ve been reading the novels for the first time and then rewatching the corresponding TV series. It’s not a perfect 1:1 ratio, so there’s some overlap. However, it’s proving fascinating to see where changes were made to the TV series from the book and try to understand the reasons why it was done. Over time I’ve began to notice quite a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the two mediums. There’s all sorts of stuff you can do in a novel that you just couldn’t get away with on TV and vice versa. From a storytelling perspective it’s not something I’ve done before and I’m learning a lot.

Events

It’s early in the year, and obviously with a lot of uncertainty in the media at the moment things might change. However, next month from 10-12th April, I will be attending Eastercon. This is an annual SFF event for fans. There will be lots of panels, readings, fantasy and SF and basically it’s a chance for SFF fans to just hang out for a long weekend. I’ll be there, on a couple of panels probably, but I don’t know which ones yet. So keep an eye out on the website for more information about the programme. The event moves around the UK and this year it is taking place at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel, which is walking distance from the NEC. So it’s easy to get to via train and car. Come along and say hi if you’re around.

I’ll see how the rest of the year pans out but I suspect I will be at at least a couple more events later in the UK.

Changing media over the last decade

About this time of year people typically post things about what they’ve done over the last year, or even the last decade. I thought about it, but decided not to do that. I could list some of the TV and films I’ve watched but there’s too much and picking out favourites is difficult. Instead I’m going to write about how I think the different mediums have changed over the last ten years and my rambling thoughts on it all.

TV and Film

The short version is we are in a golden age of entertainment. In the last 10 years I’ve watched some of the most engaging TV shows of my life. I’ve seen films that have amazing spectacular visuals, that make it worthwhile seeing on a big screen with surround sound in a giant room. Those films are just not the same on a TV at home no matter how big the screen, it can’t compare and for that and other reasons I think cinemas will always be around. Games (computer and console) have also leapt forward, with new consoles with better graphics, three dimensional characters with interesting relationships and there again more thoughtful  and intricate stories as well as lots of explosions and FPS which I also enjoy. I’ve recently been replaying Half Life 2 again and it’s been lots of fun. Sales of some console games leave films in the dust because they are so popular and have such a huge following around the world.

Games

I think MMORPGs are not dead, not exactly, but I think their heyday has definitely passed when 20 million subscribers was the norm. I can be engaged by a game for a few hours but sometimes I just want to play something for 20-3o minutes and not have to pay a monthly fee to do it. Maybe a new MMORPG will come out and hook me again but I doubt it as I’ve not played WoW in years and prefer to dip in and out of other things, or play a game until it is finished and then move on to the next rather than constantly be stuck in the second act of something that has no end. People play a lot more games on their phones and ten years ago this didn’t exist. I see more of that in the future and more free games with micro-transactions.

Books

I don’t think a lot has changed other than to say there’s a lot more to choose from as well. In the SFF arena, the number of books being published each year has increased so there are always books I’ve missed, authors I’m vaguely aware of that are popular and favourites among some readers, and other authors I’ve just not heard of before. People will be aghast and say you’ve not heard of X?? But that’s just because there’s too much of everything to stay up to date. And, people are constantly battling for attention on social media so the flood of information never stops 24×7 which means you can blink and miss it.

So because of all of this I’ve had to become more selective. Some TV shows I was previously watching out of loyalty but not really enjoying, I’ve dropped and don’t miss them. Social media has changed a lot in ten years. Widening it to include stuff like YouTube, as that feeds into what people watch, there’s definitely been a shift. I have some friends with children who only watch YouTube, or 90% of their content comes from YouTube as they consider that TV and their celebs are people on Twitch channels or YouTube personalities. I’ve found myself watching more in the last 2 years, following people I previously knew from elsewhere (sports people, TV stars and a couple of celebs) who have gone on on to develop their own channels. I also follow channels about hobbies I’m interested in but I’m not interested in watching someone else play games. I’d rather be doing it myself.

Comics

I think comics is the least well adjusted medium for 2020 and beyond. Waiting a month between single issues, especially on ongoing series with no definitive end, isn’t something that can continue. It’s too slow, it’s old fashioned, it doesn’t work any more and the number of Wednesday Warriors gets smaller every year. Even with the best writers and artists I’m just not reading as many ongoing titles. I’ve shifted to a digital trial and if it is good I’ll get it in trade. If it’s a mini series or similar I might read it all digitally or trade wait. DC has had a bit of shift, creating Black Label with top creators producing shorter series, as well as launching DC Ink and DC Zoom for younger readers and I think that’s a great step in the right direction but more needs to be done to bring in a lot more younger readers and, more importantly, keep them reading year on year. The temporary boost of big named creators, or a new issue 1 on a big title doesn’t work long term, and I still think a significant change needs to be made.

In comparison to DC, Marvel seem to have just given up on attracting younger readers. They license most of their biggest characters to other publishers to write stories for kids and the YA audience. A lot of young people know Marvel and DC characters from animation, games, movies and even TV shows, but not the comics themselves which is a huge shame. I think many people in suits in Hollywood still view comic books as nothing more than cheap R and D. The glory days of Image comics and even the Kirkman Manifesto are gone. Bar a couple of huge successes like the Walking Dead, Image comics isn’t what it used to be. Also making a decent living just on creator owned titles isn’t possible any more. There are always exceptions but many creators work in multiple mediums, across Big2 books and their own in order to make a living.

What’s next?

I think out of all of the mediums, TV is adapting the quickest to keep up with the times. More paid subscription services are popping up every day. People will begin to swap around, chasing TV shows they like the look of, cancelling one and moving to another for a few months at a time. There’s so much diverse content out there. If you can’t find several shows that you enjoy then you’re just not looking hard enough.

There seems to be a bit of a shift with films. There are few small films being made and by that I mean 20-50 million dollar movies that are not part of a massive franchise. Watching those films at the cinema are few and far between, or you are blink and miss it with one week at the cinema and then the next day they appear on Netflix or Amazon. So there is a place for them to be made, but I think some should still be viewed on a big screen and just won’t get a chance. I don’t think every single film at the cinema will be a franchise of some kind but I think that wave will continue for a while.

E-sports will continue to grow until it starts appearing on more mainstream TV channels. Social media ‘stars’ are also on the rise and I think that will keep going. We’ve now reached the point where some TV shows feature them in order to try and attract a new audience, even on the BBC. Previously such institutions would have ignored such people but the number of followers they command means more crossovers in the future.

Books. They’re a weird one in some ways. I think we’ll see more adaptations, partly because platforms are desperate for content and there are already a dozen or more SFF TV shows in the works based on big series (LOTR, Wheel of Time, Witcher, Kingkiller, GoT prequel, Expanse, Wildcards etc) and I think there will be more going forward. If this then makes people go back and start reading the books between TV series then it’s a win win situation.

For me comics is the biggest unknown and where it goes is the most difficult to predict. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it and I have some ideas of my own but we’ll see. I couldn’t have predicted some of the shifts we’ve seen since 2000 in terms of media development and I think the next ten years are going to be even more unpredictable.

Flux on Kickstarter

Flux, a SF thriller, is a comic book mini series that I have been working on for years. Most of the time, when writing a novel, you’re doing it on your own. Other people get involved later in the process (agent, editor, copywriter etc), but with comics it’s totally different. It’s a joint effort almost from the start.

Arthur Buchanan Flux

The X Factor

I originally came up with the core idea for Flux and it kept going around in my head but I couldn’t get it to work. Something was missing. I started chatting to a friend, Pete Rogers, about it and suddenly everything clicked. We started writing it together, even doing it in person in the same room at one point, which was a weird and rare experience. We broke the story into 4 issues and then we were off. A little while later we found Maysam, the artist, and as you can see from the art below, he’s rather talented!

Flux Purity Control

Flux is almost here

We’re just about ready to launch the Kickstarter for Issue 1. It will be live in the next few days, but you can register your interest here with Kickstarter so they will tell you the moment it begins.

Issue 1 is completely done and ready to go. You’ll get your hands on it the moment the campaign ends. The art for issues 2 and 3 is also completely finished, so we just need to colour and letter those. We also have some exciting ideas for extras for those issues, but it all depends on how this first issue goes.

What is Flux about?

Here’s the set up – In 1973 the US government invented time travel. The technology was leaked and Time Terrorists began remaking the present by unravelling the past. To fix this a new branch of government, Purity Control, was created. Their timeband technology protects an individual’s timeline from being altered. By law, everyone is required to wear one from the moment of birth to death. The story takes place in the present day where Detective Sarah Ramirez takes on an unusual homicide case that makes her begin to question everything she knows.

Register your Interest

Flux coverSo that’s it. Flux will be going live in the next few days. We’ve got a range of different rewards, with digital comics, physical copies of the book, as well as some other behind the scenes extras and cool features. If you want to know and would like to support this Kickstarter you can register here.

We’ve received some great feedback and praise from comics industry pros who have already read a preview of issue 1, so look out for those too on Twitter. Here’s one from comics superstar, Mike Collins.

“Smartly using the familiar framing of a Police Procedural, Flux introduces us to a world like our own but with a serious twist: Time Travel is REAL. Time Terrorism is real. Echoing the best of Fringe and the X-Files the team take us in a world we only think we understand. Fantastic.”

Mike Collins, artist for Marvel, DC, 2000AD. Storyboard artist on Doctor Who, Good Omens and His Dark Materials

If you’re on Twitter you can stay up to date with the campaign by following FluxFi and if you like the sound of the book please register your interest. Thanks!

 

September TV and comics

Super quick update. The new NEW book is ready to go out to publishers. It doesn’t need another edit. YAY! And that’s where it is right now. With them. So I’m just waiting, which is the hardest thing to do, when all you really want to do is refresh your email every 3 seconds. Thankfully I’m pretty busy with some other secret projects so I’m not dwelling. Well, not too much.

The Good

Justified. This is a non-genre show. It’s about Timothy Olyphant playing a US Marshall, and it’s based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. He’s kind of a modern day cowboy who is forced to go back to his home state of Kentucky and he starts rubbing shoulders with old friends, old enemies and members of his family he’d rather not reconnect with. It’s funny, dramatic, heartwarming, disturbing and just a lot of damn good fun. I’m still not sure why I didn’t watch it back in the day when it was on. I think in my mind it was more like The Shield and I wasn’t in the mood for something so brutal and dirty, so I avoided it. It’s also only 13 episodes a season, which I can do. I’d struggle these days with a 20+ commitment on a series. Great fun, awesome twisty worldbuilding, complex characters with fully fleshed out lives, friends, families and enemies and it’s all one weird incestuous tangle where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business in the small community of Harlan county. Great stuff and well worth a watch.

The Bad

Another Life. This is a new SF show on Netflix starring the excellent Katie Sackhoff. The cast has a few familiar faces and they are all pretty good. That’s about all I can say that’s positive about this show. The Nightflyer is basically, and in many ways, the same show. Aliens make contact. We send out a ship to find out what’s going on. Cue wacky adventures, weird dreams, murder and mayhem. That’s both shows. Only this time around there’s a lot more shouting, bitching and acting like horny teenagers rather than, I don’t know, qualified astronauts. Yes, conflict makes drama more interesting but this was so painful to watch I was embarrassed for the actors. If it gets a second season I won’t be watching.

The Comics

52 from DC comics. 52 is an important number at DC comics for a few reasons. At one point it was the number of titles they were putting out in a month when all titles reset to issue 1. I know, right? Anyway, there are also 52 worlds in their multiverse, Earth 1 to 52, with slightly different versions of their heroes and villains. However, on this occasion, 52 refers to the weekly comic book series they published in 2006. Four writers (Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns) worked together with a number of artists and editors, to put out one comic book a week for a whole year. That’s one big huge story, featuring lots of characters from across the DC universe, for 52 week straight. It was a massive undertaking that had not been done before and has not been tried since.

It was a nightmare of logistics, there were bumps and mistakes along the way, but ultimately they did it. I didn’t read it at the time because it was too expensive, but today, thanks to the joys of comics deals I picked up the whole thing for a great price. Also, as a digital version, storing the 52 weekly comics is a lot easier. I’m taking my time, soaking it all in, and I’m about halfway through at the moment. It’s a fascinating story and a remarkable experiment that explores some remote corners of the DC universe. They pull all sorts of obscure characters out of the cupboard that we’ve not seen for years and take other known characters in new directions. It’s a big love letter to DC comics and given that I was raised on DC comics and they were my first love, I’m in my happy place.

More news on the book stuff when I can share it. What have you been watching? Anything good?

Magebane month – 9 lessons learned

Magebane is published this month and is currently available from all good bookshops, hint, hint. Battlemage, which started my publishing journey, came out in 2015. On the one hand that seems just like yesterday. On the other hand a lot of stuff has happened in those 4 years and the 2 years before that when I was picked up by my agent and we started working on the book together.

I thought I’d write a post about some of things I’ve learned along the way about publishing and writing books.

1. Don’t read reviews. It may sound obvious but I know some people who read them. Take my advice, don’t do it. Goodreads isn’t there for authors. It’s there for fans to talk about stuff. I log on, post my reviews to keep track of what I’ve read year to year, and log off. Good reviews make you feel awesome and powerful, and can be a good thing, as long as you don’t buy into your own BS. But a single bad review can unmake 100 good reviews in an instant. You can’t debate or discuss a person’s review with them. It will linger in your head and annoy you. It’s self destructive and unhealthy. Listen to the feedback of those who matter, close friends, family, people you trust. This is for any writer at any stage.

2. You can’t please everyone. This ties closely in to the first point. For my first trilogy I did books that were roughly standalone, each was slightly different in tone (despite all of them being fantasy) and yet each book built on the previous one, connecting stories and characters. I received some comments from fans who wanted a more traditional 3 part story. For my second trilogy, I did one huge story in three parts (not because of fan feedback I should point out), and I still had some people contact me to complain. Write what you want to write. Again, listen to those whose opinion you value and ignore the rest.

3. Find your people. Writing is mostly a very solitary thing. It has a lot of highs and lows and while social media can help you connect with like-minded people, it doesn’t compare with face to face time. Find other people like you and, away from all recording devices in a quiet space, put away your phones and over tea or a pint, talk to each other. Talking to non-writers can be difficult. I’ve had people look at me with a weird expression when I try to explain how I’m wrangling over a story point or a character. Non-writers can be sympathetic but eventually there comes a point where they just don’t get it. No, it’s not brain surgery or curing cancer but I still pour a lot of myself into my work. Find your people, vent, brainstorm, and just talk openly to one another without judgement. Even though you may write in totally different genres you will have stuff in common. Conventions are a great place to find like-minded people if there’s no one local to you.

4. Don’t listen to advice/ listen to advice. Everyone will have specific writing tips and advice on how to get published. But not all writing tips and tricks, 10 things you must do type advice is worth your time. Anyone that says you must do X to be a writer, such as write every day, is wrong. Anyone who say planning a novel is the only way to write a successful book is wrong. Anyone who says making it up as they go along is the only way to write a bestselling book is wrong. There is no silver bullet. There is no one path to success. Some writers get an agent on book 1 in their 20s. Some on book 8 in their 30s or 40s or 50s. Some never try and are successful and happy self-publishing their work. Decide on your path. Read everything, filter it, take heed of the bits you want and ignore the rest until you find what works for you. Don’t ignore the rules (such as if an agent says only fantasy don’t submit romance etc), don’t be a dick and always be polite.

5. Writing the book is only the beginning. These days there’s so much out there to consume. Entire series of TV shows on demand. Movies at the press of a button on your TV, phone, tablet, at home and on the go. Comics, board games, video games. The list goes on and on. Promoting your work is part of the job. How you to do that, what tools you use, how much time or money you spend on doing that again is a very personal and individual thing. Should a writer have to do it? Probably not, but, there’s a constant battle for people’s time and money and publishers budgets are limited. Some authors work very hard to create a brand, others are a version of themselves through social media. Some just post cat pictures whereas others focus on building email lists, or their YouTube or Twitter following. It’s part of the business today and it’s not going to change for the foreseeable. Accept it and embrace it to whatever level you feel comfortable.

6. You need a business brain. My degree was in business studies. Writing fiction is a brilliant job and it’s exciting. But you also need to balance creativity with realism and pragmatism. Most writers aren’t doing it full time because they can’t afford it. When you’re published you can’t expect to attend every single event and comic-con because you’d bankrupt yourself in no time. So, oddly, I’m glad that I studied business because my marketing, PR and other business skills have proven to be very useful. As mentioned above with promotion, you need to think about the business side of writing as well as the creative.

Also, you need to spend some time on thinking about the commercial side of your book. If you were starting to write a book now, do you think it would be a good idea to write about sparkly vampires? Or a boy wizard with a destiny? If you want to be traditionally published you need to take the temperature of the market and think about this sort of thing. Writing a book because of a trend isn’t a good idea. You still need to write a story that you’re passionate about, but you need to think a bit about the sales aspect of the book. There are lots of alternatives to traditional publishing, in which case, write the book you want to write, but if you write a me-too clone of a famous book and try to get an agent and a traditional publishing deal, your odds will be almost zero.

7. Burnout is real. Writing often is difficult. Doing it every day for months or even years is really really hard. It can cause you to burn out. This has happened to me. I’ve sat down to write and there’s nothing there. It’s not writers block. This is something different. This is where the tank is just empty. And the only way to make it go away is to rest. But the problem is when I’m not writing I feel guilty and think I should be writing, so the temptation is to start writing again and so begins the vicious cycle. I have to force myself to rest, ignore the worries and niggling voices inside, and take days off to recharge. It really help. I come back feeling refreshed and excited again.

8. Publishing is slow until it isn’t. It seems as if every week there are new books being published. Generally, traditional publishing is slow. Like, really really slow. I found my agent in 2013 but Battlemage didn’t come out until 2015. There was a year of editing the book with my agent before it was ready to go out on submission, and then when I found a publisher, it was another year of editing the book with my editors. From my experience, a book typically takes 8-12 months from when you hand in a first draft to when it comes out in bookshops. It can be shorter than that, but it can also be a lot longer. During the normal editing cycle, there are deadlines for handing stuff in (drafts, copy edit, proof) and while there’s always some wiggle room it’s not a good idea to miss your deadline. Traditional publishing is a bit like a superliner ship. It takes a while to steer something that big. The book needs to go through various stages before it’s ready, so if you delay it then it can take a while to correct that. So sometimes you will have a couple of weeks to do something and then there will be radio silence for months while the book moves through the machine. There again, alternative publishing can be faster and more agile, because the machine is smaller.

9. Aim high but prepare for disappointment. Everyone wants their book to do well but the truth is very few will become household names. Getting an agent and then getting a book published is tough. Having tried for many years before I got an agent and then a publishing deal I’m speaking from first hand experience. The odds of me then becoming the next JK Rowling, GRRM, Tolkien etc are pretty much zero. Not every book can be a huge hit. It’s a harsh truth but one that you need to face and accept.

Of course you want it to do well and you should produce the best book you possibly can, but as mentioned earlier, most writers have day jobs too because it’s necessary to make a living. You should know this going in. Writers can make a fair living, and it depends on many factors out of our control, and that’s the hardest part to accept. It’s not up to you. A lot of why that happens, why a book becomes a smash hit, is not within your power. The only thing you can control is the work. If you don’t put the effort in, thinking why bother, then the reception will be poor. So, embrace your readers and take pleasure in the people that do connect with your work.