Guest Author: John Marco

John MarcoI am excited to welcome back to Literary Escapism, fantasy author John Marco, the mind behind the fabulous Lukien and Tyrants & King series.  John was our first guest blogger and he’s here again today to talk about his new release, Starfinder and what it really means to be a published author.

Make sure you keep reading, we’ll be giving away a copy of John’s Starfinder and trust me when I say you’re not going to want to miss this one. If you have doubts, read my review here.
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Ten Years and Counting—What I’ve Learned So Far about Writing and Publishing
by John Marco

Ten years ago last month, my first novel, The Jackal of Nar, was published. It was the culmination of a dream that started when I was a boy, went through many fits and starts, and launched me on the career I have today. You see, I’m a fantasy author. I’m sure I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to do with my life. When I tell people what I do, they get excited and so do I. But being an author is full of ups and downs, especially these days. With books under siege from electronic media and publishers cutting back their marketing budgets, the writing life isn’t what many often picture.

Not that I’m complaining. Let me be right up front about that. I have an amazing, deeply fulfilling job. Over the last ten years I have, believe it or not, thought of doing other things, but I’m sure none of them would give me the same satisfaction. Still, this ten year anniversary has given me a chance to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned, and thanks to Jackie I have a chance to write them down and share them here on Literary Escapism.

#1Not all authors are rich

Boy, did I learn this one fast! It’s a bit embarrassing for me to admit, but I, like so many people, really thought that if you’re a published author you must be rich. When I was a teenager I read an article about a romance author in one of my mother’s magazines. In it was a little sidebar about the author’s lifestyle, and a glamorous picture of her with her hand up to her face, talking about how she had two houses—one in New England and one somewhere in Europe. Wow, I thought—that’s for me! If she could do it so could I.

The reality is that most authors live not in rambling ranches or estates, but in the “midlist.” That’s me—I’m a midlist author. I like to joke and say that it basically means no one has ever heard of me, but what it really means is that I’m not a big name author who gets a lot of press. Instead, I sell enough books to keep getting published. I have wonderful, loyal readers who plunk down their hard earned dollars to keep me writing. And I love them for that.

#2—Writing is a Job

All of the books I wrote before my latest, Starfinder, were long. Big fat fantasies, people call them. Sometimes people ask me how I could possibly write something so long and complicated. The simple answer here is the best—it’s a lot of hard work. Every morning I get up and sit down at my desk just like I did as a technical writer in the corporate world. I tell myself that I have a project to get done and a deadline to meet. In other words, I treat it like a job. That takes some of the glamour out of it, true, but it’s the only way to really make it work. The truth is, on just about any given day, I’d rather be fishing, just like the saying goes on those old license plate frames. And some days I do goof off. It’s one of the perks of being my own boss. Mostly though, writing is work.

#3—People want to help

I really believe there’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Ten years ago when I was just starting out, so was the internet. All praise the internet! The mid-list author’s best friend. It has gotten me in touch with so many wonderful bloggers and reviewers over the years, people I never would have met otherwise. At first I was shy about asking for help, but no more. Right away I learned that people really do want to help an author get the word out about his/her book. My readers tell me all the time how they recommend my books to family and friends, and I always, always tell them how grateful I am for that. Every little bit really does help.

And now we have book bloggers! Wonderful, prolific lovers of books who are so generous with their time that they’ll accept ARCs from an author they’ve never heard of just to lend a hand. Or host a giveaway. Or invite him to guest blog. I try to take advantage of all these situations, not just because it helps to sell books but because it’s fun. It helps to breakdown the sense of isolation that comes from working all alone in a basement office.

#4—Books really do matter

At an early age, most of us are taught that books are important. It’s kind of a mantra we learn from our parents and teachers. We’re supposed to “love” books. We’re told that reading is a vital skill (true), and that books can take us places with the power of imagination (also true). But then, for so many people, books fall by the wayside. As teenagers we “discover” the opposite sex, as adults life takes over, and it’s just a lot easier to sit in front of the TV.

Right after September 11th I had a mini identity crisis. The country was bracing for war, and frivolous things were being called into question. Maybe it was just the shock of what happened, but I remember feeling really stalled. I was in the middle of writing a book called The Devil’s Armor, and just stopped. With so many big things happening, my writing seemed small.

Then, a few months after 9/11 I got a letter from a soldier in Afghanistan. He told me how one of my books was being passed around his platoon and how much he enjoyed it. This book about a fantasy war had, somehow, taken him out of his difficult circumstances and helped him escape, if only a little. Basically, he thanked me. This young man putting his life on the line so that I could stay home safe and happy thanked me. Backwards? Certainly. But it reminded me once again of that thing we learn when we’re young—books matter.

There are tons of other things I’ve learned over the past ten years, not just about writing and publishing but about myself. I’m leaving it at these four, however, because I think they do a good job of encapsulating my experiences. If all goes well, I’ll have another ten years in the business to learn a lot more. Thanks for reading!
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The things we learn.  I’m sure all of us have imagine, at some point, our favorite authors living the luxurious life.  Thank you John for stopping by again and cluing us in to the truth!

Contest Time! We’re giving away a copy of John’s novel Starfinder to a lucky commentator and it’s very easy to enter. All you have to do is answer this one simple question:  What kind of impact do book bloggers have on you?  What kind of impact do you think we make on the publishing industry? John’s comments about book bloggers started me wondering about this.  How much do we really help spread the word?

As always, if you want more chances to win, you can post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer (yes LE is now on Twitter as well!).  The more places you share it, the more entries you get.

Join the Literary Escapism Facebook Page and you’ll get an additional entry.  Make sure you leave a comment (on the page) so I know that’s why you’re joining.  Only new readers to the group will be considered.

For 2 additional entries, subscribe to Literary Escapism’s newsletter in the sidebar. This is for new subscribers only.

For 2 more entries, purchase a copy of any of John Marco’s books, using the LE Amazon store located in the header and then send me a copy of your receipt via email (myjaxon AT gmail).

I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer. All entries must be in by midnight on April 21st.

About Jackie 3273 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.

10 Comments

  1. Blogs have become so important because through word of mouth, they get out the information about an author and their book that can help sales. Also a great community of people where you can share your thoughts.
    Great post!

  2. Being able to read entries written by people who enjoy (or don’t enjoy) particular books, and who blog about them simply to share their personal thoughts, has exposed me to a number of authors I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, shelved as they likely are between mass-marketed ‘pop’ books on a Barnes and Noble shelf. And I think publishers are well aware of that impact as well, especially given the state of print periodicals today.

  3. I’ve had people both thanking me (and cursing me, lol) for increasing their TBR piles and introducing them to new authors. I just really enjoy sharing the love I have for books and reading with others, and I also really like that I’ve met so many wonderful book-a-holics just like me. :)

    I also really enjoy finding new authors/books on other bloggers sites as well as reading their opinion on books that I’ve read.

  4. Book Bloggers have a huge impact on me. I go to them to find out what to read next (or at least what to put on my To Read pile). I used to get all my books from a friend who was big into the genre, but that can only get you so far. Since checking out blogging sites, I have recommended books such as Erikson’s Malazan series and he’s been addicted.

  5. I read author’s blogs and keep up on a few social networks, but I have not spent much time with literary bloggers. Having read this blog and discovering this site, I think it may become one of my check in sites. Thanks!

  6. Literature today is a huge industry. It’s daunting to go into a bookstore without an idea for what I want to buy because of the overwhelming amount of choices. Even then, not all books are cut from the same cloth. The quality veers from abysmal to amazing. Also, there are tons of authors most have never heard of, who are quite good, the only thing holding them back being exposure. Book bloggers, for me, serve as a type of first opinion. If I find a blogger with tastes similar to mine, it helps me know I should stay away from Book A, but Book B, by an author I dont know, is excellent and well worth my time.

    Book bloggers’ affect on the publishing company follows that line, in that they are a tool (no offense meant) for getting author’s names out. Publishers are companies, first and foremost, and therefore need to see an author produce revenue. So the more book bloggers are listened to, ideally, the more small time, but talented authors, will get to have their stories put out into the market.

  7. John’s comment “It helps to breakdown the sense of isolation that comes from working all alone in a basement office” really nailed it for me (though my writing desk isn’t in the basement) as to why I love to visit reader and author blogs. Plus visiting them has the added benefit of allowing me to discover new-to-me authors and to read about how other authors approach their craft.

    As far as the impact of blogs on the publishing industry, just by the number of ARCs out there, I think publishers are very aware of them as a good way to get buzz going for their books. Seems like a win-win to me (unless of course, the book and the blogger aren’t a good match).

  8. It dependes on the book blogger. Those with similar tastes have a greater impact and some of them have led me to acquire several books. The positive reviews of some bloggers only take so far as to read more about the book.
    Well… I don’t know about the impact on the publishing industry, but i do know that some bloggers opinions are more valuable that some of the professional critics.

  9. I think that without this resourse, a lot of the so-called mid-list authors today would struggle even more. I remember loaning the odd book or twenty (before the net)from friends assuring me that said book was a ‘classic’ or some such. Sometimes they were, sometimes they weren’t. Having multiple opinions about a book from different sources ables you to get a fair account of not only the book, but the author. Different sources have different tastes and agenda’s, but with time and a little patience, you can find the one that seems to fit your own tastes.
    As far as helping…absolutely. It’s like the old saying ‘the more they hear, the more they whisper’.

  10. While I don’t blog about books myself I find them interesting and enlightening. I don’t consider myself a mainstream reader. I love to find obscure and as John put it “midlist” authors. I usually find them more entertaining and each author has a unique tail in their perspective worlds to which I can escape. The quintessential blogger will usually be unbiased in their interpretations of books and I usually can pick out decent authors based on the commentary about their literary work. The internet is a marvelous place and without it I’m quite certain I would never have discovered half of my favorite authors. So those of you who like to blog out there please keep up the good work.

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