I 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.
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.
#1—Not 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!
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.