Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

366,317 words for 2016 + Covenant First Draft Finished! Plus, musings on my first full year as an indy author.

Yesterday, I finished Chapter 34 of my Covenant first draft, bringing my total word count for the year to 366,317, plus whatever the word count of this blog post turns out to be. I wish I could say that all 366,317 words were first draft, but I started out the year with a rewrite of the fourth Dragon Apocalypse book Cinder, which got counted in ever decreasing percentages I went through multiple drafts. There's also some bonus points in there for bring Dragon Apocalypse: the Complete Collection to market. This collection has far exceeded my expectations, selling out twice at conventions, first at the Fayetteville Comiccon, then at the NC Comiccon. I don't know why I should be surprised by this. It's got a great cover and the physical book is probably my best designed yet. When I first started publishing my own work, I had the basic skills needed to get a book into print, but now that I've handled a dozen titles, I'm actually putting out books that I think are probably formatted at or above the level of quality of things I've had put out by actual publishers.

The one downside of being my own publisher is that it's time consuming. It subtracts from the hours I should be writing or at least daydreaming about new books and keeps my attention on stuff I've already written. I felt it this fall especially while I was writing the Covenant first draft, since I was also designing marketing material for the Dragon Apocalypse to use at conventions, as well as experimenting with Facebook ads. The time for business and marketing side of being a publisher has to come from somewhere, and in my case it came from the daydreaming and creative side of being a writer.

I'm not complaining about his, by the way. I knew when I made the decision a few years back to fully transition into indy publishing that it was going to eat up a lot of time and force me to learn new skills. A lot of these new skills bring creative satisfaction. For the person who's never designed a book cover, you might look at the Dragon Apocalypse cover and think, what's the big deal? It's seven words stuck over art done by someone else. But the reality is that this is the end product of easily twenty hours or more of labor. First, I went through a lot of initial sketches of a layout before deciding what I wanted from the artist. Then she and I had multiple drafts to consider, and feedback on increasingly small details as the cover developed. Then, once I had the art, the text work I'd planned to use just didn't seem to look right on the cover. So, I had to go through at least a dozen different font variations, and once I found the fonts that looked balanced, I spent hours tweaking the blend of red to yellow in the letters to give it the right fiery glow. It's a lot of work spent on seven words, but the end result is creative satisfaction.

Still, I wasn't just a publisher this last year. I did write two complete novel first drafts, Big Ape and Covenant. Writing two novels in a year isn't shabby. I go into 2017 with three unpublished novels in the pipeline, the raw material I'll need for a great year of publishing.

Looking back, I'm no longer sure that my infatuation with using word count to track my writing career is the best measure. When I was only an author and other people were dedicated to publishing and promoting my books, word count was a decent tools. Now, since I'm partially a publisher, I'm concerned with other metrics, like how many books I'm selling and how much money is coming in. I'm please to report that these metrics also provide me with a good deal of satisfaction. I haven't added up the totals yet, but 2016 was probably the most money I've earned from writing in the last seven or eight years. I did have a better year all the way back when I got advances for Dragonforge and Dragonseed in the same year, plus sold foreign rights to these books as well, resulting in a pretty nice influx of cash. But the problem with getting a lot of money from an advance is the advance part of it: You're literally taking money out of your future income. So, with traditional publishing, I'd have years with a lot of money, including money for books not yet written, followed by years with greatly reduced income, since I'd already been paid for the books I was turning in. Once a book was in print it might take years to earn out its advance.

Indy publishing has flipped this formula. Now, I work unpaid up front. I shell out money for covers and ads. Whenever a book comes out, I'm starting in a hole as far as income goes. But, the nice thing is that most of the places I publish ebooks pay me monthly. Once I get past my initial expenses, the books turn into a monthly flow of revenue that is easy to track, easy to budget, and paid like clockwork.

For 2017, in addition to bringing more superhero novels into print, I'm planning to try out even more marketing venues. Goodread ads seem like they'd be worth a shot, and I will probably be bringing out the Butterfly Cage books as Kindle Select at first, which will open up direct advertising on Amazon. BookBub also has a paid advertising program for non-discounted books I want to check out.

Looking past 2017, right now I'm 70% certain I'll return to the Bitterwood universe to write another novel or two sometime in 2018. Whenever I go back and look over my Bitterwood stuff, I realize how much I miss some of the characters. It's still my most fully realized fictional world, and there are still plenty of stories that could be told there.

Okay. At some point in that last paragraph, I hit 1000 words for this post. So, I close out 2016 with 367,317 words written.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a nap.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Covenant Update, 366 update

November was a first for me. Just to see if I could do it, I wrote something on my new novel every day, a tricky prospect given that Thanksgiving is a multiday event involving my two families. Still, I made a goal that I'd always write at least 100 words, and I really don't think I ever did less than 400 words except on the very last day of the month when I got to 100 words, got up from my computer, and spent the rest of the evening reading a book.

My results were dreadful. I feel like I had lower weekly word counts for most of the month. Partly because I'd decided to write in little segments, I found myself daydreaming about the next paragraph or two, then stopping. Ordinarily, I plan out entire chapters, or multiple chapters, in my head before I sit down. And since I was writing every day, I didn't feel a particular sense of urgency that was propelling me to sit for long sessions in my writing chair. If I got to 1000 words, I felt pretty good.

Still, I'm already 20 chapters into the Covenant. Admittedly, these are really short chapters. The longest is 3000 words, but plenty are shorter than 1500. I'm falling back into the same streamlined, fast paced style I used for Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. Lots of dialogue, plenty of action, but barely any description of settings or characters. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Short chapters keep the reader plowing ahead. I just finished reading Song of Solomon, which was a fantastic book, but it had long, long chapters, which meant that when I was reading in bed it was easy to flip ahead, see I had another fifteen pages to go in the chapter, and give up on that chapter for the night. If I'm looking ahead and seeing five or six pages, I keep reading.

As readers of this blog know, I'm trying to write 366,000 words of fiction this year. As of last weekend, I was at 319,153. 319,153. I've written maybe another 5000 words so far this week. So, about 42,000 to go. And this blog post counts!