Monday, 7 May 2012
Giveaway and author guest post: Joseph Lallo
Yesterday I interviewed author Joseph Lallo. Today he shares with us some of the tips gained on his road to publication. I'm also launching my giveaway of a signed paperback edition of The Book of Deacon, so be sure to read to the end of the post. Enjoy!
Hi, everyone. I’d like to begin by expressing my thanks for being given the opportunity to do a guest post. It is a rare occurrence for me, and as such I often find myself at a loss for a proper topic. All of my ideas either seem boring, or so common that there is nothing new I can say. I’m always nervous that I’ll write about the wrong thing by accident. This time, I figured that for once I could eliminate all doubt and do it on purpose. Today I’d like to talk about the wrong things. As it turns out, they’ve had just as much of an effect on my success as the right things.
I’m an indie author, and that status brings with it a wide variety of desirable traits. I am completely in control of my art. I’ve got the flexibility and nimbleness to adapt quickly to a changing industry. I get to set my own deadlines and make my own decisions. I have, in a word, freedom. On the other hand, I’m working entirely without a net. I’ve got no mentor, no industry pro offering advice. I’ve got no marketing department, no legal council. I’m flying blind. Every step is a step onto thin ice or new ground. Making mistakes along the way isn’t just likely, it is unavoidable. Freedom sometimes means having the right to be wrong, and I’ve found a way to be wrong along every step of the way.
Let’s start at the beginning; the story. An expert will tell you that you should avoid cliches at all costs. What did I do? I wrote a fantasy epic that was practically a checklist of fantasy tropes; unlikely heroes, rebel groups, wizards, dragons, “the chosen”, birthmarks, prophecies, mystical artifacts, a long journey to find and assemble a group of heroes tasked with conquering evil? I had them all. If I’d been working with a publisher, I might not have been allowed to make that mistake. I might have been pressed to tone down this knight in shining armor, or remove this elf or that fairy. But this was the story I wanted to tell. These were the characters I cared about, so they were the characters I wrote about. It was by most measures a poor decision. I’m happy to say that most of the readers I’ve heard from are glad I made it.
If you take the time to read up on proper literary technique, you’ll find no shortage of experts warning you not to let your story wander. You should structure the plot tightly, script the interactions of the characters from beginning to end, and stick tightly to your original vision. No one told me that, and thus my story took twists and turns that even I didn’t expect. Characters grew and developed, interacting in the way that seemed natural for the character that each had become, whether I’d planned for it or not. One of the great favorites of my first book is a dragon named Myn, Myranda’s closest companion. The little creature found her way into the story because, well, I liked dragons and I wanted one in there. I honestly hadn’t planned much beyond that. As I continued the story, though, I found myself continually asking, “Well, how would Myn behave in this situation? How would she treat this person?” The events of the book dictated her personality, and her personality flavored her interactions with other characters. By the time she met the character named Deacon, she had her own ideas about how close he ought to be allowed to come to her precious Myranda. It complicated things, but led to one of my favorite dynamics in the entire trilogy. The same would happen for the characters of Ivy and Ether in the second book. Whole sub-plots emerged, rivalries and alliances sprouted. Throw-away characters like Wolloff in the first book, or pointless scenes like the scene in the farmhouse of a simple farmer named Sandra in the third book, each occurred because it seemed natural that they would be there, rather than because it fit into some bigger picture. I might not have been allowed to make that mistake either, if I’d had an expert editor guiding my hand. Once again, I feel it was a mistake well made.
My mistakes continued long after the book was released. Evidently it is considered bad form to respond to those who review your book. Without a marketing expert to tell me not to, I went ahead and thanked my early reviewers. I thanked the positive ones for their kind words, and I thanked the negative ones for their critiques. As a result, I still exchange emails with some of my earliest reviewers to this day. Evidently I am supposed to lock away my books behind ironclad DRM, too. Silly me, I figured that if DRM annoyed me, it would annoy my readers, so I opted out wherever possible and gave away copies of my own books. The world did not end, and piracy, though present, has not crippled me. From a professional standpoint, I think every single marketing decision I’ve made would be considered a mistake. I’ve even seen quotes from authors saying that, as a writer, everything you write is part of your “professional output”, and thus should never be done for free. No comments, no emails, nothing without a paycheck. To those authors, this guest post would be a mistake. I’m happy to say it is another mistake I don’t mind making.
Naturally, not all of my mistakes have been happy ones. Some of my original covers were train wrecks. The initial version of The Book of Deacon was a minefield of typos and grammatical blunders. I used the verb form (prophesy) instead of the noun form (prophecy) every single time. It took me forever to find the right price, I tortured myself by reading every review, good or bad. But each time I made a mistake, I learned from it. Have you ever whacked your head on the edge of a cabinet, and ended up with a bump on your head? In my family, we call those knowledge bumps. They teach you not to do that again. My adventures in self-publishing have left me with more than my share of knowledge bumps, but working without a helmet has taught me a lot of very important lessons, and helped me to discover quite a few new ways to do things. Sometimes success isn’t just about doing the right things, it is about doing the right wrong things, too.
Knowledge Bumps: Making the Right Mistakes
The Book of Deacon Giveaway!
To celebrate my first ever Spotlight Sunday, I'm giving away a signed paperback edition of Joseph's book, The Book of Deacon! To enter, follow the instructions below.
1) Follow my blog either by GFC, Twitter, Facebook or RSS
2) Leave a comment on this post telling me how you've followed and a way to contact you.
3) A winner will be picked at random after the closing date on Sunday 20th May 2012.
4) The winner will have 48 hours to respond when I've contacted them. If they don't, another winner will be chosen.
5) The giveaway is international.
6 ) Good luck!