Monday, April 1, 2013

How “The Forsaken” Came to Be.

Over the years I've had a lot of concepts for books and screenplays. None has ever taken hold of me and pretty much taken over my life, the way The Children of Cain series has. Where did my inspiration come from? Well, a lot of places really. It came from a lifetime of reading Fantasy and Folklore. It came from reading bad books, that, to my amazement, were bestsellers and thinking, “I know I can write something better than this.” It came from countless hours at tedious jobs that require none of my intellect, that, were it not for letting my imagination run wild, I might have fallen asleep on my feet. Also, I think the idea was germinating in my psyche for quite a while, just waiting for the right moment to blossom into something significant.

Once it did blossom I was filled with utter amazement. I knew right then that this was it, the story I had been waiting all my life to be inspired to write. Suddenly, the woman who could start a million things but rarely ever finish anything was writing nonstop, determined to actually finish a novel--even if it killed her (sometimes I felt like it just might). Finally, after a year or so, the first draft was complete. I know a year is a long time, but my kids never slept and never left me alone, so finding the time to write proved difficult. Next, I had to embark on the phase of writing that every author loves; editing and re-writing. This took another tedious year, during which I started querying publishers and agents. They say you’re not a real author until you've gotten that first rejection letter. Others say that you can get as many as a hundred rejections (or more) before you finally get a publishing contract. So, when I got my first rejection I just thought, “Okay, that’s one down, ninety-nine rejections to go!”  Eventually I did get a publishing offer. However, the company’s reputation wasn't solid. Since I was afraid to sign a contract for five years and end up disappointed and stuck in a bad situation, I declined the offer.

At this point I decided to take matters into my own hands. Over the past four years I’ve taken some necessary steps: I joined The League of Utah Writers, I went to a few Writers’ Conferences, and spent endless hours researching the publishing industry. One thing became apparent; it’s extremely difficult to make a decent living as a writer. It’s sad but true. The average novel can be anywhere from three hundred to one thousand pages. Typically a novel can take three months to a year to write, then, another 6 months to a year of re-writes, edits, and proof reads before it’s considered a polished “publish-ready” book. Get picked up by a big publishing house and you’ll get a signing bonus. Finally, after all that time, you’re now getting paid for your work. However, the publisher has to recoup your signing bonus from the profits of your book once released before you’ll see a cent of your royalties. Depending on how well your book sells--and how large your bonus was--this might take a while. Writers also don’t get much say in the cover art or look of their book. Did I mention that the average royalties an author gets of each book sold is a paltry twenty percent? This is why most authors do not become millionaires.

So, what then? What was I to do? Writing had always been my dream job. I had finished my first novel and was almost done with my second. I couldn't just give it up. This series now had a life of its own and would not be stopped. So I decided to self-publish. Now I know in the past there has been a lot of a negative connotation associated with self-publishing. That’s not so much the case nowadays thanks to the digital age. You can pay a vanity press to publish your work, but you end up paying big bucks to do it. It’ll look the same as a traditionally published book only you’re the investor; it’s your money on the line. Or, you can do what I’m doing, and publish through a company like Amazon. They have a print on demand program set up through Creatspace. Again you can pay their professional team to do all the work and sell it online, or you can do it all yourself. You can higher freelancers to do everything from editing, cover art, and formatting for a lot cheaper than what a vanity press will charge and get the same results. You don’t have to pay to have an inventory of books to sell; they print your book as their sold on the site! Also, you keep 80% of the royalties! I’m not kidding. When I really looked into the whole process it became clear that this was the way to go. I was able to hire an editor and proofreader to polish my book. Since I studied Art and have some Graphic Design training I got to design my own cover and all the interior illustrations; something I've always wanted to do. Thanks to tablets like Kindle, Nook, and the eBook revolution, bookstores are going the way of the video stores… extinct. Most of the reading populace today buys their books online, both print books and eBooks alike. So, being available in the bookstores isn't as big a deal anymore, however, if you’re book is in demand bookstores can order it in bulk at a discount from Amazon and Barnes n’ Noble online. So as I see it, it’s a win/win. Instead of spending all my money on publishing the book, I’m simply investing in advertising, marketing, and publicity.

Sure my book might flop, or it might be a huge success, either way I’m getting to do what I love! And if I make some money doing it, great! But ultimately, I’m an artist at heart. I write because it is in my soul and I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life not writing, not creating. I do it for me. If I should procure a following then I’ll get the chance to share my passion with others. Whether it is one person, or hundreds of thousands of people, it is a blessing and privilege just to be writing.

Now enough about me… go forth and live your wonderful lives, but, remember, in May the next great American novel is coming out and you don’t want to miss it!  ;)

R.J. Craddock