Tim and Melia are going through a tremendously difficult time right now. Melia is battling a disease that I’ve come to hate with a red-eyed fire – cancer. In fact, she’s going under the knife tomorrow in an attempt to rid herself of it, and she could use all our prayers. I would ask that you comment on this post in a show of support and love. Thank you so much.
Click on the cover to enter!
Click on the banner to take advantage!
Bet that got your attention, didn’t it? Now, before you run to the tool shed for your pitchfork, I’ll hasten to explain myself. See, this isn’t a “you buncha ingrates” thing. It’s more of a “food for thought” thing. So, as with any good meal, we’ll start out with an appetizer. My personal favorite is stuffed mushroom caps. So:
Mushroom #1 -The books I’m talking about are good books. Good story, nicely laid out, colorful characters, and it moves along. Well edited, too. You know, a quality read.
Mushroom #2 – I’m a reader right in there with ya. I’m a writer, and my debut novel “The Clearing” came out March 1st (shameless plug, wasn’t it?), but I’ve read hundreds of books. So, I’m a much more prolific reader than writer, and always will be.
So, onto the salad (peppercorn ranch for me):
I’m the project manager for a small civil engineering firm, but I got my start in this field as a land surveyor. A few years into stomping through water to my knees, dodging water moccasins and copperheads, and being bitten by every bug known to man, I got a little disenchanted, and decided to try something else. That side path ended up being sales. (As an aside, if you’re a salesperson, my hat is off to you – incredibly hard profession). I’ll not go into what I sold, but what I will say is part of my training included motivational seminars. See, unlike normal nine-to-fiver’s, sales people have no schedule. You have calls to make, appointments to keep, and there usually ain’t no check unless you’ve created one. So, in order to give your existence some order, you have to decide what you want to earn – or need to earn – to survive. If it’s 50 grand, then you figure out how many self-propelled roller skates you have to sell to hit that mark. Simple, right?
Now, the meat and potatoes (hey, I’m a country boy from Pennsylvania – what did you expect?):
Say a writer – a part-time writer – makes $50,000 a year during his day job. That translates to a couple pennies over $24 an hour. Okay.
Now, I’m going to use my path to writing my book as a template, onaccountabecause I don’t know anyone else’s. I wrote “The Clearing” in about four months, part time. Say, three hours a day, four days a week. So that comes out to around 150 hours. Then I edited the stink out of it, before sending it to any prospective publishers. I did that over about a month, so using the same hours, we can add on another 48 hours for that. Total so far is basically 200 hours.
So, my work gets accepted by Mr. Tim Taylor at Greyhart Press (and I thank the man every time I mention his name – thanks boss!) I won’t go into all the details, but Tim assigns Ms. Terry Jackman to assist me in editing it formally. (I thank her every time, too – thank you, ma’am). Over the next few months filled with multiple (read endless) emails, we craft a real book out of a lump of gooey swamp muck. I mean, months. And endless. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it took me almost as long to edit it as it did write it. Seriously, it’s much much harder re-writing a scene, because it’s firmly set in your head, and really, really rough to get out. Ask anyone.
So, we’ll say another 150 hours to edit. Add in the original 150, plus the original editing, and we’re up to 350 hours. You see where this is going?
Now, the marketing. I might be a little over the top from some others in this regard, because I’d never even stepped foot in Facebook or Twitter, and didn’t even know what a blog was. And it’s at this point that I’ll interject another shameless plug and tell anyone who hasn’t fled by now that last week I enjoyed the 30,000th view on my blog, and enlisted my 3,600th follower. Go me! Anyway, I digress. It takes awhile to do that – to get other writers’ friendship and support, to recognize what needs to be done from a selling, hobknobbing, blogging, twittering, reviewing, re-blogging, commenting, and liking standpoint. Trust me, I left 1,000 hours in the dust. So, for the sake of argument (that’s my argument, ’cause I’m the one writing), we’ll go with 1,350 hours spent by launch day. And I’m estimating light, believe me.
One-thousand-three-hundred-and-fifty hours. And I hadn’t made a dime. Heck, my book had’t hit the stands.
Now, let’s say when my creation blew into town, it rocked the world a little (In anticipation of said event, I’d been purchasing candles since day one, and my house was looking like a Peruvian monastery). Let’s say it got a good reception, got some great reviews, and manages to hit 5,000 sells by March 1, 2014. (I might point out at this juncture that I know quite a few authors that would sell any one of several relatively major body parts to sell 5,000 books.) I’m not going to tell you what I make a book – but when an e-book sells on amazon for $2.99, I think you can figure out it ain’t much. Let’s theorize I get a dollar of that.
Anywho, for the year between March 1st’s, I continue to blog and market, market and blog. By the way, I’m now on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Librarything, LinkedIn, Google+, Digg, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Tumbler, and hell, probably a dozen more sites. Not to mention my blog, of course. Among all those I easily eat up 2000 hours in a year. More. But we’ll say 2,000, added to the original 1,350 to give us 3,350 hours spent on selling my book. That means (drum roll please) 5,000 books gets me (do I here the sound of blaring trumpets?) 5,000 bucks – or $1.49 an hour. Before taxes. And that doesn’t include a lot of things that go on after publishing. Going to book signings, for instance. Or being featured in a book group. A blog tour, say. One could argue doubling the original two thousand hours, easy.
So, see, there aren’t many writers (with apologies to guys ‘n gals named Koontz and Steele) who are working towards retirement here.
We do it because we love to do it. Because we want our work to be out there on someone’s nightstand, on a library shelf, or in the book bag of a child. It’s not about money – it’s about creation. And if, for the sake of a few pennies, a whole slew of people didn’t hunker down over their desks, laptops, and writing pads and pound out page after page just in the hope that one day someone, somewhere, might enjoy a few hours away from life on this ball of mud – well, the world would be a much, much darker place, indeed.
Kindly remember that, the next time you throw open the door to a book store or dial up Amazon, won’t you?
As you may have heard, Armand (my fellow writer at Greyhart Press) has a new novel out, a vampire thriller entitled “VampCon”.
TR: Hi, Armand…how are things?
Armand Inezian: Hi, Thomas. Things are great. VampCon is doing well, and I couldn’t be happier!
TR: So, how old were you when you wrote your first piece?
Armand Inezian: First of all, before we get into the questions, I want to thank you for having me as a guest on your blog which has really turned into an exciting place for exchanging ideas and finding news about writing!
Now to answer your question, I actually began writing in my early 20’s, as a college undergrad.
TR:What was it, and in what genre?
I became very interested in how genre shapes fiction. For traditional screenplays, there are very strict rules of formatting. For example, at approximately the 1/3 point of a traditional Hollywood script, the hero should be locked into the conflict with no way out. At the 2/3’s point, the final conflict should be looming, and so on. I was drawn to the inherent struggle between the rules of genre and that sense of freewheeling imagination that writers possess. I feel that greatest genre fiction (fantasy, mystery, thrillers) emerges when these two forces clash and then synthesize, producing something amazing.
To visualize: Creativity is like waves pounding the shore, and the rules of genre are all those big rocks on the shore. Each one shapes the other.
I didn’t really get serious about writing fiction, however, until my late 20’s, when I enrolled into the MFA program in creative writing at Emerson College. It was there that I started hammering out my first publishable works, which were mostly short stories loosely based on my Armenian heritage and Armenian post-Genocide-immigration. A number of those stories were published in literary journals. And just for the record, they are nothing at all like my new novel, VampCon.
TR: What pushed you along in your writing?
AI: I feel like most people want to tell stories; it’s just that we tell our tales in different ways. Some people like to sketch or paint. Some people take pictures. Others sing and play music. I happen to be drawn to novel writing, but I’ve always felt like most people want to tell a story! Maybe I’m wrong on that.
If I wanted to analyze myself- something I am kind of afraid of doing- I guess I would say that I have a pressing need to share stories, that I’m good at expressing myself with writing, and that I have the sort of personality that derives an odd pleasure from the slow task of crafting long manuscripts and then revising and revising and revising.
You know, it’s weird, but when I think of writing- serious writing that is- which I have pursued for almost 15 years now, I often imagine myself walking across a huge icefield that just goes on and on. Behind me is an empty landscape littered with my bootprints. Ahead of me is just more blank ice and snow. That’s how novel writing feels to me. It’s a lot of travel and very little arriving. I feel like every once in a while, I run into someone on the road, or arrive at a small camp or town, but then I push off and continue on into the empty landscape again.
The whole experience is oddly lonely and monotonous. You’d think I might hate it, but I don’t. I guess I’m like those damn polar bears. It’s in their nature to amble around on expensive, empty ice fields. It’s in my nature too.
Actually I’m not sure that that last paragraph made any sense, but maybe it gives you a feel of what’s going on in my head.
TR: What have you written since then?
AI: From about 1999-2006, I worked on short literary fiction 9as described above). In 2007, I started a novel that never went anywhere. Then I spent from 2008-2011 working on my current novel, VampCon, a dark fantasy thriller.
TR: What was the inspiration for VampCon?
AI: Well, actually spent a lot of the late 80s and early 90s immersed in comic book and role-playing-game culture. I guess I’m not so different from a lot of the men who grew up during that time, so I have always had an interest in elements of horror, action, and adventure. That sort-of laid the groundwork for my interest in vampire stories.
The initial, specific impetus for VampCon first surfaced 2003. At the time, I was working on my short story collection, but I would occasionally take breaks from it and just engage in some free writing.
One of those bits of free writing was a short scene I wrote about a blue-collar vampire guy being delivered a mysterious message by a giant bat. The message was an invitation to attend a massive vampire gathering. There were some specific images that really stuck with me: the vampire working in a garage, a huge bat, the invitation, and- although I never wrote it-I had the notion that the vampire’s son (who was an ordinary human) would somehow intercept the invitation and show up at the vampire gathering. That was the specific bit of freewriting that gave rise to VampCon.
At the time, I was very busy with other stuff, so those scenes never really got developed beyond sketchy chapters. It wasn’t until 2008, when I suddenly had some extra free time, that I got back to it and started running VampCon in earnest.
TR: Tell us a little about VampCon, and where it’s available.
AI: Here is my one favorite sentence plot summary: Jonathan Stoker, a reluctant vampire, must come to terms with his own dark side, and his responsibilities to his human son while fighting a conspiracy that holds the key to the creation, and possible extinction, of all vampires.
VampCon is a blood and guts thriller with some serious plot twists and swivels, and it’s definitely not a romance. In fact, it’s pretty much anti-Twilight.
TR: Is there a particular place or setting where you get your writing ideas?
AI: Not really. I will say that, before I had kids, I used to feel like I had to prime myself to get into the writing mood. I used to do things like go to coffee houses, or take a nap, or take a long walk to sort of “gather my spirits” and “get in touch with my art” and then proceed to writing.
I wouldn’t mind doing that stuff again, but nowadays, that all seems very dainty to me. I work two jobs (teaching and grants administration) and have two small kids at home, and said home is in constant need of repair (I’m currently rebuilding the front fence), so at this point in my life I’m just a scrappy, opportunistic dude trying to write a page or two whenever and wherever I can.
My writing life is actually very disjointed, and my schedule is very choppy. Because of that, I tend to make more mistakes than other writers, so I spend a lot of time in revision which partially explains why VampCon took so long to finish.
TR: What made you choose either traditional or independent publishing?
AI: As much as I love my publisher, Tim Taylor over a Greyhart Press, I have to honestly say that there was no choice involved. After I finished VampCon, I took in every agent that I could find. My reasons for approaching agents are- for me anyway- pretty clear-cut. The only way to get a major publisher interested in your book is to have an agent, and the big publishers pay a lot more, and they have a lot more support in terms of finding shelf space, and so on. Plus, I’ve just always wanted an agent, just so I could say that “I have an agent!” I yearn for an agent the way some men yearn for an expensive car or to win a political election. At one point I even told my wife, “If I can just get an agent out of this, I would probably just start crying!”
I got pretty close. About 10% of the agents whom I approached asked for the manuscript, and a couple of them praised it, but none of them were able to actually sell it. It just wasn’t happening for me.
Once I had exhausted the agent route, I immediately followed up by going to the small presses. That was choices. I definitely wanted to work with a publisher if I could (as opposed to self-publishing). So, you could say my “choice” was based on process of elimination.
Having written all that, I do have to say that I’m delighted with the treatment I’m getting from Greyhart. They have been super supportive in every aspect of publishing. Greyhart spent a lot of time and money on editing and designing my book. And they have been very active in promoting it. Also, I know that I have my publisher’s ear (that is to say: access to Tim Taylor) in a way that I would never have my publisher’s ear if I were with the major press. Additionally, Greyhart has a very generous royalty program. So, despite not having an agent, I do feel very lucky, and I’m a happy camper!
TR: If you had to choose the most important element in an author’s platform, what would it be?
AI: I have no idea. I would say good writing, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I’ve seen a lot of horribly written books do well.
Just for me, my goal is to write the best story/ plotline that I can and then make sure that the actual language- the phrasing and word structure- makes the act of reading itself feel seamless. I try avoid being boring at all costs.
As for most of the other stuff that I do, marketing and promotion and positioning myself, I pretty much steal those idea from anybody I can, like from web sites, or how-to books, or other writers whom I know.
TR: What mistakes have you made in regards to publishing and marketing your work, and what will you do differently in the future?
AI: I don’t have a good answer to that one! VampCon is my first book, and I’m in the midst of promoting it right now. Get back to me in a year or two!
TR: Do you have an idea for your next book?
AI: I’m working on the sequel to VampCon. It’s a book called BurnWave, and it follows a number of the main characters from VampCon.
Writing BurnWave is actually part of a promise that I made to myself when I was about one year into VampCon. At the time, I was suffering one of my usual “bouts of doubt”, and, in order to calm down a little bit, I started keeping a little journal of mantras, ideas, and philosophies about writing and life.
One of the little mantras in my book is what I call “The One Book”.
“The One Book” says: “I am not a writer. I am one book.” It’s an important distinction. And that book is VampCon. It really helped settle me down, and it also made me realize that if I wanted to be honest about the whole process, I needed to give everything I had to VampCon. And that included assuming that it would do well enough to require a sequel. In fact, I feel like writing the sequel is part of marketing VampCon.
Anyway, based on my slow-moving schedule, BurnWave should be out in 2015 or so.
Thanks so much for having me!
“Greyhart Press and author Armand Inezian are doing a giveaway! A copy of VampCon (either ebook or printed version in the USA, and in a common eBook format in all other markets) will be forwarded to one lucky commenter (chosen at random). For a chance to win, just leave a comment below this interview. Please also leave your email address, so they can contact you if you win! Contest valid for 3 days (72 hours) after initial posting”