26 week blog challenge

So you want to write a zombie novel? Awesome.

Welcome! I’m partaking in the 26 week blog challenge that was prompted by a post from my friend, and fellow author, Tonia Brown. Over the next half year I will do my best to post one new blog entry per week based on ABC’s. So without further ado – A is for Awesome.

write a book catI get asked at least once a week how much longer the current zombie craze is going to last. I’m also told, with great certainty, that the love of zombies will die out, like the pet rock, or fad diets. Maybe the genre is doomed, but I know one thing is for certain. If we authors keep innovating and finding new stories or new ways to tell stories, the zombie genre isn’t going anywhere and neither are its fans.

One of the most popular book subjects around is post-apocalyptic. Tales of the world ending and what society will devolve into, have fueled our fantasies for years. I read Stephen King’s The Stand when I was a teenager and the book always resonated with me as did Robert McCammon’s seminal Swan Song. These were amazing reads filled with strong characters and astonishing world building. Ever since those days I have wanted to write in the genre.

Along with the post apocalyptic genre has come a surge is self published authors contributions. Post Apocalyptic is not limited to zombies, there are other popular subjects like: EMP, asteroid strikes, tsunami’s, and of course, the mass of “prepper” stories in  which men or women who have prepped for the end of the world, suddenly have to survive and rally other’s around them – or fight them all to the death.

Stories of Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking selling a million books have spawned hundreds if not thousands of authors that all want to try their hand at the craft. Publishing has become easy thanks to Kindle and Amazon’s KDP delivery platform. It’s now just a matter of loading a manuscript onto audible’s author platform, hooking up with a producer, and having your book in audio format in as little as a few months. I’ll also cover other platforms like Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press and Smashwords in later blog posts.z-risen01-02_paperbacks

When my first novel, Among the Living, was published in 2009, I was surprised that anyone would take a chance on a new author let alone embrace one. Since then I have had 9 book releases and all have had a variety of success but none have been more popular than my Z-Risen series which sold over 20,000 books in 2014. To put that into perspective, most books do not sell more than 500 copies over their lifetime and some only sell a few dozen.

This series of blog posts will cover what I’ve learned over the last six years about the craft of writing zombie books, how to sell them, how to promote your work, and how to successfully build your brand. I’ll cover agents, publishers, and the tantalizing prospect of how to become a hybrid author.

A hybrid author is one who works for a book publisher as well as self publishes their own work. This has become very popular in today’s world of shrinking advances and low royalty rates. Hybrid authoring has become very popular because an author can use the two forms of publishing to push their work, but mainly, it provides a steady stream of income. However, this method also comes with some risk as there is an investment that must be made in self publishing. A professional editing job and in hiring an artist to create a cover that is eye catching, can run over $1,000 together. So the question becomes, how can the author guarantee that they will make this investment back, not to mention succeed and make a profit.

I won’t cover, so much, the art of writing itself. This is something that every new author must learn for themselves, be it through a critique group (which I am not a big fan of), or of a professional writing school. I attended Gotham Writer’s Workshop for almost a year before I attempted to sell my first long piece and can’t recommend this form of writing education enough.

I’ve been writing for about half a decade and have made just about every mistake out there. Along the way I think I’ve learned a great deal about writing and how to sell books.

I’ll cover:

  • How to find and work with a good editor
  • How to format (or hire someone to format) your book
  • How to find a good cover artist and work with them
  • How to build a fan base as well as a strong brand
  • What to do with your book when it’s complete
  • What to do at your first or tenth convention
  • How does humor work in horror
  • And many other tips…

There will be a lot of material covered in this series of blog posts but I can distill it all into a TL;DR focused on self-publishing.

  1. Write a good book.
  2. Hire a competent editor and then listen to them. Seriously. Get an editor!
  3. Reach out to other authors and ask a lot of questions.
  4. Pay top dollar for a good cover.
  5. Get started on your next book.

Next week I’ll jump into branding. For now I’ll leave you with this preview…

If you are working on your first book or your fifth book, this is something that you need to be doing now. Don’t wait around for your first book release. It’s important to start building your name and brand right away. The thing about writing is this. If you write a book, the only people who care are you, your mom, and maybe a few other close friends or family members. That’s why it’s important that you tell everyone you meet about your book. If you are at a convention, assume that no one has ever heard of you or seen your books. See you all next week! -Tim


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