Happy Birthday to Graveslinger & what have I learned so far
I can't believe it, but it's been one whole year already that Graveslinger has been unleashed to the public. To celebrate this, Graveslinger is available for free on the Kindle for June 29th only!
After all this time, I also have some thoughts about what I learned, how to approach the next book, and whether or not it would be worth it to continue the series.
The first book, Graveslinger, was a struggle for me, something that had been incubating for several years - editing, revising, polishing - and though I did try to go the traditional publishing route, I did find that self-publishing was going to be the going way I got Graveslinger out there. Agents weren't interested, as polite as they were with their rejections, and of course, publishers weren't going to even humor me without an agent in my back pocket.
The plus side to self-publishing Graveslinger was the complete control I had on the product. I could do my own art and design (something I had been training for over thirty years - and it was initially going to be a graphic novel which I intended on illustrating too until I realized just how long it was going to take to produce), I wouldn't have to force myself to adhere to trends or cramming romance in my urban-fantasy-horror, and I get a bigger cut on the sales (when there are sales).
The downside has been putting what little money I had into getting the book launched and it looks like it'll be a long time before I financially recover from it. I do hear that traditional publishers would've left new authors to market on their own, so I feel like that would've had the same result had I gone that route except for one thing: My book could've been on shelves rather than print-on-demand online, hidden among millions of others.
I did attempt uploading to Ingram Spark so I could get it on shelves, but I couldn't get past their clunky upload features (seriously, how many times do I have to upload the cover? If it was uploaded, it shouldn't have a second checkpoint to upload it again, and then again, and then again). Perhaps I'll attempt uploading again before the second book comes out; it's possible I uploaded during a bad period or something - I don't know. Hopefully being on shelves could be in the future.
Regarding Graveslinger itself, I've learned a few things to steer clear of with the follow-up books:
I know flashbacks are either hit or miss with readers, but I've always liked flashback storytelling as long as the flashbacks are separated. I separated mine, made it as clear as I could without actually titling the sections with dates (I'm purposely vague with the timeline in general so I'm not adhering to a specific year), and those I chose to place them in spots that would be rest periods after significant events - some readers still didn't like it. This isn't to say I wouldn't use flashback storytelling in the future at all, but now that I have the bulk of Fiya Diaz's origin story out of the way, there's no use for them in the next few books. So readers can breathe easy about flashbacks "getting in the way" - Wrath of the Worm Wraith won't have them, and neither will Breath of Blood or Necrodust.
I have also learned that readers seem to expect the book to only follow one character. I found this strange as many books I've grown up reading had no problem having multiple characters involved. Chapters and sections that would jump from one character to another, protagonist to antagonist, in separate scenes. As long as it was separated, there was no confusion. At least that's what I thought. I don't write my fiction in first-person POV, so I didn't think there would be any confusion. I'm still going to jump to other characters as my stories unfold, but I'm at least minimizing it for a while - we're going to be following Fiya around most of the time. Perhaps I'm just influenced by other media as well, such as long-format TV series and comic books, that had no problem jumping around to multiple characters. I personally like it, but I'll tone it down for now.
Even though I had two editors on Graveslinger (I can't even remember how many sets of revisions I've gone through), I still kept thinking I could've gone for another proofreading pass. I know big authors have an occasional error here and there - I've seen them - so I can't beat myself up too much over it. I felt beholden to finally getting Graveslinger out and meeting the release date I've been promoting, so I had to just let the final draft be final. I acknowledge it isn't as perfect as I'd hoped, but for next time, I'm going to go through several more editing passes before I even set a release date. There's always room for one more editing pass. I'm self-publishing and they aren't going on shelves - I can always push back the date another month for another proofread.
In addition, there are a couple of things I'll remain stubborn on:
I like chapters that are broken up into segments. I did intend for the segments to be numbered, but my formatting software, Vellum, wouldn't allow it, so I used the rune icon in Graveslinger to break them up. I suppose I could've just used an extra space to break them up, but I find that boring for this series.
At least for this series, I'll still illustrate my own covers, for consistency. If I get other books out there, I may finally outsource to another artist (or allow a publisher to do it if those projects get picked up) but for the Graveslinger series, it'll have my artistic stamp on it.
Wow. I rambled on longer than expected. I don't blog often, and I don't know if I'll ever pick up the pace, but here's to Graveslinger being out for an entire year! I may not have gotten rich off of it, not that I expected to, but I'm proud it's out there and can't wait until I have Wrath of the Worm Wraith presentable for the reading community.