Being an Unpublished Author with a Website & Cover Art

After asking a couple literary agents what their thoughts were on an unpublished fiction author having a website, I got mixed results. One said, “You will need it at some point.” Another said, “It’s not necessary.” But the third is what convinced me that it is a must-have. She said, “Agents and Publishers like to see that you are ‘publishing-ready’, and having a website shows you’re committed to becoming published, that you’re invested. Consequently, they take you a bit more seriously.”

That was all I needed to convince myself that I must have a website… but what do I put on the website? Should it be dedicated to this one book/series? Or should it be dedicated to me as an author? What artwork do I put on the website (it can’t just be all text)? So I did some research to see what other fantasy authors have done with their websites. Terry Brooks made his to support himself as an author and all of his books. Christopher Paolini made his just to support his series. I decided that I would make my website about me as an author, so that it’s flexible enough to support all my future books, but currently, it just supports my novel and the proposed future Black Smith series.

I knew I needed artwork, so I commissioned Natalie Salvo for the task, and I must say, it was everything I could have hoped and dreamed. (If you need cover art, you should hire her too! See my Contact page for details). Getting the cover art was not solely done for the website, of course. I whole heatedly intend for it to be my actual book cover (unless a publisher strong arms me otherwise). But, what it really allowed me to accomplish was a professional web-presence, and a never-ending marketing campaign. Every photo, avatar, and icon across all social media and the entire web became my book cover. In addition, once a reader sees the cover, it brings their imagination to life. They can visualize my characters around a common baseline; considering my characters are of an entirely new race of creatures known as elkin, it can be useful.

I recommend that any aspiring author should do the same. I have already begun to experience the benefits of having a website and cover art; though however small, it does not belittle their significance: 1) Beneath my signature when querying agents, I can post a link to my website. 2) On every website that requires membership, I am able to provide my website URL and picture of my cover art for widespread marketing. 3) After reading a query letter, a curious agent will click my link, see the incredible art that was born from my imagination and even be able to read a sample chapter (my prologue). 4) Begin capturing a following early on, so that as THE SOUL SMITH nears publication, I have a much wider audience to tell. 5) I can elaborate on my Bio, where the guidelines of a query letter prevent me from telling my story. 6) It has created a future haven for fans of The Soul Smith. It will be a place where I can reward my fans with additional info (like providing them the short story that I am writing), and keep a record of news on the developments for the rest of the series.

There has only been one drawback. When it was time to submit my full completed manuscript for consideration, I debated heavily as to whether I should put the cover art on. In the end, I erred on the side of caution and held true to the traditional manuscript format. All too often, I’ve heard agents warn authors not to try to deviate from the “rules”. Anything that you do to make yourself stick out is just a red flag to them. You simply just have to wow them with your voice and your writing alone.

The last benefit that it provides is it supports my backup plan (which I hope I will never have to implement). I have all the tools necessary to self-publish, but that is my very last option. If I don’t get an agent this time, I will publish my short story in a magazine, join SFWA, enter my short story in contests, and then put all that in my bio. Then I’ll query more agents. If I still don’t get a favorable response, then I’ll query publishers directly. If I am still unsuccessful, then and only then, will I self publish. My dreams are too big to rely on self-publishing. I want to create an audio book, I want to sell supplemental books that detail the world and contain my short stories… I can see The Soul Smith on the big screen, I can see action figures, video games, board games, replica swords, and other merchandise. My book will be a success, it’s just a matter of how much.


An Author in a Sea of Authors

Becoming a published novelist is the golden apple of the publishing world. With such high prestige, it makes me wonder why so many people follow this pursuit. Shouldn’t the prestige of becoming a published author deter instead of invite? Certainly, striving to be an Olympian doesn’t attract talent the way the dream of publishing a novel does.

But that’s just it. Talent. Many people believe they have it just because they have a story to share, but describing the actions and imagery requires a learned skill. One that can be sharpened and honed. There are certain rules that should be followed when writing, (and believe me, I learned the hard way) and they can be subconsciously gleaned through the osmosis of reading. But the rules and skills of writing still require the conscious mind to analyze and comprehend them.

I belong to the Critters Writers Workshop, a critique group that’s designed to do just that. However, the most prevalent flaw in the writing that I see coming out of Critters Writers Workshop is lack of showing, with too much ‘telling’. In fact, I’m in awe that The Hunger Games ever got published with the abundance of “telling” that occurred in Katniss’ narrations, but I digress.

Let me be clear, I do not consider myself above any of these other authors, for they have had the same driving desire to have their story told on the world’s largest stage as I have, and they never gave up which is a triumph unto itself. My biggest hurdle with my story was changing my writing style from “telling” to “showing,” so I’ve been there and know what it’s like. I was lucky to have my closest friends have the courage to provide me their honest feedback. My saving grace was my openness to criticism. Throughout writing my novel, my ‘skill’ did greatly improve which allowed me to go back and revise my earlier work; a necessary evil.

The sheer number of aspiring authors is still a wonder to behold, and its no wonder that this industry has erected numerous hurdles to prevent just anyone from taking a bite at the golden apple, such as Query Letters, Synopsis’, and author bio’s.  They sound simple, but they are a baited trap if I’ve ever seen one. Designed to filter out the masses, its no wonder agents refer to their submissions as “the slush pile.” Too many aspiring authors come and go, or give up along the way. It has become my goal to rise above, and float to the top of the slush, and I will share my imagination with the world. Persistence, the meticulous formatting and care given to my queries and synopsis, along with the continual refinement of my craft are what will separate me from the crowd. To be standing at the very edge, at the precipice, looking for a bridge to connect me to the global stage… to be so close, failure is not an option.

Website Launched!

Welcome to the realm of Thornwall! Here you will find my rantings about the publishing industry as I begin my journey into it.

I should say that I started down this road with writing a novel first, which began in April 2011. I did no research on the matter; I was in “go” mode. I will say that my saving grace was being open to criticism from all my peers. I finished my rough draft in December 2011. After that I have begun my edits and revisions which has taken me surprisingly longer than expected as time has not made itself available to me since I began my first semester at SDSU for my MBA.

When I was drafting my final chapter, I contacted Natalie to do my book jacket design. I provided her upfront guidelines on the drawing, and what I thought was a detailed description of what she needed to draw. Lesson learned: Providing ample amounts of detail is always better than less. Over the months, she provided me with updated pictures, and I was welcomed to provide feedback over the course of the project… and the results speak for themselves. She brought my character to life.

Once the novel was complete, I joined a writing organization International Association of Aspiring Authors in hopes to further connect myself with the community, and gain valuable resources.

I read “How to Write a Great Query Letter” by Noah Lukeman in preparation for drafting query letters to send to literary agents. (I’ll post my query letter later).

Once the edits and revisions of my manuscript were complete, I drafted my first Query Letter and sent it to Query Shark for professional critique, however she informed me that she had 437 unposted queries, so the chances of mine going through the grinder are slim.

I was hoping to have my query letter professionally reviewed before I submit to Pitch-A-Palooza, but I may just have to submit early. That is everything that lead up to this moment, where I launched my website.

So, stay tuned and follow my blog!