Tag: Adam Dreece.

At a random outing to my local Chapters bookstore, I met author, Adam Dreece. Being that this store is one of my more avid haunts; it was the store manager who introduced me to Adam. She told me that, Adam, was one of the most engaging self-published authors she’d ever met and that this guy is going somewhere.
Looking at his book display in the store, Adam, stood dressed in a dapper steampunk-esque vest and monocle. The table was arranged with accolades to his latest books, complete with professionally put together banners. I was impressed immediately at his dedication and obvious passion for his stories.
Today, I have the privilege of sharing with you, a peek in to the inner workings of this indie author.
So – I introduce to you, Adam Dreece.

 

Adam, you’ve just released your fourth novel in The Yellow Hoods series. How many books are left before the series is complete? And when can we expect them to be released?

The current story arc is going to wrap up in Book 5. However, in Book 4 I’ve laid the groundwork for book 6 (possibly 7 as well). There’s one more piece of The Yellow Hoods storyline that I want to do before I wrap things up, which will likely be 1-2 more books.

 After that, I’m planning on doing more books in the same world. More on that when I get closer to it.2015-11-09 14.20.53

Having read the first two books in your series, I admire how you’ve combined both the steampunk and fairy tale genres together. Can you tell us a bit about the storyline of this series, and what inspired you to write it?

 The story is really one about coming of age, not just of the Yellow Hoods trio (Tee, Elly and Richy), but of ideas that shape society. The story reveals two secret societies, the Tub and the Fare, and how they’ve succeeded or failed at exerting their influence over the past few decades.

 Our fairy tale stories and rhymes are their real world events, whether that’s Santa Claus represented as two brilliant inventors in their twilight years, Nikolas Klaus and Christophe Creangle, or the Tub which is lead by a butcher, a baker and a candle-stick maker.

 For those unfamiliar with steampunk, or those that know it well, I call The Yellow Hoods an ‘Emergent Steampunk’ series. Rather than feeling like you are walking into a Victorian Clockwork world, you start with a small mountain town. All the elements of invention, and the history of the world as well as where its going, are woven into the storyline itself.

 As for inspiration, well my daughter gave me the nudge to write the first story, Along Came a Wolf. I was stuck writing something else, and she suggested I take a silly bedtime story I’d told her once and give it new life, and I did. From a world perspective, I first visited Steampunk back in 2000 when I wrote a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game supplement for a contest being run by Wizards of the Coast, but it failed to get submitted correctly. Part of that world I’m currently reusing in my free online serial, The Wizard Killer.

What advice do you have for new writers who are just starting out?

COVERMASTER-Book 1-MasterRecognize that there are two great fears: Finishing and Judgment, and find a way to conquer them. It’s hard to declare something finished, that you are going to move on. I see so many people take a redwood of an idea, and whittle it down to a toothpick. Learn to let go and move on. For every story you complete, you will become stronger and better, and you will have better ideas and be able to execute them even better.

 And then comes the Judgment. You need to get early feedback (beta readers) and listen to what they have problems with, and look at their proposed solutions as more hints of what may have bothered them. Their concerns are real, though their solutions are rarely the right ones. It’s hard to get feedback, to listen to it, because while we are fierce in creativity, we are all sensitive to words that affect our sense of worth. All I can say is that the difference between being an author versus being a writer, is putting your work out there and learning to let the arrows harm you as little as possible, and learning to let the praise touch you.

There’s a world of potential marketing avenues out there for indie authors. Do you have any marketing tips or strategies that have worked well for you?

Connecting with people genuinely and directly on Twitter has worked. Genuinely means without automation. No automated thank yous, no automated anything except maybe scheduling some tweets regarding blog posts that people might find useful. Another thing is not blasting your following with ads, because you will quickly get muted.COVERMASTER-Book 2-Master-V2

 Offline, meeting people directly at expos like CalgaryExpo has been amazing for me. Building a fan base is a grassroots thing, and you do it by earning one reader and fan at a time. You have to get out of your shell, put on the author hat, and meet people because no one will be better at convincing them to give your book a chance than you.

Do you have a favourite author or book? What was so memorable about their works?

You know, this is the first time during an interview I actually remembered to mention this book, it’s Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. The characters and their contrast still sticks with me, and the humor. I loved that book.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: http://TheYellowHoods.com
Blog: http://AdamDreece.comPromo - focus on Book 1
Facebook: http://facebook.com/TheYellowHoods
Twitter: http://twitter.com/adamdreece
LinkedIn: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/adamdreece
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/adamdreece
Indigo – http://smarturl.it/IndigoAdam
Amazon – http://smarturl.it/AmzAll
iBooks – http://smarturl.it/iAdam
Kobo – http://smarturl.it/KoboAll
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AdamDreece
Book Trailer: AdamDreece.com/booktrailer

I know that writing hasn’t always been your profession. Can you tell us a bit about what you did before you became a full-time writer, and why you made the change?

Book 3-MasterWhen I was in high school I started doing two things, writing stories and programming. Okay, and playing lots of Dungeons and Dragons, so three things, but they were all inter-related. From there, programming and writing stayed with me.

 For 25 years I did nothing with my writing, and for the past 20 years, I’ve been in software. Specifically, I quickly went from being a software developer to a software architect. I’ve been the write hand on projects as big as $100 Million (I can’t say that without thinking of Doctor Evil), and have worked for Microsoft and in Silicon Valley.

 The drop in oil prices and the sudden scarcity of contract positions for me gave my wife and I an opportunity. We decided that my first year as an author had gone really well, and that it was worth making some life changes to allow me to go full time, and I did. A lot of the skills that I developed as a software guy have paid huge dividends for me, such as being able to strategically think, to look at the end result and figure out how I might get there, and being able to work really damn fast and well.

Can you tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it? What inspired you to choose those images?

The initial cover we had when we launched at CalgaryExpo 2014 wasn’t what everyone’s used to seeing. We listened to the feedback from the potential readers and customers. We were then faced with a decision, do we seek out someone who can create the cover that we really want, or do we keep going with what we have? That’s when we found Xia Taptara, and he’s been doing the amazing covers ever since.

 For each of the covers, I’ll send Xia an idea or two, capturing a particularly moment or feeling of the book, and he’ll send me back a few concepts. They always blow me away.

When I look back at the novel I’ve written, I find bits and pieces of my own life that have made it in to my work. Can you share with us a bit of your life that has made it in to your stories?

Wow, there are several. The map itself is littered with several. But probably the one that is absolutely the most personal is Mounira and dealing with her pain in book two. I went through 15 COVERMASTER-Book 3-Mastermonths of horrible scar tissue pain years ago, which was improved to became liveable chronic pain. I understand what it is to have hot, raw pain that wants to consume you. I know how it can eat away at who you are, what you want and more. And putting that into an eleven year old kid, someone who was so filled with joy and innocence, I wanted to walk with her through that journey of taking the demon that was pain and absorbing it, making it a strength rather than her enemy. I have a lot planned for her in the future, I hope I get to go there with her.

Other than being able to write books at a fantastically fast pace, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I really miss table top role-playing, but when I’ve tried to return to it, the complexity isn’t there for me. I played a miniatures game called Heroclix for a while and miss it too, I don’t have the time or friends to play it with these days.

 As for unique talents? I’m told listening is one, and my style of writing is another. But then again, what do I know?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There’s nothing as empowering as taking that risk for a dream, stepping off that cliff and seeing if you can fly. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, but more than anything, it reminds us that our ideas are worthy and powerful.

 

close up of a match

Lesson #1 from 6 months as FT Author – Burn Out

Six months ago I ended my career as a full time software architect, and part time writer, to become a writer full time. I posted a few blog entries leading up to it and as I started, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped. Here are the posts: Leading up, Week 1Week 2, Week 3, Week 4.

Lesson #1 – BURN OUT

When I started writing and publishing back in early 2014, I was on fire. I was working my job, spent time with my family, AND got my first two books out and they became Amazon & Calgary Herald best-sellers.

So when I started being a full-time author, why did I slowly find myself needing my evenings to veg out at times and then…sometimes…feel like… I was…just…coming…to…a…crawl. At first, I thought it was because I was doing too many things. I was doing a LOT of things. I was doing book signings like a mad man, I was a storm on Twitter, I got more two books out (which I had started writing before going FT). Was this the problem?

JUDGING YOURSELF

It wasn’t the problem, not really. The root of my burn out was that I didn’t have any real idea how to judge my efforts. I didn’t quit my day job and start living off the revenue from my books. My contract ended, and with the oil plunge, my wife and I decided to invest in what I was doing and have her carry the burden. That left a psychological burden on me that took a long time to figure out, which was how can I judge that I’m delivering the “value” I need to my family for my actions? By not having an answer that I could truly embrace, it zapped my energy.

I was spending 50 units of energy doing great stuff that wasn’t writing. I was spending 50 units of energy on writing. And I was spending an extra 100 units of energy doubting myself and trying to figure out what I wasn’t doing that I really should be doing. Recommended daily budget? 80 units of energy MAX for a sane person. This wears you down.

You can tell yourself that this is a long term thing, but if you’re like me, you still need short term indicators to let you know that you’re doing something good. Seeing books sell on their own, without me to push them, whether online or in bookstores, is a good indicator. It doesn’t need to be much, it just needs to have a slow and steady pace that can be built upon.

What I had to do was recognize this, and start looking at the constituent pieces that were contributing to this. It starts with being honest with yourself.

BEING HONEST WITH YOURSELF

I use the term “full-time” author but the reality is, it isn’t really full time. It’s about 2/3 time, and that’s because I had from 9-11am, and then from about 1-3pm every day. That’s 5 hours. I’d often, but not always, get an hour or two in the evening, so let’s average that to 6. That’s 3/4 time, at best. From 11-1 I was with my young boys, and by 3pm they had all they could handle of being with the nanny before wanting to play with daddy (in a good way). If I wasn’t at a meeting somewhere, then by 3pm my sense of guilt and duty to my kids would start distracting me, start eating me up.  Add to that I was up, almost every night either with them or for another reason, so I was getting poor sleep. And yet, my mind was expecting me to be producing at peek, 8-11 hours a day.

I had to learn how to balance my schedule so that I could productive, properly. I had to cut things out, sharpen my focus and get out of the house when I needed to accomplish something. I love my office, and my kids, but I fail everyone if I don’t get out of the house to get X done because I will be grumpy about it, whether I know it or not.

I have never had more respect for stay-at-home parents than going through this. If you think it’s a simple job to be screamed at by a 2yo for hours, and then trying to focus, try it. They didn’t need water boarding in Gitmo, they needed angry toddlers.

After you’re honest with yourself, you need to learn how to breath.

BREATHING

My wife, my friend Mia, and others have told me that I need to BREATH. And by that, they mean allow myself real opportunities to recharge. The problem is, when you always feel like your constantly behind and failing yourself, how do you do that? Do you delay your next release and watch some TV? Well, that just builds anxiety in me. All you need is just six weeks of uninterrupted time to catch up, right? The problem is, there is no catching up. That anxiety hole just builds.

I finally cracked this nut for myself really recently, at least I think I have. I wouldn’t accept, deep down, slowing my writing and publishing pace any more than I already have (I want 2 novels and a novella out a year, at least). After I have 10 books out, I might be able to convince myself, but for the moment, no. So what could I do that would lower my stress level? And then something donned on me.

I tried writing the first snippet of a fun story that I wanted to do, called Steampink. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing a different part of me, and that’s when I realized that I’m missing an element. I’m going to dedicate two months in the year where I’ll only write and submit for anthologies or magazines, it won’t be towards one of my books. It’ll allow me to write shorter pieces, fun things where I can create a world and then send it off, maybe to think about it again at a later point if I really liked it. This would also further my authoring career in a way that is clear and concrete.

SELF-AWARENESS

The first six months have been filled with a lot of challenges I didn’t expect, but stopping and thinking about them, talking with someone about them, breaking them down, it’s the only way to last. I’ve already seen some indie authors who started when I started, leave “the business.” I’ve done very well in my first year, and my second year has been even better. I have to keep in mind what is great progress and what is just fantasy-impossible, and judge myself appropriately. I have to find the things that will inspire me, invigorate me, and treat myself as an asset and now a consumable.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a marathon, it’s a pilgrimage. It’s a pilgrimage to the land where, if we can get there, we yell “HOLY COW, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!” And you know what, we better enjoy the journey.

Adam DreeceGuest Blog by: Adam Dreece

Indie author Adam Dreece created the bestselling Steampunk series The Yellow Hoods — which has become a hit with kids from 9-15 as well as with adult readers. You can find out more about Adam Dreece and his books at www.adamdreece.com

 

Book Review – The Yellow Hoods, Along Came a Wolf – By Adam Dreece

The Yellow Hoods

Through serendipitous chance I stumbled upon this wonderful book by author Adam Dreece. The Yellow Hoods – Alone Came a Wolf is the first in a five book series, three of which are published to date. This book is classified as emergent steampunk, which is for ages 9 to 12. Even though this book is for a younger crowd, I still enjoyed it very much. I’m also told that this series progresses with the reader, turning in to a more pre-teen/young adult type read in the following books. So, it’s a series the can grow with the reader.
Adam Dreece has artfully combined the fairy tale and steampunk genres together in a new and refreshing way. For any reader who hasn’t experienced steampunk fiction yet, this book is a wonderful introduction into that world.
There were many parts of this book I liked, one of which was the author’s play on words with his characters names. LeLoup… The Big Bad Wolf. Egelina-Marie and Bakon… Eggs and Bacon. And of course Bakon’s brothers, Bore and Squeals… the three pigs. But, my favorite part of the book came on page 172.

(SPOILER ALERT)

The main character Tee, has just vanquished her foe LeLoup. Her mother and father have come to find her face down in a pile of leaves. She rolls over, checks herself for injuries, and admits to her parents that LeLoup is defeated by the yellow hoods. Then her mother asks her…

“You forgot something,” said Jennifer.
“What’s that?” asked Tee.
“Your triumphant La-la,” answered here mom, sweetly.
Tee thought about it for a moment. For years, Tee had added her special exclamation to things she’d done – but none of them had been as serious as this.
Sitting on her dad’s knee, and looking at the trees and their enchanting, colored leaves, she said, “Mom, I think I might have outgrown it.”
Her parents hugged her tightly.

This is the exact moment in the book when Tee starts to turn from child to adult. It’s the first glimmer of realization that things are serious and not just fun and games. I love coming of age moments in books! They are my absolute favorite.
As the author recommends, so do I, this is a book series for ages 9-99! I give this easy, fun read a 5 out of 5 stars.

 

Happy Reading.

 

Red dice and playing cards on a casino table

Book Promotion – The Gambler’s Dilemma

I just did a book promotion. I had my book listed in several newsletters. I had some sales, not what I’d hoped, and I saw my book rise to #3 in YA Steampunk and I think #14 in Fairy Tale. The experience was interesting, and I found myself going through some of the thoughts below. The more I thought about it, and had people asking me about how my promo was going, sharing their experiences, the more I realized that there was something I needed to call out, to blog about.

We’ve all heard about the fabled people who made THOUSANDS from a great newsletter. They make it sound like it was simple. I actually know a guy, and I’ve spoken with him face to face and I believe him, who made $18k. It’s not a joke, it’s not an exaggeration, he did. Thing is, it was about a year and a half ago which is eons ago in online marketing terms. Second thing, he’d also sold 90k books over a few years so he had a bit of a name.

There’s a real dark side to all the indie book promo stuff, a dark side that uses our fear of doing something wrong, our hope to succeed and then, our fear of shame, against us. There’s an enormous industry out there that all it does is feed off of prospective writers and indie authors.

“Hey buddy, you got a book? How’d you like to be rich? All you got to do is this…”

Red dice and playing cards on a casino tableWhere we start

You want to promote your book. Maybe you can get on BookBub, the most famous of the newsletters? You look at their website and your imagination goes wild over the stats they have that say how many copies the average book in a particular genre newsletter usually sells. If you got only half of that, or a quarter, you’d be laughing. Before you consider submitting for it, you’ve got to think about price.

First there’s the question of whether or not you offer your book for free or for $0.99, or maybe for $1.99. Sales have crawled to a stop where there seem to be more and more days between them. You’ve got two books, so maybe you decide to go free for one, hoping that the other one will get followup sales. There are a lot of blogs out there that say this is the thing to do. But on the other hand, there are the blogs that say you’ll get a lot of free-hogs, coming in to download your book ONLY because it’s free and not doing anything other than raising your hopes, or potentially leaving you terrible reviews because they didn’t like that your book about fairies had, you know, fairies in it.

You decide that you only people who are willing to actually buy something, to have a level of commitment, and so you set the price at $0.99. You decide to use Amazon Countdown deals, even though that will isolate anyone not in the US or UK because Amazon doesn’t support it. Amazon makes it sound like when you do a Countdown deal that readers are somehow going to be able to find it, that you’ll get some exposure, but you doubt that’s true and yet, even though, you hope. Alternatively, you could go to all the sites you have your book on and set the price to $0.99. It takes some planning and work down ahead of time, and everything’s set.

freshicon_393The Newsletters

You start with the best, BookBub. You fill in the online form and submit your book’s promo. You should get in, you’ve learned since last time, but when the email comes in, they haven’t accepted you. There’s no rhyme or reason given, you’re just not in. That’s okay, there’s a lot of others out there.

You sign up for 8 free newsletters and stop yourself, as you find the audiences are getting smaller and smaller. The last one you filled in had 3000 people and you wonder, from the 1997-esque type of website, really how many of them read it. None of these guys have data to show like BookBub.

You sign up for two paid ones. One’s $10 and the other’s $20. Then there’s that new book startup you heard about on Twitter. You check them out. They want $40 to get into their newsletter, discounted (supposedly) from $100. They have 75k people on their newsletter. Okay, it sounds worthwhile. Then you discover on KBoards that an author you really admire has his pet list of newsletters, and you’re only on one of them. You sign up for them too, another $50.

You realize that you’d planned to spend $50, but now you’re $120. You do the math and figure out how many books you need to sell to break even. It’s more than you’ve ever sold, but it’s okay. It’s possible. All you’d need is 5% of the readers of all these newsletters to buy your book.

Then a website you subscribed to offers ads at a discount, FIFTY PERCENT OFF! You know enough about marketing to know that people usually need to see something several times over before they commit to a buy. The ad’s only $40 and it’s for a whole month. They will have you on their sidebar, shining nice and all pretty for their users. Heck, their name even has Kindle in it, and they seem to have their marketing act together. Okay, feeling a bit guilty, you’re in. $160 spent, but all in all, you figure if you don’t sell, at least you’ll get good exposure.

vector-t-shirt-design-with-dice-on-fire_fJDAYb__The roll of the dice

The date comes up and everything starts. Like an addict, you’re refreshing the stats on Amazon KDP’s site and others to see how the sales are doing. There’s nothing at first, and you realize that everyone’s at work. You’re being an idiot, you need to chill out. You remember that podcast where they said not to do what your doing.

At the end of the first night of the three days, you look at the total with disappointment. Four. Four? Really, four? Well, most of the newsletters are coming in tomorrow, and your books rankings have improved on a couple of sites. You start second guessing the synopsis you used for the ads, the timing. You started it during the week, you’re an idiot, right? Should have had it starting on Saturday, or should you? It’s too late now.

A new follower on Twitter is another newsletter. You can’t help yourself and you click on it. Their site is really good looking and they claim to have a serious number of readers. They also have a Twitter broadcasting service, and in desperation, you sign up for it. You know that you get most of your sales from there, so little extra help should work… though deep down you doubt it.

The second and third days do better, but you’re not near your breakeven mark. What’s worse, you have no way of knowing what newsletter was effective, or was it just you tweeting your heart out? You realized in the final hours that it was pointless posting to the Facebook book promotion groups because new posts show up within seconds of yours, stuffing it way down the list. It’s like zombies jumping on top of each other to get over a wall.

Girl With Her Head In Her Hands Sad And Unhappy About SomethingRemorse

The top spot you got for your book felt good, for a moment, but you slipped back down quickly. The fifty new readers you have will hopefully, one day, move on to your next book. You don’t want to discuss your experience with anyone, and wonder how many other authors feel the same, like there’s a dirty, dark secret to the whole indie thing that no one wants to share. Maybe there’s too much money to be made off of people like you for people to be honest. Maybe your synopsis wasn’t good, or maybe the day was wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t have done the Countdown deal because it was too confusing and none of the newsletters handled that properly, or maybe you went to broad and wide with where your book is. Maybe it was just a bad week, or maybe… maybe you didn’t have the right newsletter. Maybe you should have added those last two you found at the last minute who, for only an extra $10, could have added you in as a Featured Title.

My experience

I didn’t get into Bookbub, and I went with about eight newsletters. One of the newsletters was a startup company but I’d had several interactions with them and thought I’d try them out. All in all, I spent maybe about $90 bucks and sold about 70 copies at $0.99 and a few at the Amazon Countdown stepped up price of $1.99.

The thing is, I know that I had 725 clicks on my own Twitter and Facebook book links. I had pretty good retweet support, no sharing on FB but good sharing on Google+. So did anyone click on the newsletter links? I don’t know. Did I sell most of those or did a particular newsletter do that? I don’t know. All of the newsletters stripped the links I gave, or just asked for the ASIN of the book, so that they could wrap their own associates link around it (i.e. get a commission on any sales). None of them give me any data as to how many people opened the newsletter mine was in, how many clicked on my link. That would at least be something.

My book went up to #3 which was great to see, and because of its existing sales and continued trickle of sales, it’s hovering around #16, moving up and back down and then back up. Here’s the thing, that hope you have as you rocket to the top of a chart if it’ll suddenly catch fire, it didn’t happen. Does that type of thing happen anymore? I don’t know.

Did I make some tactical mistakes? Sure, but figuring out what they really were is something I’ll only figure out through further experimentation. Was an Amazon Countdown deal the right thing to do? I think not, because the newsletters have no support for the idea of price changes. Was it right to charge for my book, rather than give book 1 away for free? I think it was. Should I stay Amazon exclusive? I’ll be blogging about that.

I knew I’d done the wrong thing when I got talked into having some Tweet support for $25. I’d been talking with the owner of the author/reader site for a while and in a moment of weakness, he talked me into adding tweets to my campaign. Now, it wasn’t complete weakness. I paid a very discounted rate to be a member of their site almost a year ago. It was a final opportunity to show me some value, and it failed. Paying that $25 saved me more money.

When I realized I’d paid for the tweeter support, that’s when I started thinking about the whole gambler mentality. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. But if you do something, something will happen. If you do the right things, a LOT of good stuff is supposed to happen… right?

At the end of the day, nothing beats making direct connections with potential readers in social media and in real life. Can newsletters and promos be helpful? Sure, but which ones? And for which genres? And in which months? And… and… and… When is it just rolling the dice?

Check out my books on Amazon