Why I Plan to Ignore My Marketing Advice

At the moment, I think that my marketing activities are proportional. I spend a bit of time here and there doing research, and I blog for about 3 hours a week. Were I to keep up that rate, I’d say it would be a good balance of producing new work to selling activities.

Instead, I plan to spend an entire month doing nothing but marketing — almost no writing at all.

• April – Work on Daniel Darcy 1: The Exardo Invasion
• Early May – Collect 3rd draft beta reader comments for Power of the Mages and send it to the editor
• June – Finalize Power of the Mages and create review copy (including, ugh, maps)
• July – Besides last minute touches, do marketing
• August – Release Power of the Mages, finish up rough draft of Daniel Darcy 1, and work on compiling blog posts into a nonfiction book

Obviously, this approach does not embrace the balance that I called for in previous posts. Here’s why I made that decision:

1. I fear losing motivation – The vast majority of self published authors sell a few copies to their friends and family, and that’s about it. If I don’t do better than that, I think I’ll get seriously discouraged.

2. The need to swing for the fences is a personal trait – While it’s not likely that a first novel by a self published author is going to be a runaway hit, the possibility exists. I need to give the book that chance of success.

3. It fits my long term plan – Between August 1 of this year and August 1 of 2014, I want to have 5 works on Amazon:

a. Power of the Mages (August 1, 2013)
b. 12 Simple Techniques for Improving Your Fiction Writing: Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes of New Authors (late 2013)
c. Daniel Darcy 1: The Exardo Invasion (Spring 2014)
d. The Slender Man Massacre (Summer 2014)
e. Novelette/novella that comprises the 2nd part of my Dark Power series (Fall 2014)

4. The most effective marketing efforts take time to build –

a. Followers
b. Email list
c. Spreadsheet of bloggers

I don’t know if my first novel is going to sell one copy or a hundred or a thousand in its first year. From the numbers I’ve seen, if it hits 300, I should be happy. My efforts probably aren’t going to take it past that quantity, but I have to try.

How I Created My Magic System

Yesterday, I debated whether or not sharing details about my worldbuilding fit into the purpose of this blog. I decided to compromise. I’ll disguise said sharing as a “how-to” guide — a subterfuge that probably would have been more successful had I not warned you about it…

I’ve stated before that I’m a storyteller. Worldbuilding is far down my list of priorities. I’m coming to understand, however, that a great concept combined with great craft generates the best results. It’s too late to change anything for my Power universe, but, perhaps, I’ll try to think up a really cool idea for a future series.

Regardless, what I ended up with for Power is far better than my original concept. Are you ready for the mind-blowing originality of that first idea?

Magic based on the four elements.

Yep.

My great innovation? I was going to add two mages — one dealing with life magic and one with death.

First Step: Come up with a concept.

After one of my early beta readers/mentors told me that elemental magic is so overuses as to be unviable (that’s somewhat debatable; I’m not necessarily against reusing old concepts), I came up with a new concept — magic based on controlling energy.

Second Step: Make concept simple enough to convey in your story.

In all, there are a whopping ten types of mages, each based on a form of energy. I needed to limit those for the first book. When you’re introducing a new system, you want to firmly establish each concept before moving onto the next and do it in an interesting way. You’re writing a story, not a textbook.

Can you imagine trying to establish ten different types of magic? I didn’t want to devote the story space necessary to do so. Instead, for Power of the Mages, I focused on four of the types, though I mentioned the existence of the others without any detail. I justified the exclusion by having the four types I use be more common, comprising the vast majority of all magic users born.

The four are:

Alchemist – Controls the energy of chemical reactions, of which fire is the most common. This type allowed me to keep most of what I had written about my “fire mage” intact.

Kineticist – Controls the energy of motion, can impart speed and direction to an object at rest or stop an object in motion.

Masser – Controls potential energy by increasing or decreasing an object’s mass.

Death Mage – In my universe, life is a form of energy. By adding life to an injured person, you can heal them. By draining it, you can kill someone.

I also mention a Blighter as the bogeyman, a mage type that the noble use to justify executing anyone born with magical ability. This person can cause nuclear explosions.

Third Step: Limit the power.

After creating a foundation for my system and determining some of the types, the most important step is to limit the power. First, I created the stipulation that, with the exception of the death mage, no magic user can directly affect another person (thanks for the idea, Mr. Sanderson). With this limitation, the mundane have at least a small chance, albeit tiny, of defeating a mage.

The next bound (SPOILER AHEAD – don’t read this paragraph if you wish to eventually read Power of the Mages and be surprised at a key point) was to give mages the ability to block each other’s magic. Again, a completely necessary constraint for storytelling.

Fourth Step: Add complexity.

Finally, I created some complexities that aided my plot. I needed for my mages to be able to communicate over distance and, like Wheel of Time, gave them the ability to dream to each other. Instead of creating a dream world, I rationalized this trait by connecting them all to a “lake” of magic. Their power gives them access to the magic source and, through it, to each other.

Also, since my mages control energy instead of elements, I wanted to give my alchemist a little more of a weapon then just setting someone’s clothes on fire. I decided that the mage, as a part of manipulating the energy, can build up a vast reservoir of fire while containing it. He can then target an enemy and imagine a pinpoint hole in the barrier he created, causing a fiery death ray.

For the last limit, I need the magic to take some kind of toll on the user. I likened using magic to physical strain, and, if a mage overextends, it causes them to pass out.