Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Success as an Author by J.P. Jackson

I did a thing.
I wrote a book.

Daimonion, Book One of the Apocalypse

It’s a dark story about a demon who ends up setting off a chain of events which starts the apocalypse. Someone once told me that it was like the TV show Supernatural, but gay and from the Demon’s perspective.

I fell in love with that description.

As a first-time writer, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I made so many mistakes. Then by chance I met the most gracious, patient and intelligent Samantha Cook who agreed to be my First Round editor. With her help I managed to turn a bunch of words into a pretty polished up story. She’s taught me the laws of writing – rules I didn’t even knew existed.

When Daimonion got picked up by NineStar Press, it went through another four rounds of editing. The folks at NineStar were also patient, and supportive. They were more than happy to answer all the questions I had. And I had a lot of them.

Guess what? Daimonion won an award too!

2017 Rainbow Award Winner for Best Gay Alternate Universe/Reality

How cool is that? Well, I think it’s pretty cool, but then, you know, I might be a little biased.  But I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I have to put “Author” after my name. In fact, for months after my debut novel was released I kept shunning the word.

“Who, me? No, I’m not an author. I just wrote one book.”

But others kept on throwing that word at me. I would dart out of the way as the word came hurtling closer. But like any good game of dodgeball, I eventually got smacked, right in the face. Everyone I knew kept on screaming, “You’re out!” except it sounded an awful lot like “You’re an Author”.

Even my publishing house got involved in the yelling, except they kept saying, “We want more!”

Sigh, fine, okay.

Back in June of last year, my editor said, “Hey, so, I have this anthology that I’m going to put out, and I want you to write a little something for me.” What he was looking for, was of course, a nice tidy little short story.

Cheap piece of advice to any would-be authors: Plot bunnies are monsters best left unfed.

What ended up happening? That short story blossomed into an 81,000 word, 337 page new novel. Magic or Die is set to be released July 02, 2018. It’s not the sequel to Daimonion -  everyone keeps asking, but no, it’s not. It’s another story altogether and it too has demons, but nope, not the sequel.
Wait…what? Now I’ve written two books?

Okay, fine – stop it already – yes, I guess now I’m an author.  Geez.

With more than one book under my publishing belt, I can’t really dodge that moniker anymore. I have to own it. Yup. I’m an author. A writer. I do that. I put words in some semblance of order and tell a story.

But, am I successful at it?

See, now that’s a crazy question because we all have our own definitions of what successful means. Just the fact that I got published – that’s success! But then, if I was being honest with myself, achieving that goal was just the first mile marker of a marathon. It wasn’t the end of the journey for me and although the milestone was celebrated (and in style, I assure you), there were other checkpoints to pass.

Could I get one of my stories to win an award? Well, turns out, I could! Yeah me! (See above.)

Could I write the second book in the series and have it turn out better than the first? Yeah, so, umm…about that. That is one daunting task. The continuation of Daimonion is there, in my head. Or at least the bones of it are. I have a couple of chapters written, and I know what I need to do…but I haven’t got there. So, no, not successful on that front…yet.

Did you make all the money you thought you would? HA! Well now, that was a revelation. Simply put, I had no idea the level of competition that exists in the publishing industry. In 2015, in just the United States, over 338,000 books were published. That’s roughly 920 books per day. PER DAY. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get your book out front where people will see it and want to buy it?

It’s damn near impossible.

Simply put, my first novel didn’t sell the number of copies I was expecting, but, in the eight months it’s been out, I’ve sold over a hundred books, and that’s pretty damn good. I’ve seen an article or two that said Indie Published books (whether they be self-published or with a Boutique Publishing House), you can expect to sell roughly 250 copies over the course of the book’s lifetime. Yeah, you saw that right, 250.  Traditionally published books, like with the big name companies we all know – it’s about 5,000. That’s it.

I won’t say that getting rich from your debut novel won’t happen, but if it did, it would be a damn miracle.  So for all those potential star-struck-dollar-signs-in-their-eyes, author-to-be’s out there…reign it in Charlie, and get real. You’re still gonna have to pay rent and buy groceries at the end of the month, and more than likely your royalty cheque isn’t going to cover it.

Trust me, the disappointment was real. But then I had to sit back and re-evaluate why I wrote a book. Was it exclusively to make money? No, not really. Was it because I had stories in my head that I really wanted to put out into the world? Yup. This. This is the reason I spent hours and hours writing, and editing, and dreaming, and scheming, and researching.

Here’s another reason, and I think the most important one: When I was growing up there weren’t any books out there that I could find that had people like me in them. (Keep in mind it was the 80’s when I was going through my teen years) You see, growing up and knowing that I was gay, was terrifying. Every time you turned on the TV, all you saw was “The Gay Plague” news stories, emphasized by haunting images of sick men who were dying in their 20’s. That kept me in the closet for years. If I could have, I would have escaped into books and lived through them, but even then, everything I read was heterosexual. There was nothing out there for me. I truly thought I was all alone in the world.

Fast forward many years and a few decades and “The Gay Plague” is now HIV and people are now thriving and living with the disease.  It’s not something to fear and my sex life is just fine, thank you. On top of that, there’s lots of fantastic LGBTQA+ literature out there! Although, sometimes it’s a little hard to find, and in truth, there aren’t a lot of Urban Fantasy and Horror stories where people like me are the main characters.

Well, you know the old saying: Write the books you want to read.

So I’m doing exactly that. And that, my friends, is where I think I’ve achieved my greatest success. Sure, my debut novel did pretty well for itself, and I’m very proud of it. But I think my greatest success will be when my book ends up in the hands of someone who has never had the opportunity to read something like it. A book where they’re hoping to find themselves as the main character in the story. A tale where LGBT folk can be powerful and strong. And in this particular story, also a demon.  (What can I say? I have a dark streak.)

That, I think, will be my greatest success.

And, in the meantime, I continue to write and tell tales, and get comfy in my dark little worlds where all my main characters live proudly under the rainbow flag.

JP Jackson

JP Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable.

Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

JP’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

You can find JP here:
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*To win a copy of Daimonion, click here!*