Vampire Outlaw, the second book in the Immortal Knight Chronicles was released way back in March 2016. I get messages every week asking me a fair question: Where is the third book in the series?
What is taking so long?!
When I set out to become an indie author back in 2014, I knew it would a long, hard road and so I had a plan. In my notebook of story ideas, I had over fifty concepts, ranging from a single sentence to structured plots. I picked out four ideas that I thought would each make a good, commercial series. And I ranked them in order of which ones I thought would be the most commercial; the ones that would sell the best. The plan was to start with the least commercial and work my way through to the most commercial.
If that sounds like the wrong way round to you, then you might be right. But I knew enough about independent publishing to know that I didn’t know very much and I wanted to learn the ropes with low-stakes ideas. Saving the best for last. By the time I got to the fourth series*, I knew my writing would be that much better, and I would understand the marketing and everything else.
I made a lot of mistakes. An awful lot. But I learned from them and kept going. I put a lot of work into each book and into all the other stuff I had to do, from cover design to advertising. And to do all of that, I have had to give up a lot.
When do I write?
With a full-time job, and a family, I can only write in the evening. Specifically, after dinner and before bed. I started publishing these books when my first daughter was a year old. By then, I had already long given up drinking but I also had to stop playing video games and watching so many movies.
People talk about needing inspiration, and motivation but getting anything worthwhile done is about self-discipline, and dedication. Other than illness and vacations, I haven’t had a night off from writing or publishing in almost three years. I even write on Christmas Day and New Years Eve (which is only possible because I don’t drink…).
It’s not easy. In fact, I find it difficult to stay alert enough to write with any efficiency, and to help me out on that front I developed an energy drinks and skittles habit. I have also sacrificed an hour or two of sleep a night (or more) for years. But I have worked consistently, putting in the hours and not giving myself a break.
In less than three years, I have published nine novels, totalling 750,000 words. That’s about 250,000 words published a year.
My pace has slowed in 2017. Why is that?
We had another baby this year. I’m not sure I need to expand on why that impacted my spare time and energy level but perhaps I should say that my family is the most important thing to me, and I work hard to ensure I spend as much time with my daughters as possible, morning and evenings and weekends.
Also, the energy drinks, sugar and lack of sleep made me fat and unhealthy. So I gave up the energy drinks and skittles, which meant I could not stay awake for as long, or write as much. A few times this year I have fallen asleep in front of my computer, in the middle of writing. More than a few times. So that means fewer words per day on average. On the plus side, I am exercising again and so I hope I will live longer…
I also spent a long time this summer changing the covers for all my series, and getting the paperback versions for half of my books done. Paperback formatting took over my life for weeks and weeks.
Advertising and marketing has also taken up a lot more of my time this year. Many a night, all I can do is adjust ads, or organise a promotion.
Why has there been such a gap since the last Immortal Knight Chronicles?
Yes, Vampire Outlaw came out in March 2016. It is now October 2017. What’s going on? Well, I had this series in mind for years and wrote the first book very quickly, and I loved it and was very pleased with it and proud of it. The second book was twice as long, and far more complicated and it was – and still is – the best thing I have ever written.
I put my heart and soul into that book.
But no one bought it. Hardly anyone bought either book, and I couldn’t even give it away. I ran free promos and tried ads and everything I could think of and no one wanted to know. I knew potential fans were out there, I just could not break through the mass of Twilight, and the Vampire Diaries and so on. There were not many books like mine that I could emulate. I thought the Casca series and Necroscope fans would like it but how to reach them? Nothing seemed to work. I don’t know if I even sold 100 books. Just couldn’t crack it.
So I moved on to my next planned series – my scifi series. Orb Station Zero sold really well, with the Kindle Unlimited borrows included, it was about 5,000 copies. My first success, by a long way. So I committed to that by writing the two planned prequels and then the first sequel.
I have published 338,000 words over those 4 scifi novels since Vampire Outlaw was released.
And it was only since my scifi series took off (relatively, of course), that the Immortal Knight Chronicles also started to find an audience. I ran a lot of successful Facebook ads which kickstarted the process. It was no.1 in the Vampire category in the UK Kindle charts for weeks, and I have sold thousands in the UK and US, and the reviews have been fantastic and I get emails, Facebook messages, and comments from readers every week. Reviewers often mention they need the next book, immediately.
This has made me very happy.
I love this series. I love writing it. I never gave up on it but now I have even more reason to be excited about writing the rest of the books.
I am writing Vampire Khan now. To prepare, I have had to research mid-13th century Constantinople, Karakorum, Alamut, and Baghdad. I have read books on the Mongols, the Assassins, and the Abbasid Caliphate. That has taken time.
People have asked me why I bother doing so much research for a vampire novel. I am sure it might seem absurd to aim for accuracy and authenticity in a fantasy / horror / action novel but I hope that readers who have enjoyed the series so far understand what I am trying to do with it.
Likewise, it would be easier if I made the books shorter and simpler. And it would be a reasonable thing to be less ambitious, at least until I can write full-time. But I want to be ambitious, with this series at least. The whole series is ambitious – I am writing a story spanning 800 years of real history, inserting an immortal knight – and a lot more – into actual historical events. And history is my biggest passion, so I want to do it justice and give it the respect it deserves – even if it is for a vampire book with a silly title.
I write quickly.
I plot the books quickly, I write the first draft quickly. I do not hesitate and don’t believe in writers’ block. Revising and rewriting comes easily and I do not agonise over decisions and am not precious over beta reader and editor feedback. Writing is easy for me, and enjoyable. Thrilling, even.
A few times, I have taken a week of leave from work in order to write. Other times my wife takes the kids out for a day at the weekend. It is different to writing at night, when I am fighting to keep my eyes open. On those daytime writing days, when I can write for hours at a time without interruption and so get into the zone, into a flow state, I will write around 5,000 words a day, and have done more than that – over 8,000 once.
My goal is to write full-time.
I therefore know I can write a first draft in one month, and then take another month to rewrite and publish. So, when I can transition to full-time writer, I will release a book every two months, or six a year. Doing that, and paying all my bills and supporting my family, I will be living my perfect life.
Until I reach my goal, I will have to keep on writing every night, for an hour or three, peering at the screen with one eye open so I’m not seeing double.
Everyone who buys my books helps me to reach my goal. Every single review on Amazon helps me. All the comments on my Facebook posts – especially the adverts that I run (it helps the algorithms) – help me, too. All the people who recommend my books to their friends and family help me enormously. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far and continues to support me. I will, of course, only get to where I want to be only with your help. And when I get there, I will provide you with many, many books for you to enjoy…
I am really enjoying writing Vampire Khan. And I hope that you will enjoy reading it.
Writing this post has been on my mind for weeks now but I did not want to give up a night of writing the story in order to write a blog post. I do intend to keep you updated as best I can with progress and I hope you understand now why it has taken so long to get here.
My release schedule to date:
- White Wind Rising – Dec 2014 – 65,000 words
- Dark Water Breaking – June 2015 – 80,000 words
- Vampire Crusader – Sept 2015 – 62,000 words
- Green Earth Shaking – Dec 2015 – 65,000 words
- Vampire Outlaw – March 2016 – 135,000 words
- Orb Station Zero – Aug 2016 – 115,000 words
- Inhuman Contact – Oct 2016 – 47,000 words
- Onca’s Duty – Jan 2017 – 54,000 words
- Earth Colony Sentinel – July 2017 – 122,000 words
- Vampire Khan – December?? 2017 – over 100k words… almost certainly.
*I mentioned my fourth planned series in this post but never mentioned what it was. My idea is for a straight up historical fiction, set in the ancient world. It is a full on Bernard Cornwell style adventure. I have a cracking protagonist. I have a 9-book structure set out. It is going to be brilliant.