Saturday, April 2, 2016

On Writing Goals

My dad works hard. Really, really hard.

He worked hard as a student. (Ha, ha, that part isn't true. He wasn't a very good student.)

He worked hard for his father doing construction work.

He worked hard as a baseball player.

He worked hard as a teacher.

He worked hard as a coach. (He's in the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame as a wrestling coach.)

And when he left teaching to become a financial planner... you guessed it... he worked hard.

When he made that switch (from teacher to financial planner), it was a REALLY big move. He was going from something very safe and secure to a job where his family would depend on his production alone. His income would be entirely based on sales.

My father read a lot of books to prepare him for this transition. Many of these books were self-help and motivational business books. I was only fifteen at the time, but my father would pass some of these books on to me and I would read them.

One of these books was Rhinoceros Success, by Scott Alexander.


In Rhinoceros Success, Alexander teaches you to charge after your goals like... you guessed it... a rhinoceros.

The book is cheesy. Parts of it are silly. There are religious elements to it.

When I was in ninth grade I loved it.

One of the best elements of the book was the lesson in goal-setting. Alexander tells you to write your goals on a 3x5 card (one goal per card) and place them on the night stand next to your bed. You write your goals as if they have already been accomplished and every night and every morning the first and last thing you do is to read your goals and visualize them.

The visualization part is really important. You have to picture yourself already accomplishing your goal. So I did it. I wrote a goal out and put it by my bed and started visualizing success.

I had just finished reading the book, so only had one week to visualize my goal before the first track meet of the season. It was the spring of my ninth grade year at Unami Junior High School. I decided that my goal was to break the 5 minute barrier in the mile run (1600 meters for you modern types).

To make my visualizations more specific, I wrote out my quarter mile splits for the four laps.

1:08
2:25
3:42
4:54

And what happened when race day arrived?

First quarter - hit my split.
Second quarter - one second slow.
Third quarter - one second fast.
Fourth quarter - well, check out what my dad wrote in the bottom corner of my goal card...





I hit my goal on the nose. I ran 4:54 and broke the school record for the mile! Here I am doing it...




By the end of of the season I'd run a 4:45 mile and took second place in the league championships!


Why am I sharing this with you? Because it's time for me to become more goal oriented with my writing. If I want to be a successful author, I need to first define what success is, and then I need to set the goals to make it happen.

Wanting to be successful is different from doing the things necessary to make it happen.


Signing off. I need to get a 3x5 card.






Saturday, February 6, 2016

Promo Campaign

Today is day one of something I've never attempted before: a promotional campaign!

Last month (as most of you already know), I released Shadow of the Knight, the third novel in my epic fantasy series The Orb. Now it's time to kick the tires and light the fires and get this series airborne. 

For the next week books one and two (Eternal Knight and Child of the Knight) will be on sale for $.99. 

I have the following promoters lined up:

Today: me. Blog post, Facebook post, tweet.
Sunday: Book Barbarian (uh oh, Superbowl Sunday! Hope it doesn't burn me.)
Monday: Bargain Booksy
Tuesday: Ereader News Today
Wednesday: Books Butterfly
Thursday: BKnights
Friday: Open
Saturday: Open
Monday: Robin Reads


Hopefully the campaign will raise the visibility of The Orb and generate a lot of excitement for my novels. I'm very proud of my novels, and very happy with how they've done, but a guy can dream, can't he?

If you've enjoyed my novels please take a moment to let others know about the promotion. The $.99 price for the first two novels will only last for a week. And don't forget to review. Reviews are hugely helpful!

Here's a little bonus for you loyal blog readers... the original artwork for book four:


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

And off we go!

Well, I made it! Shadow of the Knight was published in 2015! Late in 2015...but still in 2015.

The ebook went live yesterday, but I didn't start screaming it from the hilltops because I wanted to make certain that it was glitch free. I also wanted to wait until the paperback was available.

All of my books are currently only available on Amazon.com. If you want to know why, just check out this post I recently wrote.




It's impossible for me to judge my own work, but my beta-readers think this is the best book in the series so far. I hope you agree with them.

And look at that artwork! Dallas Williams did a great job.

Please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It makes a big difference. I'd also love to hear from you, so shoot me a message or post a comment below.

Best,

Matt

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Final Countdown

Well, just days to go before I push the send button and Shadow of the Knight goes live.

Here's a look at the full cover...



Today's the day for final edits and proofreading. It will be a marathon, but hopefully, by late this evening, I'll have the final manuscript ready to go. I'll hold off for a couple of days as I have a couple of Advanced Reader Copies out there and would like to hear back from the readers before I publish.

I have high hopes for this book. So far everyone who has read it has said that it's their favorite book yet.

This is a short post, but I have to get back to work!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On Going Exclusive

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I thought I'd share the new Child of the Knight cover with you...


The artist, Dallas Williams, once again did a standout job creating this cover. Next post I'll reveal the Shadow of the Knight cover.

Now on to the main topic of this post... going exclusive.

A few weeks ago I made the decision to exclusively distribute my books through Amazon.com. Now I know that Amazon brings out very strong (and mixed) emotions in people. For me, as an independent author, Amazon has been an incredible, positive force. I'll go as far as to say that I wouldn't be an author without Amazon.

It was Amazon that happily opened their doors to the independent author, democratizing the publishing process and allowing a whole new legion of writers to become published authors. With the gatekeepers bypassed, anyone who wanted to could publish their work. Now, to be honest, some of that work was awful. And the market place punished those authors. However, some of the work (passed over by agents and publishers) turned out to be wonderful. And the market rewarded them.

Having said this, I didn't go exclusive in order to reward Amazon for the opportunity they provided me. I'm doing it as a business decision.

By going exclusive my ebooks are now available to people who have signed up for the Kindle Unlimited program. It's a program that allows subscribers who pay $10 a month to borrow unlimited numbers of books enrolled in the KU program. I get paid for each of those borrowed books.

More importantly, each of those borrows counts as a sale towards my Amazon rankings. And this is REALLY important. Just as with any other best seller list, being higher on the list gets you noticed, and when you get noticed, your books are more likely to get purchased.

If you're really lucky, you become so big people start buying your book just because other people are buying your book.

There's a second benefit to going exclusive. By concentrating all of my sales in one market, I further push my way up the Amazon rankings. If people split their purchases of my books between Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and others, I gain little traction in each of those markets. By focusing all of my sales in one market (the biggest bookseller in the world) I further boost my visibility.

Do I fear that I'll lose sales because I'm not in the other markets? Not particularly. Just about any device can load a Kindle app, allowing people to shop for my books on Amazon. If you really want a Matt Heppe book, you'll be able to get one.

Will I stay exclusive? I'll give the economist's answer: it depends. The more successful I become the less likely it is that I'll stay exclusive. If I'm generating enough sales to sustain myself on the top 100 lists for my sub-genres, I'll "go wide." Until then I imagine I'll stay with Amazon.

Enough business talk. There's more editing to be done on Shadow of the Knight. I'm also deep into the outlining of book four, The Dromost Gate.

See you soon,

Matt

Monday, October 5, 2015

Getting Close

Hi Folks!

Making great progress lately. I just delivered Shadow of the Knight to my second round editors and can't wait to hear back from them. Part of the process involved me reading through the novel in one sweep. It was a great feeling to read it as one unified work instead of bits and pieces.

Here's a little treat for you... I went out and found an artist to do new covers for all three novels: Eternal Knight, Child of the Knight, and Shadow of the Knight. 

The new Eternal Knight cover....


The artist, Dallas Williams, did a wonderful job. He was great to work with and I love his work. As you might have recognized, this cover is the opening scene of Eternal Knight. Hadde is about to go into battle against the raiding varcolac as they head for Long Meadow.

I'll share the other covers with you as we get closer to publication. Barring any delays, I'm looking at a holiday release.

Really getting psyched. Getting close now!

Best,

Matt

Monday, August 24, 2015

More Shadow of the Knight Progress

Hello All!

I know it's been a while since I've written. Everything seems to slow down during the summer. Well, not everything... just writing.

I'm not very good at deadlines. Clearly. More accurately, I'm not very good at predicting progress. If I had real, actual deadlines forced on my by others, I'd probably make more progress.

Procrastination has always been an issue for me.

The good news is that progress is being made. I've done a lot of editing and rewriting of the last few chapters of Shadow of the Knight and I am very close to the finish line. Days away.

What still needs to be done?

1) I need to get this version into the hands of my second round of critique partners.
2) I need to get the next version into the hands of my beta readers.
3) I need to get the final version into the hands of my proofreaders.

How long will this take? I might have mentioned my inability to predict progress above! However, steps two and three are relatively fast.

Here's my goal. I will publish Shadow of the Knight by December 15th. 

I have high hopes for Shadow. Two big reasons...

1) It is the third book in a series. This generally bodes very well for novels.
2) I have AWESOME new covers for all three books. REALLY AWESOME. You'll see.

Anyway, the closer I get to the finish line, the more you'll hear from me.

See you soon!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Shadow of the Knight progress

Hi All,

I know I haven't written a post lately, but I've been very busy. Time I spend blogging is time I don't spend writing, and I've been doing a lot of writing lately. (Well, there's been some D+D playing in there as well, but that will wait for another blog).

Mike Shultz (my critique partner) and I have been hard at work on the manuscript of Shadow of the Knight. (My friend, Kemp Brinson, has also given a helpful hand with the first several chapters.)

I cannot stress enough how important it is go have a good critique partner, and Mike is a great one. So far we've...

1) Revamped a very rough chapter one. In Shadow of the Knight I am introducing a new major character, a new part of the world, a new culture, and a new magic system. This all appears in chapter one. It's a lot to get across to the reader without pulling a massive info-dump. After a lot of work, chapter one is in great shape.

2) Mike helped me re-arrange the chapter sequence to make the story flow better. This was done in two different points in the novel.

3) We found a way to tie two major plot elements together, instead of leaving them as separate story lines.

4) We took out a scene that very little tension and gave it a lot more zip. It also makes a lot more sense now.

I'm about 50% finished my edits based on Mike's critique. It will take me another week or so to finish it up. After that the novel goes to my beta-readers for another round of refining before a final proofread. I'd hoped for an early June release, but that probably won't happen. I'm looking at early July right now, and it seems like a solid bet.

Right now Shadow of the Knight is sitting at 142,000 words. Eternal Knight was 115,000 words and Child of the Knight weighed in at 117,000 words when they went to press. I don't think Shadow will lose much weight at this point.

As a final note, all three of my novels will be getting new covers. Here's a sneak peek at the rough draft of the Shadow of the Knight cover:


 I'm extremely excited about the new covers. I'll reveal them all in the weeks before publication!

All my best,

Matt






Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thank you, Ann

I went to a funeral today. It was the funeral of someone who has had a huge impact on my life. A bigger impact than maybe even she knew.

By 2003 I had finished writing the first draft of Eternal Knight. It was a monstrous 250,000 word manuscript. I had no idea what to do with it. I'd written the novel "in the blind," with no advice or support. I'd just wanted to write a novel.

From time to time I would mention my writing hobby to my students (mostly 9th graders taking Western Civilization). One day I brought up my book and one of my students said, "Mr. Heppe, Claire's mother is an author. She writes romance novels."

I turned to Claire and asked her if it was true. (For some reason, I thought the kids were pulling my leg.) Claire pointed me to her mother's website. There she was... not as Ann Emery, but as Ann Lawrence, her pseudonym.

I asked Claire if I could meet her mother and talk to her about writing. It didn't matter that she was a romance author, I just wanted to learn more about writing and getting published. I really had no clue and needed some help.

It took a little while to arrange, but a few months later I found myself sitting with Ann at her dining room table, talking about writing. I remember that day very clearly. Ann fed me angel food cake and tea and talked to me about writing, agents, and the publishing industry. It was eye-opening and informative. Ann was a wonderful host.

I'd brought a few chapters of  Eternal Knight with me, and Ann graciously offered to critique them. I was both excited and terrified by the offer. Nobody had ever seen a single word of my 250,000 word novel. I gave Ann the chapters, thanked her for her hospitality, and went home.

I then spent three weeks gnawing my fingernails. I'd put thirteen years of time into my manuscript. It wasn't an easy thirteen years, either. I had constantly started and stopped, losing faith in myself, and then being drawn back to the story again. That manuscript was filled with a lot of hours of work, hopes, and dreams.

Ann called me and invited me back again. She'd finished my chapters. When I arrived I saw more cake, more tea, and my chapters sitting on the dining room table. My eyes were immediately drawn to the first page of my novel.

There was more red ink on that page than I'd ever seen on a single piece of paper.

My heart sank.

After pouring some tea into me and stuffing some cake down my throat, Ann told me two things. She told me that my storytelling was very good. She also told me that my writing needed help. We then spent an hour going over every line of those first chapters in detail. It was an amazing experience. I learned more about writing fiction in that hour than I'd learned my entire life.

Before I left, Ann invited me to join her critique group.

"Of course!" I replied.

"What's a critique group?" I asked.

Apparently it was a group of four romance authors who would meet at Ann's house twice a month to exchange chapters and critiques of their work. Ann warned me that I'd be reading a lot of romance and would be expected to give helpful and honest critiques of the writing. In return, the other authors would read my monstrous epic fantasy and do the same for me.

The following months transformed me as a writer. It was Writing Boot Camp. There were four members of the group, and they each played a part reshaping my writng.

Sally (the Knife) Stotter: She'd send my work back with big red X marks over paragraphs (and sometimes entire pages). She took my 250,000 word beast and turned it into a svelte 115,000 word novel. Sometimes less is more.

Lena (the Queen of Grammar) Pinto: Grammar is still, obviously, not my strong suit. However, under Lena's tutelage, I made huge progress.

Lisa (the Sniper) Hollis McCulley: Lisa had a way of finding just right word and putting it just the right place. She commented less than any of the others, but when she did, her aim was dead on.

Ann (the Master) Emery: Ann was always right. I just accepted it. Sometimes she was stern, and sometimes she was funny, but she was always right. Ann had a wonderful eye for story and language. Her comments, suggestions, and criticism not only improved my book, but they taught me valuable lessons about writing and editing.

I have incredibly find memories of sitting around Ann's dining room table, eating cookies (and pizza, and lasagna, and pastries), and having my novel (and myself) transformed. I owe Ann, and the entire critique group, a debt of gratitude I can never repay. 

Even after I had left the critique group to pursue publication, Ann was willing to help me. Despite her illness, she found time to critique and edit my second novel. When I last saw her, she was so happy and enthusiastic it is hard for me to imagine how ill she really was.

Just a month ago, having finished the rough draft of my third novel, I was thinking I should give Ann a call. I would never consider publishing a novel without first seeking her advice.

Unfortunately, before I had the chance to make the call, I learned of Ann's death. The news was crushing. Ann had an enormous impact on me.

I don't know how to finish this. I'll just leave it at this...

Thank you, Ann. I'll miss you. I'll always remember you. 







Friday, February 6, 2015

Rolling in the Memories

I don't make much money as an author. Who knows... maybe someday I will. However, there are a lot of other perks to being an author than making money.

Every time a good review shows up, it feels like a small victory. Someone liked my book! And then there are book club meetings. I've gone to four of them. What a thrill- sitting with a group of serious readers who want to talk about your book!

There are also events like last night. I was invited to Garnet Valley School District to participate in Literacy Night. I had the chance to speak with three different groups of students and parents. I loved sharing my experiences with them and having the chance to answer their questions. Each time a new group came in I saw more people holding copies of my book. Seeing people walk around with copies of my book in their hands... I couldn't stop grinning. "That's me! That's my book!"

Me (on left) with Anthony Gabriele, GVSD Director of Curriculum

At the end of the evening a very earnest young woman came up to me and asked me for some writing advice. I did my best. Seriously, who am I to give advice? I still feel like a noob. And then she asked for an autograph. Not a signed book. She wanted me to sign her autograph book. I signed it, but I felt like such a fraud. "Look, kiddo," I was thinking, "I'm nobody. I'm not worthy of an autograph book."

I don't feel worthy of it, but I sure won't forget it. Francisco Lee has the fist copy of a book I've ever signed. Emily from Garnet Valley has the first autograph I've ever signed. The Doylestown Bookshop is the first book store to ever sell a copy of my book. Cheryl Anne Ham was the first stranger to give my book a five star review. Robin Tarzia hosted the first book club I ever attended. No, I'm not rolling in the dough, but I am rolling in the memories.