Posted on 10/21/2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Sci-fi author JN Chaney can, in a sense, credit his thriving writing career to goofing off in math class.
To be clear, it was his friend goofing off, not him, but it was Chaney who caught the writing bug, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in creative writing, then continuing to write — and learn about the industry — during his four years in the Air Force.
All that time, he’d set his sights on becoming a full-time writer and developed a plan to get there; today, he’s achieved that goal, with several successful novels under his belt. Recently he shared some of his advice with us.
SADYE: Tell me a little more about your writing journey.
JN: I started writing when I was in high school. My friend brought home a story he’d written in math class about the end of the world (only about two paragraphs), and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
I went home that night and started writing a science fiction story on one of my mom’s notepads. It was about me and my friends discovering a spaceship in my back yard, which we accidentally activated. There were aliens, fights, and super powers.
It was horrible and cheesy (barely readable), but it was the first time I’d ever written anything creatively. It also ended up being fifty-seven pages. Not too long afterwards, my mom got me a computer and a dial-up Internet connection.
I started browsing Internet forums and found out there were people just like me who enjoyed writing little stories. I decided to start posting my own in order to get feedback, and I didn’t stop for several years.
SADYE: In terms of marketing, what’s something authors must do?
JN: You need to get an email list, grow it, and learn how to talk to your audience. Build your reviews. Don’t be afraid to give out free copies. A sale is great, but a review or a new subscriber is better for your long-term career.
SADYE: What, in your opinion, is a marketing mistake you see many authors commit?
JN: Don’t be the guy or girl on social media tagging everyone you know with a link to your book. No one likes that. Don’t spam it, either. Social media should be used to interact with fans, not annoy them.
Focus your efforts on building your email list and paid advertisements. It works much better and is far less annoying to others.
SADYE: Which authors have influenced your writing most?
JN: I would say Orson Scott Card was a huge influence on me when I was in college. These days, it’s more Heinlein, John Scalzi, Joe Haldeman, and Stephen King. My influences aren’t just limited to books, though. I grew up playing games, so there’s plenty of that in there, too.
SADYE: You mention in your bio that you’re an avid gamer and spend a lot of time online. How do you keep the Internet from taking up all of your energy?
JN: I usually try to set goals each day. I’ll aim for a thousand words, work on some advertising stuff, organize promotions, but then I’ll take a few breaks in between all this stuff.
It’s important to break your day up into segments, otherwise you’ll get burned out. Don’t be afraid to jump on Facebook for ten minutes every hour, if that’s your thing.
When I was in the military, we used to take a five- to ten-minute break every hour. We’d often take a short walk, do some push-ups, sit-ups, or whatever. I found it was a great habit and really helped my productivity.
SADYE: When and how did you realize you could support yourself on writing alone?
JN: When I was in the Air Force, I knew I was going to get out in order to pursue this lifestyle. That allowed me to plan my life out accordingly.
I saved 25 to 50 percent of each paycheck, turning down nights out with friends, trips to visit family, and I often stuck with cereal for dinner. When I finally left, I had enough to support myself for eighteen months.
Of course, that didn’t make it any less terrifying, let me tell you! Every single day, I asked myself if I was making the right decision. It was so stressful. I’ve always been a planner, and in this business that is an important skill to have, but you never know for sure if it will work out.
I definitely had to give up some luxuries, and I still find myself working twelve to fifteen hours a day, but it’s worth it. The process was not an easy transition, but after you’ve put in the work and you’ve built your platform, you’ll find that your hard work pays off.
There’s no greater feeling than building something from nothing, but the ride to get there is always hard.
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Categories: Author Interview