Writing in 2022 – A Year in Review

A little about life
2022 has been a huge year for me, personally. It’s been a year of trying to be healthier (both mentally and physically) and find more balance amidst a lot of busyness and stress. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it was a whole lot better than the previous couple of years. My second son, Parker, was born this spring, and both my sons have been enormous blessings. The time already is flying by, but I’ve loved seeing them grow through their early stages of life.


But between my day job as a high school English teacher, and a hectic life with two kids 2 and under at home, my writing time has gone from something I could fit pretty easily into my schedule, to something I have to be really intentional about. Which is not all bad. Because it’s forced me to be more intentional about my work process.

A little about writing
Despite less time to work with, I managed to publish two books in 2022 for the first time. I had always wanted to release two in a year, and finally made it happen.

It was a lot of work. I don’t have a ton of time, but if I optimize that time, I can still get a lot done. The key, I’ve found, is consistency. Both books were written in short spans of time each and every day. A little in the morning before work. A little during nap times. A little before I go to bed. Most days I wrote about 500 words (about 2 pages) in about an hour of actual writing. This year, I learned a lot about the power of regular work, even if it’s a small amount.

A little about business

I’ve had a lot of people ask over the years how the business is going, and whether I’m making any money, so I thought I’d offer a peek behind the curtain (but feel free to skip if you’re not interested).

Writing/Publishing is a business. For the first three years of publishing, I was very much in the Founding stage of the business. I was investing time and money, and learning how to make it back. Each book costs around $1k to produce, and marketing is difficult to learn at first. But in January, my business officially went in the black, and has only grown from there. This year took me to a new stage of business–Profitability and Growth–which has been incredible.

I made a little over $10k in Net Profits (my pre-tax take home after marketing expenses come out) from my writing this year. In other words, 2022 has taken me from trying to break even to something that helps provide for my family.

Considering this remains a side hustle that I spend around 2 hours a day working on (either writing, editing, or marketing), I’m pretty damn proud of that growth this year! And I definitely wonder how much more I could do with more time in the years to come.

Thanks for an incredible 2022!
I’m especially grateful to all of you readers who have enjoyed my books, shared them with others, and supported my career. The growth and success this year would not be possible without all of you! So thank you, thank you!

2022 has made my dream of becoming a full-time writer something that definitely feels attainable. And that is an incredible feeling.

I’m beyond excited for what 2023 may hold.

Here’s a quick glimpse of what I’ll be working on…

2023 Writing Goals

  • Focus on new words (aiming to get more productive with the same amount of time, and get 700 words a day). Basically be more focused and on-task with the writing time I have. Having a release right at the end of 2022 will make it difficult to publish two books in 2023, but I am aiming to write two books, which is more than I wrote last year.
    • Guild War (Pantheon Online #3) – This will complete the trilogy, and the first arc of a large multi-series story I’ve got planned. This is currently slated for an Oct. 2023 release, though may be earlier if all goes well.
    • Swordslinger (Legend of Saber #1) – This will be the next arc of the Realms of Pantheon, and will have a Logan/Witcher vibe set in a post-apocalyptic LitRPG world. I can’t say too much yet because it could involve some spoilers for Pantheon Online, but I can’t wait to start writing this series.
    • Shadow Watch (Special Illustrated Hardcover Edition) – This will most likely come together as a Kickstarter. I hope to include a bunch of illustrations (probably one for each of the thirteen parts of the book), a brand new cover, and some other bonus material as well (possibly a Tori and Darien origin short story and some commentary). I’ve been mulling this over for awhile, and really want it to happen this year, but I’ve got a lot of details to get ironed out first. Stay tuned, and if you know you’d be interested, or have some ideas for bonus material you want, I’d love to hear about it.
    • Other things in the works
      • The Watcher Chronicles – I’ve teased before that there might be more stories to come in the world of the Shadow Watch. I’ve been simmering on some ideas for a while now, and I think I’ve finally zeroed in on some key details. This is probably at least a year out from actual writing, but I’ll hopefully do some outlining this year.
      • Blade of Fire – This is an epic progression fantasy I’m slowly working on. It’s set in a world where day and night are fixed halves of a world, and I’m pretty excited about it. I wrote the opening fifty pages of this awhile back, but needed to figure a lot more things out about the larger scope of the series (I had a similar pause with the Shadow Watch series in its early days). It’s something I may play with, but probably won’t start actively working on till next year.

2023 Business Goals

  • Start an LLC – There’s a certain level where it makes sense to publish books as an SP (sole proprietor). But I’ve reached a level where I’m told this makes sense. So basically, I’ll be forming my own official publisher.
  • Scale Advertising – As they say, it takes money to make money. I’ve figured out some things that have worked really well, but I’ve struggled to scale them beyond a certain point, and have settled for that certain level of success. My goal is to find ways to scale my ad spending to get my books to even more new readers.
  • TikTok / BookTok – I’ve been hearing a lot of success stories about using BookTok as a means to build readership, and I’m giving it a go this year. Feel free to follow me.

I hope 2022 has treated you and yours well!



Wishing you all the best in 2023!

S.A. Klopfenstein

Vote for THE SHADOW WATCH in the Epic Fantasy Fanatics contest

Hello friends of the Shadow Watch!

I am really excited to announce that The Shadow Watch has been entered in the Epic Fantasy Fanatics contest!

It is up against some incredible indie books, such as the Arcane series by Sever Bronny, the Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson, among many other big hitters in the indie world.

Placing in this contest could not only mean some real exposure in the indie publishing world, but also a little cash.

If you’ve enjoyed the series in any of its forms (or just want to support!), I have a huge favor to ask of you.

In order to be eligible for the Judges Round, TSW needs 100 nominations.

It would mean the world to me, if you took a few moments to nominate it. If you have Facebook, it only takes (literally) a few seconds.

Click this link: https://epicfantasyfanatics.com/the-shadow-watch-sa-klopfenstein/?fbclid=IwAR366kWKbINaVRsIa1wJGotkYyFtexEngJj5pj-PhLlLDvdXmE4UdNtyN_k

Thanks so much for all of your support of this series!

Cheers!

S.A. Klopfenstein

My Fantasy Novel (The Rage of Saints) has Published!

Book 2

 

I am very excited to announce the release of the second novel in the Shadow Watch series of teen epic fantasy novels!

This book has been so much work, but has brought so much joy along the way.

I’ve grown a lot as a writer, and according to the early reviews, this one is even better than the first. I hope you all enjoy it!

For those new to the series, these books are often compared to Mistborn and Throne of Glass.

It is available in Paperback and Ebook (free on Kindle Unlimited) here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MNTP1LC

Update on Shadow Watch Book 2 (The Rage of Saints)

Time for a much-needed update on the second book of The Shadow Watch:

The Rage of Saints is complete, has gone through the first rounds of edits, and is now off to a few early beta readers.

And the response so far… they are loving it!

 


 

This second book has been a lot more work and took longer than I planned (it’s about 100 pages longer than book 1), but the pay-off will be more than worth it. Book 2 is much more expansive. The story is bigger and more epic. There are more perspectives. And you are going to love it!

 


 

The cover is underway, and I must say, it is looking amazing in its early stages and should be done sometime in December / January.

We are looking at an early March release, folks.

Can’t wait for you to read this one!

My Self-Publishing Diary (Week One Rundown)

Here are some reflections on my first week in self-publishing:
Week One of the launch of my first book, THE SHADOW WATCH, has been a blast, as well as a huge learning experience! Went into this with a small ARC team and I’m mostly postponing advertising until I get more reviews. Did a 99c deal for ebooks over the weekend, which was a nice rank boost.
 
Results:
Paperback – 37
Ebook – 32
KU – 2130
 
Highlights:
– Already broke 3 figures for this month, which is really exciting!
– Tons of support from friends and family, some of whom I’ve lost touch with. It’s been really cool to receive so much encouragement and excitement and boosting from all of them!
– Lots of support from local community, did an interview for local paper, and getting stocked in the local indie store this week.
 
Discoveries:
– Reviews on international Amazon sites don’t carry over. So several ARC reviews unfortunately don’t show on the all-important Amazon.com, which is frustrating starting out, but oh well.
– Ad clicks often don’t translate to sales. Dabbled with some FB ads but will probably hold off any more until more reviews trickle in. Led to some sales, but I don’t know that it’s worth it yet
All in all, I am really happy with the launch. There were things I hoped would go better. I was definitely hoping for more reviews out of the gate, but so it goes.
Can’t wait to see what’s to come in the weeks ahead…
THE SHADOW WATCH is available here: 

My Self Publishing Diary (Launch Day)

It has been a couple days since the launch of my first self-published novel, THE SHADOW WATCH, a YA epic fantasy.

Some quick background: I enrolled in KDP Select, so my Ebook is only available through Amazon. I published my paperback through Createspace, and though I may branch out later, right now, it is only available through Amazon, or at a local bookstore. I ran one small Facebook ad, but otherwise I am waiting until a few more reviews land before I settle into a marketing scheme.

It has been a couple days since my book released. Overall, it was an amazing experience, though still filled with some anxiety and stress, inevitable feelings when you are putting a piece of writing out there for the world to see. And I learned a lot quickly from the process.

Here are some reflections and observations about my experience on Day One of my self publication process:

  1. No amount of prep or editing ever feels like enough to be ready for Launch Day – I hired an editor, went through dozens of rounds of edits, worked with critique partners and betas, and quadruple checked my final formatted manuscript before hitting publish. But I was still nervous that something would go wrong. I’ve heard Chris Martin of Coldplay once said that no song was ever finished. It merely stopped being written. I feel that way about books as well. I am beyond thrilled with my end product, but I could have nitpicked it to death if I let myself. But having a hard publication date made me stop and move on to Book 2, which was a good thing for me because I can tend to over-edit. It was a nerve-racking feeling to officially be done with this book, but very much worth it to put it out there.
  2. Something will probably go wrong on Launch Day, just roll with it – My fantasy world has a world map. A beautiful one commissioned by the amazing Sebastian Breit. I formatted it to print on two pages, and with a couple trials, got it right in my Printed Proof copy. But I ran into a last minute snafu with Createspace’s proofing system when I re-uploaded the final version of the text. It skewed my image, and I had to have their technical team fix it (which due to the fact they don’t work weekends, ran me all the way to the wire in getting the print copy ready on time). It was stressful, but the print version launched in sync with the Kindle version. Though sadly I couldn’t order copies for the local indie store. Those will arrive a little late. So it goes.
  3. Forgetting something will not ruin the Launch, just breathe – There are so many things to prepare and anticipate before launching a book. Inevitably you will probably forget something. I forgot to set up my Author Central page on Amazon, something I’d intended to do weeks ago. Another writer kindly pointed it out, and I fixed it quickly.
  4. Reviews probably won’t come as fast as you want (which is instantaneous) – Even with an ARC team of awesome readers, reviews did not shoot up out of the gate on Amazon. I had many ARC readers leave Goodreads reviews. Amazon reviews have proven trickier. Firstly, you have to be an Amazon customer who has purchased $50 previously. No problem for some. But some people don’t drink the Amazon kool-aid. Also, international reviews don’t show up on Amazon.com. My launch team is international. I had several reviewers who left lovely reviews in the UK, India, and Germany, which only readers shopping on those respective Amazon sites can see. So it goes. I stressed about it a bit, because I really wanted more reviews on Amazon.com right away, but I got over it.
  5. Don’t check your rankings every FIVE MINUTES – I am sure this is the case for most people launching their first book, but I was addicted to seeing sales appear and rank change on Amazon. It made for a stressful day. And in the days since, I have quickly realized that it is not worth it to check so often.
  6. Ebook and Paperback don’t sync right away on Amazon – I did not realize this until Launch Day, but apparently it can take up to 72 hours for this sync up. I was not crazy about this, but it is what it is.
  7. Enjoy it, I wrote a freaking book – I learned to try to enjoy the moment, and let all the things go that I cannot control. I wrote a book I am proud of! And that is truly enough for now.

 

Overall, I was happy with the results of DAY ONE. Though, of course, many were family and friends. But hey, people want to read something I wrote.

Ebooks: 15

Paperback: 20

KU: 0 (this did not kick in until DAY TWO; not sure if it was delayed, but now on Day 3 I’ve had well over 1000 page reads, so I am not too worried about it)

THE SHADOW WATCH is available on Amazon

TSWBanner

My Indie Fantasy Novel is now Published!

It is officially my book’s birthday!

After two years of hard work, my epic fantasy novel THE SHADOW WATCH is now out in the world!

I cannot believe that the day has finally come, and I can’t tell you how many butterflies came as I hit “Publish.”

DAY ONE has been a fun day! I will post more soon about my reflections, good and bad for my Launch, but for right now, I am just sitting back and watching it play out.

It is pretty surreal to think that something I wrote is now out there for people to read!

THE SHADOW WATCH is available on in Ebook and Paperback through Amazon KDP.

TSW eBook non-publish

THE SHADOW WATCH

For centuries, the Oshan Empire has ruled the New World with terror and blood. The Watchers have been eradicated, and their sorcery is but a whispered myth. But the heart of magic beats on, and as it surges back to life, three young people will determine the fate of the world…

Tori Burodai, a strong-willed slave girl. Her magic could ignite a revolution, but only if she resists the ruler who wants to use her powers to restore the empire to its former glory.

Darien Redvar, the idealistic soldier she loves. His rage leads him down a dark path to power that could turn him against the one person he cares for.

Kale Andovier, a lordling rebel with a torturous past. His quest for a weapon of dark sorcery will thrust him into a twisted game of power that could change the world forever.

Will the return of magic transform the New World, or bring it to ruin?

Perfect for fans of Mistborn and Throne of Glass.

My Self-Publishing Journey (three weeks from launch)

My fantasy novel, The Shadow Watch, is now up for pre-order on Amazon. I have received my proofs, and I am wrapping up my final-final read of the book, IN PRINT. ARCs are sent off. The early reviews are trickling in on Goodreads. All this hard work for the past two years is nearly done.

And my stomach is full of butterflies, as I wait to see what happens with my first published novel.

But already I have reached some really cool milestones.

 

I saw my book in print for the first time – Holy Crap! I cannot tell you what an amazing experience this was. It has been my dream for so many years. As I read through the opening chapters, I was holding back tears (and I am not much of a crier). But there is nothing like holding your own book for the first time.

 

I got my first US sale AND my first international sale too – This was a pretty crazy feeling. I have been writing for years, wondering if anything would ever come of it. I posted the first draft on Wattpad originally. But the fact that someone (in Germany, no less) was willing to shell out hard-earned cash for something I wrote was a pretty cool experience.

 

I got my first review on Goodreads (um, and my novel is on freaking Goodreads!) – I built a Launch Team from my readership on Wattpad. I had heard many stories that few Wattpad followers turn into readers beyond Wattpad, as that readership is used to free books. So I decided to invite them to join me in a different (and still free) way. Reviews are huge for a first-time novel (or any novel for that matter), so I figured I would give the final version to those readers for free in hopes they would give me some of those initial reviews. And that has really paid off. Those readers were very eager to be involved in the launch, and many have already begun posting their reviews on Goodreads.

 

And I got my first Booktuber reviewThis was an unexpected one. A couple wonderful young women approached me (through Wattpad) to review the book, and it was absolutely incredible to hear someone fangirl over my book for like 20 MINUTES, talking about these characters that have become like family members to me. Very surreal! Be advised, if you have not read the book yet, there are spoilers after the first 4 or 5 minutes.

 

In three weeks, even more firsts will begin!

 

In the meantime, you can pre-order THE SHADOW WATCH here!

 

Behind the Scenes of My Fantasy Novel – “The Shadow Watch”

The following is a behind the scenes look at my new fantasy novel The Shadow Watch, coming out on May 15, as well as a glance at things to come after the Shadow Watch series. The questions came from an interview for a group on Wattpad.

 

How did you come up with the title of your book?

The Shadow Watch title came early on in the writing process. I think I called the book The Watchers first. I knew that my magically gifted warriors were going to be called Watchers from the start, and the Shadow Watch quickly became the title of the rebel army for which the book takes its name. As soon as I came up with the army, I knew that was the title, and it stuck.

Why did you choose to have multiple perspectives  instead of just one?

This came about unintentionally. I originally set out to write only from Tori’s perspective. But the story had a mind of its own. I reached a certain point, and I realized that I needed to see what was going on with Darien in the Legion army. And then, the same happened for Kale and his whole plight amongst the Yan Avii developed.

Looking back, I don’t think the story could have been told any other way. Two more perspectives have joined the fray in Book 2. So, I guess I chose multiple perspectives because it merely felt right in the process. I also love multi-POV fantasy stories. I tend to get bored with one character after a while. Maybe that bled into my writing.

Is there any symbolism you worked into the book that you’d like to discuss?

Hmmmm. I don’t know if I would go as far as intentional symbolism. There are certainly parallels between the world of the Shadow Watch and our own. There are a few nods to various mythologies and cultures from our world, which may stand out if you look closely.

If you could pick some “theme songs” for the book, what would they be and why?
The Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed soundtracks capture the mood of the book very well. Skyrim for the mountainous scenes, and Assassin’s Creed for the desert city ones.


Do you have any “theme songs” for the characters?

The entire album Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men always makes me think of Darien. The song “Organs” is especially powerful. It is about someone coming apart from within in the wake of things going wrong. It really captures him as he transforms from an idealistic rebel into a servant of the enemy. I listened to it a lot as I was writing his perspective.


What are some of the main themes or ideas you explore within the book?

The main struggle is between oppressed groups and empire, a narrative that is sadly very relevant in the world today. There are themes of colonialism prevalent as well. The seduction of power and the attractiveness of the powerful is certainly a recurring theme. Tragic pasts shape most of my characters. The dark side of love is something that interests me and shows up a lot in my writing. It fascinates me the way the people we care for can be used against us.

One thing I really tried to make a point to capture was the complexity of human motivations. All my characters have good and bad qualities, and they make good and bad choices. Even the chancellor (the primary villain) is not all bad, and he has definite reasons for being the way he is, something that is explored more as the series goes on.

What are some themes/concepts/ideas you’re interested in writing about in general?

I would love to explore more family dynamics. You see that to an extent with Kale and Ren in The Shadow Watch, but most of my characters have been separated from their families and so that dynamic is not as prevalent. I would love to explore a more complex family dynamic, where all the members (including parents) are still alive and prominent in the story, particularly one where culture and honor are very important and create lots of potential for conflict. That’s my vision for my next project.

I also want to get more creative in the potential for “strangeness” in a fantasy world. Most fantasy settings (including my own) tend to pretty closely mirror Earth cultures, landscapes, etc. My dream would be to explore a setting that feels totally new, the way Sanderson does in the Stormlight Archive. I’ve got an idea brewing now for my next series, and it explores a fantasy world that is tidally locked with its sun (like our Moon is locked with Earth), so that one side of the world is always light, and one is always dark. I’m really excited to explore what kind of mythologies, creatures, and culture might develop on such a world. But it is still very much in development, and on the backburner until I finish the Shadow Watch series.

 

The Shadow Watch is now available for Pre-order here.

My Fantasy Cover Reveal

It has been a crazy journey for The Shadow Watch, but now all this work is paying off. My cover is complete and the book is now available for pre-order on Amazongoo.gl/fqTdYy

TSW eBook non-publish

 

The cover was far more work than I anticipated, and I didn’t do any of the real work. There were so many things to think through. I had no idea how involved the illustration process was, and that was an amazing thing to learn. I have so much appreciation for cover designers.

This illustration went through about 9 phases of development, which was amazing because I was able to offer input and think through what I wanted throughout the process. The result was more than I could have hoped for. I am in love with this cover!

The illustration was done by the amazing Gwenn Danae. And the typography was done by Stefanie Saw. Check out their work. I highly recommend them both.

It was incredible to see this character I’ve written so much about come to life, and I am so glad I opted for the custom illustration route for this cover.

The book releases on MAY 15.

So excited to send my book out into the world!

And especially excited to have it going out in such style!