It's been some time since we've had a chance to chat with prolific writer Roy Huff. He's been very busy and has brilliant new work available as well as on the way. So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to catch up.
Welcome back, Roy. Please tell us what you've been up to.
I have several projects I've been working on for the last three years. Two rough drafts are complete, and I'm working on a third project, a space opera. I've revamped my website, including offering a free short.
I'm also working on completing the audiobooks for the last two books in the Everville series.
So during the next nine months, I expect to release three new books and five audiobooks, two of them for books already released. I had taken a detour from fiction after publishing my first nonfiction book, so it's nice to get back to it.
Before the lockdown, I spent breaks traveling to Europe and Asia, and I plan to get back to it, once the 14-day quarantine in Hawaii, where I live, is removed.
I had a trip to Milan for Spring Break that was canceled. I will get back there. I travel to Japan a lot, my wife and daughter being Japanese, so I will get back there again soon. The only question is when.
Moving forward. I'm planning on pushing the space opera book into a series, and I think the time travel book has the potential for a series as well. We shall have to see.
Effective use of daily time is something I wrote extensively about in my non-fiction book, Think Smart Not Hard. I have an early morning routine that starts usually around 4 AM, and I complete my number one and two tasks usually before 6:30 AM. This was something I gravitated towards out of necessity after a divorce five years ago. I needed to be on top of my game and set a good example for my daughter. I needed the energy, and the mental fortitude.
Five years ago, I gave up drinking, and began to get in the habit of daily at home workouts, usually less than ten minutes. I also gave up fast food because of the high calorie density, and lost 44 pounds in 44 weeks once I did. I've kept most of it off, only putting 15 pounds back on as muscle. I also sleep earlier. Generally, I sleep by 9 PM so I can get at least seven hours of sleep. This provides me more focus and energy, so regardless of what I do for the remainder of the day, I've pushed ahead with my plan.
As far as audiobooks. I waited for the last two books in the Everville series because of a contract I had with my agent, but that's since expired. I've decided I'd rather, at least at the moment, push forward independently for the series. So my process for audiobooks is simply a general audition on ACX/Audible with split royalties to avoid up-front cost. I've experimented with several marketing strategies, and have a general idea on what can work.
I've also focused on improving my writing craft. The more you know, the more you realize what you don't know. I've taken a varied approach, but the general rule is I simply write more frequently and read more frequently. I read more in my genre, and I also read books on writing. So my three key strategies are to systemize, improve, and publish. I haven't published nearly as much as I'd like in the last three years since my last book, so it's time to get more out there and publish with more regularity.
I think one way to "do" instead of "want to do" is to take baby steps, but take them consistently. Develop habits by removing as much resistance as possible. Commit to one push-up a day for three months. Commit to writing one sentence a day for three months. Commit to writing a daily journal for one minute for three months. Anchor the habits to an existing routine, and then gradually increase the commitment once you've developed the habits. Forgiving yourself is also essential. So it's a combination of developing a growth mindset, effective habits, and iteration that helps the most.
I'm by no means perfect and frequently screw up my routine. But forgiving myself when I do is essential to banishing shame and embracing possibility. I've always considered myself an optimist, so that helps. But it can sometimes blind me to what needs to be done, so seeking out mentors and those who've walked the path before helps highlight blind spots.
That's all very good, cogent, practical advice. And your candor is much appreciated. I used to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to train before going to work but I wouldn't get home from work until 7pm or so and by 8pm I was fried and stressed out about going to bed on time. I began pounding a Bang energy drink each morning to help me wake up early, but by Thursday for Friday night, I was exhausted and my inner five-year-old would come to the surface and take me on a whirlwind eating binge. And with less sleep but continued quantities of intense training and daily activities, I found myself catching colds regularly. So I ultimately stopped getting up quite so early. Thankfully, we're no longer involved in the daily commute thing so I can use those two extra hours per day for other things.
You mentioned your agent and finding a mentor. Talk a little about your experience with the traditional publishing route, finding an agent, and your general thoughts on the state of the publishing industry today, both indie and legacy.
Regarding traditional publishing, it has its place. But I like the flexibility of doing things on my own, primarily because of swiftness and control. Authors are also expected now to do the bulk of the marketing even if traditionally published.
There are still benefits. I think seeking legitimacy and other people's approval is a big part of going the traditional route.
But being an independent thinker, I've always thought obsessing about what other people think is no way to live.
I realize authors should think about their readers, but typically, engaging authors are most like their readers in terms of interest, so I think it's less of an issue than most people realize. That said, both routes can provide value, but focusing on the traditional route was what delayed my initial foray in the writing world in the first place because I found it so daunting. 100% of zero is still zero. So I think for many people, it might be a good way to get started. You can't get feedback unless you write something. And if something is keeping you from writing, it might be time to think about ways to get around those obstacles.
Both industries will continue to evolve and adapt. And as authors, we must be willing to do the same. As an independent author, one has the flexibility to adapt quickly. And while you may lack the resources of the larger outfits, agility in a fast-changing marketplace is at a premium.
That said, quality is important. But you have to give yourself permission to fail and permission to write badly if you're going to accomplish much in the writing world. The key thing is to learn from constructive feedback, failure, and allow yourself to move on. Developing a plan and a system, or at least having someone develop it for you, can work wonders.
Regarding the quality issue, you're spot-on. The marketplace is now flooded with books because the previous barriers to entry have been taken down due to the ease of self-publishing today. Talk about your quality control process. Do you have an editor you like and work with on each new project? Do you have a cover designer? Do you employ beta readers, perhaps such as through an online platform like betareader.io?
I use Damonza.com for my covers. A quality cover is essential. I think in many cases it's actually more important than the book. I use both beta readers and numerous editors. You can't have too many eyes on a project, but you should also give yourself a deadline, otherwise, procrastination through perfection will sabotage you. Finding quality editors is a struggle. But you can use multiple editors to focus on specific areas and still spend much less than a traditional editor.
There will always be a few things that are missed (which can later be corrected), but I think having a minimum of two editors, preferably three, works the best. I generally wait to get feedback on structure until I finish my first draft, and then I can make major changes. After the "final" draft is done, I generally have several to dozens of beta readers look through it before the final draft is published. I used to get my Beta Readers through Goodreads, and I still visit there occasionally, but I have a network now that can begin once I'm ready.
That's a good segue to your books. You mentioned that the box set of Everville is now available, the audiobooks, the new space opera short, and the new book.
Give us a rundown of the space opera and the forthcoming book.
Currently, only the audiobooks for Everville books 1 & 2 are available, but audiobooks 3 and 4 should be available in about 6-8 weeks. The boxed set is now available on Amazon, and I also have a free Space Opera short available on my website.
The next two books will be released over the summer. The first, Time Traveler: The Loop Back, will be published in late June.
The as-of-yet untitled space opera will be released in late July or early August.
The audiobooks for both will be released roughly six weeks later. I have more down the pike as well, but those projects and dates are subject to change.
For Time Traveler: The Loop Back, you'll have an interesting take on time travel. I don't want to give too much away, but it combines elements you may have seen in Quantum Leap and Doctor Who, without getting into specifics. The Space Opera book will use time dilation as a focal point of the plot. You'll have to wait until the blurb is published for more.
That's a great outro. And a lot of great writing from which to choose. Bravo, Roy, on your productivity.
Be sure to visit Roy's website to purchase your copy today!