Ending The Struggle of the Struggling Artists: A Free Guide

You guys remember my Wattpad guide, right? It turned out to be useful for a lot of people.

I decided to post more things like that and not just book reviews and publishing related stuff. I have not been in the best shape physically and mentally so I didn’t blog a whole lot most of 2018 and a good part of 2017. (That is also the reason why I wasn’t able to write this post 2 years ago.)

Anyway, that terrible slump is over and I am pretty much reborn from my ashes like a phoenix and going to be hell of a lot more active. I owe my grand awakening and rebirth to an amazing composer I have discovered within the last few weeks. Long story short, some Jedi master info he shared on social media turned out to be a crucial life-changing catalyst that has awakened me from this terrible slumber of stagnation and mental paralysis. This is the topic of a whole another blog post, and I will make a detailed post on that soon.

Now back to the topic at hand: There is a number of struggling artists among my friends & social media connections and I noticed a lot of them are struggling to pay their bills, selling their work far too cheap and exhaust themselves to promote their art, to little avail. That is because they don’t have much of a choice. I see people who do art commissions for ridiculously low prices and it truly breaks my heart. I screamed like hell on Facebook but it goes unheard in all the noise and never reaches the audience who needs it. Now I’m sacrificing my fiction writing time to do this piece cause it makes me literally sick to see all that unfairness and I want to help making a difference.

As someone who has made pretty decent money from art before, I am going to give you some useful -perhaps vital- tips. Now the full disclaimer: I don’t want anything in return other than seeing you guys out of poverty, I am not upselling anything or dropping any affiliate links whatsoever. Good karma and making a difference is more than enough. I am going to be frank though, there will be no sugar-coating and no bullshit. I’m autistic so being frank is in my nature anyway. Think of me as the doctor making a diagnosis and prescribing the medicine to fix it. You may not like some of it but if you really listen and follow the tips here, you will get out of that vicious cycle of poverty sooner or later, depending on how quick you act and how much effort you put on it.

It Is Possible To Make $50 An Hour Or More – How I Did It

I will give some background info before getting to the heart of it so you see I know what I’m talking about: I never talked about it on this blog, but I happen to be a self-taught pencil artist, even though I haven’t been active for a number of years. I took commissions back in the days and made pretty good money.

I quit doing commissions after doing a few pieces cause 1) I didn’t need the money (I was making good money from my corporate IT job at the time) and 2) I wanted to draw what I wanted to draw and doing commissions was literally strangling me due to my severe untreated ADHD. Drawing was therapeutic for it but commissions were not. 3) The whole reason I did commissions in the first place was a challenge to myself -to prove that I could get decent money for my art.

This is why I cringed so bad when I saw a pencil artist doing pet portrait commissions for a measly $15 and others doing custom art for $10/hour or less. The lowest I charged was $150 for something that took me a couple of hours and I thought that too low. That is $150 in 2006, which was 12 years ago, and that bought more food back then than it does now. I am a super autist so I got curious and checked the USDA statistics just now: Retail price of a pound of beef was $3.97 in 2006 and $5.80 now in year 2018 so go figure. Nearly 50% more buying power, so that $150 would be $225 in today’s currency.

Highest I charged was $500 ($750 in today’s dollars) for something more detailed that took a good part of a day. I am dropping these numbers here so you see it’s quite possible. If I did it, so can you. The only reason you are not making this kind of money is the unfortunate circumstances you are in right now, which means bad environment factors. These can all be fixed in no time using the methods I am about to tell you.

So how did I manage to make this kind of money as a nobody? Did I do free work for “exposure” or sell my art super cheap to get my name out there? Did I have connections? Not at all. Like I said, I made pretty good money from my full time IT job and drawing was just a hobby for me. Commissions were to prove myself I could actually get paid for it.

How and Where I Found The Clients

I found clients from fandom forums, Yahoo groups (which were quite big at the time) and what limited social media we had back then, in the form of now defunct msn, icq and nearly extinct irc. I had a Deviantart gallery (I still have it!) and uploaded my work there and my own web site, showed it around on the aforementioned primitive social media, posted my LOTR and Harry Potter pieces on fan art forums and the clients came to me. I’d done a peculiar Nazgul piece for myself using a movie still as a reference and received offers up to $2000 to sell it or make another one like it. LOTR was pretty hot back then with the movies newly released so it was super duper easy to get visibility and clients flocking to you left, right and center by posting something better than the average fan art floating out there. 2k was good money but I didn’t want anyone else to have that piece and it was the kind of work you do only once. You are artists so you know what I mean. I spent 3.5 hours on that blade alone, making the worn texture with sewing needles. 2k was good but not good enough (Hint: That is the exact mentality I want you to develop about your art. If I didn’t have faith and confidence, people wouldn’t offer that kind of money for it.)

So, here is your first tip:

Do some fan art of the hottest trendy thing you like, post it around on fandom forums, Instagram, Deviantart and Twitter, post on fandom-related Facebook groups and what have you. On Twitter, Instagram and Deviantart make sure to stuff your keywords and hashtags to death. You have stiff competition so better give those pieces all you have, this will be your premium portfolio and storefront. It is crucial that these fan art pieces MUST be your absolute best. It goes without saying that you need to keep track of what sells on the fandom market and deliver the same kind of quality.

I gave everything I had to that Nazgul drawing and worked on it every day for 2 weeks, put easily 15-20 hours and it still gets shock and awe reactions 15 years after I have created it (Holy shit, time flies! 15 years! When the hell did 15 years pass?!) I could easily get high-paying commissions if I pimped it around right now.

You guys have hell of lot better platforms and broader opportunities than the limited tools I had back then but you are making some grave mistakes and this is why you are struggling.

What Is the Biggest Mistake That Is Sabotaging Your Livelihood

I observed a number of artists for a good long time and analyzed their patterns, they all have one major thing in common (other than the fact that they are struggling to make ends meet and selling their art way below what it should go for.)

It is super obvious to an outside observer like myself, but when you are in that situation and worrying about what to eat tomorrow, you won’t have the time and mental energy to see those things. Well that’s what I’m here for.

So lo and behold, here is the biggest mistake that has become the ball and chain keeping you down: You are trying to sell your art to other poor people. Your network is mostly poor folks who can’t really afford to buy artwork and/or penny pinchers who order commissions and stiff you. Surrounding yourself with poor people is not going to get you anywhere if you want to make a living from art.

You need to change this and start building a network of affluent clientele. Thing is, you can’t just go around adding the affluent demographic that isn’t the right audience for you. You need to determine your target audience first. Choose the target audience right and you will make a killing.

How To Get The Right Kind of Clients

First of all, write down what circles/tribes do you belong. Are you a geek/nerd type? Are you in any fandoms? Do you do specialized stuff like pet portraits, wedding portraits? Do you do anime/manga stuff? Are you into erotic art? Do you do tarot, witchcraft, occult art? Do you do religious themes? Are you in the indie publishing scene, can you do book covers? So on and so forth.

Write down your fandoms, main interests, what genres of art you are willing/able to create. Then write down the same for your target audience, who they are, what they buy. No clue? You can go around look at Deviantart and see who sells and buys commissions there. Almost all of the artists I follow do commissions for pretty penny. We are talking about hundreds to thousands of dollars for mid-tier to high-end digital art. There are folks who do ink and watercolors but I didn’t pay attention to that market. Folks who write fan fiction order commissions for their fan fic characters all the time. We are talking about a damn lot of money here.

Many of these same artists make a killing from book covers also. Custom book covers go anywhere from $150 (stock photo manipulation) to $2000 (original hand-drawn digital art). I know for a fact cause I shopped around and got quotes to figure out self-publishing costs for some future projects I’m planning. I didn’t just query the artists on Deviantart but also those I found via Artstation, Instagram and Facebook. Instagram is a great platform for showcasing your portfolio and not very hard to build a following if you do fan art/niche art and use the hashtags wisely. However the competition is rather fierce so you have put your absolute best on there get attention and clients. I can’t emphasize this enough. If I was able to score such deals, you definitely can, without question. The market is hell of a lot bigger now compared to 2006 and it’s so much easier to reach the audience.

How To Avoid The Shysters Who Stiff You

This one is rather straightforward: Charge a decent fee and get half of it upfront. If you are making money from art then you are a professional and this is what professionals do. However, if you follow the tips I gave here, your chances of getting that kind of clients will be quite low. Still, you need to charge half upfront or the clients won’t take you serious especially the affluent clients. They have certain expectations and you need to deliver them. The first one is acting like a professional and this means charging the upfront fees and having a solid price catalog. You need to have a list of standard prices for your original art and prints. Most importantly, don’t sell anything short unless it’s a bundle deal for a repeat customer, a holiday special to attract new clients or upselling something more expensive.

There are other reasons you are getting those shysters and I will get to this in a bit.

Creating More Income

When you are catering to the affluent clientele, you have the options like creating repeat business and upselling. You can offer a discount for a second work or upsell something that costs more. You can also offer discount deals or a small freebie for referrals. If they bring you x number of referrals, do a freebie piece for them (one that does not take too many hours.)

Once you are dealing with the this kind of clientele, there is a whole different ballpark and different work and tactics involved, but that is outside the scope of this article.

The Last and Most Important Piece of Information

One major issue I have been seeing around is the lack of confidence. It is not easy to be confident and have a high self esteem when you are struggling in abject poverty conditions. Believe me, I have been there long enough and I know how that goes.

You need to value your art first and foremost, if you don’t no one will.
If you have even a sliver of doubt, people can tell. It will show one way or the other. It will show when you fold and not charge that upfront fee, it will show when you cut prices before the client asks for it. This gives the subconscious message to the clients to haggle it down as low as possible -even if they had no such intention in the beginning. It doesn’t matter if you are the next Picasso, if you lack self esteem, people will pay low prices and stiff you more often than not. In fact that kind of psychology is what attracts the sort of people who stiff you in the first place.

Many of you have anxiety and depression issues which come with low self esteem. I’ve been there longer than I’d care to, I should know. Here is one easy no-brainer way to fix this. Grab a piece of paper and write the following on it:

My art is valuable.
I am going to make X dollars a month form my art. (Put whatever is the decent living wage where you are. Not a dollar less.)
I charge at least X dollars an hour for the commission work.
I will cater to affluent clientele, they will buy my art and bring me referrals.

You can add more items as you like. Read this aloud every morning when you wake up and every night before going to bed, like a religious ritual.
Do that every single day twice a day until you see that X dollars. It is simple, costs you nothing and requires no effort other than reading a few lines. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is called autosuggestion, a simple yet extremely powerful method to program your brain to remove all the anxiety and low self esteem that is sabotaging your art business.

You are going to see that X dollars, I guarantee that 100%.
And when you do, pay it forward and teach this stuff to any struggling/starving artists you come across.

Oh, and BUY MY BOOK when it comes out and post a glowing review on Goodreads for it and buy it for Christmas/Yule/birthday gifts for all your friends and family. You will have enough money to buy a whole bunch of first edition hardcovers.

Ok I lied when I said I want nothing in exchange for the info I am giving away for free: There is no such thing as something for nothing. I took the hours to write all this (instead of working on my book!) cause I want you people to make a shit ton of money so you can each buy a dozen or two hard cover copies of my book 🙂

There you have it.

Now go make some money!

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Book Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Godblind
Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Godblind
Author info: https://anna-stephens.com/

This year has not been very good, I didn’t read nowhere near as much as I’d like. Way late to the party with the 2017 debuts and still a few books left to catch up. I have been so curious about Godblind for the longest time, and happy to finally read it.

Godblind is a page-turner grimdark tale, I didn’t even realize I was at the end when I read the last page. I was like “It’s finished? Wow!” Action doesn’t let up and there is plenty of breathtaking thrill. There is also political intrigue and religious clashes, which are my favorite themes to read in fantasy books.

I have read some critical reviews complaining about the use of modern verbiage in Godblind. Normally that is a pet peeve of mine, but 1) It’s very negligible and 2) The story is so thrilling I didn’t really care.

Rillirin’s thread is quite an interesting one and her character development is pretty cool. Looks like she will unlock her potential in the second book. Crys was my favorite character since I’m a sucker for the underdogs. His adventures and especially the tavern and barracks scenes were so much fun to read. The Mireces high priestess Lanta reminded me of Cersei from the Game of Thrones, she drove me crazy and I wanted to beat her with a saguaro cactus so bad!

Dom the shaman is quite intriguing and his sad story adds a nice element in-between all the fast-paced thrill rides. Corvus is hella interesting, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time. I have a feeling he will have a bigger part in the sequel. Durdil, commander of the palace guard was one of my favorite characters and his POV chapters were some of the most compelling to read.

That’s the quick rundown of the characters. I am particular about keeping my reviews spoiler-free but I can say there are some head-spinning twists and some characters will go to places. There are some incredibly savage and cruel moments that are more brutal than even the darkest of grimdark, so Godblind is definitely not for the faint of heart. Male readers be warned, there is one torture scene that is going to make you cringe (or worse.)
I ought to classify it as GDAF (Grimdark As Fuck) as we say in the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers group. But it is also a great action thriller and might make you forget to breathe in a few places.

Overall a great fun read, compelling characters, fast-paced action, great battle scenes and political intrigue, plenty of blood and mayhem to boot.

Signed Holy Sister ARC giveaway

that thorn guy

On this blessed day of Saint Nicholas I’m delighted to announce a giveaway where you can win a signed (or dedicated) Advance Reading Copy of the much anticipated final volume of the Book of the Ancestor trilogy,

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HOLY SISTER!

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To participate simply comment below this post and answer any (or all three) of the following three questions:

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1. Which of Mark’s books was the first one you read and what made you get a copy?

2. Do you have a favourite book by Mark? If yes, what makes it special for you?

3. Which of his characters would you like to read about in a new short story?

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The giveaway will end on Christmas Eve, 24th December 2018 and as usual, I will ask Mark to randomly select a winner.

This is, as always, an international giveaway, anyone can enter!

Wishing you the best of…

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Hypatia Of Alexandria And The Murder That Crushed Intellectualism

The Raven Report

Was not Hypatia the greatest philosopher of Alexandria, and a true martyr to the old values of learning? She was torn to pieces by a mob of incensed Christians not because she was a woman, but because her learning was so profound, her skills at dialectic so extensive that she reduced all who queried her to embarrassed silence. They could not argue with her, so they murdered her. 
―Iaian Pears, The Dream of Scipio

Hypatia-Ancient-Roman-philosopher-Intellectualism-Religiont

Some people say knowledge is a dangerous thing—and in the case of the woman philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria, they would be right. Her story as one of the most meaningful intellectuals of the Byzantine Empire is both inspiring and terrifying, providing a glimpse at a time when science was viewed with skepticism and outright resentment. Born around 355, Hypatia was the leading mathematician and astronomer of her time and the first woman to make her…

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Book Review: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

The Great Ordeal

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy
Series: The Band
Author info: https://nicholaseames.com/

This is going to be a difficult one. Kings of the Wyld was one of the most successful fantasy debuts of 2017, in fact it outsold every single one by scores except for The Bear and the Nightingale (which is high up in my TBR list.)

There has been massive hype and buzz about this book, it sold like hot cakes and the rock band allusion was well-loved by the audience. It is a decent popcorn to be honest, but unfortunately not exactly my cup of tea. First and foremost, this is a funny popcorn, if you are looking for any depth and any serious stuff, this is not the book you want. King of the Wyld is for those who want a light read and a good laugh, and especially the male readers.

I must admit did not enjoy the first 100 pages but thankfully it got much better. It is a nice and entertaining light read in the end, but I found half of the humor too masculine and immature to my taste. Then again overwhelming majority of the fantasy audience is dudes, so  there is no problem when it comes to the market.

The character cast is pretty cool in general, the monsters are quite entertaining and original. There are plenty of old school d&d style quests and adventures, I enjoyed those for the most part. The whole rock band and music scene allusion should be definitely hell of a lot of fun for rock fans, it is a pretty cool and original concept, just not my thing. Magic Moog was my favorite side character. He is hilarious and great fun to read. Every old school fantasy and D&D lover will be an instant fan of this character (and if they don’t, I shall question their sanity.) If Mr Eames wrote a novella or spinoff book of Moog, I’d totally read it. Ganelon the barbarian -tank of the group- and the bandit Jain are my other favorite side characters. Those two added plenty of bonus fun to the story. However, the band of old mercenaries don’t come off the least bit mature -they all sound like frisky 20-somethings. Except for Moog, he sounds like an old guy going a bit senile.

The protag Clay Cooper is a cool fella. Even though Kings of the Wyld was not quite my cup of tea, it had enough good parts to make me want to read the sequel, Wild Rose. It’s not all fun and giggles, however, there is plenty of violence and fast-paced fight scenes splattered with gore and a good dose of thrill & suspense. Overall it’s a decent popcorn to read to wind down and relax, but it didn’t impress me a whole lot since I am not a fan of modern slang and pop culture references in fantasy. I like the old times atmosphere and either historical-like or completely alien settings. The other issue I had was the Deus Ex Machina dose being too high to my taste. Characters, monsters and adventures make up for it though. Like I said, Kings of the Wyld has some great moments. 

Verdict: If you are looking for a funny comfort read -especially if you are a dude or rock music fan or both- go for it, you will most likely love it. If you like original monsters, including yucky and hilarious ones, you will have a lot of fun. Even if you are the nitpicking puritanist type like me, Kings of the Wyld is still pretty entertaining and you won’t regret reading it.

Book Review: Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

Memories of Ice

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen
Author info: http://www.steven-erikson.com/

This is the third book of Malazan series.
Here is my spoiler-free review of the earlier books in the series: Gardens of The Moon (Book #1)
Deadhouse Gates (Book #2)

Deadhouse Gates was set in a completely different continent with a whole new set of characters (and some old familiar ones), and half of the book was following the non-military folk. Memories of Ice is full on military and a damn great one at that. And -this doesn’t count as a spoiler- my favorite antihero Anomander Rake is back in business, as well as all the familiar characters from gardens of the Moon. Memories of Ice reads like a sequel to GOTM in fact.

This volume is pretty damn epic but be warned -Grimdarkiness levels up and a lot of depressing scenes take place. If Deadhouse Gates broke your heart, Memories of Ice will rip it into a thousand shreds and then some. Well, the series isn’t called Malazan Book of the Fallen for nothing, you know.

It is not all grimdark and despair, however. Kruppe is more hilarious than ever, Quick Ben will crack you up and Picker and Blend will give you belly laughs here and there. Those two are quite brilliant and should be counted among the best female soldier characters. Erikson is one of the rare fantasy authors who writes excellent female characters without sexualizing them or putting them in romantic relationships. One of my biggest pet peeves is female characters being thrown in romance situations or overly sexualized. Erikson’s female characters remind me of ReasonableFantasy subreddit where folks share artwork portraying female fantasy characters in a non-sexualizing way. No chainmail bikinis whatsoever. It’s not like Erikson’s female characters are all chaste asexuals, but their character traits and skills come first and foremost, and some of them are quite powerful where they dwarf even some of the badass male characters.

Mhybe is one of the most intriguing and engaging characters, with a tragic storyline you feel like a stab wound and the fascinating supernatural adventure she goes through.

The battle between the gods evokes the mythologies of the ancient civilizations and I must say I’ve never read anything quite like this in any fantasy series. Wow just wow. Especially the new god that shows up, all the twists and turns that follow, and how it neatly ties the story to that one cool ass element from Gardens of the Moon. I knew that was going to be important and come back later, but it did in such a glorious way. Just brilliant!

The lore gets better and better, and you get to learn all the mysteries of the T’lan Imass. Boy I just love these guys. They are my favorite race after the Wickans. They are so odd and strange and fascinating in every way. Worldbuilding continues to fascinate, with new cool elements revealed. Remember the Deck of Dragons? It will uncover even more surprises and going to drop your jaw some more. Someone should make Deck of Dragons tarot cards and take my money.

Some of the new characters start out as uninteresting, if not outright boring but end up being super epic dialled up to 11. I am not exaggerating at all. I don’t like writing long ass reviews so I gotta conclude here -it shall suffice to say that Memories of Ice is an absolute page turner and superlative epic instalment of a legendary series. I don’t understand why Malazan is so underrated truth be told. I have a hard time to believe it doesn’t outsell A Song of Ice and Fire and not made into TV series. It would make such an amazing series, far more epic than the Game of Thrones imho.

If you aren’t reading Malazan, you are missing a damn lot.

Book Review: Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Deadhouse Gates

This is the second book of Malazan series.
Here is my spoiler-free review of the first book, Gardens of The Moon.

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen
Author info: http://www.steven-erikson.com/

I’ve been dying to read this for months but other stuff and life problems come along and I wasn’t able to read much last year. I finally got to read this masterpiece and quite happy for it. The story continues, on a different continent and featuring a different cast of characters. Erikson has a way of pulling you right into the story even though it is an alien environment and none of the familiar characters show up at first. But worry you not, dear readers, they do show up alright! Good old Bridgeburners Fiddler, Hedge, Kalam, and that’s more than good. Our old friends Crokus and Apsalar show up too. Kalam’s ninja assassin badassery is the icing on the cake.

The story starts with Paran’s little sister Felisin, ex-Fener priest Heboric and the brute called Baudin. Even though they were completely new and I’ve been missing the Bridgeburners and Anomander Rake, I found their chapters thrilling and addictive. Felisin is the kind of character you don’t know whether to love or hate.

The new characters are pretty fascinating and there is a great bromance involving two of those, called Mappo and Icarium. I am a huge fan of bromances with humor, and this happened to be the just the perfect thing. They have hilarious moments as well as deeply emotional ones, they are both badass in their own right, the whole thing made me yearn for a Malazan TV show in fact.

Iskalar Pust is an intriguing, hilarious old wizard guy and his chapters are both grotesque and funny as hell. Combined with Mappo and Icarium bromance, those chapters are extremely entertaining. Some of the scenes made me laugh like a madman.
The settings and richness of the cultures is mind-blowing awesome as ever, and Erikson’s arhchaeologist background really shows.

Malazan Imperial historian Duiker is another excellent, complex, work of art kind of character. Wickan commander Coltaine is downright one of the best fighter character I’ve read. Wickans are, along with Seguleh, one of my absolute favorite barbarian-warrior races in fantasy literature.

There are hell of a lot more characters than that, but it’s better if you read and discover for yourselves. Despite the large cast of characters, they are all more or less memorable and most of them have some magnificent scenes that will leave your jaw hanging open. For the curious, here is the excellent spoiler-free crash course on Deadhouse Gates characters by Laura M. Hughes: https://www.tor.com/2017/06/01/a-beginners-guide-to-malazan-characters-deadhouse-gates/

Deadhouse Gates makes you laugh, cry, curse, rage, hopeful, depressed, and everything inbetween, but I must drop a word of warning here: It gets more grimdark as you progress and it is going to rip your heart into pieces even if you are a seasoned Robin Hobb reader. That’s all I can say without spoiling anything. Gardens of the Moon wasn’t really in grimdark territory, but Deadhouse Gates definitely is. If you love grimdark stories and Robin Hobb, you will most likely be a fan.

I gotta say I loved Deadhouse Gates to death despite the lack of my biggest crush Anomander Rake. Even if you read Gardens of the Moon and didn’t like it, I still highly recommend to give it a chance cause Deadhouse Gates is different and its format is more like a fantasy book compared to Gardens of the Moon.

Deadhouse Gates has everything I love about fantasy and then some.