I interact with a lot of authors, either through my writing or my book reviews, and I’ve had a few comment on the seeming rapidity of my release schedule. But I’m not really a fast writer—I just have a backlog of content that is only now making its way into the world.
I’ve always been a writer. My brain goes into a very unhappy place when I can’t work on some sort of project, and it has been that way since elementary school (I’m 40 now, so I’ve been infected with the writing bug for a long time. It hasn’t relented. If anything, it’s only grown more voracious over the years.)
I started out writing stories just for fun. It was something to pass the time, and I never intended to have anyone read them. And when they asked to, I was both thrilled and mortified. Who would want to read my stuff? I write fantasy for the most part, but I’m a microbiologist by trade. I don’t have fancy writing credentials. What I do have is a love for stories, for reading, and a weird affinity for spelling. That doesn’t necessarily translate into my writing being worthy of the reading masses, or so I thought for many years.
What changed my mindset was when I finished the first draft of Exile. I loved that story. I put my soul into that book, more so than anything I’d written before. And I did something I rarely did before—I let a few people read it.
Admittedly, that first draft needed a lot of work, but the story was there. And with some revising, editing, and polish, I decided to take the plunge into querying. All the while, I continued to write new stories, both in that series and in others. I even started to revisit some of my older works while I waited to hear from the various agents and edit those into something worth reading.
I didn’t start to seriously consider indie publishing until the pandemic hit in 2020. By that time, I had eight books drafted (including Exile.) The lockdowns provided me with time to research the indie scene more thoroughly, something I probably would have lacked otherwise. My job keeps me busy and so does family, but I will always find time to write. Time to research and learn how to publish? Not so much. But what else did I have to do when I was banned from going into work for weeks on end?
I continued to query Exile while I researched, and even after I started publishing a few of my older titles as an experiment. I’m a scientist, so testing is inherent in my nature. I wanted to see for myself if I could make the indie route work. I learned a lot with the first couple books—and I’m still learning things as I go—but I found it was a viable option.
When my Relics of War series started to gain some traction, I made the decision to stop querying because I knew I could do this myself. I just had to prove it first. And I believed this story was worth sharing.
All of this preamble to say: I have a bit of a backlog when it comes to publishing.
So now you’re probably asking how I organize my stuff into a release schedule while still writing new content. This is where the madness begins.
I’ll use my latest release as an example, since it’s the freshest in my mind. (It’s Serpentus, by the way, a standalone epic fantasy related to The Relics of War series. If you’d like more information on that book, it’s all here: https://ajcalvin.net/works-in-progress/serpentus/)
I started drafting Serpentus in 2022, so it’s one of my newer titles. I worked on it as I do most of my books—an hour at a time, early in the morning before I left for work, and in larger chunks on a few free weekends. Thinking back, I think it took me around nine weeks to draft from start to finish.
Once the draft was done, I set it aside.
I did more editing on Exile after that, then sent it off to my proofreader. By that point, I had decided to indie publish that series, and it was time to complete the final touches. I went on to revise the other three books in The Caein Legacy (Guardian, Harbinger, and Legend) in succession, just to make sure all the timelines added up and the series as a whole was cohesive. Yes, I had that entire series written well before I even approached someone for cover artwork. But that’s a story for another day.
After all the editing, I needed to write something again. So I jumped into book 5 of my work-in-progress series, The Mage War Chronicles, and drafted that. Around the same time, I contacted Jamie Noble, the artist who has illustrated most of my book covers. I needed some artwork for Serpentus, and given his schedule, I have to book months in advance.
Then I went back to Serpentus for initial revisions. This was about five months after I finished the initial draft. (I’ve learned over time that I need to give my projects space before revising. With time away from it, I can see a story’s flaws so much better and I’m able to correct them well before it reaches the hands of beta readers.)
Once revisions were done, I sent it to my beta reader team. And waiting for feedback began…
It was around that time Exile came back from the proofreader and I took a week to go through the manuscript and update it as needed, then worked on formatting it for physical copies and ebook editions. Once those were done, ARCs went out, preorders were set up, and Exile was ready to go.
Then I went back to writing something. In this case, it was Wraith and the Revolution, a standalone space opera that should release in mid-2025 if all goes according to plan. Somewhere in the middle of drafting this one I paused to do a final pass on Guardian and send it to the proofreader, since her schedule opened up, then I went back to drafting until it was finished.
After that, I went through beta feedback for Serpentus and made a few more changes. I also received the cover art for Serpentus and scheduled a cover reveal.
Then it was back to writing. This time, it was book 6 in The Mage War Chronicles. I paused somewhere in the middle of writing it to update Guardian after it came back from the proofreader, do the necessary formatting, and get preorders set up/finalized. Then I finished the draft and moved on.
Back to Serpentus. I made one more editing pass, then sent it to my proofreader.
Rinse and repeat…until I had a final copy ready for ARCs, preorders, etc. (All while writing yet another new story and prepping Harbinger for my proofreader.)
Trying to explain my process to others has always been a little daunting. I’m very much aware that I don’t follow the same track that so many other indie authors do, all because I have a backlog of books that I’d love to share, but I refuse to release anything until I am 100% sure it’s worth someone else’s time. With the release of Serpentus, my backlog is currently at 9 books and 1 novelette.
Suffice it to say, I have more books on the way, and will continue to have new content to publish for years to come.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post and waded through the chaos that is my process, thank you. And a big thank you to JamReads for allowing me to share this with everyone on his blog!
If you’d like to learn more about me and my various books, please check out my website at www.ajcalvin.net
If you liked what you've read, you can get the books of A.J. Calvin on Amazon and other retailers.
About A.J. Calvin
A.J. Calvin is a science fiction/fantasy novelist from Loveland, Colorado. By day, she works as a microbiologist, but in her free time she writes. She lives with her husband, their cat, and a salt water aquarium.
When she is not working or writing, she enjoys scuba diving, hiking, and playing video games.