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Author pursues passion amid shutdown

VIENNA — Local author Joshua E. B. Smith says COVID-19 has forced a shift in his book sales after the pandemic caused conventions and venues throughout the region to cancel 2020 events.

Smith, a life-long Wood County resident who lives in Vienna, has written and published four novels and has several more in the works.

“I started writing and creating worlds and novels back in the early 2000s,” he said. “I just never had the opportunity to build onto that and do anything with it until a few years ago.”

Smith specializes in “dark fantasy,” similar in tone to series such as “Game of Thrones” and “The Witcher.”

“Dark fantasy is one of those sub-genres that can cover a wide variety of subjects,” he said. “Some people think of it and think romance, others think material that’s just doom and gloom. What I do is ‘gritty.’ The good people are not perfect. Good things don’t always happen. The good guys don’t always save everyone. Heroes get hurt, and they have to recover. Bad guys sometimes win.”

Smith said the setting for his “Saga of the Dead Men Walking” novels is a dark, medieval world of swords, sorcery and monsters. The initial series is called “The Snowflakes Trilogy,” and Smith has begun a sub-series called “The Auramancer’s Exorcism.”

Smith’s sales are primarily through conventions where he has a chance to speak face-to-face with fans and new readers.

But COVID-19 has caused all of those venues, large and small, to close. Some have been able to bring events online with mixed success, but for vendors, artists and authors who rely on those in-person sales, the effect has been devastating.

Smith said he invested heavily in artwork and marketing for his newest novel, “The Saga of the Dead Men Walking: Insanity’s Respite,” which was released earlier this year. A second novel, “Insanity’s Rapture,” is expected to be released later this year.

“As I shift to a digital platform (for sales), they’ve largely tanked. I’m starting to see an upswing, but I had planned to hold a launch event at a major convention in Ohio this summer and had expected to recoup my investment costs from the earlier part of the year,” he said. “Losing that event, and not being able to match it with something virtual at the time of my last launch, really set things off on the wrong foot. Of course, that’s one event. Losing the rest of them didn’t help either, but it has given me more time to write, and a backlist is important.”

Smith called the shutdown of 2020 events “a mixed blessing” because it cut lines of revenue while reducing or eliminating many of the costs associated with selling at conventions.

“On one hand, I’m not going out to conventions, fairs, festivals and meeting fans in person, establishing working relationships with event organizers, or interacting with my peers. That’s something I had really gotten used to, and really enjoyed. Sure, it was stressful at times, but it’s a way to get out of your shell,” he said.

“On the other hand, I’m not traveling. I’m not spending time with physical setups. I’m not spending money on physical marketing,” Smith said. “I’ve been forced to move my business model to an online marketplace instead, and spend my time studying and researching the digital landscape. I’ve also had a lot more time to write, mostly because there’s a lot less to do.”

For more information on the “Saga of the Dead Men Walking” series, visit www.sagadmw.com or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/sagadmw. Author information on Smith and purchase links can be found at www.amazon.com/author/sdmw.

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