Posted in publishing

Things I Wish I’d Known Before Publishing

I’m back! Sorry I was away for so long. My debut novel, Batter Days, launched at the end of September. Getting to the finish line was insane. There was so much to do in a short time. I had to take a step back from the blog for a minute to get my book baby off the ground.

Now that she’s out there in the world, I’m taking some time to reflect on some things I’ve learned. I did a lot of research into being an indie author before I started my first draft, but no amount of research could have prepared me for actually going through the process. There were so many unexpected things I had to learn on the fly. Shoot! I’m still learning, but maybe some of what I’ve learned along the way can help you on your journey.

Here are the top five things I wish I’d known before I became an author.

WRITING IS THE SMALLEST AMOUNT OF THE WORK

I think most of us have this romanticized view of authors’ lives. They sit in front of their computers all day in comfy clothes and reading glasses with endless cups of coffee and tea to keep them going. All they have to do is put the words on the page. As long as they keep writing, everything else will be fine, right? Wrong! As an author, you spend just as much time building your platform as you do writing. Maybe more.

Building an author platform is a ton of work. There are newsletters, websites, social media, and all that comes with it. It’s a lot. You have to be just as on top of that as you do everything else. Even this blog post is part of it. Writing the best book in the world does you no good if nobody knows to read it. Investing in building your platform is every bit as important as actually writing your book, and the time you spend on it should reflect that.

HIDDEN COSTS OF BEING AN AUTHOR

Being an indie author means you take all the production cost on yourself. I knew that going in. I was fully prepared to spend good money on editors and cover designers. As writers, we are often too close to the content we create to see the errors. We need editors to let us know where we are falling short. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve totally bought a book just because of the cover before. I want my book to look good so people will buy it, and I don’t have the skills to make that happen. That’s fine. I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting were the thousand other things that kept popping up.

Did you know that a single ISBN number is $125, and every version of your book needs a unique ISBN? That means the paperback, ebook, hardcover, etc., they all need their own ISBN numbers. Buying in bulk gets you a discount, but that is still a lot of money when you are first starting out. You also have to pay for your website domain and possibly your newsletter, depending on what you are looking for. And let’s not forget the design and marketing tools. Yes, there are free options for a lot of this stuff, but what you get out of it is limited. Saving the small piece of your sanity the account upgrade brings may very well be worth it if you plan on doing the whole author thing long-term.

AUTHOR EVENTS AND PROMOTIONS

So, this is something that was most definitely not on my radar before launch. I had no expectation of doing author events or needing a way to sell signed copies. This is my first book. The idea that there would be an audience for that kind of thing was laughable. I don’t have the following. My plan was to stick to social media and grassroots marketing. Maybe I’d get lucky and could expand more on the next book. Yeah. No.

Apparently, there is a demand for events regardless of where you are in your journey. People want to talk to authors about their process and how they got to where they are. They don’t care if you are a bestseller or in the dollar bin. They just want to be able to talk to somebody that wrote a book.

Paid promotions are popular too. I’m not just talking social media ads. That’s a whole other ball of wax I’m going to have to unpack and melt. I’m talking mini virtual blog or social media tours where other people feature your book for a week. People actually do this as a business, and first-time authors rely on them to get the word out. I’m looking into a few right now, and it is blowing my mind. Why didn’t I know about this sooner?

MORE PEOPLE WANT TO SUPPORT YOU THAN SEE YOU FAIL

I didn’t talk about my novel much outside of social media and a few very close friends before launch. I know. You have to tell people about your book if you want them to buy it, but hear me out. Writing a novel is a very vulnerable thing. You’re basically cutting open a vein and bleeding onto a page in hopes that someone will bring you a bandage before you bleed out. For every person that loves your book, there will be someone that hates it. Creative endeavors are so personal and the results so subjective that it can be hard to talk about what you’re doing for fear of rejection. But let me tell you, even if what you are doing isn’t someone’s cup of tea, they will still be excited for you.

People I never thought would be onboard with me writing a romance novel are fascinated by the process and want to talk to me about it. People are bringing me their copies to sign while others are messaging me on social media asking how to order a signed copy. I wasn’t even planning on doing that! Avenues keep opening up because people are rooting for me. People I didn’t think would care. It’s overwhelming but in the best way possible.

No matter how prepared you think you are, there are things about becoming a published author that will surprise you. Some are not so pleasant, and some are amazingly positive. It’s those positive ones that give me the motivation to keep getting up early to write before my day job and pressing forward on weekends so I can reach my next deadline. It’s amazing. And as hard as the work is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted in publishing, writing advice

SORTING THROUGH THE NOISE: HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF BETA READER FEEDBACK

The words are a giant blur. You’ve read them so many times that they have burned themselves into the grooves on of your brain. You know the story by heart. Every detail. Every phrase. And therein lies the problem.

We become so close to our stories that it’s hard to see the flaws. It doesn’t have to be on the page. We know the backstory, the nuances. It makes it nearly impossible for us to spot issues because we know it so well. That’s where beta readers come in. A beta reader is someone who reads an unfinished manuscript and provides feedback on the overall story, characters, and so on.

Beta reader feedback is as wide and varied as the individuals giving it. Each reader will each have their own preferences and styles. They will all find different things in your story, and the more betas you have, the more feedback you have to sort through. It can easily be overwhelming. Here are a few quick tips to help make sorting through the muck and mire a bit more bearable.

Give your betas specific questions.

If you ask someone to tell you what they think about the story. They are likely to give you vague answers. “I liked it.” “This character was cool.” While that can be fun to hear, it’s not going to make your story better. Limit the risk of unhelpful feedback by asking about specific characters, settings, scenes… whatever you’d like. Just make sure you provide them with a question that requires more than a one- or two-word response.

Look for common themes.

Somebody once told me that every book is somebody’s favorite. There is also a flip side to that. That same book will be someone’s least favorite. That’s why you can’t take a single comment too seriously. If Sally is the only one that doesn’t like the allegator chasing the protagonist out of the moat, maybe it’s okay to leave it there. But if the vast majority of your beta readers tell you John is hateful in a scene where you want him to be funny, you should probably look at rewriting it. Read through all the feedback. If something is mentioned more than twice, give it a closer look.

Take everything with a grain of salt.

The whole purpose behind this madness is to find the flaws in your writing. Yes, we all want everyone to love our work and tell us how amazing we are, but that’s not what we are doing here. If that’s all you want out of your betas, give your story to a relative you adore and let them give you feedback. They’ll tell you your great, but your story won’t get any better. Understand that you are asking for readers to point out the issues. They will find things they like too, but if that’s all they tell you about, then you are wasting your time.

Beta feedback is hard to manage. That’s all there is too it, but if you take a careful, well-constructed approach, you’ll come through it just fine.

What tips and techniques have you used to sort through the feedback you’ve received? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted in publishing

Making the Call: Why I Decided to Fire My Editor

Finding a good editor is hard. Even when they seem amazing, they may not be a good fit for you. That’s why you do sample edits and have a few conversations with them before making a commitment. It’s important to find a good balance between correction and encouragement. 

I thought I’d found that with my first editor. Every conversation left me feeling like I could take on the literary world. She didn’t just tell me what was wrong; she explained why it needed to be changed. In some ways, I learned more looking at her sample edit than I had reading an entire craft book. I knew she would be perfect. Then the wheels fell off.

It started off with a lack of communication. I like to think of myself as a fairly understanding person. Life happens. I get that. If plans need to change, let me know. Sure, I probably won’t be happy about it, but I can deal. But you have to tell me. It took me sending three emails to get one response. 

This lack of communication led to no explanation for missed deadlines. I’m a stickler for punctuality. In fact, I tend to arrive everywhere and get things done a bit early. I don’t like being stressed. If I can eliminate stress from my life by getting to places or finishing things early, I do it. So missing deadlines with no rhyme or reason was causing me to doubt everything. The longer I went without a reply, the more stressed I became. The release date that I’ve been working so hard towards was being put in jeopardy.

It had taken me three and a half years to reach this point. Now, my entire literary future was being held for ransom. Except, my bookbaby’s kidnaper wasn’t making any demands. The stress combined with the threat to my book’s future forced me to cut ties and ask for my manuscript back. It was a hard decision to make, but it had to be done.

I bare this editor no ill will. They are amazing. Life just has a way of happening sometimes. Luckily, I found a new editor and got everything back on track. This experience taught me the value of communication and that it is okay to put my foot down when I have to. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that again anytime soon.