Oh where, oh where, oh where have I been these past couple weeks?
Why, turning myself into a Real Author™, of course!
It’s bloody exhausting.
I just finished up a promo for my books. For five days, I discounted them, ran an advertisement, participated in major retailer’s summer promo, and collaborated with other authors to not only offer our books for sale, but invite readers to join our mailing lists in return for freebie books.
It seems crazy, on this side of July, that a month ago I was seriously considering just stopping. Giving up. Doing something else.
Publishing is not a normal industry. If you didn’t know that, you do now. From the outside it appears to be a meritocracy–only the best books get published, right? On the inside it’s a weird mixture of trends, networking, falling in line, and that little lightning something that no one can predict: what people want.
Every writer must overcome hurdles in order to find success. A list of them. A list that just keeps on going.
First and foremost for most people is writing the good book. Not the amazing book, not the groundbreaking one, but the good novel that people want to read.
This is far easier said than done, as any writer will attest. Most fail before they even start, writing a chapter, maybe two, then giving up. There’s a reason most authors change the subject when someone says “I’m a writer too!”
Just to make a novel that is readable, interesting, coherent, and fairly error-free is an immense task, and one that can only be learned by doing. Unless you’ve ever written a novel, you don’t know if you can.
That step might take months. Years. Decades.
From the outsider point of view, once you’ve done that, congrats, you’ve written a book. You are done.
Notice I said step one.
Next comes publishing. There’s the uncertain way, and the certain one. The first means your book may never see daylight. The latter means it will. Neither guarantees success to any degree. Neither guarantees a good job will be done. Neither guarantees money.
I am, of course, referring to traditional vs. indie.
Like many self-publishers, I know this step pretty well on both sides. On one, the queries and endless waits, the slow, sinking realization that what publishers want is commercial, not necessarily good. They might often go hand in hand, but just as often amazing writing gets passed by because it will sell 10k copies, not 100k. The pie is shrinking, and what’s left is going to a friend of a friend. You’d be happy to make friends, but they all live in New York, and you’re in Boonie Town, USA.
Right. Okay. Self it is. Back your own horse. Do the editing, that weird little half-step jig that polishes diamonds but might also be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Your book is still your book. Pass or fail, it is what it is.
You find a cover, make one or find it or commission art, all in the name of your book. You write a blurb. Write it again. Stick it online. This is step 2: publishing!
Wait, we’re still on two? But we’ve done so much! Written, edited, written, edited, edited, written, cried a bit, edited. We’ve made covers and researched categories. We’ve set up a mailing list with three people including our mother. What do you mean there’s more???
I mean: there’s more.
See, at this point, a book might sell out the gate. Or it might not.
If it sells out the gate, congrats, you hit it right the first time. Right cover, right blurb, right categories, key words. If the sales keep up, you got the tropes right too. Possibly your writing is good. Certainly Amazon’s algorithms love you. Congrats, you struck gold.
If it doesn’t? Join the club. Because you’re new, you probably did it wrong. Targeted wrong, advertised it wrong, made the blurb too long, too vague. Your categories might just be incorrect. Of course no one’s buying your book; your readers have no idea it exists. You’ve offered steak to vegetarians.
(This was me for three months, just FYI.)
The good news is, the penalties are small. Get new covers, get new blurbs. Revamp. I did.
A month passes, two. Your sequels are in the works, aren’t they? Got one ready to go?
Time for step 3: promo.
I almost didn’t reach step three. I almost didn’t realize step three exists. Books that do not sell by themselves at first and have been re-done need to be shown around, because the book sites aren’t going to do it for you.
Book the sites. Pay money for them. Watch the numbers rise.
They’ll begin to fall soon, so hurry hurry, wash, rinse, and repeat.
Repeat from where? Step one. While continuing steps two and three at the same time, forever and ever.
Cue the crazy! If you’ve ever wondered whether odd people write or writing makes people odd, can I just say a little of column A, a little of column B? I haven’t put my shoes in the refrigerator yet, but I suspect not for lack of trying.
This is how authors write, this is how success is found, how I’m finding it. It doesn’t look like wearing a smoking jacket by the fire, does it? More like a laptop with a mailbox stuffed to bursting. Spreadsheets, epub files diligently organized. A list of buy links, a list of different blurbs and tag lines. Lists, lists, lists.
And outside of me? Because I’m not in this alone. I have a cover designer who knows their stuff, an editor who goes above and beyond. Marketers who loan me their resources, fellow authors who are more than willing to network with a newbie as we throw out tow lines, each hoping to be hitched to a rising star.
It’s called self-publishing, but you know what? It isn’t. Because if I was at this alone, I’d still be kicking along on step two, wondering why I was a failure. Or at the very best, I’d be crying into my laptop over the mailing list glitch that sent 150 people the wrong newsletter last night and then would not fix no matter what I did. (Thank you, Husband, for sorting that one.)
Or I’d have quit, the way I wanted to in June. Remember that sabbatical I took? It was that or just stop. The book came out in March, but I’ve been at this full time since January…2015.
Publishing is messy stuff! You show me a writer who writes all day every day, I will show you someone who has not hit the button yet. Because I used to have those blissful weeks, months. I hope to have them again someday, for at least a few days in a row. But for now, it’s a scramble.
That said, if you haven’t been here before, welcome! If you’re an oldie, I have a treat for you. And okay, you newbies as well. Just because I like you.
(You’re reading my words; of course I like you. It’s an author thing–any attention is attention!)
And what is this wonderful thing I have for you?
What Boys Are Made Of for free.
Click the cover. Sign up. It’s yours, and I wish you the joy of it, believe you me. Tell your friends and tell the world. And then, you know, support me by buying the sequel, ’cause eating is nice and I enjoy it as a daily activity.
This is what I do. And right now, crazy as it is? I’m on top of the flippin’ world.
Yes, I know the site’s supposed to be under construction. It got waylayed. As in, I can’t figure out how to make it work. I’m not a technology person….
2 thoughts on “Publishing is a Long Road: On Not Giving Up, Even When I Really Really Wanted To.”
Sounds like it has been an exhausting time. This writing malarkey is such a hard slog – I think people do need a certain measure of craziness in them to keep at it. But at the end of it all you can say You Created Something. And that will keep you going like nothing else can.
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That really is the case. So much of it hurry up and wait, and I’ll be getting an influx of readers later this week, so right now I’m in prep mode. Constant work, and not the fun stuff, but the results will make it all worth it.
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