We meet Sci-Fi author Edward Willet and Romance Author Rebel Farris Click on the link below to view Indie Author's Monthly Feb 2018 Issue
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Every image I conjure of an “author” is of a man wearing a soft sweater over his button-down shirt, the sea crashing behind his weather-beaten cottage, a fire burning in his 17th-century grate, and his wife looking incredible with her long gray hair.
Maybe it’s the black-and-white photos that are always in the back of their books, with a faraway look in the author’s eyes as he contemplates the tumultuous ocean.
Female authors are often in color photos, looking savvy and sharp, with big Texas hair that would make any country-western star envious.
Well, I’ve met my share of authors. Some have great professional cover shots, while others peer toward you with the obvious angle of a selfie.
Independent authors, or indies, have a different look in their eye. Maybe it’s because they don’t have a crew of people adjusting the lighting or someone who knows the best angle for their nose. They certainly don’t look thoughtful, savvy, or sharp. Mostly they seem worried, and sometimes just a little mad.
Writing swarms your life. You are never safe, whether you are in a deep sleep or driving the car. Thoughts jump out at you; your characters fight to be heard, poking with their sharp imaginary fingers, saying, “Don’t do that to me. This is what I want.”
Sometimes indies have to hide what they’re doing. It’s considered nothing more than a pastime, or even a compulsion, and it interferes with life, leaving family members and friends resentful.
It’s hard to turn off creativity. Yet many indies have day jobs, kids, and other responsibilities. They don’t have hideaways to cut themselves off from the rest of the world so they can concentrate on their plots or create dazzling characters.
Indies don’t have the luxury of saying, “Go away. Leave me alone. I’m feeling creative right now.”
Indies write in the corner of the living room or that damp spot in the basement. They steal time from their chores, leaving the laundry wrinkled and the meat overcooked. They don’t have a choice; indie authors have to squeeze 10 pounds of crap into a two-pound bag. They are not considered “real” authors by many people. They have yet to prove they can deliver the goods.
It isn’t enough that the book takes over your existence while you’re writing it. This is a big commitment that infringes on everybody who’s connected to a writer.
Only when the last word is typed and your computer closes with a satisfying snap does the shock come that the real work is beginning.
Editing, formatting, picking a cover—the list can feel endless. It’s like building a house and having to decorate 10 different bathrooms at once. It’s overwhelming.
After it’s been put through labor and delivery, your baby needs the same amount of nurturing as sextuplets. If you Google your name and don’t see 10 pages of references to both you and your novel, you ain’t doing enough.
Pre-launch, post-launch: I’m not talking about rocket ships here. If you want your book to sell, you have to find out where to promote it.
You can’t hawk fantasy to a crime thriller crowd. This is the time when an indie has to look up bloggers and showcase the book. Talk about the characters, show off the cover, do interviews, reveal the first chapter; the book might still be in production, but selling it starts before the proof is in your hands.
I think that’s why every author I meet looks hollow-eyed and exhausted. They have to split themselves into the three-ring circus of promotion and publicity to do death-defying leaps and bounds in uncharted territory. There are multiple jobs, and unless you have an assistant, all the things required for a successful book launch will make you feel like you’re stuck on the beach during high tide. You can’t run away from the workload fast enough. There is always one thing more to do.
Follow-up is a bitch. Everybody who is blogging about you is probably in the same boat, squeezing your blog tour between carpools and soccer. One has to live and die by their to-do list.
It’s scary, and it’s hard. You may not like to do interviews, and you may hate being in the spotlight. For me, the computer and all its tasks of attaching and downloading are loathsome. I never learned how to use the television remote: “How will I master this?”
Somehow, we trudge on. “Why?” We are at a watershed moment in time, a pivotal kink in history where ordinary people can take a chance. The internet has opened the floodgates, allowing indies to swarm and produce what they want to write, not what some guy at a corporation in Manhattan dictates.
We don’t have to read what traditional publishers are shoving down our throats, and every independent author is spearheading this movement. It’s exciting, adventurous, and electrifying.
Strange things are happening to genres; they are morphing, bending, expanding to include subjects that might never have seen the light of day.
This is a revolutionary time to be an author.
Writing as an indie is a lot like going on the famous Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island. It is a thrilling ride with unexpected twists and turns. The climb to the top is fun and full of anticipation. The highs are delightfully frightening, filled with tingling chills.
Then come the lows, plummeting so deeply it pulls your backbone through your belly, dragging you with a relentless pull, making you feel like you’re going into a dive that you will never recover.
You think I’m being melodramatic? I swear, I’m not. Writing is the most soul-baring activity. It’s a multifaceted, all-encompassing endeavor that will change your life. You don’t even realize it while you’re working like a horse to make your book be seen; you have exposed your psyche to the world. If you think heartbreak comes from just lack of sales, you have no idea. There is more, so much more.
When you write, you reveal pieces of your inner self you didn’t know existed.
Sometimes, you’re not even aware that you’re letting it all hang out.
It’s like spending an entire presentation with toilet paper attached to the sole of your shoe. You stand before a crowd, thinking you are doing one thing, but your audience’s perceptions are based on something you never knew was there.
Criticism stings. Being misunderstood or hurting someone with your words are even worse. It can feel so right when you’re in the thick of it, and in the cold light of reality, you wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?”
Still, we bounce back, even when we say we are done. Sometimes you’re sick and tired of the whole thing; it borders on torture. You feel hurt, confused, even embarrassed. Don’t despair—it doesn’t last, and within a week or so you will be starting on book two.
There is something special about sharing our ideas, our inner thoughts with people we’ve never met. Maybe it makes the world a smaller place, and we don’t feel so much like strangers anymore.
I don’t care how many times you hit your Amazon page to stare at your book, or your name, or your ranking. We all do it. There is no greater joy—except opening your Kindle and seeing your book as a reading suggestion.
Dreams do come true, and if you’re among the lucky ones to have your book magically attach to The Handmaid’s Tale, you get the bonus of watching the money flow in and your book staying in the top spot for a year.
You can wake up now.
That only happens in webinars and fairy tales. Take your pick. If you want your book to succeed, you have to push it up a steep incline, alone, with rocks in your pocket. There is so much to do, and if your private publicist, assistant, and chauffeur are busy, you better get cracking.
Anyone who says they published a book and it became an instant bestseller must be living in the world they created on paper. Millions of books are published yearly, a good portion of them by traditional publishing houses with teams of professionals promoting the author.
Don’t you love when people tell you all you need is to get on a morning show, where Anthony Mason or Gayle King can trade quips with you about your fascinating story? Do you have dreams of a cozy talk with Oprah?
Getting on one of these shows, as well as onto the New York Times Best Sellers list, is about as rare as the purple dragon you wrote about—and just as elusive.
If you want your book to be seen, you have to roll up your sleeves and live, eat, and breathe promotion. Most of the writers I speak to often groan, “I’m a writer. I don’t do marketing.” That’s like saying, “I want a baby, but I don’t do diaper changes.” It doesn’t work like that.
The bulk of the author population I’ve met have limited funds and access to promoting and marketing their book. This is where the smart part about not quitting your day job comes in. You have to use the resources available.
Press announcements, mass emails, and blog tours are great ways to get the ball rolling. Networking leads to mailing lists, which may result in reviews. There are a million ways to find people to read your book—and no, they don’t want to buy it, but you do need the reviews.
Reviews are the building blocks of sales. In fact, the more reviews you have, the better, even the bad ones. But it’s not as easy as reinventing a Tupperware party into a book review party and asking all your friends to write about your novel. Amazon can sniff out fake reviews, and they will delete them.
You have to join the community, immerse yourself in the culture, and learn the assorted tricks of the trade. If you plan to write your book and leave it to languish in the bottomless pit of triple- or quadruple-digit rankings on Amazon, fine. Be realistic. But if you want your book read, you have to tell people about it.
If you took the time to write it, then take the time to promote it. It’s part of the entire experience—almost a rite of passage, like the first dance at your wedding or dipping your Oreo in ice-cold milk. Sure, you can eat the Oreo alone, but dipping it in milk gives it so much more!
Promotion changed my life. Each lead gave way to new opportunities that taught me how to broadcast my products. Some cost money, and sometimes the investment was time and elbow grease.
Either way, you have to settle in and be prepared to worm your way into everyone’s computer. It’s not “if you write it they will buy it,” but rather “if they see it, they will have to have it.”
Read BITTEN PART 4 and more articles like this on Medium.com.
Istarted my writing career during a friendly family competition, never expecting to publish. My kids kept telling me to try it. They knew I loved to read and that I longed to write a book but didn’t know where or how to begin.
A few months before our contest, my oldest son decided to write a book. He told us about a new publishing platform that allowed writers to publish their work. I was leery. I insisted he change his name in case it didn’t work out. When he told me he wanted to write a self-help book, both my husband and I begged him to forget the idea. For every obstacle we named, he explained how the company made publishing seamless.
“What do you know about writing a book?” I asked him.
“Nothing,” he told me. “Anyone can do this. It’s called self-publishing. It’s like a smorgasbord: You pick and choose what you want, and sites like CreateSpace will make it happen.”
He refused to give in. We figured he’d publish one book, get it out of his system, and move on to the next up-and-coming idea.
My son self-published his book, and within a few months, it appeared on Amazon’s listings directly opposite one of the bestselling law-of-attraction books of all time. Not one to let grass grow under his feet, he dove into fiction, writing and publishing a series of paranormals, science fiction, and horror stories in rapid succession. He won tons of awards and soon landed a two-book publishing deal under his real name, along with a high-powered entertainment attorney, a literary agent, and a film agent. All this using widely available tools on the internet.
I had written a bodice ripper back in the ’70s, during the Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers revolution in romance novels. I sent it out to agents. H.N. Swanson, in Hollywood of all places, signed me.
Everyone rejected the book, and while the failure to publish was disappointing, it was a thrilling year. Eventually, I self-published the novel with a vanity press, made $100 in royalties, and put away my dreams of being a bestselling author.
While I always envisioned myself writing the Great American Novel, I never thought that if I did manage to get anything published, it would be a children’s book.
I never liked children’s books. I jettisoned kid’s lit when my boys were younger; they were as bored with it as I was. Instead, we read Shirley Jackson or Shakespeare. I had never heard of YA.
Then, one day, my adult children proposed a contest. Everybody had to bring in a story, or at least the beginning of one, on Monday morning. (We all work together in a family business during the week.)
As I have no patience — and back then, I had the attention span of a gnat — I dashed off a story about playtime with the grandkids. I didn’t take it seriously and was more excited about the next subject my son was going to explore: witches.
But a contest is a contest, and so I created a character. I dug deeply into my Sidney Shellaberger past, thought about Errol Flynn (and a little Burt Lancaster), and swashbuckled my way through a story. While my pirates hark from a few decades before Johnny Depp traipsed around the gangplank, my “Captain No Beard” struck a chord with my family of readers. I wrote a grand adventure with a little twist at the end and read it to them as we compared our stories.
Guess who won? Pirates: 1, Witches: 0!
My son called me over to the computer and pulled up his CreateSpace account. Within minutes, I had an ISBN. I had no idea I ever needed one. Illustrators were compared and styles evaluated; Bonnie Lemaire was chosen for her whimsical artwork. My kid tapped the buttons, and I was in business.
I had entered the world of self-publishing, a place I like to call “Indieworld.” Little did I know it would take over my life.
Six years ago, CreateSpace offered neat promotions for the uninitiated. I took every option they offered. I was given a set amount of illustrations, an editing package, and a press release kit.
It was a substantial amount of money, but I chose to purchase everything the company offered. I was working in the dark and felt the need to have the professionals at CreateSpace guide me. In other words, if I were going on a vacation, I’d be the one with 14 suitcases. Editing: check. Formatting: check. Editorial reviews: I’ll take two of those, please. List of any blog or newspaper that may be interested in your book: Count me in.
While I understand this is a luxury most authors don’t have, I had the benefit of having already built a successful business, which allowed me to invest in something that interested me. If I was attempting this venture, I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
I ascribe to the notion of when in doubt, know every option available. I am a hands-on learner. I don’t whine over mistakes or wrong turns, and I enjoy trying new things. I don’t see mistakes so much as an error but as an opportunity to never choose that option again. It’s how I learn and grow.
I was still in the hobby phase and felt insecure about proceeding. I had no idea that I was creating a strong platform that would eventually teach me the tools to feel confident enough to publish more than 50 books and genre-jump like a gazelle.
The editor was encouraging. She polished the manuscript in a way that made it clever, with subtle changes that enhanced the story. I was in heaven.
Next, I had to fill out a questionnaire describing the characters and the actions I wanted to see in the illustrations. I went through each line of dialogue, each scene, playing it out, explaining it to a person I’d never met. The illustrator was a stranger, and we spoke through email — not the best way to communicate something that was quickly taking over my heart and soul.
It was harder than I expected, and when the pencil drawings showed up in my account, I went into transports. They were stunning. I rushed through the pictures as I race through everything I do and accepted them while not carefully examining them. I was fine.
Once the drawings were inked, CreateSpace sent them back and said I should decide where the text should go.
“What! You want me to do what?! You’re the book people! You put it together!” I was aghast.
“No,” my account rep politely assured me. This was something I had to do.
We happened to be on vacation at the time. I sat with my laptop, pulling out my hair. The actions didn’t quite match the illustrations. I printed the pictures and played with the storyline.
“Well,” I wrote, “a few of the illustrations don’t work with the dialogue…What? I have to pay for changes? You don’t just fix ’em?”
Lesson number one: Everything costs money, especially mistakes. It’s only fair, I realized. Bonnie’s time was valuable. It was my fault for not paying attention to matching the actions to the text.
I wrestled with the story, tweaked, and twisted, finally hitting the publish button. One of the best days of my life.
I should have waited to get the proof, though. All those changes threw off my editing job, and the book was riddled with mistakes.
Lesson number two: Check, recheck, and check it again. I’ll never make that mistake again. Much.
Read BITTEN PART 3 and more articles like this on Medium.com.