Ages ago I lived in Mali. Every moment of every day, I wished… Hey! There’s an idea. I could write a book about the Mali those wonderful citizens deserved, a story about waving a magic wand to make it so. Of course, I’d have to throw in a little (or a lot) of hot sex and romance, too. Maybe a fight or three, a little sci-fi time-travel stuff, or a fairy godmother, or… The possibilities are endless.
And so it begins. I hunch over my computer keyboard writing. I join the Writers’ Guild, attend meetings, and work with a critiquing group. At last - a completed novel.
Now what? Professional feedback seems like a good idea, so I pay a chuck of change to a published author for a manuscript evaluation. Lots of good advice leads to a rewrite, followed by workshops and seminars and more rewrites.
Many presenters refer to “publishing credits” and urge publication of short stories. I dutifully give that a try and have a few pieces published, but my heart isn’t in it. I set up a blog of short bits that friends and family seem to enjoy reading, but really it’s a novel I want to have published.
I send out queries to agents, receive rejections, and build up a thick skin. I pitch to agents at conferences and send them the requested material. This frenzy of activity is rewarded with more rejections. New York agents speaking at conferences tell us they give each query 15 seconds. Fifteen seconds!
At the Willamette Writers’ Conference we hear much rumbling about self-publishing. We’re told that the Big Six are now publishing only 55% of books available to readers. Advances are miniscule or non-existent. Marketing? Forget it. It’s do it yourself. And, says one speaker, “I pitched my author’s novel to 35 publishers before we got a sale. That was followed by a year of rewrites.” I groan. “His book is out next week. It’s been a two-year process.” Two years!? “Publish yourself,” she says. “It’ll take you a couple of months.”
My writing partner and I agonize during the drive home. Self-publish? Oh, but the stigma. Our pitches were successful, so should we wait to hear from those agents and then decide? What to do? What to do?
Response from agent number one - rejection. But hey, she’s actually given some feedback. Two whole paragraphs. This could be good. Nope! Her comments indicate a rewrite is needed. My heart might be found somewhere under my desk chair, or maybe in the sub-basement of my building. I open the next email which is from my writing buddy. She’s received a rejection from the same agent. Two different genres and two very different writing styles. Both professionally copy-edited. Here’s where the cake is iced. The rejections are identical except for our names.
Stigma be damned. Self-publishing here we come.
Tips from my experience:
1. Make the decision to self-publish. This is the biggest step and you must be committed to going that route.
2. Set yourself up. I already had a blog and was on Facebook. I joined Twitter and Goodreads. I also built a website. I did it myself as I want to be able to revise it as I go.
3. Research. I spent over a month trolling the Internet, reading everything I could find on self-publishing. Many of the sites I visited were ones recommended on Twitter.
4. Make lists. I compiled a long list of Favorites to go back to when my book was launched. I also have a long list of marketing ideas - tips I picked up in my research and a long list of personal contacts to announce my launch to.
5. Hire a professional. Unless you are a total computer whiz, I think the headache of formatting is not worth it. Concentrate your energy on writing and marketing.
6. Cover. I believe you must have this done professionally. I did and I’m thrilled with the result.
7. Publish. By now, with all your research, you should have some idea of who you want to publish with. I went with Createspace for the print version, with Amazon Kindle and with Smashwords for all other formats. All three have been very good to work with.
8. Be patient. This all takes time.
I’ve now published three books and am working on the last of the series. I’ve had a few sales - not as many as I would like, of course - and wonderful support from family and friends. I’m doing guest blogs like this one and I have people lined up for reviews. I’m finding that Indie authors are amazingly supportive of each other and I’ve met many wonderful people on line.
I believe my books deserve readers and hope that I can market well enough to attract them.