Reinterpreting The Dream
Once upon a time, I had a dream to be traditionally published. I imagined my novels on bookshelves of the grandest bookstores, sitting beside the authors I grew up reading. It was a good dream, but like all dreams, it has faded a little with time.
I haven’t given up the idea of being traditionally published, not in the least. But in 2014 I decided if I wanted to see my dream of being published become a reality, I had to make it happen. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. I’m not someone who needs to be in control of every situation, so self-publishing wasn’t attractive to me for that reason. Nor am I a person who enjoys the business aspect of writing; or the business aspect of anything business-y. I work in sweats, not a suit. But I’m smart and I can learn.
The first thing I did was take an honest look at the industry ~ at what the top six, then five, were doing for their elite authors and not so elite authors and I looked at what some of my friends were doing; friends who were making a pretty decent income publishing books on their own. They worked hard, but no harder than my other friends who were published with top houses in New York.
Once I made the decision to self-publish, I did what I’d always been doing, but my focus changed ever so slightly. I listened, asked questions, joined the right groups, and took notes…Tons of notes. I belong to several writers’ organizations that have been huge in helping me figure out what I need to know.
One of my favorite sayings is, “I don’t know what I don’t know, but by the end of this, I’ll know it.”
With self-publishing, this is so true! There are so many ways to do one task, and everyone has an opinion on how best it’s done. Sometimes, you need to pick one way and plug your ears.
There were times last year I thought I’d lose my mind. My cover was late, formatting wasn’t working as it should, Amazon didn’t update the file, etc. There was always something to pull me in another direction and yes, many times I wondered what the heck I was thinking by going it alone.
Then I’d take a deep breath and remember why I chose to self-publish…because I love writing. I wrote a kickass book that people will enjoy reading. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If I don’t sell a thousand copies in one day, that’s fine. If a friend of mine does, be grateful she’s finding success and work on my craft for book two. Yes, it’s hard, yes, there are days I wish I had a big publishing house to make all the little decisions, but then I look at my book with its gorgeous cover and I’m so freaking happy that I was able to create something of value.
On my terms.
If I’d gone with a big publisher, my story might be different. I wouldn’t have had the chance to highlight my cover artist, and I would’ve been on their time schedule. And who’s to say I would’ve been anywhere else but where I am right now?
I’ve had a few people tell me they’re thinking of going indie and this is what I tell them ~ research your genre and know your market. Understand what Amazon categories and keywords are before you put your book up for sale. This is something I heard bandied about and didn’t pay much attention to, but categories help get your book noticed.
Read craft books and marketing books, but don’t treat them like they are the end-all be-all to publishing success. There are no guarantees in this industry. It’s a bit like Vegas ~ one book might hit it big while another, same genre but better written book, flames out. You just never know.
Work on your craft; make every book you write the best damn book it can be. A young writer wanted me to beta read her book and I asked her, “Who is your favorite author?” she stammered out a name and then I said, “Would you give this book to her right now to read?” A litany of excuses and apologies followed for why she wouldn’t give the book to THAT author to read because it wasn’t quite ready and really the action didn’t start until chapter three. When you think your book is done, ask yourself if it’s good enough to be given to your favorite author. If you can’t answer yes, it’s not ready.
And most of all get out of your own way! Authors tend to get stuck in our heads and we’re fabulously awesome at setting up these wicked loops of negative talk. YOU CAN WRITE.
Don’t stress about what this author or that author is doing. Do what works for you. If another author is going to fifteen conferences one year and you can only afford one? Make that one count. It might just happen at that one conference you’ll meet your dream agent. Focus on yourself, your writing, and your dreams. Even if you need to reinterpret those dreams sometimes.
Oh, and all of this advice? Yes, I’ve had to remind myself to follow it on more than one occasion.
Here are my top five tips if you’re thinking of going indie:
- Find beta readers you love and can trust to be honest.
- Find an editor you trust and who wants to strengthen your writing, not tear you down as a writer (they’re out there and they can damage your soul, avoid them. I speak from experience here).
- Join writer’s groups and attend meetings ~ these are your people! They get you when your friends and family don’ Those voices in your head will find friends among these other writers, it’s a beautiful thing.
- Find a cover artist who does more than slap some fonts on an image. You want your cover to look professional. It’s going to be displayed next to New York published books; it has to grab attention in a good way.
- Either learn to format properly or hire someone who can. You don’t want your novel, this work of beauty you spent years toiling over to become a mishmash of gobbly gook. What happens inside the book is just as important as what you see on the outside.
- And here is a bonus tip – take classes! Either online or in your local area. Savvy Authors and RWA offer excellent online workshops. Like I said, you don’t know what you don’t know and taking classes is not only a great way to learn new things, you’ll meet other writers. That’s always a good thing, right?
Full disclosure, I belong to Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) and believe this is one of the best organizations for writers out there. If you don’t write romance, no problem! There are so many great organizations for thriller writers, mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy, historical, etc. You just need to research a little to find your niche.
More than once over the last year these groups have saved my sanity. From distress emails at two in the morning to mini-celebrations over a cup of tea, these friends have been there for me to guide, support, commiserate, and cheer.
I’ve reinterpreted my dream, mending the worn bits and sprucing up the faded areas. It’s still a dream to see my books on the shelves of a local bookstore, but now I know I don’t have to depend on a traditional publisher to make that happen. Will it be harder? Probably. But it can happen.
It just takes a bit of faith, trust, and a sprinkling of glitter.
If you’ve had an experience you’d like to share that made self-publishing or even traditional publishing easier, please do! I’m always looking for ways to make life less chaotic.
And of course, if you have any questions about writing, dragons, or you just want to chat about life in general, find me on the web.
Tameri is also part of the January Reader Event/Rafflecopter. If you have not entered this contest, please click HERE
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