Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Things I Learned Writing, Publishing, and Unpublishing My First Book

As I've mentioned here before, I've wanted to be a writer since I was nine. I saw the Winona Ryder version of Little Women, and a light clicked on. It was what I had to be, and I wrote pretty much every day during elementary, middle, and high school. I had big dreams of making my mark on the world with the written word. Writing in college was harder because I wasn't writing for me, anymore, but for an audience who didn't like what I presented. I have learned some things about writing and self-publishing.

Writing One book does not a millionaire make

I had big dreams of this first book making me an overnight success. Like, I would be able to quit my day job before Christmas. This was in 2012, and I'm still at the same day job. So I want you to know that writing one book without a plan of action as to marketing won't make you a success. 

That's not to say you shouldn't try. Once one book is written and published, you've got to get on your next book. If your audience reads your book, likes it, but there's nothing else there, they'll move on to another author. If you want writing to be your business, you have to write. Don't rest on your laurels. 

Writing is Hard

I used to think writing was something mindless that I did for fun. But as I grew up, and learned about writing and storytelling, I learned that you have to put a lot of things in your book besides a day in the life of your characters. You have to think motivation, theme, characterization, etc. I've met so many people who tell me they want to write a book, to which I encourage, but I also tell them it's harder than it seems. It seriously is. There's a reason writers need a lot of coffee: ideas are fleeting, and we need to get them out of our heads as quickly as possible, no matter how late we need to stay up. 

Editing is Hard

Writing is nothing compared to editing. When I first wrote Sugar and Spies, I thought the editing was just going through, looking for typos. Subsequent read-throughs have shown me just how wrong I was, which is what led me to pull it from Amazon. The story is disjointed, there are plot lines that I never tie up, it ends on a cliffhanger (kind of). 

Editing goes beyond looking for typos. Looking for typos is called Proofreading. Editing is looking for story flow, characterization, plot, inconsistencies, It's best to pay for a professional editor, someone who doesn't have an emotional connection to your work. Do your research. I wish I had. 

Formatting is effing hard

Formatting, oh formatting. The biggest headache in the world of publishing, IMHO. Around the time I published my book, my mom had published hers, and my dad did her formatting. He walked me through it, but it was the biggest headache in the world. It's time-consuming, and if you don't save your work consistently, your computer could be a giant jerkface and restart (ask me how I know). 

There are a lot of places that tell you how to format, but none of them are written particularly well. You can pay to have it done if you're doing self-publishing (Indie or Mainstream publishing houses do this for you). I've actually started writing my stories formatted. It's amazing the difference it makes. It just looks cleaner, it makes it easier to look at when I'm reading it on my phone. It makes a huge difference. I'd say, save yourself the trouble and format as you go.

Hitting publish is easy

Who knew, right? The hardest part of hitting publish once it's all uploaded to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, etc, is telling yourself you're ready (though I really should've silenced the voice in my own head, but I digress). If you've done everything right, from writing to editing, re-editing, proofreading, formatting, given it your all, it's time to send your child out into the world. But your job isn't done. Not by a long shot.

Marketing is HARD

You still need to guide your "child" after you've sent it into the world. I didn't do this. I half-assed it, found one blogger to read it, sent it to my friends, spammed my Facebook page, started having Kindle sales, but none of it really made people want to get my book. I've learned a lot about marketing in the last three years, as well as the differences between Self-publishing, Indie Publishing, Mainstream/Big 4 publishing, and I know that either self or indie is the direction I'd really like to do in the future (Self is when you publish it yourself, indie is when you find a small, independent publishing company to publish your books. There are lots, too!). But with the big publishing houses, I've heard that you have to do most of your marketing, yourself, so if you have to do that, anyway, I'd just go through a smaller company who can focus their efforts on you, specifically.

I also wish I'd arranged some kind of opening day. I was so anxious to push it into the world, that I basically did it in the dead of night, and casually mentioned it in my blog the next day. That's what you do when you're ashamed of something, not when you've got something to share that you're proud of. 

Building relationships gets easier

With marketing comes making friends with other writers. The only writers I knew prior to this whole journey were about three friends from college, my mother, my sister, and several people from college that I wasn't terribly fond of. Since joining Goodreads as an author, I've made tons of new author friends!

From there, I met author Samantha Stroh Bailey, who wrote the novel, Finding Lucas, and she introduced me to a Facebook group of authors. I somehow met author Ashley R. Carlson when I stumbled across her blog, and got super excited watching her process in creating her own first novel, The Charismatics. I think that's the beauty of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter: finding people you admire, and building connections and a network of other people with the same dream. 

Finding optimistic writers has been instrumental in changing my own mind, business model, and how I do everything. Plus, when you have something good to share, these people are really quick to celebrate with you. We're not in competition, which is amazing. You just have to take the first step of reaching out and being open to meeting people. It's hard for introverted me, but it's been a blessing. 

Unpublishing, and why I did it

After I realized that my book was far from the perfect piece of writing I'd hoped it would be I knew my readers and future readers deserved better. I've been on the end of picking up a book that hasn't been properly edited, proofread, formatted, and was rushed into production. It wasn't ready, and neither was I. Unpublishing has been freeing if you can believe that. Now I know that there are only about twelve eBooks and six paperbacks out there. Those are better odds of people reading poor work than if it had become a runaway best-seller, with terrible reviews due to negligence on my part. It was just for the best to take it back until it was truly ready. 

Luckily, I've got it to rewrite, plus its two sequels pretty much were written, all just in dire need of editing for content, clarity, and pacing. 

  • Do you have any writing tips that have helped you?
  • Any great Twitter Chats, or groups I should know about? 
  • Have you ever unpublished a novel? How did you feel about it?

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing, I am one of those people who have always thought that one day I would like to write a book - but you are correct, there is so much more to it than just sitting down and writing.

    1. I hope you make the effort one day. It's a fun and exhausting journey, but definitely worth it. :-)

  2. Kudos to you for knowing that your book wasn't ready, and especially for not giving up! I look forward to reading the new and improved version when it's ready.

    1. I look forward to sharing it. :-)