The road to self-publishing is a winding, uneven, and always unpredictable journey. What have you learned on your path to self-publishing? Here’s a few things I’ve learned….
1) Don’t believe everything you hear. People are generally kind at heart. They want you to do well, and as such, when you undertake a project such as writing a book, well-wishers come out of the woodwork to cheer you on.
That’s the positive spin.
Now the reality. Anyone who wants something from you (ie: a company hoping for your business), will tell you what you’ve been dying to hear. “There’s a real market for a book such as yours.” “This is going to do real well.” Sure, back in 2014 with my first book, I believed every word I was told, and invested a TON of money because I did. Now…not so much. The friends and family cheering me on…I believe every word. They have no ulterior motive except to see me happy. Every other good word or comment I take with a grain of salt. Sadly, while I’ve traveled down this road, I’ve become just a bit pessimistic in the process. Don’t get me wrong….I embrace every bit of good that’s said. But I also live in the real world. This is a tough business and therefore I must be tough in it. I will admit, while I do have days where I have the “bring it on” attitude, there are an equal amount of days where I’m fighting with myself not to give up.
2) Reviews are hard to come by. As someone who admittedly reads a lot (at least two books per week), I confess that I rarely leave a review. Unless the book is riddled with typos and just truly awful writing, I find myself having little to say. I have a hunch there are many others out there like me. So I have to wonder then….why do some people just throw a one or two star on something without bothering to take the time to give some constructive criticism? We writers are learners first and foremost. We won’t know if we’re doing something wrong if you don’t tell us. So tell us! We want to know the good AND the bad; what made you read the next page, and the one after that. What caused you to toss the book aside and never pick it up again. Feedback is crucial in this cut-throat industry. I do realize that it’s all subjective; what one person likes another may not. But every comment is something we consider. I’m going to keep that in mind the next time I finish a book. Even the words “I loved this book” mean something to the author.
One last comment on that subject….we writers are human. Don’t forget that. Your words, while welcome, can also hurt in ways you can’t possibly understand. Feedback is feedback, but unnecessary cruelty is pointless. Remember what your mother always told you….be kind to one another.
3) Amazon is its own monster. As I was getting ready to launch “Saving Cruz”, I’d been reading anything and everything I could on Kindle Direct Publishing. I’d heard the rumors about reviews getting pulled, things happening on their own timeline; an Orwell figure looming above us with all the power, and our little piece of fragile work dangling between its fingers. And yes, I was bitten in the rear by this monster right out of the gate. One of my beta readers (who I readily admit is related to me) had a review pulled. Why shouldn’t her opinion matter? She knows I’m not perfect, she’s seen my faults (writing and otherwise) a thousand times. She has no problem pointing out my obvious flaws, so why shouldn’t her opinion on my work count? She’s as entitled to her opinion as the 2-star wonder who refused to provide any feedback. And let’s be real for a second…you can’t tell me that other authors don’t have reviews by family and friends.
I’m trying to let this go and chalk it up to more of this learning curve I’ve been on, but I’m still ticked off. While I will never doubt that exposure on Amazon has helped me, it is most certainly not without flaws of its own.
4) Anyone can publish a book. While I’m sitting here slaving over my computer, re-reading my manuscript four bazillion times before sending it off to be professionally edited, there are those ‘people’ out there who peck down a few words, give it a once-over looksee, and hit the publish button. Crazy, I know. Typos be damned. Story content, flow, layout…what’s that? The beauty of Amazon and others like them is also the detriment to those of us who care about what we put forth. I’m not a perfect writer, but I have enough respect for my reader to give them a good, quality product; to care enough about the money and time they are spending to give them as much of me as I can. Call me naïve, call me stupid, but I feel an inherent obligation to give my readers the best of myself. I just wish others out there felt the same, and were less focused on making a quick buck. Side note to those ‘people’ out there….there are little bucks to be made in this industry. We do it because it’s a calling that we are born and bred to do, not to count the pennies in our pocket.
5) The hardest work with the best reward. Self-publishing is a 24/7 job. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Writing is really such a small part of the whole process (sad, but true), taking minimal amount of time compared to what we must give it after the fact. Marketing (yes, we all loathe it) requires endurance and tenacity, always keeping in mind that you don’t want to alienate any potential readers by shoving your book down their throat. Finding a delicate balance between the two is really what I struggle with most.
That said, there is so much that goes into keeping your book ‘alive’. In this world of 4,000 books being published every day, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Staying present and focused helps. So does a good glass of wine, but let’s not share that with anyone.
6) The highest highs and the lowest lows. The range of emotions that I vacillate between on any given day tends to give me whiplash. Take my release week for instance. The release day itself should have been a day for celebration, but I (like the dummy I am) spent the majority of it in tears. I can’t explain why (the pie I treated myself with later that night helped some, but the sadness did linger). The following day, however, I was elated. My Twitter feed was lighting up, I had a new, positive outlook on this release and I forged ahead in my make believe world of best-selling authorship.
Suffice it to say I’ve got a long road ahead of myself. I can do more. I can do better. I can ALWAYS do better. My little engine that could is struggling up the hill, but I’ll be damned if I let discouragement get me down. I’m in this now – for better or worse. I love my characters and their stories, which is what I remind myself of constantly when my up and down emotions attempt to take over.
7) You will screw up. Deal with it. As I said before, at the beginning of this endeavor a few years ago, I believed everything I was told and I most certainly trusted when I shouldn’t have. But I’ve learned from those mistakes and have hopefully made some wise corrections. Will I screw up again? Oh yeah. All I can do is soak up advice from those successful writers out there and follow their lead. We are all human after all and no two ways are perfect. What works for Nora Roberts may not work for me (or for you). All we can do is try and try again, fingers crossed and hopeful that the errors will be minor.
8) Traditional publishing vs self-publishing, still undecided. There’s a debate out there as to which is the ‘better’ option. Admittedly, I’ve yet to go the traditional route. I am 50 after all and I don’t have twenty years to spend querying all over the globe. That being said, there is something noble about the process; finding an agent, putting yourself out there again and again, only to get rejected. It – like many things in this industry – is not for the faint of heart. I may give it a whirl one of these days, when I have a spare minute or two between writing and all the business of writing. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging along down this self-publishing path, hoping I’ll turn out a better project each and every time.
9) Trust in the little things. By now, you all know about my amazing parents who pimp my work all over the place and to anyone who will ask (and some who don’t). They are the driving force behind this ‘machine’. So while I’m holding tight to my rollercoaster of fluctuating emotions, they are a constant…always there to light me up with a positive word or two.
They aren’t the only ones, but we’ll call them the leaders of the pack. The other leader is my hardworking and always supportive husband, who actually shoved me forward and encouraged me to write professionally. The little things and well-wishes come in a variety of forms. I get messages on my answering machine…congratulating me about the book. There are the emails from family members and friends…filled with pride for what I’ve done, and the texts saying, “I just got my copy,” or “I’m on page 159 and I love it!”. These little things matter. Trust me on this folks. If you believe nothing else in this blog post, believe that. These little things matter! Because what you may not know is that we writers spend the majority of our time doubting ourselves. We doubt our writing, our ability to be as good as the next person out there. We doubt the path we’re taking. Hell, we even doubt the few words we put out on social media. WE DOUBT IT ALL! So your kind words, your texts, your emails, and voicemails mean the world to us. They mean everything.
10) It really is worth all the pain. On my desk sits my proof copy of “Saving Cruz”. When the craziness begins to overwhelm me, I can catch my beautiful cover out of the corner of my eye and remind myself that I did this. I wrote those words. Perfect or not, it is my voice on those pages. I picked out the cover, worked with that editor and formatter. I’ve done the marketing, spent time getting to know people online, crafted newsletters and the un-ending blog posts. I’m no different than any other writer out there, except for that book on my desk. That book is mine. I did that, and I think it’s high-time we authors begin to show our pride. We aren’t perfect – the work may not be perfect – but the words came from a perfect, honest place inside each one of us. And that – that right there – is what I will hold onto in the weeks and months to come.