I haven’t been writing a lot lately, so I figured I would open up this old dinosaur and shake out some of the cobwebs. I published my first book back in June, and it has been an interesting adventure. I felt a little naked, to be honest, having something that substantial up for sale on the amazon store. With blogs, it’s just little snippets of carefully manicured text. And most of the time it isn’t even comprised of. Full sentences. With a novel, I sit down at various times of the year to hammer out new chapters, and a lot of the time my mood shift between sessions. And the key is to find that steady current inside of your brain that hasn’t been affected by all of the outside turbulence. Because if you don’t, the tone of your writing will shift, and you will end up with some lopsided mess. And heck, maybe that’s the book I wrote. Maybe it’s a lopsided mess. I wouldn’t really know, I haven’t really received much feedback. So, for today’s list, I present the top 5 things that frustrate me about self-publishing my first novel.
5) The publisher game. When I was little and I dreamed of publishing my first book (back in the early 1990’s), I had a scene painted perfectly in my head. The scene went something like this: I would spend an afternoon stuffing those big orange envelopes with copies of my manuscript. I would wait a few weeks, eagerly checking the mail each day for a response. And then, on one magical day, I would receive a letter stating that Publisher X has decided to publish my book. And I would celebrate by going to the grocery store and buying a can of vanilla frosting. (I was 10… clearly by now my celebration methods have shifted over to celebratory tacos).
But that’s not how it worked. I e-mailed my manuscript to 5 publishers. Each publisher made a direct point of stating that they were under no obligation to even respond to my submission. And I never heard from 4 of them. The fifth, however, responded to me immediately, and they told me that they would read my first three chapters and if they were still interested they would request for the read. Two weeks later, they requested the rest and I about bust out of my skin. 6 weeks after that, they sent me a contract! They said that they were excited to work on this project and would like to get started right after I signed the contract. And in their contract was a line that required me to pay $3,100 up front. My heart sank as I realized that this publishing house fell under the umbrella of “predatory publisher”. It was at that moment that I realized that I was going to have to learn how to pave the road on my own. I was going to have to market, edit, and promote my book myself… because I was new to this neighborhood and learned right off the bat that I couldn’t trust anyone. I was naive and innocent and clutching a dream that I would jump through any amount of hoops to achieve… and savvy business owners know how to profit off of ambition and hope. Screw them- I’ll just figure it out myself.
4) Asking for help. I make it a point not to ask anyone for anything. There’s no scar tissue lying underneath that statement- it’s just based on a level of courtesy. I don’t want to be a bother to anyone, and I don’t want to be perceived as annoying. But when it comes to marketing… you have to do all of those things. I didn’t want my social media accounts to be plastered with marketing posts for my books… because I know how much I get annoyed when the only thing a friend posts about is something they want me to buy. I’m not friends with you because I want to buy nail polish, I’m friends with you because I like to see how you are doing. And how your cats are doing. And what you ate for dinner. So, I tried to walk the line of ‘thoughtful encouragement’, without stepping over into ‘walking billboard’. I also tried to not get my feelings hurt when friends refused to like my book’s facebook page. I tried, without success. I’m soft.
3) Watching that KDP dashboard page stagnate. The Amazon dashboard page that shows you how many books you have sold, how many pages people have read on their kindles, and how much you have made in royalties. At this point, all I have to do is type in K in a browser window to be met with a gnawing disappointment. Sometimes… sometimes I have sales… but those sales never result in reviews. And when you are grappling with the concept of spending time to write a sequel… reviews are important. And I’ve been met with an uneasy radio silence. And all I can think is that everyone is heeding their mothers advice of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Usually that doesn’t hold true when it comes to internet strangers… but at this point, I’m pretty sure that no internet strangers even know that my book exists.
2) Overcoming doubt. If I were to set to paper all of the things I feel I need to make my book a success, at the top of that list would be ‘be confident’. I sold houses for a living for a very short period in my life, and the reason I had to hang up my realtor hat was because I didn’t have the confidence it takes to make it in that industry. You have to be able to walk into a sales encounter with the confidence that you are the best person to help Person X buy a house. You have to believe that you are the best agent out of all of the other agents. And that simply wasn’t me. I couldn’t even fake it. The same principles apply to this situation- I need to have the confidence to push a product of my creation that I know at this point in my life will most likely be the weakest book of all of the books I will write. I know that the book has problems- both typos and conceptual. I wonder if the subject matter is to simplistic. I worry that the characters are flat, or predictable, or inconsistent. And whenever I try to sell my book to someone, I have to fight the voice in the back of my mind demanding that I explain how the book isn’t prefect. But I can’t do that, because salesmen don’t do that. All I can do is polish my product as best as I can and just own it as a good attempt at my first book.
1) Change Expectations. It didn’t turn out the way that I wanted it to, and I need to accept that. I’m in my 30’s- this is a fact of life for with I am all too familiar. It just…. it sucks. It feels like I have been studying my whole life to be a doctor. I have been tinkering away for years trying to learn the ins and outs of the human body, and when I emerge with my medical license… I discover that everyone has been replaced by robots. Ok, so that may be a tad hyperbolic and not exactly fitting to this particular situation… but that’s how I FEEL. Publishing a book isn’t stuffing envelops to the handful of publishing houses anymore. Publishing a book is the act of slipping mention of your book under every internet rock that you find. And yeah, maybe this post is a little self-serving as an attempt to direct you HERE: