Sunday, May 26, 2013

Things I have learned since starting this journey

Don't let anyone tell you the self-publishing route to getting your words out there is an easy route. Depending on your level of self-publishing you end up wearing enough hats to make your neck shrink up into nothing because of the weight. I am currently still doing that one woman shop and I am pretty sure at times it is giving me ulcers.

My journey began May 1st of last year when I decided it was finally time to sign up for a Wattpad account. I had been reading stories on there for a year or so, some good, some very, very scary, and I thought I could probably do just as well as those scary ones. My character Avery was based a lot on myself. No, I don't work for some government agency as a computer geek, but there are a lot of other places in the books where I put in my personalities and general likes and dislikes.

It was really just a rambling of things that ended up making itself into five books, so far. When I got through with that fifth one, one of my beloved puppies past away so I took a little break from writing to do a little grieving. During that time, Nyx's world started to knock and I had to switch gears. Nyx started in my mind as one little scene. I imagined a female assassin going in for a kill and after asking if the perp had any last requests, she was given the answer that the perp was her father. That really was the whole premise of the book. Things just went from there. I wrote the first Nyx book and then again felt the need to take a little break. I continued to have ideas of where to take the series, but if I don't have that opening line ready to go, I cannot always get a book started.

In January of this year, someone on Wattpad asked if there were any more books in the Nyx series. That jump started me and I was able to write books two and three within three weeks. Book three will always be one of my favorites, and not only because it is the first book with Clyde. I was so into that book and it flowed so well from me that it only took a week to write.

Anyway, by the time I was done with those two, I had heard from fans and friends that they thought my stories were good enough to be published. Of course, they meant me taking my works to a publishing house and going mainstream, but that thought gave me a few more ulcers. I had read books on before and knew that it was a place for indie authors to publish so I took the first Nyx book and put it up there and set its price as free. I wanted to see on a grander scale than Wattpad if other people enjoyed my work.

I think the first mistake I made was twofold. Putting it as free did garner a lot of downloads, but it also found people that went and took my work and published it in forums for others to download. Bad people. They don't get any cookies. The second part of the problem was that I hadn't found all of the self-editing techniques that I have in my bag now, so that version was pretty much a hot mess.

It took me a while to learn how to at least make my books not totally laughable on the proofreading side of things. I know there are still going to be some typos here and there. I admit that upfront. Do I like that fact? Not really, but it is going to take me a little while to get to the point where I am ready to ship things off to an editor. I have found one I think I like, but she has a waiting list at least a month long already and I would like to have all of the books done before I ship them off. Maybe there is some kind of bulk discount.

Moving past my current editing process, I looked into getting my books on Amazon. If you believe pretty much any of the websites in the world, Amazon is the place to be if you want to sell books. Smashwords' site says they ship some of their books over to Amazon, but you have to be a big seller on their site to get this service. Lucky for me, Amazon has KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, so anyone can put a book up on the site. I have since learned that is not a good thing because there are so many options out there and there are some not so great indie authors that turn readers away from the rest of us.

I am pretty technologically sound so formats for uploads weren't too scary for me, but I do read a lot of people have questions for figuring that out and there are even people you can pay to do the formatting for you if it is too overwhelming. I quickly found the KDP forums and learned that there are certain ways to format, beyond the front facing directions on the site. Those forums have been really invaluable to me. You won't find me posting any of my own questions though because those people are scary.

I have fine tuned and gone through my process six times now and I think I am finally getting the hang of it. Smashwords gives you the opportunity to publish through them on Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Diesel, and a few other sites. At first, I was all for that, but the time it takes for updates or changes to make their way out to the other sites is a little too long for me. We are talking weeks in some cases. Most of the third party sites have ways to publish on them without the Smashwords' hookup, so I decided not to distribute anymore through them. I haven't gone through any of the other platforms yet, but I see myself doing that soon.

So, that is basically the writing, editing, proofreading, and publishing hats. I should also throw in wannabe graphic designer because I draw and design all the current covers. Once you get past that point, it is time to learn marketing. This is still the hardest part for me. I know what to do and how to do it, but a lot of the methods for putting yourself out there seem mildly spammy. I want people to want to read my books, not think I am a nuisance that needs a little RAID bug spray to get rid of.

Goodreads has been one of my favorite places to work on marketing. They have groups that have read to review programs, which is really helpful when learning what works and what doesn't in your books. Goodreads also has all sorts of authors tools where you can set up Q&A groups yourself and send out events letting people know of publishing dates and cover reveals. Both Goodreads and Facebook have advertising availability too. I have heard varying stories on whether either of them are any good, but I haven't tried them out myself yet.

That's basically all I have got. Here are a few key points for me:
1) The editing process is basically never over. I could read through a book a hundred times and still find things I want to change. I have learned if the book flows well, leave it alone.

2) Not everyone is going to like your work. As much as I want everyone to just fall in love with Nyx and the world I have built, it isn't going to happen. A thick skin is a must in this world.

3) When you have a series, the greatest feeling in the world is seeing someone has purchased the second book. That is followed closely by them purchasing the third and so on. I don't have a ton of reviews yet, so when I see someone continue on with the series that always makes me smile. (Just to not be confusing, I cannot really tell if it is a single person buying each of the books. I just assume it is.)

4) Write more. As an indie author you need to have multiple books out there to let people know you are serious about writing. Having them in e-book and paperback is also advised. (Still working on the paperback part. They will be coming within the month.) It is helpful if the books are good, in fact that is probably crucial, so keep that in mind. Get some beta readers to read the early versions and let you know if there are any huge plot issues or if they want to have you committed to the closest psychiatric hospital after reading your book. If that later option is the case, you are in trouble.

5) Always remember to thank people. Without others, this process wouldn't be possible. From readers actually reading my books, to the feedback they give it is all really important. My husband and best friend have a lot to do with the behind the scenes work by giving me ideas without them even knowing it. I am working to figure out ways to adequately thank everyone involved, but I don't think the Internet has figured out how to deliver freshly baked cookies out of your CD-Rom drive just yet.

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