Chapter 25: Hearing From Your Readers

The hilarious screenshot you see above is from my Sarah in regards to The Freedom Game.

First I’d like to say please excuse my friend’s lovely vocabulary.  She has a wonderfully colorful mouth and the drastic inability to sugarcoat.  That second fact is what made me so beyond nervous when she originally purchased my novel.  If she didn’t like it, she wasn’t going to be able to sugarcoat it.  I would know.  While that is of course valuable to hear back honest feedback, it had me wriggling nervous since I had dedicated so much to this book.

Instead of her attempting but failing to not hurt my feelings and not enjoying then novel, however, I received texts like this.  Not only this, but I received a long snapchat video of her reading around the climax.  The video consisted of her yelling at me for what certain characters had done, and her desire to need to know what happens paired with the fear to read on in case it’s not the ending she wants to happen.  Her cheeks got red, her voice got loud – and she was midshift at her job without a care of the people staring at her.  That right there honestly made me tear up like a wimp.

But honestly, what more could an author want?  Than someone that into your story and that invested in your characters and what happens to them?  She felt betrayed by characters when they did not-so-great things, and then sounded like a proud mother when they did something shockingly heroic.

No matter if sales aren’t where you want them and marketing is more expensive than you’d like, experiences like these are what make writing so much more than worth it.

Thomas Goebel Photography

As an Indie Author, I know the struggle of not just creating the art but marketing and selling your work.  It’s often said as writers that a good strategy for getting more sales is to write more books.  While that is undoubtedly true, I also believe in the power of leading through example.

Pictured to the right is a recent purchase of mine.  This b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l  photograph was taken my a friend of mine from college.  I was lucky enough to join the same business fraternity as him, and through our meeting I’ve been able to see the world through his eyes.  And damn, does he capture the world’s beauty perfectly.

For the sake of my phone having terrible picture quality, I’m also attaching below a tiny snippet of the photo in high definition.  His portfolio is filled to the brim with breathtaking work, all with different themes that could fit into any room.

I chose this particular piece because I love the mixing of green with red.  It reminds me that change is constant, and makes me feel both warm and calm at the same time.  There are photographs of greens and oranges, beaches and mountains, sunrises and sunsets, forests and fields.

Excuse my sales pitch, but don’t worry.  You don’t have to just take my word for it.  Click here to look through more of his stunning art pieces  on Instagram!

Chapter 14: Action Plan

I’ve been querying the Freedom Game to several agents.  Right now I’m sitting at seven submissions and three rejections.  And, as most of you know, a non-response is still a response.  Every time I see the rejection email, I’m hit with that little twist right in my heart.  Several of the agent are very gracious, reminding me that the literary arts are subjective, and that just because they didn’t connect with my piece doesn’t mean that it’s not good.  Well, nice words aside, that’s exactly what it feels like.

Well, guess what.  I don’t care.  I wrote a damn good book, and I know it.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than my last novel?  Hell yes.  Can I honestly picture it on a bookshelf at Books a Million or Barnes & Noble?  Yes.

I can honestly see my target audience (Young Adult) picking up this book on just an average day.  I can picture them reading about my main character Ethlynn and falling in love with her.  I see people arguing over if she belongs with Nash, the main love interest, or her best friend, Wystan.  I can see my readers growing along with Ethlynn and finding their strength.

It’s going to happen.  I’ll continue querying, and will do so until March of next year.  That’s the deadline I gave myself.  If by then I’ve still only heard rejection, then I’ll self-publish.  Then I’ll self-publish.  Plain and simple.

So, what have I been doing in the mean time?  Writing the sequel.  I’ve told you all in the past how major selling platforms have algorithms set up to help you advertise up until 30 days and then another until 90 days.

Right now, I’m not sure how many books this series will be, but I know it’ll at least be a trilogy.  Even though it’s not for certain that I’ll be self-publishing, I want to be prepared.  (Also, I absolutely love these characters and writing their story.)  If I take the Indie author route, I want to be able to publish the novels within 90 days of one another.  I’m still a business woman at heart, and I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the marketing opportunity.

I’m still presented with the problem: me.  I’m a slow writer.  This year I’ve finished the Freedom Game and written over 17,500 words of its sequel.  In 10 months.  Thinking realistically, I want this second book to be completely finished before I publish the first.  Ideally, I’d like to be well into the third, already outlining the fourth.  (My writing style involves me writing the original outline of the following book whilst writing the predecessor.  This means that I can add in foreshadowing and adjust my subplots to make them more relating to one another.)

What’s the point of all this rambling?  Writing itself is the reward.  I don’t write for anyone but me.  With that said, I want to get books published.  I want them to do well.  The better my books sell, the closer I am to being able to do this full-time.  That means I have to come up with a plan.

My final thought: set up an action plan for your writing!  Make it happen.  Success hardly ever falls into our laps.  You have the same 24 hours in your day as any successful author.  Use them.

Chapter 9: The 3 Best Books for Aspiring Authors

I’d be a fool if I didn’t think my readers ever tired of my voice.  Ask any of my friends and they might say they don’t recognize me with my mouth closed – although ironically they’d equally be as keen to tell you I’m a fantastic listener.  Now, with all that said, I know you’re here looking to expand your writing knowledge.  I gave you a deviance from the norm last week with my sister answering some questions, and now I’d like to do so again.

To say I write my books without any help would be a damn lie.  Firstly, I love the works of K.M. Weiland.  Although I know her to write fiction, I was introduced to her via the Structuring Your Novel Workbook: Hands-On Help for Building Strong and Successful Stories (Link here or below).  You’ll notice the link is to the paperback, when normally I’m so fond of eBooks.  Although from my link you can easily press the eBook, I would suggest the hard copy.  Weiland was very smart about this book, and inserted space for you to write your ideas onto the book itself.  This way it’s easier to collect your thoughts.  To give you an idea how helpful this book is, when I finished my first novel last year it was at just over 25,500 words – and that’s with an outline before.  I had to go back through several drafts to flesh out the characters and plot.  I’ve used her book as a guide for my plot for my current novel.  My first draft was over double at over 50,000 words!  Not only that, but I could see the rise in quality.  All of my beta readers commented on how progressed this one was to my last novel.  I owe that to Weiland.

Another suggestion I have is The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (Link here or below) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.  As authors, we often find ourselves repeating the same phrases for different emotions, whether it be quivering lips or a tightened stance.  (Please, for the sake of your readers, avoid the clichés of a single tear and other nuisances.)  This book provides both internal and external sensations, as well as suppressed and acute!  Even when rejected, I’ve found literary magazines have complimented my emotional descriptions since I’ve began utilizing this book!

If you’ve decided the self-publishing route, I have to suggest Successful Self-Publishing: How to Self-Publish and Market Your Book (Link here or below) by Joanna Penn.  I’d like to stress that this book is permanently and completely free.  It’s an easy read, but has numerous helpful tips that I look forward to using!  Although I haven’t personally read any more of her books, I’d suggest looking into them!  She also has a podcast that can be found here.  Also, look for “How to Write a Mystery With Rebecca Cantrell and J.F. Penn” where she gives me a shout-out!

Don’t be a hermit stuck in your little writing nest.  Authors have already made the mistakes you’re currently making, and a few like the ones above have taken the extra step to publish a book to help aspiring authors.  Take advantage!

Chapter 8: Questions on Questions

Hello again, my dear readers!  I am so terribly sorry about my lack of posting these past few weeks.  My internship has exhausted me far past what I originally expected.  But, the hiatus is officially ended!   I sat here thinking how best to kick back off my writer’s blog, and then realized: I have a sister who just so happens to be a published authors.  As to not overwhelm her, I kept this interview short; but, I thought you’d enjoy hearing some responses from the beloved Kristen Brand.

Question #1: What were the biggest factors in your decision to become an indie author rather than traditionally publish?

I’d been thinking about self-publishing for a while, as Hero Status had gotten rejection after rejection from traditional publishers and agents. I thought Hero Status was great, but part of me still worried I was biased and the book wasn’t as good as I thought. But then it happened! A small but respectable publisher was starting a digital-first imprint and acquired my book. Success at last!

Three months later, I got an email from the press saying that they’d acquired too many books and unfortunately had to drop some authors—including me. Now, they were a class act about the whole thing and returned my rights (You hear horror stories from authors where less reputable presses did no such thing), but it was still disappointing. And yet. And yet, these publishing professionals had deemed my nerdy little book good enough to acquire. That was the outside validation I needed, and I decide to go ahead and publish Hero Status myself.

Question #2: How did you decide on your editor?  Cover artist?

There are loads of freelance editors and cover artists out there whom indie authors can hire, some good, and some not so much. The key is research. There are online resources out there with lists of recommended editors, but instead of taking the word of some random person on the internet, I think it’s better to look at some of your favorite indie authors and see who they hired. Authors will usually thank their editors at the end of the book, so this isn’t as hard as it sounds. I approached my editor because she worked on one of my favorite fantasy series, and I didn’t remember seeing so much as a single comma out of place when I read those books.

As for cover art, I went with an artist recommended by a friend and fellow author. That’s another great strategy: hang out on forums with other indie authors and see who they had good experiences working with. And of course, look at other covers the artist has done in your genre.

Question #3: What has been your biggest challenge as an indie author?

Definitely marketing. I think I’m like most authors in that I like to write, not sell things. Figuring out how to get more people to buy my books has been a challenge—but a fun one. The indie author community is great about sharing strategies and helping each other out, and I’ve learned so much since I got started. I read plenty of blog posts and listen to podcasts on the subject (The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast is a favorite), and while I’m better at it than I used to be, I still have a long way to go.

Question #4: You’ve a two-book superhero series with one set to be published later this year.  What’s it been like to try to take over a genre that’s considered to be an “unmarketable” genre?

It’s funny that superhero fiction doesn’t have a bigger place on the shelves of bookstores. With superhero movies being so popular and profitable, you’d think there’d be a ton of superhero books out there, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Still, there are definitely readers who love the genre. It may not be as popular as something like paranormal romance, but plenty of indie authors have found success by serving a smaller niche.

Question #5: Do you have any advice for people considering self-publishing that you wish you knew?

I’d probably advise people that if you’re writing a series, wait until you have two or three books finished before you publish the first—at least if you’re a slow writer like I am. Putting books out three or so months apart can help give your series momentum and keep it selling well. Being able to publish so fast is one of the major advantages indies have over traditionally published authors, since it keeps your books fresh in your readers’ minds.

Compare that to me, who publishes one book every year or so, and…yeah. It’s an area where I have definite room for improvement.

Question #6: Where can these readers find you and stay updated on your writing whereabouts?

You can find me at my author website, KristenBrand.com. It has information about my books plus free superhero fiction you can read online. I’m also on Twitter at @BrandedKristen, where I talk about writing updates, comic books, and other randomness.