I need to take a moment to give props to JK Rowling on the entertainment front. She’s literally dipped into every almost avenue possible: books, movies, amusement parks, and the stage. (Pictured is my best friend, Courtney, standing outside the stage of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London England.) Being an author is (sadly) about more than just writing good work. You have to think about it as a business. Not necessarily in the same way as Rowling. But here’s the question I give you: how can I reach a wider audience?
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.
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!
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.
There’s something strangely intimidating about the word “deadline.” I mean, after all, the first four letters spell out “dead.” Then, there’s the fact that most indie authors are such (rather than choosing the traditional publishing route) because of the independence that comes along with the choice.
This is all well and good, except for the fact that it can lead to laziness. With no agent/editor/publisher demanding you finish so much by a certain day, it’s easy to decide writing a certain amount each day isn’t that important. The inspiration will hit when it hits, so to speak. Here are ten myths about keeping a deadline as an indie author:
Myth #1: There’s no consequence to missing a self-imposed deadline. To put this into perspective, simply because your parents can no longer ground you for a poor report card in college doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have adverse effects. Companies still look at your GPA and base you on such; you just see this fact much later. In writing terms, I’d like to bring up a fact I did in an earlier post: certain websites have algorithms set to do free marketing on your eBooks based on the dates published. You waiting too long to publish a sequel in a series could hurt what I like to call the Mountain Effect (your first book sales will increase again upon the publication of a second book and so on).
Myth #2: Editors will drop what they’re doing to work on your novel upon demand. Believe it or not, editors are just as busy as authors. They have a client list, and your book will be put into a waiting list upon contact. You should be prepared for the wait. Email them early on, requesting a spot in November (for example). This will give you your own timeline to meet, and will force you to write more accordingly.
Myth #3: Sales aren’t affected by publication date, so you can simply publish the book whenever it’s complete. As said in my last Tuesday’s post, the best time to publish is very dependent on the genre. Why would people want to read your romance book in August, as opposed to the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day? What about your adventure book in February, as opposed to the summer months when they’re most likely on vacation in their own sort of adventure? Timing is everything.
Myth #4: It’s better to write no words at all than write when you’re not feeling inspired. In truth, an author spends more time re-writing than writing. With that being said, the initial draft is obviously the hardest, as it requires the most creative juices. What’s easier? Piecing together an already complete puzzle, or designing the puzzle itself? It’s true that you might rework the plot later based on a burst of inspiration, but at the end of the day it’s easier to do so when there’s more of the story already written down.
Myth #5: Schedules are always changing, so it’s pointless to set a deadline when you know you won’t be able to keep it. This is best explained to be false with a common cliché: Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. It’s important to note here that your deadline should be reasonable. That’s actually one of the pros to it being self-imposed. With that said, even if life gets in the way and you honestly can’t complete it in time, still work like you’re trying to. Don’t just give up simply because you’re a few weeks off schedule. No matter what, you’ll be in a better position if you work to keep up with the deadline.
These myths seem obvious, and we often believe them when we’re going through a spout of depression (ironically usually about missing a deadline). People often forget that being an author is really like being an entrepreneur. That means treating your work like a business. Enjoy the creativity of the job, and don’t rush the art. (Again, deadlines aren’t meant to be stressful. Set it to be reasonable.) In short: eat, sleep, write, repeat.