advice, agents, amazon, ARC readers, author, beta readers, edit, editing, edits, first draft, hard, hardest part, how to, how to write, kindle, marketing, promo, promos, publish, publishing, query, reviews, revision, self-publishing, the hardest part of writing, write, writer, writing
Last Week’s WW: For Love or Money
Some people will tell you that writing the first draft of a book is the hardest part of the process. Others will tell you that it’s doing revisions, or waiting for your book to finally come out. Everyone has an opinion on which part is the hardest part, but in my experience, everyone is wrong.
Because, for me, the hardest part has been every part. I just didn’t know it until I hit each part.
There were a few things that came easy to me, in the beginning. I could lay down a thousand words without hardly blinking, and everyone told me that my dialogue was realistic. As a result, my early works have pages and pages of dialogue. I know now that that isn’t a good thing to do. But back then, writing descriptive passages is the hardest part.
This wasn’t a problem that I immediately fixed, either. It took lots of reading to figure out how to write descriptions well.
And then I learned the harsh truth that no first draft is good enough. Especially those among my first first drafts. There were two things that came next: Revisions and Learning the craft. And, at first while my work was being alpha read, I had to learn. And learning how to write well is the hardest part.
There were so many books, and so many rules. And how do you structure a sentence again? Wait, what’s an object? Believe it or not, I had to learn this. My fella often asks me where I was in 3rd grade, and wonders how I missed some English basics. But, we read and learned together, and that helped. But before long, it was time for the dreaded revisions. And revising my manuscript is the hardest part.
I had put so much effort into that first draft. And I’m not big on re-reading things, so going back through my own manuscript felt like a chore. The revisions took three times as long as the first draft did. And then, like a dummy, I jumped the gun and decided “two drafts, it’s done! Time to submit to agents.” And, even though I was premature, finding agents is the hardest part.
Where could I even find agents? I started by buying an agent guide. I actually regretted getting the digital copy rather than the physical one. I found it more difficult to search through, and the agents were not listed by the type of fiction they accepted. There are a great deal that won’t touch scifi. Then, I went online, and found lots of list of agents. But it wasn’t that easy. Agents like the personal touch. Therefore, you have to go to each and every agents website, check out what they’re looking for, how they want it submitted: do they want just a query? First page, first 5, first 50? What other books do they represent, and you have to figure out why they might like yours. After you’ve compiled all this data, it’s time to send out a query. And writing a query letter is the hardest part.
Should I be funny? Probably not. But I need to make an impact. Of course, if I don’t have anything impactful, I should just adhere to the structure. What’s the right structure? Oh, well, there actually seems to be some consensus to that. But I don’t have any prior writing credits. The first time around I mentioned high school contests that I had won. Not a good idea. But more importantly was the blurb. And mine was bad. Re-write it, try again. Still nothing. Re-write, try again. No? Grr. Had an agent tell me (in what I later found out was a form letter) that my opening pages weren’t intriguing enough. Took it to heart. Time to revise again! Ugh. Finally done revising. Now what? Let’s forget agents for now and take it a step further. Time for Beta Readers. And finding Beta Readers is the hardest part.
It is surprisingly difficult to get people to read your work for free. I got one beta reader from this blog (thanks Karen!), and two more from World Litetary Cafe. I could not find any more than that. One of the two from the cafe flaked out. So, I had two beta readers. But it was better than zero. Once the beta reads were done, it was time to edit. And waiting to get my edits back from my editor is the hardest part.
It was around this time that I had heard about Kindle Scout. And I was chomping at the bit to submit. My edits were being done by the vary generous mother of my boyfriend, so I didn’t want to push too hard. Then opening day for the program came and went, and I thought I’d go crazy waiting. Not too long after, I got the edits back. And doing a polish is the hardest part.
I had Siri read my book outloud to me while I followed along in my manuscript, making certain that every word was correct. I also ran every chapter through an online program that alerted me to spelling and grammar errors (although sometimes it was wrong), but more importantly, it pointed out passive sentences to me. At long last, my book was really, shiny, perfectly done. It was going to be all easy from here. Only it wasn’t. I submitted my book to the Kindle program. And waiting for the results is the hardest part.
I obsessively checked it for a few days, before I decided that I had to put it out of my mind or else go insane. There was nothing that I could tell about it’s progress, anyway. I convinced myself that there was no possible way that I’d win. Then, about a week before the end, I started to promote it on facebook groups, and it became Hot and Trending. I convinced myself that they couldn’t possibly pass on it. But, being rejected is the hardest part.
Honestly, I cried very hard. I had unrealistic expectations that Amazon was going to pick up my book, and promote it, and boom, I’d be a best seller! And, well, an advance could have been really useful. And that dream was ripped away from me. I know that my book is complex and it isn’t the easiest sell. And I think that’s what they want. The easy sell. I know my book is good, it just wasn’t what they were looking for. But it hurt. And it stopped me from writing for longer than I’d like to admit. But, eventually, the time came that I had to get over it. I’d self-publish. To begin with, I needed to format my book, which is the hardest part.
Scrivener was fantastic for whipping up a Kindle version. Beautiful. Loved it. But a print version? I just couldn’t get it to work with CreateSpace. And I don’t have Word. So, I downloaded a free trial of InDesign. That thing has a serious learning curve. So, I downloaded a template. As it turns out, a very bad and inconsistent template that caused me nothing but pain. There are better tutorials. As it turned out (too late to help me) Hugh Howey recently did one, complete with what is likely a good template. I spent hours, probably 15 or so, messing around with this program and only ever getting it close to what I wanted. My fella spent a few hours on Word, and got it close enough. I didn’t end up getting all of my sentences to end at the same place on the page, but the trade off is that I don’t have any pages with just one sentence on them. (Widows and Orphans is what they call that). Alright, formatting was done. Next up, everything gearing up to a launch. And publishing a book is the hardest part.
I put it up for preorder. Then immediately regretted it. I didn’t understand how the ranks worked, saw it dropping fast, and freaked right out. Eventually, I decided to keep it up. (taking it down would cause a penalty, no preorder for a year. And I plan on publishing a series this year, so preorder might prove itself important.) Next, I had to find ARC readers. This was a lot easier than finding Beta readers. I managed, over the course of a few days, to find about 30 people who said they’d ARC read for me. This should only yield about 10 reviews, and my goal was 100 ARC readers, but I did what I could. I’m at 7 reviews. As hard as it is to wait for them, it really is a joy to read them all. Next, I received some print copies of my book from Createspace. Took a few pics, filmed an unboxing video (the be released on launch day). I obsessively check my numbers to see how my book is or isn’t selling. Speaking of which, marketing my book is the hardest part.
My numbers weren’t going anywhere. I decided to try a free promo. Got a few sales out of it. I tried another promo. Got onto the Hot New Releases list. Guess preorder didn’t mess me up, after all. Got a little addicted. Spent days pouring over various websites, submitting to some, and bookmarking others in case I need them. Trying not to spend money and hoping that the free and cheap ones work out well enough. But finding all of the promos was difficult. And they don’t always work. I have one running today, it hasn’t produced any results. Oh well, there’s always others. I put m book on Goodreads, and set up a giveaway. Hopefully some of those “to be reads” will turn into sales. It’s hard to tell what will convert. Speaking of marketing, I need a book launch. I’ve got one set up with Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans, and I’m holding my own Facebook event the day of. And so far, the launch party is the hardest part.
I’ve barely even started, and already, it’s taken up hours of my time. I had to contact many authors to find out if they’d be willing to offer freebies and help promote me. I had a great response and am lucky to have so many amazing friends. Once I got that squared away, I decided that I needed a book trailer. I spent hours on a few different sites, making cool demos only to find out that it was just the preview (which you couldn’t use outside of the site) was free. Was tempted to buy a Fiver trailer, but I’ve spent enough money (I’m going to need to buy gift cards for the launch party). I created a fun quiz for my launch party, and I still have to come up with content to fill 2 hours. A good portion of my day tomorrow will be setting up the event on Facebook and sending out invites. I just really hope that people show up. I’ve also heard that the launch party itself is exhausting. It might be online, but I’m certain that launch day will an emotional drain, good or bad. But I have to wait until 1/18 to find out. And waiting is the hardest part.
I sincerely hope that I will be out of hardest parts, soon. But I know that once the book is launched, there will be more. Book signings, continued promotions, both success and defeat have their toll…
It’s a long and difficult road to being an author. And there’s no guarantee of success at the end. Since I’ve now been down this path, and have a rough map, I just hope that the next time I walk that road, it won’t be as hard.