Fiction, Life, Marketing, Novel, Promotion, Publish, Real Life, Writing

The whole truth about why I self-published

Three years ago, I started this blog to chronicle my journey to publication of my fiction writing. I wrote often about my trials and tribulations in writing, editing, and querying my first novel. I had always planned to get an agent, who would then sell my book to an editor at a traditional publishing house. It didn’t work out that way.

The_Brevity_of_RosesPart of what went wrong with that plan was not something I could control. By the time I finished that novel, traditional publishing was in upheaval, and editors were buying fewer debut novels than ever. It seemed the only way to get an offer was to have an inside connection or write a book in the hottest genre. Neither my book nor I qualified.

One element that I could possibly have controlled was to write a book destined to become a classic. I may be a bit delusional about my talent, but I know I’m not that good a writer. My book is a good story, it’s a pleasant read, but no one will ever add it to their favorite-book-of-all-time list.

So, if no editor was likely to buy my book, no agent was interested in representing it. I woke from the dream of seeing my book published by a big New York publisher. I started exploring other options. I researched self-publishing as well as small presses.

I was leaning toward submitting my book to these small publishers when something happened that changed everything.

Exactly a year ago, my husband’s employer downsized and because my husband was the highest paid manager in his store, he was shown the door. Overnight, our income dropped by 60%—sixty percent! We’ve never had much money, and what we had we didn’t manage the best we could have, so I knew if my husband didn’t get another job right away (difficult because of his age), it wouldn’t be long before we exhausted our savings. Long story short, he didn’t.

I panicked. Then I decided I could help. I had a book to sell. Suddenly, waiting another year or so to have my book published by a small press was out of the question. So in an extraordinary mixture of overestimation, misunderstanding, and fantasy, I chose to self-publish.

If you know the stress of total DIY publishing, imagine adding to that a total lifestyle change. I think I handle stress well, but I don’t really. I just internalize it. My body takes what it can and then starts packing on pounds, breaking out in skin problems, and producing pain, pain, pain. Nice, when you have no medical insurance, right? Okay, that’s the last of my whining on this blog.

Now I’ve finally told you why I really self-published. It wasn’t a well thought out decision. I think only now, seven months later, do I even understand how I should have tried to market the book. And despite what I wrote earlier, I now know you can publish without spending a lot of money, but it’s incredibly hard to successfully sell without spending money—at least not when you’re trying to sell a debut novel.

I apologize for writing so many glum posts this last year, but maybe now you’ll understand why. Nothing has changed in our financial situation, but I’ve decided it’s time to change my attitude. I’ve read many posts lately by writer friends that have lifted me up and shown me the path I need to get back on. This post is already too long, so I’ll publicly thank them next time.

Fiction, Marketing, Novel, Promotion, Writing

Did publication make me a Grumpy Bear?

Once again, I’m reminded of the mixed blessing of getting what you asked for. The other day, I spent some time looking back at some of my old posts, ones I wrote before publication of my novel. I was so upbeat then. My posts reflected optimism for my future as an author. I let the “baggage” that came with publication murder that.

I don’t like this gloomy person I’ve become. More than once lately, I’ve read a blog post written by a hopeful writer, and found myself sneering with cynicism. At least I had enough sense not to leave a comment revealing my negative opinion.

What changed me from a champion of writers to a cynic?  In short—business. I bemoaned the necessity of adding book publicist to my role as writer, but what I actually did was replace one for the other. Big mistake!

After reading those old posts, there’s no question in my mind that I much prefer the writer me. I’m happy writing. It’s a great adventure. Oh sure, about every other day, I wailed that my writing was garbage, but I never really believed that because I had hope. I could learn. I could fix my mistakes. I could become the writer I wanted to be.

Then, I had to promote my writing. I suck at that. Really, truly, I do. And because I fail so miserably at it, my brain mixed up my view of myself as a marketer/publicist with my view of myself as a writer. I transformed into one ginormous Grumpy Bear that fails at promotion and never writes.

So, here’s my plan going forward. I will allow myself only one hour a week for the business side of publication. The rest of my time will be spent having fun—which mostly means writing, but also catching up on a couple other things I’ve put off for too long. Maybe I’ll even have time to play online again.

Promotion is a necessary evil, but only if I have a book to sell. If I don’t recapture that optimism, that glorious dream, I’m afraid I’ll give up writing completely … and that would be giving up on me.

Care Bears are copyrighted by American Greetings Corporation, Inc.

Author, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Publish, Writing

Book sales … get real!

Let’s be honest about expectations. Every debut author dreams their book will be the one the publishing fairy touches with her magic wand. Their book will “go viral” in digital speak, and suddenly the whole world will buy, read, and talk about it. Like I said, we dream.

When I awoke, I convinced myself I never wanted to be a literary superstar anyway. The reality is that most traditionally published debut novels sell less than 1,000 copies. Knowing mine would be self-published, I set my sales goal far lower. And, reminded that my original goal was just to share my writing with a few others who might enjoy it, I was okay with that.

But along the way, I became infected by the marketing bug. It fed on the green-eyed jealousy monster. Other self-published authors were getting their 15-minutes of fame, along with a hefty royalty check. Why not me? It could be me! It would be me, if only, I did this … or that … or the other. If I wasn’t selling at least 100 copies a day, it’s only because I wasn’t marketing the book right. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I believed.

The problem is I believed that should be my expectation for my very first published novel. I know. None of you are that dumb. You would know it takes time. It takes several published works before you can even hope for those sales totals. Or you have to have incredible luck … or be Oprah’s best friend … or something.

I have only one book—a good book—but only one. It’s time to sink or swim. Fish or cut bait. Put up or shut up. It’s time to write another book because Harper Lee, I’m not.

And then someday …

Books, Feedback, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Promotion, Reader, Writing

Should I have turned up the heat in my novel?

Recently, I had a discussion with a hairstylist who read my novel, The Brevity of Roses, and recommended it to many of his clients. His opinion, shared by some of his clients, is that I should have written more explicit love scenes. “Sex sells,” he said.

I don’t deny that’s true. In the advertising world, sex sells everything from toothpaste to tennis shoes. It also sells certain genres of fiction. In my lifetime, I’ve read (and written) fiction rated from XXX to lily white chaste. I’ve concluded I prefer reading books that allow me to imagine the love scenes—designed precisely to my tastes, not the author’s.

Cathy Yardley of the Rock Your Writing blog, recently used my novel as an example when she wrote a 3-part series on how to profile your target reader and create a 10-step novel promotion strategy. She admitted mine was a difficult case because Brevity is a cross-genre novel. Cathy described it as a “women’s fiction/commercial lit fic novel”.

I appreciated her effort and expertise, and I’m implementing as many of her suggestions as I can. However, her next post after my case study spoke about the difficulty of marketing genre blends. Hmmm.

I’m not sure that Brevity qualifies as a true genre blend, but if so, I’ve certainly got a hard task ahead of me in marketing a “broccoli brownie”. As literary fiction, I don’t think readers necessarily expect explicit sex. As women’s fiction or commercial fiction, I’m not sure.

Now, I’m curious. If you’ve read The Brevity of Roses, would you have liked a little more steam in the love scenes? If you haven’t read the book, but have read the description, would you expect R-rated scenes?

Fiction, Fun Fridays, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Reader, Real Life, Recipes, Writing

Friday Fruit Salad

Today’s post is both literal and figurative … and yet, the whole thing is virtual because this resides on the Internet, which doesn’t really exist. Yes, I’m going to talk about how I make fruit salad in my kitchen, but I’m serving up a mixture of topics, so it’s also another kind of salad. You can figure out the Internet on your own.

I’ve been craving fruit salad lately. Everyone has their own recipe. The mixture of fruits in mine changes, depending on what’s in season and what I have in my refrigerator and pantry. Pineapple, mandarin oranges, and bananas are staples in my salad, but it also contains one or more of these: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, apple, pear, peach in natural juices maybe with a bit of the syrup from the canned mandarin segments. Simple, colorful, delicious.

I’m deep in the beginnings of a new novel, but I have only this weekend to work on it before I take a break. Family activities will take precedence during the month of July. I may have a few normal working days, but for the most part, I’ll probably only manage to keep up with blogging and email during the next five weeks.

What will happen to my fledgling book? I’m going to trust that my Muse will keep working on it. From experience, I know that sometimes, when you take the pressure off, fantastic things happen: a plot problem unknots; a key scene, clear and complete, slides into view; a brilliant twist is revealed; a perfect line of dialogue floats to the surface. Stealth writing.

Okay, time for a little fun. I’ve been following Cathy Yardley’s series at Rock Your Writing on forming a profile of the “right reader” for your work. One of the ways she suggests doing this is to know which authors’ work is similar to yours. She shared a link to this tool: Gnooks Literature Map.

Actually, the Literature Map was designed to help readers find authors they might like. When you type in your favorite author’s name, it will appear in the middle, with the names of similar authors floating around it. Books by the authors who hover closest to your fave, should be ones you’ll most enjoy. Go now, play with it.