To Publish or Not To Publish…

To publish or not to publish…

That’s a good question!

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Making the decision to publish a book is very personal, and many factors need to be taken into consideration.

Publish_bookYou spend months, maybe even years working on writing a book. You slave and bleed over every word, every detailed description, every conversation and interaction between characters until you finally type the last word. But the journey isn’t over yet.  It has only just begun.

Once the final word is put on paper, the arduous process of revising and editing begins. However time consuming, stressful, or mind-numbingly mundane the editing process can be, it is a necessity in the writing process. Afterall, you want your book to be the best it can be, right? So you sit for hours on end rereading, rechecking, and correcting, over and over again, errors, inconsistencies, and word choices to make your book “perfect” (for lack of a better word). You instill the help of others and ask for a second set of eyes to read through the manuscript you’ve put your whole heart into. They will criticize. They will correct. They will cut and shred and rip apart every aspect of your work. That is their job. You will tear this manuscript to shreds and read it over so many times that you are tired of looking at it. It’s all part of the the creative process.

Ok. So now that you have the perfect story, what are the next steps? Do you take the plunge and publish it, or do you sit on it and never show another living soul as long as you live?

Before you make that decision, there are many things to think about. First off, how open are you to criticism? How well do you take feedback? Do you have the time and patience to contact agents and publishing companies? Do you have thick enough skin to handle rejection? Are you willing to change your book’s content or sell off the rights to someone else? Do you have the resources available to seek alternative publication options? Have you researched these options? Have you considered every option and not limited yourself to just one path? Do you have the funds available, should you choose the self-publishing route, to cover the formatting, editing, and marketing costs of publication? All of these are important questions to ask. Publishing a book involves many things. Things I had no clue about when I first began this process.

Over the last five years (Has it really been five years?), I have learned many things about the publishing world. First and foremost, book publishing is an extremely competitive environment. There are millions and millions of books out there, and in the scheme of things, the author is merely a tiny minnow just trying to survive in a much larger ocean of bigger fish. Unless you stand out in the crowd, no one will even know you exist.

Many writers are under the misconception that they can publish a book and the sales will come. This is a load of BS. Sales don’t just come. Marketing involves a whole other layer to book writing that I knew nothing about when I began this process.

The whole “sell your book” process begins well before publication even happens. Marketing must be on the back of your mind from the minute you begin writing. Who is your target audience? How will you reach this audience? Where will you find people who might potentially buy your book, and how do you get them interested without constantly shoving your book in their face? (That is a huge turn off, by the way).

Content is your main selling point. What is your book about? Is it unique with content no one has written before? Can you summarize it in 30 seconds or less and make it interesting enough that people will want to buy it? Is the title catchy? The book blurb on the back is probably one of the most important things you will write. It can either make or break sale potential. Choose your words carefully.

Although people say you should never judge a book by its cover, they do. Does your cover look professional? Does it match other books in the genre and have “eye-catching” appeal? Is it colorful, but not cluttered? Does it pop and make people want to pick it up?  These are all factors to consider. And if you don’t have the skills to do this sort of thing, where can you find someone who does? Do you have the funds available to pay for their services, because they will not and should not do it for free. To me, this is an art, and a skill I don’t possess.

The outside of the book must look great, but formatting the inside is just as important. Different book formats require different formatting and file types, something I know next to nothing about. Kindle versions require one file type with specific formatting requirements, whereas paperback books require a completely different type of formatting. It’s confusing, and unless you are an expert on this and know precisely how to do it, your book could end up in the Kindle store with the spacing all messed up. If not done correctly, the margins in your paperback could be off or words and paragraphs could be cut off or sized incorrectly. I hired someone to do this, which goes back to my previous statement of having available funds. Hiring out for these services is costly.

You now have solid content, an eye-catching cover, and proper formatting. Now what? Selling! How do you sell this book that you’ve slaved over for months? Pricing your book is definitely something to seriously consider. Remember that the publishing world is highly competitive, and in all honesty, who wants to purchase a $20 book from a no-name author? Most people don’t. If you want to compete in this world, you have to offer something no one else has. You have to give people a deal and make the price they pay worthwhile. This has limitations. It costs publishers money to print out copies of your book.  The price you/they charge has to be enough to make a profit. And unless you are Stephen King, JK Rowling, or James Patterson, there is absolutely no guarantee that your book will sell enough copies for that to happen. You are a writer no one has ever heard of. Buying a book written by you is risky. Consider your cost carefully. Lower is better; there is less risk involved.

How comfortable are you with social media? These days, you can’t get attention (although I HATE being the center of attention) without being active on social media. Everyone uses social media in one form or another: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and a handful of others that seem to be popular today. You might be able to reach some potential readers through social media, but don’t count on it. Most people don’t use social media to look for books to read or discover new authors. They use it to socialize, in a sense. If you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to manage multiple social media accounts, no one will even know you exist as an author. I would strongly advise you NOT to constantly post your book online. Quite frankly, no one cares, and you will lose engagement and followers if you are constantly shoving your product in their faces. Think about it. Do you like it when people push products on you? Do you like the presence of ads constantly flashing in front of your face? Well, your followers and people you interact with on social media don’t like it either. Use the internet to make connections, not as an advertising agent.

Are you comfortable speaking or reading excerpts in front of an audience? Are you able to set up an appealing author table and talk about yourself and your work at events? How do you sell yourself at book signings? What “brand” do you have? (Yes, that’s a thing). Do you have the support, resources, and connections needed to sell books at events? Joining local writing groups can sometimes help with this. They tend to have an “in” with local agencies and know about upcoming events. Some even work together to set up booths and tables as a group to sell books. You can also research events through media sources and find upcoming events through local agencies and news articles or speak with other authors, if they are willing to share that information. Making your presence known and getting yourself out there is a full time job in itself.

Then, once you sell your first book and find your first reader, you face the fear and uncertainty of whether or not they like your work. What kind of review will they give you? Will readers spread the word about your writing? Will you sell more books? Will the months you dedicated to this offer any sort of financial compensation? Will others enjoy your work? They might. They might not. As writers, we live in this world of constant judgement. Our writing lives hang on the opinions of others.

While you’re debating and contemplating all of this, you are probably working on writing your next book, where the process begins all over again. But by this stage in the game, you are feeling so overwhelmed and have so much self-doubt, not only in yourself but with the entire process, that lifting a pen can sometimes be a challenge. Yet you keep at it, and one way or another, you find the energy to write.

So the question remains, should you publish that book you’ve written? That depends on you. Are you willing to dedicate the time, money, and energy needed to do so? Are you willing to face criticism, rejection, and judgement? Are you willing to do the necessary research and find the proper resources needed to publish and sell your work? Are you willing to make your presence known to the world without any promise of results? If you are, then go ahead and publish.

I’ve published five books over the last five years. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would. I have no regrets. In fact, I’ve gained much knowledge over the years and learned many hard lessons about the publication process. That alone has been worth the ride. As a result of all this, I have changed a few things with every book I’ve published. I’ve used the knowledge I’ve gained about the process, taken advice from others, and changed my thinking to make the experience easier and less stressful for myself.

To publish or not to publish…you decide.

 

 

Author Confessions Round 20

I do occasionally ask family members or friends for input about my books, but writing is something I do alone. As a member of  a local writer’s group, we meet monthly and have many opportunities throughout the year to attend write-ins or retreats, but I don’t like writing with other people. I prefer to run solo.

The Sweat and Tears in Writing

Writing the story is only the beginning.

A Writer's Path

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by Jordan Jolley

If you devote time for the quality of your story, then your book’s potential can go far.

There are two very common questions people ask me: “How long did it take you to write your first book?” and “Are you done with your second book?”

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Dare to Be Different

I’m one of those writers, as I’m sure many of us are, who is never satisfied with my work.  I could write the most glorious sentence or an epic scene in a book, yet no matter how many times I reread it, I will always find something wrong with it. It seems to be par for the course when it comes to the writing process, at least for me.  Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me, or maybe it’s because I know other people are going to read my work and compare me to their favorite well-known author, and I don’t want to sound like an ignorant buffoon. Whatever the reason, editing is the one stage in the writing process that I detest.

Although proper grammar is important, I’m not one to judge the entire worth of a person or their creative genius because of a typo or a misplaced comma.  And if you really think about it, grammar rules seem to be changing all the time.  Not only that, different editors look for different things.  I can give my carefully edited manuscript to a completely different person to look over and they will detest the changes the previous editor made and find different elements that need to be revised.  It’s a double edged sword.

Having another set of eyes look over your work is important, as they will see things that you, the author, missed.  Your extra eyes will often come up with some great ideas you hadn’t thought of, but throw caution to the wind with this.  Too many eyes and too much input can take away from the very voice you’re trying to project.  I’m not saying don’t take advice from an editor, I’m simply saying to consider their input, but don’t lose your voice or who you are as a writer in the process.

People who offer critique often give input about how they would write that scene or how they would portray that character, and although their ideas may be wonderful, that might not be the direction you wanted the story to go. The next thing you know, your entire storyline has changed and the book you were once excited about, the one that really expressed who you are as a writer, now shows off someone else’s voice instead of yours. Remember whose story this is. If your name’s on it, it should be your voice the reader hears.

Even with an extra set of eyes and an editor’s input, there will still be people out there who won’t like your word choice. They’ll question your use of phrases, criticize your misplaced comma (even though you purposely put it there for dramatic effect), and some critical readers specifically look for grammar and spelling errors, as if their sole purpose in life is to crush every ounce of creativity within a writer’s already endless self-doubt. (Come on.  You’ve all see those Amazon reviews: “Although I loved the story, I found three spelling errors.”  A great book now has a one star review because a grammar Nazi is on the loose.)

As a writer, you get to the point where you’ve read through a document a hundred times, finding something else you want to change each time.  But after awhile, you need to just tell yourself that you’re done. It’s finished.  You’ve said what you wanted to say in the best way possible. Your voice has been heard.  You also get to the point where you realize that not everyone is going to like your writing style. Some will hate what you do and be supercritical, others will love the content and crave your unique voice.  It’s a matter of personal preference. There is no magic formula.

I don’t write for the masses.  I have no desire to replicate or sound like another author. I don’t seek fame or fortune from my writing, and I am not out to top the national best sellers list. I refuse to get caught up in the conventions of a specific genre, giving up my voice in the process.  I write what I want to write in my own unique way, using my voice, my characters, and my words.

The writing world is overstuffed with writers trying to replicate other writers. Seems like everyone wants to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. But I don’t want to be like the writers I love to read. In my opinion, it’s better to be different. It’s better to have a unique voice. Others may be able to write more fluently, use fancier words, or sound more poetic, but no one can write my story the way I can.

Dare to be different.

My Writing Process

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Every writer goes through the writing process at various stages.  Some follow the stages diligently step by step, others are more haphazard in their process.  My writing routine is a bit more unorthodox than most because I don’t have the luxury of writing all day, every day.  I wish I did.  With a full time 50+ hour a week job, I utilize what time I have.

I’ve never been the type of writer that uses an outline or a story board.  I simply open a notebook and jot down character ideas, possible plot elements, and brief sketches of scenes I want to include.  Once my notes are written, I start writing.  Ideas generate as I write.  I have a basic plan of where I want my story to go, but details develop the more I write.  I never really know exactly how a book is going to end until I get to the end.

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Once the draft is complete, I re-read the entire thing from beginning to end, adding details, refining dialogue, and including more character development to make my message clearer.  Once the first revision is finished, it’s time for round two.  In this revision, I look for unnecessary information, pointless characters, redundancy, word choice, and check for factual accuracy.   I cut what I need to and add more detail where appropriate.  This is also the stage where I cut scenes that are not needed.

The next stage of revisions has to do with flow.  Here, I’m reading for plot and story fluency.  Cutting and revising to eliminate choppiness, moving scenes around to make the plot more fluid, and refining transitions.  This is usually the final revising stage I go through.  Then I re-read, making only minor changes as I see fit, before I begin the editing process.

Editing

Editing involves double checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation, cutting overused words, refining dialogue tags, and checking sentence structure.  Once I read the manuscript through once from beginning to end, I read it again from back to front.  That way I’m looking specifically for errors and storyline doesn’t get in the way.  Once I’m done editing, the manuscript then goes to a second set of eyes (my editor) who gives their input on content, grammar, revisions, etc…  My editor and I go back and forth several times regarding revisions, cuts, additions, etc… before a complete document is created.  I then read through the entire manuscript one more time to make sure nothing was missed and all typos have been corrected.

The document is now ready for publication, which is a complex process in itself.

The whole writing process is time consuming and takes many months to complete, at least for me it does.  I know not every writer follows these steps exactly like I do, but that’s the beauty of writing.  Each writer has their own style and their own way of perfecting the craft.  Creativity has no defined set of rules, which is what makes books unique and every author special.  The unique road each of us travels to get our story out there is what makes writing so great.

So write on, follow your heart, and let the creative juices flow.