The hashtag, #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter trended on Twitter. I suspect that most of my non-writer friends missed the vent-fess, therefore missing out on some valuable tips as to what not to say when someone introduces themselves as a writer.
To summarize the majority of them fell into one of five categories:
What’s your real job?
Your book sounds just like X I just read.
Are you (or someone else we know) the main character?
When will it be published?
I would write a book if I only had that kind of time.
I am guilty of saying most of these at least once, as they all seem like the subject of innocent small talk until you actually try to write and publish a book. I have a full-time day job as well as well as two boys, one of whom is still being potty trained. When I tell people I’ve written two books, I rarely hear “if I only had that kind of time.” I hear “how?”
Had I to do it over again, I would have blogged first, then considered my options for publishing. It has helped me build up a much stronger network than I had before. Other bloggers really can help when it comes to promotion, moral support, and in some cases help you get noticed by agents, reviewers, editors, or publishers.
I was blogging twice a week, but have cut back to once a week. (I blog at alliepottswrites.com in case you are curious.) The more important activity is to start checking out other people’s blogs, find a few you really like or want to get noticed by, and comment, comment, comment. After hearing from you so many times, they are bound to check out your about me page.
If you want to publish via the traditional model:
Research how to effectively write synopsis and query letters. Polish the book to a high shine, then set it aside and start planning what you would do for your follow up.
If you don’t have previous writing experience, research writing contests. Look for the ones that don’t charge an entry fee. Those that charge fees do are typically vultures (a site called Editors and Predators is a great place to vet service providers). If you can somehow refine the core story of your manuscript down to the 1500 word max, great, otherwise create something new for the prompt. Contests, however, take forever to judge. Submit an entry and move on. Don’t wait for feedback. Goal – find a minimum of 3 to participate in per year. Any awards should be included in your writer bio on your agent query letters.
Query, query, query. The best time to query agents is between January and February, but there is usually someone accepting submissions.
No matter what model you pick:
Find a trusted critique group (or find one virtually through Wattpad or Goodreads). Give your group the first few chapters of your book and let them tear it apart. If they do it right, it will hurt, but better now than after publishing
If you have won several awards for your original manuscript, you may want to consider going traditional. If you have built up more than 1000 followers on your blog during this time, indie publishing is for you. (I prefer the term indie to self-publishing as it suggests a longer term goal and also includes those who went with smaller publishing houses.)
Option 1 (Traditional): Agents can take weeks to respond to query letters and months to respond to submitted manuscripts. That’s just the time they take to decide if they want to sign you. Selling the book takes even longer. Once sold you might get an advance if your are lucky likely in the $3000 range for a first time author, but then you don’t have to worry about things like cover design, or book title. You are likely still on the hook to schedules your own appearances, order giveaway swag, arrange interviews, etc. Literary agents and publicists are not always the same thing.
Option 2 (Small / Med Press): Skip the middle man (agent) and send your work to smaller publishing houses. If they accept your work, expect the process to take a year (or two!) They will front you editor costs and cover costs, but you won’t be getting an advance and you’ll still have to do your own promotion. Avoid any publishing house that charges upfront fees. You want a partner whose business model depends on your book selling.
Option 3 (Do it yourself): Budget $1000 – $3000 min. You will need to hire a cover artist and at least 1 editor. (There are several types of editors: development, proof, and copy) if you are lucky you will find one who does more than one type, but they are typically a different skill set. I’ve seen prices ranging from $400 to $2500 for editors. Pro covers can run anywhere between $75 to $500 and each dollar shows (make sure you own the right to the art). You will also need to find beta readers – I recommend finding people who enjoy your genre, but aren’t your friends. You need brutal honesty. You also have to purchase ISBNs if you want a physical copy (and you do – $99-$125) and set up the work with a printer ($Free-$25)
Fix it all up. Send ARC (advance review copies) out to help generate buzz. Get blogger friends to showcase your cover. Release your work on a Tuesday. Promote and Get #2 ready to go (if there is going to be a second book). I’ve heard you can’t expect to make a living writing until your have at least 3 – 5 books to your name. If you sell 100 copies the first year you’ve done something right.
Chris insisted I tell you about myself, so here goes:
When I was a kid, I used to spend hours upon hours reading novels. My sister, on the hand, never understood the appeal. I thought to myself she must not have found her genre because not liking books for any other reason was unfathomable. I decided to write a book for her.
That feeble effort was never finished and will never see the light of day, buried as it is on a diskette for an old Apple II, but the dream never faded completely.
I became an engineer, a species not known for their command of the English language.
Then I became a mom, time constrained and sleep deprived. My days were full, and yet I still wanted more. I wanted to be a writer too. Maybe I was greedy, or maybe I was a glutton for punishment, but one day I decided to stop wishing and start working. A year and a half later my first novel, An Uncertain Faith was published.
Two years after that, I expect to soon publish a second novel. I may not be the most prolific writer the world has ever seen, but if I can do it, I hope I might inspire other aspiring authors to follow their dreams too.
(Because she’s so shy, I decided to add Allie’s short Bio as well – TSRA)
Working mom by day, writer by night, Allie Potts is the owner/operator of www.alliepottswrites.com.
When not finding ways to squeeze in 72 hours into a 24 day or chasing after small children determined to turn her hair gray before its time, Allie enjoys stories of all kinds whether they are novels, film, or shared with friends with a glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand.
A self-professed science geek and book nerd, Allie is the published author of An Uncertain Faith with another title in the works.
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