It's been a while since I've updated this, so I'm going to make more of an effort with helpful writing tips as well, not just after you've typed "THE END" and are looking to get your baby out there.
I’ve been published for over 13 years now & currently have 28 books out. I have learned a lot along the way & I’m happy to say, most of it wasn’t the hard way. I had a great network of people with answers when I had questions. I was accepted with a small press for my debut novel, Dustin Time, so I never had the misfortune of vanity presses such as Publish America. (See also here.) And new to this list of "stay away" - here's a post about Author Solutions.
These are my experiences & opinions. I have just been asked a lot of the same questions over and over & thought I would create a page to help any “noobs.” Some of this is pretty basic, but it’s here nonetheless. I hope you walk away with something helpful. Excuse my ramblings as a SQUIRREL! may have run across the page, causing me to hop around a bit. ;)
Amazon has been cracking down on poorly edited books so I'll add a few links to things you can do to self-edit for starters, but DO NOT bypass professional eyes! I'll add links at the bottom. (Yes - this was just a note so I could use this funny ;) )
Rule #1 – Money flows TO the author. You NEVER pay to be published. NEVER. Don’t fall for: “for only $2,900 – we’ll get you started on your way!” That’s not the way it is. EVER. Run. Run fast. Very fast. There are a few "publishing houses" out there that will find you an editor, cover artist, interior designer, etc., which may sound good, but look good and be sure to get a final price. With a little effort on your part, you can find these resources for a lot less individually. (I can't see spending $5,000-$7,000 and still be self-pubbed with their "publisher" logo on your finished product. (Especially if they are up front about not doing any promo once you have your product. They usually take a profit on your print books, too. Just - no.)
Here's a great link with a little more. Book Baby is a great place to follow.
First of all, slow down. Don’t be in a rush to get your work out there. You've spent a lot of time writing it, don’t rush just to hold it in your hands. You owe it to yourself to start at the top and work your way backward. Agent, publisher, self-pub. 2 rejections shouldn't send you to the self-pub route. I got around 60 rejections on queries of Dustin Time. I did re-work my query a few times, but still nothing. I loved the book and I knew it book had a place. Knew if I could just get someone to read a few pages they’d want it, but I couldn’t get past that query. Do your research and polish that sucker up. Either my query sucked or I just wasn’t hitting the right market or the right time. Many agents say “you have 12 seconds to get my attention”. I feel my “this is my 1st book” status hurt, but you have to start somewhere. Someone had to give me that 13th second!!! Long story short (I know – too late) you can’t quit. Writing is a good lesson in humility if nothing else. And patience. You’ll wish you were in a 3-hour long line at Disneyland when you are waiting the “Maybe I’ll get back to you in 4-6 months. If not, assume I’ve passed” stage.
The hardest thing for me to deal with to this day is the fact that an agent came knocking AFTER I had a contract. I didn't think I could be released from it & never asked, because I was so grateful for a chance. There was so much I didn't know back then. I always wonder where I'd be now had my novel gotten in the hands of a traditional publisher. So again - don't be in a rush!
If I haven’t scared you away yet, read on. This does get useful. I promise.
Visit: Absolute Write for all your writing related questions. There is a thread there for everything. I was fortunate to find them before I started querying. I know it saved me some heartache. If you’re brave enough for honest feedback, share your query. Which leads us to Rule #2 – you need thick skin for this business. Take advice you’re given with a grain of salt. Use it or not, but if you put work out there, someone will have an opinion on it and you may not like it.
Query polished? Ready to look for an agent? Agent Query is a great place to start. There are also query & synopsis tips. Take time & read them. Some publishers are listed there as well. Query Tracker is a good one, too. Do your research. I have spent all day & sent out only 3 queries. Everyone wants something different. If you don’t follow each point, you lessen your already crappy chances by even more.
Check out “bewares & background checks” at Absolute Write on any agents & publishers that you are considering. If someone had a bad experience, trust me, they share it.
Always good to follow up here on agents & publishers as well: Preditors and Editors***. Not everyone I’ve tried to look up is there. Do what homework you can & trust your instincts. If their site is littered with typos… hello. Run. (I have found ones that were completely laughable so don’t think I’m kidding.) Places that want to know what you will do for marketing your book kind of scares me, too. It's like they are saying "We're not going to do anything. We want to know how you are going to make us money." Maybe not true. Maybe they want to know you will be doing some of the work (which you ABSOLUTELY need to do), but I still run away from those places. I have a list on my desk of over 100 "publishing houses" that I've eliminated in about 1 minute after digging around their sites. You owe it to yourself to be cautious. That's all.
***P&E is temporarily down. Here is an alternative with great advice!
Queried your fanny off & tired of it? Want to self-pub? Smashwords is a must place to drop your work. You’ll have to have your work properly formatted in word (either pay an interior designer or watch the step-by-step video and follow the style guide. Very user friendly and easy!) It will give you every imaginable e-format you’ll need and distribute to many sites for you. (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.) You'll have to read through their FAQ well. They do a great job of answering questions if you take the time.
(A few friends use Draft2Digital instead. I haven't looked into them. Just throwing out an alternative. I've never had issues with Smashwords or their formatting. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ~Me)
BIG BONUS – your ISBN is FREE. Not $125+ dollars like you will find on ISBN sites. And no, that does not mean they retain any rights to your work - but it does determine who is logged as the publisher.
I’ve always said I’d never self-publish. I wanted someone to say “OMG! I have to have this book!” I did have that, but when it was time to re-release a few titles, I felt comfortable doing it myself. Everyone rushes to Amazon. They do account for a high percentage of sales, but I didn't want to limit my product to one place. I want B&N people to be able to buy my book. And Kobo people, and itunes, etc. But it’s your call. Some do a 3 month exclusive and then branch out. Some never leave. (I did resort to buying a Kindle for those friends I wanted to support but wanted to be Amazon exclusive. Do what is best for you!)
They also offer paying "by the page reads" when you're exclusive. I'm not a fan - most are. Look into everything & decide for yourself what's best.
***I ran a Book Bub ad a while back. I made exactly as much money at Smashwords as I did at Amazon. That was proof FOR ME that there are people buying everywhere & not to give that up. Some boast how much they make being Amazon exclusive but in this case I would have made 1/2 as much. Just my 02¢.
Ready for print? The simplest solutions (that I see) are Createspace (now Amazon KDP) or LuLu. A friend just asked me about another site (which I don’t want to link & get in trouble) but I didn't like the look of it. Beware of ones that try to sell you the ISBN number & have add-ons for everything. This one’s prices looked good but it was about 3X that by the time they were done with you. I found this article that compares Lightning Source with Createspace: Huffington Post Article.
Recently I've done some digging into Ingram. I've had color issues with a few of my titles. I haven't fully dug in or tried them yet. It's a little spendy to get rolling BUT...there is a local bookstore that won't have my books there because they aren't with Ingram. (Odd because I finally broke in with a local Barnes & Noble!!!) *happy dance* I've done consignment before (store keeps 40% so you usually lose money) but some prefer to order so they can return. I don't get the difference of me picking up if they don't sell, but mine is not to question why! Lots to discuss here. But I'll move on.
***Here's a windy blog post on trying to get books into a distribution channel. This was not a fun day. I got answers, just not ones I wanted. Maybe I'm too pigheaded for my own good, but I just don't want my print books over $10 (like I won't ever set an e-book over $4.99).
***update again. I gave in and raised my print for global distribution. I do sell print at signings but not so much online, so it really doesn't matter what they are listed at IMHO. At least they will show up in a search or a store be able to order them if someone really wants a print copy. Moving on....
Take the extra step – make a book trailer.
Trailer for book 1 ----------->
There is probably a free program on your laptop. I recently found this free service and have had a lot of fun with it. https://lumen5.com. Here's an alternative: https://www.veed.io/create/book-trailer-maker. I haven't dug in yet, but it also has a free option. Lots of choices out there! Make it happen! Just be careful with images & music . Make sure they are royalty free.
If you don’t want to tackle it – find a teenager. LOL. It seems like every kid is a master these days of videos.
There are a few places that can do a professional one & will charge an arm & a leg. It’s your call how much you want to put into it. I haven’t heard how they affect sales directly, but personally, I bought a book after watching an awesome one. I like ones at a minute mark or I get bored. SQUIRREL! ;) I found a few sites to drop them, as well as entering a few contests and adding them at my Amazon page.
Once your book is out, that’s a whole different can of beans. Promotion doesn’t do itself. Even if you have a publisher or agent, you need to do a ton of the legwork. You never stop finding ways to promote. (There is a link to a book below with more details on this.) Promo is important. I don't want to say Rule #3 here because really - its a #1. I have 2 friends (yes - I have 2 friends) each with a wonderful series. They were both released from their publishing contracts for lack of sales. I couldn't believe it. I have gotten many hooked on their books. They are going to self publish the next books in line - thank all that is holy!! But it was a real eye-opener. No matter who your agent or publisher is - you have to promote and keep sales up.
Make a page at Author Central
Get your book at: Authorgraph so people can ask you for an electronic signature. They've also added a feature which I love. You'll get an e-mail when you receive a review for any of your books that are listed with them. I wasn't a serial review checker and for a long time refused to read them, but this is nice to know when reviews trickle in. It also lets you know when you've made a sale. I love the e-mails: "Devon's Change of Heart has jumped to 656,019!" That means I sold one book. LOL
GetbookReport.com is a great site for tracking sales as well.
Do a facebook fan page. Keep your professional stuff separate from your personal BUT do put all your links under your about tab. I can't tell you how many people I know are writers & try to find their blogs or website & can't.
As much as I still don’t get it after years, create a Twitter account with a name people can find you by. Don’t use your book character – especially if you plan on writing something else. Follow agents and other writers. Most will follow back. Here's a great post by a fellow writer on her take on twitter.
I’m at LinkedIn, although I haven’t put it to much use. It’s another one of those “can’t hurt” things to me. You never know who will stumble across your profile. I found this article - maybe helpful for you. And one here.
Here's a great article on Pinterest & how it can help you. It may be a time-suck – but get your cover out there. You never know who will see it.
Also make a page at About Me. Have fun with it.
Get a website. It can be simple – even a free blog site will do in a pinch - just be sure to give people a place to go to look for more of your work or find out about you. Wordpress and Blogger are common blogs & free. There has been a lot of talk about blogging lately & how much it helps. I had a few years of a ton of fun with it, but have recently stopped except for joining blog hops. How much you want to blog can be up to you. I feel you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Either way, find blog hops in your genre & “hop” on them. It’s great, free exposure that draws people to your site. If you are going the website route, claim your domain. I used My Domain. It was only $10 to reserve the name, but you’ll still need hosting and a web designer if you don’t know your way around that stuff.
Look for reviewers in your genre. Most will take an e-book & you should NOT pay for them. There are some fabulous ones out there, happy to give their opinion for free. I try to stick to ones with higher following counts. Beware of people asking you for a free print book. There are some “hoarders” out there. It’s easier to lose a sale on an e-book, than pay for your print copy & shipping & get nothing in return. Some people with no blog at all will ask. Do your homework on people that approach you. I usually get a request every time I do a Goodreads giveaway*** from someone “OMG – your book sounds great! Can you send me one? I promise I’ll do a great review!” Umm.. thanks, but no. Not when you have 5 reviews listed & no blog. You can say no – it’s not being mean. I can’t spend $20 to generate zip.
Goodreads*** is a must. Lots of great groups and lists to be a part of.
***It used to be wonderful, but now is a haven for a lot of trolls. Your book needs to be there but don't be surprised when a 1-star review pops up. Don't take it too hard - it's probably fake, but unfortunately they will do nothing about removing it.
***They used to have a great free print book giveaway service, but it now costs $119 - $599. A lovely e-mail stated how excited they were about the changes. Um, no. No one else seems to be. I haven't found another venue yet.
Make bookmarks. There are plenty of cheap sites out there.
Get a QR code. You know. That smart phone "thingy" that is popping up on everything! Get it on your book & bookmarks. Tons of free sites for it. Here’s what I used. Go QR Me.Be sure your website is in your e-book & linkable. If people loved your book, the 1st thing they’ll want to do is usually see if you have more.
Chances are if you are lucky enough to still have a Barnes & Noble in your town, you probably won’t be able to do a signing there because they won’t stock your book if you have a small press or self pub. (I have heard of a few small town exceptions – this is just a general rule & my experience.) Get creative. Call your library, book a coffee shop… I did more sales in a restaurant after my signing than AT my signing once. (And by restaurant, I mean bar ;) )
**I actually did get lucky with one B&N. It wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped, but it was great to say I did it. I actually do my worst at book stores. Craft shows and events like a "Ladies' Night Out" are great signing venues. I've organized a few. They are fun and easy! I'll elaborate in a post and share here soon. (e-mail me if you'd like)
Against my struggles with this for long time, I've ordered "the Square" to accept credit cards. I fought
credit cards when we had a coffee shop because I despised businessmen trying to charge $1 cup of coffee to their corporate card. The fees would have made me better off giving it away, BUT... no one has cash anymore. Would you rather lose 2.7% of the sale or the sale? I still hate myself, but it had to be done. There are a lot of companies that offer this - just watch the charges & rates.
Worried about finding followers? There are several mailing list builder events. AXP Authors is a great one. I've also been getting in a few with Book Cave. I have a few free books, so it's nothing to hop on these with that as a requirement. (Look into the Book Magnets. So far, all I've done are free!)
I received an e-mail with this post on other options for cloud based e-mail services and their breakdowns.
Be careful about too many “buy my book” posts on facebook & twitter. There is no quicker way to get yourself “unfollowed”. Be mindful. If you are a writer, you probably share a lot of the same writer friends. Share their posts as well and they’ll usually return the favor, just be sparing about it. I followed Mandy Patinkin on facebook. It was sad to see him have to post "Please don't post your books on my wall." Use your head. Yes, you're special, but so are the other 3,000 people that published books that day. I have a whole page of links to friends' websites. I like to do what I can. The best thing you can do for a writer friend is buy their book, read it, review it everywhere. I never pad reviews, I just don't leave them if I can't leave a 4 or 5. That's just me. Maybe someone will do the same for you or you can find a few writers do do review swaps. (You have to be careful, though. Straight swaps are frowned upon. Circles of 3 are better and less likely for Amazon to remove. I've learned the hard way they also delete your review if you are thanked in the book :( )
There are some very affordable “blog barrages” out there. I’ve paid less than $20 to have 20 bloggers share and review a book. I’ve always had excellent feedback and experiences with doing this. (Unfortunately, the ones I linked here are no longer in business. I'll add again as I get active again & am thrilled with results.)
Rafflecopter is a great free site to generate giveaways. Lots of options to have people follow your different media for additional chances to win your book.
Look for yahoo groups in your genre & join them. Readers love their groups! Get in and share your work! I have tried several times & have never been faithful about them but a few minutes of your time could generate a sale. Look into it.
I used to drop every new release here:
I've been slacking at it, though. Check everything out and see what works for you.
A writer's best friend! Amy is wonderful! From getting reviews to adding to your mailing list - go here:
I've had amazing results here with ads! More than what I had with Book Bub and 1/10th the price! Worth a try for sure.
Add it to the library at Absolute Write if you became an active member.
Don't do a "drive by". It's a great community of people. Get to know your fellow writers. Besides 3 NY Bestseller authors, all I buy are books by people I know. I have yet to be let down.
Some of my best friends have come from there. We even went camping. That's me on the right.
I guess sometimes you can talk to strangers & it work out OK!
A friend released this book. I listed some basics for overall, but she goes into more depth with some great promo tips for you, goes further into blogging, tracking stats & such. Worth your time & money to check it out. (I asked her if I could add it here – not the other way around.)
She did make me get off my duff and get to my Amazon widgets & associates account . A task I kept putting off - but my site simply does not play nice with Amazon. Check out her site for a sample of the cool widgets you can do.
Do check out her book. Price of a beer & far more worth it! (Yes, even on a Friday! ;)
I recently read this blog post by a dear friend: "I want to be a writer." I asked for permission to drop it here. Good questions to ask yourself before you get rolling.
Please feel free to message me if you have other helpful info. That’s what this list is for – to help someone else. I’m happy to make this a work in progress page.
There is a major misconception about writing. I about fell off the couch when a movie started off with "I was low on cash, so I decided to write a book". If you think you'll make it rich immediately, you may want to try panning for gold instead. Just sayin'. This is work. Don't kid yourself.
Happy Reading and/or writing!
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As promised - here's some writing rules & fixes for you. It's sort of a self-check for me once I'm done. I try to write as much as I can, as fast as the characters are yelling at me. I don't want to dwell as I go and slow things down.
As much as I hate killing a tree - there is magic to reading your work in print when you're done - not just the word document you've gone over 50+ times on your computer screen. Some say the trick is reading it backward. I haven't tried that one yet. Also - some read it out loud. That makes sure you take the time to read each word carefully. (Psst...word can do this, too.)
This has come up a few times lately when helping friends. POV (point of view, people!) Be sure for each scene that you know whose POV you are in. Your MC won't carry on about the blue of her eyes when she's the one talking/thinking. Does she have a quirk? Run her fingers through her hair? Don't have her do it in Every. Single. Chapter.
I hate dialog tags. If there are only 2 people talking, there is no need to he said - she said - he huffed - she stammered at the end of every sentence. (see below link - things to trim - for more on that.) I've given up on a few books because this drives me batty!!!
I am guilty of this, but try to avoid passive voice. "Began to, "started to," "seemed to," etc. Here's a linky for more.
Sad to say - every editor and publishing house has opinions and "house styles" on some things: 'til/till etc. I hate the comma questions "Yes it can go in but it is okay without it, too." I wish for some things there were more definite answers. These are just a few things to maybe make a few less track changes for you from your betas & editors.
I know...not funny. :P
Okay...I'm done now. ;)
Lie/laid/lay is absolutely my Kryptonite. This should help, but I'll still ask my editor to triple check me!
This seems like a no-brainer but, hey..it happens. I cringe on a daily basis on Facebook. Some memes are so cute but I don't share because of the use of "your."
There's one to replace "Great" at the end as well. It's a huge image.
Small details matter!
After I've finished a 1st draft - I will always search for "though" and make sure I didn't mean "through." I catch it more often than I'd like to admit. And do yourself a favor - search for "breath." Make sure you don't mean "breathe" & vice versa. I swear I find it in every book I read - Big 5 AND indie. Also - site/sight.
Look for any repeat words. If you see the same thing in 2 consecutive sentences, change one up. (I know that's a little vague, but you'll start to see it.)
Search for the root "look." See how many you can change up. "I looked at him looking out the window, wondering what he was looking at." Yeah...that's some solid gold stuff there. Not. Find a better way to say it.
While we're at it, try to avoid all "filtering" words. Here's one link.
This is a great blog to follow for writing tips. This post in particular is awesome. I read this so much lately! Avoid "time travel" errors.
Then/than. Again - no brainer, BUT there are too many tattoo memes that make we want to cry.
I was looking for a post about deleting "that" from your work and found this. Even better! 4 things to STOP DOING NOW to improve your writing.
Because I looked this up: Backward vs backwards. Also Altogether vs all together. All right vs alright. A while vs awhile. Every day vs everyday. If it makes you question it - take a second & look it up!
Is there a horse in your book? Make sure he doesn't "reign" the country. You steer him with reins.
I always write very dialog heavy. I only do what my characters make me and apparently, they don't shut up, either. Be sure you find ways to "show" your readers things that are going on - not just "tell." Avoid the "As you know, Bob," in trying to catch them up on someone or something.
Here's a helpful link with line edits vs. copy edits. These were just tips here. Again DO NOT by-pass professional edits!
Just found this wonderful post at BookBaby! A lot of great self editing tips!
Also: It’s only 21 to 99 that need to be hyphenated. Larger round numbers, such as “one hundred,” do not require a hyphen.
Colors! Do not hyphenate compound color modifiers unless both elements are colors of equal value: blue-black sky, gray-green eyes, but bluish black sky, lemon yellow dress, jade green lake, cobalt blue dish, dark blue suit, white sand beaches. To avoid ambiguity, note: light-blue suit (color), light blue suit (weight). **credit Google ;)**
Serial commas is the hill I will die on! You can take it from my cold, dead hands!
(I can't find a photo credit here.)
Some terms you will hear along the way:
What's with the fishy? It's a red herring. Per the all-knowing wiki:A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g. in politics), or it could be inadvertently used during argumentation.No one likes to read a book and know what is going to happen every step of the way. Mess with their minds. Seriously, it's your job! ;)
Mary Sue. My daughter was a fan of pointing this out so I was trying to find the best way to describe it. Simply put:Mary Sue is a negative term used in fanfiction and literary criticism to describe an original character that is often overly idealized or assumed to be a projection of the author. When used by a male author, the character is referred to as a Gary Stu or Marty Stu.
I left the link if you want to read more but it's pretty self-explanatory. Be mindful of Mary Sues and Cliches.
Here's a great glossary of terms you will hear along the way as well.
I get e-mail notifications for BookBaby. Lots to see here:
A friend just shared this link of resources for Indie authors. Thought I'd drop it here for future reference.
I received an e-mail about adding a tax link so here you go: https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Self-Employment-Taxes/A-Tax-Cheat-Sheet-for-Kindle-eBook-Self-Publishing/INF29515.html
I follow Chuck Wendig on Twitter. I'm rarely there but he's often retweeted so I catch the highlights. He's a wonderful "tell it like it is" regarding publishing. Here's one post I just found that I had bookmarked. *f-bomb alert*
Okay - I need to get productive here! Get back to your WIP!
Thanks GrammarCheck for this one. :)