Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What I've Learned About Being a Traditionally Published Author

It's been three years since I entered an open submissions call for Harper Voyager, an act of sheer pessimism after submitting the first three chapters to agents and editors with no luck.
   That pessimism worked out though, when an open submissions call became a three-book deal.
   I had zero internet presence. No Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or posted fan fictions. And my introduction to social media resulted in a tiny controversy after I posted a Thank You to my editor and my brand-new agent (the one I found after I entered the open submissions call.) People who didn't understand how successful literary agents work accused me of cheating. Yay! It was especially fun after some of them claimed to have read my book and wrote 'reviews.' (Hint to those geniuses: Agents don't need their clients to enter open submissions calls--publishers are open to submissions from good agents 24/7--that's how they find a hefty percentage of their writers.)
   It wasn't difficult to finish each of the three books in the yearly deadlines requested. I dropped to part-time employment and decided to try and make the advance last as long as I could, using some for promo, while I wrote as much and as well as I could, which often resulted in fourteen hour days.
   So, here are some things I've learned, although  I won't feel like a pro until I've gotten a few more books under my belt:

It's a tough job when you're the boss. You're an entrepreneur now and everything depends on you. If you want to make a living as a writer, handling your own promo and seeing yourself and your art as a brand is helpful. This takes an enormous amount of time, time which I'd rather spend imagining worlds and talking to imaginary people.

As someone who is easily distracted, much like a squirrel, I don't succeed at word count. I write by hand, very quickly, while listening to music. I take a break after every hour, to snack, skim a book or magazine, walk around, do some house work or organizing. (I know this list should include exercising or Yoga.) I take a big break in the middle of the day, then return to writing at night. 14 hour days.

I love my readers. Anytime someone tells me they've become immersed in my world and enjoyed it, it makes me want to jump up and down for joy. I try to answer every fan question or bit of mail I receive. It's why I became a writer, to help people forget the real world for a while.

It's fun to mix it up a little, especially with speculative fiction. I enjoyed adding a dash of Gothic and horror to Thorn Jack, which was inspired by an ancient Scottish ballad. Mixing genres reasonable makes it more fun for the writer and rewards a reader with more delightful surprises and less predictable stories.

I promote my Night and Nothing series as fantasy and YA. YA is easy to promote, as there are so many bloggers out there who are fans--Fantasy, not so much. There are websites, but not so many reviewing blogs. You have to be creative when promoting SF and Fantasy.  You'd think it'd be easy for someone who writes fantasy to be creatively adept at marketing. I'm not, but I've learned to be.

I am not an interesting person. Nor am I a photographer. I do have interests and I can write and I occasionally take photographs. The social media accounts I now have are Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, an author website, and a blog. With the exception of my website, which is static but for occasional announcements, I'm pretty hit and run with my social media. The blog posts take longer, with the research and rewriting. One thing I didn't expect? That social media would actually be fun.

Fantasy and SF conventions are okay for networking and meeting other authors, but fan-based cons like The Romantic Times Booklovers Convention or San Diego Comic Con are the best for promoting and being on a panel.

I had some input on the covers,but it was mainly the editors' decision and thank God they new what they were doing. I lucked out on the beautiful covers.

Signings and readings are rough. Unless you have a massive following, it's difficult to get crowds. Offering to talk about how you got published, giving away free swag (not books! I give out fairy wings and fake flower wreaths, bookmarks or pens.) A signing needs to be an event, otherwise you're just sitting at a table, smiling feebly at everyone who passes you by.  Promote signings on your social media, send out Facebook invites and invites through your newsletter. Target local writers groups and see if there are any Fantasy/SF groups in your area. Ask your library if you can leave fliers there.

I've learned so many things since being published. How to manage my time and how to promote were the most important, as I was growing as a writer. Now I feel like I can do this. I'm hoping it'll continue, because I've got a lot more stories to tell. 

1 comment:

  1. I want to write about all this later. I am writing again full time, so like you said, I don't ever have time for the Internet and really use it too much. LOL! But I do have some experience and would love to comment on things you said. Great post. I will mention you in my blog post.