Holy Crap in a Crabshell – I like the bluebird.
Overwhelming is the word of the day, I’ve decided.
No, wait. Scratch that.
As I head up the slopes of Mount I-Wanna-Publish-a-book, I think overwhelming is word of the trek. This writing thing is complex. Not just landing the idea, then getting the words on paper, in the right order, with correct spelling, pacing, structure and heart, but moving those precious little babies from my world into the big, wide, scary world out there.
(Image from Freakingnews.com)
SO MUCH TO DO. BRAIN HURTS.
Deep breath, choose a foothold.
I’m seeing now that so much of the foundation work needs to be done even before my literary gems are set in papery stone. I’ll admit, I’m kind of bummed that I missed that stage in authorly evolution when a writer could be a cantankerous, mysterious shadow. Hidden away from the daylight for fear of it setting fire to their skin, spewing out the words and letting someone else handle setting the wordy blighters free.
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration of the past but I’m hoping you get my point.
Point is (in case you didn’t) an author has to be so OUT THERE today. We have to be social in the media. The thought was quietly terrifying to me. Mostly I like dark corners and solitude, though I’ll occasionally join hubby in front of the TV and, on a really good day, talk to him as well.
But as I did the reading, and attended the writer’s festivals and seminars and chatted within my writing group (the only real ‘social’ element to my writing career thus far), it became apparent that there was no way out of this. If I wanted to get up Mount I-Wanna-Publish-a-Book, then it was suck it up princess time. Put the tiara away, strap on the crampons and go.
I needed to make friends with the book, fly with the bluebird, pin my interest and insta with the gram, among other things. Get out there and work it. Be seen.
Along with the gazillions of others trying to do the same thing.
Don’t think about that.
Stop thinking about how tiny you are in that tweeting pond.
Stop. Go meditate or something. (Speaking of which, do your brain a favour and check out Headspace. You’re welcome.)
I am beginning with the blue bird. Arguably, Twitter is the prime social media site for writers, but everything from Facebook to Pintrest (yep, really. Read what a smart person says about that HERE) can play a role apparently. For now though, I’m setting off on my trekking adventure with Twitter. And the view looks a hell of a lot better than I expected.
I was ridiculously excited when I got my first follower and peed my pants a little when I had tweet backs (no idea if that is correct lingo) from some authors I admire, @cspacat and @AlisonGoodman, as well as a trailer music production company @12titansmusic, whose epic music usually accompanies the death, destruction or redemption of one of my characters. They tweeted me to say my current WIP (the one their music was helping with) sounded awesome. I lost my mind.
Once I found it again, and stopped telling my bemused hubby every two seconds who had ‘liked’ me on Twitter, I found out that the bluebird is actually kind of awesome. Not because I’m going to make my millions selling my books on it one day (that won’t happen and @ChuckWendig explains all that stuff in detail in his blog HERE ) but I am going to, and have made, some amazing connections and found out some incredibly important stuff to help me on the trek. There is soooo much information available on Twitter for wannabe authors.
Not just cute goats, though you will thank me for this.
There are kindred spirits, there are opportunities to flex your writing muscles and chances to pitch to publishers, there are groups to motivate and quotes to keep your head up when you feel like no one in the world has written as much shit as you have. There are blogs from really smart people who have advice on how to keep your brain from exploding with the enormity of the task ahead. Like these guys, Kelsye Nelson , Jane Friedman and The Creative Penn.
Don’t for a second though, think that Twitter makes life easy. In fact it is a quagmire that has sucked this notoriously bad procrastinator down more times than I care to remember. It will eat up your entire day before you can say don’t eat me bluebird. It will have you automatically condensing every thought you have into 140 characters.
But holy crap in a crabshell, the wealth of information makes the gutful of quagmire worth it. The learning is crazy. I can fly, god damn it.
And best thing of all, you don’t have to talk to a single soul if you don’t want to. You don’t have to dress up and leave your house. You can wallflower and still enjoy yourself. And the kicker?
This party has a logout button that let’s you to skulk back to your dark, cantankerous corner whenever you like.
PS- Yeah I know, crabs and their crap have nothing whatsoever to do with anything whatsoever in this piece. I just like the words in my mouth.
I really enjoyed reading this post – you had me laughing and nodding all the way through. I’ve grown to like Twitter and have slowly worked out my relationship with it. We rub along just fine these days. I think you’re right to point out that it’s not a marketplace for selling books, but a hangout for networking and discovery. I truly believe (and it’s an evidence-based belief rather than an article of faith) that the only thing that really sells books is a great cover wrapped around a great story written well, backed up with a sweet, hooky blurb. Discovery and visibility come with time. And productivity. And a little bit of honest, targeted advertising – but not on social media.
Are you aiming for a traditional, agented publishing deal or do you intend to publish as an indie? Just curious.
Great to hear from you, glad you enjoyed it. I really didn’t think I’d like Twitter much but its just mind-blowing how much you can learn from it. And I 100% agree on your criteria for selling books. It’s a very slow burn unless you’re super lucky I think. Good question about trad or indie pub – and I’m not convinced I know the answer for myself just yet. The indie option is awesome but it is still a hell of a lot of work isn’t it? I mean you are your own business, no one is helping you out, and you need a certain amount of, shall we say, balls to get out there and sell yourself. I think ideally I would love to go the traditional route first, and then maybe once I know a lot more, branch out. But having said that, I really really love a current YA manuscript I have, that is pretty much ready to go, so if the trad pubs won’t look at it, then bugger them, indie it is!
Yes, it seems like a tough call for a lot of people. I can’t really think of any advantages to the traditional route these days apart from it being more likely you’ll see your book (albeit probably quite briefly) in the high street bookstores. Unless you are in the 1% the publishing house decides in advance is going to be a bestseller, it’s unrealistic to expect any support in marketing. You’ll have to do all that yourself anyway if you want to sell any books. Something like 80% of trad pubbed books don’t sell out their meagre advances and are returned and pulped.
You’re right about the slow burn, however. And it’s definitely a learning curve, becoming your own publisher. But as we know, the actual publishing side is fairly straight forward these days and the marketing you’ll probably have to do anyway.
I’ve been traditionally published in magazines and anthologies and I’ve still got a few short stories in the wings – the next one is due out in July in SQ Magazine. But holy crap, it typically takes a year these days from submitting to publication in a magazine! The wheels of traditional publishing grind awful slow. I have no regrets about setting up my own imprint and publishing my first book under it. I’m still learning, but I’m loving it.
I honestly think, unless you’re interested in a literary prize and the (I think misguided) kudos of having a mainstream publisher’s imprint on your cover, indie publishing is the first choice option these days. And bear in mind that the publishing house will gobble up almost all of your cover price – a typical royalty is between 10 and 20% minus the agent’s 20% of that. It’s literally pennies per book and the odds are stacked against you reaching the royalty stage in any case. As an indie, you keep up to 85% of your sales price.
I wrote a post which might interest you at the time I decided to take the plunge. It’s here: http://austinhackney.co.uk/2016/01/20/why-i-am-going-to-throw-myself-off-the-edge-of-a-cliff/
But not everyone is cut out for doing the whole thing themselves and you might get lucky and be chosen by the gods for success. It’s a chance in a million, but there is a chance. Good luck whichever way you go! I’m no guru (I published the first in my trilogy just a couple of months ago at the time of writing this) but if you want to pick my brains or test ideas, don’t hesitate to get in touch – either on the blog or Twitter – and I’ll be happy to help if I can.
Thanks so much Austin. Your last reply has given me a LOT of food for thought. I’ve read quite a few articles/posts/blogs from people who are staunch self-pub/indie authors and I have to admit, it sounds really inviting. And the PROS seem to just blow the CONS out of the water. I’m just nervous about how good I’ll be running myself as a business and I kind of get a ‘too good to be true’ feeling about it….what would you say is the biggest downside of it?
Will definitely take a look at the blog link you sent – thanks so much again.