If you could pick a newly published author’s brain, what questions would you ask? These are some nuggets of knowledge I would like to have heard to prepare me for the unknown;. thoughts to give me the courage to pursue what some family and friends consider a “nice hobby”. If you don’t know what to expect and have these voices in your head, I hope our experience will help.
We hadn’t told many people about our book being published before I began to notice a common response. A real estate agent confessed, somewhat hesitantly, that she writes stories, but “never submitted any of them to a publisher”. A young oilfield worker talked about wanting to write a novel, or maybe some short stories, probably in the fantasy genre. Even my wonderful mother, although pleased and supportive, pointed out that she and my father were both “talented writers”, so this news was not altogether unexpected, relying on ‘the apple not falling far from the tree’ brand of logic.
As a kid, I remember enjoying any assignment involving writing when I was in school. Even though I knew the odds were in my favor with multiple choice, I relished the challenge offered by an essay question. I was confident in my ability to talk my way, or in this case, write my way out of the proverbial paper bag.
Once, I came oh, so close to the top of the junior high writing heap when I entered an essay contest requiring my heart and soul aspirations for the future. Alas, I made the mistake of telling the shallow truth and came in second. The judges agreed that my writing was as skillful as the winner’s, but she dreamed of saving the world as some sort of conservation super-hero. This was apparently nobler in their eyes than my redneck desire to be a trick rider, complete with tastefully gaudy, rhinestone-studded outfits.
It was an adolescent disappointment, for sure, but I didn’t dwell on it. There would be far more angst in my future to dissect and survive.
And there really wasn’t any need for my writing skills as a busy, young mother of five. To my credit, I did help a friend’s husband make a compelling argument with the folks who denied him unemployment insurance resulting in a favorable review of his case. That and sporadic journal entries, copious grocery lists, and, with the advent of the computer age, electronic correspondence was pretty much “all she wrote”.
That is until Duane began sending me ‘assignments’ three years ago when I was in Alberta and he was still at home in Utah. These assignments involved re-reading our original emails and editing them for ‘the book” he was convinced people would want to read. I love my husband, and after long hours with my dad and in the spirit of cooperation, I would work on these assignments. They proved to be a welcome distraction from the draining emotions related to the certain loss of my father on a soon but uncertain date.
Once complete (both Dad’s mortal mission and the book collaboration) our search for the perfect publisher began. We started with a long list of possibilities and while Duane the Cable Guy was working, I researched and trimmed the list down to a handful. After some discussion, we selected Cedar Fort, Inc. We felt their company’s philosophy would be most welcoming of the book we had to offer. Having become well acquainted with their submission guidelines, we filled out the forms asking about our social media involvement or willingness to become so and other questions like who, if any, prominent contacts we might know. As daunting as those questions seemed when paired with our pitiful answers, we took a deep breath, pressed SEND, and waited.
We knew it would take up to six months to hear back so I placed October 2014 in the recesses of my mind and got back to the business of everyday life. We got the email in July. Blinking neon words like “loved it”, “refreshingly honest and real” and “witty, entertaining and inspiring” made me cry, re-read it and cry some more. Rinse and repeat. They wanted to publish our book!
Looking back at the process, it definitely took time and work. It took research. I found out writing a synopsis and our author bios were more difficult than the book. Choosing a new title (funny story for another time) was also unexpectedly challenging. We needed to edit more, and fine-tune the manuscript as per our editor’s request. Thanks to her experience and knowledge, the final product is far superior to the one she had to slog through initially.
What I would like every person who told me they want to write a book to know, is this:
1. Writers write. Regardless of the busy-ness of your life, delaying the dream most often means compromising or giving up on it. What have you got to lose by pursuing it? What will you lose if you let time slip away from you? The old adage “There’s no time like the present.” is an old adage for a reason. Honestly, if Duane hadn’t been the impetus, I highly doubt I would have justified the time and effort my part of the book took and I would not be having this awesome-scary new author experience now. .Start writing today!
3. To edit is divine. Write your hearts out, mercifully keeping the reader in mind to spare as much as possible, your new editor and yourself the absolute need to trim unnecessary words and phrases, paragraphs and pages. I knew all that going in, having read up on the whole ‘how to get published’ thing and still cringe when I think of the rough ride our editor had to take when she read our submitted manuscript.
4. Pick a publisher. Select a publisher you’ve researched and whose mission and philosophy are congruent with your own. Your publisher should be one with whom you feel comfortable working and are proud to call “my publisher”. And if a publisher is wildly prestigious and highly visible on an international scale, regardless of their popularity and authors’ success, resist the temptation to send your zombie apocalypse horror novel to one whose niche is romance. I know you’re thinking that’s a no-brainer, but it is human nature ‘throw it out there and see what sticks’. Be deliberate in this decision.
5. Give your creation wings. Unless you’re writing for your own therapy, the goal has always been to share your gift with others. Letting go of a piece of you can be a frightening prospect, but now is not the time to lose your focus and purpose. To quote Susan Jeffers via my mom, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” You believed in your project, now believe in yourself. You’ve invested your time and energy. You’ve done the writing and research. You have your artistic DNA woven throughout your work. It’s time. For heaven’s sake, hit SEND.
6. Relax. For a minute.
When your publisher contacts you about signing that contract, your ride on the crazy train has only just begun. Writing the book was the easy part!
You’ll be busy with new edits as per their suggestions, writing bios and a synopsis, getting to know your marketing guy or girl and contacting book bloggers who might be interested in reading and reviewing your book. You’ll need to set up author pages on Amazon.com and Goodreads. Have you secured your domain name(s) and set up a website?
You might want to get visible on social media, tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagramming, to name a few. There will be growing pains as you find out that Facebook page for your book was unnecessary and you need an author page instead. It’s all part of the learning process and you will find many along the way willing to help. A fantastic resource I’ve come across is Bad Redhead Media. Rachel Thompson has developed a FREE 30 day Book Marketing Challenge and a Book Marketing Chat where you can ask questions and connect with other authors every week.
Learning from others who have walked the path you aspire to will help you on your way to success as a published author. Now, you and I need to get back to work. Write. Now.
Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles to Eternity: A True Internet Love Story