Lisa Manifold

Writing From the Top of the Street

Tag: author

Back from the dead

Well, good grief.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted. WTH? I was being better than that. Well, here I am, back and repentant. It’s been a busy week. In all honesty, I look at how I scheduled life before I stopped working outside the home, and wonder how did I get anything done?

Enough whining. Tonight, I want to talk about why you publish, and how to make the decision. In order to get there, you’re going to have to go back to 2013 with me.

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Settle in. This is a long one.

I had just joined RMFW. Gone to the Conference. Pitched my first agent, and gotten a request for a partial.

I was On. Fire. Guuuurl, I was gonna land that agent (my Dream Agent, btw) and become an overnight success. Sent in my pages, and within a month, I’d heard back from the agent. Thanks, but no thanks. Nice note of rejection, but a rejection none-the-less.

So I joined Query Tracker, and started the round robin. I don’t know now how many rejections I have based on who I queried, but in early 2014 I sure as hell did. However, I was still confident that even without Dream Agent, it was Gonna Happen.

I was also in the midst of critique group change. The one I belonged to was not a good fit, and I landed in the Tuesday group I am still part of. The moderator of that group, with whom I am great friends with, and I were on the same journey. Finished book, doing edits, working on something new, and querying.

Then the moderator went to a conference, and came back all a-gog. She’d heard one of the biggies in the indie world speak. She laid out facts, contract specifics, and most importantly, money.

I’ll never forget the talk we had after that Tuesday meeting. It changed my life. Literally. I went and did some reading on the author she’d heard speak. It was Courtney Milan. If you haven’t read her thoughts on indie publishing, I recommend it. Then I did the Bad Thing. I put ‘indie publishing’ into the Google browser.

Er.Mah.Gawd.

The first person I found was Hugh Howey, the indie darling. I’d read his Wool trilogy without knowing he is an indie, but now I did all sorts of online stalking on his journey into publishing. I remember sitting at my netbook, and just having to lean back at the sheer overload from what I was reading. (I have to tell you all I met him at Dragon Con last year, and WOW. He’s really a nice person, and very passionate about self-determination in the publishing world, which I love. He also has an amazing blog @ wayfinder.com. Its worth reading, particularly, if you’re like me and in addition to being an indie writer are a passionate sailor. The boat envy I have….oy. Anyway)

Which led me down a rabbit hole, but I pulled back, and concentrated on my own work. I finally, FINALLY, put Novel #1 under my bed and stopped querying it. Focused on something new, because the way to get better is to write something else. Came up with an idea for a new series. (That is Sisters Of The Curse, in case you were curious. LOL) Worked all summer and fall last year on Thea’s Tale, and getting better at my craft. One thing my critique group taught me was that I needed work on my craft. I started reading craft books, going to classes, LISTENING to those who might know something more than me.

That’s important, boys and girls. There’s always someone who knows more than you. Go find them, when you have a question. LEARN. Good lord, you can google anything. I’ve learned the most random things from Google. There is no excuse.

And I finished Thea’s Tale. SO now…the thing was done. What then?

Revise, have beta reader read it, and revise some more. Then once more, and then – Get an editor. Don’t take just anyone. Interview them. I am lucky – I know my editor, and she’s not only a fantabulous editor, she’s part of my target audience. So she can tell me what doesn’t work for the audience I’m going for. Give the book to the editor, and leave it be until s/he sends it back. While you’re waiting, find a cover artist. I know there are people who say DIY, but I disagree. I think having someone who is a professional (even if you’re one) but is not emotionally invested in your book can give you a more balanced view of your cover. JMO, however, and you’re welcome to disagree.

Work with your artist. I pride myself on my ‘artistic eye’, but you know what? Every single idea I shot to my artist (see my earlier post about those two amazing ladies) looked like shit. Let’s not pull punches. My ideas looked like shit, when the ladies took my idea and did exactly what I wanted. So I started telling them what I wanted theme-wise, generally, and let them do their job. Guess what? You can see the beauty of what they came up with.

Then we come to the hard part. I did all of the above -and now I have this book waiting on a pre-order, and I don’t know what to do next. So off to Google I go. Because I have to dip my toe into the waters I fear the most in this process – the marketing waters.

Gack.

To me, marketing is the shark tank of my business. Who knows the best things to do? What will work for me? It worked for Author X, and this worked for Author Y, but Author Z does it this way – it’s enough to make you go crawl into bed and put the pillow over your head.

But, my dear reader, you cannot do that. Your book will fall to the floor, and wither and die. You must find a way to get your book out there, in front of readers.

My first suggestion, knowing now what I know? (Lordamercy, what a difference a year makes!)

  1. Write a series, and PLOT that business out! I’m telling you this as a lifelong pantser who is finally moving to big girl land and doing some plotting. Read Take Off Your Pants, by Libbie Hawker. Your world will change. Promise.
  2. Publish the first three in your series FAST. I’ve seen recs to wait and publish them all at the same time – I didn’t do that. I’ll have four out in a six month period, and I’m starting to see a bump from multiple books. At the start of 2016, I’m going to release in that ‘all at once’ method, and see how it works. LOL – I promise, you’ll hear about it. Whether you like it or not.
  3. Pick your social media – and be HONEST with yourself on what you’ll use – and use it. Post 80% of value content for those reading your stuff. That means NO PROMO – of you, or anyone else. I won’t lie – I have done more than 20% promo at times, and no more. I love talking self/indie publishing, so that, and the crap that interests me – that’s what you’re going to get. I also am on Twitter, and FB – but that’s it. I decided those three venues were the ones I wanted to invest in, and that’s all I’m doing.
  4. BE NICE. In my search for marketing, I have come across so much stuff about authors and other creative people not being nice online. Guys, if you’re here (and I don’t mean you, Mom) and reading this for some little bit of education, you want to be successful with your creativity. Negativity doesn’t sell, and in this day and age, it NEVAH goes away. EVAH. Even if you delete what you posted 2 minutes ago. I think you can disagree, even discuss passionately with people – but be respectful.
  5. Respect those who work with you. As I mentioned before, hire an editor. And a cover artist. Get some beta readers, or a critique group. Even if you don’t agree with them, respect them. They’re taking the time to help you improve your work. Hear what they have to say. No one says you have to agree. But listen. They might be right (see my earlier comments on my cover ideas ALL looking like shit. To the last idea, folks.)
  6. You’re a business now. Treat yourself like one. Get a coupon folder, and put ALL receipts in it. That’s the first step – to train yourself to not toss things. But get that little folder or you’ll just die with all the little bits of paper. I met an agent who said she took pics on her phone of the receipts – I think I’m going to train myself to switch to that. Makes it easier for record keeping and transition to Quick Books or the like. Read about taxes for the self-employed. Keep track of your mileage. Become a LLC. I haven’t done the last one yet, but that’s next on my list. Because this year, I have to add author stuff to the tax info. To say I’m nervous, even after years of being self-employed, is an understatement. I’m sure you’ll get a post tax filing post outta me.
  7. Engage with people. Now here I’m just meandering off into Lisa land. I have seen the little prawny bump in my sales. I’m not doing a lick of promo right now, mostly because I am working on three different WIPs, and I am reading and planning for a) the next promo push; b) all the things I have to do for some of my marketing; c) those three WIPs, and d) reading and compiling better ways to try and market. Seriously, that’s what I’ve been doing since mid-September. I’m also really involved with my writers organization, and I work with the self/indie published folks. Helping others. Sharing what I know. Seeing if I can help all of us market more – and I really and truly believe that is why I am seeing the sales bumps. Because I’m out there not promo-ing for me – but working with and for others. I’m engaged. It helps that I am working on a topic near and dear to my soapbox and heart. So find your passion outside of your work – and get to it. LOL – I know, easier said than done. What with all our free time, right?

I think that’s it for now. Look for more from me as I continue on this journey. I love indie publishing, and I love the path I’m on. I think it’s a path with room for everyone who wants to be on it.

When I first heard about self/indie publishing – it struck a chord in me that nothing about publishing had prior. Nothing. I can’t explain the feeling of wonder, of total amazeballs, that I could Do. This. Myself.

Sure, I’ll make mistakes. I won’t do a pre-order again unless I have hordes of fans emailing, and the damn thing is done, and just waiting on edits. But guess what? *I* get to do what I want. I get to try things, and have the choice of failing without worrying about whether my publisher will drop me. They may have some rather harsh language for me, sure. But that’s it. After the harsh language, we go back to the drawing board.

You need to consider what calls to you. I had this discussion at the Gold with another writer, and she is 110% in the traditional publishing camp. It’s where she feels good, where she feels called to be. I think that’s fantastic. I’ve said it before – this is a great time to be a writer. We have choices. We can be where we are because that’s where we want to be.

For me, that’s indie publishing.

If you have questions, feel free to ask. I’ll answer as best I can. I’m certainly no guru – but I know what I’ve done that works, and what hasn’t. I;m always happy to share.

Ahhh! Almost forgot. Go RIGHT. NOW. Start reading Kboards Writers Cafe. The amount of sharing of info on that will be mind blowing. And it will put you on the path.

Post Con – The Mondayest Tuesday

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So it’s the dreaded post Con. Blech. It’s always a let down. I love Dragon Con. I get to see friends I don’t see most of the year, and go to panels that are talks by actors I love, or meet authors I fangirl over, or craft panels that discuss various aspects of writing and the business therein. Such was the case this year. I hate to see it end. Plus, my costumes were kick-ass. More on that later.

My husband and kids are the sweetest. My husband said, It’s good to have you back, and both kids wanted to snuggle a little extra last night because they missed me. The feels, ya’ll.

On to business. One thing I noticed is that there is a divide still regarding self-publishing, and that makes me…verklempt. Self-publishing is a good thing for ALL. If you publish traditionally, you have options, and the freedom to look to other avenues if your publisher is not doing right by you. I know it’s not that easy, but it’s an option, and ten years ago, it wasn’t. Options are good things, regardless of whether or not you take them.

As an indie author, I was unhappy and annoyed to see the large swath of opinions re: self-publishing dependent upon the programming track I went to. I attended a panel on marketing via the Electronic Frontiers Forum, and it was excellent. Even though there were folks were working within the traditional system, they were happy for options. In the Writers’ Track, it didn’t seem to be the case. There was what seemed to me to be a more negative mindset about the indie publishing industry. I have, in the past, asked for more self-publishing focused panels, and I suppose this technically met the bill – but it sure didn’t stick to the premise of helping people understand their options.

Let me lay it out for you. The gatekeepers have shifted. It used to be if you wished to call yourself an author, you had to find someone to let you in. Now, you can walk yourself through the gate, and get to the garden on your own.

Do you need to be as professional as possible? Yes, indeed. Get an editor. Get a beta reader. If you are not seriously skilled at graphic design, hire a cover artist. Check the contracts with all these folks, and READ THEM. Make sure you know what you are agreeing to. One of discussions I saw that all participants felt passionately about was regarding cover art. Do you own the art, or do you merely license it? What rights does the artist, the creator, have in regards to further use of your cover? It’s something to consider. It’s taking IP and who owns what to a deeper level.

The thing about doing it yourself is that you do it ALL yourself. But to me, that’s the best thing about it. You do it all YOURSELF. See the difference there? I’m a closet control freak. I like to be in charge. Yes, I admit it. Of my work – I definitely want to be in charge. I want to make the calls for me. Will I screw up? Probably. We all do as we are learning.

The best part of Cons for me are meeting people like you. After one of the craft panels I went to, I was talking to one of the presenters, and they suggested we repair to the bar to continue the conversation. It was an amazing hour, talking craft, word count, genre, business, marketing, price – I am so very thankful that this person took the time from their schedule to help along someone who has lots of questions. That meeting alone left me with a professional high that hasn’t worn off yet.

We’re a solitary lot. We sit in front of our screens, and let the creativity flow from our head to the same screens. That’s awesome for your readers, but you need to get out from behind the screen, and talk to other people like you. Go hang out in a place where there are TONS of people who are just as nerdy and passionate as you are about stuff.

And for me, it solidified my thoughts on being an indie. Last year, I was at Con as someone who hadn’t yet published. This year, I have three books out. My perspective has changed slightly, from how I listen to what I’m hearing. But my thoughts on this path haven’t.

Why? Because I have looked at the options, talked to people on both sides of the options available, and still feel this is the best option for me. That’s the hard part – figuring out which is the best option for YOU. The more I explore, the more I feel this is it, and I’m where I ought to be.

If it weren’t for self-publishing, I wouldn’t have these options, and I can tell you I probably wouldn’t be where I am. I could be somewhere better, or worse. I don’t know. But it wouldn’t be here.

I just got the trade copies of all three of my books this week. Come back from Con, and books are waiting. It doesn’t get much better. I’m headed to the RMFW Gold Conference this weekend, and I’m really excited. That’s nothing but writers, and people at all stages of the business. The potential to meet and talk and learn is enormous. Explore other options, hear things that have worked for others and see if they might work for me.

There’s always something to be learned – and now, like I mentioned, we as authors have OPTIONS. Seek them out. See what resonates with you. Try out some of the options. You may fail, you may not. But you won’t know unless you explore – and having self-publishing as one of those options is a good thing.

That’s the takeaway I’d like to see – that sure, you can self-publish – but here are the pros and cons, and here are the pros and cons of publishing traditionally. Weigh them, and see what’s best for YOU. Not me, or anyone else. Once you hear that, weigh it. What can you live with? What do you think will be your struggles? For me, it’s solidifying a marketing plan, and time management. I’ve been trying to write this damn post all day and keep having distractions. *What? A squirrel??!! Quick! Let’s go – oh, look, fun FB post!*

It seems to be an either/or with some factions on both sides, and while I am passionate about my decision, it’s MY decision. There is no other option for me that will be the best. Having the ability to discover that and see what will work best for you is truly marvelous, and one of the things I feel makes this such a great time to choose to write as your career.

And now, in a totally unrelated subject, most of the costumes I wore this weekend. I need to snag one other pic because it’s my interpretation of Dean and Sam’s Impala, and who doesn’t love Baby?

Until then, I give you the Tardi Sisters and the 7th Doctor, me as Potassium in the Parade of Elements in the DC Parade, and my Battle of the Planets/G Force/Gatchaman Joe/Jason the Condor costume. (I love this costume beyond belief. I would call it George if it didn’t already have a name.)

Now get to work.

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