Four Things I wish I’d Known Before I Wrote My First Book

Writing is a profession filled with misconceptions. The general public thinks once you have a book published you are immediately rich and famous. I’ll give my writer friends a moment to laugh out loud about that! Some writers are very familiar with the industry and how it works. Then there are those writers like me- flying by the seat of our pants and buying into what we think writing is all about. Now that I am in the process of having my first book published, there are so many things I wish I had known before I started.

  1. Start building your author platform. It doesn’t happen over night, or even over a year. The sooner you can start the better. If you are unsure what a platform is there are some excellent articles you can read. In a nutshell, it is a way for you to get your name out there and develop a following/fanbase or whatever you want to call it. If you are just beginning, my advice would be make a Facebook author page (different from your personal page), a Twitter account and a website with a blog. That is just a starting point. You may have had this picture of just you and your computer writing the great American novel, but it doesn’t work like that.
  2. Getting published is more work than writing the novel. Every publishing company wants something different. Some want a synopsis, some chapter summaries, some the first 50 pages and some the first 3 chapters. They will ask you about your author platform and how you plan to market your book. The only publishers aren’t the big names. Matter of fact, as an unpublished author they really won’t even look at you. There are thousands of independent and small publishing companies. This is where your network with other authors can really come in handy, especially if they write the same genre as you. Ask for recommendations and suggestions. I am not knocking self publishing, but that requires money up front. Watch out for companies that want you to pay them to publish your book. I know sometimes you may feel desperate, but there are other options. A good editor and cover designer are mandatory. You have worked too hard to try to edit it yourself or design a cover if you don’t know what you are doing. You want to surround yourself with people that can polish what you have done and help you present the best possible product. I have been extremely happy with my publisher. They have educated me, walked me through the process and provided me with a high quality team.
  3. Don’t quit your day job! I heard somewhere that 90-95% of published authors write on the side. Meaning they have a full or part time job other than writing. But most of the writers I know write because they love it. They write because they have to- it’s almost a physical need like breathing. So in my opinion, if I can make any money doing what I love- it’s a great thing.
  4. Don’t think you will remember everything. Keep a spiral or something that you can use for notes. Write down plot ideas, character ideas or anything you think might be used at a later date. Everyone has their own style. Some just write with no planning or outlining. Others outline for months before they start a book. I think you need some planning. I like to outline my characters and get to know them before I start writing. Sometimes that helps when you have a small character that appears in the beginning and then doesn’t reappear for 200 pages. You may forget their name or other pertinent information. Or you may start writing and get a hundred pages done and find a huge hole in your plot that didn’t rear it’s ugly head until you really started hashing things out. Yeah, that one is from personal experience, and it still stings!

Hopefully, you will find something in here that will help you along your writing path. Remember, you don’t have to be published to be an author. If you are writing, then you are a writer.

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Author Platform??

When I first started searching for someone to publish my book, I found there was a lot more to it than I had first thought. Every place I sent my query letter wanted something different. I found myself spending hours preparing a synopsis, an outline or a summary. The one thing they all asked me about was my platform. Honestly, I didn’t even know what it was so I was pretty sure I didn’t have one. After doing my research (which is the first thing all authors do) I discovered that I had a lot of work to do. Luckily, I am with an independent publisher that specializes in new authors. I have a wonderful book manager that has walked me through every step. I now have an author Facebook page, a Twitter and a website with a blog. Unfortunately, building a platform doesn’t happen overnight, matter of fact, it doesn’t happen in a year. It takes time- both the passage of time and an investment of your own personal time.

It seems kind of ironic to me that people who chose a profession where they spend all of their time alone are expected to build up their own fan base. I’m not exactly comfortable building up myself and my book. But, alas, it is part of the process. So I find myself hounding my Facebook friends to like my page and share my status. I just hope I don’t chase them all away or cause them to “unfriend” me! So for anyone reading this and sharing my journey, thank you! You are helping me build my platform one follower at a time.

Starting to Get Nervous

I have been so excited about my booking launch in September! But now as it gets closer, I’m suddenly getting nervous about it. Others who write understand that your book becomes your baby. You pour your heart, your soul and yourself into it. You don’t write it in a month. It takes time, and then once you get it all written you revise it. Over and over and over again. Then if you are lucky enough to get it published, you start revising according to your editor’s suggestions. I think I’ve read my book about a hundred times, and now I’m starting to wonder if it’s as good as I thought it was in the beginning!! But I wonder if any book would be as good as I thought it was the first time I read it on time number one hundred 🙂

My cover designer, Chelsea Barnes (who is completely phenomenal!), has sent me her finished design. It is better than I ever could have imagined. She took my rough ideas and turned them into something amazing. Then when I saw my name on there- that blew my mind. Someone asked me if I was going to use a pen name. Are you kidding?? I’ve worked too hard not to see my name on that book. This whole process has been awesome. When I first started writing, it was out of obedience because God had called me to write. I saw no possible way that I would ever be published, but He has opened doors and here I am. To say I am blessed is an understatement!

Already Dropped the Ball

I had promised myself that I would faithfully blog- at least every couple of days. Then just like everyone else, life happened. My oldest son just left for college. All of his life, I have prepared him for this. We come from such a small town, and I wanted him to experience college life. So he left his hometown of maybe 3500 (his graduating class had 73) to go to a college with 37,000 students. Since he is going to play football, he had to go out for the summer 2 session. That has turned out to be a blessing because there are a lot less students there, and he is getting a good adjustment time. Hopefully, he is adjusting better than his mom because I am struggling with this. I am a time bomb that can burst into tears at anytime. The bottom line- I miss him. I miss him like crazy!! He’s not just my son; he’s my friend- and my circle of friends is very small. At first I felt guilty for the way I was acting (Never cried in front of him- I always put on the brave face). I’ve discovered that I when I react extremely emotionally to something I always justify why I DON’T have a reason to act that way. You know good ole self talk “You really shouldn’t be mad, they didn’t do it on purpose.” or “People have had tragedies strike their family, and here you are balling because your son left for college.” But this time, I let myself own it. Yes, my son left and I should be happy. And I am- I’m happy for him and proud of him. But you know what? I miss him- more than I ever thought possible. My house feels empty, and I am lost. So when I want to cry, I’m going to cry (just not in front of him). Yes, people are in much worse situations, but my heart hurts. We prayed that he would get into the school he wanted, and we prayed that he would get to play football. God gave us everything we asked for, and now I’m praying for the strength to let him spread his wings!