The Other Job of an Author

I was watching an interview with R.A. Salvatore. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of his writing. However, he is successful, he sounds like a great guy, and at the very least he’s wise. I don’t like horror, but I still am glued to anything Stephen King says. You don’t need the author that has you stuck to the pages to find an author who can give sound advice.

Salvatore was asked once what the best college degree would be for a writer. The response left me puzzled.

Engineering.

 

Why engineering? Maybe if you wanted to write about architecture? Either way, there was a lot of confusion.

You can’t write when hungry.

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Bring home the bacon! (GotCredit (c) 2015)

In this age of self-publishing, if that’s the path you will be taking, it also costs money to make money. You are your sole investor. It’s $200 for an editor on a novel, often times more, rarely less. Even more rarely if you want quality.

An artist is at least $300 for the cover art. Sure you can do the layout. Of course you can go with stock photos that look immensely generic and someone else may have used. However, don’t you want something original? Something tailored specifically to your book? It just looks better.

Then there are book fairs, conventions, writer friend hangouts, and buying enough books up front so you can sell them at different events. This isn’t cheap. Don’t even get me started on the investment in marketing.

Guess what you can’t do if you’re a starving artist? Any of this. You’ll perpetuate the starving part and art will be a miserable endeavor for you. I have friends in this boat. They can’t sell out. Getting a job outside writing will nullify their dreams (marketing, guys, you are all marketers of some sort).

I sell restaurant equipment. This is what I am known for. I sell restaurant equipment and go on mission trips. I work about 50 hours a week. Fortunately in outside sales there’s a little fudge room. I am struck by my muse and 4:30 and nothing is happening? As long as I get caught up on emails before 8 am the next morning, I’m good. I’ve gone on a writing rampage to answer emails at 1 am.

However, this job is my literary life blood. With it I was able to go to a convention in Utah where I learned, networked, and met a friend I’d known online for around three years. I was able to buy original cover art which will eventually become metal bookmarks. And marketing. I so hate marketing.

All of this was because during the day I sell restaurant equipment. I work a normal job. One writer I met in Utah was a lawyer. His hours were significantly less forgiving than my own and he had a family.

The world works on money, and money from a primary source makes it easy to fund the writing (or drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.).

The short of it? The whole Bohemian thing is really cute. Now get a job.

Self Publishing II: Before Launch

To those in America, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you have a long list of things you are thankful for. I most certainly do. I try to remember every day, no matter how bad the day before was, has the opportunity for me to improve.

Next, I am published. Nothing like driving through Chicago traffic (it’s not as bad as they say as long as it’s not morning, night, or Sunday after a holiday), and you get a phone call telling you the book’s live. Two weeks before what they told you it would be.

“But Paul, that’s great!”

“But human being, you don’t get what goes into marketing!”

Today I’m going to tell you what goes into marketing before the book releases.

First, after you hand in a finished manuscript, you will need to do the cover art. Often you have the option, especially with a vanity press, to use some stock photos, or to supply your own. I appreciate the starving artist, so I often help someone out, especially people just getting into art. Simply because they’re $200 instead of $1000. I can sort of afford one of those.

There is also font to think about. You will need to note internal font (I really like minion, but garamond is pretty solid as well), external font (I literally just told them something that looks like the Aladdin title), and don’t forget to mention what scene breaks look like. While the industry standard (or what I’ve been exposed to) is to leave a space, #, space, for the publisher I used it means keep the hashtag. Awkward. Usually they have some sort of glyph bible to go off.

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Depending on how you do self publishing depends on how much layout you have to worry about. Fortunately I worried about none of it.

At this point I also highly suggest you have a platform, some teasers, and you’re looking into events. The platform is something as simple as WordPress. Get your name out there, get people interested. Understand that audience does not equate to sales. I have over 600 followers. If I get 20 sales through my WordPress, not a bad day.

On the flip side, people who read my book and like it will likely look to my WordPress. Now my WordPress is my way to keep a hooked reader coming back, since it will likely be 18 months before another novel, with a few short stories here and there.

Teasers make people interested. You have a cover release. You show the synopsis. Talk about your inspirations. Make sure to be quick to interact with your audience. If they feel they’re getting to know you, they’re more likely to want to read what you write. They feel a connection.

As for events, everything I’ve seen says this is the most important part of sales within the first six months. I will talk about events more on a later post.

This is a good precursor to preparing yourself for the news your book is live. Hopefully you have a more solid date so you can prepare for it, but either way, when you have a plan, you can enact it when required.

Next time I will talk about what happens after the book goes live! Most of this will be what I’m planning, as well as information gleaned by those already published, since I just got published yesterday.

Self Publishing I: After the Manuscript

I get published next week. Or the week after. It’s surreal. It becomes more surreal when you’re told three months after final proof approval you’ll be in print. Then you send in final proof approval and they say you’ll be in print within 5-7 business days. I went to a vanity press, that’s why the dates are a little weird. I also think they’re a little slow and trying to push as much through the pipeline as possible. Being in the restaurant equipment industry, I get this sentiment.

I want to write about my experience with publishing. Despite the dates, with the whirlwind that goes into getting published, it has been surreal. I have been published already two times, but they were short stories and it just feels empty. I don’t know if that’s me or if others get that, but when I see my short story out, I’m a little like Thor.

Another

Publishing a novel feels different. I hope and think. It may also be that I want to build a large literary empire around it. I’m ambitious. I mean, what’s the point otherwise?

Anyway, you don’t care about that. What you care about is what happens after you finish the manuscript. Not after you finish the first draft, the second or third draft, but the draft where you had a friend look at it, your mom loves it, you love it, but it’s time to thrust it into the world.

By the way, did I say this is very subjective and everyone has their own way? I’ve spoken to a lot of published authors and even publishers on how they do this, and everyone has their way. The only thing that matters for success is that you have a way, you stick to it, and you’re hardheaded. Thick-skinned. Heavy-sacked. However you want to say it. Seriously. I just know I was a little side swiped by what all goes into this.

Continuing!

A common trend today in writing is once you’re feeling good about the book, find beta readers. These are often friends, though usually friends with some reading and editing insight. Also preferably friends who are bought off with a signed copy in the future and maybe a hug and a lunch. Or just mutual beta reading. While I still suggest hiring an editor, this is sort of a test group.

Give the manuscript out to a half dozen or so souls you trust for their opinion. Through writing groups I’ve made friends that I trust in different areas, whether it is grammar, plot, etc. They are still friends, but writing groups are also a great way to do strategic networking.

The beta readers can give a lot of information as far as what worked, what didn’t, and where you’ve been so distracted that even though you “edited” the part five times, you missed a period. I’ve had a few correct bad grammar habits I didn’t realize I had. Apparently towards is British and toward is American. Who knew?

After this, give it a run through for the beta readers.

While beta readers were digesting the manuscript, I was also working on some information touches! I give my beta readers a month, and I don’t want to slack off.

Think of a synopsis. I know, 250 words is difficult, but tell your story in 250 words. Keep doing it until it looks succinct and awesome.

Now that that’s over, tell it in 25. I know. Some of you had your eyes bulge. Your gut clenched. You may have even vomited. It’s okay. I’m here to hold your hair back.

The 25 word synopsis is important. This is the keynote, and it’s a brief description so people can get an immediate idea of what they’re about to read. It is not so much about your story, but about what it is like.

For G’desh (though this isn’t the exact one, as it’s on another computer):

An action epic inspired by Arabian Nights, in which two armies declare a holy war. Follow an assassin, prophet, and warrior in this mystical world.

Boom. 25. I rewrote those probably a dozen times. I think this may actually be my best yet, but it’s too late for that nonsense. The more you practice the 25 word keynote/synopsis, the better you get at it. From just those 25 words, a reader knows it’s going to be Arabian, magicky, there will be war and religion, and there are three view points, or at least three central characters. Maybe they’ll read the book based on that alone. Maybe they will at least read the 250 word synopsis which is far more detailed in breaking down the conflicts and characters. At the very least they have a brief idea of the story. This can also be equated to an elevator pitch.

Don’t forget a picture and author biography. Make the biography awesome. There are plenty out there to look at to get an idea. I throw a little mission statement in there about wanting readers to look to the classics, as well as get excited to go on their own adventures. This will help people understand and relate to you. Yes, it’s on a shallow level, but I’m going to tell you now half of it is perception. So figure out the perception you want, and conjure it up in 50 to 100 words.

I also used this time to come up with keywords for Amazon. It helps people search you more easily. I’d suggest doing research on good keywords. Despite the simplicity I probably went a week on and off to figure out exactly what I wanted.

In two days I will go over getting ready for proofs and release date.

As I said, there are a dozen ways to do this, especially self publishing. Everyone’s journey is different, and I’m by no means a master, but I was definitely overwhelmed when I signed the contract for the vanity press. What do you do to get ready for publishing? Leave comments to help educate.