Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and that your 2014 is off to a fantastic start. For me, 2013 was an incredible year as an author, a year of big changes and lots of learning experiences. I’d like to begin this year’s Savvy Saturday blog posts by sharing with you a few of the things I learned.
First: It takes a lot of work to get a book published. I’d theoretically known this before, but it’s incredibly different reading about all the steps (e.g. formatting, cover art, back cover copy) and actually going through it. I’m grateful to the folks at BorderStone Press, then, for taking care of the myriad details that went into turning The Quest of the Unaligned from an electronic Microsoft Word document into a real paperback book.
Second: It takes a lot of work before and after a book is published to get anyone interested in buying it. In other words, marketing matters – and it’s time consuming. This is a side of being an author that many people aren’t aware of. Even big-name authors are being required to do some of their own marketing now, and authors that work with small publishing firms are responsible for nearly all of their own publicity. This realization led me to creating an online social media presence – from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn, Tumblr, and this blog.
Unfortunately, it’s also really hard to figure out which aspects of marketing one’s book work, and which are just a waste of an author’s writing time. The best strategy, novelist marketing gurus say, is to keep writing and publishing. A first book is rarely monetarily successful, but with every new book, an author can attract new fans who will then (hopefully) want to purchase the other books he or she has written. If one is a full-time writer, coming out with a book every year or two is a great plan. If one is a graduate student, it is a laughable plan. Sorry. Rest assured that I plan to continue writing and pursuing publication for my work, but it has to happen in between Ph.D. research papers and teaching undergraduate classes.
Third: No book is ever perfect. There are a few typos in The Quest of the Unaligned which still irk me every time I see them, and that book was gone over with a fine-toothed comb by professional editors as well as my friends and family. But that’s life. A misplaced comma isn’t going to kill anyone, and – here’s another thing I learned – most people don’t care. This leads to the fourth point.
Fourth: Even if it isn’t perfect, there’s nothing like holding your own published novel in your hands, and knowing that you’ve brought enjoyment to other people by doing something you love – telling a story. Seeing my Amazon ratings change when people buy a copy of my book, interacting with fans, and answering questions about my world and characters asked by people who actually care, is an amazing experience. My goal with The Quest of the Unaligned, as I’ve mentioned before, was to sell at least one copy to someone I didn’t personally know and have them enjoy it. This goal – modest, I admit – has been more than exceeded. And that’s fantastic.
As I go forward into 2014, my goals as an author are realistic rather than optimistic. During this season of my life, I’m a Ph.D. student first and a novelist second. I plan to finish the set of five short stories set in Alepago, and either write a new set of short stories or keep working on my novel set in that world. It depends on how much mental energy I have. In addition, I plan to continue doing these blog posts, though the day on which they are published may change from Saturdays to a week-day. My last goal is to continue building relationships with you, my readers. I look forward to continuing interacting with you on social media and through this blog. On that topic, if you have anything you specifically want me to write about – any questions to answer or ideas to explore – let me know in the comments or on Facebook! Whatever I am able to write this year, it is my hope that it will eventually give you an adventure that grips you, characters you can fall in love with, and a story that sticks with you long after the book is over. Many thanks for your continued support, and happy 2014!