I’ve been writing with publication as a goal for years now. Certainly other people have been at it longer than me. I’m no expert. But I thought I’d be more settled by now. With one book published and two more slated to follow this year, I expected to feel differently, more capable, more efficient. It’s pretty annoying to fall into old habits. I’m distracted by promotion. I’m letting my personal life get in the way. I’m worried my work sucks. I’m…the same writer I was before my book was published. Isn’t that a kicker? Publication isn’t a cure-all. It’s not some panacea for procrastination, fear, lack of focus and doubt. In fact, it’s no match for those things. Like it or not, those things are part of being human, and just like I had to learn to live with them as a child, I have to learn to work with them as a writer.

Because I was a public relations minor in college, I always figured PR would be the least of my worries when I finally sold a manuscript. As a result, I didn’t think much about marketing while I wrote my earliest manuscripts. I did sign on to various email lists and frequent writing/publishing websites, but I did so more to learn craft than to start the recognition ball rolling. Soon, I was reading emails and posts about getting a jump start on branding, so I scrambled over to Twitter and dipped a toe in. God, those waters were choppy. I had no idea what I was doing over there. And more than once I wondered if I was simply wasting my time. Shouldn’t I be writing?

Years later, I have a little hindsight, certainly not enough to make me an expert on the subject, but enough to share. As far as publicity goes, here’s what did and didn’t work for me at various stages of the game:

Before the manuscript was even finished…

• I worried too much about doing everything everyone else said they were doing. Twitter, tumblr, instagram, Pinterest. (How I avoided Facebook, I’ll never know. Lol.) I thought it was all so critical to building an audience, and yet I had no idea who my audience was. I hadn’t written enough, submitted enough and received enough feedback to know.
• I didn’t give enough thought to real vs. penname. I wasted a lot of time and squandered some publicity by switching names mid-stream. Looking back, I wish I’d spent less time being social online in an effort to build a brand I eventually changed TWICE.
• I wasted money on domain names and hours on brainstorming ideas for gimmicky branding that no longer fit by the time I actually sold a book.

Bottom line: At this stage in the game, writing is more than enough. Seeking to better your writing in the form of workshops and critique partners is the next step. You’ll get to know people this way, too. And knowing people is a big part of publicity.

During the submission stage…

• I really engaged in social media, hoping to find the key to who was publishing what and how I could get picked out of the slush. But instead of finding that, I ended up worried too much about doing everything everyone else said they were doing—AGAIN. (***This is a big pitfall of social middle.) She submitted here. I wanted to submit here. This one submitted there. I wanted to submit there. Read about an editorial call—Count me in! Contest announced—How do I enter? It was ludicrous. I got so damn confused I was taking 80K-word manuscripts and cutting 20K words just so I could respond to one of these impulses. Not only wasn’t I building a brand, I didn’t recognize my manuscripts anymore.
• On the other hand, engaging in social media meant I had other writers to commiserate with while I was waiting to hear back on submissions. These other writers have been a huge boost to my ego when it was flailing, and they’ve stepped up over and over again to help me promote my successes.
• I built a website, because, heck, why not? I was WAITING, and I hate waiting. Building a website seemed more productive than checking my inbox a million times. Of course, writing would have been most productive, so this one could go either way—positive or negative. I’ve had several incarnations of my website since I started on the publication path. That tells me I started with the websites too soon. And you know what? I yanked a site down when I settled on a penname, and I went without a website for many months. So what was the point of it all in the first place?
• I started this blog, another commitment that took me away from writing, BUT it also gave me a place to gather my thoughts and connect with likeminded people.

Bottom line: There were some positive marketing steps taken during this stage, ones I surely don’t regret, but once again, the best thing I did while I waited to hear back on works out on submission was write more manuscripts and work with my critique partner to polish them.

After I sold a manuscript…

• I built my current site.
• I joined another group blogging effort.
• I opened up to my friends and family in greater detail about my writing, including them in my publicity efforts. (I’ll talk more on that in a later post.)
• I ordered author cards (business cards with my name, genre, and website listed) and stickers to affix to the back of the cards. (The stickers have the book name, release date and location availability.)
• When my other group blog asked for authors to donate prizes for various promotional efforts, I ordered personalized items, like pens and post its, and I assembled “swag packs” to giveaway.
• I joined Facebook. (Gah! I’m soooo clueless over there.)
• I paid more attention to my Twitter account (that is, until I needed to finish the second book in the series I sold) and Goodreads.
• I accepted invitations to guest blog.
• I created a contest to run during my release month.
• And I’m sure there’s more and there will be more…

Bottom line: Nothing can really prepare you for the branding blitz that happens when you sell a manuscript. You can think about it. You can observe what others do. But until you’re ready to implement the plan, it’s all just speculation…speculation that takes you away from writing.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you’re early in the publishing game, don’t stress over what you should or shouldn’t be doing as far as publicity goes. You SHOULD be writing. 🙂

Save My Soul will be my first published book, but it was my FOURTH completed manuscript. Change My Mind, the second book in this series, will be my second published book (unless something crazy happens!), and it’s my EIGHTH completed manuscript. No rhyme or reason, huh? Just another reminder that writing is the name of the game, and nothing—not even building your brand—should take you away from that.

Elley

I realized as I sat down to write last week’s post that my journey to published has been filled with a lot of Debbie Downer stuff. Lots of waits! Adjusting to new editors! Expect more rejection! Wee!

And I realized I haven’t talked much about the good stuff. Like someone liking your book enough to acquire it and then read it many, many times in order to edit it. A reviewer saying it put a smile on their face. Knowing people are plopping over a few dollars to read what your imagination came up with.

This journey to being published and beyond is a hard one, and it is filled with sucky stuff. I tend to focus on the sucky stuff. I mean, my second book came out this month and what did I do to celebrate?

Start a new book. Obsess over submissions I have out. Torture myself with the “meh” reviews and watching my Amazon ranking fluctuate. I squeed on Twitter a bit.

This is not celebration. This is… recipe for being a whiny butt.

I’m not sure where this came from. I had a book published. By a reputable publisher who has bought ad space for my book, set up a blog tour. I’ve had good reviews along with the meh. I should be dancing through the house, but instead…somehow the bad stuff sometimes reaches out and grabs you by the throat.

I’m not patient. I’m goal oriented, but the fact is these goals take time. They don’t happen overnight, and not forcing myself to enjoy each little step to the major overall goal is kind of a waste.

There should be more celebration. There should be more happy and less I’m not there yet.

So, if you get a rejection with editorial feedback: celebrate. If you get an editor wanting to revise a manuscript with you: celebrate. Finish a book: celebrate. Sell a book: celebrate BIG TIME.

There are a million steps in a writing career. Wishing for the next doesn’t get it here any faster, but it takes some of the joy away from the here and now, and that’s something I really need to work on.

Nicole

You’ve signed a contract. You’ve done edits. You have a release date. You feel invincible!

And then the next rejection comes.

I honestly never thought about it one way or another, but it was a weird feeling realizing that rejection would still be part of the game after publication. I mean, sure, it’s not surprising, but I think we focus so hard on getting published, we don’t always think about what happens after publication (I mean beyond becoming rich and famous, of course).

Of course, the reality of the situation is, if you plan to keep getting published, you have to keep putting your work out there. You have to keep submitting, and whether that’s to your publisher, agents, or another publisher, rejection can still be the name of the game.

I signed the contract for my first book in October of 2011. I signed the contract (with a different publisher) for my second book in July of 2012. I signed the contract for my third book in December of 2012 and I got offered a fourth contract in January of 2013…and yet, there were rejections in between all those contracts. Rejections from editors and agents. Rejections on queries, partials, and fulls. Luckily none of the rejections came from publishers whom had offered me a contract in the past, and most came from agents on projects I later sold, but that doesn’t mean rejection wasn’t a possibility (or it might not be a possibility in the future).

Rejection is always a possibility. The nice thing about rejection after publication, is you have a contract to pull out and remind yourself, gosh darn it, you’re good enough. It should also remind you that this is your career and the only way to keep building that career is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting. Rejection be darned.

Nicole

I wanted to combine my usual Friday post on my publishing journey with my release day post, because this is a blog for writers and this book went through A LOT to get here. And, yes, this was supposed to go up Monday, but that’s just another lesson in things not going *exactly* the way you imagined, and that being totally okay.

So, anyway, here we are. Here being RELEASE DAY! Seven-Night Stand is out and about in the world. Last year at this time, I’m not sure I thought that was possible. In fact, in February of last year I got my second rejection from this book. Of the handful of agents I’d queried, none were interested in reading even a partial.

I thought this story had merit. It had been an honorable mention in the contest it was written for, and I just…liked it. I liked my hero and his dysfunctional family and I liked my heroine who wasn’t quite sure what to do with feelings. I liked my little private airfield in the middle of nowhere Kansas.

But, I didn’t know where to go from where I was, so I set it aside for a few months and focused on other things.

In May, I’d heard enough about Entangled and their success that I figured submitting my sexy category was worth a shot. An editor was interested, gave me some revisions, and I was excited. I worked with this editor on a full set of revisions and then I waited to hear back.

And then, months later, I got an email telling me my editor had left. I was definitely bummed, but these things happen and, hey, I had a contract. I waited for a while, was finally assigned a second editor and then before I even worked with her, she left (twice).

The hardest thing about changing editors is not working with someone new (editors are a pretty awesome, friendly bunch in my experience). It’s not even changing something you’d already changed once or twice. The hardest part (for me) was managing my own insecurity.

I knew my third editor had not chosen me, so to speak. She didn’t read my story in the piles of slush and think, yes! I want to work on this. And no matter how often she told me she loved it, no matter how many times her edits helped streamline the story into something strong, it was hard to let that voice go. She didn’t choose you. You’re screwing this up.

Somewhere around the billionth revision I just let that go. I stopped worrying over it. Because, here my book was. Good. A good book that some people will like and some people won’t. And it didn’t matter that my editor didn’t choose me, because she’d worked really hard on making the book the best it could be.

Publishing is a business just like any other. People leave and move jobs for a wide variety of reasons. Chances are, if you become a multi-published author you’re going to have, at some point, two different editors on the same project. It will be a challenge, but it will work out, because the grand majority of people in this business want your book to be as good as you want it to be.

In my experience, patience, asking questions when you’re confused, and having someone you can whine to (thanks, Elley!) are imperative if a situation like this happens.

Seven-Night Stand

Because what else is there to do if you want your book published? Not a whole lot. And more often than not, the challenges are worth it, and you get to look at something as pretty as this and know it’s yours.

So, nine months, three editors, and a whole heck of a lot of revisions later, here is my book. A book I am proud of and so excited to see out in the world (or at least the internet world).

Amazon

Kobo

Goodreads

Having a birthday sandwiched between Christmas and Valentine’s Day has primed me to expect great things. It’s a non-stop parade of presents and well wishes. But even after 40 years of this time of year meaning something extra-special, I was hardly prepared for the best birthday present ever.

*Rewind*

A week before Christmas on a submission high brought about by completing all my writing goals for 2012, I got gutsy and subbed a manuscript I had thought was better left “under the bed.” After all, this manuscript (Save My Soul) was an entry in Harlequin’s first So You Think You Can Write, where it was rejected with valuable feedback, feedback I worked into the manuscript before sending off to another publisher, who rejected the manuscript—once again with valuable feedback, which prompted me to revise, but ultimately set the manuscript aside for shiny new things. Believing the story had merit based on editorial compliments about my voice and my critique partner’s comment that from time to time she still thought about the story, I squeezed my eyes shut and hit send. If nothing else, the submission gave me bragging rights…for the first time in my pursuit of publishing I had four different manuscripts out on submission.

Christmas came and went. The New Year too. And with a puppy in the house, there wasn’t much time to consider what was happening with those submissions. Imagine my surprise when I received and email from Jennifer Lawler at Crimson Romance a little more than a week into January, offering me a contract for Save My Soul. It didn’t seem real.

It still doesn’t.

Even after signing the contract, filling out a cover art form, answering an author questionnaire, and launching my website, I’m wondering if this is all a dream.

*Fast-forward*

I have a lot to celebrate this year when I blow out 40 candles on my cake. (Yikes! That’s a depressing amount of candles, unless I think about the size of cake it will take to accommodate said candles. Yum!) Honest to God, I never thought 40 would roll around with me a contracted author, anticipating a March release date.

It’s true what they say. When you least expect it…

Elley

Holy guacamole! Simon & Schuster announced their foray into self-publishing…for a hefty price. Oh sure, the 24K price tag is a “luxury” option, but is $1599 (the lowest-price option) really a deal?

Here’s where I have to say I’m a self-publishing virgin. I’ve done little research into the opportunity. All I know I know from friends who have done it…sometimes in the backseat of a car. (I kid.) Honestly, I have no idea what a writer spends to self-publish a book. Is $1599 reasonable?

First, let’s see what that $1599 gets us.

I signed up for information from Archway Publishing, the self-publishing arm of Simon & Schuster. Via their online guide, I learned the low-cost option for me, a fiction writer, is $1999. What would I get for that? The package would provide me with guidance from multiple people throughout the process. (I’m not sure how much guidance though. Can I call directly? Email only? Can I call daily? Hourly? Is it one email per production step? Might be good to know.) I’d get the usual, like an ISBN, copyright registration, Library of Congress control number. (At least I think those are usual. Don’t all books self-published or not get these?) I’d get a “standard” cover design and “standard” layout. (The examples are pleasant, including stock options. Authors can also submit their own images too.) I’d get a copy cover review, an editorial assessment (of 1,700 words), Channel Distribution, a personalized bookstore page, Google and Amazon search programs, Barnes and Noble “See Inside the Book,” an author copy (can buy more at a discount), soft cover B&W publishing (not sure what this means other than trade paperback, but maybe the cover is B&W), 5 paperback copies, e-book publishing and 10 BookStubs (cards for marketing).

For those of you who have self-published before, does this sound like a good deal? Did you spend as much, less, more? I’m seriously curious.

As for a luxury plan, the top-tier plan for fiction writers is $14,999 and includes dedicated guidance from a single publishing expert, a social media publicist and more of everything above. A social media publicist? Could be fun. But $14,999. Think of all the books I’d have to sell to break even.

For someone like me, with a background in traditional publishing, I’m slow to put my money on the line. My words and name are enough. But I’d love to know your thoughts, especially if you’ve self-published before. Is $1999-$14999 to publish a book exploitation of writers and the current trends in publishing, or is it a more controlled opportunity for those willing to take the risk?

Elley

Write Rights

March 23, 2011

Years ago, I belonged to the Southwest Manuscripters here in the Los Angeles South Bay. The group has been around for about 40 years and is very proud of the fact that Ray Bradbury is one of their founding members.

Anyway, I moved to Wyoming for six years and then back to Los Angeles, and I hadn’t been to a meeting in maybe nine years or so. So last night, just as I was about to roll out pizza dough for our weekly Monday night pizza and sit-coms, I remembered that it was also the third Monday of the month, Manuscripters meeting. So I put the pizza dough in the fridge, ran a brush through my hair and raced out the door.

It was a great meeting to attend. The speaker was Louise Nemschoff, an attorney practicing entertainment and intellectual property law here in Los Angeles.

Since I haven’t sold a novel yet, I haven’t had to deal with contract issues, but it’s been in the back of my mind. For non-fiction the issues were pretty minimal. I generally sold first North American rights, retained the right to re-sell previously published work, and advances and royalties weren’t an issue. For most of my work, I got paid a flat rate and was either paid when I was given the assignment or on publication. Not terribly complicated.

A novel is an entirely different story (pun intended). You put an incredible amount of time into this one piece of work, as well as a chunk of your heart and a little of your soul. So, clearly you want to be well informed before you sign those contracts.

At the Manuscripters, Ms. Nemschoff had about an hour to address a diverse group of writers, so the information she could share was of course somewhat generic, but what she did do was get me thinking about some important issues.

What rights do I want to sell? Will I have a say in the rights that I sell? What about electronic rights? (Something that wasn’t much of an issue in my non-fiction days.)  Will I own my pseudonym if I use one? What about advances? How much will I have to pay the publisher to buy copies of my own book? Will my publisher insure me against lawsuits? Is a “next book option” really a good thing for me? Do I want an agent? Do I want an attorney? Should I register the copyright myself?

Obviously, I left the meeting with a lot to think about. Probably the best advice given, although Ms. Nemschoff gave a lot of great information, was to join the Author’s Guild. I’ll be going to their website when I’m done here.

So what legal issues have you run across in your writing career? Are there things you wish you had known before you sold your work? Advice you were given that really helped you out? Questions you have that the rest of us might need to think about?