Tag Archives: quotes

Five lessons I learned while self-publishing my first novel

I released my first novel about three weeks ago (as if any of you who know me don’t already know that).  Holy cow. I feel as though I’ve given birth.  There’s a weakness in the core of my being, a memory of exhaustion that has seeped into every moment of the past eight months since I first began the book with, “First days were always the worst.”

Turns out the days after aren’t much easier.  It’s funny, I actually wrote that line because I was dreading beginning a novel.  What if I failed to finish?  This was an especially embarrassing thought since I told almost everyone I knew of my plan to write a novel in a month’s time for NaNoWriMo.  Even worse, what if I succeeded and everyone hated the finished product?  But I had already committed:  Updates posted and discussed on Facebook and Twitter, the news already shared with family and coworkers.  I could not back down.  I had to write a book, even if it was terrible.  For inspiration, I purchased No Plot? No Problem!, a book by NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty.  Even though I had a (semblance of a) plot, I figured it couldn’t hurt to see what wisdom I could glean from the guy who came up with the idea of knocking out 50k words in 30 days.  Imagine my surprise when I found this quote near the beginning of the book:

“Even if you’re the worst writer in the world, at least you’ll have the evidence.” —Padgett Powell

Inspiration?  Hell, I had found my mantra!  I set out to write a book, and now had discovered a short phrase to repeat to myself when I was hating the words on the screen, to drive myself to continue even as I wanted to throw my work-in-progress–maybe even the whole computer–into the trash.  Am I the worst writer in the world?  I don’t think so.  I’m not the best either.  But I have a finished book, and that’s an accomplishment in itself.  Now I’ve had to switch gears from author to salesman.  I’ve never been a fan of sales.  Too political, too amoral.  To make matters worse, there’s a lot of conflicting data out there about how best to proceed as a newly self-published author, such as whether or not KDP select is worth giving Amazon exclusive rights to your ebook for 90 days, where and how to advertise your book, even arguments about different methods of ebook formatting.  I’m far from an expert on any of this stuff, and I’m still figuring out more each day, but here are 5 lessons I’ve learned the hard way while finishing my first novel.

  1. Finish the book!  Absolutely none of these tips matters if you don’t actually finish the book.  Don’t let yourself get hung up on the details.  Need to research something?  Put in a placeholder.  Stay consistent for easy searching at a later date.  I use brackets, so I would leave notes such as “[research how often the subways run in NYC]”.  One of the biggest challenges is completing the first draft.
  2. Edit.  Then edit some more.  Done editing?  No, you’re not.  Edit it again, slacker!  One of the biggest criticisms of self-published works is that they tend to be poorly edited.  This goes beyond simply checking for typos.  While a small number of typos and errors will be overlooked by many readers, especially if you have a compelling story, you need to make sure your finished manuscript is as error-free as possible.  If you’re a first-time author, your readers are much less likely to buy your future works if your first release is lackluster.
  3. Put your best foot forward.  You know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?  It’s a saying because people judge books by their covers.  Whether it’s on a bookstore shelf or in search results on a website, the book cover is the first impression many people will get of you and your book.  It’s not necessarily a matter of cost, either.  I’ve seen $1000 book covers that look terrible, and some of the budget covers I’ve seen have been anywhere between acceptable and amazing.  For decent budget covers, check out Fiverr.  There are other options out there as well, which leads to the next point.  Mine was done by MW Messina.
  4. Google, as always, is your friend.  I know research can be overwhelming, especially in subjects such as these where there is so much data out there to consider.  That said, a LOT of smart people have done this before.  Some of them have even written about what worked for them.  Don’t reinvent the wheel; use their success (and their failure) as a blueprint for your own method.  Try to take the best parts of what has worked for other people and make their tactics yours.  There is nothing wrong with standing on the shoulders of giants (or even people who are just slightly taller than you).  There are a number of author forums on the internet that are full of people willing to help.  Find one you like.  I try to spend some time each day reading posts on the kboards writer forum.  William Hertling’s Indie & Small Press Book Marketing is a great primer and contains a lot of useful information.
  5. Don’t rely too much on friends.  I love my friends.  They’re wonderful folks.  I’m honored to know many people with a variety of talents.  The thing about talented people is that they’re often busy with their own projects.  Talented people are also not known for their consistent follow-through.  I’m a musician.  I’ve been the flaky artist-type person before, so I can’t fault people too much for this.  Even if money is involved, there’s a chance your friend may not give your project the priority you feel it deserves.  If you have a good working history with your friend this may not apply, but ultimately you may find it less frustrating to go with a stranger whose portfolio includes work that speaks to your vision.  It’s also easier to be demanding of a stranger than a friend, at least for me.

Again, I have barely scratched the surface of the self-publishing world, but these are the five most important lessons I’ve learned after releasing my first book.  It’s not gospel, just things that worked for me.  I hope they work for you, too.  Another great resource is Reddit.  Here’s a bookmark I use for several different writing related subreddits.  If you have other suggestions you’ve picked up along the way, please leave a comment!

Tagg, you’re it

Taggart Romney, who may or may not be named after the female protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, had this to say about the debate, after being asked what it’s like to sit there and listen to the President of the United States call your dad a liar:

“Well — jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the debate stage and take a swing at him,” he replied. “But you know you can’t do that because, well, first there is a lot of Secret Service between you and him but also because this is the nature of the process, they’re going to do everything they can do to make my dad into someone he is not.”

While Tagg seems like a nice enough guy, and the crazy eyes aren’t as strong with him as some of the others in the Romney brood, it does seem like he isn’t the only one who was struggling to stifle his rage during the debates. Check out how angry Josh Romney looked while Obama was speaking… Continue reading

Dan Savage nails it

From today’s Savage Love:

Conservatives tend to change their positions on specific “controversial” social issues when “it” happens to them. Nancy Reagan came out for stem-cell research after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Rush Limbaugh came out for treatment over incarceration for drug offenders after he got caught with his hand in the OxyContin jar, Dick Cheney came out for marriage equality after his daughter came out. Likewise, a lot of conservatives—male and female—are anti-choice until “it,” i.e., an unplanned pregnancy, happens to them. (Sometimes the cure doesn’t stick. Scott DesJarlais, for example, is a rabidly pro-life member of Congress from Tennessee. But back in 2000, when he was a doctor, he pressured his mistress, who was also his patient, to get an abortion. As a member of Congress, DesJarlais opposes abortion in all cases, without exception… unless “it,” i.e., an unplanned pregnancy, happens to him.)

This inability to empathize—this refusal to imagine what it might be like to have an ill relative or a drug problem or a gay child or an unplanned pregnancy—is a defining characteristic of modern conservatism.

I’ve been saying for years that many conservatives seem to have an inability to feel compassion for those they perceive as an “other” or differing from them in significant ways. It seems that they seek to restrict the autonomy of others but are more than willing to bend the rules to make exceptions for themselves.

I believe that we should try our best to understand what another person is going through. It’s why I support gay marriage and am pro-choice. I will never have to worry about not being able to marry someone I love, and I’ll never have to get an abortion. But I can imagine what it would be like to not be able to freely love someone, or to be struggling with life and be faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I think more people should try to understand where others are coming from. It would make our world a better place.

Binders full of sister wives

And not a single one is wearing underpants, magic or otherwise!

What a rousing debate last night! Unlike the snoozefest on October 3, there were actually a few times last night where I thought Romney and Obama might trade blows. Certainly a welcome change. As is tradition, here’s a link to the video and transcript, just in case you missed it.

We’re dealing with trying times as a nation. We face important issues, and I believe that our decisions about them will have a lasting impact for generations to come. We’re deciding how we want to handle immigration, healthcare, women’s rights, foreign policy, and education. There may be as many as 2-3 appointments to the Supreme Court within the next 4 years. All of these things have the potential to significantly impact our social contract. I believe that Obama, while not my first choice, is a much better candidate than Mitt Romney, mainly due to the inherent differences between conservatives and liberals regarding the role of business and government. Continue reading

Being pro-life because of science and reason is like being fat because of diet and exercise

One of the most mind-boggling moments of last night’s debate was when Paul Ryan said the following:

Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

Ryan loves SCIENCE!

The stupid, it burns!

More great Paul Ryan memes here.

I just got back from counter-protesting in front of a Planned Parenthood. I’ll probably write about it some time this weekend, after I’ve had a chance to read (and debunk) their literature.

Great Dawkins Quote

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state, from which the vast majority have never stirred.

– Richard Dawkins