Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! This week my guest is the talented and outspoken :) Tymber Dalton. She's a strong supporter of writers and good writing, and I'm happy to call her cyber-friend!
When my first fiction book was published on 8/8/08 (also the opening day of the Beijing Olympics), the e-publishing landscape looked a lot different than it does now in 2015. Yes, that was only seven years ago, but massive changes have hit since then. Amazon started KDP. Nook, Kobo, Google, and iTunes entered the e-book fields. Sales and distribution sites like Smashwords and AllRomanceEbooks came into play.
Where back in 2008 only a couple of “big” independent digital-first publishers existed, now there are hundreds, with more popping up every day. As well as single-author houses, authors who’ve formed a “house” to publish their own work. And let’s not forget self-publishing. Once considered the last resort of desperate wannabes who couldn’t land a traditional contract, now well-respected authors are self-publishing, taking control of their careers.
I wish I could tell newbies that they should self-publish right out of the gate, but I can’t. Here’s the problem—writers are the absolute worst judges of their writing. Good and bad. They can’t see their errors. (We also can’t see when it’s really good, but that’s a blog post all its own.)
I strongly recommend writers go with an independent publishing house for at least their first book. Or, try to, anyway. By going that route, you will learn valuable skills you will absolutely need if you ever hope to succeed at self-publishing, if that’s your final goal. You will learn about editing (and yes, EVERYONE needs an editor). You will learn about composing copy for the back cover. (Hint: do NOT use excerpts from the text, and do NOT tell readers how they will feel/what they will think reading your book.) You will learn how the cover creation process works. You will learn production flow, formatting—and you will have the benefit of being able to talk to fellow authors and help band together to promote each other’s work. Also, as long as the publisher is reputable, you do NOT have to pay for any costs like editing, formatting, covers, etc. The publisher handles that. That gives you a chance to improve and learn without shelling out expenses out-of-pocket.
No, the publisher will NOT do all the promo work for you. NO publisher will do that. That’s still on the backs of the authors, even at the Big 5 New York houses. Unless you’re Stephen King or James Patterson, or someone like that.
Research publishing houses carefully. Use Google searches to search the publisher’s name and “problems” or “complaints” or other search terms in conjunction with it. Ask writers whose books you really like for recommendations. Use sites like AbsoluteWrite and WriterBeware to see if there are any ongoing issues with a particular publisher.
It’s great that it’s easy now for any writer to publish their book. The problem is, it’s way too easy for any writer to publish their book, and they frequently do without editing, without a good, solid description, and with a cover that literally sometimes looks like their ten-year-old drew it for them.
If you do that, then don’t complain when you don’t sell. You might have an awesome book, but because you rushed it to publication without doing the work, it sucks, and no one will buy it.
When you self-publish, YOU are responsible for paying for editing, formatting, covers, creating the back description, setting up accounts with distributors and uploading your work and making sure the information is correct, keeping track of payments—everything. It’s a LOT of work.
Forget the thought that you’ll publish, and overnight a lightning strike will hit and make you famous. You have a far better chance of getting hit by lightning.
Did you know that many of the “bestselling authors” on the NYT list STILL have day jobs to pay their bills? Why? Just because someone is a “bestselling author” doesn’t mean they’re making a lot of money. That’s a HUGE misconception. You will still need your day job. You will STILL need a reliable source of income.
The good news is, however, that with a lot of reputable independent publishers out there now (yes, and quite a few bad ones) any author who does their research and doesn’t get all grabby-hands greedy to get published at any cost can find a good publisher. That’s if your book is already fairly polished.
Learn your craft. I’ve seen people post excerpts of books they’re working on, and seriously, I want to tell them to go back to high school and take English all over again. But they can’t see their errors. And then they wonder why they can’t get a publishing contract.
There are NO shortcuts here. Self-publishing is NOT a shortcut. It’s a different path, yes. But you still have to do the work (or pay to have it done). You still have to put in the time and effort. Just because you can vomit out a rough draft and publish it on KDP and twelve hours later, it’s for sale to the world, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
You should NOT.
Because if you’re serious about being a writer, get this through your head—there ARE NO SHORTCUTS. The work still has to be done. Trying to go through an independent publisher first is a good way to learn everything that has to be done. You might decide after seeing all the work involved to produce a quality product that you want nothing to do with self-publishing, because it’s a LOT of damn work.
I always laugh when newbie writers complain how hard it was to write their book.
Honey, writing the book is the EASY part of the publishing process. Seriously. Ask any author, especially multi-published authors. They’ll all tell you that editing is far harder than writing, as well as all the other stuff that must be done on top of that.
And don’t be a promo whore. Do not hit up writers who don’t know you from Adam and put them in the uncomfortable position of asking them to pimp your book for you. Please, just don’t. It’s rude. Build up a group of online friends to become your readers, and remember that readers are PEOPLE, not a commodity. And don’t get all jealous and snarky and bitchy. The public is NOT some finite pie where if another writer does well, you’ll suck. Not at all. Be nice. Doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, but don’t go leaving one-star reviews for other authors. Trust me, when it gets around that you did that, you will get blackballed by readers. They have a long memory and will talk you down to other readers. That said, readers who like you, who you come off to as a genuinely nice person? They will pimp you out like crazy.
WRITE GOOD BOOKS. And BE NICE.
That’s the magic formula. There are no shortcuts. Write good books, be a nice person, and repeat. Frequently. You cannot write one book and then pimp the crap out of it for years. Write the book, be nice, repeat.
If you haven’t already, follow Mellanie Szereto’s blog, Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog, and Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog. They are invaluable sources of information for writers. They also have books out for writers. Learn your craft. Attend workshops. If that’s not in the budget, buy writing craft books and DEVOUR them.
There. Are. No. Shortcuts.
The good news is, if you do the hard work? You’re already ahead of the game. Plenty of writers vomit one half-baked book, toss it up on KDP, whine that it’s not selling, and disappear into the void. Unfortunately, plenty of people are doing that, more every day. So to slice through the signal noise, you need to be a cut above and beyond them.
You need to be a professional. You need to treat it like a job. And how you conduct yourself on the Internet needs to be as if your family and friends and real-life acquaintances were the people you are interacting with. In other words, conduct yourself in a way you wouldn’t be embarrassed for others to see you act if you were, say, working in an office or a store. Never forget there are REAL people on the other end of that keyboard.
Readers notice that. How you stand out is not by non-stop pimping your book. You stand out by repeatedly writing good books readers want to buy and pimp for you, because you’re also a nice person to interact with online.
Bio:http://www.tymberdalton.com. Her latest release, Out of the Spotlight, is book 23 in her Suncoast Society BDSM series and is now available from Siren-BookStrand.
Tymber’s Trybe Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TymbersTrybe/
Out of the Spotlight (Suncoast Society 23, MMF, BDSM): http://www.bookstrand.com/tymber-dalton
Thanks for sharing your advice today, Tymber, and thanks for supporting Writing Tip Wednesday!
Romance...With A Kick!