Episode 3: A Leg of the Journey

Hey everyone. Sorry about the radio silence! If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on with me and the book and my journey. But there’s only so much I’ve been able to convey in my little videos, so a blog post is finally appropriate.

This year, up until recently, I had a plan for Nightwalker and that plan was to simply write it. Then I came whizzing past the 200k word mark and still had half the story left to tell! So I decided Nightwalker would be a 4-book series and planned to chop it up and make neat lil’ books out of it when I was done, and continued being hellbent on getting to the finish line before seeking out a traditional publisher.

But I changed my mind. I changed my mind about a bunch of things. It all started one day when I joined a few social media writing groups and spent some time researching my options and talking to people and their experiences. The longer I listened, the more I realized that I would not be satisfied with their results. That meant I had a lot more work to do.

To be clear, I did not like the results (and lack of results) that others got when they went the traditional route. It’s a lengthy process that originally I was prepared for. Hell, I even longed for it! Having a finished product, querying agents, someday getting the interest of one, someday that agent getting a publisher’s interest, signing a contract, receiving an advance, and hoping the book sells enough to earn royalties.

Originally that sounded great. The plus was that aside from writing the book, the query letter, and content to promote myself, the rest of the work would fall on the publisher. But then I learned the cons of that.

  • The big one I already knew–TIME. People have spent years in agent limbo, either trying to find one or waiting for the one they have to find a publisher. Years! Hell no I’m not waiting years. 1) I’m impatient, and 2) I’ve been telling myself forever now that I’ll publish a book by the time I’m thirty, for sure! And boy did I procrastinate. That is right around the corner.
  • Royalties. A traditional publisher only pays you royalties once your book has earned back the advance they paid you. So if you were paid a $20k advance, you get nothing until the publisher makes that money back in your book sales. Then, you only get 8%-15% per book (it depends on your contract really) back in royalties.
  • Marketing. Maybe the royalties thing wouldn’t be so scary if you knew you were with a big-time publisher who had the means to pimp out your book and make tons of money off it, but the reality is that you’re more likely to sign with a publisher that depends on you for marketing. Smaller publishing houses don’t seem to have the budget or manpower to market all the books they’ve taken on equally, so if one of their other books is selling better for them, they will devote more of their resources promoting it which means less of those resources go to promoting your book. That amounts to fewer books sold for you and less money in royalties.

I take issue with that. If I’m going to be a failure, it will be by my own hand. I refuse to put the fate of my work in someone else’s hands, or at least this is my new lease on things after all the research. 8%-15% per book in royalties is not enough to become a career author, and now I can’t even trust a publisher to do right by my book if they take it on.

FINE. I’LL JUST DO IT MYSELF.

So I wrote, still hellbent on having Nightwalker completely finished before making any other decisions. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and then realized I would not be able to see my goal, not on the road I was on. It was a silly goal, to publish something by the time I turned thirty, but it has been the fire under my ass, so it isn’t entirely faulty. So I stepped back and assessed and I realized I had a perfectly good 120-150k chunk of words for a first book. Maybe the story wasn’t finished, but I had the material to publish a first book if I went the self-publishing route.

But for the longest time I had bought into the stigma. “Ew, self-published? It’s probably terrible, low-quality crap that won’t make sense!”

Let’s be real, that stigma isn’t without merit. There’s thousands of crappy self-published works out there, but there’s also a lot of crappy traditionally published works out there, so hey.

The self-published way gives me all the control and I like that. Truthfully, that’s something that worried me about the traditional method, not having control. WHAT IF THESE PEOPLE DESTROY MY BABY? Only I’m allowed to do that. It will just cost me a ton of money.

And that’s where I am now! The tons of money part. Well, the needing tons of money part. This is expensive as hell, but that’s the price of getting it right. Editing, cover design, promotional materials, etc. I hate to suggest that you can’t do this for free, but seriously, if you want to set yourself apart from all the stuff out there that gives self-publishing such a bad rap, you have to invest in this stuff. It matters.

Invest in your work if you believe in it. Maybe if you’ve got an eye for it, you can make your own cover art (I’ve made some decent ones on Canva, so it’s not out of the question), and maybe you know the secret to Facebook ads and don’t need to spend an arm and a leg promoting the best stuff from your author page. Fine. But what you should absolutely invest in is an editor.

I’m not talking about your friend who took a creative writing class in college, I’m talking about a real-deal professional editor. I don’t care how perfect your grammar is or how incredible of a wordsmith you are, having the eyes of a professional is invaluable. A second set of eyes is always helpful, and an editor worth their salt is going to improve the quality of your work and the way you tell your story. If you don’t believe me, ask for a sample edit from a few you’re interested in and see what you get back.

There’s a lot that I’m still learning about this process. It’s a completely different world and I want in. But I can say that I filled out my W-9 with Amazon/Createspace/whatever they’re called! It’s a step you’ll have to do if you’re in the US. It’s painless!

I’m also in this weird stage right now where I’ve submitted my work to the editor and in the meantime I can’t stop planning things. I set my personal deadline and now I’m meeting with artists, venues for the book launch party, caterers, I’m buzzing with crazy planning energy and I can’t seem to settle down enough to write! And I practically live on Pinterest now. Boards for everything. Book launch decor? Board. Book signing ideas? Board. Book covers? Board. Design themes for promotional materials? Board. What does that even mean? Board.

SEND HELP.

❤ AJ

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