Before leaving Virginia, I was a member of several writers’ groups in the area. Sadly, I didn’t have time to attend meetings with all the groups. But I haven’t forgotten about you all. I know many of you are working on your first books or trying to make yourselves visible on google machines. And I know exactly what you are experiencing.
I’ve gotten quite the education in these last months in Mississippi. I occasionally wish I was still in Virginia so on the more bruising days, I could have turned some of you for help, or at least support. Still, in the process of gaining education, I finished my first book. It was published at the end of the summer and I am working to promote it.
Dave, from Writing as a Business on meetup.com, asked me to share some thoughts on the process.
To Amazon or Not to Amazon?
Working backward through the process, the most difficult decision was where and how to publish. My work is political, and time-sensitive. I very much wanted the first edition to hit Kindle with the first televised debate. Having started the book in June, that gave me until August 6th to publish.
Though I had learned a lot from Dave Wood and the gang, back at Writing as a Business, Fredericksburg, a great deal of the publishing process was still a mystery to me. To be certain, with no previous books and almost no platform on my blogs (more on those in a minute), I was not going to score an agent to get my book out, even on Kindle, in the time I allotted myself. I learned, very late in the game, I wouldn’t even be able to self-publish a pulp edition in that same timeframe.
In addition to the time crunch, this project was on the most threadbare of shoestrings. So, I set what I thought was a fairly reasonable second goal. Get the Kindle edition online by 6 August and get the paper edition by 16 September, the night of the second big debate.
That left the final decision about publishing the pulp version. Do I go with CreateSpace, I process I really like, or a self-publishing service? With CreateSpace, all the marketing is on me. I have never had success with marketing anything. Self-publishing houses, with willing and energetic authors, stand a better chance of getting your work noticed. But they cost money! I lost sleep over this one for a few nights before finally deciding to go with a self-publishing service.
Note to the starving author: This is not a decision for the faint-hearted. By going with Xlibris, I wiped out the bank account. In order to be made financially whole again, this book must be successful. Accordingly, I will canvass every library and bookstore on the Gulf Coast to host events. When you are dangling from the end of the rope, there is nothing to do but start climbing, right? So I will be working my butt off to move books. I will also be seeking book events in Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania during the holidays, as I will back east around that time. Naturally, you will be all invited.
I still wrestle with the idea that my decision to go with Xlibiris may have been made out of vanity. CreateSpace would sell some books and I could have helped that along. And I would have made more per book. But I really believe that I need the marketing help to really make this a business-like effort.
Sadly, I was disappointed with the kind of help you get on my budget. You do get a press release and a list of all the outlets that received your release. That’s helpful. And they are making a pithy little video that I’ll use for marketing. Beyond some business cards, bookmarks and posters, that’s about it. If you want aggressive marketing help, you have to PAY. I’m not sure how confident they are in their own abilities, as they won’t market against future royalties. But they’ll promise the moon anyway.
So basically, all the marketing and promotion is still on me. While signing books at a local festival, I did meet a woman who said she was a promoter and publicist. She told me she’d send a contract around for me to look at. I hope she is the real deal.
Most publishing houses will tell you they can have your book out in no time ($$). But you must be careful. If my book was not written about current events, I could have taken my time, provided the publisher with a copy, gone around and around with edits and produced a perfect book. But…
First, you need to know that editing, even on CreateSpace is extra. The more thorough the edits, the more it costs. This too, I learned late in the game. So in order to stay on my timeline, I had to become my own editor. I am pretty sure that editing your own work is like performing surgery on the back of your own head. You might be successful, but it isn’t a recommended practice. I actually had to pull the Kindle version down and scrub it again three more times. I am not certain how well I did, but I just hope it is a smoother read anyway.
The same is true with the paper version. I am the editor. Once I had what I felt was the best product I could muster, Xlibris created copies (galleys) for me to mark up further. This part of the process went rather well.
Another thing I am doing to support the book is improving my presence online. I used to have two blogs languishing on Blogger and Hubpages while I relocated. I am in the process of migrating those works to supercyrano.com. I believe that using the blog and any other published work symbiotically; I should someday see something of an income. I am giving myself two years of hard work to see it through. If it doesn’t pan out, I’ll try another approach. And I’ll be fine-tuning along the way.
Also, I’d love to have guest bloggers. Especially liberals. I hate living in the echo chamber and would really enjoy putting together a point-counterpoint page. Every guest post will have a link back to the writer’s page and can be used to promote your work.
Finally this: The best advice I can offer is to WRITE! If you got to this link from a writers’ meetup, you are a writer. So do it. It isn’t right to have words you believe are important and not share them. Somebody, somewhere needs to know what you have to say. Take advantage of all the help available to you through your groups! Inspire each other. Promote everybody’s work on your social networks. I can’t tell you how gratifying – and rare – it is to get a notification that someone has shared XYZ Title with his or her friends[*]. It means someone cares about your work (or more importantly, cares about you) and there are people seeing it who otherwise wouldn’t have.
I will keep you posted on progress here and with future book projects.
About the present project, 16 20 24; this is not your daddy’s political book. You don’t have to be conservative or even political to enjoy it. And the principles I espouse for getting elected and reelected work for anyone in any party. I am somewhat of a Penn Jillette conservative. His philosophy is to turn left at sex and right at money and you’ll do okay. If only everyone had such a simple, honest approach to things.
[*] A friend gave me some advice about social networks. Most people are there as an escape. If you are writing about a serious subject, they may not want to deal with it. So if you are writing a book about injuries in UFC title fights, you may want to include a video of kittens playing with a shoe in your promotions. Cutsie stuff gets shared. I’m just spitballin’ here.