Dearest Readers, Writers and Precious Patrons,
Today, All Authors Blog is remembering the very first installment of All About Indie, in All Authors Magazine!
This article was written by one, Mrs. Casey Harvell author of The Electric Series.
Discovering the Ugly Truths About
Traditional and Self-Publishing
Traditional publishing is fast becoming a thing of the past. No longer are authors stuck in a conundrum of getting their foot in the door of the industry or calling it quits. Authors have more options available to them than ever before. In fact, the new issue many authors face may be having too many options.
Back to basics:
If you do choose to try going the traditional publishing route, than there are some hard truths you have to face. First, it’s necessary to put the work in, if you want to be taken seriously by agents and publishers. This means researching agents and publishers who might be interested in your genre. You don’t want to send a query for a fiction novel to a non-fiction agent or publisher, or a children’s book to Harlequin. The next important step is to make sure you have all of the elements required to meet submission guidelines, and they will vary. Make sure you have a completed, fully edited manuscript before you begin submissions. A good rule of thumb is to also have a synopsis and sample ready to go. A synopsis is a biggie, so make sure you do your homework and give it your all.
When constructing the actual query letter, remember to include at least three basic parts. And this can get tricky. A good query letter should be no more than one page long. The opening is perhaps the most important part, the piece that typically decides whether or not an agent or publisher will keep reading; the logline. The logline should be one sentence, and should grab the reader’s attention and leave them wanting more. Think of it as a blurb for a movie during a commercial or preview. You want to jam as much excitement as you can in that first sentence.
The mini-synopsis is the next basic part. Sorry, now that you have your regular synopsis, you have to break it down even further into a paragraph of awesomeness about your book. No easy task. Don’t get too involved in plot twists, stick to the basics and let the story speak for itself.
The last part of your query letter should be about you, the author. Anything you think would be beneficial for the agent/publisher to know should go here. Do you hold a degree in writing? Tell them about it. Have any other published works? Include that, too. Self-published works in this section is delicate. Not many agents and publishers are impressed by this, unless you’ve sold over 15,000 books, leave it out.
Don’t forget your contact information and again, check submission guidelines carefully. Nothing screams amateur more than not meeting these requests. Remember that this is a drawn out process, most agents take six to eight weeks to give you a response, while others may not bother to reply unless they’re interested. Publishers can be even longer, clocking in at twelve to sixteen weeks before you could hear back from them. If you go this route, don’t drive yourself nuts waiting for replies, and furthermore, be prepared for rejection letters. Even famous authors have had more than their fair share, so regardless of whether you successfully land an agent or publisher, or not, don’t get discouraged. Remember, there are more options available for you.
The new age:
Welcome to the wonderful world of self-publishing! Let me be the first to congratulate you on your decision, and the first to pop some bubbles for you. Sorry, but with the facts straight from the beginning, you have a better chance of success.
Bubble pop number one:
You’re not going to become a successful author overnight...or within the first month…or the first year. Like anything else in life, this process takes time, patience and perseverance. If you expect to become the next Lizzy Ford, Nicky Charles or Amanda Hocking right away, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It is possible, but it takes time and effort to achieve.
Bubble pop number two:
Self-publishing is hard. Really, really hard. Traditional authors have to write, and then fix edits from their editors. Self-publishers don’t get any help. If you choose self-publishing, you’ve also chosen editing, formatting, cover design, marketing and any other things you might throw in there. Book trailer production, perhaps? I think you get the idea. While there are certainly services offered for editing, formatting, and covers, they can get pricey. And like any other market, you get what you pay for, so beware, and if you choose to buy someone’s services, be sure you’ve seen some of their previous work first.
Bubble pop number three:
This is the mean one. Sorry in advance. The ugliest self-publishing fact is this: Not very many people are going to care about your book. Until you make them care. This means more work on your part. Figure out your audience, put yourself out there. Otherwise, chances are your sales will be limited to a few friends…and probably your mom.
Now that you know some basics about traditional and self-publishing, you can make some more informed choices, rather than working by the standard trial and error method. Here are some tips that may be vital to your self-publishing success:
Edit. Then go back, and edit again. If you’re unsure about any part of your editing, grammar, structure, prose, etc., then suck it up and pay for a professional to do it. You won’t hear me say to pay for services often, but this is a biggie. You will be putting out your masterpiece with your name on it. Make sure it’s the best it can be. Believe me, readers will not hold back with their criticism of your work, so don’t give them any extra reasons to.
Covers. Despite the old saying, the truth is many readers do in fact judge books they read by their covers. Again, you can certainly find a professional, but unlike editing, I would first suggest trying it yourself. It’s actually easier than you think, and after you play around a bit, doesn’t cost you a thing. Download Gimp2 free from the web and start playing. Between Gimp2 and a paint program you can do just about anything. Need pictures to start with? Check out morguefile.com, these pictures are free and available for use without any copyright headaches.
Developing a network, and keeping it strong. The most important thing you can have as a self-publisher is a good support system and connections with other indie authors. Remember though, this is a two-way street. It’s an important and unspoken rule between indie authors to pay it forward.
Stay involved and be sincere. Ask others for help when you need it, and offer it when you can. It makes a world of difference.
The giant pink elephant in the room:
Can I let you in on the dirty little secret of both traditional and self-publishing? It’s marketing. Seems like no big deal, right? Wrong. It’s a huge deal. It’s the make it or break it deal. And the sad truth is, even if you have a traditional agent or publisher, you’re pretty much on your own here. Sure, major authors (who consequently enough don’t typically need it) get publicity from their publishers for their books. Jane Doe getting her first book published, not so much.
This evens the playing field a bit for self-publishers. And in that same breath, adds a ton more work. You can ask any relatively successful indie author how much time they put into marketing on a weekly basis. You’d be surprised to learn that even thirty hours a week might not be enough. Start by figuring out your fan base. What kind of readers are you looking for?
Once you’ve figured out who you’re marketing to, establish a game plan. Today, in our world of social media, indie authors have a plethora of options to choose from. Get yourself a Facebook page, both personal and an author page. Join groups for readers to promote your book. Don’t have Twitter? Get one. Same for an Amazon author page. Again, build your network and audience, and feel free to utilize sites like Goodreads, Pintrest, Google+ and any others you might come across to get the word out to your readers.
The best information you can get:
Don’t give up. Be tenacious, be downright brutal if you have to be, but don’t quit. Self-publishing is an uphill battle, but it is possible to be successful. If you get a bad review (as long as it’s not a personal attack,) take it in stride. Learn from it if there is some constructive criticism, or if not, remember it just might not be their cup of tea. They’re entitled to their opinion, as long as they’re not cruel.
Keep moving forward. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to learn things as you go, and what’s more, you’re going to improve as a writer the more you do it. You will have days when you wonder if it’s all worth it. Step back, take a break and decompress. When you come back to it in the next day or two, things won’t seem so bad.
Whichever path you choose, traditional or self-publishing, remember the road will be long and hard. But if you’re truly serious about being an author, and you give it all you have, chances are you will make it. Remember, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Good luck!