Diary of a New Writer – 10 Blah, blah, blogging!

(For other entires in the Diary, check here)

That’s my workspace in the photo.  I use a standing desk because sitting all day is really bad for you.  Anyway, that’s besides the point…   Why do writers blog?  Isn’t that a waste of time that could be spent writing your actual novels, short stories, poems, whatever?  Nope and here’s why:

When you start writing, your blog IS your body of work.  You have what, one book you’ve just self-published?  Your blog introduces you to the world.  With the ability to link to all manor of social media, you are connecting to not just your potential readers and book purchasers, but  editors, publishers and agents.  Remember my friend Kevin that used to work for the big publishing house (that shall remain anonymous!) in New York?  He said they find new authors on Amazon all the time.  Not only that, but even writers publishing on free sites like Wattpad have been discovered.  Check out this article:  One Direction Fan Fiction Writer Gets Six Figure Book Deal.  Isn’t that crazy?

For maximum exposure, link your blog to all the social media sites WordPress makes available.  In the left column here in the new editor, is a sharing button that will automatically send your blog posts all over the place.  Besides that, you should also set up an author page at Amazon.  They have a nice little walk through that helps you every step of the way and guess what?  You can link your blog to that too!  But you have to do it through Amazon.  It’s not hard; trust me, if I can do it so can you.  Also, Facebook let’s you create a dedicated author page.  That way new readers can “like” your page and it won’t get mixed up with your personal stuff, cat videos, drunken office party photos… you know what I mean!

What should your blog contain?  That’s entirely up to you, really.  However, I’ve tried to follow this path.  I’m a writer so my blog needs to focus on writing related subjects.  I always joke that my head is exploding with ideas so my blog is full of short stories and my serial fiction piece.  Perhaps you want to reserve your creative juices for the novel you’re working on.  That’s fine.  Maybe your blog could share some of the research you’re doing on your subject.  Or you could share a writing tip or two.  How about something that helped inspire your story?  Tell us about an author you admire, how their writing influenced you.  What about some of the obstacles you’ve overcome in order to write?  How do you get past writer’s block?  Any and all of those things are great material for your blog and unique to each writer.

Another thing to consider is that in the chance that a potential agent or publisher stumbles across your blog (hopefully!), you need to treat it kind of like a resumé.  That doesn’t mean it has to be stultified and seamlessly professional.  It should reflect your personality, so be funny, outrageous, provocative and controversial if that’s your thing!  Just make sure that whatever you post is what you want the world to see.

I think this goes without saying, but use the blog to connect with other writers.  Like I mentioned last week, no one will understand your feelings like another writer.  When writers share their thoughts on their blogs, it only helps the readers understand the lengths we go to in order to write.  Taking that one step further, we as writers should be actively responding to and engaging with our readers.  Answer their questions, ask them for feedback, go to other blogs and leave thoughtful comments there.  Be part of the community!

I hope you’ve enjoyed Diary of a New Writer because that’s the end!  Not the end of my story, though!  I will continue to post about my journey but I just didn’t want to continue it as this series.  After all, eventually I will no longer be a new writer!  And Diary of a New Writer – 78 sounds ridiculous!



Diary of a New Writer – 9 Brace For Impact

(For previous Diary entries check here.)

This was the most difficult of all my diary entries to write.  It’s a very personal post and one that I hope prepares some of you for the unexpected consequences of writing and publishing your first novel.  This is not meant to be discouraging but it is realistic.  When you write and publish your book, you might not get the reaction you expect.  Not from the marketplace and not from your loved ones.  For those of you who’ve already gone through this, I’d welcome you to share your experiences in the comments.  Ok.  Deep breath.

I had created this thing.  This story I was so proud of.  I enjoyed writing it.  I enjoyed reading it.  It was the kind of book I’d buy for myself.  It had taken months to perfect.  It was time to get the word out.  The truth is, even with exhaustive marketing, it is tough to sell books.  In fact, buried among all the other titles available in today’s market, it will be a miracle if anyone even finds your book.  Sure you could spam the crap out of Twitter, Facebook and so forth.  Tell me how many books caught your attention that way.   …  Right, me neither.  Don’t be discouraged.  It’s going to take time.  You will not be an overnight success.  If instant sales are important to you, consider doing some paid advertising.  But please don’t tell me you are only in it for the money.

Here’s the rest of the story:  Three Empty Frames was published at the end of June, 2015.  There it was! Out there for everyone to read.  I made a few early sales!  Woo hoo!  I announced it to my friends on Facebook and Instagram.  Surprise!  Apparently, not everyone is going to care that you wrote a book.  Even worse, your family and friends might even think you’re crazy.  Especially if you already have a day job, like me.  (If you are a writer by profession and just starting out, that might be different.)

You know what?  I am totally struggling with how to put this into words.  I don’t want to make my friends who read this uncomfortable and I don’t want to come off as a whiner either.  (I really hate whining!)  Oh, who am I kidding, none of my real world friends are reading this blog anyway.  And that’s kind of the point of this article.  I really thought more people would be at least mildly interested in the fact that I wrote a novel!  (This does not apply to a small group of my dear friends who were just as excited about the book as I was; they know this isn’t about them!)

But in general, hardly anyone asked me about it.  Some who did would whisper to me, “I heard you wrote a book,” like it was a secret I was ashamed of.  Like, “I heard you have toenail fungus.  I’m so sorry.”  Being a writer is not embarrassing, come on!  Could it be that no one thought I could possibly be any good?  Or was it, “Oh, she’s only self published,”  with a snort and an eye roll, kind of thing?  I’ll never know, because I will not ask.  In fact, I’ve come to terms with it largely because I did ask the question in a safe place:  a writer’s forum.

I was amazed to find out how many other writers experience the same responses from their friends and family.  I will recreate that conversation here, without the names:

My question:  How do your friends/family feel about your writing? Since writing is not my day job, it seems like nobody is really taking it seriously. It kind of hurts that no one seems to care that I’m doing this. I’m trying to not be oversensitive but it’s bumming me out. Anyone else have that experience?

Here are some answers:

J:  I don’t really talk to my family about my writing–I’ve been writing since I was a kid, so they know I like doing it and that’s all they need to know. I talk about writing with my friends, but my real life friends aren’t writers, so there’s only so much they want to hear about it. It doesn’t matter if people in your life don’t take it seriously. Do you take it seriously? Will you pursue it no matter what they say? Is it something you enjoy? Also, make some writing friends. It’ll help you out tons if you have some people who understand what you go through

L:  It’s pretty common, I think. My family supports me on a superficial level, but they don’t understand what it takes to put a novel together. Keep in touch with your writing tribe — we understand.

S:  My family and friends roll their eyes even after my 4th book got published

R:  My family and spouse are all hugely supportive. Most friends too. I did have a friend who I shared a writing frustration with (she asked how it was going and I went beyond “fine”). She told me “good thing it’s just a hobby.” She meant to make me feel better. By then I had contracted with an agent and had a book on submission to pub houses. I was beyond hobby. I told her as much, kindly, but it was always awkward after that.

D:  Hi Meg–I’d be lying if I said that writing isn’t a lonely place. You’re going to come to find that no one in your life is as interested in your writing as you are. And that’s okay! Because there are loads of us out there who understand exactly what you are going through right now, and we’re here for you. And we care about your writing. We know what goes into it: the heartache, the tears. We know how hard it is when a loved one seems disinterested. Try not to take it personally. People who don’t write aren’t as interested in writing because they have no way of knowing how much goes into it and why it’s so truly important to us. We get it though, Meg. We’re with you. You are so, SO not alone in this!!!

Some fabulous advice there.  Yes, being a writer is a lonely endeavor.  Unless you quickly make it to the best seller list, it will likely be your experience too.  Remember that your blogging buddies and writing group pals will understand.  Join forums, find other writers and make friends.  These are the people who will relate to your struggles, help when you need advice, give you a kick in the butt when you’re moping and rejoice with you when you succeed!  My door is always open for anyone who needs it.  As a new writer, I might not have all the answers but I promise I’ll listen!

Next time:  How blogging fits into the picture.




Diary of a New Writer 8 – Sailing Uncharted Waters.

(You can find my previous entries here!)

My book was finished and I was ready to take the next step:  self publishing.  I must tell you, that while I am no expert on self publishing, I figured it out and so can you!

Amazon, aka Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is without a doubt, the name of the self publishing game.  They have the largest share of the e-book market.  The Amazon subsidiary, Createspace, allows you to self publish your novel in paperback format, too.  Both KDP and Createspace have straightforward, step-by-step guides for uploading your book.

Two things to have ready before you start:

  • The “book blurb” or synopsis.  Write a paragraph or two that summarizes the book’s plot without giving too much away!  (You need this if you’re sending query letters to agents, too.)  I had trouble with this.  I wanted to convey the mystery and suspense of the book, but struggled with being concise!  Here are the blurbs for both Seeing Red and Three Empty Frames.
  • Second, write an author bio.  I also had trouble with this.  It felt really weird to talk about myself.  This was my first book.  I had no accomplishments to talk about, no writing credentials, no awards, no “best selling” status, nothing.  I suppose I could’ve bragged about my angsty teenage poetry…  Anyway, I did a little reading on writing a bio and I found a nice bit of advice.  (Somewhere, I can’t seem to find it now!)  Basically, write something unique about yourself.  What motivated you to write, or what do you love about books? Add something a little personal and/or quirky. (If you are not a quirky person, ignore!)  You know what?  I was going to show you my author bio but I hadn’t looked at it in a while and I now realize how much it sucks!  However, the author bio on the back of the paperback version is much better, (I have to fix the other one.)  And I expanded it to a greater degree on my Author page once I created it.  Look at that one instead!

Once you have those two things composed, you are ready to start the process.  Here’s how it goes:

  • Enter the book’s title (hopefully, it rocks!), the subtitle (if there is one), the series title and volume number (if you are writing a series) and the book’s description (blurb).  Under this section will be a box for you enter an ISBN (International standard book number).  You don’t need one for an e-book.  They will instead assign it an ASIN (Amazon standard identification number).  I’ve linked to Wikipedia rather than try to explain here.
  • Establish publishing rights.  Wait, what?  This threw me for a loop at first.  Fortunately, there was a handy dandy little question mark to click on for frequently asked questions.  Bottom line:  you wrote it, you own the rights to it automatically.  Do read about it though, if you have any concerns.
  • Target your customers.  This is where you will select the category/genre your book will be marketed in.  There are subcategories, so be as specific as possible.  My book is “Fiction: Romance: Suspense,” for example.
  • Release options.  You can choose to publish immediately or have your book ready for pre-order and release on a later date.
  • Create your cover.  This was the fun part.  However, I changed my initial cover after using Createspace for the paperback edition.  I highly recommend using a unique photograph, maybe even one of your own to prevent any kind of duplication between you and another self published author. Trust me.
  • Upload your manuscript.  If you write on a Mac like me, you need to first export your file to a PDF or Word document before you upload.
  • Preview your uploaded work.  The online previewer shows you exactly what it’s going to look like on your e-reader.  Some funky issues might arise.  In Three Empty Frames, I had included diary entries and letters in the manuscript.  On my computer, I had typed them to be indented on both sides and they looked perfectly fine.  On the upload, however, they were all over the place!  I had to go back and change all the indents so it didn’t look like a monkey had typed it!
  • Rights and pricing.  First, choose where the book will be distributed.   Why you would choose any other option than worldwide, I have no idea.  Next, KDP will suggest a price for the book based on the word count, but you can set the price wherever you like.  You can also choose two options for your royalties: either 35% or 70%.  The 35% option is for books priced less than $2.99 USD.  If you price it at $2.99 or more, then you can select 70% royalties.  I assume it works the same for other currencies.
  • Enroll in KDP select.  Hold on, now.  What’s this?  This option gives KDP the exclusive rights to publish your e-book.  In exchange, they do a little promotion and marketing for you.  I did not do this.  Why?  Because I buy some of my e-books on Apple’s iBooks.  People use Nook and Kobo to read their e-books.  I also didn’t like the idea of being totally beholden to Amazon.  (Not that I’m complaining about them; my experience with KDP has been good).  Anyway, I’ve read differing opinions on the subject, which only serves to muddy the waters.  I won’t share them here.  You must decide for yourself.
  • Hit publish!!!!  Yay! You did it!  Within a few hours (they always say 12 but it never takes that long) your book will be available for purchase for Kindle and the Kindle app on a multitude of devices.

I also wanted to have my book available in paperback.  You don’t have to use Createspace to do this, there are other ways to get your book in paperback.  Boutique and small press publishers are available for this, but I haven’t explored that option.  Createspace is a really cost effective way to go.  They print on demand.  That means you don’t have to shell out your own money to have a run of your books printed.  Each time a customer orders your book in paperback format, one copy is printed and shipped to them.  Amazon’s website will advertise the two versions together.

Uploading your manuscript to Createspace is slightly more involved.  Now, you do need an ISBN for your print version, so here’s another link.  Hopefully, that list of frequently asked questions will address one of yours!  You can also have Creatspace assign one for you, for free.  That’s what I did. Some would say that’s not the best way to go because it lists Createspace as your publisher.  If you buy your own ISBNs, then you are listed as the publisher.  Perhaps that’s more professional?  Either way, your reader will know you are a self published author.  And seriously, when is the last time you even looked to see who the publisher was?  Opinions welcome!

The document needs to be uploaded to their website in the size in which the paperback will be printed.  In other words, 6×9 or 7×10, etc.  You will have to either do this manually to your document or download their template and “copy and paste” your document.  Then, the new format will need to be uploaded to their website.  It’s not super hard, just tedious.  One you have it uploaded, it takes 24 hours or so, for the manuscript to be approved.  There may be errors that need to be corrected and the Createspace team will alert you to them.

Next step is, once again, previewing.  You have the option to order a paper proof of the book or download a PDF.  I ordered a paper copy, because, well… FUN!!!  I was dying to see my novel in print!  It also revealed another issue with the margins.  I was able to fix it and submit the final proof to be available for printing.  The pricing for your paperback is going to be significantly higher than for your e-book.  Paper and ink are more expensive than electrons!  I set the price for the e-book at the suggested $2.99 but the suggested paperback price was $11.99!

Ok, Smashwords.  Almost done!  Smashwords is the site to use for getting your novel onto Apple’s iBooks, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Kobo and other e-book sellers.  It also has a similar walkthrough process for uploading your manuscript.  The only trouble I’m having is getting my book cover up to the standards for their premium catalogue. (Their premium catalogue takes your e-book beyond just Smashwords’ online store). If anyone has any suggestions here, I’d love to hear from you.  They are telling me the image isn’t a high enough quality.  I’m not entirely sure what to do.  Beyond that, they do some really neat things for their authors.

Once you get into their premium catalogue, they will push your book out to all their e-book retailers as well as list it on their own website.  You can participate in an “author interview” in which you select 10 or so questions to answer.  It will be added to your author profile on their website.  I really want to get this straightened out because I’ve heard Apple is really great about featuring new authors, and especially book series.  (That’s me!)

Phew!  That’s enough.  I hope you hung in there with me!  Until next time, when I talk about something personal:  the reaction of your friends and family.  Adieu!