Hello again. This is part two of a continuing series where I share my experiences, and lessons learned since I jumped into the deep end of the self-publishing pool.
Tonight I want to talk about mindset. Your book is done, and you’ve had your victory dance, what now? Now, you might be thinking, wait, how did the book get written? Last we left off, we had just decided that no matter what we were not going to quit. What happened next?
Writing is a deeply personal thing. You will have your rituals, your tools, and your patterns that work for you. Those are as unique to you as the story you have written or will write. Because they are so unique I can only comfortably tell you that no matter how you do it, do it. I will be sharing more on my detailed processes later, but right now I am in a fight that I see ties back to the very beginning of the process for me.
Writing is not an indulgence. You may have given it away for free before, you may have let your closest friends visit the worlds you created, and the characters you birthed at no charge, but if you have decided to publish you are after one or two things. First, you want to make a living at it, and/or you want to share your stories with a wider audience, because above all else, stories want to be READ. They demand it when they pour out of you, they demand it when they only live in your head, and you share the ideas you have in one off convos over coffee with your closest friends.
What had been a hobby or a fantasy is now a reality, and for your work you deserve to be compensated, but you also have to accept that you have started a BUSINESS. Yes, that’s right, like any tea shop on the corner, you are serving up healthy heapings of romance, adventure, and fantasy. No business was ever started without an initial investment, and by that I mean creative, emotional and financial.
Remember that, this is a business, and it requires your passion, your time and your money.
The first time I ran into this I was looking for art for my book covers for the Dreams Series. Purchasing images that you have the rights to use ain’t cheap, but is necessary to create covers that will attract readers, and give polish to the book you have written. My first hurdle was justifying the expense.
I am doing this on a shoe string budget, and spending money on anything causes tremendous anxiety for me. Still, I knew I needed them, and I managed to work it around in my head to feel comfortable enough to proceed with purchasing them. I used Shutterstock, for those who are interested. I selected them because they offer royalty free images, which means I pay to license them once, and I do not have to pay additional fees for the subjects in them. There may be other sites that offer images you can use, this one offered a wide variety of images that were high quality in addition to no royalty free. Do your homework to find what you need, and it’s ok to take your time.
I say take your time because I was feeling this intense pressure to MOVE and DO, and I made some decisions that were not well thought out. I let the pressure move me because I was afraid. I had written the story I wanted to tell, but I was afraid that if I took my foot off the pedal I would fold up and sit down. It was all GO GO GO in my brain.
Never EVER make a decision when your brain is GO GO GO. Nine times out of ten you just wind up in the ditch.
Once you have the images if you have photoshop skill, then you can save some money by creating the covers yourself, but be honest about your skill. A shoddy cover will turn your readers off with a glance. Think of it like car shopping. We are creatures who crave beauty, and more often than not we will buy the shiny lemon before we buy the solid transportation that has primer spots.
If you know you can’t produce an artistic cover that will do justice to your book, then you will need some help. I was fortunate enough to consult with Golden Designs for all three covers of the Dreams Series. It was a partnership because the designer wanted input from me on what my vision was, and how I wanted my work to be represented. I even selected the images for two of them, and provided details on how I wanted them to be incorporated. Golden Designs was great to work with on this and I recommend them for your digital art needs.
This will cost you money. Again, I struggled to justify the expense. Not because it was unreasonable rate, but because I had the mindset of this being an indulgence. I had to fight with myself to remember the rules of buying a car, and respect my own work enough to leave that behind. I had to remember that I was starting a BUSINESS and just like any other business you want your customers to walk into your showroom, and feel both comfortable and impressed as their first impression.
There is no monetary fee associated with publishing on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Smashwords, or KOBO. You can put your work out there for free, and frankly I am fucking amazed to live in a time when we can do that. We don’t need a publisher’s approval, we don’t need anything other than an internet connection to share our stories with the entire world! Seriously, it just makes me want to sing and dance to think that someone I will probably never meet will still share in this deeply personal and spiritual journey with me.
However, it is sobering to see that once you have put your work out there you are competing with 100K other authors for a reader’s attention. You are a voice in a sea of voices, and so the next hurdle becomes SEE ME.
If you opened a shop you would advertise your business on social media, in the newspaper, on TV even, letting the community know about your products and services. Again, writing is now a BUSINESS, so you have to be prepared for the expense of advertising. I am locked in this struggle now, and it is a struggle. I don’t have a magic formula yet, and even if I thought I did, all the webinars and other authors I have talked to say the same thing: THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA.
You can’t imagine how much this disappointed me. Mostly because I wanted to just write, and taking time to figure out how to SEE ME was killing my muse, and my will. I wanted to do it for free, so I signed up for Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter and hooked it all into my WordPress site so that my posts and advertisements would shared, but the results were luke warm.
I started rethinking every decision I had made. Should I have pursued a publishing house, and let them take care of all this? Was self-publishing a mistake? At some point I realized that even if I were published by a house I would still have to market, and I would potentially lose creative control. But even when I found new confidence in my decision to self publish, I was still feeling GO GO GO again, and again, I fucked up.
One of the many, many tools to advertise your work is something called a Blog Tour. Essentially, you can contract with book blogs to review your book, or with a store front vendor to pay them one fee and they go find bloggers to review your book. Marketing makes me extremely uncomfortable, I was hyped on pressure for sales, and losing my creative focus, so I picked one such store front, and paid them a large chunk of cash to take over this marketing thing for me.
I had a huge internal battle over the expense, which was also wrong, because I was trying to advertise my BUSINESS, but once I did it I thought I could go hands off, and get back to writing. That was my second mistake. I have to accept that I can bake the best muffins in the world in my little store, but if I can’t embrace the publicity it takes to let the world know about my damned muffins, I will wind up locked in the back of my store crying hysterically as I eat them all myself.
The vendor I selected for the tour let me down, and I thought for a while they were going to keep my cash as well. Weeks went by with no updates on how the tour set up was progressing and finally I made a post warning Indie authors about this vendor, and miraculously I got my cash back. That was a relief, but what now?
I am still in the WHAT NOW?
I have written a series of books that is difficult to label, which is a marketing struggle in and of itself. I have a fear now of vendors that say they deliver services, but really want to just take cash, and leave me hanging.
AND I am still struggling to remember I am not wasting money on something I don’t really need. I am still trying to change my mindset, so that I can remember that I am INVESTING IN MY BUSINESS OF STORYTELLING.
I am investing when I give away free books in hopes of reviews that encourage other readers to try my series.
I am investing when I take a deep breath and chance on a vendor that says they can connect my product with a consumer base that WANTS what I am offering.
I am investing in my dream, and maybe that is the hardest part of the mindset to change.
I can give to my friends. I can give to my family. I can give to the man on the corner down on his luck, and these things make me feel empowered and happy. But when it comes to giving to myself, I question whether I deserve the kindness I give others without thought.
And it comes down to do I believe in myself enough to keep going, keep trying until I find what I need from this experience? Loving yourself, being kind to yourself is fucking hard. We criticize ourselves silently when we get dressed, when we look in the mirror, when our dinner is burned because we were distracted by our children or our friends. We go to the negative and tear ourselves apart first almost every time, before we give ourselves the love that is often free to the rest of the world. It’s a mindset that we have to manage if we investing in ourselves.
Before you dive into this I would recommend the following:
- Accept that you want to be a successful BUSINESS person, as much as you want to be a writer, because the BUSINESS is what gets your story out to the world.
- Understand that starting a new business requires a financial investment, as well as an emotional and artistic one, and be prepared to give all those things until it hurts.
- Figure out what you need to be successful, like an editor, a graphic artist, images to market your product, a website to present your product
- Plan your budget. Reach out to me or another author you know or follow and ask about the water we are already swimming in out here. You can even approach vendors for pricing and plan accordingly.
- Set your timeline for the things you need, and match it to when you can afford each part and piece.
I recently watched the 2016 Comic Con panel for Ash vs. The Evil Dead, and Sam Raimi spoke about making his first Evil Dead Movie. He did it in pieces, based on what he could afford at the time. He shot until the money ran out and then he washed dishes to get more while he talked to investors in hopes of filming a little more until the money ran out again. I found that to be inspirational.
There are many people out here that want to take your money and leave you holding an empty bag. I have met a few, and suspect that more will come as I navigate this new strange land. I am working to remember not to criticize myself for chasing a dream, and that the investments I make are necessary and important to my dreams.
Much love to you all,