Waaay back, when I first got serious about publishing, someone told me, “Writing the book is the easiest thing you’ll do.”* At the time, that seemed ridiculous because ZOINKS! All those words!!
Then Undead Chaos was picked up and boy, was that phrase ever true.
There are a ton of little things that I’ve learned over the past year or so, most of them in the past couple of weeks while trying to get all my badgers** in a row for the pre-order. A lot of the information about what to do after completing a book was spread out, but thankfully my wonderful writing friends helped me mine the data necessary. As such, I’d like to pay it forward by sharing:
A n00b Author’s Guide for Not Losing Your Writing Mind***:
1) Absolute Write Water Cooler: I can say with all certainty that the ONLY reason Undead Chaos saw the light of day was because of this site. It is both a wealth of information for authors and a wonderful place to meet/network with people. Anyone looking to further their knowledge about the writing and publishing profession would do well to check out AW. And if you swing by the SFF Cantina, or whatever we’re calling it that week, make sure to say hi.
2) Querying is Hard: Learning to write a query letter is painful. It takes a LOT of practice. Same with a synopsis. Query Letter Hell on AW, Query Shark, and many other sites list successful and not-so-successful attempts. Both are great studies for what works and what doesn’t.
3) Rejection is Part of the Game: Everyone gets rejected. Maybe 0.000000001% hit a homer on their first swing, but for us mortals, we’re going to get beat up. It’s difficult to put your preeeeeeciouuuuuus out there, only to have professionals pass on it. But it happens to everyone.
Lemme repeat that: IT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE.
J.K Rowling, Frank Herbet, Tom Clancy, you name them, they’ve likely felt the sting of rejection.
4) There Is No Exact Way to Do It: When I first started, I was told the proper way to do things was a) build an online presence, b) blog, c) get an agent, d) get a publishing contract. I wound up completely reversing that. Yes, there’s a “normal” pattern, but it’s not set in stone.
5) Do Your Homework: Two outsanding sites are Writer Beware ® and the Bewares thread on AW. Both are excellent tools to help you research agents and publishing houses. There are a LOT of scammers out there who will gladly prey on your ignorance and excitement. The more you educate yourself, the better off you’ll be when it’s time to sign with an agent or publisher.
Which leads us to our next tip:
6) Know What You’re Signing: Read every page of your contract and understand fully what you’re signing.
I repeat: Read every page of your contract and understand fully what you’re signing!
Contracts are complicated and not all good deals are actually good deals. There are too many tales of authors getting screwed intentionally or because of ambiguous verbiage. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Once you sign a contract, you are bound to the terms. I was willing to have a legal professional look at my contract, but luckily, my agent is also an entertainment lawyer.
7) You’re Gonna Do a LOT of Edits: Development, Line, Copy, Beta, personal, etc. Whatever your story looks like at the beginning, it’ll look different in the end. Edits are a fun evil.
8) It’s a LOOOOONG Wait: The time between signing my two-book deal (thanks Eric!) and the release date for Undead Chaos was right around 11 months. During that period my editor (less-than-three you, Her Excellency!) and I have done multiple rounds of edits, worked on cover designs, and held many conversations about the entire process. Each step along the way required a LOT of patience. So I waited. And waited. Pre-Order links and NetGalley finally happened around the 6-week-till-release-date mark. My advice: have something else in your writing queue because refreshing your e-mail every ten minutes will drive you nuts.
9) NetGalley: This is where your book will go for pre-review. It’s a central node where professional reviewers, bloggers, etc can request an advanced copy to read/review. It’s why so many brand-spanking-new books have comments the day they come out. One thing to keep in mind, if you have cover quotes, an author website, etc, you can have it added to your book’s page. Here’s the link to Undead Chaos if you want an example.
10) Goodreads Author Program: This is a handy-dandy, easy to use interface. As soon as Undead Chaos was up on Goodreads, I clicked on my name under the title which took me to a generic author dashboard. Under the blank “author photo” is a link that says, “Is this you?”. Clicking on that took me through the step-by-steps to active an “author” profile. Took less than 10 minutes for the verification e-mail to arrive. It’s a very nice interface where you can add photos, your books, sync a blog, etc. (FYI, the link takes you to the FAQ page. Very easy instructions to follow. FYI#2, you’ll have to wait until your book posts before you can access the author page. Or so it appears).
11) Amazon Author Central: This one was almost impossible to find on Amazon until Tiffany Allee forwarded me the link. Once she did, it was a snap to set up the author profile. Similar to Goodreads, you can add photos, sync a blog, sync your last tweet, track sales/ranking, and track/tweak editorial reviews (which is nice). Amazon says it takes up to 7 days to compile the Author Profile page. Took them a couple of hours for mine. (FYI: it appears this is similar to the Goodreads profile where you have to wait till your book posts).
(Note: B&N and Kobo have similar set-ups, but I have not gotten into the weeds with them yet.)
12) Ranking and Sales: All credit for this information goes to the AMAZING Tiffany Allee who had this at the ready. Everyone knows that Amazon, B&N, and the like rank books, but what does it all mean? Some very helpful links to find that info and decipher it are as follows:
a) Novel Rank: “It’s not super accurate (especially if you’re selling more than a couple of copies a day), and it tends to underestimate. But it can give you a general idea and let you check it easily. It only monitors Amazon (and its various incarnations after you attain some sales rank on each). It is fairly accurate if you’re selling a few copies per day.” – Tiffany in her e-mail to me.
I’ve played with this several times. Not surprising, Undead Chaos has no sale info. Funny thing, it has a rank of #119,428 despite it still being in pre-order status. I checked this against the “Rank -> Sales Rank -> Rank over Time” link on my Amazon Author Central page and the numbers matched. Like Tiffany pointed out, I’ll get a better feel for the accuracy of the algorithms once we pass the release date, but It does seem like a good way to determine ballpark figures.
b) Amazon Author Central Rank Link: This is one of the many helpful items that will activate once you complete an author profile with Amazon Author Central. What I like about this page is that you can see your Author Rank over different periods of time, then break it down by several child-links (i.e. genre, e-book vs print, etc). There’s also a Sales Rank -> Rank Over Time feature. All rankings update hourly.
c) Kindle Sales Rank Calculator: Let’s say your book rank is, oh, #119,428. What does that mean in terms of sales per day? In my case, that boiled down to about 1-per-day (which appears to be the lowest report possible). Again, I’m running off of pre-sale data and I’m not sure the algorithms count those. Still, it appears to be a great tool. I’ll update both the calculator and Novel Rank when I get real numbers.
d) Amazon. HA! What About B&N?: You’re in luck! Tiffany forwarded me this excellent blog post that demystifies the Barnes and Noble data. You can access it here.
13) Cover Reveals, Blog Hops, and Interviews: One of the trends in publishing these days is the power of word-of-mouth. As such, you’d do well to have a promo page. Mine was basically the cover, a short blurb (usually the “query” or Title Cover blurb from the publisher), a short excerpt, links for ordering, author bio, and links to your contact stuff (website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc). Having that document at the ready means you can forward it to bloggers or interviews, many of whom will extrapolate the data as needed.
One note about Cover Reveals: A good time to do this is when the pre-order links go live (approximately 6-weeks before the release date). That way, when you or others make the reveal, followers can click the link/icon/button and order it. Doing the reveal beforehand can be anticlimactic. Doing it when everyone has seen it online already equally so.
Anywho, those are just SOME of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. By no means is this all-encompassing or rules-of-the-road. But I’m a big believer in sharing information, especially when a lot of it is spread out. Hopefully what I’ve been able to glean will help. And if you have any other advice/recommendations/experiences worth sharing, feel free to mention it in the comments section.
Good luck out there, new writers. It’s a long, but fulfilling journey.
*Paraphrased from the swiss-cheese memory of the conversation.
**Ducks are too commonplace. And total jerks. Not once has a duck thanked me for giving it bread.