Ten Things I Learned During My Year as An Author-in-Training

Hiya.  I know, I know, it’s been quite a while.  If I wanted to, I could blame everything on my busy schedule, tell you all about the events I went to, how I spent exactly one weekend at home from September 24th to October 30th, show you how my social media has fallen by the wayside (even Instagram), pointed to NaNo and the fact that I was researching Book #3 ( :O ), buuuuut I won’t.  I put my author career on the back burner while I decided to work on my health, I’ve spent more time with my son, I’ve done extra promos that didn’t take forever, and I had more than a few private “hiccups”.  Sometimes, you just have to choose, and I chose other things.  I’m not sure if I’ll be “back” to the way I was before, either, but I’m trying juggle my career and my family and my other life issues, so I hope to have a decent balancing act here before long.

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a quick post.  As most of you know, my release party for my second book is TOMORROW(!!!!!), and my one year anniversary for releasing my first book will be in early December.  I have grown so much since that moment, and I’ve learned a lot of things that I didn’t even know were a thing until this past year.  I thought it would be kind of cool to share them, not only to kid of showcase my progress, but also to maybe help out others who are maybe experiencing the same things.  🙂  So, let’s just jump into things, shall we?

First things first – why do I call myself an “Author-in-Training”?  Well, it originally started as an inside joke with a person close to me who was baffled as to why I decided to give up finding an agent or publishing house and simply self-publish LA BASTARDA.  After a little while of going back and forth with her asking if I was using self-publishing as a way to not have to change anything about my baby, being scared to put myself out there, being tired of holding back, she finally asked if it was a way to show a publishing house that I was serious about my craft and willing to put in heavy lifting (because, as you know, a self-published author is also their own PR person, graphic designer, secretary, etc.), “kind of like training wheels for a publishing deal someday?”

After explaining to her that self-publishing could actually hurt that, depending on my numbers, I kept giggling about her phrasing for quite some time.  It was just such a great mental image – watching all these “real authors” whiz by me as I struggle with my kiddie bike.  I then added it to most if not all of my social media pages, and I believe it’s still on my LinkedIn page.  It’s not a serious thing, just a fun little tagline that I enjoyed, and now that I’m on the eve of my second book’s release party, I think it’s time to retire it – but not without one final use. 🙂  Interestingly, I don’t think the metaphor is appropriate anymore – I think it’s a lot like merging onto a highway, honestly, but that’s just me.  🙂  Anyway, ONWARD!

  1. Self-publishing is not a stigma for people in the writing community…
    I remember hearing ALL about how people – other authors – wouldn’t respect me if I self-pubbed.  To have the dreaded “s-p” on my resume would all but blacklist me, the hyphen a literal strike against me.  It was proof that I wasn’t good enough to be a Real Author and had to resort to Createspace vanity publishing to get my trashy little novels into print.
    Yeah, uh, I have yet to meet another author (in real life) who thinks like that.  In all honesty, most authors I’ve met have done some sort of self-related thing, whether it’s self-pubbing a book or constant self-marketing.  Sometimes it’s both!  Sales do come into it, but authors tend to be more forgiving of low sales numbers for new authors, and more than a few approve, considering it’s supposedly easy to inflate such numbers, so having low sales means at least a large amount of them will be organic sales.
  2. …But it can be to those outside.
    Do you know from whom I have had the most backlash with regards to self-publishing?  Non-writers!  I’ve had people insinuate I was lazy, a crappy writer, or just plain greedy because I didn’t take the traditional route.  Yes, I queried agents and searched for any legitimate publishing house with open submissions; no, I’m not a crappy writer (at least, neither my editor nor I think that I am!); and yes, I will accede to being greedy, because I do enjoy keeping a decent chunk of the profits from my books, but hey.  People have been conditioned to think that self-publishing is crap, and it’s not always true.
  3. Feel free to “cold-call” a local bookstore, to see if you can get your book(s) on the shelf.
    There is almost no way this can go wrong.  Some places may have certain clientele to whom they cater, and your book may not fit in it, so don’t feel bad if you’re rejected.  Once you have your book in every bookstore within a certain radius (I chose within my county, but yours may vary based on market saturation), you can use that to branch out.
  4. But definitely pay attention to the stores and their different processes for an author.
    Some stores may be incredibly accommodating and want you to have as many signings as possible, while others may know their market doesn’t respond well to author events unless the author is a “big name” in the business or during certain events.  You may also hear things about certain stores in your area, good or bad.  I’ll touch on that more, later.  Don’t be afraid to ask.
  5. Think of marketing like a target.
    You & your immediate area are within the bullseye, and should be treated as such.  You’re a local author, and you can (and should!) use that to your advantage.  Put it out there – you’d be surprised what opportunitiestarget come your way thanks to the buy/support local movements!  Next up would be the outer reaches of your immediate area, then your general area, your timezone if applicable, your country, your continent, all the way until the outer ring is “global”.  The farther away the ring, the less emphasis should be put on certain kinds of marketing, at least for the first year.  The first three rings should be more than enough to keep a new author busy.For example, I’m from Flint, Michigan.  My “bullseye” would be Flint & its metros, my little second ring would be the outer reaches of that area, moving into Metro Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw and other areas.  Then I move into Michigan, the Midwest, the Easter Time Zone, the USA, North America, etc.  For me, this means that I’ve done a LOT of in-person stuff in Flint, Metro Detroit/Lansing, and Michigan as a whole, while focusing on an internet campaign outside of that area.
  6. Connect with other local writers.
    I’ve found that writing in itself is competitive, but the writing community wants to see everyone succeed.  If you can, find a way to get involved with your local writing community.  Join in NaNoWriMo, conveniently taking place this month, and find your region.  Go to the write-ins, be involved in the chats, and feel free to think of NaNo as (free!) networking as much as it is a part of the writing process.  If you can, find a writing club in your area, perhaps through Facebook or Meetup.com.  Some groups may charge “dues”, so it’s up to you do decide if that’s something you’re okay with paying.
  7. CONNECT WITH OTHER LOCAL AUTHORS.
    Kind of different from the thing above.  This can be incredibly beneficial for you – authors love to share upcoming events to build publicity and to help build the audience base – more authors, more genres, more interest!  Also, other local authors have often learned quite a bit about the local scene, and can tell you what events or locations may be incredibly prolific, and which may be a waste of your time.  I actually had this happen with me – more than one author told me all about an area store’s apparent dislike for all but two or three authors, refusing to use anyone but these people for signings and events, and would often push customers toward the books of these authors without regard to tastes, which left a bad taste in the mouth of more than a few patrons.  Unsurprisingly, I did not sell any books from this store, and I’ve pulled my books from their shelves.  Pay attention – pick their brains.  Some authors may be knowledgeable about your question, or may be happy to point you in the direction of someone who knows more.  There’s much to be learned.  Just remember to repay the favor later on, and to pay it forward.
  8. You do not have to give up all of your secrets
    Just because someone wants to pick your brain doesn’t mean you have to share with them your entire marketing strategy, if you have no desire to do so.  I prefer to keep those things private, mainly because I’ve had too many people think my ideas were awesome, then implement them in the same areas I wanted to advertise in, which makes me look like I’m a copycat when my stuff comes out & leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who would normally be interested in my items.
  9. Step out of your comfort zone!
    I sold the most books and generated the most interest during a Local Author Showcase in a gift shop that sells a minimal percentage of books compared to their other items.  You may have luck at an arts & crafts show, especially this winter (a lot of people prefer to shop local now more than ever, and the holidays are coming!).
  10. Be professional, even if the situation is casual.
    Remember, you are selling yourself, and you want to appeal to the biggest audience possible.  In my case, this means that I don’t discuss politics outside of my closest circle of friends and family, I don’t share opinions on anything that isn’t writing or book related, and I try to keep my personal life separate from my private in multiple ways.  I also always dress nicely, whether I’m going to give a presentation, attending my own personal signing, or an author showcase at an upscale boutique.  Always look your best!
    Biggest pointer I will give though – alwaysalwaysALWAYS stand up if you are speaking with a customer, unless you are physically unable (or the storefront has provided you with a chair that seems to want to devour you, which was the case at one of my signings), and try to stand as long as humanly possible even if there isn’t anyone in front of you.  Not only does it show that you don’t think you’re better than your customer, it’s a show of respect (hence why we rise when, for example, a judge enters the courtroom), AND standing means that you’re often at or around eye-level, so you’re more likely to make a connection with a customer.  Also, while you don’t have to keep a smile plastered on your face at all times (and let’s face it, that’d be a bit creepy), always smile when you’re greeting someone.  There are a lot of subtle body language tips I could give you, but those are honestly easily Googled, so I figured I’d just give my favorites.

Anyway, those are the top ten things I’ve learned in my first year of being An Author, and I hope that I can add to this list next year!  In the meantime, I need to get back to working on Book #3 and last-minute prep for tomorrow!  🙂

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