Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tip O'Day #369 - Seek Help & Return the Favor

Guest blogger Ashley Robertson has some writing advice.

The biggest thing writers should know is that you’d better be extremely passionate about writing or you might as well go ahead and hang up your hat right now. This business is extremely competitive; it’s similar to trying to be an actor. Yes, it’s that competitive.

Being an author is a part of who I am, imbedded deep down inside my heart and rooted within the marrow of my bones. That’s what drove me when the rejection letters rolled in or my books didn’t get the ratings I felt they deserved. Instead of taking it personally—sometimes it’s impossible not to when you invest so much of your time and energy into something—you’ve got to develop a thicker skin and use it to your advantage. Realize that you can’t please everyone, but a lot of the reviewers offer healthy constructive criticism too. That’s what you need to focus on to improve your writing skills and storytelling ability.

When I set out to publish my debut YA urban fantasy novel, Crimson Groves, I thought that I’d get accepted by one of the many literary agencies I reached out to and that they would take care of everything for me. That couldn’t have been further from how everything actually happened. Though I must thank a few of those agencies, because their personal rejections saying, in essence, “I like your writing style, but we’re not taking anything vampire related. Do you have something else you can submit?” were actually what motivated me to self-publish in the first place. You see, I’m obsessed with vampires and just about everything paranormal, and based on my own extensive research, I believe that genre isn’t going anywhere. Check out Crimson Groves here.

Now that I was doing this on my own, it was time to figure out my budget. When you go the indie author route, you have to pay all the upfront expenses (editor, cover designer, publishing company, etc.). My best advice about this is to only spend what you’re able to lose should your book not sell right away (or not at all). If you’re willing to teach yourself how to e-publish, Amazon and Smashwords offer free training manuals which can save you money on the publishing side; however, if you want to offer your book in paperback or hardcover, you must work with one of many publishing companies. I’ve found that CreateSpace is one of the less expensive ones, and they offer packages that include cover design and editing services. Since I prefer more control and a more personal relationship with a writing team, I outsourced my own editor—Stephen Delaney with Close Reader Editing Services—and book-cover designer—Claudia McKinney with PhatpuppyArt—and I couldn’t be happier with the business relationships I have with them.

That’s actually why I like CreateSpace. They allowed me to bring my already edited manuscript and fully designed cover to them and charged me a simple flat fee for formatting a printed version of my book. So when I was ready to publish my second mature YA/paranormal romance thriller, UnGuarded, it was much easier than before because I had a system in place. Check out free sample chapters of UnGuarded.

Now for another very important tip: networking. You must build “blogationships” with as many book reviewers and bloggers as you can. These amazing people are the backbone of your business. In exchange for a free copy of your book, they’ll give you an honest review and post it on Good Reads, Amazon, and so on. But don’t just be a “taker” when making these connections; be a “giver” too! Spend time reviewing their submission guidelines (and pay attention to what they’re asking for!), learn more about them by reading their bios and then perhaps include that in your review letter so they’ll know you cared enough to learn about them, subscribe to their blogs and follow them on Facebook or Twitter (or wherever they like to be “stalked”). Yes, these things take time and may distract you somewhat from writing, but they are essential. Eventually everything will balance out.

Remember, as indie authors, we are our own literary agent, our own publicist, and it’s up to us to market our books and ourselves. This is why we NEED those amazing book bloggers to help us. If they like you and your work, they’ll share it all over their social media sphere of influence, including in their blogs. Then you should return the favor by sharing the blogs you love, and also help other authors by reading their books and taking five minutes of your time to review them. That is why I recently added a review section to my website.

Ashley Robertson resides in sunny Orlando, Florida and loves reading and writing urban fantasy and paranormal romance. When she isn't writing you'll find her spending time with family and friends, training in her home gym, traveling, drinking fine red wines, and making gourmet coffees with her Nespresso machine. Besides Goodreads and her website, you can find her on Twitter as #!/AshleyR0bertson.

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