First, let me clarify, I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be an expert. What I do, though, is listen, research, read, hunt down experts, ask questions, start discussions, anything and everything to find the answers to my questions, whether it is what I’m writing or how I’m going to forward my career.
No, I didn’t write my first book with the idea that I was going to self-publish; I didn’t even know that was an option. I wrote my first book because I love to write and had something to say. I sent it to my avid-reading best friend and cousin, and they insisted I seek publishing, so I did. I made an excel spreadsheet of all of my favorite authors, researched who published them, and then realized you had to find an agent. So I spent more time researching agents.
From there, I read what the agents wanted: a well-written query letter and synopsis before I tried to hand them my manuscript. So, back to the drawing board. I researched how to write a query letter and synopsis, and then went back to my agent list.
Now I know that sounds simple, but it’s not. It took me six months of reading hundreds upon hundreds of websites. No, I didn’t download a book on how to write a query letter; I wanted many opinions, not just one. And I didn’t blanket agents with the same query letter. I customized every letter for individual agents based on what they wanted. This meant that I took the time to read their websites, not just one online blog where the information might be outdated.
During this time, I continued to write. I’d already written two novels before even thinking about publishing, but in the next six months, I wrote two more books. If I was going to do this, I was going "all in."
After all that, I now had a couple of agents who wanted to sell my novel, a couple of… “I’m interested, if…”—I wasn’t too keen on the "ifs"—and several large ePublishers interested. So I did more research. What did this mean? Which way should I go?
At that point, I had five novels and at least twelve more floating around in my head, so I had many questions.
Would they want all of them? Was I willing to give one agent or one publisher all my books? How long would it take my words to end up in the hands of a reader, which of course is my ultimate goal? Yes, I write for me, but I live to be read. The answer I kept hearing: a year to eighteen months. Yikes! Hmm…back to the drawing board. Should I self-publish my first novel and then sell my others? I didn’t want to wait. I was forty-something.
Then, I found a like-minded soul. She read an excerpt on my blog and asked if I’d trust her to read the entire novel. What did I have to lose? I read her novel and loved it. Actually, I saw a little of me in her writing, even though she writes contemporary romance and I write romantic-suspense, we clicked. RESEARCH! :)
What she offered me was a great contract and a chance to start on the ground floor of a new publishing company. I maintained more control because, as a writer, she treats writers they way she likes to be treated. Now, that was a concept I could live with. Plus, she understood that I now had SIX books waiting for readers and worked with my goal of getting the first one out before Christmas, which was four months away!
Well, the rest is history. Three months later, I was on the bestseller list. Not because I wrote a great book; heck, readers didn’t know what I wrote until they took a chance. But because I knew no one was responsible for making my dreams come to fruition. I WAS! This job isn’t easy. I work fifteen hours a day. But I love it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. In fact, now that the economy is turning, I was offered a job doing what I used to before the market collapsed. Yes, it’s ten times more than what I make as a writer, but no, I’ll never go back. I LOVE my job.
And so, here’s my advice…
· Hire an editor. I’m a great proofreader of other writers’ words; I’d been proofreading non-fiction for ten years. I’m terrible at proofing my own words. I had some errors in my first novel, and they are still haunting me because I had thirty thousand downloads before I went back and caught them. I fixed them, but they are still out there. UGH! A terrible feeling. Your family is not enough…hire an editor. Someone you’ve—here’s that word again—RESEARCHED!
· I still believe a great agent, who has connections, is a great way to go. If you have the next best thing, why not try to go the traditional route? Authors can say anything they want, but big publishers still get perks. They have connections smaller pubs don’t. But don’t give up your dream because you can’t sell your manuscript to an agent. If you’ve done your due diligence, give readers an opportunity to decide. Yes, you can get on the bestseller list if you’ve written a great book and are willing to do the work.
· If you have only one book in you, you probably should hold out for a larger publisher. But if you have many…as I did, and just want to get your writing into readers’ hands, research self-publishing or Indie publishing. Enter contests, build your platform, and then if you want to try to sell your other books to a larger publisher, you now have something to back up your words.
· Above all, love what you’re doing. If you do not LOVE to write and are unable to accept criticism—because believe me you’ll get it; look up any bestseller and you’ll see there are tons of one-star reviews—do not continue with this career path. Yes, I love my career, but it’s the hardest job I’ve ever done.
Questions, comments, want to respond privately, I’m always here to help. You can email me Carmen (at) CarmenDeSousa (dot) com. You know how that works, right? No, I’m not an expert; I don’t claim to be. These are just my opinions, so take them with a grain of salt. Take what you can use; leave what you cannot.
If you would like to read a little more about what I write, follow the links below. My stories are available in print and eBook formats at your favorite retailer.
Until next time, happy reading and writing, friends!
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