Disclaimer: this post is tailored towards novice writers who intend to self-published.
First of all, congratulations on admitting that you’re a writer. It’s the first step down into the rabbit hole, and possibly one of the scariest. Well, don’t be shy—pull up a chair. We’ve got things to discuss, novice writer. Coffee? Good. Start drinking it now because, trust me, you’re gonna need it later.
It’s hard to find a place to start with tips for beginners in the writing field, but I guess the most important thing right off the bat is to advise you to ask yourself one question: “why do I write?” This question sounds simplistic enough at first, but in reality, it’s pretty loaded. Maybe your answer is simple—one sentence long, a couple words, whatever. And that’s fine. But if you’re like most writers, this question has a long answer.
Before you start this journey, you need to understand why. It’s the most significant thing related to writing that you will have to face, because if you can’t come up with a substantial answer that makes your stomach flop and your skin leak with sweat, then this might not be the career for you. Do you write because you love it? Do you write because stories are constantly gushing out of you in every waking second, and even keeping you up at night? Do you write because there are things in life that leave you unsatisfied and you want to create something for yourself? Do you write because you can’t find what you’re looking for and so you’ve decided to craft it on your own? If the answer is yes, proceed to the following tips. If not, take some time off, drink some tea, stare off into the sunset while blasting some Simple Plan, and come back to it.
Tip #1: Write. A lot. Constantly. Even when you’re tired and you don’t have enough time. Even when you’d rather sit in your underwear watching reruns of the X-Files on Netflix. Even when there’s a clearance sale on books at Barnes and Noble and you want to stuff your shelves to the gills. Write as much as you can whenever you can for as long as you can. Novice writers will hear this a lot without explanation, but I won’t leave you hanging because we’re bros.
The reason why you need to write like your life depends on it is because it does. The end game in this business for most writers is to become self-sustainable on your work. In order to do that, at least if you’re an unknown self-published writer, is in volume. In the traditional publishing world, it’s possible to write one masterpiece and be set for life. E.L. James didn’t have to write a trilogy for her godawful monstrosity 50 Shades of Grey if she didn’t want to because she was an unexplained overnight success. But, sad as it sounds, that is probably not going to happen to you. What you must do is survive off of multiple works because readers almost always tend to buy in bulk. There is an entire demographic that simply collects bargain books to read whenever they get around to it. If they like the cover, they buy it. If they like the blurb, they buy it. If it’s cheap and they like all of the above, they will not only buy that, but the next book in the series, and so forth.
Do you know what drives those sales even more? If you release more than one book per year. Any of the major fiction franchises you know typically put out a book a year, and that works because they always break records. Their name is already out there. Yours isn’t. So one way to get yourself on the map is to be consistent and frequent. Think about the last book you read that you loved. What if two of them came out in the same year? Would that not make you jump for joy? Readers will too, even if you’re still relatively unknown, so the more you write, the more you can publish; the more you publish, the greater likelihood that you’ll get noticed and sell books.
Tip #3: Edit your face off. I love writing. I hate editing. If editing had a face, I would punch it. But it’s 100% necessary if you don’t want to die penniless in a gutter. A lot of people put the emphasis only on writing your masterpiece, but no one writes a masterpiece right off the bat. You are going to find stuff in your work that sucks. Stuff that shouldn’t be there. Stuff that should be there that you forgot to include. Editing is what makes the difference between a decent writer and a great writer.
It is my personal recommendation to put your book in a drawer for a month and leave it there. Don’t touch it. You’ll get the urge, but ignore it. Go about your life doing other fun things. Throw yourself a party for finishing your book and get drunk and dance around with a lampshade on your head.
After a month, come back, print out your book, and sit down with a pen. Read slowly. Read it the first time for story; the second time for grammar; the third time for themes and motifs; the final time for continuity and character voice. You can honestly read it as many times as you want as long as you pour over that sucker until your eyes are crossed. Then find yourself a beta-reader or editor and send it to them. After it comes back, open the book again and fix it. Think of your book as a piece of gold that’s been buried underground for a century. No one’s going to care when it looks gross. Polish it until it’s so beautiful that people will trip over themselves trying to get it for themselves.
Tip #2: Get thee to KBoards’ Writer’s Cafe. If you have never heard of KBoards, then please look it up right now because it will literally save you about a year’s worth of headaches. I’m not kidding. I struggled for seven months selling only about 40 copies of my first novel until I found out about KBoards. I spent four months on KBoards, and now I’ve sold over 500 copies of my first novel, and over 400 copies of my short story collection. Yes, it is that important.
KBoards is basically just one massive forum of resources for self-published authors. Almost any question you can think of related to the marketing, writing, and publishing industries is buried somewhere in those threads. It’s completely free to sign up and I guarantee you will see results if you stick with it, ask questions, meet other writers, and stay updated on trends. It is bursting at the seams with useful tips and writers who just want to help each other. That is what is most worthwhile about KBoards. The sense of community is overwhelming. These writers are so kind and really excited to see each other succeed, and more than willing to help make it happen. I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without them, and so I think it is essential that you get started now before you even jump on the publishing bandwagon.
Tip #3: Make a business plan. Wait, don’t leave! I know that sounds like scary grown up jargon, but I can explain. Every great writer has a business plan, even if it’s not called that in their head. What I mean is write down your goals: short term, year-long, and long-term. Set a timeline for each one. The first thing that will happen after you finish your book is that you’ll start losing days off the calendar as you start the process of getting ready to publish. Most self-published authors have entire laundry lists of things to do before release date, and so will you. Therefore, you have to segment your workload in a sufficient manner to avoid being eaten by a grue.
Dig into your lint-encrusted pockets and find yourself a budget. Then spread those pennies out as effectively as you can. The good news is that social media has made it a lot easier to market your work. The bad news is, it’s still just free marketing and it cannot by definition get you everywhere. If that were true, we’d all be Richard Castle. But we’re not. So you have to know your limits, know what kind of advertising you can afford, and which ones are the most effective. Research, research, research. Go to free online podcasts and seminars and write down things that worked for authors in similar genres. Absorb all of this into your body like some crazed version of Clayface. Then things will go a little easier for you.
You’re still going to stumble and fall and skin your knees, but hopefully, some of these tips will make it hurt a little less. It’s a long journey. Buy comfortable shoes (and coffee, or tea, which I happen to prefer) and get walking, writers. Believe me, you’ll come to find that it’s worth it.
The Deadly Seven
Black Parade Series
Number of pages: 120
Word Count: 58,546
Cover Artist: Christine Savoie and Katie Litchfield
Michael O’Brien. 24. New Yorker. Musician. Commander of Heaven’s army.
It’s been centuries since Michael stayed on Earth for an extended period of time. Now he’s here because of Jordan Amador—a Seer who helped him restore his life and memories and thwart the archdemon Belial from taking over the city. With Jordan on Belial’s hit list, Michael decides to stick around and live out life alongside her as her friend and temporary bodyguard. But as the days pass, he finds it harder to resist the seven deadly sins that tempt all men. Especially as he and Jordan grow closer fighting the demons who want her almost as much as he does…
Being Jordan Amador’s angelic bodyguard against a horde of bloodthirsty demons was a lot of things, but certainly not boring.
I checked my watch for the fortieth time in the last twenty minutes. Jordan usually got off at eight o’clock. Things had been quiet for over two weeks now, which was rare for a Seer’s lifestyle. She encountered ghosts with unfinished business a few times a month and that kept the both of us busy. Earlier, she had convinced me to meet her at the bus stop a couple streets over instead of in front of the Sweet Spot.
“So would you mind waiting for me at the bus stop instead of out here?” she had asked, sweeping her shoulder-length black hair up into its usual high ponytail.
I frowned. “Why? Doesn’t it kind of defeat the purpose of the whole ‘temporary bodyguard’ thing?”
“It’s been quiet for a while now, Michael. Come on. Helping avert the end of the world and ganking an archdemon aren’t enough to prove I can take care of myself?”
I glanced between her and the store front. A couple of her waitress friends who were watching us through the window scattered as soon as I looked over. Then it clicked.
“They think I’m your boyfriend, huh?”
Jordan got really interested in her shoes all of the sudden. “Yeah. They do.”
I shook my head. She was an anointed soul charged with helping the dead find peace and yet she still cared what her coworkers thought of our relationship. I couldn’t decide if it was cute, frustrating, or hilarious. Possibly all three.
Then again, I could see how her coworkers would get confused that a six-foot-tall, dark-haired, green-eyed “underwear model” (which I overheard one of them dub me last week) dropped Jordan off at work on a frequent basis. I decided to be lenient for once.
“Fine. We’ll give it a test run today. If you survive, I’ll take it into consideration.”
She shot me a scowl. “Gee, thanks, almighty Michael. I am humbled that you considered the request of a lowly human.”
I grinned. “You’re welcome, my humble servant.”
She rolled her eyes and swatted my arm before turning to head into the restaurant. “Later, pretty boy.”
“Stay out of trouble.” I called, and then headed back towards the bus stop.
That had been eight hours ago. Getting off a shift late wasn’t unusual for a waitress, but most times it was by only five or ten minutes. My instincts needled at me that something was off.
Sighing, I fished out my cell phone and called her, tapping my foot. “Come on, Amador, pick up.”
Several rings. A click. Voicemail message. Ugh. I hung up and stuffed my hands in my pockets. It was a short walk through the heavily trafficked area on this side of Albany, New York, but it was during one of the busier times of the day. Nighttime in the city meant chatty couples walking through holding hands, teenagers hollering and chasing each other down the street, and music pouring out from the clubs already packed to the rafters with the twenty-somethings.
Two stop lights, one near-death experience courtesy of a speeding cab, and one step in some gum later, and I reached the glowing red sign to the Sweet Spot. The Southern cuisine eatery was busy. As much as Northerners made fun of the South in sitcoms and stand up shows, they sure did like the food.
I pushed the door open and smiled at Beth, the head hostess. “Hey, you.”
“Michael.” The short blonde grinned. “Good to see you as always.”
“Is Jordan still in the back?”
A slight frown marred her brow. “No, honey. She left about ten minutes ago.”
I froze. “Left how? She was supposed to meet me at the bus stop.”
“She went out back to take out the trash and I just assumed she went home after. Why? Something wrong?”
A cold lump settled in my stomach. Something wasn’t adding up. Jordan wasn’t the type to disappear without texting me. I didn’t want to concern her friends so I kept my expression pleasant. “Nah, she probably just wandered off to window shop. I’ll catch up with her. Thanks, Beth.”
“No problem, sweets.”
I made a point to leave the restaurant in a casual manner, but once I was out of sight, I hurried around the block to the back of the building. The Sweet Spot was part of an entertainment district in this section of Albany. There were narrow alleys between the establishments and the streets ran parallel to the store fronts.
The Sweet Spot’s back alley looked like any other restaurant in Albany—lined by dumpsters and garbage cans. The concrete was littered with fallen bits of food. A couple of mangy cats fought over fish bones. The entire area stank to high heaven. I called Jordan’s phone again and prayed that my instincts were wrong.
The raucous chorus to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” echoed behind me.
I turned towards one of the dumpsters and lifted the entire thing with one hand. Her phone lay cracked and forlorn underneath it.
About the Author:
Kyoko M is an author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader. Her debut novel, The Black Parade, made it through the first round of Amazon's 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. She participated and completed the 2011 National Novel Writing Month competition. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology. When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm central Florida night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.
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