Shadows Wake was published July 15, 2015, and since then I’ve learned so much more about the aspects of getting a book seen. And there is one element of this challenge that is directly on the readers.
Books live or die by their reviews.
Does that surprise you? It’s true. Authors cannot submit their books to book lists without a certain number of reviews with a four-star average (the number varies by list). Amazon’s visibility algorithms don’t work until reviews begin stacking up. Some say 50 is the sweet spot, others set a goal for 200.
The best thing you can do for an author you like is to review their book, whether that’s on Goodreads, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Amazon. I’d encourage any reader who enjoyed a particular book to review it both where they bought it and on their favorite review site (e.g. Goodreads) if they have one.
Authors have more promotional opportunities based on their reviews. And honestly, we write for our readers. It’s absolutely wonderful to read good reviews (and educational to read bad ones).
Buying your favorite author’s book is always appreciated, and borrows are great, but it’s the reviews that make others willing to buy the book you enjoyed. It’s the reviews that allow a book to get more exposure. That’s why so many authors are more than happy to give away copies of their books if there’s even a remote chance a review will come of it. The publishing world is different today. Indie authors aren’t paid an advance and most traditional first time authors receive tiny advances. Reviews help books sell, which keeps your favorite author at his or her desk working on the next book you’re dying to read.
Your review doesn’t have to be fancy or wordy. Just write an honest view of the book in a couple lines if that’s all you feel like doing. It helps more than you know. Also, if you are used to reviewing on GoodReads, keep in mind that a four-star on Goodreads isn’t an equivalent review on Amazon. Often a five-star review on Amazon is equal to a four-star on Goodreads.
Think of the last book you loved or that made you feel. Go review it. The author will love you for it.
Two weeks ago I attended the Indie ReCon online. If you are interested in publishing, I highly encourage you to bookmark indierecon.org or get on the mailing list for next year’s ReCon.
The event is a nice mix of video and post and included such indie powerhouses as Belle Andre & Barbara Freethy, Joanna Penn, H.M. Ward, many others. There were also several Twitter Q & A sessions using the #indierecon hashtag.
I believe everything is still available at the indierecon.org website. Registration allowed attendees to enter for prizes and I won two: Indie and Proud by Christine Fonseca and a year’s subscription to the Bublish dashboard, which I’m really looking forward to exploring.
Topics ranged from marketing to income to a wonderful Thirteen Reasons You are Not as Successful as You Should Be.
The Self-Publishing Summit was also ongoing in April, with another set of video interviews put together by John Tighe, author of Crush it With Kindle. Most of the videos are available on his YouTube channel.
The best part about these free, online events is that you are not required to attend live. Both of them provided emails to alert you to a beginning session or provide you with the link for the playback. I did attend as many as I could in case I had questions for the guests, but watched just as many on playback.
If you aren’t sure you are interested in publishing (writing is a calling. Authorship is very much a business), it’s worth your time to check some of the presentations and educate yourself on what is involved. If you know already that you want to publish, you’ll find information for both beginners and those already on the path along with a nice mix of practical tips and strategy.
Did you attend either event? What was your biggest takeaway?
How many times have you said to yourself (or heard another writer say) “This would be so much easier if I could quit my job or work part time.” That used to be me. Having lived on both sides of this fence, I feel those of you still in the day job should know something. It’s a myth.
For one thing, most of us have a maximum words we can get out each day. For some that’s 500, for others it’s 5000, but whether you work or not, that number is not likely to increase much. In other words, time does not equal capacity.
Also, resistance remains, but now there are different distractions that resistance can use to keep us from the page. Errands, phone calls, housework, all of these things are still present and even more likely to distract you when you aren’t so focused on getting your writing in.
It’s too easy to fall into the thought that you can write later because you have all day. Discipline is required when your schedule is wide open.
Here’s another element that isn’t often discussed. Having a job gives your writer mind time to ruminate and work on the story while you work. It distracts you in good ways so your word well fills up and you’re ready to go for your next writing session. Without work, we need to create that distraction.
There are some good things about writing full time. One is that you end up with more time to daydream or cultivate the good kind of mindlessness with chores, walks, and what have you. The other advantage is that you are often able to write during the time of day you are most creative and energetic. However, establishing a routine when you first leave your job is absolutely vital or your days will fill with everything but writing.
I’ve held high-stress jobs with evening meetings and I’ve held jobs where I was on my feet 12 hours a day and on call 24/7. I had no life outside of work because I spent my spare time writing. Now that I’m not working outside the home, with lots more spare time, I have only been able to push my capacity by 1000 words a day.
If I had the means, I think I’d volunteer somewhere a few days a week or get a part time low stress job to get me away from the computer and give writing time more of a sense of urgency. Some of us just work better that way, I think.
The best jobs I had in terms of writing well were jobs that involved routine tasks that didn’t take a lot of brain function. My hands were busy while my mind was free to plan stories. If you have a job like that and your writing is going well, be thankful. It’s a win-win.
If you have the support, the money, and the desire to give up your day job to write full time, you need to know that discipline is required. Routine is important. Motivation is key. And even if all three of these things fall into place, you likely won’t produce much more in terms of word count than you did while you were working.
Only you can decide if giving up the day job is worth it, especially if you aren’t making money with your stories. A stimulating job can give you more to write about. A repetitive job gives your brain a lot of freedom. Any job can give you a better sense of urgency to keep your dates with the page. Make your own list of pros and cons, but do it with eyes wide open.
How do you think life would be different if you could write full time? If you are no longer working, what’s been the most difficult aspect?
As a writer, the worst thing you can do is work in an environment of fear of rejection.
If you’ve sent your work out before, you’re probably familiar with responses like this one: “Thank you for letting us read [insert name of piece here], but . . .”
Ah, the dreaded “but.” A writer’s worst enemy.
Or is it?
Each time we let our work leave the nest, there’s a niggling worry that our poor words may not remember how to fly. We’re afraid they’ll flop into a broken, wingless mess. We’re afraid someone will tell us we’re not good enough. Sometimes this fear is so great that we don’t send anything out at all. We condemn our work before it’s even had a shot.
It’s all too easy to get emotional about rejections — to make excuses: “Oh, the subject I’ve written about is too ‘out there.’ ” “The piece isn’t/wasn’t ready.” “Everything I write is crap.” “They want this kind of thing now because it sells, not the stuff I write . . .” “I’m not a poet.” (This one was mine, and alas the first thing I got published was a poem.)
There are any number of reasons a piece may be rejected. None of which you’re likely to guess. And in the end, the reasons don’t matter. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It doesn’t mean the editors or the agents or the magazines didn’t like your work.
Rejection means one thing and one thing only: You have to keep fighting.
Yes, it sucks waiting 2-6 months only to get a “Thank you, but . . .” Yes, it’s dull work, foraging through countless magazines and agents, trying to find people and places that will best represent your voice, only to have to do it again and again and again. And YES, the moments of doubt are an unwanted burden. But rejection is better than the silence. If you’re getting rejected, you’re getting your work out there. You’re taking the time to do something for your writing. And for yourself.
That’s certainly better than letting your work sit in a drawer somewhere, isn’t it? I think most writers dream about publishing their stories. But successful writers are the ones who do something to make those dreams a reality — no matter how long it takes. They take chances. They trust their words. They persevere.
BE one of those writers.
Rejoice every time you get a “Thank you, but . . .” It means one more person has taken the time to hear what you have to say. Post them on the wall to remind yourself you’ve narrowed down your list, you’ve weeded out one more editor, agent, or literary magazine that wasn’t right for your piece.
But most of all (and I can’t stress this enough):
Fight for your rejections. Every time you get one, you’re one step closer to an acceptance. Fight for your words. If you won’t fight for them, then who will? Fight even if you’re fighting to fail. Because if you don’t fail, how do you eventually succeed?
You can’t expect to get anywhere if you won’t leave the tree.
So quit making excuses and let go. Take the first step.
Let your work fly.
I used to save all my rejection slips because I told myself, one day I’m going to autograph these and auction them. And then I lost the box.
—James Lee Burke
What’s your experience with rejection?