Climb the Mountain (or the Path to Self-Publishing)

When I started on the journey of self-publishing my first book, like many others, I’d been writing for many years. Most people don’t wake up one day and make the leap to write a book without having spent a little time in their own mind, conjuring up ideas for plot twists and characters they would like to explore. Putting your work out there is always scary, and luckily, a good dose of fear is what led me to finding a formula that was comfortable for me.

After I had the three books in my trilogy nearly written, with a healthy dose of encouragement from my family, I set out to find an editor. At first, I shunned the idea, thinking that no one could possibly see my characters any clearer than I did. And believe it or not, therein lies the problem. The more I identified with my characters, the more detailed my writing became. Every thought, every nuance, of Hope and Jax was committed to my word processor. What’s the harm in that? Well, while I thought it might be important to relate every minute of every day of their fictional existence, I doubt the public would feel the same. After reading through my final, final, draft, I realized that I had lost perspective. As a reader. After all, wasn’t that what this was about in the end? Telling a story that would fulfill others, as well as myself?

Editors, at least the good ones, will not tell you what you want to hear. They will tell you what they know; and that’s what you’re paying them for. It’s their business. While my editor praised my writing, she was quick to point out what would make my story better. How could I fault someone for that? I did want my story to be better. Editors look at things through many lenses, as I came to find out. If your reviews aren’t positive, what is the likelihood that you will use their services again? None.

I have my manuscript in full, and I will always cherish it. But I wanted a book. In my opinion, and other authors may disagree, they are two different things. The heart of the manuscript, all your ideas, live in that book. Once you make the leap to put it out there, the finished work should be relatable to others that haven’t spent countless hours pouring over what might be your characters favorite color. If that detail moves the story forward, I assure you, your editor will leave it in. If not, live in the knowledge that YOU know their favorite color, and move on.

Anything that I’ve ever made from scratch, from pastry to potpourri, has taken some trial and error. I wouldn’t exactly box up and sell the first pie I ever made for my husband, although he assures me it was an awesome slice of heaven. Over time, the crust got flakier, and the apples didn’t run all over the plate. It was still my pie…just better. Hint…I added butter. Everything’s better with butter.

In the indie world, everyone likes to tell the story of the self-published author they know that struck gold on their first try. I live in Vegas. I hear stories about people that walk up to a Mega Bucks machine and hit a multimillion dollar jackpot with twenty bucks. Since I’m a local, I also hear the news cast that evening about how the jackpot hasn’t been hit in ten years. So, while it is possible to stand in your front yard during a lightning storm and get hit by lightning. Your chances are better if you invest in a good lightning rod and CLIMB A MOUNTAIN.

There is an expense. I don’t suggest going to an editor until you have your ideas and possibly two novels already finished. While you’re writing them, you can forgo the grande double whipped soy latte and put the money away. It will be worth the sacrifice in the long run. Again, just the humble opinion of someone who fell in love with their characters. And like a lover, I didn’t see the flaws. Or correct them. But their best friend would be quick to point them out. My editor is my characters best friend. She doesn’t have to be mine, but she’s a cool chick that knows her stuff, so that alone gives her major snaps.

Finding a good editor was my first step in treating my writing like a business. As I found out, it was only the beginning. I could do a lengthy blog on just the cover art, and that was relatively painless. If you don’t count the excruciating hours spent in front of the computer, looking for someone that matches the character in your mind’s eye, while you pour over stock photos. Spoiler…that character doesn’t exist. No matter how many hours you’ve spent talking to them. Hopefully, in your head. If not, then investing in a good therapist might be the first order of business. But I digress. My graphic artist was able to work wonders in moving me toward how I wanted my cover to feel.

Last but not least, marketing. I don’t care if your selling cookies out of your house, or at the local mall, you have to market. They wouldn’t let you sell your wares in the mall unless you had a sign. Facebook, Twitter, blogs…they’re the big neon sign driving people to look at your work. I wish it was as easy as blasting a tweet that says “BUY MY BOOK. IT’S REALLY GOOD.” I would replicate that on every social media site and call it a day.

Whether it’s a big marketing campaign or a small one, CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN. That’s my new motto, and I’m sticking to it. Maybe you’ve reached the top of a small peak with your first book. The view looks great, right? CLIMB A BIGGER MOUNTAIN.