Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

What I learned in 2014

Today’s Brew: next to nothing. I had oral surgery yesterday, and my meds aren’t agreeing with me. Most of this was prewritten, but please forgive any whackadoodle typos in this one.

by Kristen

Like I said, I had oral surgery yesterday. I had three teeth that basically needed an overhaul, and I had the last of the hard stuff done yesterday. I’m so glad it’s done. Besides using up the very last drop of my ’14 dental insurance money, I thought it was appropriate. 2014 was about the ugly stuff, and 2015 will be about the pretty stuff. I think that holds true for my publishing career, too.

I had to make some big changes in 2014. I had my hardhat on for much of it, looking at what I had and bringing it to where it needed to be.  Even though I’m in no way an expert on publishing, I learned so much this year. As I was waiting for the procedure to start, I was thinking the tooth analogy worked for my books, too. 2014 was for the ugly stuff, and 2015 is about hitting my stride.

Without further ado….here’s what I learned:

  1. Things in publishing change fast. What might have been tried and true doesn’t work anymore.  What worked in the beginning of the year doesn’t work anymore.  This is what’s going to stay constant: change.  I know a lot of people got burned by Kindle Unlimited. I actually benefitted from it. I wasn’t getting the exposure on the other channels, and even though I did get a lower payout for my full length books, it got them off the virtual shelf and into people’s hands.  As a new writer, that’s what I needed. My full length stuff won’t be in there forever. But I’m going to continue to consider it a tool in my tool box, and try to leverage it so it works.
  2. Writing is the easiest part of the job. For real. My brain supplies me with the stories, and my fingers follow. There’s no rules to the story. I just write. And it’s fun. But then that story needs to be edited and packaged and put out in the world. Putting out a book is like planting a garden. You can’t just forget about it. You need to nurture it to make it grow. I heard a great talk from Courtney Milan at RT, about the phases of being a successful author. I’m somewhere between Phase 1, where I am actively selling every book, and Phase 2, where my books are starting to sell each other.  Getting from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is much harder than writing the book. There’s Phases 3 and 4, but right now, I need to focus on where I am.
  3. You have to spend money to make money. Before you start throwing things at me, hear me out! What did you do before you were a writer? I’m a makeup artist. While that was actually very helpful to me, since I’d already built a career in the arts, a publishing expert it didn’t not make. As an independent author, I pay for editing, cover design, formatting, and publicity. There’s no guarantee I’ll ever see that money back. Tammy Farrell referred to publishing a books as an investment. We need to stop looking at the short game and remember the long game. The books will be available as long as we want to sell them. It’s a business, and you need to treat it as such. Even if you have a publisher, may have to pay for marketing. Your contract may include some marketing, but it may not be enough. Even if you’re going out on your own and contacting bloggers, your time is still an investment. Nothing is free. You have to invest wisely. There’s never any way to tell what’s going to pay off and what won’t.  See #1.
  4. Those who have had success are willing to share. Thank God! So many of those people helped me right my own shaky ship earlier this year. One of the leading voices in makeup business said to us, “you’d never ask someone who’s bankrupt for financial advice, why would you look to someone who’s not successful in your own career for advice?”  Marie Force, Courtney Milan, Zoe York, so many others are putting out some great information on what’s worked for them. I mention Zoe, she’s new to me, but she’s a solid mid list author who is growing. Some of her advice is more tangible for me than what the megastars do.
  5. Publishing is a lot of work! I can sit at my computer from the time that I wake up until the time that I go to bed, and I never get to a point that everything is done. Sure, one project might be complete, but it moves into the next stage, and I start with the next.  It doesn’t feel like work, because most of the time I do it in my jammies. And sometimes I drink. But it’s work.
  6. No two authors will have the same journey. We all have different definitions of what success means. I saw recently someone say no one reads the same book, meaning that our words have a different effect on everyone. That’s so cool! Our stories and schedules are all different. We really are all special snowflakes. Even if you do exactly what another author does, your story and timing is different. Results will vary.
  7. Nobody wants to hear they’re doing it wrong. I made a lot of decisions that were the best ones I could make at the time, and they were God awful. Some people tried to speak up, but again, I thought I’d done all the right things. I brushed them off. Once I was finally ready to listen, I made the changes I needed to. And it was the best thing I ever could have done. We’re not going to get everything write the first time. Some of us are going to fall on our faces pretty spectacularly. I learned so much from the mistakes I made with Because the Night, and I’m a better author for it now. I
  8. Nobody wants to hear they’re doing it wrong, part II. Let’s stop beating up on each other for how we decide to publish. As long as you’re putting the best book you can in the best manner you can, that’s all that matters. A reader shouldn’t know the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book. It’s that simple. What I learned in #7 was to make sure the people you ask to work for you are doing the best job they can. For you. That person might do a great job for someone else, but not for you. Stand up for what’s best for you.
  9. Try new things! This is an exciting time to be in publishing. You can be a hybrid author. You can write fan fiction and make a fuckton of money. You can put your books in your own store, or enroll them in Kindle Unlimited. You can write a variety of genres. You can put out as many books as your little fingers can handle typing. Think something is cool? Try it. You might enjoy it.
  10. Writing is the most challenging and rewarding job I’ve ever had. I’ve worked way harder than I expected to, and the journey was nothing like I expected. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
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