Tag Archives: Self-Publishing

Launching your book: Could you benefit from a beta audience?

In the past I have talked about beta readers as a way to test my book. Today I came across an article about an author who is publishing his book to a beta audience of 1,000 people before he even makes his work available to the public. While this size sample audience is likely too large for most self-published authors, it does raise an interesting idea.

By releasing a book to a smaller audience, there is an opportunity to build a buzz and a collection of ready-reviews before your book is available for purchase. Admittedly, I am more likely to buy a book with at least some reviews (even mediocre) than one with none at all. Likewise, it provides more opportunity for refinement as readers provide input before the book hits Amazon.

Now, I know many authors question the validity of seeking so many different opinions, but perhaps this method of a larger beta audience (be it 1,000 or 100 or 10) provides the opportunity for a consensus to form. While the opinion of one may not be extremely useful, the overlapped opinions of many start to hold more value, particularly if the audience is picked intentionally. In the article, the author seeks readers in his academic community, not just any old volunteer.

I am curious of your thoughts– do you see advantages to a larger beta audience? Is there some secret to successful marketing in this approach?

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Playing the Part: Fake it ’til you make it!

Fake it ’til you make it is a common piece of advice for anything you want to achieve in life. While on the surface, it might sound a bit disingenuous, there is a lot of truth to this statement. As a teacher, I had to fake it until I knew what I doing. Had I not, the kids (and their parents) would have eaten me alive. Likewise, when it comes to writing, platform creation is the current buzz.

However, for all of us yet-to-be-published authors out there, we know platform creation comes with a little faking. After all, we have to create the image of the author (and an audience) before our books even have real spines. I knew I had achieved some success in this endeavor when a friend introduced me at a party as a “real writer” again and again. While I protested a bit at first, she was adamant I had earned this title. At that moment I realized I had successfully played the part.

So, now it’s time to take this adage to the next level as I prepare to query (last round) and possibly self-publish Expecting Happiness. Some of the most common advice in platform creation is to make sure you present a professional and unified picture of yourself across all of your pages, (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Gravatar etc.). It’s important to make sure you pick just one or two photos as many readers will not know you well enough to identify you in different settings without these cues.

As such, I enlisted the help of a local blog friend and talented photographer to take some head shots to help me polish my presentation. While I’m going to hold off on picking which photo (or two) to use until after I get back from my trip, I wanted to give her a shout out for her photographic talent. If you live in the Sacramento area and need photos for any occasion, head over to Urke Photography’s blog. Likewise, Ashley also runs her own blog empire over at Domestic Fashionista (and has been my delightful inspiration for Thankfulness Thursdays). Stop by, say hi, tell her I sent you!

And, most importantly– keep on playing the part until it becomes a part of you! Any secrets you want to share on how you’ve faked it to make it?

Photo credit: Urke Photography

Photo credit: Urke Photography

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Changing the Way We See Self-Publishing

This morning my perspective on self-publishing shifted. I had always seen it as a second phase, either the space you reach when you cannot find an agent (at no fault of your own, of course…) or the choice you make when you’re already established and want to regain control over your profits. Sure, I had read all kinds of success stories, but I had also scrolled through the sea of titles, lost in the myriad of choices, uncertain of the quality and dissuaded by the prospect of reading on an electronic screen.

However, this morning as I sat over tea at my favorite French bistro with my uncle and my husband, I was swayed a different direction. Suddenly, self-publishing was the indie choice I loved all along without ever realizing it, akin to making an independent movie instead of waiting for a big studio with its formulaic tastes to discover your project. I adore many independent movies. I don’t know why I never made this connection before.

In fact, this past weekend, I saw an indie flick at Tower Theater in Sac, the kind of place you sit and revel at moviemaking’s past, the crown molding and neon sign making up for the struggling air conditioning and sagging seats. We watched Frances Ha, a movie which at first makes you wonder if you’re witnessing a slow theatrical train wreck but eventually blossoms into a genuinely funny and touching film. Indie movies may have their flaws, but they also bring you into worlds more refreshing than those where everyone has a shiny new car and drinks Coca-Cola with the label pointed outward.

I see my book as kind of the same deal. It may lack some of the sheen of a blockbuster, but there is enough beneath the surface to make it worthwhile, especially if you stick around until the end. Likewise, I recently read my uncle’s first novel, a book which marries Dan Brown’s ability to create suspense with Pillars of the Earth’s timeless heroes and villains. It is exactly the kind of thing I would expect to see on the bestseller’s shelf at the local bookstore, yet he has not been picked up by an agent. Proof the old system is imperfect, overlooking true gems in the ocean of submissions.

So, as I left our little book meeting, I could see my novel self-published with an indie charm, no less meaningful without the mark of a major publisher on its spine. I’ve always been an acquired taste, as my father likes to say. It only makes sense I would find a quirky world for my words to thrive, an audience who appreciates this sort of thing, the kind of people who go to sit in Tower Theater instead of always opting for the comfort of the megaplex. The gatekeepers may bemoan the changes in the publishing world all they like, but it is about time the indie book market follows in the footsteps of its movie-making big sister.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is also learning to experiment with e-readers. So far, the borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

Part of my late embrace of the self-publishing model is learning to enjoy e-readers. So far, this borrowed kindle kicks the iPad’s butt and I’m coming around to the idea of reading my own words on one of these screens.

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My Triumphant(ish) Return to Writing

The last couple months I hid from writing. Sure, I blogged and wrote a few paragraphs here and there for various projects. I even wrote an outline for a new book and submitted some articles to blogs and online newspapers. I read about the craft. In short, I did enough to feel like I was still a writer even if I was not making much progress.

In reality, indecision and self-doubt paralyzed me. I could not decide where to focus my attention, on something new or old or in between. Forty-three queries left me uncertain of Expecting Happiness, the occasional agent nibble more confusing than inspiring. I considered shelving it and starting something new, but nothing flowed.

I felt stuck. Family members encouraged me not to leave Expecting Happiness behind, a fellow blogger did the same. So, this week, I opened up the document and did what I should have done before. I am polishing and reshaping again for the good of the book. People always warn me I could write the same book forever, but these changes need to happen. We know deep down where we’re cutting corners.

I will finish Expecting Happiness and be proud of it, even if the idea of being proud is counterintuitive to my intrinsic humility. I want to be confident in my writing. There is a lot more buried in these last couple sentences, but I’ll save it for another post. I just know it is time to stop hiding.

I blogged before about how I find myself wanting children but fear having children will keep me from writingAs I revisit the beginning of Expecting Happiness, I see so many opportunities to explore these feelings more deeply, even if they are distorted into fictional characters who do not write but still have other passions lurking beneath the surface. I know starting a family is such an incredible gift, but for me it also seems like a space to hide when I lose faith in my writing. A child would give me the perfect excuse to stop pushing myself.

This morning I woke up and read a post on Offbeat Families by a writer who has decided to have one child. I applaud her for her honesty about what is important in her life. While I will make no similar decrees, I appreciate her reminder of how crucial it is to stay true to ourselves. I see many women wear motherhood as their identities. I understand this biologically-driven desire but I also see that it would be hiding to use motherhood as a reason not to pursue my other dreams as well.

The past few months have felt frustratingly stagnant in various ways, but I am beginning to see there is a reason behind it all. Now is my time to write, untethered, to carve out the space I will someday covet as time stolen from other parts of my life. I’m laying the groundwork for a life spent writing, regardless of the outcome. I write because it helps me make sense of life. When I distance myself, I feel lost. I must keep going and Expecting Happiness must be finished.

My new goal: Try even if I might fail.

Yes, this probably means self-publishing.

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Shrinking Words & Other Writing Quandaries

Amazing how a couple months away can give new perspective. Allowing myself to move back through Expecting Happiness, stopping at each spot that bugs me, feels really good. The only thing that doesn’t feel so good is watching my word count drop a bit.

I blame NaNoWriMo for two things: 1. My obsession with word count, 2. A lot of extra words that don’t belong. I get that you go back and get rid of them later, or now, but I do think it results in writing that may be more repetitive than if you just go slowly and don’t worry about how many words you hit a day. Either way, it’s a year later and here I am working on the same book.

This leaves me wondering whether I need to add more words for the sake of having a full-length book… Right now I’m at 68,500, but I know it will drop a bit further as I continue. For any of you who have e-published, how many words were your projects?

My current plan is this:

1. Revisit each chapter with the same care I’ve given the prologue/Chapter 1 this week

2. Reread the whole thing to make sure it still makes sense/check for errors

3. Finish my queries/recontact appropriate contacts

4. If nothing comes of the second round of querying/contacts, I will e-publish and/or share on my blog. I’m not sure which approach to take yet. I just know I need to put it out there in order to move on…

More than anything, I am finding it much more sustainable to slow down and get the work done a little at a time instead of feeling like I need to use every moment of my spare time to write. That was burning me out in every aspect of my life, especially my day job. Slowing down these past two months has made a huge difference. Now it’s time to get serious and get this book done, even if it is just an hour or so at a time.

Happy balanced Sunday.

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Writing Props for the Sacramento Public Library!

The Sacramento Public Library just got a whole lot cooler!  Well, in my book at least, (and, yes, pun intended)!

The system received a grant for an “Espresso Book Machine” that puts your book into print as you watch.  If you use the machine, they automatically put one copy into the local library system.  So, it looks like I’ll get to publish (for a fee, I’m sure), whether anyone else wants to do it for me or not!

I imagine it to be extremely satisfying to see all of that hard work bound into a real book.  I already felt like a proud mother holding my loose-paged manuscript for the first time, I’m sure a real-deal book will feel pretty amazing, (although, I still have my eyes set on the prize of traditional publication).  If nothing else, it will make for a cool family heirloom!

As part of the grant, the library is offering writing classes to foster a local community of self-published writers.  I’m planning to attend some of the classes, would be cool to see you there!

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