Tag Archives: readers

Mistakes

January has been a tumultuous roller coaster of highs and lows, triumphs and epic failures. My blog tour was a huge success (which I’ll blog about in more detail later) but as it wound down, some emails slipped through the cracks, some information was miscommunicated, oh, and I discovered that the copy-editing for The Boy In Her Dreams still left behind some glaring mistakes. Having published four books prior, I thought I knew how to cross my Ts and dot my Is but getting this particular novel out into the world was a huge test of my patience. I struggled with the formatting the entire way through and once I did finally manage to get it online there were not only spelling and grammatical mistakes but also continuity errors as well. Luckily they weren’t entirely atrocious but were they enough to be distracting? Yes.

I’d never gotten a review for any of my previous novels mentioning problems with the copy-editing so as soon as reader feedback started coming in, of course I panicked! When it comes to self-publishing, whether I outsource some of the work or not, the final responsibility to put out a stellar product is always on me. Only me. And it’s my choice. It’s my choice to have total control. So far it’s been an incredibly rewarding choice but when something goes wrong it’s a reminder of how terrifying that choice really is.

I immediately took the book off sale and started researching copy-editors. The person I’d worked with in the past was a friend and therefore free and now I’ve learned my lesson that neither are good when it comes to doing business. Thankfully I found someone who came highly recommended via the blog of a self-publishing powerhouse who I so admire and I didn’t hesitate to email her. Because this person is actually a professional she got the edits back to me just a few weeks later and basically saved my life in the process. Overall the entire experience was smooth and stress-free and it left me feeling grateful that the entire calamity had actually taken place.

Because I’m indie and my books exist entirely online, I was able to swap out the new revised edition in less than an hour and it was on sale the next morning. I didn’t have to recall print copies or send out formal apologies to my distributors. Did I spend money to make the corrections? Yes, but did I “lose” money because of the original mistakes? No. I didn’t lose readers. I didn’t ruin my reputation as an author. Instead, coming face to face with this particular chink in my workflow has made me better. It’s made my book better and because of this experience, everything I publish after this will be better too. Not only was my learning expedited due to the stressful circumstances but it was also done in private. A few readers, who are total strangers to me, offered constructive feedback, and miles away, alone in my apartment, their words helped facilitate growth.

That’s the kind of direct relationship you get to have with readers when you’re indie. Because readers are not some kind of ephemeral finish line. They’re not just consumers, they’re people. Real people who don’t just read books but who have the power to make them better. If we just open ourselves up and actually listen to them. When you hit publish, you’re creating a real relationship between you and your audience whether you realize it or not. During the few weeks that The Boy In Her Dreams was off sale I was flooded with emails from people saying they’d loved the first book and wanted to know where to find the sequel. I went from feeling like a failure to feeling so incredibly validated and it changed my outlook on the entire situation.

I’m not saying that we should preoccupy ourselves with trying to make everyone happy. That would be impossible. But engaging and connecting and being open to having a relationship with our readers is one of the greatest things about being indie. We’re accessible and that makes us better human beings. They’re accessible and that makes us better writers. We are a team. Whether you’re the person crafting a story word by word or you’re the person indulging in it the same way, we’re all in this together. Creating and sharing and living. The life of a story doesn’t exist between point A and point B, it’s an infinite loop that connects us long after the final word is written, the journey starting over every time that very first word is read.

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To Be Read

*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

laekanzeakemp

The debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing has experienced a huge resurgence lately, pitting friend against friend, colleague against colleague, and reader against reader. It’s madness out there right now and while it’s easy to get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong the real issue that should be being debated right now isn’t a technical one or even a theological one but a personal one.

There are pros and cons for both self-publishing and going the traditional route and by now we all know exactly what they are. They’ve been discussed to death in forums and on blogs, even on this one, and at this point there is enough information out there for anyone considering publishing to make a thoughtful and educated decision. And yet we still judge each other for the choices we make or don’t make and we still feel the need to compile even more…

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What To Do When You Realize Your Idea Isn’t Original

I’ve kept the details of my upcoming release locked up tight, not out of fear that someone would steal my idea but out of fear that some blog reader might point out that it’s already been done. It’s an irrational fear because, let’s face it, there is no such thing as a truly original story. We are constantly recycling ideas from the smallest details concerning character and setting, to bigger ideas like central conflicts and plot points. It’s the unique combination of those familiar elements that creates a new story but even with this knowledge, I’m still terrified that I’ve spent the past year writing a series that someone else has already done better.

Confession: my upcoming series is all about dreams. And what new trend is popping up in this fall’s YA releases? You guessed it. I’ve discovered several upcoming novels that revolve around dreams or navigating dreams or dream boys or dream girls or falling in love in dreams. Each time I stumble upon another book that’s even vaguely similar to my own concept I feel like someone has just punched me in the stomach. I curse like someone has too. Because this is 400 days, thousands of hours, and countless sleepless nights we’re talking about here. I’ve devoted the last year of my life to this project and the thought that  upon publication, it might just disappear, buried beneath the other novels like it, is devastating to me.

Eventually, in the midst of my panic, I started to remember this age old rule of storytelling–that nothing is new, not completely–and this thought spurred me to think about my own reading habits. After all, readers are precisely who I was most concerned about in all of this. I was afraid that after reading three other novels about dreams this winter that people would pass over mine either because they didn’t like those other novels or because they liked them too much and didn’t think anything could top them. Again, another irrational fear. But when I stopped to think about how and why I read books, I realized that when I love a certain genre or a certain archetype or a certain setting, I tend to seek out books that share those qualities. And if the publishing trends of the last decade have taught us anything, it’s that other people, if not most people, tend to do the same thing.

The most famous example of this? Twilight. When I was sixteen they released the first movie in theaters and I remember that whole semester, every girl in my high school was lugging around those giant black books along with their textbooks. Around that time True Blood aired its first season and soon after The Vampire Diaries was turned into a television series as well. Vampire books had always been a popular literary vice among readers but they’d never exploded quite like this. During the height of Twilight’s popularity, not only were people devouring everything they could related to the books, but they were branching out and devouring anything and everything vampire-related as well.

Why? Because when we find something we like we can’t get enough of it. When Kettle Korn releases their holiday drizzle corn every fall I clean out the shelves at Walgreens pretty much once a week and when my birthday comes around and my boyfriend buys me a cake from marble slab I usually eat half of it in one sitting. It’s ridiculous and irrational but we are consumers. We consume things. And when we like something we consume it as much as possible. So maybe the fact that these other novels about dreams are being released around the same time that mine are, is actually a blessing in disguise. I’m indie, which means that I’m invisible. I can’t afford, nor do I have the clout to send out hundreds of ARCs or to put out press releases or organize a street team to share my book cover and host really snazzy giveaways. But traditional publishers do. And if they want to expose and promote this new trend for the sake of their authors, who’s to say that my work won’t be made more visible as well? Who’s to say that someone won’t read one of those other books, fall in love with the concept, and seek out more? Who’s to say that being a part of the emergence of this new trend won’t actually work in my favor?

The key to all of this is perspective. I can either live in fear and believe that everything happening to or around me is part of some cosmic plan to ruin my life. Or I can live in the hope that everything happening to or around me is actually working in my favor to make my dreams come true. I choose to believe in the latter. Why? Because optimism just feels better. So if you find yourself in a similar situation and you’re creating something that other people may have also created or doing something that other people might also be doing, don’t panic.

I repeat, DO NOT PANIC. Instead, breathe, relax. Realize that books are about the journey, both for the reader and the writer, and that whether or not someone has a read a book like yours before, whether or not they hated it, the experience they have with your story will be totally unique. Because you’re unique. And even if the plot may be similar to something that’s already been done, or the characters are slightly familiar, or the setting is just being revisited, your words can never be replicated. Your point of view and your vision are something that no one else on earth has the capacity to create or translate. It’s you. Your book is you and you are one of a kind.

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Pursuing The Reader’s Standard

Earlier this month I completed the final line edit for my fourth novel and this week I’m working my way through the final line edit for my fifth. It’s slow-going and I find myself mulling over the same paragraph for almost an hour or tweaking sentences until they don’t even read like English anymore. The fact is, my brain is exhausted but I still have two hundred pages left to go before it will truly, finally, once and for all be finished. Editing and revisions are always difficult but there is something about that FINAL line edit that is so painstakingly sluggish, I practically feel like I’m moving backwards. Probably, because in many ways, I am.

The library I work at hosted an author event this past Saturday and I got the chance to catch part of the Q&A session. Someone in the audience asked the author when she knows a book is truly finished and after responding the way that most authors do and admitting that she could work on a WIP until the end of time, she said something else that surprised me. This particular author did not have a degree in Creative Writing, nor did she study it in school, but by being a voracious reader first she came to realize something about writing and the way books are consumed by the general public.

When it comes to good writing, she spoke of it as if it were a wide canal and as if the outer banks represented the threshold or standard by which readers judge that writing. The more narrow the canal, the more limited the audience, and the wider the canal, the more versatile the book’s appeal. The author explained that readers will always have a personal standard when it comes to books but that pursuing that reader standard is not the same as pursuing perfection. In fact, the author might still be tweaking her upcoming release if she hadn’t abandoned the pursuit of perfection and instead simply focused on doing her best. That’s all readers really want. At one point she even told the audience point-blank that if she had spent a hundred more hours perfecting her latest novel, the reader wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. Why? Because readers aren’t looking for perfection. They’re looking for a good story. They’re looking for a strong voice. A unique and authentic voice. And all of those things can be accomplished simply by doing our best.

I needed to hear those words now more than ever. I have a lot of anxiety built up over the potential success or failure of my next release and its a ball and chain so literal that I can barely make any progress on this manuscript. My production has slowed down on every WIP in my queue and even as I’m nearing the end of certain projects I’m still second guessing every single decision.

Even though it’s pointless.

I know that I’ve done my best. In fact, it’s the only thing I do know for sure, and maybe it’s the only thing I need to know in order to declare that I’m finished. Truly finished. I’ve done my best and that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can ever do. But the good news, or more accurately, the GREAT news is that our best is good enough. We are good enough. For the people who matter most, readers, our best is good enough.

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Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs

I know I spent the majority of July blogging about the harsh reality of being an indie author but after exposing you to the awful truth, I thought I’d expose you  to another truth, this one sweeter and, believe or not, just as possible. I haven’t sold enough books to make writing my full-time gig just yet. In fact, on top of writing every day I also work sixty hours a week between my two jobs. It’s exhausting and I long for the day when I can give it all up and just live in my yoga pants in front of my laptop. But even though that might sound like a pipe dream coming from someone who has sold less than a hundred books in the past two years, the truth is it’s not. The truth is being a successful mid-list writer isn’t just attainable, but if I continue to put out quality books and build my readership one person at a time, it’s actually inevitable.

If you’re a follower of The Passive Voice then you’re probably already aware of their popular post, Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs. It’s pretty infamous among aspiring and experienced writers alike because it’s a running list of indie writers who have had the pleasure of leaving the drudgery of nine to five behind. More than 500 comments have accumulated just in the past couple of months from indie authors who not only make a living wage from their writing but from writers who were able to pay off their mortgage, or bless their spouse with an early retirement, or build their dream home, or get out of debt all because they took a risk. Because they had the guts to publish their work on their own. Because they had the guts to believe in themselves.

I know I’ve often warned those new to self-publishing not to let their expectations get out of control or to craft a dream that relies more on luck than hard work but I also don’t want any of us to stop hoping. Because this is what can happen when we hope. When we believe in something so strongly that we’re willing to risk everything in order to make it happen. Not all of these indie authors are mega-rich. In fact, most of them don’t make much more than what’s required to pay their bills. But whether they’re selling thousands of copies a month or just a few hundred, these authors are still living the dream. Because they’re writing every day and no one is telling them what they should write about or how or when or to hurry or slow down or change this or change that. They are in control of their words and because they’ve stayed so true to them, they are in control of their lives.

Creative and financial freedom can go hand in hand, all it takes is a lot of drive and a lot of patience. For some of these authors it took years to build their readership, their backlists in the double digits before they finally started generating steady sales. For others it took even longer. But they kept going, hoping for success but never wishing for it. And then it happened. It can happen for us too. If we just keep writing, every single day, it can happen for us too.

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