Weekly Writerly Witterings ~ My Journey from Newbie to Entrepreneur

witter (ˈwɪtə)
vb – (often foll by: on) to chatter or babble pointlessly or at unnecessary length
n – pointless chat; chatter

COLLINS ENGLISH DICTIONARY – COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED, 12TH EDITION 2014 © HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

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For those of you unaware, I am about to publish an expanded and completely revised edition of Silver Hollow, first in the Borderlands Series. The road to Silver Hollow has been its own adventure. From humble, rookie beginnings and equally rookie mistakes, to where I find myself today, making all new mistakes. Ha, just kidding, mostly. But seriously, as we’ve come full circle with Silver Hollow, so I have also come to a new page in my writing career. I no longer consider this my passion and hobby, but my business I happen to be passionate about.

Writing a book feels like such a major accomplishment. I know that’s how I felt in 2012, after completing my second draft of Silver Hollow. Convinced I was ready to publish, and with a fantastic cover already in hand (thanks Naj!) I sent the manuscript to my editor. All three of us were relatively new to the business, with wide, star-filled eyes. We weren’t masters in our craft yet, but we were driven by artistic need and love of books. So while the first Silver Hollow wasn’t perfect, it was beautiful to us.

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I still recall my first one-star reviews. I didn’t cry, but I was devastated, none-the-less. I’ll never forget my mentor, Melissa, telling me “at least you made them feel something, even if it was a negative emotion.” I took her inadvertent advice and ran with it. I made someone feel something, and truly, so many people in turn loved Silver Hollow, it softened the blow. But as time passed, more and more readers gave middling ratings, with some very helpful critiques. I took these critiques to heart when approaching the new Silver Hollow. I have a special file with critical reviews in my notes, and I took from these best-of reviews to see what people commonly found lacking. I went to work. I spent all of this last year finishing an expanded and revised Silver Hollow. It really isn’t the same book, though it rests on the same premise.

Neither am I the same starry-eyed newcomer I was to the Indie world. An Indie Author’s adventure is very different from traditionally published authors. Most of our mistakes are learned the hard way. Rather than being rejected by dozens of agents and editors/publishing houses, we go straight to the masses. The only trouble with this, is we also face the music when our craft isn’t up-to-par. All authors will do best to listen to these failings and rejections, in whatever form they come. Absorb the failures and the successes along the way. Improve your craft and grow and learn. Each book is a learning experience for me. The same can be said for marketing.

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I said all this to say (the long way around) that when I first published, I didn’t know what my website should be, my social platform, nor the first thing about how to market my book. Heck, I wasn’t even writing to market at the time. I did everything on instinct. I took things I loved, things I found beautiful, and used them as my inspiration. I was quirky and very raw and real with my audience at the time. Looking back, I sounded exactly my age, lol. I was so excited about being published, and the initial success of Silver Hollow, I raced off to write Stay and Ohre immediately after.

I reached out to a boutique PR firm, one of the first on the scene to cater to Indies, about my next project, Vynasha. They loved it and Stay and signed me to an emerging publishing house. They gave me a platform to regularly blog on. They taught me so many things about what I should do as a professional author. It opened my eyes. Then their business tanked. My books went nowhere and it turned into a very bad experience. So bad, I didn’t publish anything for a year. I took a major hiatus for life, namely falling in love and getting married.

As things settled a bit for me with my job and living situation, my head turned back around to Vynasha. I wanted to dive back into my book and the planned series. So I did a bunch of research, reached out to my cover designer and completely rebranded the novel as Craving Beauty, first in the Wylder Tales series. I published Wolfsbane’s Daughter, a companion novella, soon after. I did virtual blog tours with Prism Book Tours and felt right at home.

 

But I also discovered the publishing world I left in 2013 had drastically shifted by the time 2015 rolled around. No longer could a no-name Indie become an overnight success. Traditional publishers had caught onto the game and were putting in some hard competition. Many independent authors quit, in the face of an over-saturated market. Which was the biggest issue by the time I published Craving Beauty. People didn’t want my story. There were ten other Beauty and the Beast retellings out there, with ten more on the way. And while my novel isn’t my strongest, it’s still one of my favorite series and worlds to write in. I still wanted to continue the story, no matter what was happening with the whole “fairy tale retellings” subgenre.

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Scarred Beauty Vol. 2 was published in 2016, around the time I started working on what you now know as She Walks in Moonlight. Scarred was such a joy to write. Something really clicked for me with the characters, the dialogue. Meanwhile, I was researching, adjusting my brand and sites, trying to get a grip on how to brave this new publishing universe. I contributed two stories to the Phantasmical Contraptions Anthology with JayHenge Publishing. And after I published Scarred and did another online tour with Prism, I waited for things to shift, for something to spark with potential readers. I suppose, the crux of my problem resides in that one word: waited.

By 2017, I was frustrated with my career. I didn’t just want to write books no one wanted to read. I wanted to form connections and improve my writing craft. So I read books on writing, writing and marketing books and blogs. I reached out to other authors I hadn’t spoken with in years. And I started working on a new version of Silver Hollow, a new Heaven’s Edge novella, and what I thought was going to be my third Wylder Tales novel.

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August, 2017, all the research and platform building was beginning to sink with. I found my rhythm and knew what was wrong with my Wylder Tales series so far. I hadn’t found the right niche. I wasn’t marketing them correctly. The chapters I thought belonged to Bound Beauty, were, in fact, the ending to Scarred. And I commissioned Najla Qamber Designs to rebrand most of my backlist, including Craving Beauty. A new cover, new category (Gothic Fiction/Dark Fantasy) and finally, moving the first in-series to permafree. While there are merits to permafree, they won’t make you rich, either. But I can tell you from experience, they will bring you visibility. Before this, I lingered in has-been obscurity. But this, combined with ads in newsletters like ENT, helped remind people I was still kicking and still writing books. Best of all, it was the morality boost I needed to keep going.

I haven’t done everything right in my career. I honestly feel like so much of it has been “what not to do.” But it’s given me much humility and understanding and compassion for my fellow writers. To all of you struggling to finish your first novel, confused on where to even begin, I’m with you. I’ve been there and the best advice I can give you is to never, ever give up. Glean from writing blogs, don’t be afraid to ask advice from established authors. Take from what we’ve learned, make it your own, and don’t be afraid to step out into the world. Just because there are a dozen books in your genre with similar themes, doesn’t mean you don’t have a story to tell. Don’t worry so much about writing to market. Write the book you are passionate about writing and discover your audience for it. There are as many readers (more really) as there are books. You won’t meet them without taking risks.

I hope you’re encouraged by my story. While I haven’t made a NYT or USA Today Bestseller list…yet… I am in this for the long game. In my next heart-to-heart, I’ll tell you all about the marketing side of things and what I learned from this past year of trial-and-error. I’ll also share what I’ve learned from this upcoming launch of Silver Hollow 2018. And you know, it would mean the world to me if you could help contribute to that success. If you’ve heard of this story before and would love a chance to read, I’d love if you picked up your copy at any of the following links:

Available for Pre-Order at Amazon | KOBO | B&N | Smashwords |iBooks

I look forward to sharing and learning with you. It’s a big and difficult journey, but we can do this together, one step and one book at a time. 🙂 Thank you for coming with me!


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