…It’ will be fun, they said! Fun??? I am moments away from ripping my hair out! Or throwing my computer across the room! Or screaming! But I think the other patrons in the coffee shop where I am sitting would not appreciate that so much. So I will just stop what I am doing, take a few deep breaths, and chill. And write a blog post.
The good news is, I got my manuscript back from my copy editor this week, and it was in pretty good shape. I wasn’t expecting it back until March, and I was planning to release my book in early April. But now, there’s no reason to wait. I went through the edits and approved or rejected them, added in the chapter header images I wanted, and then I was all ready to upload my book and cover.
Except no. It was so easy to save my Word file as a PDF. This is so easy, I thought. So I went through all the steps on the Amazon KDP website, and pushed the button. Then I hit the “next” button, and ended up on the page where I was then told all of things that were wrong with my document and cover. Not much I can do about the cover, so I sent that problem to my cover designer. Then I went back into the Word document to change my margins. Saved to a second PDX. Then it was accepted. So I am supposed to review and make sure everything is okay before hitting publish, which I can’t do anyway until I get the cover fixed. So I look. And I find some blank pages that weren’t there before. Must have come from the margin changes. Back to the document. Fix. New PDF. Then, I found a spelling error in on of my headers. Back. Fix. PDF. This went on for 11 PDFs, and a miracle that I didn’t just fall on the floor and cry. So before I went to bed last night, I finally had the proper PDF in KDP. Yay. Still waiting on the cover, but that’s okay, because my designer is in a totally different time zone than me. I can wait until morning.
I woke up this morning feeling good about myself. I’ve finally got my book in pre-sale! Yay! What an experience! Now, I need to set up a launch party, visit local bookstores to see if they will carry my book, and then sit down and upload my PDF one more time, this time to Ingram Spark, a distributor, or the people who the bookstores order their copies from. I sat down on my comfy (read hard) stool at the coffee shop, get to the right location on the web site, and upload the PDF. Oh, for God’s sake. My fonts are not embedded! How does one embed fonts? They research it on Google. Ten minutes later, with the 12th PDF ready to go, I upload. And I get the same error message. Fonts not embedded. Yes they are! I did it myself! I was there! There are witnesses! But no. So back to Word, push one button, then push a different button, then save as a PDF, and load again. No change. Email everyone I know about what to do. What do they tell me? How to embed the text. Like I just did!
I wish this had a happy ending, but the story isn’t over yet. I’m still at the coffee shop. All of my hair is still strongly embedded (see what I did there?) in my head, my computer is intact, and I do not have a sore throat from screaming. But it’s still a good day (day ain’t over yet!). Why is it a good day? Because I can finally see the finish line. For book 1 of 7.
So yes, please, everyone, even if you choose not to buy it, please take a look at my author page on Amazon! See my book sitting there in eBook pre-sale! Read the blurb! Read my bio! Hit the follow button! Because I’m going to do this all again in September with book 2! I even know the date. It’s the birthday of one of the main characters! Yeah, I know. I can’t help it. I’m just like that!
Buy my book! If you buy the eBook, it will be delivered right to your device on March 4th. The paperback will become available on March 4th.
Recognize that March 4th is the most optimistic day of the year! March Forth, oh warriors of peace and truth!
Follow me on Amazon.
When you read my book, leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Even if it’s just the stars, and even if it’s less than 5 stars. However, I ask that if you did not love my book, you don’t just leave one or two stars, but you tell me what it was that you didn’t like. If it’s just not your genre, that’s one thing. But if it’s something that is just off for you, let me know. I still have 6 other manuscripts. Maybe your feedback would help me to improve them before publication.
I’ve mentioned before that I feature a lot of 1980s music in my first book, “May I Have Your Attention Please.” Only back then, we didn’t call it 80s music. We just called it music. One of the songs that I mention is “Anxiety (Get Nervous)” by Pat Benatar. I had the album Get Nervous, which came out in 1982 and was awesome. It was part of the stack of albums on my record player that I listened to as I went to sleep. In retrospect, it might not have been the greatest thing to listen to before going to sleep: a woman saying “get nervous” over and over again. Maybe that explains all the nightmares! I didn’t know it at the time, but later, much later, I would be diagnoses with having generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD, which is also on the anxiety disorder spectrum, and these disorders were most likely the cause of most my childhood and early adulthood distress. That’s why it’s really easy for me to write about people dealing with anxiety. I have witnessed it both first and second hand. I have treated people with anxiety through therapy. Also, it runs in my family, and since I’m in my family, here I am.
I tend to inflict a bit of anxiety in the lives of my characters. In my first book, not as much, but in the next five, there is quite a bit. I also do a lot to try to eventually alleviate that anxiety, because in doing so, I help myself deal with my own fears and phobias! So I’ll share a couple of little tidbits of anxiety provoking situations that my characters go through. Remember, what causes anxiety for one person could be nothing for someone else. Think about it. Some people keep spiders for pets. Others would prefer to burn the house down if they found a single spider in their bedroom. I’m right in the middle, but I have to admit, I had a nightmare the other night about a spider, and it was 20 inches in diameter. I actually screamed out in my sleep and my partner had to wake me up! But most spiders don’t phase me. I just don’t want them crawling on my face while I sleep. So here is a small tidbit of anxiety that James and Sally are feeling during an interaction involving meeting family:
“James was feeling relieved that Sally had rescued him from the situation. He didn’t want to open the college can of worms with Sally’s grandfather. He had enough to worry about with his own family. Maybe the grandfathers were the reason that Sally was feeling so uptight about him meeting her grandparents. If so, he thought he may have passed the test.”
And here is how Sally feels after having a very disturbing encounter with a school bully:
“Sally tried to speak, but she couldn’t catch her breath. Michelle sat against the wall and put her arm around her shoulders. She sat with her like that until Sally’s chest stopped heaving. Sally took a few deep breaths and recounted the whole story to Michelle.”
As you can see, anxiety can affect not only your thoughts, but also what’s occurring in your body. For me, sometimes, I feel my heart pounding, and I am very aware of it. I might not even be thinking about something that makes me feel anxious, but just the fact that I feel like an organ is about to burst through my chest can make those thoughts accelerate. So when it happens, I start to perseverate over what it might be that is causing the physical symptoms. Could it be that there is something wrong with me physically? Could I be having some sort of heart event? Should I be more worried? Oh no, now I AM more worried! Or maybe, it’s just anxiety about something that I can’t recall. So what could it be? Then I come up with all sorts of scenarios, and pretty soon, my thoughts of anxiety are matching the sensations in my body.
Do you want to know what the weirdest thing it about all of this? I’m a therapist, and about 9 years ago, I taught a group about how to deal with anxiety. I know everything I’m supposed to do to counter anxiety. I know the tricks of the trade. So of course, the moment I feel anxiety, I just use all the coping skills that I used to teach my clients, right? Uh, more like, what coping skills? Oh, those are fine for everyone else, but they don’t work for me! Ha! It’s amazing how that happens. Once, I went to see a therapist in an Employee Assistance Program to talk about my anxiety. She ended up giving me a hand-out of some information about coping with anxiety, and guess what? It was the same stuff that I gave out in my group! I pretty much assumed that this woman couldn’t help me, because I already knew everything she knew. I was stupid.
But it is really hard when you treat people for something, and then you have to deal with it yourself. I think there is embarrassment and shame about it, as you think you should be able to handle this on your own, and sometimes you can’t. That happened to me last year, around the time that the Omicron variant of COVID had been identified, and all of the restrictions that had been lifted were suddenly back in place. My work had been giving approximate “return to work” dates for months, and finally the date was getting closer. But then, there was the announcement. We weren’t going to return to work, and they weren’t even going to project when the return was going to occur. I had been holding my own until that time, but one thing that you must understand is that I DETEST working from home. I do not do well when left to my own devices. I am not a self-starter. I do best when working among other people who are doing similar work. So I was really looking forward to returning to the office. So when that didn’t happen, and it looked like the pandemic was going to last until who knew when, I pretty much lost it. My stomach started to hurt. I lost my appetite. I lost my motivation. Things started to look blurry. I started to misunderstand the intention of others. I was getting hot and cold flashes. My heart was pounding, and I felt dizzy. And every day it got worse, not better. And it went on all day and night. Speaking of night, I stopped sleeping. And when I did sleep, it was not good. I thought up all sorts of reasons why this was happening. Menopause. I only have half a thyroid, so I was positive it was my thyroid meds. My migraine shots. Some sort of heart disorder. Anything and everything. I called my doctor. I had tests run. I went over my symptoms a thousand times. I was in Urgent Care twice in two days. I made medication changes. I did everything I could.
Finally, I was told that I was most likely “just” dealing with anxiety. I was resistant. If it was anxiety, I would have to do some work to make it better, and that sounded a lot harder than tapering off of medications (in retrospect, it’s not harder. Tapering off medications is very hard and can cause a new set of problems). But long story short (too late, I know) I did get help from professionals, and now, a bit over a year later, I am much better, I have tons of hope for the future, I am back in the office 3 days a week (still not enough, but no one comes in on Mondays and Fridays), I have knitted 42 hats, and written 6 complete books. And yes, the hats and the writing were crucial in my recovery. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t figured these things out.
Here are some other things I do to help with my anxiety, and I have encouraged others to do:
count to ten
Breathe. I mean, really breath. Become aware of your breath. Inhale through your nose. Feel the air going into your belly. Exhale. Count your breaths. Count how long your inhale and exhale last. Be aware of your breath. Breathe whenever you need to.
Change your surroundings. Go outside. Drive somewhere else. Go someplace that feels safe. Go to people who feel safe.
Move your body. When you go outside, move your body around the block. If you like to run, run. If you like to walk, put one foot in front of the other. If you have stationary equipment, jump on. Do it for seven minutes. Don’t push it. Just move. Tomorrow it will be easier, and you can do it longer.
Meditate. This one is the hardest for me, as I drift away from my focus and have to come back to my breath about once every 30 seconds. But it is the practice that is important. If you cannot meditate on your own, you can find videos on You Tube. Or take a class.
Yoga. It slows you down and makes you breathe. And move. You can go to class or use a video, or whatever practice works for you.
Keep a routine. Do the same things in a predictable manner. Go to bed at the same time every night. Get up at the same time every morning. Eat 3 meals a day. Maybe eat the same meals every day if they bring you comfort.
Do things you enjoy and that don’t take a lot of deep thought. It might be reading a book, writing a book, knitting hats, doing crafts, watching “The Big Bang Theory” over and over again until your family goes crazy, or something completely different. Painting, playing solitaire (with real cards or on the computer), going hiking, taking a train ride, building something out of wood. The list goes on and on. And make yourself do what you enjoy for a set amount of time every day. No matter what else is going on around you.
Alternative medicine: acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, naturopathic medicine. Herbal remedies, but only as recommended or okayed by a professional to make sure there are no interactions with other meds.
Decrease sugar. I have found that this helps me a lot. The less sugar I eat, the less my heart pounds, and that’s a good thing. Sugar increases inflammation, which can cause all sorts of issues. I am not saying to cut it out completely. Just lower it and see if it helps. Give it several days.
Talk to your support people. Let them know what is going on, and what you need them to do to help you. Sometimes, you just need a hug, or maybe someone to take care of your pets (scoop the cat box) on the days that you cannot. Maybe someone can come sit with you and watch tv. Or maybe they can take you out. Also let them know your boundaries. Maybe now is not the best time for people to come to you for support. Not now, but soon.
Talk to your doctor. Rule out anything medical that might be going on. Never ignore chest pain. If anything feels different from what you are used to, get it checked out. My father had panic attacks, but he also had a heart condition. Ignoring the signs and symptoms can be dangerous. And if your doctor can’t find anything wrong, they can refer you to someone else who might be able to help you, such as:
A therapist. I am a therapist, so I think therapy is great. But I’ve also been to see therapists, and I can tell you from both sides, therapy helps. If you have had a different experience, it might not be the therapy; it might have just been the wrong therapist for you. Give it another chance. Sometimes, you can find the root of the problem. But if not, you can still come up with a personalized plan to help deal with the anxiety. There is not a one size fits all solution to any mental health issue. Googling might give you information, but Google can’t get to know you the way a therapist can.
See a psychiatrist. If your doctor does not want to prescribe medication for you, as some primary care providers do not feel comfortable doing this, have them refer you to a specialist. When I say psychiatrist, I really mean anyone who is authorized to prescribe psychiatric medication. That includes psychiatric nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. They are also fantastic and know what to do. Just don’t expect any miracle drug. If a medication makes you feel better on the first day, I can promise you that it is not something that you will be allowed to take long term. The effects wear off over time, and you will just have to take more and more. And then, someday, you’ll be taken off of the med, and it will not be a good experience for you. Or anyone around you. So be patient. As patient as you can be with anxiety! But seriously, sometimes, you need medication. Maybe just for a short time, or maybe longer. Remember, it’s just like any other medical condition. If you had Type 1 diabetes, no one would fault you for taking insulin for your health. It’s the same way for mental health medications. They are there, and they can help. They can’t fix everything, but they can take the edge off for sure.
I hope that some of this information is helpful to some of you. I know that it’s hard to talk about mental health in public. But I think the more we do it, the less of a stigma it will be to share our stories. I know it helps me to talk to others with similar experiences. Last year, I was referred to an ADHD group through my insurance, and it was great. I learned so much, and it really helped me. That, along with the help of my professional team, my family, my friends, medication, and time, really brought me back to myself, a place where last year, I could never see myself again. Someone told me last year, “Next year, you’ll look back at this, and you won’t be able to believe that you were even feeling like this, and you’ll feel so good to know that it’s over and you feel good.” I didn’t believe them at the time, but just last week, I found myself doing just that, and the only thing I could say to myself was “Wow. Just wow.”
And so the games begin! I am getting much closer to my goal of self-publishing my first book, May I Have Your Attention Please. I am hoping I can push the publish button on KPD in about six weeks if everything goes as planned. As I may have mentioned before, writing the book is the easy part. Editing is tedious, but it is necessary to perfect (as much as possible) my art before I get it out to the public. Formatting seems like kind of a bear, but I’m figuring it out. So what is the hard part then, Debby? Please do tell?
It’s that part where you know that some time soon, your book is going to be released into the wild. And wild it is. No one knows what’s out there in the dangerous world of books and book sales. What becomes a best seller? Will people read my book, and if they do, will they like it? Or will they find out the horrible truth about me: that I am an imposter.
Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and it is very common in writers and authors. According to Wikipedia, “Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud…Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck.” Yes. Who am I to believe that others could like words that came out of my brain? But I do have one thing on my side: I have enlisted Beta-readers, several wonderful people who have read my first book and given me feedback. And guess what? They didn’t hate my book. As a matter of fact, they really liked it, and some of them weren’t even people I knew or family members, and I wasn’t paying them to like it! So, I know I have some good stuff, but now I have to convince millions of people out there that I have good stuff, and they should shell out their hard earned money to buy and read it. I mean, I could just give it away for free, but to be honest, if you pay for a book, you are much more likely to read it. Seriously. A lot of the time, I don’t even read the books I do pay for. You should see my To Be Read pile. It’s up to my waist.
So how do I let people know to buy my book, and the right people? First, I have to decide who I think the right people would be. My book takes place in a high school, with high school kids. Does this make it appropriate for high school students? Well, maybe. I mean, they can relate to the kids, even though the setting is the 1980s. Kids are kids. But not all kids might like it. I think a lot would. There is some, shall we say, intimacy, in my books. It’s not explicit, but it’s there, and it’s clearly implied. That is why you never let your family read your books. Just kidding. They did, and I was horrified. But I digress. So high school kids, young adults. Ok. But as my series progresses, my stories start in high school, move out of the high school setting, into college, and in some, beyond college into adulthood, with adult issues. And my books start delving into some pretty serious subjects, like grief and loss, mental illness, substance abuse, religious abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse. Not graphic or horribly described, but the topics are there. They are a main part of the story. So new adults might enjoy these books as well. What are new adults? They are part of a new genre of readers that have turned or passed the age of 18. They are learning their way out there in a world full of responsibilities. They are coming of age, just like my characters. Who else can relate to my characters? 1980s kids. Generation X. My characters were mainly born in 1968. If you were born around that time, and you read my series, you will get a nostalgic feel from them, and you might be thrown back in time for a short while. Hopefully your 1980s were not filled with angst and pain. If so, maybe skip my books, or rewrite your own 1980s story, like I did with mine. And the last group of people I know enjoyed my books? Men in their late 40s-late 50s! I had four of these men read my book, and they all enjoyed it. That was a pleasant surprise. So maybe my books are for everyone (over the age of 14).
But to be honest, when people look at my book cover and read the blurb on the back, I am guessing they will think teen love story, and they are not wrong. It is a sweet love story about Sally Bachman and James Newell. And it has a happy ending, at least for the main characters. So it’s probably best that I market toward young women, YA and NA genres, Coming of Age Romance readers. And hope that their moms and dads pick up their copy someday and get hooked. So here’s the 15 million dollar question: where to you find these young people who would maybe want to read my book? And the most obvious, and truest answer, is TikTok. I mean, all social media, but have you been to TikTok? I hadn’t. I knew my teen child is obsessed with it, and always has their eyes glued to something on the screen, but I wrote it off to being a kid magnet, and never even bothered to look. But then I did. And you know what? It is a kid thing. But I’m absolutely hooked now! I love it! I found Booktok, a group (millions of people) who love books and reading and love talking about books and reading. And these people? THEY BUY BOOKS! Lots of them! And they review them! And they have thousands and thousands of followers! So if you can tap into these people (primarily young women) you have found a gigantic door to best seller heaven.
But the 20-million-dollar question is how do you tap in? And that, my friends, is where TikTok loses me. I have posted videos of me talking, of funny things my pets do, of text, and now, today, I made one of me coming to the coffee shop to show my writing process. Some of my posts have gotten 600-700 views and close to one hundred likes. Some others, which are similar have gotten around 100 views and maybe 15 likes. I know some of the formula. You need to use hashtags. You need to find out what is trending and get on that trend. Ok. Each time you put in a hashtag, you get to find out how many times that hashtag has been used by others. So you want to choose the ones that have 13.4 million uses, as opposed to “created a new hashtag.” So I do that. Then, there is the music. You can attach a clip to your video or post, or not. TikTok will automatically attach one if you don’t, and then you will have to either switch it to one you like or delete it. So again, you want songs that are trending. What do you do if your brand is the 1980s? You want to use 1980s music. It is very distinctive, and as soon as people hear it, they know where it came from. But unfortunately, most of it isn’t trending. I tried using “Running Up That Hill,” which I never even heard in the 80s, but apparently was very popular. It was trending due to the show “Stranger Things.” But I guess I missed that bus, because it didn’t seem to help me much. But, seriously, the music that’s trending? Like my mother used to say about my Eric Clapton CDs back when I was a teen, “that stuff hurts my ears!” Ugh. I’m old, I know. But 2020s music does not go with a pitch to sell a 1980s themed book, and series. I asked my followers what they thought would help. I was told little snippets from my book. So, I’ve been doing that. And I included the first few in this post so you can see and be intrigued, in case you are one of everyone, and might like my book. And I did the “behind the scenes at the coffee shop” that I am going to post later in the day, after I attached a trending noise song, but turn the volume all the way down so it can’t be heard, a trick someone told me about yesterday.
So, my plea to you is check out my TikTok, see my pitches, and buy my book, for your teenage niece, your Gen X sister, and your 55-year-old male coworker. But if you give it to him, maybe put in a discrete brown paper bag. He has an image to maintain, you know!
Here it is at long last! The cover of my upcoming book, “May I Have Your Attention Please.”
I am hoping to release this book into the wild by the end of March or early April. I will post a link to the Amazon location as soon as it becomes available.
I thought I might drop a little excerpt here just to keep you entertained until the book release. Please enjoy!
“What do you think of the Great Gatsby so far?” Sally asked, glancing at the novel as she set it down next to her tray.
“It starts off a bit slow,” James admitted. “I’ve never been much of a reader, so I hope it picks up the pace soon.”
“That’s one thing I’ve always been,” Sally responded. “A reader. I have always loved to read fiction. I get in the zone and sometimes hours go by before I know it. Like on Saturday night. I read before bed, and next thing I knew it was almost two am!”
“That’s exactly what it’s like for me when I play my guitar,” James said. “In the zone is a good way to describe it. When I learn a new song, or a new chord, I stay on it for a long time, until I get it just right. My parents know not to knock on my door when they hear me playing in my room.”
“I can’t wait to hear you play,” Sally said. “I wish I could play an instrument. I tried to play the flute when I was younger, but I never practiced. I wanted to, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get started. I’d be watching tv, and get anxious that I wasn’t practicing, but I still wouldn’t do it. My mom finally told me that if I didn’t get with it, she’d stop paying for lessons, so that’s pretty much what happened.”
“I was like that with karate in third grade,” James disclosed. “My friends were all doing it. I liked the idea of doing it, but at each class, it was obvious to the teacher I hadn’t practiced since the last class. He told me practice was a discipline I had to develop, but in the end I decided not to. It was too hard for me to stay focused.”
“It’s so weird we both do that,” Sally said, shaking her head. “Some things we can totally focus on for hours without anything stopping us, and others, we can’t even get started on. I wonder what that’s all about?”
Here it is, my first teaser for my upcoming book, “May I Have Your Attention Please,” which will hopefully be available for sale in late March or early April. It all depends on when it gets back to me from the copy editor, and how many corrections need to be made! Then I have to fumble through the formatting for both e-book and paperback and hope it all turns out the way I want it! But at least, by the end of next week, you will all know what to look for as far as a cover when you are searching for my book on Amazon. Soon.
So not a long post today. I am busy writing away on book 6 in the series, and I also completed a 5035-word side story for book 5. It was fun! Now, I am concentrating on making videos for TikTok and posts on my face book author page, to promote the cover reveal. My designer made some nice graphics for me, and I look forward to sharing them. I am also spending an ungodly amount of time on TikTok and Facebook following people, so they follow me back. I am close to 500 followers on Facebook, which is hard to do, because Facebook puts restrictions on you when you try to follow pages too quickly. They think you’re a bot. I mean, it’s great that they check for these things, unless it’s happening to you. I get logged off of my page at least 20 times per day lately. Find followers, Facebook tells you. But don’t do it too fast, even though we didn’t tell you this before you started! TikTok limits how many people you can follow, but you can come back shortly after and follow more. I’m at about 2200 followers on TikTok. Please be one of them! Oh, also, I was restricted from Instagram, and I have no idea why, except for not using it for months. I had to send them a selfie of me holding a paper with numbers on it to prove I was actually me. Ugh, I hardly ever post anything on there anyway, but I thought it might be fun to put my cover reveal teasers there. Not so fun after all!
Don’t let the title fool you. I have no idea what I’m talking about. A little more than a year ago, if you told me I would be on a path to publishing my first novel in a series, I would have said you were crazy! But here I am, hopefully, about three months from completing the only real item I have ever had on my bucket list: publishing a book. Actually, it’s been a goal for me since way before bucket lists were even a thing!
So how does one even write a book? Well, that’s a silly question. One does one of several things: you can get a notebook and a pen, and do it the old-fashioned way, by giving yourself hand cramps by writing it in cursive. This has many advantages, since you can do it anywhere, even in the bathtub if you’re not overly splashy. But the cramp thing…and eventually you’ll have to type it all into the computer anyway, unless you find someone who can read your scrawl and do it for you. So doing on the computer seems to make more sense unless you are really, really old school. I opt for the computer. You can save stuff, you can delete instead of crossing out or erasing, and as long as you are using “the cloud,” you can pick up your writing anywhere at any computer. I’m on a laptop right now at a coffee shop, and you can’t do that with a PC. Oh, you can also record or use voice recognition software.
Next thing you need to do is write. And make sure it doesn’t suck too bad. This is the easy part for me. I just sit and let it all flow from my head to my fingers and to the keyboard. But say you don’t know how to write, or you don’t have ideas? I’d say take some classes and see if you even like to write. I love it, but some people love olives. Ew.
So, now you’ve written down everything. You’ve written a book! Congratulations! Now someone will just somehow knock on your door and tell you that they have magically heard of your brilliant manuscript, and they would like to publish it for the whole world to see! End of dream sequence, and back to reality! So, pretty much none of the writers I have gotten to know have any instinct for what to do next, and the information, although readily available if you’ve ever heard of Google, is overwhelming and confusing. There are so many choices of what to do next. Do you want to have your book published by a huge publishing house, become the biggest writer of all times, and make millions on your work? Of course you do! Until you learn that so do millions of other people, and there are only so many slots out there for new, famous authors. And if no one has heard of you, your chances are pretty slim. To get a publisher, you need an agent. To get an agent, you need to send out queries, lots and lots of queries. I mean, hundreds of them. And then you get the joy of receiving hundreds of rejection letters. I have a very fragile ego. I feel like it is a personal slight if my cat doesn’t come when I call him. Cat people, you understand. So, I decided to skip the queries. Actually, I sent exactly one. And never even heard back. And that’s when I heard there was another option.
Self-publishing. So, what was my first thought about self-publishing, besides the inevitable “only losers and bad writers self-publish?” It was “how do I self-publish???” Then, I felt helpless because I didn’t even know where to start. Time started to go by. People kept telling me that I should do something with my completed manuscript. So, what did I do? I wrote four more manuscripts! Now I have a series, sitting in files on my laptop. But then things started to get interesting. First, I met another author, and we exchanged stories to beta read. Ok, that was fun. Then, my brother got me a book by an author local to him about indie writing. Eh, okay, I don’t really like non-fiction, but I gave it a look. Then I took a nap. Then, I contacted my first cousin once removed to ask a question about sushi restaurants in the 80s in New York City and he told me about someone he knew that had self-published several books. He gave me her contact information, and that changed everything. This author was/is amazing! She has all versions of presence on social media, and I started to follow all of it. She had videos about how to self-publish. I ate them up! I ordered her book. It was beautiful! And it was good. And I wanted to be just like her. So, I started to do everything she was doing. I kind of want to be her. If she is reading this, just kidding.
So, here are some of the things I have learned about self-publishing:
Join an online group of people helping each other out with self-publishing, like the Self-Publishing Support Group on Facebook. It’s the best move I ever made around publishing
Read your work over and over and over again
Read your work again
get other people to read your work (alpha readers for the first draft, and beta readers for the almost-final draft)
make changes based on what people advised, but don’t compromise your integrity. Someone might hate something in your book, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. But sometimes, your readers have really great ideas!
This is where things get really tricky. There are lots of things to do after your words are the way you want them. First, it’s always a really good idea to look at other books in your genre and see how yours compares. You’ll want to make a lot of creative decisions about your book, so see what else is out there.
Get your book professionally edited. You can get an editor to review your content, another to check your spelling, grammar, and flow, and another as a proofreader. Beta readers can take care of some of this stuff, but it’s a good idea to get at least a copy editor, who can see things that everyone else misses. Editing will probably be the most expensive part of self-publishing. You pay per word. The longer your book, the more you pay.
Complete your cover art, or hire someone to do it for you. You can use original art, but you can also get a cover designer to complete the whole thing for you so you don’t have to worry about dimensions and all that. Just make sure the designer is very clear on what you want. What type of cover to you want? Check out other covers in your genre to see what sells!
Formatting is crucial to make your self-published book look professional. You can format yourself using any one of several programs. I’m just using Word right now, but there are some products that are much more sophisticated, so do your homework. There are lots of thing to format, including titles, subtitles, headers, subheaders, page numbers, footers, images, front matter, back matter, etc. There are tons of vidoes on You Tube to help you to figure out how to do these things on your own. If you don’t think you can do it yourself, hire someone who knows what they are doing, to do it for you.
If you don’t know someone personally who you can hire to do all of these great things for you, you can use some websites already set up for this purpose. I used Reedsy to find my editor, and there’s also Fiverr. The nice thing about these options is that the folks on the site have already been vetted, and you can see what work they have already produced along with their resumes. If you find someone by another means, be really careful, and make sure you have some sort of signed contract with the expectations of both parties clearly stated. It’s heartbreaking to get scammed at this part of your publishing journey.
When you have your cover image, editing is completed, and formatting is exactly how you want it, you can then load your PDFs to the publisher/distributor. Do TONS of homework about who you want to use and ask questions of your support group. The main ones I have seen being used are IngramSpark and KDP, but even they have tons of options. You want to look at your options for hardcover, paperback, digital, and possibly audio versions.
One thing that you might not expect (no one does) is that your book will not sell itself. It requires marketing, unless you are already the most popular bestselling author ever known to Earth, and even then, you have to market. You will need to start marketing long before your work is released. There are many ways to market. Some are free, and some will cost you some money. Social media is free. Make sure to start author pages on all the social media platforms that you can stand, and then post to them, a lot. It’s free. And it gets the word out. Pay attention to the audience you want to attract. You’ll find more seasoned adults on Facebook, but if you are trying to sell to teens and young adults, TikTok is the way to go. Get over your stage fright and make some catchy videos! They don’t all have to be about your book; they just have to be engaging and attract people to following you. Other free things you can do are newsletters, blogs, and podcasts.
If you have a marketing budget, you can run ads on Facebook, or Amazon, or whatever works for you. You can start a personal website with your own domain name. Some people like to sell their books off of their own site, or just use it for updates and information. When you know your book will become available, you can schedule book signings or release parties to get the ball rolling. Get some swag for giveaways or raffles. Get yourself some interviews. One good way to get publicity is to sign up for book awards. Think of how nice your book cover would look with an award on it!
What do you charge for your book? Again, turn to books in your own genre and find some that area a similar length. Then just charge whatever you want.
Get advance copies of your book when available and find readers to read them. Then have them leave reviews for the book on Goodreads and Amazon. Ask everyone you know to leave reviews. Reviews are free ads for your book.
Make your (Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, etc.) author page the most beautiful it can be. Look to see what is available for you to make it great. Amazon has A+ Content. Look it over and see if it’s for you.
Make sure the world is aware of your release date. they can’t buy if they don’t know it’s there. Make a lot of noise. Squeaky wheel, etc.
Revel in the fact that you are now a published author and try not to have imposter syndrome. You are a real, accomplished author. Congratulate yourself. You deserve it.
Now, write the next book in your series, and start it all again. Keep in mind, the more you publish, the more you sell. Series sell. You will have repeat buyers.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. There are other things you can do, like get a logo, or a marketing package, or hire a public relations professional…but not everything is for everyone. But I wish I’d had a list of things to expect on the first day I started writing. It would have helped to move things along a lot faster. And if even one person sees this list and finds it helpful, it’s a big win. For all of us.
This is what I look like when I am writing in the coffee shop and I find out the wifi is down.
I love to write, but sometimes, writing doesn’t love me back. Take last week. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and of course things were a bit hectic. Then I had plans to go to a friend’s house for lunch on Saturday. I planned to spend my afternoon on Sunday writing at the local coffee shop (they have the best chia pudding, and music I like playing in the background), so I packed up my laptop, wrapped myself up in my warmest winter wraps, and headed out to the car. I waited in line for my chia pudding and herbal iced tea for about 10 minutes. Then I sat down, situated myself at the counter near the power outlet, and opened my computer. I clicked on my most recent work in progress (known in the author world at WIP), and waited for it to load. I got a message on my screen…”loading, loading, loading…” I took my first spoonful of chia pudding, savored its deliciousness, and waited. Then, much to my dismay, I overheard the barista speaking to a customer. “Our wifi is down,” they said, “and it’s not likely to come back up today.” So, my document would just continue to try to load indefinitely. I swore quietly into my hibiscus iced tea with one packet of stevia and fumed. I was going to write for an hour or so, then complete a blog entry. Grr. The best laid plans. So, what does one do when one cannot open one’s document in Google Documents? One reads their previous FINISHED stories on Word. What can I say? I’m the biggest fan of my old (read: written before last week and still unpublished) books (I think my fourth one is the best)!
When I bought my current laptop, I loaded all of my documents and files, which had been saved in a backup drive by the good folks at the Best Buy Geek Squad, into my new device. And I was very happy to see my first novel. Well, that’s if you don’t include the handwritten ones from junior high. Those still count, but those will just be for my own personal perusal, okay? So, I started to read the novel that I had started more than 18 years ago. And you know what? It was pretty good! I was surprised. All these years, I had thought I would have to go back and edit the living daylights out of it to make it halfway decent, but it wasn’t so bad. I mean, I’ve learned a lot in life since the days when I first started that novel, but the concept was still sound, and the dialog was compelling (at least I think so). I thought maybe I could change enough of it to make one of the characters become one of my McKinney High Class of 1986 grown-up kids, but as I went along, I learned that Maya and Tyler (I love those names) really needed to have their own, separate story. So, I decided that they would. It would be a stand-alone book and not part of my current series. Until, ugh, the worst thing happened. I tried to open the second half of the book so I could see how it ends (Ha, I knew how it ended…it actually needs one more chapter to wrap up), and all of the chapters were in Works. Or maybe Perfect Works (different from Word Perfect). So, I called for reinforcements: the family members who know computer stuff. I am not included in that group. And they offered to help. So, I sent them the files and they made assurances that they could figure out how to convert them to be read and edited in Word. Well, it turns out even they were stumped, and they do this crap for a living! So…either I find someone else who can do it (“Hello, Geek Squad?”) or I plan to rewrite half of the book that I mostly wrote over 18 years ago. So, for now, novel number one sits in virtual obscurity.
And you may ask why I never finished the story of Maya and Tyler. Good question. For anyone who has ever been pregnant, you may understand. Babies are born with brains. And somehow, they have to grow those brains in utero. So where do they get the material for their brains? You guessed it, from their gestational provider’s brain. In this case, me. My darling child sucked out every last bit of creativity I had, until I had to actually drop out of my writing group, because I had no capacity to bring in any new material from week to week. It all paid off, I guess, as my child is very smart and creative (we all know where she got those traits). But what was my excuse after my child was born? Uh, 18 years of raising a child. I don’t think I need to say anything further.
But then, one dreary night in mid-November, 2021, in the midst of the COVID Omicron variant outbreak, I had a dream. Yes, an actual dream. And the dream was compelling. It led me to think, “what if.” What if things had gone differently for me when I was a teenager? What if I had gone to this school instead of that school? What would my life be like? And then a floodgate came open, and I started writing about Sally. Soon after, I realized that Sally’s life was nothing like my life would have been in that situation, but so what? Then, James came into being. Then her friends captivated me, and I needed to tell their stories, too. So here we are one year later, floodgates still open wide, nearing the end of book number 5.
So, I guess I say all this to say, nothing can really stand in my way of writing. Let the wifi be down. Let my mind be decimated by growing a zombie brain-eater inside my own body. Let the computers crash and the sky fall down. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to get in the way of me completing my stories. So, I hope you enjoy them.
If you are interested in the best Chia Pudding in NE Portland, Oregon, leave me a comment and I’ll tell you where I get it. And let’s hope the wifi is back on tomorrow!
Coming up next: What it takes to get from start to finish: my experience so far of being an indie author
And coming soon, but I just don’t have the date yet: COVER REVEAL of “May I Have Your Attention Please.” (It’s really cool)
Squirrel! Just kidding. But no, seriously, a pretty butterfly!
That was my whole childhood experience, and to be honest, also my whole adult experience. It doesn’t have to be an animal, or something pretty flitting by. It can be a speck of dust floating in the air, or a scratch on a desktop. Don’t get me started about the music in my head. It draws my attention away from my task at hand.
I’m not alone in my dearth of attention. Many children and adults deal with similar challenges. For me, it started when I was in elementary school, or that was probably just when it became obvious. It was the late 1970s, and I was in fifth grade. I had broken my arm ice skating over winter break, and was pretty preoccupied by my limitations. Mr. K. was talking about geometrical shapes, specifically the octagon. I was re-wrapping my ace bandage around my splint. Mr. K. made a comment about there being an octagonal shaped church on the corner of Salsbury Street and Kadidawapa Way. He looked right at me and said, “right, Debby?” I looked up, baffled, and responded, “What? Oh, yeah.” The whole class laughed at me. There was no Kadidawapa Way in my city, and Mr. K. knew I wasn’t paying attention. Everyone laughed at me. That kind of hurt.
In sixth grade, I stopped doing Math homework, and only did other homework at the last minute. I still got A’s and B’s. In eighth grade, I finally got called on my behavior, and got an F in effort in Math class. I was mad, and I mouthed off to my teacher. But it was kind of a wakeup call. As we get older, our teachers start to pay more attention to our behavior. But I didn’t.
I squeaked through high school doing the bare minimum and relying on my procrastination and natural ability to retain information. I somehow made it through college. And grad school. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that a medical profession finally suggested that I might have ADHD.
What would have happened if I had been born in the 2000’s? I probably would have been evaluated at school, maybe by a developmental pediatrician, and diagnosed young. I probably would have been started on Ritalin, or some other stimulant medication. My teachers would have been made aware. They might have dealt with me differently. But as it was, I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. The only kids that got attention for not paying attention were the ones that were disruptive. They were usually boys, and they were usually ridiculed by teachers and other students. We were told to pay no attention to them. They were just trying to get attention. Girls would just grow out of their daydreams and pull it all together someday.
One thing that I could concentrate on back then was writing. I loved to write. The ideas popped into my head unprovoked. Characters would develop in my subconscious and start dialogs in my brain. Some of them I wrote down. The stars of my stories were me as a Boston sportscaster, always married to a famous Boston professional athlete. Hey, I had a type! I found one of these “novels” not long ago. It wasn’t bad, for a twelve-year-old.
So, it makes sense that when I finally got serious about writing as an adult, I created a character who is a lot like me in some ways. A character that struggles with schoolwork and gets very scattered. She has no verbal filter, and sometimes her friends find her to be all over the place. Her story mimics my story in some ways, but she is not me. Her experiences are different. Isn’t that what we do when we write? We take our characters and put them in different situations and see what they would do. Sometimes, it’s different than what we would do ourselves, but it’s always a good story. Sally has some good times, and she has some struggles. But they are not my struggles. But we all have struggles, unique to ourselves.
My book, May I Have Your Attention Please obviously deals with attention, but we all know, there are many definitions of attention. And they all apply. Make up your own mind about what it means. Now you know what it means to me. I hope my story ends up meaning something to you, too.