Yesterday was the anniversary of Locked Within's release. Happy birthday, Locked Within!
So it's fitting that today's post is about the things I learned from the release of my second book, Silent Oath.
2013 has, without a doubt, been the busiest year of my life. I took on so many new responsibilities and challenges, dealt with so many issues, and (much to my wife's annoyance) took little time for myself to relax and recharge.
So what have I learned?
Your second book will be harder to write and edit than your first.
When you started out, no-one had any expectations and you were still learning everything from scratch. Second time around, people have expectations - your editor, your readers, yourself. You realise just how many mistakes you made on your first book and you're terrified of making them again. Your second book makes you very judgemental of yourself and your writing ability.
You will do even more promotion work.
Because your first book will probably not have sold as well as you'd hoped. We all dream of making it big, but the reality for most authors is that the first book is just the beginning of a long journey. You will want to take advantage of every opportunity to spread the word about the new one, and draw more readers to you. You'll contact the people who reviewed your first book, and maybe look into hiring marketing companies to help. Be careful, do your homework before agreeing to pay any money, and expect that some of the people who agree to spread the word or write a review may let you down.
You will be TIRED!
Every day. No matter how much sleep you get, it won't be enough. You've graduated from "I got a book published!" to "I'm a published author." It's evolved from being a dream come true to a career, and you have to treat it that way. But you have to give yourself time to rest and step away from the work every so often. If you burn out, you're no good to anyone.
You will have fans.
Not just readers, or friends and family who support you. Fans. Maybe not a lot of them, not yet. But you'll notice the difference in how one friend talks about your books compared to how another can't get enough and calls you to complain that they have to wait a whole year for the next one.
You will have critics.
Not everyone will enjoy your books. Some will just shrug and move along. Others, however, may actively criticise you. If you're lucky, it'll be people you asked for feedback. Sometimes it'll come unbidden, and it'll hit you hard. But every reader has the right to their opinion of a book. There will be people who flat-out do not like your books, and never will. And that's okay. Don't try to appease them or explain why you wrote the book a certain way. That just makes you a tool. Instead, see if anything they've said might make future books more accessible to a wider audience, and concentrate on getting better at the things your fans love in your writing.
You will be thankful for Amazon.
Because getting a book by a new author onto bookstore shelves can be a nightmare. If you're lucky, you'll find bookstores that will commit to stocking any and all books you release, and sell them at a reasonable price. Other times, you'll have to convince them to order stock at all, and if they do, they may sell your book at a far higher price than even you think it's worth. And the thing is, you have no control over that. Your publisher has no control over that. It's the way the bookselling industry works. It's difficult for a new author to break into bookstore sales, unless they're with a big publisher like Orbit Books or HarperCollins. Amazon is the great equalizer. Any publisher worth their salt will have your books up there, in print and on Kindle. Save yourself the stress. If a bookstore is resistant, or charges more for your book than people will want to pay, move on and direct people to Amazon, or stores that are more willing to give you a chance. Let reader demand get you on other stores' shelves.
At times, you will be disappointed.
You will work hard to make the launch of your second book even more successful than the first. You will look to people for support and enthusiasm. As much as they want to, not everyone will be able to help. It's important not to let moments like these get you down.
The biggest blow I took this year was my book launch. I had supply issues that caused difficulty securing a venue, and on the night most of the confirmed guests didn't show. But I worked past it.
No matter what happens, never, ever give up. Because...
People will have your back.
Some of those who missed the launch apologised, and put in orders for books. But the launch still left me with a lot of stock to sell, and a bill to pay to my publisher that I didn't have the money to cover.
I've spent the better part of my adult life writing scenarios and running games for games conventions such as Gaelcon. I knew I had to find a way to sell my remaining books, and I'd always figured my reputation as a convention GM would be an advantage one day. So I asked the guys at Gaelcon if I could book in, last-minute, as a trader. I've been a gamer most of my life, and always said many of my best friends are gamers. Boy, did they ever come through for me. I got a table, in a great location, and both staff and attendees turned out in their dozens to buy books and spread the word to anyone they could.
Several friends saw how stressed I was, and made sure to check in on me, assure me everything would be okay, tell potential buyers about my books, and generally made me grateful to have such awesome people in my life. Thank you, guys. You all came through when I needed you.
You may find people like this, too. But you have to pay attention, and you have to allow them to help you. And you have to be ready to take a setback for the challenge it is, and turn it into an opportunity to do better.
You'll take your hits, learn you lessons, and move on.
For example, if you're organising your own launch and don't have a bookseller to provide stock, only order pre-paid copies. ;-)
You will feel kind of like a rock star.
Go to events. If there are fan conventions in your area, go along. Volunteer to speak on panels. Make friends with people in the industry, genuinely, and you'll get more out of it, both personally and professionally, than you ever would with pure networking. You'll have the opportunity to meet awesome people, writers, publishers, editors. And you'll find you have so much to talk to them about. You'll feel like you belong.
And the first time a person you've never met walks up and asks you to sign their copy of your book is something you'll want to remember.
You will want more.
All the knocks you take will mean nothing compared to the elation of one person telling you how much they loved your book. That feeling is addictive. As you have more books, you'll find that more people pay attention. And you'll want to have even more books published, no matter how hard the work. This feeling is good. This feeling is what careers are made of. But take your time. Write and publish however and whenever you want, but take time for yourself, and remember that there tend to be two kinds of successful artists: The flash in the pan, and the slow burn. Decide for yourself which you want to be.
And most of all, keep writing.