If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started publishing, it’s that I have a lot to learn. Publishing, like writing, is something you only ever see the final product of. You see other people publish and think, “Oh, I could totally do that.”
And while yeah, you can, it’s so much more complicated than that.
Here’s what I wish I knew before I began—and what might help you go into publishing with your eyes opened a little wider than mine. (And make you more successful faster.)
- Author is a verb.
Being an author isn’t just something you are. It’s a job, whether you’re traditionally or self-published, or whether you write full-time or on the side. That means authoring is everything you do: writing, editing, formatting, publishing, networking, marketing, learning.
Authoring isn’t for the faint of heart.
Being an author is much more than writing a book. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that the hardest part of being an author is finishing your story. It seems that way until you hit editing. And every step afterward. Finishing a story is only the first step in the long process of publishing, and it’s nothing compared to fighting to be seen in an oversaturated book market.
Despite all this other author stuff going on, don’t forget why you started this in the first place: to tell a story. It’s too easy to get bogged down by all the authoring things you need to do. You can pull back, reassess, and get back to writing. Never sacrifice your writing over other authoring activities.
- You need to market starting yesterday.
Here’s an ugly truth: even if you publish traditionally, you’re going to have to market yourself and your book. It’s one aspect of publishing you can’t get away from, no matter how uncomfortable it is. And seriously, for a lot of us, promoting ourselves makes us break out in hives.
But the time to start marketing is yesterday. Now. Today. Anything that doesn’t involve waiting for the “right” moment. There is no right moment. Even if your book isn’t finished or published, you can be building an audience.
You see, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. If you establish relationships with people, they’ll be excited about your book, buy it, and even better: share it with their friends.
How can you market without a book? The best answer: make connections with people. If you go around shouting, “Buy my book!” no one’s going to pay attention anyway. It’s the equivalent of a commercial, and if you’re on social media (where you’re supposed to be social), people are going to tune out—at best. At worst, you’ll be reported for spam.
Connect with them. You both like books, right? That’s a great starting point. Go from there.
- Marketing means getting the word out about your book. It’s being visible and personable and the kind of person others want to support. It’s about creating the desire to buy your book.
- Author brand and platform are things, and you need them.
The foundation of effective marketing is your platform and brand. They’re not buzzwords, people. No matter what you want to call them, no matter how much you want to pretend they don’t affect your life, they exist and they do.
A platform is your audience and your community, and everything you use to make those two things a reality. A brand is what people think about you when you’re not around. (Which is a paraphrase of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. Think about that.) It’s more than just a reputation, though, it’s visual, too. Who are you online? A book cover, a real person, or something else?
Guess which one people connect with most.
Spoiler: it’s a picture of you.
People want to know they’re connecting with a real person. Be real and connect with people on a personal level (not a spam bot “Buy my book!” level), and that’s what it takes to begin building your brand and platform.
- Publishing and success take time.
Everything takes longer than you think it will. Everything! Writing. Editing. Formatting. Marketing. Gaining traction on social media. Making sales.
The entire process is long. It requires time and patience and the understanding that you have to be in it for the long haul. You can’t give up.
And here’s a secret that shouldn’t be a secret: just because you can upload an ebook to online retailers and see it for sale that day doesn’t mean everything that comes before it should be as fast.
If you do it right and take your time to do it right, it’ll take months. It doesn’t have to take years to publish your book, but it might take years before you feel successful. That’s normal. All these “overnight successes” aren’t so overnight. They’re people who worked hard, day after day and month after month, to get out there, better their craft, put out great books, and connect with their readers.
It’s okay to feel like it’s taking forever. But if you think it’s taking too long, take a look at what you’re doing and see what you can change. Maybe you need to stop editing as you write so you can get your manuscript finished. Maybe you need to stop perfecting your manuscript and send it to someone else for help. Maybe you need to just hit “publish” because you’ve done everything you can. Maybe you need to kick up the promotion because you’re not doing enough.
But the most important thing you need to know?
You can do it.
Bio: Amanda Shofner satisfies her desire for adventure with the written word. You can pick up her urban fantasy series The Hunted or connect with her on Twitter (@amshofner), Instagram, or Facebook to stay up-to-date on her new writing projects. When she’s not writing, she supports and encourages other authors as the Content Manager for Hillcrest Media Group.
- What is the working title of your next book?
Redemption (Brewing in the Cities #1)
- Where did the idea come from for the book?
I watched a TV show on the Investigation Discovery channel about a man who everyone thought had killed his pregnant wife. Years later, it comes out that he wasn’t the killer. I wondered what kind of life he’d have and what he’d do to gain back his reputation.
So I tweaked the original story and made some shit up, which is pretty much how creating stories goes, I think.
- Which is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?
I’m not sure if I believe in editing sober all the time. If someone pays me to edit their work, I stay sober. But my own writing? Sometimes I need the alcohol to remove the constant second guessing that comes with being a perfectionist.
Writing drunk can remove filters, which makes it easier to write and easier to let go of your inner editor.
- What makes you so damn interesting anyway?
Hell if I know. I say things and people like them, most of the time. I think it’s because if I believe in something, I believe it wholeheartedly. If I’m passionate about something, I don’t hold back. I’m okay being me. And that’s what makes me interesting. Because I’m not anyone else.
(And I can be kind of weird sometimes. Most of the time. All of the time?)
- Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
There are things besides writing?!
I like reading. Taking light rail adventures with my boyfriend, who thinks I’m slightly weird for getting excited over public transportation. Talking books with my coworkers. Drinking with friends. Creeping on social media. Reading. I said that already, but it’s worth mentioning again.
- Why do some authors sell well and others don’t? (Indie or otherwise, but indie if possible)
This is such a fascinating question, because I think there are a million factors that go into each author’s success, and it’s not a formula that can be replicated for other people. You could do the exact same things as another author and have wildly different results.
That said. Authors who sell well usually have a few things in common.
- They know how to tell a compelling story.
- They build connections with people and create a strong fan base.
- They don’t give up because they know success takes time.
- They’re smart with marketing and advertising.
- What’s a good writing secret or time management secret?
Most of the reasons you can’t find time to write are excuses. Finding time to write requires sacrifice (ahem, social media, TV) and discipline (writing when you don’t really feel like it). Want it so badly you make it happen.
- What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
I write in the morning. Not because I prefer it, exactly, but because that was the best time for me to get writing in without being mentally fatigued after working all day. And once I wrote in the morning and it became a habit, it stuck. Morning writing is such a part of my routine that my day feels weird if I don’t. I like getting my words in before I do anything else. I can start my day knowing I’ve been productive writing.
- Coffee addict? Name your poison.
COFFEEEEEE. Do I need to say more? No.
- Do you have author friends (in person or online you confide in and share ideas with? Feel free to name names.
I do! Having author friends is vital to staying sane and inspired. I meet with Kelly Apple and Christi Snow every Monday to discuss our goals for the week and whatever other authoring topic that crops up. Without them, I would lagging behind and probably not know what the hell I’m doing.
- Tell us about yourself. Who IS the real Amanda Shofner? And not typical the boring bio stuff. The dirt. Like, when was the last time you did laundry?
I’m doing laundry RIGHT NOW. I’m a multi-tasker. I’m also watching TV. Excepting I’m not really watching. The real Amanda Shofner is pretty simple: she needs books to write, time to write, people to spend time with (but not too much time, because she’s an introvert), adventures to take (mostly on the light rail), delicious food to eat, and coffee in the morning and wine in the evening.
I also watch too much Investigation Discovery and have a weakness for free (read: bad and bizarre) erotica. I’d tell you more, but the dryer buzzed at me, and it’s time to go!