What Pitfalls Would You Warn Other Writers to Avoid on Their Publication Journey?
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A pitfall is a trap. Camouflaged by a flimsy covering, it’s a deep hole used to capture unsuspecting prey. This month’s question struck me as its own pitfall. What do I have to say that would be of help? I’m still on my own publication journey and, honestly, the trip hasn’t gone particularly well so far. I creep forward by sliding cautious toes ahead, constantly checking the firmness of the ground. I’ve tumbled into a few pits already but I’m not dead yet.
My first book was self-published using the Amazon KDP and Create Space systems. I did what I knew to do to make the book a success. I spent a lot of time writing and proofing the story. I designed the cover, paid for help to format and encode the book, staged giveaways on Goodreads, joined review groups, and struggled to get the book noticed. The reviews on Amazon and Goodreads were generally very good, but there weren’t enough of them, and my title never rose above the ocean of other titles.
I’ll call this first pitfall the trap of “not enough.”
“Not enough” applies to many aspects of anyone’s book. The story wasn’t good enough, the writing wasn’t lyrical enough, thrilling enough, or funny enough. Maybe the cover wasn’t grabby enough or there wasn’t enough advertising. It didn’t garner enough notice, the reviews weren’t compelling enough, or numerous enough, or there weren’t enough author interviews, or not enough signings, not enough Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, websites, cleverness, or you name it. I look back and wonder if my book wasn’t promoted soon enough, or long enough, or…who knows what? Just not enough.
You’re probably muttering to yourself, “This article is not helpful enough.” Sorry. I’m still a work in progress.
I was then told that the best thing I could do to help my journey was to write another book. So, I did. I’m not short of ideas. Now, here I am, two years later, with a women’s fiction title. I think my story is better written than my first title, and this genre has a wider audience. I decided that an agent was the best path to secure the interest of a “real” publishing company. If I could get an agent, I thought, I might avoid the pitfall of “not enough.”
I tried securing an agent for 6 months. I learned all about query letters. I researched agents and their idiosyncrasies, agencies and their policies, publishing companies and their contracts. I joined Query Tracker. I joined query critique groups. I studied, made my lists, sent my materials, followed up on submissions, tracked the results, made tweaks, listened to “experts,” and applied their wisdom. After 140 rejections (actually, maybe 60 actual no’s, since most agents couldn’t be bothered to reply to voices from their slush piles) I gave up.
I now call this pitfall “the agent trap.” I know getting an agent happens – at least I read about authors finding a kindred spirit – but for me it amounted to 6 months of sitting at the damp and depressing bottom of another pitfall.
So, my current efforts find me with a hybrid publishing company whose owners fell in love with my writing at an authors’ workshop. They helped me do a better job of preparing my manuscript. They guided me to a cover design company that created a better cover. They are shepherding me through building an author platform, hiring a company for blog tours, securing reviews, and building a buzz. (They are also costing me $$ and time.) Maybe when I do the cover reveal in August and the launch in November my new title will shine above the crowd of other books and secure an audience of readers. One can hope.
If I’m being honest, though, I’m not sure if I’m actually at the bottom of a pit staring up, or if I’ve actually made some strides down my path to publication. Unfortunately, only time will tell.
In the meantime, I’m 12,000 words into my third book.