(Originally published on The Right Writer for You, This is an interview conducted by Anne Goetz, where I discuss All Things Writing & Publishing.)
In May, I featured a review of a multi award-winning book titled “Order of Seven” that was blowing the mismatched socks off young-adult, paranormal/fantasy readers. Since then, first-time author Beth Teliho has continued to sell copies and rack up glowing reviews of her captivating book.
I asked Beth if she would consider writing a post for The Right Writer for You about what it takes to write, self-publish and market a successful first novel, and she was kind enough to consent. Today, I have the honor of sharing that marvelous post with you. It’s packed full of need-to-know information for first-time novelists — or for anyone anywhere who is considering becoming a self-published author.
What follows is a post abundant with common sense, priceless links and sound advice — all offered up from Beth’s own first-hand experience and in her distinctive and humorous voice. Trust me, you’re going to want to bookmark this enjoyable foray into self-publishing.
Making Sandcastles: The A – Z Guide to Writing and Publishing a Book
Beth Teliho, award-winning author of Order of Seven
How on earth does someone go about the seemingly insurmountable task of taking a little idea in their head and turning it into a published novel? I’m glad you asked. There are secrets, and I’m going to break them down for you in three short sections. Okay four.
1. MAKE A GIANT SAND PILE
Believe with all your heart that you have a story to tell. You must know it in your marrow. Your story is unique to you, worthy of being told, and beautiful. It doesn’t matter who or how many read it. What matters is that you write it.
Write free. Turn your inner editor off and write what’s in your head. Give yourself permission to suck. It won’t be pretty at first. In fact, it’ll look like hell, but that’s exactly how a first draft is supposed to look. You can’t get a sand castle without a big pile of sand first.
Write everyday. Or nearly everyday. Like anything, writing is a skill that has to be practiced or it’ll atrophy. Done writing for the day? Then read, read, read, read — that’s writer school right there. If you’re a writer who isn’t regularly reading, your wordsmith skills will never evolve. After all, you got into this crazy writer thing because of the love of stories, right?
2. CARVE AND SCULPT
You stealth ninja warrior – you finished! Your story has a beginning, middle, and end. Now what? Your worst nightmare: Show it to someone. Yep. You have to.
Share it with friends, or colleagues, or relatives. A pair of eyes – several actually – need to be on your work for constructive criticism. Feedback is imperative. Your work cannot evolve without it. Pick people who will gently give valuable advice, thoughts, and suggestions. Have a list of feedback questions you’d like them to answer: Do they like the main character? Is there a part that was confusing? Do they like the ending? Etc.
Revise based on reader feedback, and when you’ve done all you know to do, hand your baby over to a professional editor. Writing your novel is the easy part; editing is where the real grunt work begins. Be prepared to rewrite your entire manuscript … many, many times. Even the most established, successful authors go back and forth with their editors, rewriting again and again. This is part of the process. I don’t care if this is your first book or your hundredth, if you don’t get a professional developmental edit, as well as copy and line edits, you are screwing yourself out of potential success.
3. TAKE PRELIMINARY STEPS TO FORTIFY YOUR CASTLE
Start building a list of readers who will read an advanced reader copy (ARC) for review, the more the merrier. These people will be the force that moves your launch from flaccid to badass by stacking reviews for your novel when it goes live. They can also point out any last minute errors. It happens.
Begin talking about your upcoming release – a lot. Amp up the curiosity and buzz about your book. Share quotes from the book or anything you can tease. List the release date in the teaser so people know when they can get it — anything to hook readers. Run a pre-order and get people to buy before it’s even live. You can run pre-orders up to a year before publishing!
Work on your blurb. It needs to be an airtight hook with no spoilers. This is the summary that’ll go on the back of your print copy, as well as the description people will read online. Need direction? Search all your favorite books and read their blurbs, or the blurbs of bestsellers. There are also a gazillion posts on the subject – just Google “how to write a book blurb.”
Start working on your book cover. Search other covers in your genre and see what catches your eye. HIRE A PRO. Do not try to do this yourself unless you are experienced with book designing. Share the main “feel” you want your cover to have, but trust the artist to deliver what sells. They know what they’re doing. A crappy, generic cover can kill a good book.
Get on Goodreads as an author, and for Pete’s sake, use their giveaway option to your advantage; it’s free and easy. Set the giveaway to run prior to the release. This really helps promote your book. Run as many as you want! They’re great exposure.
Get to know book bloggers in your genre. You’ll need them for reviews and promotion.
4. ADD A BADASS MOAT AND A DRAWBRIDGE
All your hard work has paid off. You’ve sculpted your castle – yay you! At least 80% of people who start a book never finish it, so pat yourself on the back! Yes, I made that statistic up, but it’s probably true.
I’m writing this with the assumption that you want to self-publish. Unless you’re a tech-savvy guru, you’ll need help formatting your book for both electronic and print copies. You can use the services offered by your printer (Createspace, for instance) and Amazon OR hire independent professionals to format both. I did the latter and absolutely loved the cohesive and gorgeous finished product they delivered.
Send ARC readers your book at least a month prior to publishing. When they review (which can be done prior to publishing on Goodreads; on Amazon, reviews aren’t allowed until the book goes live), share the review all over social media. Make a Facebook group for all the people who are reading ARCs and everyone involved with your launch in any way. This way you can efficiently post info you want them to share through social media.
When uploading for publication, try to be as specific as possible with your categories and keyword searches to ensure you have the best possible chance of standing out in the crowd. Also, a little secret: You can use entire phrases as a keyword. This is helpful since you can only choose seven, typically. For instance, ghosts and spirits and paranormal is ONE keyword, but if you choose ghosts, spirits, paranormal separately, you’ve used three of your keywords. You can tinker and change these keywords anytime, so don’t stress too much about it. Nothing is permanent.
There are many decisions to make when publishing: exclusive or non-exclusive on Kindle? Buy your own ISBN’s or have them assigned? Create your own imprint, or have your book listed as published by Createspace? Make an audio version or not? Which genre should you market under?
These are just a few, of course, and they are all personal decisions with no right or wrong answer. To help navigate your choices so you can decide what’s best for you and your novel, I suggest research. Lucky for you, some killer sites and resources have already been compiled via Forewordz. This is a gold, I tell you – GOLD – list of resources for every step of your journey. If you do nothing else, bookmark this link:
A couple extra faves of mine:
Publish. Set your baby free into the wild!
Now the real work begins … marketing! You’ll need to use all forms of social media to your advantage. Spread the word. Make sure you attach images of your beautiful cover to brand your book into readers’ minds. Post reviews or any other good news about your book. Don’t be afraid to ask people who read your book to REVIEW it! Reviews are everything.
Reach out to book bloggers in your genre (again, a simple Google search can pinpoint those) and submit your book for review. There are also paid sites that will advertise your book, some of which are linked within the resource link above.
“Real Life” marketing equals doing stuff outside of cyberspace — you know, off the computer. Remember that place?
Places you can contact to either sell your book or allow a potential book signing:
coffee shops (Starbucks tend to be cooperative)
school librarians and/or English teachers (if your book isn’t appropriate for younger audiences, you could always talk to kids about writing)
Any opportunities that come your way – even if they seem terrifying – don’t be skeert! Just say YES and figure it out along the way. You can do it!
This seems like a lot, I know. But remember, you don’t have to do all of it at once. Take one step at a time, one day at a time, and little by little you’ll get there. We write because we want people to read our work, so just getting it published is a WIN! Good luck!
… what are you still doing here? GO WRITE!
BETH TELIHO is an award-winning author and artist who lives in Texas with her husband, two adventurous sons, and a veritable menagerie of pets. Restless in the mundane, she writes about the abnormal, paranormal, and otherwise fantastical because that’s what quickens her heartbeat. She laughs at inappropriate jokes and prefers spicy food and margaritas to almost anything. One day, she hopes to live in a treehouse, where she can be an eccentric introvert with at least seven cats.
Beth Teliho Links:
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Beth Teliho on Goodreads
Beth’s Amazon Author’s Page
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